April 18, 1987: Tom Herr’s 10th-inning grand slam lifts Cardinals over the Mets on Seat Cushion Night

For decades afterwards, Cardinals fans would simply remember the game as “Seat Cushion Night.”

The Cardinals and Mets game on April 18, 1987, appeared on the schedule to be an ordinary April ballgame. It was just the 10th game of the season for both teams, and while the St. Louis and New York ballclubs were considered the leading contenders for the National League East championship, it was too early in the season for the game to have a significant impact on the pennant race.

Then things got weird.

Danny Cox, the 6-foot-4 right-hander from Northampton, United Kingdom, had pitched well in his first two starts of the season and entered with a 2-0 record and 2.84 ERA. However, after working around two hits in the first inning, the Mets took the lead in the second with an RBI single by Lenny Dykstra.

In the third, Cox gave up a double to Darryl Strawberry and walked Kevin McReynolds. Howard Johnson followed with a three-run homer to right field.

“I don’t even feel like I pitched,” said Cox after allowing four runs in three innings. “The game was a lot better after I got out. It couldn’t have got any worse. They hit my good pitches and they hit my bad pitches.”[1]

With Pat Perry pitching in the fourth, Keith Hernandez added a sacrifice fly that gave the Mets a 5-0 lead.

Mets starting pitcher Ron Darling allowed just one hit through the first three innings, but the Cardinals’ offense awoke in a crazy fourth inning. Tom Herr and Jack Clark led off with singles, and Willie McGee was credited with a single after he hit a hard ground ball up the middle. Mets second baseman Wally Backman got to the ball but dropped it as Herr scored.

Jim Lindeman followed with a two-run double in the right-field gap that scored Clark and McGee. After Terry Pendleton grounded out, the Cardinals attempted a suicide squeeze. Steve Lake bunted it foul, and Hernandez, the former Cardinals all-star, kicked the ball into the Cardinals dugout. Annoyed, Pendleton threw the ball back in Hernandez’s direction.

“It was two competitors,” Hernandez said. “It was the heat of battle. We had words in the middle innings, but when he got that hit in the last inning, we made up.

“Terry’s a good kid. I shouldn’t have kicked the ball in the dugout. I was wrong.”[2]

With the squeeze called off, Lake hit a ground ball up the middle that Backman fielded and threw home. Lindeman scored easily and Lake was credited with a single.

Darling struck out Perry for the second out of the inning before Vince Coleman singled and Ozzie Smith drew a four-pitch walk that loaded the bases. Darling then walked Herr on four pitches, tying the score 5-5. Mets manager Davey Johnson replaced Darling with David Cone, who struck out Clark to end the inning.

“We gave them five outs,” Davey Johnson said.[3]

Two innings later, the Cardinals took their first lead of the evening. Cone retired the first two batters he faced, but walked Smith. Herr followed with a double to right field that scored Smith from first base, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead and inspiring hundreds of the more than 48,000 St. Louis fans to throw that night’s promotional seat cushions onto the field. The game was delayed for six minutes while stadium personnel removed the cushions.[4]

Perry’s pitching had given the Cardinals a chance to erase the Mets’ early lead, but after he allowed a single to Strawberry to open the eighth, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog brought Todd Worrell into the game. Prior to the game, Worrell was recognized as the 1986 National League Rookie of the Year and Fireman of the Year Award winner. During the game, however, Worrell was unable to find the strike zone. After Strawberry was caught stealing, Worrell walked three batters before finally retiring Dykstra on a fly ball to shallow left field.

The Cardinals carried their one-run lead into the ninth, but Worrell’s wildness continued. After Worrell walked Backman and Hernandez, giving him five walks in an inning of work, Herzog called on Bill Dawley, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound right-hander whom the Cardinals had acquired the previous offseason from the White Sox in a trade for Fred Manrique.

Dawley retired Carter and Strawberry on fly balls (Vince Coleman made a leaping catch of Strawberry’s fly to rob him of extra bases), but McReynolds singled into left field to score Backman and Howard Johnson followed with a line-drive single to right. Hernandez scored, giving the Mets a 7-6 lead, but Tito Landrum, who had replaced Lindeman in right field after Lindeman pulled his right hamstring, threw McReynolds out at the plate to end the inning. That proved to be a crucial play.

To save the game, Davey Johnson turned to Jesse Orosco, a left-hander from Santa Barbara, California, who was drafted by the Cardinals in the seventh round of the 1977 draft but didn’t sign. Smith, reaching base for the third time in the game, drew a leadoff walk and Herr sacrificed him to second base. With Clark at the plate, Smith stole third base and scored on a throwing error by Mets catcher Gary Carter.

The Mets regained the lead in the top of the 10th. Al Pedrique, who entered the game at shortstop after Rafael Santana was lifted for a pinch hitter, drew a walk to lead off the inning and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Dave Magadan. With Dave LaPoint in the game in place of Dawley, Dykstra advanced Pedrique to third base with a ground ball to first base, putting Pedrique in position to score when LaPoint uncorked a wild pitch. After walking Tim Teufel, LaPoint retired Hernandez on a ground ball to end the inning.

For the third time in the game, the Cardinals rallied back. Orosco retired Landrum to open the inning, but Pendleton and Lake singled. Herzog inserted rookie catcher Tom Pagnozzi in the game to bat for Curt Flood and replaced Lake on the base paths with Tom Lawless.

Pagnozzi was up to the task, lashing his first big-league hit to right field to tie the score. Coleman grounded to first base for the second out of the inning, but advanced Lawless to third and Pagnozzi to second. The Mets chose to walk Smith to load the bases and pitch to Herr, who already had reached base four times in the game and had driven in the winning run in three of the Cardinals’ five previous victories that season.

It proved to be a poor decision. Orosco threw a first-pitch fastball and Herr turned on it, depositing the ball over the left-field wall for a 12-8 victory.

“As a hitter, that’s a perfect situation to be in because there was nowhere to put me,” Herr said in 2020. “(Orosco) had to get ahead and he had no command of his breaking ball that night. That’s what made him great – he was a slider pitcher – but he got in trouble with his slider so he couldn’t throw that. I was just sitting on a fastball, hopefully something up in the zone that I could hit a sacrifice fly. That was all we needed. That fly ball just happened to go out of the ballpark.”[5]

Orosco knew it was headed over the wall as soon as it was hit.

“I was hoping it would hit a bird or something,” he said.[6]

As Herr circled the bases, hundreds more of the promotional seat cushions were tossed onto the field, so many that when the Cardinals and Mets arrived at the stadium the following day, the grounds crew was still picking them up.[7]

“I knew it was out when I hit it,” Herr said. “It was a great feeling seeing everybody waiting at home plate and going a little crazy.”[8]

After the game, an usher brought Herr the game-winning home run ball.

“Is it dented on the side?” Herr asked.[9]

Herr finished the game 3-for-3 with two walks, two runs scored, and six RBIs. Smith drew four walks in the game and stole two bases, and McGee, Pendleton, and Lake finished with two hits apiece. LaPoint was credited with the win, while Orosco took the loss for the Mets.

“Our guys showed a lot of guts,” Cox said. “Down 5-0 in the fourth inning and we come back and win … that shows what this club is made of.”[10]

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[1] Rick Hummel, “Cox Marvels At Cards’ Saturday Night Special,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 20, 1987: Page 6C.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Slam Stuns Mets 12-8,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 19, 1987: Page F1.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Slam Stuns Mets 12-8,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 19, 1987: Page F1.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Slam Stuns Mets 12-8,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 19, 1987: Page F1.

[5] KSDK Interview, “Tommy Herr talks about the famous ‘seat cushion night’ at Busch Stadium in 1987,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C49qoyikhyo, May 27, 2020.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Slam Stuns Mets 12-8,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 19, 1987: Page F1.

[7] Rick Hummel, “What a wild ride the Cards took in ’87,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 13, 2007: Page B5.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Slam Stuns Mets 12-8,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 19, 1987: Page F1.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Cox Marvels At Cards’ Saturday Night Special,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 20, 1987: Page 6C.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Cox Marvels At Cards’ Saturday Night Special,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 20, 1987: Page 6C.

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