Like Matt Carpenter, Joe Frazier was a bit of a late bloomer who developed into a productive left-handed pinch-hitter as a Cardinals rookie.
Carpenter, 26, this season has 11 pinch-hit RBI, the most by a Cardinals rookie since Frazier had 15 in 1954, according to the Associated Press.
In 2011, Carpenter made his big-league debut, hitting .067 (1-for-15) in seven games for the Cardinals.
In 1947, Frazier made his big-league debut, hitting .071 (1-for-14) in nine games for the Indians.
Frazier didn’t return to the major leagues until seven years later when he made the Opening Day roster of the 1954 Cardinals as a 31-year-old rookie outfielder.
Frazier had caught the attention of the Cardinals while tearing up the Class AA Texas League for Oklahoma City in 1953. Frazier earned the Texas League batting title with a .332 average, slugged 55 doubles and 22 home runs and had 113 RBI.
In October 1953, the Cardinals sent catcher Les Fusselman and cash to Oklahoma City to acquire Frazier. In assessing Frazier, Cardinals scout Joe Mathes told St. Louis journalist Bob Broeg, “Of this I’m certain _ he’s a major-league hitter.”
During spring training in 1954, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky became impressed by rookie outfielders Frazier, Wally Moon and Tom Burgess. Stanky told reporters Frazier might beat out the venerable Enos Slaughter, soon to turn 38, for the starting right field job.
After the Cardinals left their Florida spring training camp and barnstormed their way back to St. Louis, Broeg filed this report on Frazier for The Sporting News:
Frazier … does not have the speed or outfielding skill of a Slaughter or Wally Moon. But the sturdy slugger has tremendous power that was reflected in long outs in spacious Florida parks before he began to find the range en route home in stadiums of major-league dimensions, hitting two homers April 1 at Birmingham against the White Sox and another two days later at Houston.
“I consider him a left-handed (Ray) Jablonski, a hitter of courage who thrives on men-on-base situations,” said Stanky.
Opting to begin the season with all three rookie outfielders on the roster, along with starters Stan Musial and Rip Repulski, the Cardinals traded veteran Enos Slaughter to the Yankees in April. “It’s the greatest shock I ever had in my life,” Slaughter said to The Sporting News.
The Cardinals’ outfield was Musial in left, Moon in center and Repulski in right, with Frazier and Burgess in reserve.
Frazier excelled as a pinch-hitter and was used primarily in that role. He ripped a two-run pinch-hit homer off the Phillies’ Robin Roberts on May 5. From July 5 through July 24, Frazier had six hits and a walk in eight pinch-hit appearances.
One of Frazier’s hits in that stretch was a two-run walkoff homer in the ninth off the Cubs’ Bob Rush, lifting St. Louis to a 2-1 victory on July 10. Frazier’s blast struck the screen on the pole above the pavilion roof at Busch Stadium I. Boxscore
On Aug. 17, Frazier delivered a three-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh off Jim Wilson, leading the Cardinals to a 4-1 victory over the Braves at Milwaukee. The 385-foot shot into the right-field bleachers sealed Wilson’s first loss after eight consecutive wins and snapped the Braves’ nine-game winning streak. Boxscore
Frazier finished the ’54 season with 20 hits as a pinch-hitter _ two shy of tying the big-league mark of 22 established by Sam Leslie of the 1932 Giants. Frazier’s batting average as a pinch-hitter that season was .323, with 15 RBI. Overall, Frazier batted .295 (26-for-88) for the ’54 Cardinals.
“He’s done a tremendous job for us,” Stanky said.
Frazier played for the Cardinals in 1955, but hit .200 in 58 games. In May 1956, St. Louis traded Frazier and shortstop Alex Grammas to the Reds for outfielder Chuck Harmon. Frazier finished his big-league playing career that year with the Orioles.
He eventually became a minor-league manager. In 1976, Frazier was named manager of the Mets. He led New York to an 86-76 record that year. But when the 1977 Mets stumbled to a 15-30 start, Frazier was replaced by another ex-Cardinal, Joe Torre.
Previously: 1956 Cardinals groomed nine big-league managers