Last Monday on Memorial Day my family enjoyed a very special day with my cousin Charlie James that was honored by the St. Louis Cardinals that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 World Series team. Had a wonderful time visiting and talking about the 1964 team he played on. Once again this proves how the St. Louis Cardinals influences both sides of the family that are related to Charlie James. When I was as a child. I was always a part of some type of baseball team growing up in St. Louis. I was tagged as Charlie James cousin among the little league coaches. My ability to play baseball was good at best but never exceeded beyond little league but I loved the game anyway. Now as a father my nine year old now embraces the fan fare in regards to Charlie. Since playing baseball himself my son has taken on Charlie’s jersey number 23 but he does remind people that number 23 has nothing to do with David Freese. My son tells me when he becomes a Major League Baseball player he will choose number 23 to honor Charlie James.
Just recently an article was written about Charlie James in the Fulton Sun that was brought to my attention. Its a great read:
Charlie James has a particular World Series recollection of Bob Uecker shagging fly balls with a musical instrument during batting practice.
James was a reserve infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and Uecker served as the team’s backup catcher. The pair were taking practice cuts prior to Game 1 of the 1964 series against the New York Yankees.
James and Uecker, now a Hall of Fame announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers, noticed a band rehearsing the National Anthem in center field of the old Busch Stadium. Uecker — the team “joker,” according to James — had the bright idea of trying to exchange his catcher’s mitt for a tuba from one of the band members.
The trade was made and before James knew it, Uecker was traversing the outfield and hauling in balls with the brass.
“I don’t know how much good that did the tuba with all the dents,” James said with a chuckle on Tuesday. “But it was a sight to see.”
So, too, was that 1964 Cardinals team, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of its World Series title during a ceremony before Monday afternoon’s game against the Yankees in St. Louis.
James — a Fulton resident since 1972 and retired owner of Central Electric — was one of 14 former Redbirds in attendance to commemorate the well-documented efforts of that championship squad.
The Cardinals — down 6 1/2 games with 12 to go — won nine of 10 to end the regular season and capitalized on a historic collapse by the Philadelphia Phillies to clinch the National League pennant on the final day.
From there, St. Louis took down the favored Yankees in seven games to capture its seventh world title, and first since 1946.
James’ memories of that late-season run are still crisp as he wonders where all the time went.
“The way you could tell it was 50 years was that some of us were slower getting around,” James joked. “Some of us had bad wheels, were slumped over, but most of us are still in pretty good shape.”
The 1964 team was inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and was honored by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America-St. Louis chapter this past January.
Former teammates gathered again last Sunday for dinner and catch-up time at the Four Seasons St. Louis.
Lots of stories — sometimes “stretched,” in the words of James — were rehashed. James and former Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver recalled the team’s small margin for error during that September pennant race.
“I think we were winning all the kind of, what you would call ‘must-win games’ to stay right there,” James said.
During dinner, James fondly remembered the routine, or lack thereof, between McCarver and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson whenever McCarver tried to approach the mound.
“When Tim would come out, (Gibson) would say, ‘No. Just stay with the catching and I’ll stay with the pitching,’” James said. “They were good friends, but they would tell funny stories about how they interacted.”
James — a native St. Louisan who played five seasons with the Cardinals and one with the Cincinnati Reds — got the biggest kick out of seeing his old roommate and former St. Louis second baseman Julian Javiar.
“He was one of the people that couldn’t make it to the writers’ dinner in January, because he lives in the Domincan Republic,” James said. “I was really excited to see him.”
The players reconvened at Busch Stadium on Monday and were each honored with a jersey with their uniform number on the back. They took questions from the media before each boarded a Ford Mustang (a model celebrating its own 50th anniversary), took a pregame tour around the stadium and were introduced to the crowd at home plate prior to the first pitch.
Tom Clapp and Steve Mallinckrodt — both friends of James — witnessed the ceremony live from Section 240.
Mallinckrodt — now the director at SERVE, Inc., in Fulton — was 12 years old during that memorable run in 1964 and remembers tuning his radio and tracking the Cardinals’ push.
He and James became acquainted in the 1980s when the latter joined the congregation at Court Street United Methodist Church.
“… We overemphasize the importance of sports and I’m a crazy Cardinal fan, but Charlie is a class act more than just being a World Series champion,” Mallinckrodt said. “He’s a champion in how he treats people.”
Mallinckrodt particularly noted the cohesion of that 1964 squad, a not-so-homogenous group that featured black and Latin American players. In a time where totally integrated teams still weren’t the norm, St. Louis manager Johnny Keane successfully molded the players into a unit.
More than a world championship, Mallinckrodt believes that racial harmony will be that 1964 team’s most lasting legacy.
The relationship between James and Javiar is a prime example of that.
“That was the kind of man Charlie was,” Mallinckrodt said. “He was open and honest and accepting, and that wasn’t always accepted back then.”
James — who went hitless in three pinch-hit appearances during the World Series against the Yankees — stressed that tenacity was the 1964 group’s calling card.
Not only did the Cardinals have to scrape, claw and get some help from the Phillies to win the NL pennant, but they had to deal with the underdog tag against the mighty Yankees, winners of 14 of the previous 16 American League crowns.
“A lot of people were thinking that the big Yankees were going to roll into town and roll over the Cardinals,” James said. “We didn’t feel like we were going to be outplayed, we felt like we had just as good of a team as them. We did not fear the Yankees.”
St. Louis took the opener 9-5, then dropped the next two games. New York led 3-0 through five innings in Game 4 before a grand slam by third baseman Ken Boyer led the Cardinals to a 4-3 win and evened the series at 2-all.
The teams split the next two contests before St. Louis clinched the Series title with a 7-5 victory in Game 7.
“If you could have been there to hear the ovation,” recalled James. “I couldn’t believe it.”
It was a sight to behold, just like Uecker fielding fly balls with a tuba days earlier.
As for Mallinckrodt, seeing James — first a member of Cardinals lore and now a friend — get recognition with the rest of the 1964 ensemble was a proud moment.
“To know Charlie James as a human being and know his contributions to the community just beyond knowing a member of that team, it was great to honor that team and to know that Charlie was a member of it,” Mallinckrodt said.
article written by Josh Mosley of the Fulton Sun