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Cardinals' rally fizzled out following Spiezio leadoff single

Published: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 2:03 p.m. CST

(Editor's note: Back in 1968, Morris resident Ed Spiezio played in his third and final World Series. While playing on World Series teams for the 1964 and 1967 St. Louis Cardinals, Ed had never made an appearance in the Fall Classic. That changed in Game 5 of the World Series in '68 when Spiezio made an appearance as a pinch hitter. Forty-four years ago to the month, people are still talking about it. In remembrance of the event, the MDH is putting together a two-part story on Spiezio and the 1967 Series. The first installment ran last Saturday.)

Ed Spiezio’s one-out single brought two of baseball’s most legendary names onto the field for the Cardinals, Roger Maris and Lou Brock. Granted, Maris was a shadow of the man who belted 61 home runs and toppled The Babe’s home run record in 1961, but Brock was in the prime of his career in 1968 and was standing in the on-deck circle sporting a .550 batting average for the series to that point.

But a comeback simply wasn’t in the cards for the Cards. Maris struck out and Brock grounded out to Lolich, giving the lefty a complete game victory for the Tigers. Three days later the Tigers, would complete their epic comeback with a 4-1 win in Busch Stadium. It was their first World Series title since defeating the Cubs in 1945.

However, time marches on. The Cubs haven’t been back to a World Series since ’45, and nearly 44 years after coming up short in Game 5 of the ’68 Series, Maris’s strikeout and Brock’s groundout are mere footnotes in otherwise brilliant careers. For Spiezio, it’s a memory with bittersweet connotations.

“It would have been a lot better if we had won, but that’s baseball,” Spiezio said. “You always want to be playing at the highest level, and, for a baseball player, it doesn’t get any bigger than playing in a World Series.”

As global temperatures rise, the cooling breeze that we so often associate with fall has become more and more of a subtlety. For baseball fans, when that calendar turns to September and the pennant races hit the back straightaway, it doesn’t matter what the thermometer says, they know they’re heading into fall.

More often than not, those fans associate success with certainty. You either make the playoffs, or you don’t make the playoffs, win the division or don’t win the division, wear the crown or not, etc. etc. However, many of the game’s greatest moments are steeped in mundane detail – moments we hold dear for reasons we can’t fathom.

Spiezio has two World Series rings, and chances are that if you asked him 44 years ago, he’d have gladly traded that hit for another. He may trade it away this very day, but having that hit – that memory – is something he proudly cherishes, as well.

That’s because the power of a memory can’t be understated. On Oct. 7, 1968, after a controversial rendition of the National Anthem during one of the most tumultuous times our nation has ever known, and during a game that turned the tide towards the Tigers and thwarted the Cardinals chances of winning back-to-back World Series titles, Spiezio remembers an at-bat. Spiezio remembers a hit.

Statistically, it was one of seven at-bats against Lolich in his career and one of three hits. Only one came during the World Series, and only one merits a memory.

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