Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

Five months after the 1934 Cardinals won the World Series title in seven games against the Tigers, owner Sam Breadon expressed a desire to move the franchise from St. Louis to Detroit.

sam_breadon3Disheartened by attendance figures for a franchise that won five National League pennants and three World Series championships from 1926-34, Breadon was willing to relocate the Cardinals after a bid to sell them collapsed.

The Cardinals’ regular-season home attendance in 1926, when they won the pennant and World Series title for the first time, was 681,575. It increased to 778,147 in 1928, when they again won the pennant.

After the Great Depression began soon after the stock market crash of October 1929, Cardinals attendance spiraled, even though the team was successful.

For sale

The Cardinals, who shared Sportsman’s Park with the American League Browns, drew 519,647 during the regular season in 1930, when they won their third pennant. Their attendance was 623,960 in 1931, when they won the pennant and World Series title.

After regular-season attendance totals of 290,370 in 1932 and 268,404 in 1933, the Cardinals drew 334,863 in 1934, when the colorful Gashouse Gang team of Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin and Frankie Frisch won the pennant and World Series crown.

Fearing for the long-term financial prospects and figuring the value of his World Series championship club was at a premium, Breadon instructed general manager Branch Rickey to negotiate a sale with Lew Wentz, an Oklahoma oil baron who offered to buy the Cardinals.

Wentz, though, withdrew because of the asking price. Breadon wanted $1.1 million, according to the Murray Polner book “Branch Rickey: A Biography.”

With no prospects of a sale, Breadon explored relocation as an option.

Motor City madness

On March 28, 1935, during spring training in Bradenton, Fla., Breadon told reporters he would move the Cardinals to Detroit if Tigers owner Frank Navin approved.

The 1934 Tigers had a regular-season attendance of 919,161 _ nearly three times the Cardinals’ total _ and Breadon saw the job-generating Motor City as a town better suited than St. Louis to support two major-league franchises.

Sid Keener, sports editor of the St. Louis Star-Times, reported, “Breadon intimated that he would make overtures to the two major leagues during the coming season to rearrange the current setups of the National and American leagues. He said he believed baseball would profit by changing St. Louis to a one-club major league city, leaving the Browns as the sole representative in the Missouri city and by moving his own National League franchise to Detroit.”

Said Breadon to Keener: “We can put this over if Frank Navin … will take a sensible view of conditions. I can swing the deal from the National League angle. By that, I mean I have received the consent of the National League club owners to transfer the Cardinals to Detroit. However, we must convince Mr. Navin that it would be a good thing for everyone concerned in baseball before we can put it over.”

Profit over loyalty

According to the Associated Press, Breadon said, “Detroit has enough high-salaried fans to attend ballgames every day and it would help the Tigers. Think of the profit of a spring series alone.”

The Sporting News, the St. Louis-based weekly, quoted Breadon as saying, “I think Detroit would be an ideal spot for the Cardinals and I would go there in a minute if Navin opened the way to come in. But I doubt that he would want us.”

On March 29, 1935, the day after his stunning remarks, Breadon backpedaled. When asked by the Associated Press whether there was an immediate plan for a move, Breadon replied, “Not at all.”

In its April 4, 1935, edition, The Sporting News claimed Breadon “was merely doing a little off-the-record wishing” when he expressed interest in relocating the Cardinals to Detroit. Navin had no interest in sharing his market with the Cardinals, The Sporting News reported.

Still, the magazine left open the possibility of a Cardinals move.

“The meager draw (in 1934) caused Breadon to do a lot of thinking and the club would have shown a loss on the year’s operations had not the team smashed its way into the World Series,” The Sporting News opined. “While Detroit is out of the question as a stamping ground for the Redbirds, there are other possible future landing places for the Cardinals … The time may not be far distant when the Redbirds will be flying away to some other community.”

The Cardinals’ regular-season attendance improved to 517,805 in 1935, when the team finished in second place. Still from 1935 through 1945, the Cardinals never drew more than 642,496 for a regular season.

In 1946, the first regular season after World War II, the Cardinals totaled an attendance of more than a million for the first time since the franchise began in 1892.

Previously: Top 5 reasons why Sam Breadon should be in Hall of Fame

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cardinals to oust Frankie Frisch

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When the 1945 Cardinals reported to spring training at Cairo, Ill., they found the outfield better suited for fishing than for chasing fly balls. Unable to have fielding or batting practice because of flooding at Cotter Field, the Cardinals abandoned the Illinois river town and conducted spring training at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

whitey_kurowskiSeventy years ago, in March 1945, the defending World Series champion Cardinals planned to hold spring training in Cairo for the third consecutive year. St. Petersburg, Fla., was the Cardinals’ spring training base, but the Redbirds, like all big-league clubs, trained at sites closer to home from 1943-45 in order to conserve resources through reduced travel during World War II.

Training at Cairo worked well for the Cardinals in 1943 and 1944. They had more than 100 wins and earned a National League pennant in each of those years, including a World Series title in 1944.

River runs through it

Cairo is located on the southern tip of Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. In March 1945, rain swelled the rivers. Even with walls and levees protecting the town, water seeped into the ballpark used by the Cardinals.

The stages of the rivers were 10 feet above the level of the ballpark, according to the Associated Press. Under orders from club owner Sam Breadon, Cardinals traveling secretary Leo Ward searched throughout Cairo for an alternative spot to conduct batting and fielding practice, “but he mired in mud and returned gloomily to the hotel.”

“There was talk of moving the training camp back to St. Louis as early as March 13, the second day the players were in camp,” The Sporting News reported. “However, Breadon gave the Cairo people a few days more to get their park in shape.”

Losing battle

Cairo Mayor E.A. Smith and city fire and street departments “did everything they knew to get the field in shape. They dug draining ditches and put the fire pumps to work in the outfield, but each morning a new film of seepage water covered the infield,” The Sporting News wrote.

In a story filed on March 19, 1945, the Associated Press reported, “The outfield of the practice diamond was under four feet of water and it appeared doubtful that the park would be useable for baseball during the two weeks the team will be in town.”

Among those in camp for the Cardinals were pitchers Max Lanier, Blix Donnelly and Bud Byerly, first baseman Ray Sanders, second baseman Emil Verban, third baseman Whitey Kurowski, outfielder Debs Garms and rookie Red Schoendienst.

A picture in The Sporting News showed Kurowski, Lanier and Sanders casting fishing lines in the outfield water.

Ohio option

Coach Mike Gonzalez was running the club while manager Billy Southworth was at home in Sunbury, Ohio, after spending weeks in New York while joining in a mission to search for his son, who was killed in a crash of a B-29 he was piloting.

Southworth was trying to find a training site for the Cardinals in Ohio. “Breadon announced Southworth is looking for a place and that the squad will leave (Cairo) if satisfactory arrangements can be made,” the Associated Press reported.

The Sporting News revealed Southworth wanted to bring the Cardinals to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where the minor-league Columbus and Rochester teams were training.

“Miami University officials hustled around to find living quarters for the Cardinals and a series of games among the three clubs was being worked up,” The Sporting News wrote. “Manager Billy Southworth … believed the arrangement was set, but owner Sam Breadon vetoed the move to Oxford.”

Homeward bound

Breadon ordered the team instead to return to St. Louis. The last time the Cardinals had spent spring training at home was in 1919. The reason then was lack of finances.

Wrote The Sporting News of the deteriorating conditions in Cairo: “For a week, the Redbirds had no real baseball work. They indulged in pepper games on a hard cinder footing, did some throwing, running and calisthenics but had no batting practice or real infield workout … A soggy infield, no batting practice for five days and fishing in the outfield quickly convinced (Breadon) that he had to act quickly.”

Said Breadon: “Oh for a return to good old St. Petersburg.”

The Cardinals began workouts at Sportsman’s Park on March 26, 1945, and opened the season on April 17 at Chicago.

The disrupted spring training didn’t appear to hurt them much. The 1945 Cardinals had 95 wins and finished in second place, three games behind the Cubs.

Previously: Why the Cardinals chose Cairo, Ill., for spring training

Previously: Why Billy Southworth managed Cardinals with heavy heart

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As an infielder who struggled to hit, Dal Maxvill overcame the odds and started in 21 World Series games for the Cardinals. As a coach with no experience as a baseball executive, Maxvill again overcame the odds and became general manager of the Cardinals.

dal_maxvill3Thirty years ago, on Feb. 25, 1985, Maxvill was the surprise choice of the Cardinals to replace Joe McDonald as general manager. Maxvill was a coach with the Atlanta Braves when the Cardinals approached him about becoming their top baseball executive.

“It seemed a rather sizeable leap to go from third-base coach to general manager,” Rick Hummel wrote in The Sporting News.

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said, “I had my doubts about him when he was hired … He’d never made a trade, never negotiated a contract and I wondered what the hell was going through their minds when they hired him.”

Baseball and business

Maxvill, 46, said he hadn’t applied for the job and was approached by club officials. Team owner Gussie Busch said he was seeking a candidate who knew both baseball and the Cardinals organization and also had business experience.

Busch believed Maxvill met the criteria.

Maxvill had played for the Cardinals from 1962-72. Replacing the injured Julian Javier, he started seven games at second base in the 1964 World Series. He started seven games at shortstop in the 1967 World Series and again in the 1968 World Series. Maxvill won a Gold Glove Award in 1968. He hit .220 in his Cardinals career.

Maxvill was a Cardinals coach from 1979-80 and an instructor in 1981. He and former Cardinals reliever Joe Hoerner were co-owners of a St. Louis travel agency.

The Cardinals offered Maxvill a one-year contract.

“Of all the people we considered, myself and the other members of the executive committee unanimously agreed that Dal Maxvill has the qualifications we were looking for in a general manager,” Busch told the Associated Press.

Fred Kuhlmann, chief operating officer of the Cardinals, said Tal Smith, a consultant hired to lead the search for a general manager, gave Maxvill “as enthusiastic a recommendation as there could be.”

Cardinals connections

Two other former Cardinals players _ broadcasters Tim McCarver and Joe Torre _ were considered before Maxvill was offered the position, The Sporting News reported.

“I’ve been a Cardinals fan since I was 3,” said Maxvill, a native of Granite City, Ill. “My mother and father took me to see Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore and Red Schoendienst.”

Schoendienst, a Cardinals coach in 1985, was Maxvill’s manager from 1965-72.

“Once, I was his boss,” Schoendienst said. “Now, he’s mine.”

Good deal

On April 2, 1985, Maxvill made his first trade, acquiring infielder Jose Oquendo from the Mets for infielder Angel Salazar and minor-league pitcher John Young. Oquendo played for the Cardinals from 1986-95. In 2015, he entered his 17th season as a Cardinals coach.

The Cardinals won two pennants, 1985 and 1987, with Maxvill as general manager.

“He turned out to be a hell of a baseball executive,” Herzog said of Maxvill. “… Maxie is smart and he caught on fast.”

Maxvill was Cardinals general manager from 1985-94 until he was fired by team president Mark Lamping and replaced by Walt Jocketty.

Previously: How ouster of Joe McDonald put Whitey Herzog in peril

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The first night home game for the Cardinals had two unintended consequences: It prompted the dismissal of their manager and led to a ban on serving beverages in glass bottles.

sportsmans_park2Seventy-five years ago, on Jan. 31, 1940, the National League Cardinals and the American League Browns agreed to share the $150,000 cost to install lights at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

Stupp Brothers Bridge and Iron Company of St. Louis was hired to do the structural work and Westinghouse Electrical Supply Company was given the job of putting in the reflectors and floodlights on eight steel towers.

“It will require electrical energy totaling 1,176,000 watts per hour, not including lighting in the stands, to turn night into day at the historic old Grand Boulevard establishment,” The Sporting News reported. “This, it is said, would be sufficient juice to take care of the lighting needs of a city of 25,000 persons.”

The Browns got the honor of playing the first night game in St. Louis on May 24, 1940, against the Indians. Before 24,827 spectators on a Friday night, Bob Feller pitched a seven-hitter, struck out nine and hit his first big-league home run, leading the Indians to a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

Eleven nights later, the Cardinals got their first chance to play under the lights at home.

Dark times

On June 4, 1940, 23,500 spectators turned out on a Tuesday night to see the Cardinals open a series against the Dodgers.

A runner-up to the National League champion Reds in 1939, the Cardinals stumbled early in 1940, losing 16 of their first 24 games. Their record was 14-22 entering the Dodgers series. Cardinals owner Sam Breadon was becoming increasingly impatient with second-year manager Ray Blades.

Seeking a sharp, winning performance before the large crowd in the club’s first night home game, Breadon saw just the opposite. Sparked by a three-run home run by Pete Coscarart off Mort Cooper, the Dodgers scored five in the first.

As the Dodgers added to the lead, “pop bottles thrown from the bleachers littered the outfield,” The Sporting News reported, “partly because the Dodgers rattled long drives off the wall and partly because of (inconsistent) umpiring.”

Though Cardinals cleanup batter Joe Medwick, who had gone hitless in his last 16 times at bat, went 5-for-5 with three doubles, the Cardinals stranded 14 and the Dodgers won, 10-1, behind left-hander Vito Tamulis, who scattered 11 hits. Boxscore

Changing times

Disheartened by the debacle, Breadon made up his mind right then to fire Blades, The Sporting News reported.

The announcement of Blades’ firing came two days later, surprising general manager Branch Rickey, who hadn’t been informed by Breadon of the decision. Billy Southworth, managing the Cardinals’ minor-league club at Rochester, N.Y., was Breadon’s choice to replace Blades.

Breadon also announced that the Cardinals would use paper cups instead of bottles for serving cold drinks in the Sportsman’s Park bleachers.

Night moves

The 1940 Cardinals would play seven home night games, winning three.

Their first home night win occurred on a Tuesday, July 2, 1940, when right-hander Bill McGee pitched a seven-hit shutout and contributed a two-run single, beating the Reds, 4-0, before 14,944. Boxscore

A look at the Cardinals’ other five night home games in 1940:

_ Harry Danning had three hits, including two doubles, and a RBI for the Giants in an 8-6, 11-inning victory on Thursday night July 11 before 10,363. Boxscore

_ Hugh Mulcahy pitched a five-hit shutout in a 3-0 Phillies win on Wednesday night July 17 before 7,113. Boxscore

_ Joe Orengo tied the score with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth and the Cardinals got a run in the 11th to beat the Pirates, 7-6, on Wednesday night Aug. 14 before 11,077. Boxscore

_ Al Glossop had two RBI and rookie Nick Strincevich pitched a five-hitter, leading the Braves to a 3-1 triumph on Monday night Aug. 26 before 8,472. Boxscore

_ Johnny Mize and Marty Marion each had two RBI, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night Sept. 4 before 16,197. Boxscore

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cards to oust Frankie Frisch

Previously: Top 5 reasons why Sam Breadon should be in Hall of Fame

Previously: How Mike Gonzalez became first Cuban manager in majors

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Thirty years ago, the Cardinals forced out general manager Joe McDonald, friend and working partner of Whitey Herzog. The move signaled to Herzog, the Cardinals’ manager, that he, too, was vulnerable and could be ousted if his club didn’t contend in 1985.

joe_mcdonaldHerzog responded by leading the Cardinals to National League pennants in two of the next three seasons (1985 and ’87), securing his reputation as an innovative winner and capping a managerial career that would lead to his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Jan. 3, 1985, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch said McDonald, the franchise’s general manager since 1982, had resigned and would remain with the club as a consultant. While vaguely acknowledging McDonald had made “a number of contributions to the team,” Busch also said “a change was needed to build the club into a pennant winner.”

In The Sporting News, Rick Hummel noted that Busch’s statement “did not sound as if the move (by McDonald) was voluntary.” McDonald, 55, confirmed as much, telling the Associated Press he intended to “look for another job” and was “too young to retire.”

Internal strife

After the Cardinals won the World Series championship in 1982 with Herzog as manager and McDonald as general manager, they finished fourth in the six-team NL East in 1983 and third in 1984.

Expectations were the Cardinals would finish out of contention in 1985, too. After the 1984 season, closer Bruce Sutter had become a free agent and bolted the Cardinals for the Braves. McDonald then dealt the club’s top run producer, right fielder George Hendrick, to the Pirates.

Concern about the direction the Cardinals were headed was one reason Busch was unhappy with McDonald. Another: Busch was irked that McDonald hadn’t informed him about personal problems plaguing Cardinals outfielder David Green, who was entering a treatment center.

In his book, “That’s a Winner,” Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck wrote, “McDonald made the mistake of not informing Mr. Busch before the story was in the news. Busch had made it clear he did not want to be surprised by anything he heard about his team. He wanted the information first _ and that was one of the reasons McDonald was fired as general manager.”

Committee rules

In a story headlined “Herzog’s Future Could Be In Doubt,” Hummel wrote, “Now that Joe McDonald has resigned, or been fired, as the St. Louis Cardinals general manager, what will become of manager Whitey Herzog, McDonald’s close friend? … Herzog couldn’t be blamed for wondering what the future of the Cardinals is … His input in the organization seems to have been lessened considerably in the past couple of years.”

A three-man executive committee of Busch, attorney Lou Susman and chief operating officer Fred Kuhlmann played a larger role in key Cardinals decisions.

Wrote Hummel, “Herzog and McDonald found it increasingly difficult to work within that framework because they had to get approval from the executive committee on most proposed transactions and, as often as not, they could not find all three members of the committee in town at the same time.”

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “I’d never seen an organization that was as screwed up as ours was when 1985 began.”

Met as Mets

McDonald and Herzog worked together in the Mets organization from 1966-72. In 1967, Bing Devine, the former Cardinals general manager who had become a Mets executive, named McDonald director of scouting and Herzog director of player development.

Herzog went on to become a big-league manager. McDonald became general manager of the Mets in 1975, replacing Bob Scheffing, and held that position through 1979 until new ownership replaced him with Frank Cashen.

McDonald and Herzog were reunited in 1980 when McDonald joined the Cardinals as assistant to Herzog, who was both general manager and manager.

In February 1982, Herzog, tired of negotiating player contracts, suggested to Busch that McDonald should become general manager. Busch agreed and the announcement was made in April 1982.

Life after Cardinals

After the Cardinals ousted McDonald, they contracted with Tal Smith, a consultant and longtime baseball executive, to assist them in a search for a replacement. On Feb. 25, 1985, Dal Maxvill, the former Cardinals shortstop, was named general manager.

Meanwhile, McDonald pursued his plan to find another front-office job.

In 1987, McDonald joined the Tigers as director of player development. He replaced Bill Lajoie as Tigers general manager in 1991 and held that position for two years before he was replaced by Jerry Walker.

After leaving the Tigers, McDonald became a scout for the Angels, Rockies and Red Sox. He was a Red Sox scout when they won World Series championships against the Cardinals in 2004 and 2013.

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: Why Cardinals were right to trade George Hendrick

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Ten years ago, the Angels gave the Cardinals a perfect Christmas gift.

david_ecksteinOn Dec. 21, 2004, the Angels opted not to re-sign their shortstop, David Eckstein, making him a free agent.

The Cardinals, desperate to replace shortstop Edgar Renteria, who had become a free agent and signed with the Red Sox, hardly could believe their good fortune.

Eckstein was one player who filled two needs. He could replace Renteria at shortstop and he also could bat leadoff. Like Renteria, Tony Womack, who batted leadoff for the 2004 Cardinals, had become a free agent. Womack signed with the Yankees.

Pouncing on the opportunity to acquire a player described by general manager Walt Jocketty as “a perfect fit,” the Cardinals signed Eckstein on Dec. 23, two days after he became available.

It was a move they’d never regret, one that felt right from the very moment it occurred.

Eckstein ignited the Cardinals with his hustle, heart and smarts, leading them to two postseason appearances and a 2006 World Series championship.

Shortstop roulette

Though Eckstein had sparked the Angels to their only World Series title in 2002 and had led American League shortstops in fielding percentage in 2004, the Angels sought an upgrade, citing Eckstein’s lack of arm strength as a liability.

Meanwhile, Renteria, a three-time all-star with the Cardinals, had bolted to the Red Sox, who gave him a four-year, $40 million contract.

With Renteria joining Boston, Orlando Cabrera, the shortstop who helped the Red Sox sweep the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, declared for free agency. The Angels pursued him, offering a four-year, $32 million deal. When Cabrera accepted, Eckstein became expendable.

According to the Associated Press, the Cardinals, unable to find a suitable replacement for Renteria, were considering signing shortstop Barry Larkin, 40, who had become a free agent after 19 seasons with the Reds. When Eckstein became available, the Cardinals called with a three-year, $10.2 million offer.

Eckstein, 29, accepted. It was a bargain for the Cardinals.

“They were very aggressive,” Eckstein said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They were pretty much the first team to call … It was clear that this was a good fit. The best fit.”

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ assistant general manager, told the Associated Press, “David was the player we focused on right away after Cabrera signed.”

Said Jocketty to Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch: “We felt this was the guy, the perfect fit for our club for a lot of reasons. For his personality, for the way he goes about playing the game. He’s a gamer through and through. He’s the kind of player St. Louis will embrace. I think he will become a cult hero with our fans. He’s a hustler.”

Angels players and media were disappointed Eckstein departed.

Wrote San Bernardino Sun columnist Paul Oberjuerge: “The Angels just shot Bambi.”

Said Angels first baseman Darin Erstad to MLB.com: “He’s been the heart and soul of the team, an inspiration for all of us.”

Size doesn’t matter

Eckstein, 5 feet 6, 170 pounds, had 156 hits in 142 games for the 2004 Angels. He struck out just 49 times in 637 plate appearances. He made only six errors in 138 games at shortstop.

In the 2002 World Series against the Giants, Eckstein batted .310 with nine hits, three walks and six runs scored for the Angels.

Wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, “Eckstein is the kind of old-school player who commands such great respect and appreciation in St. Louis, a traditional baseball town.”

Rex Hudler, an Angels broadcaster who had been a hustling utilityman for the Cardinals from 1990-92, told Miklasz that he had named his son, David, in honor of Eckstein.

“He’s going to be revered as the new Huckleberry Finn of St. Louis and Missouri,” Hudler said of Eckstein.

Hudler said his 8-year-old daughter cried when she learned Eckstein was leaving the Angels. “Kids are his biggest fans,” Hudler said. “The children look up to him and relate to him because he’s so small … He inspires all of those kids who have been told they aren’t good enough.”

Asked about Eckstein’s subpar arm, Hudler replied, “He’s so smart. Extremely intelligent. He studies the hitters. He positions himself perfectly. He’s always in the right place. The ball comes right to him. I’ve never seen him make a mental mistake.”

Said Eckstein: “I don’t really look like your typical pro athlete. It means I always have to prove myself … I don’t want to lose that edge.”

St. Louis sparkplug

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was delighted by the acquisition, calling Eckstein “a winning player.”

After speaking with La Russa, Eckstein told the Associated Press, “Mr. La Russa just said to play my game, be a pest at the plate and play solid defense.”

That’s exactly what Eckstein did for the Cardinals.

In three seasons (2005-07) as the St. Louis shortstop, Eckstein twice was named an all-star. He batted .297 with 465 hits in 398 career games for the Cardinals. He had a .357 on-base percentage with them. In 2005, Eckstein ranked second among National League shortstops in both assists (517) and double plays turned (123).

His crowning achievement came in 2006 when he was named winner of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. Eckstein hit .364 (8-for-22) in the five-game series versus the Tigers, with four RBI and three runs scored.

Previously: 4 Series aces for Cards: Gibson, Porter, Eckstein, Freese

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