Scott Spiezio had the pedigree, the championship experience and the right amount of nonconformity to appeal to the Cardinals. What they didn’t know when they invited him to spring training was whether he still could produce.

scott_spiezioTen years ago, on Feb. 17, 2006, the Cardinals signed Spiezio, a free agent, to a minor-league contract and brought him to camp at Jupiter, Fla., to compete for a utility role with the major-league club.

“There is a chance to give him some at-bats and see what he’s got,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The low-risk gamble yielded a big return for the Cardinals. Spiezio, 33, impressed in spring training, earned a spot on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster and contributed to St. Louis winning its first World Series title in 24 years.

Based on what Spiezio had done the previous two seasons, it was hard to envision him having the success he did with the 2006 Cardinals.

Happy in a halo

In 2002, as the everyday first baseman for the Angels, Spiezio batted .285 with 82 RBI. He had a spectacular postseason against the Yankees, Twins and Giants, batting .327 with 19 RBI, helping the Angels to their lone World Series championship.

Spiezio drove in 83 runs for the 2003 Angels, then became a free agent and signed with the Mariners. Limited by back problems, Spiezio’s career nosedived in Seattle. He hit .215 in 112 games in 2004 and .064 (3-for-47) in 29 games in 2005.

The Mariners released him in August 2005 and no other team showed interest until the Cardinals signed him six months later on the eve of spring training.

Open audition

St. Louis was seeking a replacement for John Mabry, who performed as a backup at first base, third base and in the outfield for the 2005 Cardinals. After that season, Mabry became a free agent and signed with the Cubs.

To replace Mabry, the Cardinals looked outside the organization. In December 2005, they signed Brian Daubach, 33, a free agent who had played in the big leagues with the Marlins, Red Sox, White Sox and Mets.

Daubach hit 20 or more homers in each of four consecutive seasons (1999-2002) with the Red Sox. He had spent most of the 1995 season with the Mets’ Class AAA club at Norfolk, hitting .325 with 29 doubles, 16 home runs and 62 RBI in 99 games.

Spiezio was signed to provide competition for Daubach. A switch hitter, Spiezio could play first base, third base, second base and outfield. Daubach, a left-handed batter, primarily was a first baseman and outfielder.

All in the family

A Belleville, Ill., native, Daubach had been a Cardinals fan as a youth.

Spiezio, a native of Joliet, Ill., was the son of a Cardinals player. Ed Spiezio was a third baseman and outfielder who played five years (1964-68) with the Cardinals and appeared in two World Series (1967-68) for them.

When Scott Spiezio showed up at Cardinals training camp in 2006, he was assigned uniform number 26, the same his father had worn for St. Louis.

Good guy

Scott Spiezio also turned some heads at camp with his appearance. His left arm was covered with a tattoo displaying the full body image of his wife, Jennifer. A tuft of hair _called a soul patch_ below his lip and above his chin was dyed red in tribute to the Cardinals.

“We’ve got some reports he can be a little bit off the wall,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to Post-Dispatch writer Joe Strauss. “But he’s also a good guy. We don’t want to bring guys in here who are jerks. It’s something we research very heavily before we acquire a player.”

Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein, who was Spiezio’s teammate with the Angels, vouched for him, saying, “Scott is a hard-nosed guy who really understands and loves playing the game … He wants to win.”

Said Spiezio: “I just like to have fun. You’ve got to remember it’s just a game.”

Making the grade

Spiezio got five hits in his first six spring exhibition game at-bats.

“We’re watching him really closely,” La Russa said. “He’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t have a real long leash. I’m impressed with the life in his body.”

Daubach hit well in Cardinals exhibition games, but Spiezio’s ability to play both corner infield positions gave him an edge. Daubach was sent to Class AAA Memphis and Spiezio earned a spot with the Cardinals as a backup to Albert Pujols at first and Scott Rolen at third.

Ed Spiezio and Scott Spiezio became the third father and son to play for the Cardinals. The others were outfielder Ed Olivares and his son, pitcher Omar Olivares, and pitchers Pedro Borbon and Pedro Borbon Jr.

Up, then down

In 2006, Spiezio hit .272 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI in 119 games for the Cardinals. He hit .318 versus left-handers. He produced all of his home runs against right-handers.

Spiezio played in 38 games at third base, 35 in left field, 13 at first base, eight at second base and five as designated hitter for the 2006 Cardinals.

In 2007, Spiezio underwent treatment for substance abuse and missed more than a month of the season. In December that year, he was involved in a car crash in California.

Two months later, a warrant was issued for Spiezio in that accident and he was charged with drunken driving and assault. The Cardinals released him.

Regarding the club’s decision, La Russa told the Associated Press, “I think it’s a consistent message about what the team represents.”

Previously: How Carlos Villanueva put a scare into 2006 Cardinals

Matched against an elite big-game pitcher in an electric atmosphere overloaded with emotion from toxic comments by teammate Brandon Phillips and the surprise arrival of Jim Edmonds, Reds rookie Mike Leake unraveled versus the Cardinals.

mike_leakeOn Aug. 9, 2010, Reds manager Dusty Baker gave Leake the start in the opener of a showdown series against the Cardinals at Cincinnati. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa countered with an ace, Chris Carpenter.

After a scoreless duel for three innings, Leake cracked. He yielded seven runs in the fourth and became unnerved, losing track of the number of outs and heading toward the dugout before being sent back to the mound.

Emboldened, the Cardinals won the game, swept the series and overtook the Reds for first place in the National League Central Division.

Leake rebounded from that embarrassment. He posted a 64-52 record and 3.88 ERA in six years with the Reds and Giants. On Dec. 22, 2015, Leake, a free agent, signed with the Cardinals.

Queen City drama

In 2010, the Reds were seeking their first NL Central title in 15 years. On the morning of Aug. 9, they held a two-game lead over the second-place Cardinals entering a three-game series against them.

The tension between the division rivals, already high, was intensified that day by two developments:

_ Reds general manager Walt Jocketty acquired Edmonds from the Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson.

Jocketty had won two NL pennants and a World Series title as Cardinals general manager before he was fired after the 2007 season. Edmonds had been the Cardinals’ center fielder and a slugger on those championship clubs, then was traded after Jocketty departed.

Edmonds joined four other former Cardinals _ third baseman Scott Rolen, infielder Miguel Cairo and pitchers Russ Springer and Mike Lincoln _ on the Reds.

_ In an interview with Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, Phillips lit into the Cardinals. McCoy posted the comments online before the game and the Cardinals read the remarks.

Said Phillips of the Cardinals: “All they do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them. They’re little bitches … I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals.”

Schumaker slam

Baker started a lineup that night with Phillips in the leadoff spot, Rolen at cleanup and Edmonds, in his Reds debut, batting fifth.

The Cardinals focused on trying to lay off Leake’s sinker and get him to deliver pitches up in the strike zone.

In the fourth, that strategy paid dividends.

The first six Cardinals batters that inning produced six hits and six runs on 12 pitches.

Jon Jay doubled and Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Yadier Molina each singled. The hits by Holliday and Rasmus each drove in a run. Molina’s single loaded the bases for Skip Schumaker, who was playing his first game since spraining his left wrist Aug. 3.

Leake’s first pitch to Schumaker was on the outside corner. Schumaker swung and drove the ball 408 feet over the wall in left-center field for his first career grand slam, giving St. Louis a 6-0 lead. Video

Dazed and confused

“They got six in a span of 12 pitches,” Baker said to the Associated Press. “It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to get anybody warmed up.”

After Schumaker’s slam, Leake struck out Carpenter and Brendan Ryan, then jogged off the mound and was at the foul line before he realized there were two outs, not three.

Leake returned to the mound and pitched to Felipe Lopez, who singled. That’s when Baker lifted Leake. Reliever Carlos Fisher walked Jay and yielded a single to Pujols, scoring Lopez. That run was charged to Leake, whose final line showed seven runs allowed in 3.2 innings.

Good plan

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Strauss wrote, “The Cards perfectly executed an early attack against Leake … They noticed a flattening of Leake’s assortment in his previous start and adopted a very aggressive tact.”

Said Schumaker: “That was the game plan from the very beginning. He’s a strike thrower. He gets a lot of groundballs. He’s very effective and he knows how to pitch.”

The Cardinals won, 7-3, and moved within a game of the Reds. Boxscore

Phillips was 0-for-5. Edmonds and Rolen also were hitless.

“I’m guessing Phillips really hated seeing Schumaker hit the grand slam, a massive hit that wasn’t very Cubs-like,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.

Said Schumaker: “I didn’t know we had bad blood. They can talk. We’ll leave our comments to ourselves.”

Tempers flare

The next night, Aug. 10, Phillips sparked a brawl between the teams when, in the batter’s box, he used his bat to tap Molina’s shin guards. Molina responded angrily, both benches emptied and the fight carried to the backstop.

Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kicked Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue in the head and he also kicked Carpenter in the back. Baker and La Russa were ejected.

The Cardinals won that game, 8-4, and moved into a tie with the Reds for first place. Boxscore

On Aug. 11, the Cardinals completed the sweep with a 6-1 triumph. Rasmus hit a grand slam off Bronson Arroyo, Adam Wainwright pitched seven shutout innings and the Cardinals had first place to themselves.

The Reds, though, recovered and went on to win the division title, finishing five games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals.

Previously: Cardinals classic: Skip Schumaker bests Roy Halladay

Previously: Carlos Beltran like Will Clark with fast start for Cards

Needing a closer, the 1996 Cardinals wanted Dennis Eckersley. What they didn’t want was the obligation to pay his entire salary.

dennis_eckersley3When the Athletics agreed to pay part of the sum and Eckersley agreed to defer much of the rest, the Cardinals agreed to a deal.

Twenty years ago, on Feb. 13, 1996, the Cardinals acquired Eckersley from the Athletics for reliever Steve Montgomery.

Eckerlsey, 41, was under contract to receive $2.2 million in 1996.

To make the trade, all sides agreed to this arrangement: The Athletics would pay him $700,000, the Cardinals would pay him $500,000 and Eckersley would defer $1 million to another year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Sticking together

Looking to rebuild after finishing in last place in 1995, the Athletics were eager to grant Eckersley’s request to be traded to St. Louis. Eckersley sought to be reunited with manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Eckersley had been transformed from a starter to a closer by La Russa and Duncan after he was traded to the Athletics by the Cubs in April 1987. With Eckersley reliably sealing wins, the Athletics won three consecutive American League pennants and a World Series title from 1988-90.

Asked about La Russa by Chicago Tribune columnist Jerome Holtzman, Eckersley said, “I respect everything about him.”

Because he had pitched in the big leagues for at least 10 years, including the last five in a row with one club, Eckersley could veto a trade.

“If he goes elsewhere, it’ll be St. Louis,” Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson told columnist Bob Nightengale of The Sporting News. “It won’t be anywhere else.”

Experience wanted

La Russa, who left the Athletics after the 1995 season to become manager of the Cardinals, told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch he was “hoping” Eckersley could be acquired by the time training camp opened at St. Petersburg, Fla. Acknowledging that negotiations were held up, La Russa added, “I don’t know if it can happen.”

Eckersley had one of his worst seasons in 1995. Though he earned 29 saves in 38 chances, Eckersley had a 4.83 ERA in 52 appearances. It was his third consecutive season with an ERA above 4.00. From 1988 through 1992, Eckersley had posted ERAs below 3.00 each year.

“Eck has got plenty left physically,” La Russa said. “Mentally and emotionally, he’s still at the top of his game.”

Tom Henke, who had 36 saves and a 1.82 ERA for the 1995 Cardinals, had retired, leaving St. Louis without an established closer.

The Cardinals envisioned Eckersley as a fit for the role while a pair of potential successors, T.J. Mathews and John Frascatore, continued to develop.

Oakland connections

After the deal was made, La Russa said, “We’re getting a guy who will be anywhere from good to great as a closer this year.”

Said Eckersley: “To be an effective closer, you have to have a manager who knows how to use you.”

The Athletics reportedly wanted Mathews _ who would be dealt to Oakland a year later for slugger Mark McGwire _ but settled for Montgomery, 25, a prospect who earned 36 saves for manager Mike Ramsey at Class AA Arkansas in 1995.

“This was more to accommodate Dennis than acquire Steve,” Alderson told the San Francisco Chronicle. “… This is what Dennis wanted and, given where we are, this is probably best for us, too.”

Eckersley joined Rick Honeycutt, Mike Gallego and Todd Stottlemyre as the fourth former Athletics player the Cardinals had acquired since La Russa became St. Louis manager.

Eckersley went on to pitch two seasons for the Cardinals. He had 30 saves in 38 chances (0-6 record, 3.30 ERA) in 1996. He followed that with 36 saves in 44 chances (1-5 record, 3.91 ERA) in 1997.

In two years with the Athletics, Montgomery was a combined 1-1 with a 9.45 ERA. He also pitched for the 1999 Phillies and 2000 Padres.

Previously: How Tony Gwynn tormented Dennis Eckersley, Cardinals

Previously: Dennis Eckersley is oldest to lead Cardinals in saves

If Jedd Gyorko hits as well for the Cardinals as he did against them, St. Louis will have added a productive batter to its lineup.

jedd_gyorkoAcquired by the Cardinals from the Padres in a trade for outfielder Jon Jay on Dec. 8, 2015, Gyorko entered the 2016 season as a versatile infielder who can perform at second base, shortstop and third base.

His career batting average versus the Cardinals is .342 (25-for-73), with five home runs and 16 RBI in 20 games.

Two of Gyorko’s best games came against the Cardinals in 2014.

Here is a look at those performances:

Sweet swing

Batting sixth and playing second base, Gyorko was 3-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored against the Cardinals in a 12-1 Padres victory at San Diego on July 30, 2014.

He got a hit apiece off three pitchers.

Gyorko began his barrage with a solo home run in the fourth inning off starter Joe Kelly.

“Pitches were up that should have been down,” Kelly told the Associated Press.

In the sixth, Gyorko singled off Carlos Martinez. An inning later, with the bases loaded and one out, Gyorko hit a three-run double off Seth Maness, giving San Diego a 9-1 lead.

‘It was probably our ugliest loss of the year,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

Gyorko had been activated two days earlier after a 44-day stint on the disabled list because of foot problems.

“It obviously feels good to swing the bat the way I wanted to,” Gyorko said. “It feels a lot like how I was swinging it there at the end of the year last year. It’s something to build on, but I still have a long way to go.” Boxscore

Grand game

Two weeks later, on Aug. 16, 2014, at St. Louis, Gyorko hit a grand slam, lifting the Padres to a 9-5 victory over the Cardinals.

Batting fifth and playing second base, Gyorko was 2-for-3 with five RBI, two runs scored and two walks.

In the third, Gyorko’s two-out, RBI-single off Shelby Miller scored Abraham Almonte from third base, sparking a four-run Padres inning and tying the score at 4-4.

Said Miller: “Unacceptable. Obviously, it doesn’t sit well with me. I should have done a better job of making pitches.”

The Cardinals led, 5-4, entering the seventh. With one out and the bases loaded, Gyorko connected on a 94-mph fastball from reliever Kevin Siegrist, launching a grand slam over the left field wall and giving the Padres an 8-5 lead.

“It was a fastball down and in,” Gyorko said. “It probably wasn’t a bad pitch. I just put a good swing on it.”

The home run was the 31st of Gyorko’s big-league career, moving him past Mark Loretta as the Padres’ all-time home run leader as a second baseman.

“That’s a credit to the guys hitting in front of me,” Gyorko told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Really, they are doing a great job of getting on base. I just have to capitalize more like tonight.”

The grand slam was the third of Gyorko’s big-league career and the only one yielded by Siegrist with the Cardinals. Boxscore

Afterward, Siegrist was demoted to the minor leagues and Martinez was recalled from Class AAA Memphis to replace him.

Said Matheny of Siegrist: “He feels physically strong, but there’s just something that’s a click off.”

Previously: Cards steals leader Jon Jay plays similar to Wally Moon

Previously: Jon Jay matched Curt Flood as flawless in center

When Walt “No Neck” Williams played in the Cardinals’ system, he was hailed as the best hitter in the minor leagues and was said to have the potential to be the next Minnie Minoso.

walt_williamsThough he impressed the Cardinals, he never played for them at the major-league level. At the time, the Cardinals were stocked with premier outfielders such as Lou Brock and Curt Flood, with prospects such as Bobby Tolan waiting in reserve.

When the Cardnals acquired Roger Maris from the Yankees in December 1966, Williams was deemed expendable.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1966, the Cardinals traded Williams and reliever Don Dennis to the White Sox for catcher Johnny Romano and minor-league pitcher Leland White.

Williams, 72, died Jan. 23, 2016, in Abilene, Texas, near his hometown of Brownwood. The story of how he joined the Cardinals’ organization and solidified himself as a quality hitter is presented here in tribute.

Rushed to majors

At 19, Williams signed with the Houston Colt .45s and was assigned to Class A. He achieved immediate success, batting .341 (143 hits in 105 games combined) for Durham and Modesto in 1963.

At spring training in 1964, Williams, 20, impressed the Colt .45s _ he nailed three runners at home with his outfield throws _ and he opened the 1964 big-league season with Houston.

Williams told The Sporting News it was during this time that someone in the Colt .45s front office gave him the nickname of “No Neck.”

At 5 feet 6 and 190 pounds, Williams was described by one writer as “built along the lines of a fireplug,” creating a perception that his head was touching his shoulders.

Overmatched, Williams was hitless in nine at-bats for the Colt .45s. He was placed on waivers in May 1964 and claimed by the Cardinals, who assigned him to Class A Winnipeg.

Coached by Cardinals

In the Cardinals’ system, Williams quickly re-established himself as a fierce hitter and elite prospect. He batted .318 (114 hits in 88 games) for manager Ron Plaza at Winnipeg.

After the season, the Cardinals sent Williams to the Florida Instructional League. His manager there was the respected instructor, George Kissell. Williams thrived, hitting .320 for the instructional league team.

In 1965, Williams was moved up a level to Class AA Tulsa. Playing for manager Vern Rapp, Williams hit safely in Tulsa’s first 18 games. He hit .418 (28-for-67) during that streak.

Williams finished the 1965 season with a .330 batting average (189 hits in 141 games), 36 stolen bases and 106 runs scored.

In 1966, Tulsa joined the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. Charlie Metro was manager. The Cardinals assigned Williams and two other top outfield prospects, Tolan and Ted Savage, to Tulsa.

Williams, batting leadoff and playing left field, had another stellar season with Tulsa. He led the league in batting average, hitting .330 (193 hits in 146 games) for the second consecutive season, and produced 54 doubles, 25 steals and 107 runs scored.

Change in plans

Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam and manager Red Schoendienst had considered promoting Williams to St. Louis during the 1966 season, The Sporting News reported. However, they opted to let him play at Tulsa, knowing he was unlikely to get many at-bats on a Cardinals club that featured starting outfielders Brock, Flood and Mike Shannon.

Based on his minor-league success, Williams was rated a top contender to win a spot with the 1967 Cardinals. That changed, however, on Dec. 8, 1966, when the Cardinals traded for Maris. The plan was to move Shannon to third base and start Maris in an outfield with Brock and Flood.

A week later, Williams was dealt to the White Sox.

“Williams should be a crowd pleaser (with Chicago),” Howsam said. “When you take a look at our outfield picture, you can see why we could afford to deal him.”

Hit man

The White Sox were ecstatic to acquire a prospect whom they expected would contend for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1967.

“We picked up the best hitter in the minor leagues,” said White Sox general manager Ed Short.

Comparisons were made to Minoso, an all-star outfielder who six times batted better than .300 for the White Sox.

“White Sox officials believe they may just have another Minnie Minoso in No Neck Williams,” The Sporting News gushed.

Les Moss, manager of the White Sox’s Class AAA Indianapolis team, had seen Williams play for Tulsa and said, “He’s the nearest thing to Minnie in his hustle, desire and aggressiveness that I’ve seen around anywhere. He’s no power hitter, but he can whack that ball. He’s an excellent leadoff man.”

Said Metro: “The White Sox got themselves a fine-looking prospect. He not only was the best hitter in the league, but he’s a pretty fair outfielder … He overcomes mistakes with his speed.”

No fooling around

Williams hit .358 in spring training for the 1967 White Sox, closing with 10 hits in his last 17 at-bats. He was named Opening Day starting left fielder by White Sox manager Eddie Stanky.

“He’s really an aggressive hitter,” Stanky said. “He doesn’t fool around up there at the plate. He attacks the ball. He’s one of the few players who can tie into a high pitch and whack it for a line drive.”

Williams, 23, hit .240 in 104 games as a White Sox rookie. He went on to play 10 years in the majors (with the Colt .45s, White Sox, Indians and Yankees), batting .270 overall. His best season was in 1969 when he hit .304 (143 hits in 135 games) for the White Sox and ranked third among AL right fielders in assists (with 10).

Neither of the players acquired by the Cardinals for Williams contributed much. Romano, a backup to catcher Tim McCarver, had slugged 15 home runs for the 1966 White Sox, but he hit .121 in 24 games for the 1967 Cardinals and was released after the season. White, a left-hander, never appeared in a big-league game for St. Louis.

With Brock, Flood and Maris in the outfield and Shannon at third base, the 1967 Cardinals won the National League pennant and World Series championship.

Previously: 2nd career as Cardinal was long, fruitful for Ted Savage

Previously: How Oscar Taveras connects to Bobby Tolan as Cardinals

Weakened while treating a bleeding ulcer, Cardinals pitcher Brooks Lawrence was ineffective in 1955. He went from being the Opening Day starter to getting demoted to the minor leagues that season.

brooks_lawrenceThough the Cardinals needed pitching, they decided Lawrence wouldn’t regain the effectiveness he showed as a rookie in 1954.

Sixty years ago, on Jan. 31, 1956, St. Louis traded Lawrence and minor-league pitcher Sonny Senerchia to the Reds for reliever Jackie Collum.

It turned out the Cardinals gave up on Lawrence too soon.

With his strength back and his ulcer under control, Lawrence pitched for the Reds in 1956 the way he had as a Cardinals rookie.

It was yet another example of Lawrence’s ability to persevere.

Long road to majors

Lawrence served in the Pacific with the Army during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for using a machine gun to fight off an enemy plane that was firing on U.S. soldiers. He attended Miami University in Ohio and began his professional pitching career in the Indians organization in 1949.

By 1953, he was discouraged still to be at the Class B level.

Mickey Owen, the former Cardinals catcher, had managed Lawrence in the winter league at Puerto Rico and suggested to the Reds that they acquire Lawrence. They did, but they left him exposed in the December 1953 minor-league draft and the Cardinals claimed him.

Lawrence opened the 1954 season with the Cardinals’ Class AAA club at Columbus, Ohio. He was 6-4 with a 5.53 ERA when the Cardinals, desperate for pitching, promoted him to the big leagues in June 1954.

Milestone performance

In his debut against the Pirates at Pittsburgh, Lawrence, 29, started and pitched a four-hitter. He became the first African-American pitcher to earn a win for the Cardinals. Boxscore

From there, Lawrence established himself as a valuable, versatile pitcher. In 35 appearances, including 18 starts, he was 15-6 with a 3.74 ERA for the 1954 Cardinals. He ranked second on the club in wins and complete games (eight).

Lawrence was adept at starting (9-2, 3.85 ERA) and relieving (6-4, 3.25 ERA) for the 1954 Cardinals.

Against the Cubs that season, Lawrence was 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA.

Medical emergency

Shortly after the 1954 season, Lawrence was home in Springfield, Ohio, when he collapsed.

“I was coming out of the bathroom and passed out from loss of blood,” he told The Sporting News.

Lawrence was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. He needed eight transfusions and spent 10 days in a hospital. “The doctor told me that if they had waited a half hour longer to bring me to the hospital it would have been too late,” Lawrence said.

According to The Sporting News, Lawrence was placed on a strict diet of milk, cream and baby food.

“I reported for spring training in 1955 weighing 217 pounds,” Lawrence said. “That’s about 12 pounds more than I usually weigh. I was healthy and looked it, but I wasn’t strong.”

Shaky season

Lawrence was the choice of manager Eddie Stanky to be the 1955 Cardinals’ Opening Day starter at Chicago against the Cubs. He was shelled for five runs and lifted before he could complete the first inning. Boxscore

The poor start foreshadowed his season. In 46 games, including 10 starts, for the 1955 Cardinals, Lawrence was 3-8 with a 6.56 ERA.

He was equally bad as a starter (2-5, 6.58 ERA) as he was a reliever (1-3, 6.55 ERA).

Against the Cubs that season, Lawrence was 0-3 with an 11.37 ERA.

After Lawrence was demoted to Class AAA Oakland in August, Cardinals manager Harry Walker said, “He’s a good man and I hope he proves again that he’s a good pitcher.”

In less than three weeks with Oakland, Lawrence was 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA.

Change environment

Frank Lane became Cardinals general manager after the 1955 season and was tasked with rebuilding a club that had finished 68-86.

Lane contacted his Reds counterpart, Gabe Paul, and inquired about a pair of former Cardinals, Collum and third baseman Ray Jablonski. “When I heard what he wanted in return,” Lane said, “I told him he must have been the key man in the Brink’s holdup.”

Paul countered by saying Lane “was too much in love with St. Louis major and minor leaguers” to strike a deal.

Columnist Dick Young reported that Paul called Lawrence “to ascertain that the pitcher’s ulcers have not been kicking up.”

Cardinals doctors declared Lawrence cured of ulcers, The Sporting News reported.

Said Lawrence: “There was nothing wrong with my arm last year. That ulcer was the trouble.”

Make a deal

The trade was made when Lane agreed to take only Collum and package a minor leaguer of the Reds’ choice with Lawrence.

“It’s not earth-shaking,” Lane said to United Press about the trade, “but it’s a start.”

Surprised, Lawrence said he thought the Cardinals “would have at least given me a good look” in spring training.

Lawrence said he had worked for the water department in Springfield that winter. “I operated an air hammer,” he said. “That takes the fat off you.”

Collum, who had pitched for the Cardinals from 1951-53 and was 9-8 with a 3.63 ERA for the 1955 Reds, “is not a great pitcher, but he’s a great competitor,” Lane said.

Used mostly in relief with the 1956 Cardinals, Collum was 6-2 with seven saves and a 4.20 ERA.

Lawrence won his first 13 decisions with the 1956 Reds and finished the season 19-10 with a 3.99 ERA.

Previously: The debut of Bill Greason, first black Cardinals pitcher


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