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Once upon a time, the managers of the Cardinals and Reds threw punches at one another and wrestled on the ground near home plate. One of them may have taken a bite out of the other. No, we’re not referring to Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker.

harry_walkerSixty years ago, on July 5, 1955, managers Harry Walker of the Cardinals and Birdie Tebbetts of the Reds fought one another during a game at Cincinnati, prompting players to rush onto the field and join in the fisticuffs.

Watching from his seat in the Crosley Field stands was National League president Warren Giles. “I never before heard of two major-league managers starting a fight between their teams by being the first to exchange blows,” Giles said to The Sporting News. “To the best of my knowledge, their fight was unprecedented.”

Action inning

The drama began in the ninth.

The Cardinals scored twice in the top half of the inning, taking a 4-3 lead. Bill Virdon began the comeback with a home run off former St. Louis pitcher Gerry Staley. Bob Stephenson gave the Cardinals the lead with a RBI-single off Joe Black.

In the home half of the inning, another former Cardinals player, Ray Jablonski, delivered a RBI-single for the Reds off reliever Paul La Palme, tying the score at 4-4.

At this point, Walker made a pair of defensive changes, sending Ken Boyer to replace Solly Hemus at third base and Pete Whisenant to replace Joe Frazier in right field.

Bill Sarni, the Cardinals’ catcher, went to the mound to visit with La Palme. Tebbetts suspected Sarni was trying to buy time for Boyer and Whisenant to loosen their arms. The defensive replacements were tossing balls to teammates on the sidelines while Sarni and La Palme huddled.

Tebbetts protested to plate umpire Jocko Conlan, claiming the rules called for the game to resume as soon as the new fielders took their positions.

The argument ended without a resolution.

Sam Mele then stepped to the plate for the Reds. Batting with one out and runners on first and second, Mele flied out to Whisenant.

Johnny Temple was the next batter, but before he could take a stance, Sarni again visited the mound. As he did, Whisenant threw more practice tosses.

Temper tantrums

Tebbetts came out to the plate to complain to Conlan. Walker rushed over to defend his team. The managers began yelling at one another, with Conlan between them.

“We called each other names,” Tebbetts said. “We both seemed to get the idea at once that the only way to settle our argument was with our fists. So we started swinging.”

In The Sporting News, Bob Broeg wrote, “Tebbetts suddenly swung _ and missed _ prompting a return blow that landed.”

Tebbetts, 42, and Walker, 38, grabbed one another, wrestled to the ground and rolled around in the dirt.

Players from both benches emptied onto the field, with several piling onto Walker and Tebbetts. Some squared off in individual battles. Pitchers Art Fowler of the Reds and Larry Jackson of the Cardinals tangled. So did Frazier and Reds outfielder Wally Post.

Others, such as Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst of the Cardinals and Ted Kluszewski of the Reds, played peacemakers.

Bruised and battered

Walker suffered a bruised forehead and said Tebbetts bit him on the left ear.

“A lot of players must have hit me or kicked me,” said Walker. “At one time, while we were down, I yelled at Birdie, ‘You’re trying to bite me.’ ”

Said Tebbetts: “Someone stomped on my back and someone else kicked me in an ear. I saw another foot coming at me and ducked my head against Harry’s face so close he thought I was trying to bite him. I was just trying to protect my own head.”

Tebbetts suffered a nosebleed and cuts on his lip and neck. “I feel like I have been run over by a steam roller,” Tebbetts said.

Reds rally

Conlan ejected Tebbetts, Walker and Sarni.

When played resumed, Temple singled off La Palme, scoring Chuck Harmon with the run that gave the Reds a 5-4 victory. Boxscore

Giles fined Tebbetts and Walker $100 each.

“Managers have an obligation to preserve or restore order and not, by their actions, to incite disorder,” Giles said.

Neither manager seemed contrite.

Said Tebbetts to the Associated Press: “This is not a game of tiddlywinks.”

Previously: The story of why Cardinals fired manager Eddie Stanky

Previously: No backing down: Tony La Russa vs. Lloyd McClendon

Previously: Wrangle at Wrigley: Tony La Russa vs. Dusty Baker

Previously: 1980s macho match: Whitey Herzog vs. Roger Craig

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In a season fraught with futility, the pitcher who epitomized the plight of the 1995 Cardinals was Danny Jackson. Expected to provide wins and hope, Jackson instead represented losses and despair.

danny_jacksonTwenty years ago, on July 2, 1995, Jackson was the losing pitcher for St. Louis against the Cubs at Chicago, dropping his season record to 0-9.

Jackson became the first Cardinals pitcher to start a season 0-9 since Art Fromme in 1907 and the first Cardinals pitcher to lose nine in a row since Bob Forsch did so from July 5 through Aug. 19 in 1978.

Tough guy

A left-hander, Jackson was signed by the Cardinals as a free agent in December 1994 after posting a 14-6 record and 3.26 ERA for the 1994 Phillies.

Jackson had pitched in three World Series for three different franchises (1985 Royals, 1990 Reds and 1993 Phillies) and had been a 23-game winner with the 1988 Reds.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty gave Jackson a three-year contract for a guaranteed $10.8 million.

“Danny Jackson gives us the toughness we’ve lacked in our pitching staff,” Cardinals manager Joe Torre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Troubled pitcher

Jackson, 33, who underwent thyroid surgery during the off-season, got off to a poor start with the 1995 Cardinals, yielding four runs or more in each of his first four starts. Jackson had complications with his medications. He also was hampered by an unsteady defense and erratic offense.

Still, Jackson’s ineffectiveness was his own doing. His pitching mechanics were out of synch.

His ERA after his ninth loss was 7.83. Jackson gave up three or more runs in an inning 11 times in his first 11 starts for the Cardinals. He was unable to last longer than five innings in eight of those starts.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I know one thing: I’m sick and tired of losing,” Jackson said after his record fell to 0-9. “It doesn’t seem to make any difference what I do. It’s always the same.”

Said Mike Jorgensen, who had replaced Torre as manager: “We’re going to keep sending him out there until we get him smoothed out.” Boxscore

Goodbye gorilla

Five days after his loss to the Cubs, Jackson ended the streak in spectacular fashion, shutting out the Marlins on a four-hitter on July 7, 1995, at St. Louis.

“I feel like I got King Kong off my back,” Jackson said.

Said catcher Tom Pagnozzi: “That was the best he had looked as far as not muscling the ball and throwing fluidly.” Boxscore

Jackson won his next start, beating the Phillies for his second win of the season, and then lost three decisions in a row.

Bad numbers

In his last start of the season, Aug. 11 against the Padres, Jackson injured an ankle, was lifted in the second inning and didn’t pitch again in 1995.

His season record: 2-12 with a 5.90 ERA.

In 19 starts, Jackson yielded 120 hits in 100.2 innings and had almost as many walks (48) as strikeouts (52). Batters hit .303 against him.

His failures were a key factor in the Cardinals having a 62-81 record.

Jackson never recovered. In three seasons with the Cardinals, he was 4-15 with a 5.78 ERA.

On June 13, 1997, the Cardinals dealt Jackson, pitcher Rich Batchelor and outfielder Mark Sweeney to the Padres for pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, outfielder Phil Plantier and third baseman Scott Livingstone.

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

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Taking advantage of an unmotivated, jet-lagged team, Fernando Valenzuela pitched a no-hitter against the Cardinals. It was the second no-hitter pitched in the major leagues that night and the first versus the Cardinals in 12 years.

fernando_valenzuelaTwenty-five years ago, on June 29, 1990, Valenzuela pitched the only no-hitter of his career in a 6-0 Dodgers victory over the Cardinals at Los Angeles.

Earlier that night, Dave Stewart, Valenzuela’s former Dodgers teammate, pitched a no-hitter for manager Tony La Russa’s Athletics against the Blue Jays. It was the first time no-hitters had been pitched in both the American League and National League on the same day.

Valenzuela, 29, struck out seven and walked three. The Cardinals also had a runner reach on an error.

The Dodgers’ left-hander pitched the first no-hitter against the Cardinals since Tom Seaver of the Reds on June 16, 1978. Since Valenzuela’s gem, the only no-hitter pitched against the Cardinals was by Johan Santana of the Mets on June 1, 2012. Eight no-hitters have been pitched against the Cardinals.

Control, confidence

After beating the Pirates in a night game at St. Louis on June 28, the Cardinals stayed overnight at home and left the morning of June 29 for that night’s game against the Dodgers. The Cardinals arrived in Los Angeles about 12:30 in the afternoon Pacific Coast time.

The Dodgers watched on the clubhouse television as Stewart completed his no-hitter at Toronto. Boxscore

Valenzuela turned to his teammates and said, “You’ve seen one on TV. Now come watch one live,” Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Valenzuela’s previous big-league best had been a two-hitter.

From the start, it was evident Valenzuela was in command. “Throughout the game, I had excellent control,” he told the Orange County Register. “I had a lot of confidence.”

Timely tip

In the ninth, Vince Coleman led off for the Cardinals. The speedster was the batter Valenzuela feared most in the St. Louis lineup. “Coleman makes a lot of contact and he can bunt,” Valenzuela said.

Coleman hit a shot down the third-base line, but it was foul. With the count 2-and-2, Coleman faked a bunt attempt and was called out on strikes by umpire Jerry Layne.

Willie McGee was up next and he walked.

That brought to the plate Pedro Guerrero, who had been Valenzuela’s Dodgers teammate from 1980-88. Guerrero was playing on his 34th birthday.

“When Willie got on,” Guerrero told Hummel, “I said, ‘I’m going to be the one that’s going to do it.’ “

Guerrero hit a groundball up the middle. As Valenzuela reached for the ball, it tipped his glove and was deflected to second baseman Juan Samuel, who stepped on second for the force on McGee and threw to first for the game-ending double play.

“Do you think if I don’t touch that ball, it goes through for a single? I think it does,” said Valenzuela. “I think if I don’t touch it, I’m in trouble.” Boxscore

Cardinals crusher

The loss was the fifth in six games for the Cardinals, dropping their record to 30-44.

“We’re pathetic,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.

Said Guerrero: “We didn’t look too good out there, but I think flying on game day had something to do with it.”

Stewart called the Dodgers clubhouse after the game to congratulate Valenzuela.

The no-hitter evened Valenzuela’s season record at 6-6 and lowered his ERA from 4.09 to 3.73.

A week later, Herzog resigned, saying he was embarrassed by the play of his team.

Previously: Willie Mays on Ray Washburn: ‘Never saw a better curve’

Previously: Like Johan Santana, Bob Forsch had disputed no-hitter

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The Cardinals twice have experienced back-to-back battery power.

rick_ankiel8Tom Pagnozzi and Omar Olivares in 1994 and Eli Marrero and Rick Ankiel in 2000 are the only Cardinals catcher-pitcher batteries to hit consecutive home runs, according to David Vincent of the Society for American Baseball Research.

The home run by Ankiel was the first of his big-league career.

Here is a look at those feats:

Magic in Miami

On Aug. 10, 1994, in the next-to-last Cardinals game before the players’ strike that shortened the season, Olivares and Pagnozzi led a 12-4 St. Louis rout of the Marlins in Miami.

Pagnozzi was 2-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored and two RBI. Olivares pitched seven innings and earned his third win of the season.

The highlights came in the sixth. With one on, one out and the Cardinals ahead, 4-2, Pagnozzi, batting eighth, hit a two-run home run off starter David Weathers. Olivares, batting ninth, followed with a solo shot, his third big-league homer.

“I just swing hard,” Olivares said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Dream come true

Six years later, on April 20, 2000, at St. Louis, Marrero and Ankiel matched the feat in a 14-1 Cardinals triumph over the Padres.

In the fifth, with the Cardinals ahead, 10-0, Vicente Palacios was pitching in relief for the Padres. Palacios, 36, was making his first big-league appearance since June 1995 when he was with the Cardinals.

Marrero, batting eighth, connected off Palacios for his second home run of the game, a 412-foot shot off the Stadium Club at Busch Stadium II. Ankiel, 20, followed with a 380-foot home run into the bullpen.

“That’s all I’ve got,” Ankiel said of his power stroke. “I didn’t know it was gone when I hit it … It was great. As a little kid, that’s what you dream of.”

Ankiel was 3-for-3 with a RBI and two runs scored. He pitched five shutout innings and earned his second win of the season, yielding two hits and seven walks and striking out four.

“None of those hits were accidents,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “He’s almost as good a hitter as he is a pitcher.”

Said Cardinals hitting coach Mike Easler of Ankiel: “What it took me 10 years in the minors leagues to learn, he’s learned at 20 years old.” Boxscore

Unable to control his pitches and set back by injuries, Ankiel quit pitching in spring training 2005, learned to play outfield in the minors and returned to the Cardinals as an outfielder in 2007. He hit 76 career home runs in the big leagues, with two as a pitcher and the rest as an outfielder or pinch-hitter.

Previously: How Rick Ankiel made happy return to St. Louis as pitcher

Previously: Rick Ankiel and the decision that altered his career

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In his final career win as a starter, Bob Gibson achieved a milestone.

bob_gibson19Forty years ago, on June 27, 1975, Gibson earned his 250th career win, pitching six innings in a 6-4 Cardinals victory over the Expos in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Montreal.

The win was significant for several reasons, including:

_ Gibson became the first and only Cardinals pitcher to achieve 250 wins. No one else has come close. The pitchers with the next-best career wins totals as Cardinals are Jesse Haines (210) and Bob Forsch (163).

_ Gibson was the career wins leader among all active big-league pitchers in 1975.

_ The win was the first for Gibson since May 5, 1975.

“No. 250 doesn’t mean any more than 249,” Gibson said to the Associated Press. “It feels good to be able to win a game and help the ball club. I want to be part of a winning ball club. I haven’t lost that.”

Breaking stuff

Gibson, 39, shut out the Expos through six innings.

“I was getting my breaking ball over,” Gibson said. “If you don’t have the breaking stuff. you just have the fastball. It’s tough to pitch with just the fastball.”

Gibson also contributed a RBI-single in the fifth off Expos starter Steve Rogers and scored on a Ted Sizemore two-run double.

In the seventh, with the Cardinals ahead, 4-0, the first two Expos batters reached base and Gibson was lifted by manager Red Schoendienst. Ron Bryant relieved and yielded a RBI-double to Barry Foote. Rookie Greg Terlecky replaced Bryant and gave up a two-run single to Bob Bailey. Two of the runs were charged to Gibson.

Gibson’s line for the game: 6 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 6 walks, 1 strikeout.

In The Sporting News, columnist Jerome Holtzman wrote, “Bob Gibson has not only lost a foot off his fastball, but he isn’t hitting the corners the way he used to.” Boxscore

One more win

Gibson made two more starts, the last of his career, against the Phillies and Giants, and lost both, dropping his season record to 2-8.

His 251st and final win of his career came in relief on July 27, 1975, against the Phillies at St. Louis.

Relieving rookie starter John Denny in the fourth, Gibson pitched four shutout innings in a 9-6 Cardinals triumph. Gibson struck out Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt to end the sixth and struck out Greg Luzinski to start the seventh.

Gibson’s line for the game: 4 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts. Boxscore

It was Gibson’s first win in relief since beating the Mets on the final day of the 1964 season, clinching the National League pennant for St. Louis.

Gibson made six more relief stints for the 1975 Cardinals and lost two, finishing his final season at 3-10 with a 5.04 ERA.

In 17 seasons (1959-75) with St. Louis, Gibson was 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA. Among his accomplishments: two NL Cy Young awards, two World Series Most Valuable Player awards, a NL MVP Award and nine Gold Glove awards. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Previously: Bob Gibson and his final Opening Day with Cardinals

Previously: How Ron Reed replaced Bob Gibson in Cardinals rotation

Previously: Bob Gibson and his last Cardinals game

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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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