1987 World Series: Homefield Helps Minnesota Edge St. Louis
The Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals were teams built for their homefield. The Twins had power, well-suited to the hitter-friendly atmosphere at the Metrodome. The Cardinals, playing in what was then an artificial turf-covered Busch Stadium with deep dimensions, were constructed on speed. It’s appropriate that when these contrasting teams met in the 1987 World Series it was all about homefield, as home teams won all seven games.
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That made the calendar as important as anything else. Prior to 2003, homefield in the World Series was determined on a rotation system and it was the American League’s turn. That left the 85-win Twins hosting the 95-win Cardinals to open and close the Series.
Another advantage Minnesota had was that their top two starters, Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven, were better than anyone St. Louis could answer with. Over the course of a long season, the Cardinals’ depth throughout the roster made them a better team. In a short series, it’s tough to beat a team who has the two best starters on either side.
You can read more about the paths the Twins and Cardinals took to their division titles, as well as a narrative of their LCS triumphs, at the links below. This article will focus exclusively on the games of the 1987 World Series.
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1987 MINNESOTA TWINS
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1987 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1987 ALCS
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1987 NLCS
One of those starters, Frank Viola took the mound for the Saturday night opener on October 17. Joe Magrane was pitching for St. Louis and was handed an early run. In the top of the second, Jim Lindeman led off with a double and scored on consecutive productive outs from Willie McGee and Tony Pena.
It was still 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth when the Twins’ offense unloaded on Magrane. Gary Gaetti, the third baseman fresh off an MVP performance in the ALCS started with a single. Don Baylor, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek all singled and Steve Lombardozzi drew a walk. Minnesota had two runs in, the bases loaded and none out. St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog had seen enough of Magrane and called on Bob Forsch. Tim Laudner greeted Forsch with an RBI single and then Dan Gladden delivered the coup de grace with a grand slam. It was 7-1 and the Metrodome crowd was blowing the roof off.
Viola coasted home, allowing just five hits in eight innings. The Minnesota offense piled on, with Lombardozzi hitting a two-run shot in the fifth and Gladden driving in another run in the seventh. The final was 10-1.
The Twins had a future Hall of Famer in Bert Blyleven ready to go for Game 2. The Cardinals turned to Danny Cox, who had just pitched a Game 7 shutout in the NLCS. This night wouldn’t go quite as well for Cox.
Gaetti started the scoring with a solo shot in the second and the bottom of the fourth again proved to be the undoing for St. Louis. With one out, Kirby Puckett and Hrbek each singled and Gaetti walked. Randy Bush ripped a two-run double and it was 3-0 with runners on second and third. Brunansky was intentionally walked and it looked the move would pay off with Lombardozzi’s fly out to right was too short to bring in a run. But with two outs, Laudner and Gladden both singled and the lead stretched to 6-zip. Cox was pulled, Lee Tunnell come in and Greg Gagne promptly blooped a double to make it 7-0.
The rout was on again. The Cardinals got a run in fifth, but Laudner homered in the sixth. Blyleven pitched seven strong innings and even though St. Louis scored in the seventh and twice more in the eighth, they were never in the game. The final was 8-4, Minnesota had all the momentum and they were halfway home.
But while the Twins were halfway home, the Cardinals were going home and that was all the difference needed in this World Series. They also had John Tudor, a good veteran lefty who had pitched a win-or-go-home shutout in Game 6 of the NLCS, on the mound.
Minnesota’s rotation quality fell of sharply at this spot, but Lee Straker proved to be outstanding on this night The game was scoreless for five innings and it was the Twins who broke through in the sixth. With one out, Gagne and Puckett were walked and Brunansky picked up an RBI with a two-out single.
In the top of the seventh with the score still 1-0, Twins’ manager Tom Kelly opted to pinch hit for Straker with two outs and no one on base. Kelly turned to his setup man, Juan Berengeur, hoping he could get the ball to their fine closer, Jeff Reardon. It didn’t pan out for Kelly.
The bottom of the seventh started with singles by Jose Oquendo and Pena. They were bunted up Terry Pendleton and driven in when Vince Coleman doubled. Coleman stole third and scored on a single from Ozzie Smith. Berengeur was out, but the damage was done. Herzog went to his own closer, Todd Worrell, to close the last two innings of a 3-1 win.
Viola was back out there for Minnesota on three days’ rest for Wednesday night’s Game 4. Greg Mathews, a steady lefthander for Herzog all year long, pitched for St. Louis.
The Twins missed a chance on the second when they put a man on third with one out before Mathews struck out Hrbek and escaped. The Twins still got a run one inning later with a home run from Gagne. The Cardinals quickly tied it in the bottom of the inning, when Ozzie Smith got a two-out walk, and came around on singles from Tom Herr and Lindeman.
Mathews had to leave the game when he aggravated a quad injury and Forsch came on. It didn’t matter though, because the fourth-inning nightmare was now about to afflict Viola and Minnesota.
Again, a big rally from St. Louis started with Pena and Oquendo, who walked and singled. Tom Lawless, a heretofore faceless utility infielder took Viola deep. After walking Coleman, Viola was pulled with just one out. Dan Schatzeder came on, to no positive effect. Coleman stole second. Kelly decided to intentionally walk Herr and face Lindeman.
This made sense—the intentional walk was used much more frequently than it is today and Lindeman was getting at-bats in this Series because of an injury to the excellent St. Louis power hitter Jack Clark. Lindemann blew up the strategy with a double, McGee followed with a single and the score was 7-1 by the time the inning came to an end.
Minnesota got a run in the fifth and loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. It was their last chance to get back in the game and Herzog brought in Ken Dayley from the pen. He struck out Gaetti, got Brunansky to pop out and then put it on cruise control, locking up the 7-2 win that evened the Series.
Blyleven and Cox met in a Game 2 rematch on Thursday night. After two scoreless innings, the Cards threatened in the third, again with Oquendo and Pena being the instigators. They both singled and Cox bunted them up to second and third. Kelly pulled the infield in, a risky move this early in the game. But the risk paid off. Coleman hit a ground ball to short and Oqunedo was cut down at the plate. Blyleven got out of the inning.
Oqunedo was again thrown out at home in the fifth. With runners on first and third and Cox at the plate, Herzog called for a suicide squeeze. Cox missed the bunt and Oqunedo, off with the pitch, was left in no man’s land. The game stayed scoreless into the sixth.
St. Louis again rallied in the sixth and this time they broke through, thanks to the speed they were built around. Coleman beat out an infield hit and Ozzie legged out a bunt. With one out, Herzog called for a double steal and both runners were safe. After an intentional walk, Curt Ford delivered a two-run single and a Gagne error brought in another run.
Blyleven gave way to Keith Atherton in the seventh, who walked Coleman and balked him to second. Coleman swiped third and then scored on an infield hit, as St. Louis speed now had them comfortably ahead 4-zip.
The Twins started to make it uncomfortable in the eighth. Gladden singled and Gagne bunted his way aboard. After Puckett flied out, Herzog removed Cox and brought in the lefthanded Dayley to face the lefthanded Hrbek. This move worked, with a flyout to center the result, but Gaetti ripped a triple that cut the lead to 4-2. Dayley got Brunansky to end the inning.
Worrell came on in the ninth and walked two batters, giving veteran power-hitter Don Baylor a chance. He popped out to Herr. The Cardinals had completed their sweep of the middle sequence of the Series and were going back to the Twin Cities with a 3-2 lead.
Saturday’s Game 6 started in the afternoon, the last time a World Series game has been played outside of prime-time. Being the Metrodome still meant no one saw the sunlight and the last time a Series game was played outdoors in the daytime was 1984. Tudor would get a chance to clinch a championship for St. Louis, while Minnesota had to rely on Straker.
Herr homered with two outs in the first to give the Cardinals a quick 1-0 lead. But Gladden answered with a triple to start the home half of the first, Puckett tied with a single, moved up on a groundout by Gaetti and scored on an opposite field single from Baylor.
St. Louis quickly tied it back up when Pendleton drew a one-out walk, moved up on a groundout and scored on an Oquendo single. Tudor pitched around a two-base error in the second inning when he picked off Hrbek and kept it tied 2-2 .
Straker continued to struggle in the fourth, giving up a leadoff double to Driessen. McGee singled to center and while Puckett’s strong throw home held Driessen at third, it allowed McGee to take second. The result was that an infield hit from Pendleton and a sac fly from Oquendo produced two runs and a 4-2 Cardinal lead. In the fifth, Ozzie walked, moved up on successive productive outs and scored on another base hit from McGee.
It was 5-2 and the Twins were in trouble. They got it turned around in the fifth. Tudor, who had come apart in epic fashion in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, now began to struggle here. Puckett got it going with a one-out single and Gaetti doubled. Baylor got the Metrodome crowd roaring with a three-run blast to tie it 5-5. After a single from Brunansky, Tudor was out. Reliever Ricky Horton got a groundball out, but Brunansky moved up and then scored on a two-out hit from Lombardozzi.
One inning later, Gagne led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. Forsch came on for Horton face the righthanded power. He walked Puckett and after a passed ball, an intentional walk loaded the bases. Forsch then got Gaetti and Brunansky to pop out. Hrbek was up and Herzog continued to empty the bullpen, calling on Dayley to replicate the matchup that had worked for St. Louis in Game 5. It didn’t work this time—Hrbek unloaded with a grand slam to break the game wide open.
Minnesota added a run in the eighth and Berengeur was brilliant, throwing three innings of shutout relief. The 11-5 win set up a Sunday night Game 7—the third straight year the World Series was going the distance.
Viola got his third start of this Fall Classic, with Magrane on the mound for St. Louis. While Magrane was a respectable pitcher, this was clearly the situation the Twins would have taken had it been offered nine days earlier.
The Cardinals still took the early lead, getting singles from Lindeman, McGee and Pena to open the second inning to go up 1-0. With two outs, Steve Lake added another single for a 2-zip lead.
But Viola got settled in and Minnesota immediately started chipping back. Baylor was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the second, Brunansky singled and then Laudner singled. Coleman made a big play when he threw out Baylor at the plate, but Lombardozzi came up with a clutch two-out hit to make sure the Twins got a least one run.
Gagne beat out an infield hit with one out in the fifth and Herzog decided to go with Cox. Puckett responded with a double to right-center that tied the game 2-2. One inning later, Minnesota took the lead. Brunansky and Hrbek each worked walks to start the bottom of the sixth. Herzog correctly went to his closer at this key crunch point of the season. Worrell issued another walk, but struck out Gladden. He was set to get out of the inning until Gagne beat out an infield hit to bring in the go-ahead run.
With the tension building, Viola was locked in. He went eight innings and allowed just six hits. In the bottom of the eighth, after a one-out single from Laudner, Gladden ripped a two-out double. Reardon had a bit of breathing room at 4-2 when he came on for the ninth.
Reardon got the first two batters and McGee came to the plate. He hit a groundball to Gaetti who threw to first. Hrbek gloved the final out and the party could start in the Twin Cities.
Viola was named Series MVP for his two wins, both of which he was dominant in. His bad fourth inning in Game 4 meant the overall series ERA was a pedestrian 3.72, but Viola was still a worthy choice.
Other notable performances for the Twins came from Gladden, who went 9-for-31 and drove in seven runs. Puckett was steady, with ten hits in 28 at-bats. Lombardozzi was 7-for-17 and had the key two-out RBI hit in Game 7 that got his team on the board. Laudner had seven hits of his own in 22 at-bats, driving in four runs and scoring four more.
On the St. Louis side, McGee had gone 10-for-27 and was the best Cardinal hitter. Dayley had been clutch in relief until the fatal grand slam to Hrbek. For the third time in six years, St. Louis had played a Game 7 in the World Series and for the second time in three years, they lost it.
It was truly Minnesota’s year. They won the pennant in a year where homefield advantage fell their way and with the top of their pitching rotation, they were uniquely built to better in the short-term than over the long haul. Nor were they finished—four years later, when the homefield rotation had again come full circle for the Twins to have the home edge in both the ALCS and World Series, they won it all again.