Forty years ago, the second baseman who participated in one of the happiest periods in Cardinals history parted with the franchise in a most unhappy manner.
Only three players _ Frankie Frisch, Julian Javier and Tommy Herr _ have been the everyday second basemen on at least three Cardinals pennant winners. Javier started for the National League championship clubs of 1964, ’67 and ’68.
But in 1972, during spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., Javier, 35, no longer was prominent in the Cardinals’ plans. Ted Sizemore had taken over as St. Louis’ second baseman the year before. Ed Crosby, 22, was seen as a capable backup.
On March 24, 1972, the Cardinals traded Javier to the Reds for pitcher Tony Cloninger.
The Reds were desperate for a utilityman. Their dependable reserve infielder, Woody Woodward, had retired. Two non-roster veterans, Bob Aspromonte and Al Weis, hadn’t impressed during spring training and were released. Bob Howsam, who had been the Cardinals general manager before taking the same role with the Reds, was eager to acquire Javier to back up Joe Morgan at second base and Denis Menke at third base.
After the deal was made, Javier indicated he was unhappy with general manager Bing Devine and manager Red Schoendienst for not getting the chance to play more in spring training and compete for a starting job.
That prompted an uncharacteristic blast from Schoendienst, a former all-star second baseman. In an interview with St. Louis writer Bob Broeg for The Sporting News, Schoendienst said, “I thought Bing and I had a perfect understanding with Hoolie. And as for playing, he looked trim, but he wasn’t in shape. He couldn’t even get the ball from second base to first.”
In 12 seasons (1960-71) with the Cardinals (11 as their regular second baseman), Javier twice was named an all-star (1963 and ’68), twice led NL second basemen in putouts (1963 and ’64) and collected 1,450 hits.
A right-handed batter, he was mediocre against right-handed pitching (career .233 batting average) but a force against left-handed pitching (career .299 batting average).
Javier’s lifetime batting marks against some of the best NL left-handers of the era are eye-catching. Examples: Warren Spahn (.306, 19-for-62), Claude Osteen (.417, 30-for-72), Ken Holtzman (.417, 25-for-60), Mike McCormick (.360, 18-for-50) and Mike Cuellar (.345, 10-for-29).
After the 1970 season, the Cardinals acquired Sizemore from the Dodgers in a deal involving slugger Dick Allen. Meanwhile, Javier was found to owe back taxes to the U.S. government, leading to speculation the native of the Dominican Republic could become entangled in a legal case that might jeopardize his career.
However, Javier worked out a settlement on his tax problems before reporting to spring training in 1971. When he arrived in St. Petersburg, he was 10 pounds lighter (at 180) and performed more like the player he’d been on those championship teams.
In the April 17, 1971, edition of The Sporting News, Neal Russo wrote of Javier, “He looked outstanding in Florida. He still rates among the major leagues’ best at the keystone sack and he was stinging the ball, too.”
Because of an injury to Dal Maxvill, Sizemore opened the ’71 season as the Cardinals’ shortstop and Javier remained the starter at second base.
Though he started poorly (2 hits in his first 19 at-bats), Javier soon provided an offensive spark for the Cardinals. At the end of May, his batting average was .309. Then he cooled off. His batting mark fell to .234 at the end of June. Maxvill returned to shortstop and Sizemore moved to second, replacing Javier.
The trade to the Reds the following spring turned out to be a blessing for Javier. He had several key hits for the Reds in helping them win the NL pennant. Among the highlights:
_ Reds 11, Cardinals, 2, May 13, at Cincinnati: Facing Cloninger, the pitcher for whom he was traded, Javier delivered a RBI-single, scoring Johnny Bench. Boxscore
_ Reds 4, Giants 3, May 16, at San Francisco: Starting at third base, Javier hit a three-run home run against left-hander Ron Bryant. Boxscore
_ Reds 6, Phillies 5, June 3, at Philadelphia: Javier hit a two-run home run against left-hander Steve Carlton, a former Cardinals teammate. It was the 78th and last homer of Javier’s big-league career. Boxscore
_ Reds 8, Mets 2, June 17, at Cincinnati: Facing another former Cardinals teammate, left-hander Ray Sadecki, Javier smacked a two-run single as a pinch-hitter. Boxscore
Javier capped his career by appearing in four games for the Reds against the Athletics in the 1972 World Series.