For some 18 years St. Louis had been without a World Series champion before the 1964 edition of the Redbirds pulled off one of the most remarkable comebacks in Major League history. Philadelphia looked like the team to beat. The Phillies spent almost the entire first half in first or second place, then moved into first place in July–seemingly to stay. The Cardinals, meanwhile didn’t look much like a contender, spending much of the season mired in the middle of the pack, and sometimes close to the bottom.
As late as June 17, the Cardinals were eighth in a 10-team league, although they were only six back of the lead. Then on June 15, the Cardinals acquired Lou Brock in a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Ernie Broglio and the outfielder seemed to ignite the team. The Cardinals called up prized prospect Mike Shannon in early July, but they were seventh as late as July 24. But with the likes of rising stars like Gibson and Tim Carver, and with veterans Ray Sadecki and Curt Simmons in addition to sluggers Bill White and Ken Boyer, the Cardinals began hitting their stride in late August.
On August 16, with the Cardinals at 61-54 and 9 1⁄2 games out of first place, impatient owner Gussie Busch fired general manager Bing Devine, who had been GM of Cardinals since 1957. On August 23, the Cardinals fell 11 games behind Philadelphia, tied for the farthest back they'd been all year, although they'd actually improved to fourth place in the overall standings. The Cardinals reeled a six-game winning streak immediately after falling 11 back and continued to play well in September, but the Phillies seemed to be playing well enough to win. On September 20 the Cardinals were tied with Cincinnati for second place, 6 1/2 games behind Philadelphia. However, injuries mounted for the Phillies as the season wore on. Philly manager Gene Mauch, in a move that has remained controversial ever since, reacted to his rotation's problems by using star pitchers Jim Bunning and Chris Short on less than normal rest six times down the stretch. Philadelphia lost all six of those games. Still, the Phillies held on to their lead.
On September 20, Philadelphia was 90-60 and led the National League by 6 1/2 games with only 12 games to go. A pennant seemed assured. Then came the infamous "Phillie Phold". The Phold started on September 21, when Philadelphia lost, 1-0 to Cincinnati. The Phils were swept in three games by the Reds, who crept to within 3 1⁄2 games of first place. Then they were swept in four games by Milwaukee. On the 25th, the Braves beat Philly in 12 innings. On the 26th, they beat Philly by scoring three in the top of the ninth. On the 27th, Milwaukee won 14-8, extending the Phils’ losing streak to seven games and dropping them out of first place for the first time in two months. The Phils were one game behind Cincinnati, whiel the Cardinals, who'd gone 6-1 during the Phils’ streak, were in third place, 1 1/2 games out.
The Cardinals and Philadelphia met for a crucial three-game series starting in St. Louis on September 28. The Cardinals won the first game 5-1, vaulting past Philly into second place, one game behind the idle Reds, with the Phils 1 1/2 games back. On the 29th, the Cards beat the Phils 4-2 behind a strong start from Sadecki, and Cincinnati lost to visiting Pittsburgh. The Cardinals were first place for the first time all year, tied with the Reds, with Philly 1 1/2 games back. On the 30th the Cardinals, behind Simmons, beat the Phillies again, 8-5. Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh at home again, and the Cardinals had sole possession of first. Philadelphia had lost 10 in a row and the Cardinals had won eight in a row.
The Cardinals lost, 1-0, on October 2 at home to the terrible Mets, while the Phillies beat the host Reds to finally snap their losing streak. On the 3rd, the Cardinals lost again to the Mets while the Phillies and Reds remained idle. St. Louis and Cincinnati were tied for first place with 92-69 records, while Philadelphia was one game behind at 91-70. On the last day of the season, October 4, the Phillies beat the Reds at Cincinnati again, but the Cardinals beat the visiting Mets, 11-5, to win the pennant by one game, with a 93-69 record. "The Phold" is remembered as one of the worst late-season collapses in baseball history. The Cardinals, having won their first pennant since 1946, went on to defeat the mighty Yankees in the World Series.