DODGERS 1, CARDINALS 0
Saturday, July 22, 1978 at Dodger Stadium
Game 1263 – 11/18/12
What should have been a lopsided pitching match-up between a Los Angeles veteran and a recent St Louis minor league call-up became one of the most surprisingly hard-fought duels of the SP78 season, won in dramatic fashion when Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey lifted a long drive to right that scored Davey Lopes from third on a sacrifice fly in the last of the ninth, barely beating the throw from utility outfielder Dane Iorg for the 1-0 LA win.
With Burt Hooton and his 10-4 record slated to start on the mound for the Dodgers in his home park, Cardinals manager Ken Boyer decided to take a chance on Rob Dressler, a recent arrival from the Springfield Redbirds of the American Association, and his newly-minted fifth starter in the rotation. With the worst record in the National League, there wasn’t much for the Cardinals to lose from that spur-of-the-moment decision.
Except the game, perhaps. But the Cards didn’t make it easy for the Dodgers, who battled each other for eight scoreless innings, with Hooton and Dressler both pitching as if their lives were at stake, mowing down opposing batters like men possessed. The final hit tally was seven, and that was a total for both teams: St Louis was able to connect for four off Hooton, while LA could muster just three off the confounding Dressler.
If anything, Hooton seemed the more shaky of the two, surviving a bases-loaded scare in the sixth and, more importantly, a critical run-scoring opportunity in the eighth; with two out, Cards shortstop Garry Templeton walked, then advanced to second when Hooton’s pickoff throw sailed wide of Garvey at first. Templeton then stole third, and with Lou Brock at the plate, manager Boyer called for the suicide squeeze, a gutsy move that, coupled with Templeton’s great jump off the bag at third, would’ve given the Cards a 1-0 lead…had Brock made contact. Instead, he missed the bunt, and Templeton was easily snuffed at home by catcher Joe Ferguson for the inning’s third out.
The Dodgers’ critical moment came in the last of the ninth, when Lopes walked with one out. LA manager Tommy Lasorda took a gamble of his own and, with the speedy Lopes on base, signaled for the hit-and-run, which was a success: Lopes advanced to third on Bill Russell’s sharp single to center, and the question now was, with Garvey at the plate, would the Cardinal infield make the logical move and play in, to cut off the run at home, or play deep and hope for the double play.
It didn’t matter, one way or the other; Garvey jumped on Dressler’s first pitch and lifted it high to Dane Iorg—subbing for the stronger-armed Jerry Morales—in right field, allowing Lopes to tag and scamper home just ahead of Iorg’s desperate throw, claiming victory for LA and sending the sellout home crowd into a delirium.
The win allowed the Dodgers to assume sole possession of first place in the NL West, a full game ahead of the Padres, who’d lost to the Cubs earlier in the evening. For the hard-luck Cards, it was their second disheartening loss in a row to the Dodgers, continuing their rapid descent deeper and deeper into the NL East cellar.
• The game was played in the morning at site AZ11 in the Hayden Library at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, on a work table while I listened to nothing, because I forgot to bring my portable tape player and headphones.
• The game was started at 10:45 am and finished at 11:25 am.
• LA outfielder Rick Monday was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing a decision by first base umpire Billy Williams, who ruled that an apparent home run hit by Monday had traveled to the right of the right-field foul pole, into foul territory. Home plate umpire Eric Gregg upheld the call, and Monday—who was already into his home run trot down the first-base line—went into hysterics before being restrained by base coach Jim Gilliam and removed from the game by Gregg. Lee Lacy replaced Monday in center field.
• The game was played on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, in an empty corner of the upper concourse of Hayden Library, the main library at the university. I was in Tempe to see a screening of the Hitchcock film Psycho at the nearby Valley Art theater, and since I had time to kill before the show, I thought it would be a perfect time to play an SP78 game at a new Arizona location.
• This was the fifth college campus I’d used as an SP78 game site, and the first since 1997. Previously, I’d played a game at Palomar College in San Marcos, California in 1985; three at UCLA in Los Angeles in 1992; five at UCSD in La Jolla, California in 1994; and one in 1997 at the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio.