Late add to Cards' roster gets key hit Switch-hitter Young led Triple-A league with .333 average; NLCS notebook

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ST. LOUIS -- He was the last addition made to the postseason roster of the St. Louis Cardinals. He was the last player anyone would think might be one of the heroes in one of the most dramatic victories in the history of this franchise. And Dmitri Young couldn't remember the last time he had such a big hit.

"I can't look past about 30 seconds ago," Young said last night.

It was Young's two-out, two-run, pinch-hit triple off Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Greg McMichael that rallied the Cardinals from a three-run deficit and cleared the way for a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium.

Asked what approach he took against McMichael, Young said, "I really didn't have any approach. I really didn't know much about him. I just tried to make contact."

Even after McMichael kept throwing pitches away from the left-handed hitter. Even after he took the first two pitches and fell behind in the count. Young couldn't quite remember what his teammates had told him before he had gone to the plate, or what they said after he scored later on Royce Clayton's swinging roller.

"I really didn't see the ball go through the gap," Young said. "I was just trying to touch first base.

On a team with a talented 23-year-old first baseman in John Mabry, Young is considered someone the St. Louis front office will have to somehow fit into its plans. The 6-2, 240-pounder led the American Association in hitting with a .333 average at Triple-A Louisville this season, Mabry was recalled last month. He is 5-for-8 as a pinch hitter.

Mabry was put on the roster in place of journeyman pitcher Mike Morgan. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said it wasn't a difficult decision. "We didn't need 11 pitchers," he said. "We needed a pinch hitter who switch hits. That's a valuable guy to have."

Young became even more valuable last night.

McGee gets loud ovation

Willie McGee, another Cardinal who hit a memorable postseason triple as a rookie, received the loudest ovation from St. Louis fans before last night's game. McGee had replaced an injured Ray Lankford in center field for Game 4. "Fans recognize someone who is special, and Willie is very special," La Russa said. "But that's been going on all year. When he's announced as a pinch hitter, people were going crazy. He was a big part of this organization when they were on top."

That was a long time ago, when McGee was the catalyst on teams that went to the World Series in 1982, 1985 and 1987. As a rookie in 1982, McGee helped the Cardinals to a seven-game championship over the Milwaukee Brewers with two homers and two catches in Game 3. He was the National League's MVP in 1985, and drove in a career-high 105 runs in 1987.

Now 37 and in his second stint with the Cardinals, McGee was a key backup in the team's revival this season. He played in 123 games -- most of them coming when regulars Brian Jordan and Ron Gant were out for a stretch of seven weeks back to back because of injuries. McGee hit .307.

With Lankford out last night, McGee looked at as nothing more than a chance to help what has become baseball's surprise team finish its unexpected October performance.

"I've had my day," McGee said after finishing batting practice. "I've been around when I was expected to carry a big share of the load. This is their day."

McGee said that he appreciates the reception he seems to get every time he plays here, but little more. He did appear to wipe away a couple of tears as the crowd stood and cheered him Saturday, and doesn't want to make a big deal about the attention he receives. Or the excitement he feels.

As for next year, McGee said he isn't making any plans. He would like to be back for another season, but if not, "I'll go home and help raise the family."

If the Cardinals advance to the World Series, two sidelights will be Yankees manager Joe Torre, who played for the Cards for nearly five years and managed them for five years more. Also, Todd Stottlemyre's father, Mel, is the Yankees' pitching coach.

Pub Date: 10/14/96

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