Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

With Vince Coleman offering a younger, less expensive and more productive alternative as a left fielder, the Cardinals deemed Lonnie Smith expendable.

lonnie_smith5Thirty years ago, on May 17, 1985, the Cardinals dealt Smith to the Royals for John Morris, a minor-league outfielder.

The trade upset Smith, who wanted to remain with St. Louis, and Cardinals fans, who generally thought the club should have received more in return for him. Five months later, Smith played an integral role in the Royals defeating the Cardinals in seven games in the 1985 World Series.

St. Louis sparkplug

In 1982, his first season with the Cardinals, Smith ignited the offense, hitting .307, scoring 120 runs and stealing 68 bases. In the 1982 World Series, Smith hit .321 with six runs scored, helping the Cardinals beat the Brewers in seven games.

Smith underwent rehabilitation for drug abuse in 1983, missing about a month of the season, but still hit .321 with 43 steals.

In 1984, though, his batting average dropped to .250.

Smith opened the 1985 season as the Cardinals’ left fielder, joining Willie McGee in center and Andy Van Slyke in right. When McGee was sidelined by an injury in April, the Cardinals promoted Coleman from Class AAA Louisville. The rookie speedster quickly established himself as a force, hitting .300 with 12 steals in his first dozen games. When McGee returned to the lineup, Smith was odd man out.

Coleman, 23, was receiving a salary of $60,000, according to baseball-reference.com. Smith, 29, was receiving a salary of $850,000, according to The Sporting News.

Royals come calling

The Royals were among several clubs that expressed interest in Smith, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said.

The proposed deal with Kansas City called for the Royals to send the Cardinals a player to be named. Maxvill reconsidered and asked instead for Morris, who was hitting .258 at Class AAA Omaha.

Morris, 24, was the first-round choice of the Royals in the 1982 amateur draft. In 1983, Morris was named winner of the Southern League Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .288 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI for Jacksonville.

Three days before the trade was made, the New York Daily News reported a deal was in the works. Morris got a phone call from his mother, who informed him of the newspaper report. Stunned, Morris called Royals general manager John Schuerholz and asked him about it.

According to Morris’ book “Bullet Bob Comes to Louisville,” Schuerholz told him, “Johnny, the news about you being traded is strictly a rumor created by the St. Louis media. You have nothing to worry about. Everything will be fine.”

Hurt feelings

Morris was with the Omaha club in Buffalo when he got a call from Schuerholz. According to Morris’ book, the conversation went like this:

Schuerholz: “John, we just made a trade. You’ve been dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for Lonnie Smith. I know we discussed this the other day, but at the time I couldn’t give you any information.”

Morris: “So, you knew all along that I was going to be traded. I think it’s unfortunate that I had to find out from my mom, who just happened to stumble upon it in the newspaper.”

Schuerholz: “Listen, John, you’re going to a first-class organization and we know you will do well with the Cardinals … Whitey Herzog is a great manager who thinks the world of you. He even told me that himself in spring training.”

In the book “Whitey’s Boys,” Smith, recalling his reaction to the trade, said, “I actually thought about giving up baseball. I didn’t think I could go anyplace better (than St. Louis).”

Maxvill told The Sporting News he expected to be criticized for trading Smith. “People are going to say that it’s a matter of economics, that the Cardinals don’t want to pay the salaries,” Maxvill said.

Unapologetic, Herzog said, “I would venture to say there’s never been a better defensive outfield than Van Slyke, McGee and Vince.”

Royals benefit

The Cardinals assigned Morris to Class AAA Louisville. In 130 games combined for Omaha and Louisville in 1985, Morris hit .251 with five home runs and 50 RBI.

Smith became the Royals’ everyday left fielder. He replaced Darryl Motley, who moved to right field and platooned there with Pat Sheridan.

“The key things are his bat and his speed and that we think he can give us a boost offensively,” Royals manager Dick Howser said of Smith to the Associated Press.

Regarding Smith’s previous drug problem, Howser told United Press International, “Our indications are _ and we’ve checked it out _ that he’s very good. He’s done what he’s had to do. We feel comfortable with the fact that he’s clean.”

(In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said of Smith’s drug problem, “I admired him, and still do, for having the guts to ask for help.”)

Smith hit .257 with 40 steals for the 1985 Royals. In the World Series versus the Cardinals, Smith batted .333 with four runs scored, four RBI, three doubles and two steals.

Morris played five seasons (1986-90) with the Cardinals, hitting .247 with six home runs and 54 RBI. Granted free agency in October 1990, Morris signed with the Phillies. He finished his big-league career with the 1992 Angels.

In four seasons (1982-85) with the Cardinals, Smith hit .292 with 491 hits in 459 games, 173 steals and a .371 on-base percentage.

Previously: How Lonnie Smith came clean with the Cardinals

Previously: Why Lonnie Smith was a nemesis of Nolan Ryan

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On the field, pitcher Bob Gibson and center fielder Curt Flood were all-star players who exceled for a Cardinals club that won two World Series titles and three National League pennants in the 1960s. Off the field, Gibson and Flood were road roommates and confidantes.

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson called Flood “my best friend in baseball.”

On May 4, 2015, Flood joined Gibson as a member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Flood was elected along with catcher Ted Simmons, pitcher Bob Forsch and instructor George Kissell. Gibson is a charter member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

In 12 years (1958-69) with the Cardinals, Flood batted .293 (1,853 hits in 1,738 games) and three times led the NL in singles. He also won the Gold Glove Award seven times and was named an all-star three times.

“Curt Flood was more than my best friend on the ballclub,” Gibson said in his book. “To me, he personified what the Cardinals were all about. As a man and teammate, he was smart, funny, sensitive and, most of all, unique. As a ballplayer, he was resourceful, dedicated and very, very good.”

After being traded by the Cardinals to the Phillies in October 1969, Flood refused to report and challenged baseball’s reserve clause, opening the path to free agency for players.

“As Flood’s suit made the judicial circuit, Curt waited it out in Copenhagen, Denmark,” Gibson recalled. “I received long, philosophical letters from him every now and then. I missed him.

“At the ballpark, I missed Flood in center field, where his remarkable catches would often bring his cynical teammates to the top step of the dugout in applause. But I also missed his discussions about the latest works of (writer) James Baldwin and I missed his play on words. When, for instance, he took his place in the outfield between Stan Musial and Minnie Minoso, he referred to the alignment as Old Taylor and Ancient Age with a little Squirt for a chaser.

“I especially missed him as a roommate. By that time, Curt and I understood each other so well that we no longer had to talk to communicate.”

Regarding Flood’s self-sacrifice in challenging the reserve clause and, by so doing, shortening his playing career, Gibson said in his 1994 book, “The modern player has gotten fat from the efforts of Curt Flood and has returned him no gratitude or any other form of appreciation.

“I’ve often thought of what an appropriate and decent thing it would be if every player in the major leagues turned over 1 percent of his paycheck just one time to Curt Flood. They certainly owe him that much and more.”



Previously: George Crowe was Cardinals mentor to Curt Flood

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It is fitting that pitcher Bob Forsch and catcher Ted Simmons were elected together for induction in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Forsch and Simmons, elected on May 4, 2015, along with outfielder Curt Flood and instructor George Kissell, formed an iconic Cardinals pitcher-catcher battery from 1974-80.

Simmons, by far, caught more of Forsch’s games than any other catcher.

Forsch pitched in 498 regular-season games. Simmons was his catcher in 181 of those, according to baseball-reference.com. (The catcher who caught Forsch the next-most was Darrell Porter at 85.)

Forsch had a career ERA of 3.76. In games caught by Simmons, Forsch’s ERA was 3.43.

On April 16, 1978, Simmons was the catcher when Forsch pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies at St. Louis. Simmons also contributed two hits in four at-bats and scored a run in a 5-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

In his book “Tales from the Cardinals Dugout,” Forsch said of Simmons, “Teddy Simmons was my catcher, but we also became really good friends. We drove down to the ballpark together for every home game. So I may be prejudiced, but I think Teddy’s been slighted for the (National Baseball) Hall of Fame. Without a doubt.

“The thing that really impressed me about Teddy Simmons … he never, ever asked for a day off. Never. He just wouldn’t do it.”




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

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Starting with a walk to Yadier Molina and culminating with a home run by John Mabry, the Cardinals completed the biggest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history.

john_mabry2Ten years ago, on May 2, 2005, the Cardinals overcame a six-run deficit by scoring seven runs in the ninth and defeating the Reds, 10-9, at Cincinnati.

The Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate in that memorable inning and rallied against two relievers on a combination of four singles, two walks, two home runs and an error.

“I’ve never seen this happen,” Cardinals infielder Abraham Nunez told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I hope I don’t see it happen again either.”

The Cardinals never had rallied from six runs behind in the ninth inning. The Reds hadn’t blown a six-run lead in the ninth since June 29, 1952, when an 8-2 advantage turned into a 9-8 loss to the Cubs at Cincinnati. Boxscore

“It’s not easy to give a big-league game away, but that’s what we did,” said Reds reliever Danny Graves after yielding the game-winning home run to Mabry. “It takes 27 outs, not 26 (to win).”

Walks will haunt

With the Reds ahead, 5-3, in the eighth, Graves had begun to throw in the bullpen in preparation for pitching the ninth. When the Reds scored four in the eighth, however, manager Dave Miley decided to save his closer and instead sent David Weathers to pitch the ninth in a mop-up role, entrusting the 15-year big-league veteran with a 9-3 lead.

“The only way they could get back in the game is if we walked guys _ and I walked guys,” Weathers said to The Cincinnati Post.

Weathers walked the first two batters, Molina and Nunez. David Eckstein singled, loading the bases with none out.

“I was just all over the place,” Weathers said of his pitches.

Still, he almost escaped the jam unscathed.

Roger Cedeno struck out.

When Albert Pujols followed with a grounder to shortstop Rich Aurilia, it appeared the Reds might turn a game-ending double play.

Aurilia fielded the ball cleanly and tossed to D’Angelo Jimenez for the forceout of Eckstein at second base. Jimenez, however, couldn’t complete the turn and Pujols was safe at first. Molina scooted home from third on the play, making the score, 9-4.

The Cardinals remained alive, with Nunez on third, Pujols on first and two outs.

Reggie Sanders, the ex-Red, then singled, plating Nunez, moving Pujols to second and making the score 9-5.

Said Weathers: “It’s embarrassing … No excuses. That’s just bad pitching.”

Edmonds delivers

Miley lifted Weathers and replaced him with Graves, who successfully had converted all eight of his save chances that season.

The first batter Graves faced was Jim Edmonds.

Hoping to catch the Reds by surprise, “I was thinking about bunting, honestly,” Edmonds told the Associated Press.

The slugger changed his mind, though, and decided to swing away.

Graves’ third pitch to Edmonds was a hanging breaking ball.

Edmonds belted it for a three-run home run, making the score 9-8.

Reds unravel

The Reds were reeling, but the Cardinals still trailed with the bases empty and two outs.

“Nobody wants to make that last out,” said Mabry. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Following Edmonds was Mark Grudzielanek. He smacked a grounder directly at Sean Casey. The ball ricocheted off the first baseman’s arm for a two-base error.

That brought up Mabry, who started the game at third base in place of Scott Rolen, who was nursing a back strain.

With the tying run at second, “I was just trying to drive the run home by staying inside the ball and driving it to the big part of the ballpark,” Mabry said.

Mabry did even better. He hit the first pitch over the center-field fence, a two-run homer, giving the Cardinals a 10-9 lead.

“That’s why baseball’s a beautiful game,” Mabry said.

A rattled Graves yielded singles to Molina and Nunez before retiring Eckstein on a fly out to right.

As Graves left the mound, the crowd, estimated at fewer than 10,000 in the ninth, was “booing at the top of their lungs,” The Post reported.

“To have that happen just makes us feel really small,” Graves said to Post columnist Lonnie Wheeler.

Finish the job

With closer Jason Isringhausen unavailable, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa chose Julian Tavarez to pitch the bottom of the ninth.

The first batter, Joe Randa, singled. Aurilia tried a sacrifice bunt, but Randa was forced out at second.

Tavarez then plunked Jason LaRue with a pitch, advancing Aurilia to second.

The drama finally ended when Austin Kearns grounded into a double play. Boxscore

“We have no baseball luck, I guess,” said Graves, “and in this game you do need a lot of luck along with skill.”

Three weeks later, Graves ran out of luck with the Reds. They released him.

Previously: How David Bell rang up a special Cardinals home run

Previously: Jim Edmonds was dandy for Cardinals in 2004 NLCS

Previously: Slugging, fielding give Jim Edmonds hope for Hall of Fame

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Unwilling to bend on principle, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill reluctantly traded a slugger he wanted to keep. In a stroke of good fortune, he got in exchange a closer who would rank among the franchise’s all-time best.

lee_smith3Twenty-five years ago, on May 4, 1990, the Cardinals sent right fielder Tom Brunansky to the Red Sox for reliever Lee Smith.

It was one of Maxvill’s best trades during his tenure (1985-94) as Cardinals general manager.

Anatomy of a deal

Maxvill didn’t want to trade Brunansky.

Brunansky wasn’t seeking a trade.

Yet, when Brunansky demanded a no-trade clause as a condition for waiving free agency and re-signing with the Cardinals, Maxvill wouldn’t budge. He called Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman and quickly arranged the trade.

According to the Associated Press, the deal “climaxed several weeks of talks” between the Cardinals and Red Sox.

Maxvill, though, insisted the Cardinals never discussed with the Red Sox a trade of Brunansky for Smith until Maxvill called Gorman the afternoon of May 4 “despite Gorman’s public posturing that the deal had almost been made in early April,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“I haven’t been looking to trade him,” Maxvill said. “We wanted to keep Brunansky.”

Seeking security

The Cardinals had acquired Brunansky from the Twins for second baseman Tommy Herr on April 22, 1988, five months after Minnesota had prevailed in a seven-game World Series with St. Louis.

Early in the 1990 season, the Cardinals approached Brunansky about a three-year contract. Brunansky, like Smith, was eligible to become a free agent after the 1990 season. In the contract the Cardinals inherited from the Twins in 1988, Brunansky had a limited no-trade clause. Brunansky wanted a no-trade provision in any new contract.

“We tried to work around this somehow, but it just couldn’t be done,” Maxvill said.

Said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog: “We tried to negotiate a little bit with (Brunansky), but he wanted a no-trade contract and we don’t have those in St. Louis.”

Brunansky explained “my wife and I wanted to settle down and buy a house here,” but couldn’t commit to that without the no-trade clause.

“The no-trade was the whole thing,” said Brunansky. “We never got to the point of talking money. For me to stay here, I would need some kind of security. I wasn’t going to sign here for three years, buy a house and everything and keep hearing trade rumors. It was a big issue for me and, of course, it was a big issue for the ball club.”

Motivated to act

The Red Sox were eager to deal because they needed a right fielder to replace Dwight Evans, who was restricted to designated hitter duties because of back problems.

The Cardinals needed an established closer to replace Todd Worrell, who was recuperating from elbow surgery. The Cardinals had opened the 1990 season with Scott Terry as the closer.

Smith, 32, became available when the Red Sox signed free-agent closer Jeff Reardon.

Brunansky, 29, was deemed expendable because reserve Milt Thompson could step in as Cardinals right fielder.

The Cardinals also had talked with the White Sox about closer Bobby Thigpen, according to the Post-Dispatch. The Red Sox, though, were motivated to act fast.

“They called us. It’s as simple as that,” Red Sox manager Joe Morgan said to the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram and Gazette. “Nobody would give us the kind of pitcher we wanted, so we went with the right-handed power.”

Reunited with Roarke

Brunansky hit 43 home runs in three years with the Cardinals, but only 11 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. “He’ll hit homers in Fenway (Park),” said Red Sox catcher Tony Pena, a former Cardinal. “St. Louis was a tough park for him to hit in.”

Said Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs: “He’s the stick we need in the middle of the lineup.”

Smith had posted a 2-1 record with four saves, a 1.88 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14.1 innings for the 1990 Red Sox. In joining the Cardinals, Smith was reunited with coach Mike Roarke, who had been his coach as a rookie with the 1980 Cubs.

Said Smith: “I’m really pleased. Something had to be done. With the two closers we had, it wasn’t fair to either one of us. I’ve always been a Whitey Herzog fan and the way he uses pitchers. And I like pitching in Busch Stadium.”

Lee Smith joined a Cardinals roster that included pitcher Bryn Smith and shortstop Ozzie Smith. “We might as well try to get Lonnie (Smith of the Braves) and Zane (Smith of the Pirates),” said Ozzie Smith.

Brunansky played four years with the Red Sox and hit 56 home runs.

Lee Smith played four years with the Cardinals and earned 160 saves while posting a 2.90 ERA. Only Jason Isringhausen (217) has more saves as a Cardinal.

Previously: Why Cardinals traded Tommy Herr to Twins in 1988

Previously: Cardinals years among best for Hall candidate Lee Smith

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In a showdown of two master showmen, Dizzy Dean upstaged Babe Ruth.

babe_dizzyEighty years ago, Ruth, 40, entered his final big-league season with the 1935 Braves. The fading home run king had gone to the National League after 21 years (1914-34) in the American League with the Red Sox and Yankees.

Dean, 25, was the colorful Cardinals ace and reigning NL strikeout king who had earned 30 wins the year before and pitched St. Louis to the 1934 World Series championship.

They faced one another for the first time in a regular-season game on May 5, 1935, at Boston.

Seeking a strikeout

In the book “Diz,” Dean biographer Robert Gregory wrote, “He had been looking forward to his first league showdown with Babe Ruth and telling everybody he’d have no choice in the matter. He would have to strike him out.”

Ruth and Dean greeted each other cordially before the game and took part in a newspaper-sponsored promotion with local youth players.

Then, it was show time.

“Babe was watching me pretty closely while I was warming up before the game,” Dean said in the book “Ol’ Diz” by Vince Staten. “He had that old eagle eye of his on every move I made.”

In his first at-bat, Ruth walked.

When Ruth came to the plate for the second time, Dean upped the ante. “I figured that if I didn’t steal the show he would,” Dean said.

Play deep

As Ruth took his practice cuts, Dean smiled at him and turned toward his outfielders.

“He motioned them to play farther back,” wrote Gregory. “They retreated a few steps, but Diz shook his head, no, no, that’s not deep enough, and kept waving his glove until they were almost at the walls.”

Then, Dean went to work on Ruth. He got the count to 1-and-2. On his fourth delivery, Dean unleashed his best fastball. Ruth took a mighty swing and missed. Dean had his strikeout of the Bambino.

“Babe almost broke his back going for that steaming third fastball,” according to the Associated Press.

In his third at-bat, Ruth grounded out.

Basking on the stage set for him, Dean slugged a home run that sailed over Ruth’s head before clearing the left-field wall. He earned the shutout in a 7-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Encore performance

Two weeks later, on May 19 at St. Louis, Ruth and Dean had a rematch. Again, Dean prevailed. Ruth was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Dean pitched another complete game and drove in two runs, leading St. Louis to a 7-3 victory. Boxscore

In five games against the Cardinals in 1935, Ruth batted .071 (1-for-14) with a single, three walks and five strikeouts. With his overall average at .181 in 28 games that season, Ruth retired at the end of May.

In his prime, Ruth faced the Cardinals in two World Series. He hit .300 (6-for-20) with 4 home runs and 11 walks in the seven-game 1926 World Series. In the 1928 World Series, Ruth hit .625 (10-for-16) with 3 home runs and 3 doubles in four games.

Previously: Stan Musial: ‘Babe Ruth was the greatest who ever played’

Previously: Pennant clincher: How Dizzy Dean got 2 shutouts in 3 days

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