Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

Like a prince learning from kings, John Mozeliak was mentored by Cardinals royalty. He worked with two of the franchise’s most successful executives, Bing Devine and Walt Jocketty. Because of Devine, Mozeliak can trace a line in his apprenticeship directly to the man who built the prototype of a Cardinals general manager, renowned innovator Branch Rickey.

As general manager of the Cardinals since October 2007, Mozeliak has followed in the tradition of his best-known predecessors, building championship clubs and keeping the Cardinals among the elite franchises in the big leagues.

Mozeliak, who turns 47 in January 2016, is keenly aware of the lineage of Cardinals general managers. He says it is his desire to pay back those who taught him by helping others position themselves to carry on that tradition.

E-mail from Mozeliak

In November 2015, Mozeliak answered questions from Cardinals bloggers by e-mail. The opportunity to ask questions of Mozeliak came about through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of United Cardinal Bloggers, and Cardinals communication coordinator Lindsey Weber.

In citing the tradition of prominent figures who have been Cardinals general managers _ men such as Stan Musial, Whitey Herzog, Bob Howsam, Frank Lane, Devine and Jocketty _ I asked Mozeliak whether he ever reflected on that and his role in that legacy.

“I have,” Mozeliak replied. “I have not thought about my legacy, but I have thought a lot about the people that have come before me.”

Jocketty brought Mozeliak to the Cardinals and helped grow his career. Devine provided added value as a sage.

Protégé of Jocketty

Mozeliak, a left-handed pitcher and first baseman in high school at Boulder, Colo., says he grew up a fan of Johnny Bench _ “I tried to be a left-handed catcher, but that didn’t work very well,” he wrote in his e-mail _ as well as George Brett, Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee.

After graduating from the University of Colorado, Mozeliak joined the Rockies as a batting practice pitcher. He worked his way through the organization, earning various roles in baseball operations, and made a favorable impression on Jocketty, the Rockies’ assistant general manager.

Jocketty replaced Dal Maxvill as Cardinals general manager in October 1994. Mozeliak joined the Cardinals after the 1995 season as an assistant in scouting operations.

Mozeliak became Cardinals scouting director in 1999. Jocketty brought Devine back to the Cardinals that fall as a special assignment scout.

Devine intervention

Devine served two stints as Cardinals general manager: 1957-64 and 1968-78. His trades during his first term brought Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Bill White, Julian Javier and Dick Groat to the Cardinals. The farm system under Devine’s management developed players such as Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Tim McCarver, Mike Shannon and, during his second term, Ted Simmons, Bob Forsch and Keith Hernandez.

In 1939, when he joined the Cardinals as a 23-year-old office assistant, Devine ran errands for Rickey. (Though Rickey formally had the title of Cardinals business manager, his role was that of general manager and included player personnel.)

Sixty years later, when Devine, 83, rejoined the Cardinals as a scout, he bonded with the scouting director, Mozielak, sharing decades of Cardinals knowledge and experience with the 30-year-old protégé.

‘He taught me a lot’

“I had a unique opportunity to work with Bing and did get to know him and actually traveled to some minor-league cities with him,” Mozeliak said in his e-mail. “He taught me a lot. He was someone who had a unique perspective on the business …

“The economics have changed drastically; how you think about development and creating assets within an organization is different, yet there (are) a lot of truisms that you still have to play the game and play the game right,” Mozeliak wrote. “I remember Bing would always reflect on that with me.”

In his 2004 book, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said of his 1999 return to the Cardinals, “I owe a debt of gratitude to the present Cardinals ownership. They believed I was not too old or too far removed to make a contribution from a player evaluation standpoint.”

Devine praised Jocketty as “a talented and aggressive general manager” and, in a nod to executives such as Mozeliak, he added, “The surrounding personnel are dedicated as well.”

In his e-mail, Mozeliak said of Devine, “I think about my opportunity to spend time with him as just very lucky and as I move forward I hope I can someday help the next generation.”

Efficient and effective

Jocketty promoted Mozeliak to the role of Cardinals director of baseball operations in 2001 and then assistant general manager in 2003. After Jocketty departed because of philosophical differences with ownership, Mozeliak succeeded him as general manager in October 2007, 10 months after Devine had died at age 90.

With Mozeliak as general manager, the Cardinals have won two National League pennants and a World Series title and have qualified for the postseason in six of his eight years in the club’s top baseball leadership role.

I asked Mozeliak in what ways does he anticipate the role of general manager will evolve and how, in 10 to 20 years, it will it be different than how it is today.

“The game has changed in the sense of total revenues … so just understanding this game from a more business perspective is required,” Mozeliak replied in his e-mail. “The demands on the different departments _ whether it’s international, amateur, scouting, or player development _ there are big costs to that, and running efficient and effective departments are critical.

“Most of my time, as boring as it may sound, is not necessarily focused just on the 25-man roster,” Mozeliak wrote. “It’s really making sure that we’re optimizing all those different areas that we touched on. So, I think as general managers’ roles change, it’s more about becoming a more efficient business.”

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: How Dal Maxvill became general manager of Cardinals

Previously: Frank Lane and his tumultuous stint as Cardinals GM

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Among Walt Jocketty’s many successful acquisitions as Cardinals general manager, including players such as Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Chris Carpenter, the most significant was the manager he hired, Tony La Russa.

tony_larussa14Twenty years ago, on Oct. 23, 1995, La Russa left the Athletics and joined the Cardinals, signing a two-year contract, with an option for a third year, at $1.5 million a year.

In replacing Mike Jorgensen, who had been interim manager after Joe Torre was fired in June 1995, La Russa was seen by Jocketty and team president Mark Lamping as the on-field leader needed to transform the Cardinals from disgruntled underachievers to classy contenders.

“The hiring of Tony La Russa to manage the Cardinals is a huge step in the rebuilding process of this organization,” said Jocketty, who had replaced Dal Maxvill as general manager a year earlier.

Said La Russa to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I believe in high goals and I believe in big dreams. My dream real quickly for this franchise is to draw 3 million fans. And, as early as possible, to get to Sept. 1 with a chance to win.

“When you look at me, you’re going to find a very simple perspective. Everything from this moment on will be geared to win the next game that the Cardinals play.”

Winning ways

At Oakland, La Russa took over an Athletics team that posted a losing record in 1986 and led them to three consecutive American League pennants (1988-90) and a World Series crown (1989). Before that, at Chicago, he led the White Sox to their first division title (1983).

La Russa, 51, inherited a Cardinals club that had experienced consecutive losing seasons (1994-95) and hadn’t been to the postseason since 1987 under manager Whitey Herzog.

Observers such as Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz said too many Cardinals players had developed poor attitudes and “disgraced the uniform and sacred tradition of St. Louis baseball with their selfish, lax play.”

Said La Russa: “My statement to all Cardinals fans is that we’re going to have a hustling, aggressive ballclub that plays the game right.

“If somebody loafs, they will embarrass our franchise and everybody else. The first time they do that, you pull them aside. The second time they do it, you take their money. The third time they do it, you take them out of the lineup.”

In endorsing the hiring of La Russa, Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi said, “He’s kind of like bringing Whitey Herzog back.”

Cards make a pitch

According to a report in the Oct. 6 Post-Dispatch, Jocketty and La Russa met informally in San Francisco to discuss the Cardinals job. Eleven days later, Rick Hummel reported that Jocketty and Lamping had met with La Russa in St. Louis.

“We had a good meeting, but I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Jocketty told an Oakland reporter.

Jeff Gordon, a Post-Dispatch columnist, wrote: “Somebody has to remake the attitude of this ballclub and the culture of the organization.”

On Oct. 19, the Cardinals made La Russa an offer. He asked for time to consider it. Davey Johnson, former manager of the Mets and Reds, was a backup candidate if La Russa balked at the opportunity, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In his book “One Last Strike,” La Russa revealed he indeed was considering other offers.

“I had a few opportunities to consider, including returning to Chicago and the White Sox,” La Russa said. “I’d hoped to sign on with Baltimore; something about that legendary franchise and the great tradition of Earl Weaver really appealed to me. But when I’d interviewed with them, I’d thought the position was already vacant.

“As it turned out, it wasn’t, so when I found that out I immediately called back and said thanks but no thanks.”

Providing the tools

Jocketty, who had worked in the Oakland front office, was a big reason La Russa eventually felt comfortable going to St. Louis. La Russa also was able to bring with him coaches Dave Duncan, Dave McKay and Tommie Reynolds from Oakland to St. Louis.

Miklasz, noting the Athletics finished in last place under La Russa in 1995, opined, “La Russa will only be as effective as the players he manages … Now that Cardinals president Mark Lamping and general manager Walt Jocketty have persuaded La Russa to join the home team, they owe it to La Genius to give him a competitive roster.”

Jocketty delivered, acquiring impact players such as third baseman Gary Gaetti, shortstop Royce Clayton, outfielders Ron Gant and Willie McGee and pitchers Andy Benes, Todd Stottlemyre, Dennis Eckersley and Rick Honeycutt for La Russa’s first Cardinals team.

After a rocky start, including a public feud with shortstop and franchise icon Ozzie Smith, La Russa led the 1996 Cardinals to a National League Central Division championship.

La Russa would manage the Cardinals for 16 seasons, achieving a franchise-record 1,408 wins and joining Billy Southworth as the only managers to win two World Series titles with the Cardinals.

On July 27, 2014, La Russa and Torre (who went on to achieve spectacular success with the Yankees after leaving the Cardinals) were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.

Previously: The day Cardinals fired Joe Torre, traded Todd Zeile

Previously: The story of how Tony La Russa got 1st Cardinals win

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From a public relations perspective, the trade of Ken Boyer from the Cardinals to the Mets was a disaster. From a baseball perspective, it was a marquee deal that produced mixed results.

ken_boyer11Fifty years ago, on Oct. 20, 1965, the Cardinals traded Boyer, their third baseman and cleanup batter, to the Mets for pitcher Al Jackson and third baseman Charlie Smith.

Bob Howsam, Cardinals general manager, made the trade because he believed Boyer, 34, was in decline and the club needed pitching and speed to adapt to their spacious new downtown stadium in 1966.

Howsam believed Jackson, 29, bolstered the rotation and gave the Cardinals a needed left-hander in case Ray Sadecki was unable to rebound from a poor 1965 season. Howsam saw Smith, 28, as a more agile third baseman than Boyer with more power potential.

Bing Devine, the former Cardinals general manager who was special assistant to Mets president George Weiss, advocated for New York to acquire Boyer as much for his leadership and professionalism as for his ability to produce runs and stabilize the third base position.

In their first four seasons after entering the National League as an expansion team in 1962, the Mets had developed a reputation as a clownish club. Devine envisioned Boyer as a player who could help change that perception.

Ham-handed Howsam

The trade, though, largely was unpopular with Cardinals fans. Boyer was Cardinals royalty. In handling the trade callously, Howsam appeared to treat Boyer disrespectfully.

Boyer, who had signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1949, played 11 seasons for St. Louis (1955-65) and was named an all-star seven times.

He also won the Gold Glove Award five times and earned the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1964, when he produced 24 home runs, 119 RBI and 100 runs in leading the Cardinals to a pennant and World Series title. Overall, Boyer had 1,855 hits in 1,667 career games with the Cardinals, including 255 home runs and 1,001 RBI.

Yet, Howsam didn’t do Boyer the courtesy of informing him of the trade. Boyer learned of the deal in a phone call with reporter Jack Herman of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

“You’re kidding,” Boyer said when told of the trade. “That’s really something.

“Seventeen years is a long time (with one organization). I don’t know what to think right now. I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say I was sorry to be leaving.”

The Sporting News reported that “various Cardinals officials tried to contact” Boyer to tell him about the trade. Cardinals fans concluded that management, especially Howsam, didn’t try hard enough.

“As soon as the Boyer deal became public property, Cardinals fans touched off a storm,” The Sporting News wrote. “They swamped all the news media and even tried to get through to Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam to register protests and threats to cancel tickets.”

The furor was comparable to the uproar that ensued when the Cardinals had traded popular standouts such as Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter and Red Schoendienst.

Support from Stan

Schoendienst, who had completed his first season as Cardinals manager in 1965, endorsed the trade of Boyer.

“We’re sorry to see Kenny go, but good left-handed pitchers are few and far between,” Schoendienst told the Associated Press, referring to Jackson. “Smith can drive in the runs and is an improved fielder.”

The most venerable Cardinals icon, Stan Musial, a team vice president in 1965, told United Press International that the trade was a “good deal” for St. Louis.

Musial was impressed especially by Jackson. “Al is a good competitor,” Musial said. “That guy can beat the tough clubs.”

Said Howsam: “We hate to see a player of Ken’s caliber go, but we had a chance to get a man in Smith who is a power hitter and good fielder, and a fine starting pitcher in Jackson. We felt we couldn’t pass it up.”

Developing a deal

Initially, the Cardinals had talked with the Astros about a deal that would have featured Boyer for third baseman Bob Aspromonte. The Mets had been discussing with the Angels a trade of Jackson and Smith for outfielder Jose Cardenal.

When those talks stalled, The Sporting News reported, the Cardinals and Mets struck their deal.

Jackson had earned a franchise-leading 40 wins in his four seasons with the Mets. In 1965, Jackson was 8-20 with a 4.34 ERA.

Smith, who had played for the Dodgers, Phillies and White Sox before joining the Mets, hit .244 in 1965. His power numbers that season (20 doubles, 16 home runs, .393 slugging percentage) were better than those produced in 1965 by Boyer (18 doubles, 13 home runs, .374 slugging percentage).

“I think I’ll be able to help the Mets,” Boyer told United Press International. “The sentiment is gone for the Cardinals … It will strictly be on a business basis now.”

Boyer led the 1966 Mets in RBI (61) and doubles (28) and was second on the club in home runs (14). In July 1967, the Mets traded Boyer to the White Sox.

Jackson was second to Bob Gibson in wins (13), complete games (11) and innings pitched (232.2) for the 1966 Cardinals. He also had nine wins for the 1967 World Series champion Cardinals. After that season, he was dealt back to the Mets.

Smith had 104 hits and struck out 81 times in 116 games for the 1966 Cardinals. He produced 10 home runs and 43 RBI. After the season, Smith was traded to the Yankees for Roger Maris and was replaced at third base by Mike Shannon.

Previously: Cards initially sought Bob Aspromonte for Ken Boyer

Previously: An interview with former Cards pitcher Al Jackson

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Seeking a general manager who could turn the Cardinals from flops into champions, team owner Gussie Busch sought the advice of the leader of the publication considered the authority on baseball.

frank_laneSixty years ago, as the 1955 season neared its end, Busch asked J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News, to recommend the best general manager to hire. Spink suggested Frank Lane of the White Sox.

In September 1955, Lane resigned from the White Sox. He sent a telegram to Busch. The wire read: “Have tux, will travel.”

A short time later, on Oct. 6, 1955, Busch hired Lane to be general manager of the Cardinals.

In his St. Louis-based weekly, Spink wrote of Lane’s hire, “Probably the most exciting chapter in the history of St. Louis baseball is about to be enacted … The Cardinals will have a team that will win more games _ or the players who lose won’t be around long.”

Taking a trader

Busch had bought the Cardinals in 1953 and had appointed one of his Anheuser-Busch executives, Dick Meyer, as general manager. Meyer was better suited to run the business side of the franchise rather than the baseball operations side.

As the Cardinals headed to a 68-86 record and next-to-last finish in the National League in 1955, Busch wanted a general manager with a proven record of producing a winner.

Busch turned for advice to Spink, who, according to St. Louis journalist Bob Broeg, recommended Lane as the best general manager available.

Lane, a longtime baseball executive, had become general manager of the White Sox after they finished the 1948 season in last place in the American League at 51-101.

Lane turned around the White Six through trades. The White Sox produced a winning season at 81-73 in 1951. Then they became contenders. The White Sox had 89 wins in 1953, 94 in 1954 and 91 in 1955.

In seven seasons (1949-55) with the White Sox, Lane made 241 trades involving 353 players. He earned the nickname “Trader.”

Rich resources

Busch sent Meyer to New York to begin negotiations with Lane during the 1955 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees. That led to a follow-up meeting involving Busch, Lane and Meyer in St. Louis.

The Cardinals signed Lane, 59, to a three-year contract. Meyer was promoted to executive vice president. Bill Walsingham Jr., a Cardinals vice president for nine years, resigned, acknowledging the club didn’t need two vice presidents.

Busch gave Lane “full authority” to make all baseball decisions.

“I had three offers but only considered one of them _ the job with the St. Louis club,” Lane said. “Why? Because the Cardinals have the potential for a great club and I know the management has the wherewithal to get what it needs if it doesn’t have what it takes to win.

“I don’t think I’m going too far when I say we should be a first division club and quite possibly a contender if we made the deals needed to augment an already fine nucleus of talent.”

Asked if any Cardinals players were untouchables for trading, Lane replied, “Yes. We’ll start with Stan Musial, then add Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon, Wally Moon, Ken Boyer, Harvey Haddix and a few others.”

Lane identified the Cardinals’ top needs as a first baseman, catcher and pitching.

His first major move was to replace manager Harry Walker with Fred Hutchinson, the former Tigers manager.

Bad deals

According to Broeg, Lane would watch Cardinals home games from the roof outside the press box, “squinting like a sunworshipper who didn’t see well and listening to the radio.”

“Lane lived for baseball, traveling always with a radio at his ear and a stack of newspaper sports sections under his arm,” Broeg wrote in the book, “Redbirds: A Century of Cardinals Baseball.”

Expecting magic, the Cardinals instead saw blunders in the trades Lane made in 1956. Among his worst deals that season:

_ Pitchers Harvey Haddix and Stu Miller to the Phillies for pitchers Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier.

_ Center fielder Bill Virdon to the Pirates for outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield.

_ Second baseman Red Schoendienst and others to the Giants for shortstop Al Dark and others.

When Busch got wind of Lane’s plans to trade Musial to the Phillies for pitcher Robin Roberts, he blocked the deal, then told Lane that any future trade proposals would have to be approved by Busch and Meyer before being enacted.

(Lane reportedly also wanted to deal Boyer to the Phillies for outfielder Richie Ashburn.)

The 1956 Cardinals finished in fourth place at 76-78.

Win or else

Before the 1957 season, Busch told a Knights of Columbus banquet audience, “If the Cardinals don’t win this year or next, Frank Lane will be out on his ass.”

Lane was miffed. Wanting assurances he had the owner’s support, Lane asked Busch to extend his contract beyond 1958. Busch refused.

Lane did make a couple of good trades before the 1957 season, acquiring pitcher Sam Jones from the Cubs and slugging outfielder Del Ennis from the Phillies. The Cardinals placed second in the NL in 1957 at 87-67.

Still upset by Busch’s win-or-else ultimatum before the season and offended that he had to get approval before making deals, Lane resigned on November 1957, with a year remaining on his Cardinals contract, and became general manager of the Indians.

Busch replaced Lane with Bing Devine.

Previously: How Al Dark won respect of Cardinals fans

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine

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Twenty years ago, in June 1995, the Cardinals were a franchise in disarray. The depth of their dysfunction was revealed on one dismal day, June 16, when they fired their manager, Joe Torre, and traded their cleanup hitter, Todd Zeile.

todd_zeileRather than signal an inspiring beginning, the moves had the feel of surrender.

The termination of Torre largely was viewed as a lame effort to deflect attention from management’s shortcomings.

The trading of Zeile largely was viewed as spiteful.

A bad team

After being named Cardinals manager in August 1990, Torre led the Cardinals to winning seasons each year from 1991 through 1993. His best record was 87-75 in 1993. When the Cardinals fell to 53-61 in strike-shortened 1994, Torre’s friend, general manager Dal Maxvill, was fired and replaced by Walt Jocketty.

By then, the Anheuser-Busch ownership of the Cardinals seemed more interested in minimizing expense to enhance profitability than it did in investing in the team.

The 1995 Cardinals split their first 18 games, then lost 10 of their next 13 and sunk to 12-19.

“This is a bad team and someone must pay the price,” columnist Bob Nightengale wrote in The Sporting News. “They don’t have a marquee power hitter. They’re awful defensively. They have no speed.”

Published reports indicated Cardinals president Mark Lamping was pressuring a reluctant Jocketty to appease a restless fan base by changing managers.

Cheap PR move

On the morning of June 16, with the Cardinals’ record at 20-27, Jocketty went to Torre’s home and informed the manager he was fired.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Torre told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

His overall record as Cardinals manager: 351-354.

“We worked hard and we did a lot of things,” Torre said. “We just didn’t win enough.”

Said Jocketty: “We will not stand pat and let things keep going as they were.”

Unimpressed, Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote that the Cardinals “dumped a classy guy, Torre, to feed the wolfpack.”

“All I see is a cheap PR move.” Miklasz wrote. “All I see is a twitch reflex from a panic attack.”

Change the dynamics

After considering Cardinals coaches Chris Chambliss and Gaylen Pitts as candidates to replace Torre, Jocketty chose director of player development Mike Jorgensen.

“He is an intense guy … He’ll bring a little fire to the clubhouse as well as to the field,” Cardinals pitcher Tom Urbani said of Jorgensen.

Said Jocketty: “I wanted to bring in someone who could change the dynamics a little.”

Jocketty, though, wasn’t done for the day. Next, he dealt Zeile.

Deal or no deal

Zeile was batting .291 with five home runs and 22 RBI as the first baseman and cleanup hitter for the 1995 Cardinals. In June that year, he revealed that the Cardinals had reneged on a three-year, $12 million handshake agreement he said they made in April.

Lamping was furious. “There never was a deal with Todd Zeile,” Lamping said to Hummel.

Jocketty traded Zeile, 29, to the Cubs for pitcher Mike Morgan, 35, and a pair of minor-league players, first baseman Paul Torres and catcher Francisco Morales.

“We’re not happy with the chemistry and the focus of this team,” Jocketty said. “If you saw Todd Zeile play, you could see he’s not a real aggressive person in his approach to the game. He was kind of at one gait.

“Todd Zeile was not happy here. Todd Zeile asked to be traded … We didn’t want someone here who wasn’t happy.”

In seven seasons with St. Louis, Zeile started at three positions _ catcher, third base and first base _ and batted .267 with 75 home runs.

Zeile told Hummel he would depart “with a lot more fond memories than negative,” but added, “Unfortunately, this situation turned kind of ugly at the end. I think it will be better in the long run to go somewhere where I’ll be embraced.”

Miklasz blasted Lamping and Jocketty, saying the Cardinals executives “smeared Zeile, suggesting he was responsible for poor team chemistry. Zeile wasn’t any more at fault than any of the other veterans on the team. Why single him out as the villain?”

Noting the decisions by Jocketty to acquire underperforming third baseman Scott Cooper and pitcher Danny Jackson, Miklasz wrote: “Jocketty traded for Cooper and he’s a nervous wreck. Jocketty signed Jackson and he’s a physical wreck.”

The aftermath

Getting fired by the Cardinals turned out to be a blessing for Torre. He was hired to manage the Yankees and led them to four World Series titles and six American League pennants. Torre was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Jorgensen managed the Cardinals to a 42-54 record and returned to the front office after the season. He was replaced as manager by Tony La Russa, who would lead St. Louis to two World Series championships and three National League pennants and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Torre.

Rookie John Mabry replaced Zeile as the Cardinals’ first baseman.

Zeile was a bust with the 1995 Cubs, hitting .227. After leaving the Cardinals, Zeile played for 10 teams: Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees and Expos. He had 2,004 hits and 1,110 RBI in 16 seasons in the majors.

Morgan made 17 starts for the 1995 Cardinals and was 5-6 with a 3.88 ERA. The next year, he was 4-8 with a 5.24 ERA for St. Louis before he was released.

The two minor-league players acquired with Morgan from the Cubs never reached the big leagues.

Previously: George Kissell, Cardinals inspired Joe Torre to be manager

Previously: Why the best Joe Torre Cardinals club was not good enough

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Joe Medwick was a special hitter for the Cardinals. He also was expensive and high maintenance. When his popularity waned, the Cardinals decided the value Medwick could bring them in a trade was greater than what he could produce for them in the lineup.

joe_medwick3Seventy-five years ago, on June 12, 1940, the Cardinals traded Medwick and pitcher Curt Davis to the Dodgers for $125,000 and four undistinguished players, or, as one writer described them, “a few ham sandwiches.”

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey got exactly what they wanted. With attendance sagging and the Cardinals out of contention, Breadon and Rickey were seeking cash.

As The Sporting News noted, the Cardinals traded Medwick “while he had high market value.”

Medwick, a hitter of Hall of Fame skills, had sulked about being lifted in the late innings for a defensive replacement. When he fell into a hitting funk, Cardinals fans taunted him from the Sportsman’s Park bleachers. Witnessing this, Breadon realized there wouldn’t be a public relations backlash if he traded the club’s standout hitter. That’s when he instructed Rickey to pursue a deal.

“The tide had turned,” wrote columnist Dan Daniel. “The fans would not shout against the departure of (Medwick).”

Remarkable hitter

A right-handed batter who swung at pitches outside the strike zone with savage aggressiveness, Medwick, 20, debuted with the Cardinals in September 1932 and became their starting left fielder in 1933.

Among his many remarkable hitting feats with the Cardinals, Medwick:

_ Achieved the Triple Crown in 1937, leading the National League in batting average (.374), home runs (31) and RBI (154). Medwick is the last NL player to accomplish the feat.

_ Won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1937. He also led the NL that season in runs (111), hits (237), doubles (56), slugging percentage (.641) and total bases (406).

_ Led the NL in hits in 1936 (223).

_ Led the NL in doubles in 1936 (64) and 1938 (47).

_ Led the NL in RBI in 1936 (138) and 1938 (122).

_ Hit .379 (11-for-29) with five RBI in the 1934 World Series vs. the Tigers.

Medwick remains the Cardinals’ all-time single-season leader in doubles (64) and RBI (154).

Interest from Dodgers

Larry MacPhail, Dodgers president, had offered the Cardinals $200,000 for Medwick in 1939, The Sporting News reported. In contention then, the Cardinals rejected the offer.

In 1940, the Cardinals started poorly, losing 20 of their first 32 games. On June 3, Medwick was hitting .297 _ good for most but subpar for him.

Medwick felt disrespected by Breadon and Rickey. After his Triple Crown and MVP season in 1937, the Cardinals rewarded Medwick with a salary of $20,000 in 1938. When he followed his .374 batting average of 1937 with a .322 mark in 1938, the Cardinals cut his pay to $18,000 in 1939. After hitting .332 in 1939, Medwick demanded a $20,000 salary in 1940. Instead, the Cardinals gave him $18,000.

Recalling MacPhail’s interest in Medwick, Rickey contacted the Dodgers in June 1940. “Rickey telephoned and said that the Cardinals were in the mood to do some trading,” MacPhail told The Sporting News.

The ensuing conversation:

MacPhail: “Who will you trade?”

Rickey: “Anybody.”

MacPhail: “Does that go for Medwick, too?”

Rickey: “Yes.”

MacPhail took a flight to St. Louis and closed the deal.

Finances a factor

In exchange for Medwick and Davis (who had 22 wins for the 1939 Cardinals), the Dodgers sent the cash, plus pitchers Carl Doyle and Sam Nahem, outfielder Ernie Koy and third baseman Bert Haas. The Cardinals assigned Nahem and Haas to the minor leagues.

“St. Louis believes the passing of Medwick and the development of a better feeling on the club, minus Joe and his $18,000 salary, will lift the (Cardinals),” Daniel wrote.

Said Breadon: “The Cardinals were going no place with Medwick and Davis on the job _ and they certainly couldn’t be any worse without them.”

The reduction in salaries paired with the infusion of cash helped the Cardinals overcome a drop in attendance. After drawing 400,245 paid customers in 1939, the Cardinals had a total home attendance of 324,078 in 1940. According to columnist Dick Farrington, Breadon was facing “the specter of a financial loss on the season.”

Hit by pitch

In joining the Dodgers, Medwick was reunited with his pal, manager Leo Durocher. They had been Cardinals teammates from 1933-37, when Durocher was the St. Louis shortstop. They played golf together almost daily in the off-season.

Said MacPhail: “Frankly, the Medwick deal surprised me more than anyone else. If you’d have told me a week before that we’d come up with Medwick, I’d have said you were crazy. A month ago, I put out a feeler for him and was told there wasn’t a chance.”

On June 18, in his sixth game for the Dodgers, Medwick faced the Cardinals at Brooklyn. In the first inning, a fastball from Bob Bowman struck Medwick behind the left ear, knocking him unconscious. As Medwick was carried on a stretcher to the clubhouse, MacPhail “stormed over to the Cardinals dugout and challenged the players, individually and collectively,” The Sporting News reported.

All of the Cardinals stood but none made a move. “Take it easy,” Cardinals outfielder Pepper Martin said to MacPhail.

Medwick was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.

Bowman said he didn’t intend to hit him. “Medwick was looking for a curveball, expecting the ball to break,” Bowman said.

After the game, Bowman was being escorted from the ballpark by two detectives when MacPhail approached and “sent a wild swing at him,” according to The Sporting News.

The Cardinals visited Medwick in the hospital. Manager Billy Southworth, the only member of the contingent admitted to the room, expressed regrets for the injury. Medwick absolved the Cardinals, calling the incident “just one of those things.” Boxscore

Medwick was released from the hospital on June 21. He hit .300 in 106 games for the 1940 Dodgers. In 1941, he helped them win the pennant, hitting .318 with 18 home runs and 88 RBI.

Medwick returned to the Cardinals in 1947 and finished his playing career with them in 1948. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968.

Previously: Joe Medwick set a doubles pace that is hard to beat

Previously: Joe Medwick, Stan Musial: Double trouble for pitchers


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