Matt Holliday's chop-block on Marco Scutaro may have done more than a Hunter Pence dugout sermon to build a fire under the San Francisco Giants and their fans. Here in the Bay Area, it was a dirty play. In the alternate universe beside the Mississippi River, it was good old country hardball.
Former Giants pitcher Mike Krukow called it "a bush play", which in baseball-talk, is about as vile an epithet as one can deliver. You can dismiss Krukow as a "homer", but it's way deeper than that. Krukow played on the Giants teams of the 80's, a time when a raging rivalry marked the relationship between the Giants and Cards.
Roger Craig managed the Giants; Whitey Herzog ran the Cardinals. Neither had much use for the other. Actually, I'm pretty sure it was more like an intense mutual dislike. Their teams reflected it. Giants-Cardianls games were grinding affairs, punctuated on occasion by brawls. And these weren't usually your basic baseball push-and-shove affairs. One memorable bout saw Giants catcher Bob Brenly and Cards icon Ozzie Smith brawling on the infield dirt after a takeout slide. Brenly punched Smith in the face, and if memory serves, The Wizard of Oz later dismissively asked, "Who the f*** is Bob Brenly?"
The high (or low) point of all this was the memorable 1987 NL Championship Series between the two teams. 7 games, all played before crowds of 55,000 or more. Giants left fielder Jeffrey Leonard homered in each of the first four games and enraged St. Louisans with his "one flap down" home run trot (and I do mean trot, the Hac-Man took his sweet time). The good people of Missouri showered Leonard with invective and even some garbage, and rattled cowbells in his direction (though it was teammate Chili Davis who had slurred St. Louis as "a cow town").
Krukow had a complete-game win in Game 4 of that NLCS and after a Game 5 win at Candlestick Park, the Giants needed a split in St. Louis to achieve their first World Series berth in 25 years. No go. The Cards won Games 6 and 7 before losing an epic 7-game World Series to the Twins.
So here we are, a quarter-century later. The NLCS moves to St. Louis all knotted at a game apiece and with Scutaro's status uncertain. Holliday's defense of his dastardly deed was far from full-throated: "I wish I had slid one step earlier," he said. Well, yes. Or maybe two steps earlier.
Meanwhile, Giants reliever Sergio Romo goofs off in the background during dugout live shots, and injured icon Brian Wilson sports a black-and-orange manicure while tapping out a rhythm on teammate Clay Hensley's head. Giants fans are loving that stuff; no doubt, the Busch Stadium crowd was not amused.