Coleman Bites the Tarp

Coleman Bites the Tarp

October 13, 1985

After dropping Games One and Two of the 1985 NLCS in Los Angeles and winning Game Three at home, the St. Louis Cardinals were hoping to even up the series in Game Four in St. Louis on October 13, 1985. But the Cardinals would be in for an unwelcome surprise. Their star left fielder, Vince Coleman, would not be able to play because of a freak injury to his most dangerous weapon – his legs.

Leading off for a Cardinals team that won 101 games and the NL East title, Coleman had set a rookie record with 110 stolen bases. But the speedy carpet of Busch Stadium, which had helped him set the record, would betray him on this day.

With light rain falling on the field, the Busch Stadium grounds crew prepared to roll up the electronically-operated tarp that covered the Astroturf surface during pre-game warm-ups. Unfortunately, the men didn’t notice that Coleman was standing on the first base side of the tarp. Before Coleman knew what happened, the cylinder rolled over his left knee and up his leg. He screamed for help but was trapped for thirty seconds before assistance came.

The injuries, including a bone chip in his knee and bruises in his leg, were serious enough that Coleman had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. Although it was clear he’d miss the rest of the post-season, he managed to keep an admirable sense of humor about the incident, joking that “that tarp was a real man-eater.”

In Game Four, Coleman’s replacement — Terry “Tito” Landrum — stole the spotlight, smacking four hits and three RBIs to key the Cardinals’ 12-2 win. Two of his singles helped fuel a crushing nine-run second inning outburst. Backed by six scoreless innings from lefty John Tudor, the home team tied the series at two games apiece.

Despite Coleman’s accident, the Cardinals still pulled out the National League pennant in six games. In Game Five, an unexpected power source won the game as switch-hitting shortstop Ozzie Smith broke a ninth-inning deadlock by cracking the first left-handed home run of his career off Dodgers’ closer Tom Niedenfuer to give St. Louis a 2-1 victory. The Cardinals won Game Six on another ninth inning home run off Niedenfuer (this one by slugger Jack Clark), but their luck ran out in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. Despite winning the first two games in Kansas City and Game Four at St. Louis, the Cardinals blew their three-games-to-one lead, and were trounced 11-0 in the decisive Game Seven.