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Bob Lutz: Larry Jaster’s remarkable dominance of the Dodgers

Former St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Larry Jaster pitched five shutouts against the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 22-year-old in 1966.
Former St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Larry Jaster pitched five shutouts against the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 22-year-old in 1966.

This is a story so strange, so bizarre, as to be unbelievable. But it happened. It really happened.

In 1966, a St. Louis Cardinals left-hander by the name of Larry Jaster, whom 99.9 percent of you have never heard of, did something astonishing.

A little background on Jaster, first. He was a rookie for the Cardinals in 1965 and showed great promise in four appearances late in the season, three of them starts. After a scoreless inning of relief against the Los Angeles Dodgers (more on them in a bit) in his major league debut, Jaster pitched complete-game wins against Houston (4-1), San Francisco (9-1) and Houston again (6-3).

That earned Jaster a spot in the Cardinals’ rotation in 1966. And if he could have spent his career facing the Dodgers, he might be in the Hall of Fame today.

Instead, Jaster compiled a 35-33 career record and 3.65 ERA. He flamed out in St. Louis and was chosen by the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. He hooked on with the Braves for a couple of seasons, but was out of the game before his 30th birthday.

But what Jaster did against the Dodgers in 1966 remains one of the most remarkable baseball stories in history, one likely never to be duplicated.

He pitched against Los Angeles five times. He shut out Los Angeles five times.

Against LA, Jaster was 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA covering 45 innings.

Against the rest of the National League, he was 6-5 with a 4.64 ERA.

The Dodgers went to the World Series in 1966, losing to Baltimore in four games. The Orioles went all “Jaster“ against LA in that Series, allowing the Dodgers only two runs in four games and pitching shutouts in Games 2, 3 and 4.

Los Angeles did not have a lot of offensive firepower in 1966; the Dodgers were fueled by a pitching staff that included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen and rookie Don Sutton.

Jaster beat Hall of Famer Drysdale and Osteen twice and bested Sutton, another Hall of Famer, in a late-season game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. In his 45 scoreless innings against LA, Jaster allowed only 24 hits and eight walks while striking out 31.

Shutout No. 1, April 25 – Cardinals Curt Flood and Charley Smith drove home runs in the sixth inning of a 2-0 Cardinals win. Osteen went the distance for the Dodgers, allowing only five hits in eight innings. Willie Davis had a couple of hits for Los Angeles but Jaster scattered seven hits and didn’t walk a batter.

Shutout No. 2, July 3 – Jaster out-dueled Drysdale and finished with a three-hitter and walked only one while his teammates broke a scoreless tie in the fifth thanks to Dal Maxvill’s one-out single that drove home Mike Shannon, who led off the inning with a triple. In the ninth, St. Louis left fielder Lou Brock made it 2-0 with a solo homer.

Shutout No. 3, July 29 – Jaster struck out eight and the Cardinals got to Drysdale for two runs in the third inning on RBI hits by Brock and Orlando Cepeda. A leadoff triple by Brock led to another run in the fifth and consecutive hits by Julian Javier and Maxvill in the sixth led to an RBI ground out by Jaster.

Shutout No. 4, Aug. 19 – Jaster allowed five hits and walked three, but the Dodgers failed to get a big hit in a 4-0 St. Louis win against Osteen. Javier had an RBI double in the third and the Cardinals added three in the seventh on RBIs by Javier, Brock and Curt Flood.

Shutout No. 5, Sept. 28 – Jaster’s four-hitter and a two-out, two-run double by Ed Spiezio in the fourth inning were enough for a 2-0 St. Louis win against Sutton, a rookie who was 12-12 for the Dodgers in 1966. Both Cardinals runs were unearned, thanks to an error by Dodgers third baseman Dick Schofield.

Five starts, five shutouts.

Counting the scoreless inning of relief Jaster pitched against the Dodgers in his 1965 MLB debut, and six more shutout innings Jaster pitched against LA in an April 14, 1967, game, his scoreless streak against Los Angeles was at 52 when Jaster took the mound for the seventh inning. That’s when the Dodgers finally got to him.

Jim Lefebvre and Ron Fairly led off the seventh with singles, putting runners at first and third with no outs. Jaster got Bob Bailey to pop out to second base before catcher Jeff Torborg lofted a sacrifice fly to right field to break Jaster’s hex over Los Angeles.

Jaster made 18 starts and 25 appearances against Los Angeles during his career, far more than against any other team. He was 9-5 with a 2.81 ERA against LA. But take away those five shutouts in 1966 and he was 4-5 with a 4.18 ERA.

In fact, Jaster’s career numbers look a lot better because of how he pitched against the Dodgers in 1966.

Overall, Jaster was 33-35 with a 3.65 ERA in 597.1 big league innings.

Take away those dominant starts against LA in 1966, though, and Jaster was 28-35 with a 4.02 ERA.

And the best thing about all of this is that it can’t be explained. It just happened. No rhyme nor reason.

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