Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

With the 2015 Cardinals, John Lackey is hoping to become the 16th big-leaguer to play for three different franchises in World Series championship seasons.

john_lackeyLackey pitched for the 2002 Angels and 2013 Red Sox clubs that won World Series titles.

Only three players _ pitchers Lew Burdette and Steve Carlton and outfielder Lonnie Smith _ can count the Cardinals as one of three franchises they played for in World Series championship years.

Lackey, entering his first full season with St. Louis after being acquired from the Red Sox on July 31, 2014, would join them if the Cardinals win the 2015 World Series title.

After posting a 3-3 record and 4.30 ERA in 10 starts for the 2014 Cardinals, Lackey, 36, is expected to be one of the five starters for the 2015 Cardinals.

As a rookie with the 2002 Angels, Lackey was 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 18 starts. He was the starting and winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series versus the Giants. Boxscore

Eleven years later, Lackey was 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts for the 2013 Red Sox. He was the starting and winning pitcher in the decisive Game 6 of the 2013 World Series versus the Cardinals. Boxscore (The Cardinals beat him in Game 2.)

A look at the trio that played for three different franchises, including the Cardinals, in World Series championship years:

Lew Burdette

_ 1950 Yankees: As a rookie, Burdette, 23, pitched in two games for the 1950 Yankees but didn’t play in the World Series. The Yankees swept the Phillies.

_ 1957 Braves: Burdette was 17-9 with a 3.72 ERA for the 1957 Braves. In the World Series against the Yankees, he was 3-0 with an 0.67 ERA, yielding two earned runs in 27 innings. Burdette pitched shutouts in Games 5 and 7.

_ 1964 Cardinals: Burdette, 37, made eight relief appearances for St. Louis, posting a 1-0 record and 1.80 ERA, before being dealt to the Cubs for pitcher Glen Hobbie on June 2, 1964. Burdette’s lone win was important to the Cardinals, who finished a game ahead of both the Phillies and Reds before winning the World Series championship in seven games against the Yankees.

Steve Carlton

_ 1967 Cardinals: In his first full Cardinals season, Carlton, 22, was 14-9 with a 2.98 ERA. In his only appearance in the 1967 World Series versus the Red Sox, he was the losing pitcher in Game 5, even though he yielded just three hits and an unearned run in six innings. The Cardinals won the championship in seven games.

_ 1980 Phillies: Carlton won the 1980 Cy Young Award, with a 24-9 record and 2.34 ERA. In the 1980 World Series versus the Royals, Carlton was 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA. He won Game 2 and the decisive Game 6.

_ 1987 Twins: On July 31, 1987, Carlton, 42, was traded by the Indians to the Twins for minor-league pitcher and former Cardinals prospect Jeff Perry. Carlton was 1-5 with a 6.70 ERA for the Twins and didn’t pitch in the postseason. Still, he earned a World Series ring when the Twins beat the Cardinals in seven games.

Lonnie Smith

_ 1980 Phillies: In his first full big-league season, Smith hit .339 and had 33 stolen bases in 100 games for the 1980 Phillies. He batted .263 in the World Series. The Phillies won in six games versus the Royals.

_ 1982 Cardinals: Traded by the Phillies to the Cardinals as part of a three-way deal with the Indians on Nov. 20, 1981 (St. Louis sent pitchers Lary Sorensen and Silvio Martinez to Cleveland), Smith ignited the Cardinals’ offense in 1982, batting .307 with 182 hits in 156 games, scoring 120 runs and stealing 68 bases.

In the 1982 World Series versus the Brewers, Smith hit .321 (9-for-28) with four doubles and six runs scored. The Cardinals won the title in seven games.

_ 1985 Royals: To make room for rookie Vince Coleman in left field, the Cardinals traded Smith to the Royals for outfielder John Morris on May 17, 1985. Smith hit .257 with 40 stolen bases for the Royals.

In the 1985 World Series against the Cardinals, Smith batted .333 (9-for-27) and had four RBI. The Royals beat the Cardinals in seven games.

Smith played for a fourth franchise, the Braves, in the 1991 and 1992 World Series, but the Twins and Blue Jays won the championships in those years.

3 rings, 3 franchises

Here, in alphabetical order, are the 12 others joining Burdette, Carlton and Smith in playing for three different franchises in World Series championship years:

_ Nick Altrock, pitcher: 1903 Red Sox, 1906 White Sox, 1924 Senators.

_ George Burns, first baseman: 1920 Indians, 1928 Yankees, 1929 Athletics.

_ Joe Bush, pitcher: 1913 Athletics, 1918 Red Sox, 1923 Yankees.

_ Jay Johnstone, outfielder: 1973 Athletics, 1978 Yankees, 1981 Dodgers.

_ Mike Lowell, third baseman: 1998 Yankees, 2003 Marlins, 2007 Red Sox.

_ Dolf Luque, pitcher: 1914 Braves, 1919 Reds, 1933 Giants.

_ Stuffy McInnis, first baseman: 1910-11-13 Athletics, 1918 Red Sox, 1925 Pirates.

_ Jack Morris, pitcher: 1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, 1992-93 Blue Jays.

_ Herb Pennock, pitcher: 1913 Athletics, 1915-16 Red Sox, 1923-27-28-32 Yankees.

_ Luis Polonia, outfielder: 1989 Athletics, 1995 Braves, 2000 Yankees.

_ Wally Schang, catcher: 1913-30 Athletics, 1918 Red Sox, 1923 Yankees.

_ Dave Stewart, pitcher: 1981 Dodgers, 1989 Athletics, 1993 Blue Jays.

Previously: How Lonnie Smith came clean with the Cardinals

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Imagine Pete Rose in a Cardinals lineup with Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez, George Hendrick and Garry Templeton. The Cardinals did. They tried to make it happen.

brock_roseThe catch: Rose likely would have been brought in to replace Lou Brock, relegating the popular Cardinals standout to a reserve role.

In November 1978, Rose left the Reds, his hometown team and the only one for whom he had played since entering the majors in 1963, and became a free agent. Five clubs _ Cardinals, Phillies, Braves, Pirates and Royals _ were finalists in bidding to sign him.

Rose chose the Phillies, even though the Cardinals and the others made more lucrative offers.

On Feb. 5, 2015, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN Radio he planned to discuss the possibility of reinstating Rose, who was banned from baseball in 1989 for misconduct related to gambling. In 2004, Rose admitted to betting on games during his tenure as Reds manager.

This is the story of how the Cardinals, determined to become contenders after finishing 24 games under .500 in 1978, wanted Rose, 37, to bring his hitting, hustle and hubris to St. Louis.

Sorely needed

Before the December 1978 baseball winter meetings began in Orlando, Rose met with Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, general manager John Claiborne and manager Ken Boyer in St. Louis “with the hope the Cardinals might be able to land a man who certainly would fit the type of offensive player so sorely needed by the Redbirds,” The Sporting News reported.

Rose, who started at third base for the 1978 Reds, likely would have played left field for the 1979 Cardinals, joining an outfield of Hendrick in right and Tony Scott in center. Simmons was the St. Louis catcher. The infield for the 1979 Cardinals was Hernandez at first, Ken Oberkfell at second, Templeton at shortstop and Ken Reitz at third.

Brock, the stolen base champion and future Hall of Famer who had sparked the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series titles, had experienced a miserable 1978 season, batting .221 with no home runs and 12 RBI. He would turn 40 in 1979 and there were doubts whether he could be an effective everyday player.

In a 2014 interview with the Web site of Boston radio station WEEI, Rose recalled, “I went to St. Louis to talk with Gussie Busch, who offered me a Budweiser distributorship. I liked that, but he wanted me to replace Lou Brock and I didn’t want to get in that situation.”

(Brock remained the Cardinals’ regular left fielder in 1979 and rebounded strongly, hitting .304 in his final big-league season.)

In the book “The Lords of the Realm,” author John Helyar wrote that Busch talked with Rose about being a Budweiser spokesman and also discussed a distributorship. The meeting occurred at a St. Louis hospital, where Busch was preparing for hernia surgery.

“I probably would have had a hernia, too, if I had to carry all the money he was offering me,” Rose said.

In the Jan. 13, 1979, edition of The Sporting News, Claiborne denied Rose was offered a distributorship from Anheuser-Busch, though he confirmed the Cardinals “had made a very strong pitch for Rose.”

Treated like son

Indeed, Rose said the Phillies’ offer was lower than the bids of the Cardinals, Braves, Pirates and Royals.

“There were five bids and I took the lowest one,” Rose said. “Being conservative, I could have gotten at least another million and a half.

“I wish I could have played a year for each of the other four owners. They treated me like a son. But I had to analyze where I’d be the happiest. And the Phillies’ revised offer was enough that I didn’t have to worry about the money.”

The Phillies initially offered Rose a three-year, $2.1 million contract _ an average of $700,000 per year. When they sweetened the deal to $3.2 million for four years _ an average of $800,000 per year _ Rose accepted. He said his friendship with Phillies players Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt also persuaded him.

(The book “Pete Rose: A Biography” reports the breakdown of the Phillies deal as $905,00 the first year, $805,000 the second, $705,000 the third and $565,000 the fourth, with a $245,000 bonus if Rose played in 125 games.)

Chasing The Man

Royals owner Ewing Kauffman had made an aggressive bid, “but Rose has insisted all along he is a National Leaguer and what he lusts after most is Stan Musial’s record for hits in that league,” The Sporting News reported.

(Rose would surpass Musial’s NL record of 3,630 hits and then move ahead of Ty Cobb for the all-time mark. Cobb had 4,189 hits. Rose finished with 4,256.)

If Rose had selected the 1979 Royals, he would have played that season for manager Whitey Herzog.

The Braves thought Rose would pick them. Team owner Ted Turner offered Rose $1 million per year for “three years, four years, five years, whatever you want,” Sports Illustrated reported.

“A major network and a wire service columnist reported Rose was headed for the Braves,” wrote The Sporting News. “Team officials in Orlando for the winter meetings had Rose’s statistics printed upon the club’s letterhead and another member of the front office staff flew from Atlanta to Orlando with a Braves jersey and cap for Rose to wear at the signing.”

The contract Rose got from the Phillies made him baseball’s highest-paid player. “$3.2 million for a leadoff man, ye gods!” wrote Atlanta columnist Furman Bisher.

Phillies vs. Cardinals

Rose made his Phillies debut on Opening Day, April 6, 1979, against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Playing first base and batting leadoff a week before his 38th birthday, Rose was 1-for-3 with a walk against John Denny, who pitched a five-hitter in an 8-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

The Cardinals would finish ahead of the Phillies in the NL East in 1979. The Cardinals were third at 86-76 and the Phillies were fourth at 84-78.

Rose had a spectacular 1979 season, collecting 208 hits and batting .331. He finished second to Hernandez (.344) for the NL batting title. Rose led the league in on-base percentage (.418), edging Hernandez (.417).

Previously: How Cardinals’ mystery man nearly derailed 1980 Phillies’ title run

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With the 2015 Cardinals, Matt Belisle becomes teammates with a manager and a run producer who once hit significant home runs off him.

matt_belisleA free agent who signed with the Cardinals on Dec. 2, 2014, Belisle, 34, is expected to join Trevor Rosenthal, Jordan Walden and Seth Maness as the key right-handed relievers for St. Louis.

In 11 seasons with the Reds and Rockies, Belisle has a 48-54 record, 4.41 ERA and five saves. He has made more than 65 appearances in each of the last five seasons.

The first and last home runs he yielded to Cardinals were hit by Mike Matheny and Matt Holliday. Matheny is the manager of the 2015 Cardinals and Holliday is their top RBI threat.

MLB debut

On Sept. 7, 2003, Belisle made his big-league debut for the Reds against the Cardinals at St. Louis. He entered the game in the sixth inning with the Cardinals ahead, 5-0.

After pitching a scoreless sixth and retiring the first batter in the seventh, Belisle faced Matheny, the Cardinals’ catcher. Matheny welcomed the rookie to the big leagues with a home run into the left-field seats.

“He’s a tiger,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Matheny. “Other coaches and managers talk to me and they just admire how consistent he is, how hard he works.” Boxscore

Misplaced heater

Nine years later, on Aug. 1, 2012, Belisle was brought in to face Holliday with the Rockies leading the Cardinals, 5-3, in the seventh inning at Denver. The Cardinals had two runners on base with one out.

Holliday, who broke into the majors with the Rockies, had hit a two-run home run off Drew Pomeranz in the first inning.

On a 1-and-0 pitch, Belisle threw a fastball that caught too much of the inner part of the plate. Holliday crushed a home run that traveled 452 feet, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead and propelling them to a 9-6 victory. Video

“If I had to do it over again, I still feel real confident with going inside with a heater, but just maybe stay inside a little more,” Belisle said to the Associated Press. “I just pride myself in preparing for big pitches in big situations. This one is extremely hard to swallow and I take it completely on my shoulders for this loss.”

Said Holliday: “I was looking to hit the ball through the middle. We had runners in scoring position and I was trying to get something to hit hard.” Boxscore

Milestone homer

Belisle also is the pitcher who yielded career home run No. 200 to the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols.

On Sept. 30, 2005, Pujols hit a grand slam off Belisle in the Cardinals’ 12-6 victory over the Reds at St. Louis. Video

“The best swing I took in two weeks,” Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It was Pujols’ 40th home run of the 2005 season and his fourth career grand slam. Only Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews reached 200 home runs at ages younger than Pujols. Boxscore

Previously: Mike Matheny sparked Cards over Dodgers in 2004 NLDS

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In a deal that triggered their transformation into champions, the 1985 Cardinals got a sleeping giant to wake up their offense.

jack_clark4Thirty years ago, on Feb. 1, 1985, the Cardinals acquired Jack Clark from the Giants for Dave LaPoint, David Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog saw Clark as the answer for an offense that lacked consistent power.

“I’m getting a sleeping giant who immediately fits right into our picture a lot better,” Herzog said to The Sporting News.

Clark, 29, was a proven run producer, but he had missed three months of the 1984 season because of right knee surgery. He also had developed a reputation as a malcontent.

Green, 24, was a prized prospect, but he hadn’t fulfilled his potential and his personal problems led to him being admitted to a treatment center in 1984.

“You’re really gambling on his potential,” Herzog said. “Of all the players I’ve had the opportunity to manage, David Green has more ability than anyone as far as hitting, hitting with power, speed and throwing arm. (Garry) Templeton and George Brett are in that category, but Green has more power than either, he runs better than either and he throws better than George.”

Prime target

After the Cardinals traded their top run producer, George Hendrick, to the Pirates in a December 1984 deal that brought them pitcher John Tudor, Herzog sought a replacement for the heart of the batting order. Clark was a prime target.

“It all happened rather quickly,” Giants general manager Tom Haller said. “The Cardinals instigated talks about Clark and we threw some names at him.”

In his book “The White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “I’d always wondered what it would be like to write his name down on my lineup card. We went after Jack Clark hammer and tong in the winter of 1984-85.

“With Hendrick gone, we stepped up the campaign for Clark, the same kind of hitter George had been, only better. We knew he was unhappy in San Francisco, playing in that disgraceful ballpark of theirs (Candlestick Park). The Giants were down on him because he was unhappy there.”

Let’s make a deal

The trade initially called for the Cardinals to receive Clark and minor-league pitcher Colin Ward. Talks hit a snag when it was discovered Clark had several financial incentives in his contract, including a clause that stated Clark would be given a $250,000 payment if he joined another team in 1987.

When Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed to compensate the Cardinals with $125,000, Ward was dropped from the deal and the transaction was completed.

“I’ll be playing somewhere I can be more productive and it will be more fun coming to the park every day,” Clark said to columnist Stan Isle. “You don’t develop good work habits at Candlestick Park. You can’t always do what you want to do out there, like trying to hit Nolan Ryan with dust blowing in your eyes.”

Said Herzog to the Associated Press: “Jack Clark puts us in the situation of definite contenders again. Here’s a guy who can win a ballgame with one swing of the bat. He’s the only player in the league besides (Mike) Schmidt who could hit 20 homers a year playing in our park.”

Said Lurie to columnist Art Spander, “Nobody in the organization was anxious to trade Jack Clark … but we need players; we need starting pitchers. We’re supposed to be getting some top prospects.”

Upper hand

The deal was lopsided in favor of the Cardinals.

The Giants, who had finished in last place in the National League West at 66-96 in 1984, did even worse after the trade, finishing last again at 62-100 in 1985.

Green, primarily playing first base, hit .248 with 20 RBI in 106 games in 1985.

Uribe, who had played for the 1984 Cardinals under the name Jose Gonzalez, was the everyday shortstop for the 1985 Giants. He hit .237 and committed 26 errors.

Rajsich hit .165 as a utility player. LaPoint was 7-17 with a 3.57 ERA in 31 starts.

Clark connects

The Cardinals, who had finished in third place in the NL East at 84-78 in 1984, won the division title at 101-61 in 1985.

Sparked by the additions of Clark and rookie left fielder Vince Coleman, the Cardinals, who scored 652 runs in 1984, scored a league-leading 747 runs in 1985.

Clark, primarily playing first base, had a .393 on-base percentage and .502 slugging percentage for the 1985 Cardinals. He had 26 doubles, 22 home runs, 83 walks and 87 RBI. Clark hit the game-winning home run that clinched the pennant for St. Louis in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series versus the Dodgers.

In the book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said, “Jack Clark could pull a bullet … I could be blindfolded and tell when Jack was taking (batting practice). He was the only guy I had who didn’t sound like he was hitting underwater … The man’s power scared people, kept the defenses honest and kept our jackrabbits circling the bases.”

In three seasons with the Cardinals, Clark had a .413 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging percentage, powering St. Louis to two pennants.

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

Previously: Why Cardinals were right to try George Hendrick

Previously: Redbirds ripoff: How Bob Horner replaced Jack Clark

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Whether facing a journeyman such as Barney Schultz or a fellow Hall of Famer like Steve Carlton, Cubs icon Ernie Banks produced some of his most spectacular performances against Cardinals pitching.

ernie_banksBanks, 83, died Jan. 23, 2015, a week before his 84th birthday.

In a 19-year playing career with the Cubs, Banks had 512 home runs, 1,636 RBI and 2,583 hits. Against the Cardinals, Banks batted .277 with 326 hits in 324 games, including 64 home runs.

“One thing that the fans never really knew about Ernie … is that he talked all of the time,” George Altman, an outfielder with the Cubs and Cardinals, wrote in his autobiography. “He talked to the opposing hitters when they reached first base. He talked to our infielders. He talked to us on the bench.”

All of that talking became too much for Cardinals ace and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

“Ernie Banks was a good example of a guy whom I probably would have enjoyed quite a bit if he had been on my side _ I don’t doubt that he was as nice a guy as everybody said _ but as it was he talked too damn much,” Gibson said in his book “Stranger to the Game.”

“He was always jabbering at me a day or two before I pitched against the Cubs, trying to get me off my game. One day at old Busch Stadium he came by during batting practice and said, ‘Hoot, you pitching tomorrow? We’re going to beat you. We’re going to beat your ass tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Ernie, you’d better leave me alone.’

“It wasn’t in his nature to do that, though, and the next day I answered him.”

Gibson drilled Banks in the ribs with a pitch. “He didn’t have much to say to me after that,” Gibson said.

That day, July 18, 1962, Gibson struck out Banks three times and held the Cubs to three hits in a 2-1 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Banks had a career batting mark of .229 (24-for-105) against Gibson with three home runs and 13 RBI.

Some of Banks’ most memorable games versus the Cardinals:

Communication breakdown

Banks hit two home runs on April 16, 1955, but the Cardinals won, 12-11, in 14 innings at St. Louis.

In the second inning, Randy Jackson, Banks and Dee Fondy hit consecutive home runs off Tom Poholsky.

With the score at 9-9 in the 12th, Banks and Fondy connected for back-to-back homers off Schultz. The Cardinals tied the score in the bottom half of the inning on Wally Moon’s two-run homer with two outs off Bubba Church.

A misplay involving Banks ignited the winning rally in the 14th. Bill Sarni lifted a fly to short left. Banks, the shortstop, and left fielder Hank Sauer miscommunicated and the ball dropped in for a double. Moon followed with a single off Vicente Amor, making his big-league debut, scoring Sarni. Boxscore

Slugging shortstop

Three months later, on July 8, 1955, Banks again homered twice against the Cardinals. This time, the Cubs won, 6-4, in 11 innings.

Banks hit a solo home run off Floyd Wooldridge in the first. In the 11th, Banks broke a 4-4 tie with a two-run homer off Gordon Jones. Boxscore

The home runs gave Banks a season total of 23, most for a shortstop in one year since Glenn Wright slugged 22 for the 1930 Dodgers.

In a five-game stretch against St. Louis in July 1955, Banks hit .550 (10-for-18).

Perfect at plate

Banks produced five hits in a game for the only time in his major-league career on Sept. 29, 1957, against the Cardinals. He was 5-for-5 with a career-best three doubles and two singles in an 8-3 Cubs victory in the season finale. Boxscore

Lucky seven

Banks had a career-high seven RBI in a game three times. The second time was against the Cardinals at St. Louis on May 1, 1963. Banks hit a pair of three-run home runs _ in the first inning off Ray Sadecki and in the seventh off Harry Fanok _ and added an RBI-single in the eighth. The Cubs won, 13-8. Boxscore

Fit to be tied

Ten years after his 12th-inning home run off Schultz, Banks hit another dramatic shot against the Cardinals knuckleball pitcher.

On April 12, 1965, in the season opener at Chicago, the Cardinals carried a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and none on, Tracy Stallard walked Ron Santo and Altman followed with a single.

Red Schoendienst, in his debut as manager, replaced Stallard with Schultz. Banks greeted him with a three-run homer “into the teeth of a 20 mph wind,” according to the Associated Press, tying the score at 9-9.

After each team scored in the 11th, the game was ended because of darkness and declared a tie, with all statistics counting. Boxscore

“Stallard pitched like a son of a gun,” said Schoendienst. “But when Altman got that good, solid hit I … decided to take him out. Why not? Schultz was warmed up and nobody has touched him for anything in the spring games.”

Last hurrah

At 39, Banks hit a pair of two-run home runs off Carlton _ the first giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead in the sixth and the second snapping a 4-4 tie in the eighth _ but the Cardinals rallied and won, 8-6, at St. Louis on June 29, 1970.

The home runs were the 506th and 507th of Banks’ career and were the last he would hit against Cardinals pitching. Boxscore

Composer Burt Bacharach, Banks’ self-described No. 1 fan, was in St. Louis for a concert and was greeted by Banks outside the clubhouse after the game.

“You were making beautiful music out there,” Bacharach said to Banks.

Banks played against the Cardinals for the final time on Sept. 10, 1971, when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter against Don Shaw at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

Previously: Bob Gibson vs. Billy Williams: a classic duel

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Joining the Navy helped Stan Musial boost his baseball career with the Cardinals.

Seventy years ago, on Jan. 22, 1945, Musial, 24, was inducted and sent to the United States Naval Training Center at Bainbridge, Md.

stan_musial_navyAfter passing his Navy physical in June 1944, Musial was expecting to be inducted. He waited seven months for it to happen.

“I was really relieved to go into service when my draft board finally called in January 1945,” Musial said in his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story.”

Musial had helped the Cardinals win three consecutive National League pennants and two World Series championships during the World War II years 1942 through 1944.

In a January 1945 edition, The Sporting News wrote of Musial, “The Cardinals consider themselves lucky that the young clouter was permitted to remain with the club through three war seasons. Sam Breadon (owner of the Cardinals) was reconciled to losing Musial last winter.”

While receiving his naval training at the Bainbridge facility near the banks of the Susquehanna River, Musial also played for its baseball team.

Though he was a two-time National League all-star, a NL batting champion (.357 in 1943) and a NL Most Valuable Player Award winner (1943), Musial learned two important baseball skills at Bainbridge.

Serious about first

Musial had played all three outfield positions for the Cardinals. At Bainbridge, the athletic officer, Lt. Jerry O’Brien, instructed Musial to play first base.

“I was amused,” said Musial. “O’Brien was not.”

Said O’Brien to Musial: “You’re terrible.”

Stung by the criticism, Musial worked on becoming an adept first baseman. The effort paid off for him and the Cardinals. Musial would play 1,016 games at first base for St. Louis, extending his career and helping the club.

Pull with power

The other skill Musial learned at Bainbridge was how to pull pitches with power.

“Service personnel wanted to see the home run,” said Musial. “So to pull more often, to hit the long ball, I altered my batting stance a bit. I moved up closer to the plate. This proved to be an important step in my evolution as a hitter.”

Before joining the Navy, Musial’s single-season high in home runs for the Cardinals was 13 in 1943. In 1948, he hit a career-high 39 home runs, starting a streak of slugging 20 or more for 10 consecutive seasons.

Popular with the other Navy recruits at Bainbridge, Musial “autographed the inside of the white sailor caps of many of his fellow boots, by insistent request,” The Sporting News reported.

No Musial, no title

Musial was one of three regulars from the 1944 World Series championship team who went into military service in 1945. Musial and outfielder Danny Litwhiler missed the entire 1945 season. Catcher Walker Cooper missed all but four games.

Johnny Hopp, the Cardinals’ center fielder in 1944, moved to right field to replace Musial in 1945. The Cardinals reacquired Buster Adams from the Phillies to take over for Hopp in center field. Rookie Red Schoendienst, a natural infielder, replaced Litwhiler as the left fielder. Backup Ken O’Dea took over the catching for Cooper.

“I still think the Cards have enough pitching to finish first,” Musial said in April 1945. “That’s the big thing that will win it, the pitching _ and that great boy (Marty) Marion at short.”

Pie Traynor, a Pittsburgh radio commentator after a Hall of Fame playing career for the Pirates, predicted the 1945 Cardinals wouldn’t overcome the loss of Musial. “Few realize the real greatness of Stan,” Traynor said. “He is a natural hustler, he is on the bases continually and he is one of the best base runners in the game.”

The 1945 Cardinals earned 95 wins, but finished in second place, three games behind the Cubs, who won eight of their last 10.

Repair work

Musial completed his training at Bainbridge on April 9, 1945, and, after a stopover in San Francisco, was assigned to the ship repair unit at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

“I never did learn how to repair ships,” Musial said.

In the fall of 1945, Musial requested a leave to visit his ailing father in Pennsylvania. He got there after Christmas. At the end of his leave, in January 1946, Musial was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

“I was listed among ship repairmen assigned to dismantle a British destroyer,” Musial said. “The day before I was scheduled to work, I walked over to watch men already at work, wearing goggles and heavy gloves and carrying blow torches. I realized that a green pea like me could wind up maiming himself or someone else.”

Musial went to his athletic officer and said, “Sir, I’m a ship repairman who never has repaired a ship. For my sake and the Navy’s, can’t you please have my orders changed?”

The officer agreed. Two months later, in March 1946, Musial was discharged at Bainbridge. After taking a train to Philadelphia, Musial and two colleagues hitchhiked together to their homes in Pennsylvania. After a week at home in Donora, Musial reported to Cardinals spring training camp and played the entire 1946 season, helping them to their third World Series crown in five years.

Previously: No one hit more triples, as many HRs as Stan Musial

Previously: How a B-17 nearly clipped Cardinals in World Series

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