(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 that year 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 Ed and the 1967 Series. The next installment will run Saturday.)
Before the first pitch was even thrown, Game 5 of the 1968 World Series had apparently been earmarked for something momentous. On a typically weather-worn day in Detroit, Michigan, 23-year old blind Puerto Rican Jose Feliciano uncorked a now infamously unorthodox rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner in front of 53,634 fans at Tiger Stadium and millions more war-weary American spectators across the country.
On the field, the Cardinals had dominated the series up to that point, and held a 3-1 series lead with a chance to win their second consecutive world championship. However, Detroit would go on to win the game 5-3, and the victory defibrillated the lifeless Tigers, eventually sparking them to win the series in seven games.
Yet, despite the game’s historical significance for fans in Detroit and St. Louis, as well as to the American anti-war movement, the day had a much simpler meaning for longtime Morris-resident and former nine-year Major League veteran, Ed Spiezio. October 7, 1968, was the day Ed Spiezio recorded both the first and last hit of his World Series career.
Looking back on it now, it wasn’t the greatest moment of Spiezio’s career – he won two World Series championships as a member of both the 1964 and 1967 St. Louis Cardinals. He also hit .285 with 12 home runs and 42 RBI in 1970 with the San Diego Padres – but on an individual level, it’d be hard to imagine a greater high.
“Obviously there are the two World Series rings, and in 1972, when I played with the Sox, we came back from 8 ½ games back to first in a month. Then, I probably had my best year in 1970, but everyone dreams of actually playing in a World Series,” Spiezio said.
With the Cardinals trailing 5-3 in the top of the ninth inning, and their 6-7-8 spots due up in the lineup, catcher Tim McCarver, who is now an analyst for Fox, led off with a single before the Cardinals went to their bench. Utility man Phil Gagliano (Gagliano went on to play 40 games with the Cubs in 1970) pinch hit and flew out to center field, setting the table for Spiezio to pinch hit for Dal Maxvill. Dal was a Gold Glove shortstop in 1968, but he didn’t pose much of a threat at the plate, as he would finish his career with six home runs and an average of .217 in 3,898 plate appearances.
Maxvill would ultimately finish 20th in NL MVP balloting in 1968, largely because the Cardinals were heavily dependent on pitching and defense. St. Louis didn’t have a single player with an OPS over .750 in ’68, but they did have a team ERA of 2.49 (including Bob Gibson’s legendary 1.12 ERA that season.) In contrast, the 2012 Chicago White Sox had five players with an OPS of over .800.
So, despite Maxvill’s value to the Cardinals, manager Red Schoendienst decided Spiezio was their best option to try to get a rally going.
Facing off against Tigers starter Mickey Lolich, who would go on to become a three-time All-Star and would even lead the American League in wins in 1971, Spiezio singled into left field and brought the go-ahead run to the plate before exiting for a pinch-runner. It was far from heroic, but he certainly got the job done.
“Everybody grows up dreaming of being the guy that hits the home run to win the game (or tie in Ed’s case), but it’s different when you’re up there. My job was to extend the inning, plain and simple. That’s exactly what I did,” Spiezio said.