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In a span of three days, Bob Gibson experienced the emotional swing of being honored for his Cardinals achievements and then ending his career on a downturn. bob_gibson20

Forty years ago, the Cardinals designated Sept. 1, 1975, as Bob Gibson Day. Gibson, 39, was feted in an hour-long ceremony before the Cubs played the Cardinals in front of 48,435 spectators on a Labor Day afternoon at St. Louis.

Two days later, Sept. 3, Gibson yielded a grand slam and took the loss in his final Cardinals appearance.

Nervous ace

Before reporting to spring training, Gibson had said 1975 would be his last year as a player. He began the season in the starting rotation but was shifted to the bullpen during the summer.

The Gibson Day event was an opportunity to salute the Cardinals’ all-time best pitcher. Gibson was the ace on 1960s Cardinals clubs that won three National League pennants and two World Series titles. He is the franchise’s career leader in wins (251), shutouts (56), strikeouts (3,117), complete games (255), innings pitched (3,884.1) and games started (482).

In a ceremony at home plate, the Cardinals declared that Gibson’s uniform No. 45 would join the No. 6 of Stan Musial and the No. 17 of Dizzy Dean as the only numbers retired by the franchise. Club owner Gussie Busch presented Gibson with a $32,250 luxury motor home.

Gibson told onlookers, including former teammates Musial and Bill White, “I’m more nervous than I was before a World Series game.”

Then it was Gibson’s turn to address the crowd.

In the book “Gibson’s Last Stand,” author Doug Feldmann wrote, “At first, Gibson was too moved to speak when he approached the microphone down on the field. Several times he stepped toward it again, but had to pause with every attempt, as each standing ovation was louder than the one a moment earlier.”

When he was ready, Gibson, true to self, told the crowd, “One thing that I’ve always been proud of is the fact that I’ve never intentionally cheated anyone out of what they paid their money to come and see. Most of all, I’m proud of the fact that whatever I did, I did it my way.”

Reflecting on his future as a retired player, Gibson said, “It’s going to be a new life, a strange life for me. I just hope I can be half as successful as I have been in baseball.”

To cap the festivities, Busch got behind the wheel of the motor home and drove Gibson, his mother and his two daughters around the perimeter of the field as the stadium organist played “Auld Lang Syne.” Said Busch to Gibson: “I bet you never had a chauffeur like this before.”

Inspired, the Cardinals went out and beat the Cubs, 6-3, behind Lou Brock (three hits, three steals, two runs) and the pitching of Bob Forsch and Al Hrabosky. The victory moved the second-place Cardinals to within three games of the Pirates in the NL East Division. Boxscore

Tough to take

On Sept. 3, in the finale of the series, the Cubs led, 6-1, before the Cardinals rallied for five runs in the sixth, tying the score at 6-6.

Sensing an opportunity to give his fading star another shot at glory, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst called on Gibson to relieve starter Ron Reed and hold the Cubs in the seventh.

The move backfired.

The Cubs loaded the bases on a Champ Summers infield single and walks to Jose Cardenal and Andre Thornton. With two outs, Gibson uncorked a wild pitch and Gene Hiser, running for Summers, raced home from third, giving the Cubs a 7-6 lead. Gibson issued an intentional walk to Jerry Morales, reloading the bases.

Pete LaCock, a pinch-hitter, batted next. LaCock, who had lost the starting first base job to Thornton, was best-known as the son of game-show host Peter Marshall of “Hollywood Squares.”

With the count 3-and-2, LaCock stunned Gibson by drilling a fastball over the right-field wall for a home run _ the lone grand slam of his big-league career.

Dejected, Gibson retired the next batter, Don Kessinger, on a groundout and then walked off the mound for the final time. Boxscore

“I had reached my absolute limit in humiliation,” Gibson said in his book “Stranger to the Game.” “I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m out of here.’ ”

Gibson remained idle while the Cardinals fell out of contention.

On Sept. 15, two weeks after his special day, Gibson said goodbye to his teammates and headed home with 10 games remaining in the season, knowing he’d never pitch again.

Previously: Bob Gibson and his final Opening Day with Cardinals

Previously: How Ron Reed replaced Bob Gibson in Cards rotation

Previously: How Bob Gibson achieved career win No. 250

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Unwilling to reward him sufficiently for being one of their key players of the 1980s, the Cardinals were prepared to let Willie McGee depart as a free agent after the 1990 season. Then the Athletics unexpectedly found themselves in need of a center fielder and suddenly the Cardinals were in position to deal.

willie_mcgee4Twenty-five years ago, on Aug. 29, 1990, the Cardinals traded McGee to the Athletics for outfielder Felix Jose, third baseman Stan Royer and minor-league pitcher Daryl Green.

The Cardinals had been resigned to receiving only a compensation pick in the amateur draft if, as expected, McGee had become a free agent and signed with another club.

General manager Dal Maxvill was delighted when his counterpart, Sandy Alderson of the Athletics, called and expressed interest in trading for McGee. Because McGee figured to become available as a free agent, Maxvill said he hadn’t been receiving attractive trade offers for him.

The Athletics, though, became motivated to deal when their center fielder, Dave Henderson, suffered a knee injury on Aug. 20 and went on the disabled list. Unsure how long Henderson would be sidelined but fearing it could be for the remainder of the season, the defending World Series champions didn’t want to jeopardize a chance at another title by lacking an experienced center fielder.

Right circumstance

Alderson said he and Maxvill talked for several days about a deal for McGee. The Cardinals wanted Jose. The Athletics were reluctant to trade him. Alderson described Jose as being “a powerful switch-hitter” with an “outstanding arm” and “excellent speed.” When Alderson relented, the Cardinals felt fortunate to receive such a prized prospect.

“I feel pretty good about it, really,” Maxvill said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If we had to move McGee for whatever reasons, we did well. But it was circumstance _ Henderson’s injury _ more than any ability on my own.”

Said Cardinals manager Joe Torre: “We made out very well rather than (McGee) walking off and us getting a draft choice.”

Added Alderson: “With the injury to Henderson, we really looked at the short term rather than the long term potential for us.”

Being a switch hitter added to the Athletics’ interest in McGee. Anticipating that they would face the Red Sox and their right-handed aces, Roger Clemens and Mike Boddicker, in the American League Championship Series, the Athletics wanted hitters who could bat left-handed. On the same day they acquired McGee, the Athletics also got Harold Baines, a designated hitter and left-handed batter, from the Rangers.

Athletics manager Tony La Russa told the Los Angeles Times, “Felix Jose has done a fine job for us … but if anyone thinks he gave us a better chance to win than Willie McGee does, I’d have to question that judgment.”

Location added to the appeal of the trade. McGee was born in San Francisco, went to high school in Richmond (10 miles north of Oakland) and had a house about a 25-minute drive from Oakland Coliseum.

“I just didn’t want to trade him to some city just for the heck of it,” Maxvill said. “I made an effort to get him back home to Oakland.”

Said McGee: “If I had any place to go, that was it.”

Late-night goodbye

McGee, 31, was a four-time all-star and fan favorite who had played a central role in the Cardinals winning three National League pennants and a World Series championship in the 1980s. He had won the NL Most Valuable Player Award and a batting title in 1985.

After the 1987 season, McGee had signed a three-year, $4.1 million contract. With that deal about to expire after the 1990 season, McGee was seeking a contract from the Cardinals for three years and $9 million. The Cardinals, though, were offering no more than $7 million for three years, according to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Maxvill conceded that the Cardinals were unlikely to sign McGee. They had a prospect, Ray Lankford, ready to take over in center field.

After the Cardinals had beaten the Reds in Cincinnati on Aug. 29, they were preparing to leave the ballpark about 1 a.m. and go to the airport for a flight to Atlanta when McGee, walking in a tunnel at Riverfront Stadium, was approached by Torre and informed of the trade.

McGee, with a smile and with tears welling in his eyes, told Hummel, “I just appreciated the opportunity to play in St. Louis. There were some of the best people and some of the best managers there.” He added that playing for the Cardinals since 1982 had been “a beautiful nine years of my life.”

McGee’s departure left shortstop Ozzie Smith as the lone remaining Cardinals player from their 1982 World Series championship team.

Saying that he and McGee “were like brothers,” Smith added, “It’s a sad ending to a great time in baseball history for St. Louis.”

Batting champ

McGee hit .335 in 125 games for the 1990 Cardinals. He ranked second in the NL in batting at the time of the trade. At the end of the season, McGee had the best batting average in the NL and was declared the league’s batting champion because he had 542 plate appearances with the 1990 Cardinals, exceeding the requisite number (502) needed to qualify for the title.

McGee hit .274 in 29 games for the Athletics. With 31 hits for Oakland and 168 for St. Louis, McGee led the major leagues in hits in 1990, with a total of 199.

After the season, McGee became a free agent and was signed by the Giants for four years and $13 million. After stints with the Giants and Red Sox, McGee, again a free agent, returned to the Cardinals for the 1996 season and was reunited with La Russa. McGee’s second stint with St. Louis lasted four years. He retired after the 1999 season.

Jose was the Cardinals’ starting right fielder in 1991 and ’92. He batted .298 overall for St. Louis, with an on-base percentage of .352. The Cardinals traded him to the Royals in the deal that brought them first baseman Gregg Jefferies.

Royer hit .258 in parts of four seasons (1991-94) with the Cardinals. Green pitched in the Cardinals’ farm system in 1991 and never reached the big leagues.

Previously: Five fabulous facts about Willie McGee

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Three years after his pitching helped the Cardinals to a National League pennant and World Series title, Jim Kaat used his skills as a talent evaluator to help St. Louis to another championship season.

cesar_cedenoKaat, a left-handed reliever for the 1982 champion Cardinals, was a coach for the 1985 Reds when he recommended to St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog that the club acquire Cesar Cedeno from Cincinnati.

Acting on Kaat’s advice, the Cardinals got Cedeno from the Reds _ 30 years ago, on Aug. 29, 1985 _ for minor-league outfielder Mark Jackson.

The deal rejuvenated the Cardinals and Cedeno.

Filling in for injured first baseman Jack Clark, Cedeno batted .434 (33-for-76) with six home runs in 28 games, sparking the Cardinals to the 1985 NL East Division title and on a path to a pennant and a berth in the World Series.

After clinching the division crown in the next-to-last game of the 1985 season, Herzog told The Sporting News, “If we hadn’t got Cedeno, we would have been at least three games out of first, maybe more, going into this last week.”

Breakfast bunch

With the Astros from 1970-81, Cedeno batted .289 with 343 doubles and 487 stolen bases. He won the Gold Glove Award five years in a row (1972-76), was named an all-star four times and twice led the NL in doubles.

The Astros traded Cedeno to the Reds in December 1981 for third baseman Ray Knight. By 1985, Cedeno, 34, had fallen into disfavor with Reds manager Pete Rose.

Cedeno, eligible to become a free agent after the 1985 season, said he expected to be traded. He’d heard the Blue Jays were interested.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, were in Cincinnati for an Aug. 26-28 series with the Reds. Kaat, who pitched for St. Louis from 1980-83, and Herzog met for breakfast.

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “Kaat told me that Cesar Cedeno might be available to us, to fill in for Clark. Cesar was on the outs with Pete Rose … Kaat said he thought (Cedeno) could still play.”

The Cardinals and Reds arranged a deal.

“I’m very happy an opportunity like this _ to play with a contender _ came around,” Cedeno said. “I will welcome whatever they want me to do. I’m thrilled an organization like the Cardinals has interest in me. It’s a great feeling to be wanted.”

When the trade was made, the Cardinals led the second-place Mets by 2.5 games.

A right-handed batter, Cedeno had hit .241 in 83 games for the 1985 Reds, but the Cardinals saw him as a capable candidate to platoon with Mike Jorgensen at first base until Clark, who had suffered a rib injury on Aug. 23, could return to the lineup.

Hot hitter

The trade paid immediate dividends.

In his first at-bat with the Cardinals, Cedeno hit the first pitch he saw from the Astros’ Mike Scott for a home run on Aug. 30 at St. Louis. Boxscore

A week later, on Sept. 6, Cedeno, pinch-hitting for Jorgensen, clouted a grand slam off Gene Garber in an 8-0 Cardinals victory over the Braves at St. Louis. Boxscore

“I was looking for him to try to get ahead (of the count) … He’s always around the plate,” Cedeno said to the Associated Press.

Cedeno had eight hits in his first 16 at-bats for the Cardinals. “He’s been awesome, hasn’t he?” Cardinals pitcher John Tudor said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. It seems like every time he’s up he hits the ball on the nose.”

Beat the Mets

On Sept. 10, the Mets beat the Cardinals at New York and moved into first place in the NL East, a game ahead of St. Louis.

The next night, Sept. 11, produced a matchup of aces: the Cardinals’ John Tudor vs. the Mets’ Dwight Gooden. Both were sharp and the game was scoreless through nine innings.

In the 10th, Jesse Orosco relieved Gooden. The first batter he faced was Cedeno. Orosco hung a slider and Cedeno belted a home run, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Tudor held the Mets scoreless in the 10th, clinching the victory and moving the Cardinals into a tie for first place with New York. Boxscore

Thanks, Pete

Four days later, Sept. 15, with the Cardinals clinging to a half-game lead over the Mets, Cedeno went 5-for-5 with four RBI in a 5-1 St. Louis victory over the Cubs at Chicago. Cedeno had two singles, two doubles, a two-run home run and a stolen base. Boxscore

Cedeno said he recently had spoken with Rose and told him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for trading me to St. Louis.”

Said Herzog: “He’s been a blessing to us.”

In his month with the Cardinals, Cedeno hit .528 (19-for-36) at home and .541 (20-for-37) against left-handers. He had a .477 batting average (21-for-44) with runners on base. Cedeno further endeared himself to Cardinals fans by shredding Cubs pitchers at a .560 clip (14-for-25) with nine RBI.

It was a different story in the postseason. Cedeno hit .167 (2-for-12) in the NL Championship Series versus the Dodgers. Playing in his only World Series, Cedeno batted .133 (2-for-15) against the Royals.

In March 1986, Cedeno signed with the Blue Jays, got released before the season began and was picked up by the Dodgers. In June 1986, the Dodgers released him, A month later, he signed with the Cardinals and was sent to Class AAA Louisville.

Cedeno hit .169 in 20 games for Louisville and never returned to the big leagues.

Previously: Jim Kaat interview: ’82 Cards were close-knit club

Previously: How Cardinals’ Jim Kaat appeared forever young

Previously: Jim Kaat revived both his career and the Cardinals

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Five baseball facts that may surprise you about Curt Flood, an outstanding center fielder and hitter who was elected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame because of the impact he had on and off the field.

curt_flood7No. 1: Cardinals foe

Flood made his major-league debut against the Cardinals.

On Sept. 9, 1956, at St. Louis, Flood, 18, was a pinch-runner for Smoky Burgess, the stocky Reds catcher who hit a double in the eighth inning off Cardinals starter Murry Dickson.

Flood was stranded when Bob Thurman popped out to third, ending the inning. Boxscore

As a September call-up, Flood played in five games for the 1956 Reds and three games for the 1957 Reds. The Cardinals were the opponent in three of those eight games.

Flood and outfielder Joe Taylor were traded by the Reds to the Cardinals for pitchers Willard Schmidt, Ted Wieand and Marty Kutyna on Dec. 5, 1957.

It was the first trade made by Cardinals general manager Bing Devine and it was one of his best. Devine credited Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson with encouraging him to make the deal.

In his book “October 1964,” author David Halberstam wrote, “Devine was uneasy because it was his first deal and because he had not only never seen (Flood) but he had no sense of him either. But Hutch seemed confident of Flood’s ability and Devine had a good deal of faith in Hutchinson’s ability to judge talent.”

No. 2: Cardinals infielder

Flood, who won seven consecutive Gold Glove awards as a Cardinals center fielder from 1963-69, played two games at third base and one at second base for St. Louis.

In all three instances, Flood shifted from the outfield to the infield late in games. The breakdown:

_ On July 6, 1958, Flood started in center field against the Giants at San Francisco. In the ninth, Ken Boyer moved from third base to shortstop and Flood replaced Boyer at third. Flood didn’t field any chances in the inning. Boxscore

_ On May 10, 1959, at St. Louis against the Cubs, Flood moved from center field to second base in the 10th, replacing Don Blasingame, who had been lifted for a pinch-runner the previous inning. Flood played two innings at second base and didn’t field any chances. Boxscore

_ On June 21, 1960, Flood started in center field versus the Pirates at Pittsburgh. In the eighth, Boyer was ejected and Flood replaced him at third base. Flood had one ball hit to him at third _ by Burgess, then with the Pirates _ and fielded it cleanly. Boxscore

No. 3: Tough and durable

At 5 feet 9 and 165 pounds, Flood was an iron man. He played in 150 or more games in a season seven times.

Flood ranks sixth all-time in games played as a Cardinal, according to baseball-reference.com. The five in front of him all have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The top six in games played for the Cardinals: Stan Musial (3,026), Lou Brock (2,289), Ozzie Smith (1,990), Enos Slaughter (1,820), Red Schoendienst (1,795) and Flood (1,738).

No. 4: Hit man

Flood ranks among the top five all-time in most singles by a Cardinal. Musial heads the list, with 2,253 singles, and is followed by Brock (2,029), Ozzie Smith (1,529), Schoendienst (1,498) and Flood (1,454).

No. 5: Hitting the best

Flood often was at his best when facing the best.

Here are his career batting marks against some Hall of Fame pitchers:

_ .394 (13-for-33) vs. Don Sutton.

_ .326 (29-for-89) with a home run vs. Warren Spahn.

_ .319 (44-for-138) with two home runs vs. Don Drysdale.

_ .296 (32-for-108) with two home runs vs. Sandy Koufax.

_ .286 (34-for-119) with four home runs vs. Juan Marichal.

_ .286 (14-for-49) with two home runs vs. Ferguson Jenkins.

On May 3, 1968, at San Francisco, Flood hit two home runs in a game against Marichal. Flood hit a solo home run in the first and a two-run shot in the fifth. Boxscore

Postscript

Flood was an integral member of a Cardinals franchise that won two World Series championships and three National League pennants in the 1960s.

In 12 seasons with the Cardinals, Flood was a three-time all-star who hit .293 with 1,853 hits in 1,738 games, including two consecutive seasons (1963-64) with 200 or more hits.

When the Cardinals traded him to the Phillies after the 1969 season, Flood refused to report and instead challenged baseball’s reserve clause, paving the way for free agency.

Previously: Koufax: I still don’t know how to pitch to Curt Flood

Previously: The day Curt Flood drilled 8 straight hits vs. Dodgers

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In the seven seasons they played together for the Cardinals, Bob Forsch and Ted Simmons formed a special bond. Forsch pitched 12 shutouts during that time, including his first big-league win and a no-hitter, and Simmons was the catcher for each of those dozen gems.

simmons_forsch2Forsch, Simmons, outfielder Curt Flood and instructor George Kissell are being inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame on Aug. 15, 2015.

When Forsch debuted with the Cardinals on July 7, 1974, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Reds at Cincinnati, Tim McCarver was the catcher and Simmons played first base.

After that, Simmons caught the majority of Forsch’s games while they were Cardinals teammates from 1974-80.

Simmons caught more of Forsch’s games than any other catcher during the pitcher’s 16 seasons in the major leagues.

Forsch pitched in 498 regular-season games. Simmons was his catcher in 181 of those (or 36 percent), according to baseball-reference.com.

(The catchers who caught Forsch the next-most were Darrell Porter at 85 and Tony Pena at 40. Craig Biggio, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a second baseman, broke into the major leagues as a catcher and was Forsch’s batterymate in 25 games for the Astros in 1988 and ’89.)

Simmons, who led the Cardinals in RBI for seven consecutive seasons (1972-78), helped Forsch develop into a Cardinals ace.

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

Opponents had a career batting average against Forsch of .261. In games caught by Simmons, foes hit .254 versus Forsch.

Selected by the Cardinals as a third baseman in the 26th round of the 1968 draft, Forsch ranks second on the Cardinals career pitching list in games started (401), third in wins (163), third in innings (2,658.2) and fifth in strikeouts (1,079).

Here is a breakdown of the shutouts Forsch pitched with Simmons as his catcher:

First win

In his second appearance with the Cardinals _ and his first with Simmons as his catcher _ Forsch pitched a four-hit shutout against the Braves for his first win in the major leagues.

Forsch limited the Braves to four singles in the second game of a doubleheader at St. Louis on July 12, 1974. He also singled off Lew Krausse for his first big-league hit.

Simmons was 1-for-3 with a run scored. He also walked and was hit by a pitch.

The Cardinals supported Forsch with a nine-run first inning and won, 10-0.

“With a lead like that, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t walk anybody,” Forsch said to the Associated Press. Boxscore

Beat the Mets

Forsch yielded a leadoff single to Bud Harrelson, then didn’t give up another hit until the fifth. He pitched a four-hitter in a 3-0 Cardinals victory against the Mets on Sept. 6, 1974, at St. Louis.

Simmons contributed two singles against Jerry Koosman and a double off a former teammate, Harry Parker. Boxscore

Fast start

In the Cardinals’ second game of the season, Forsch pitched a two-hitter in a 4-0 victory over the Expos at St. Louis on April 9, 1975. The Expos were limited to singles by Tony Scott and Barry Foote.

Simmons had a sacrifice fly, a single and a RBI-double off Steve Rogers. Boxscore

Astros grounded

Cesar Cedeno singled in the first, Larry Dierker singled in the third and the Astros were held hitless by Forsch for the rest of the game. Forsch pitched a two-hitter in a 6-0 Cardinals victory at Houston on June 6, 1975.

Simmons had a single, a walk and scored a run. Boxscore

Cubs all wet

In a game delayed by rain for more than two hours at the start, Forsch retired the first 10 Cubs batters in a row before Rick Monday doubled with one out in the fourth. Forsch pitched a four-hitter in a 4-0 triumph on Aug. 2, 1975, at Chicago.

Simmons and Forsch each had a RBI. Boxscore

Big finale

In his last start of the season, Forsch pitched a three-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Pirates on Sept. 26, 1975, at St. Louis.

Simmons drove in the run with a RBI-single off Jim Rooker in the first, scoring Lou Brock.

Forsch limited the Pirates to singles by Rennie Stennett, Willie Stargell and Manny Sanguillen. Boxscore

Cruise control

Forsch pitched a three-hitter in a 4-0 Cardinals victory over the Astros at St. Louis on July 21, 1977. Jose Cruz, Forsch’s former teammate, had two of the hits. Enos Cabell had the other.

Simmons twice drove in Garry Templeton from third with RBI-groundouts off J.R. Richard. Boxscore

Mets muzzled

After yielding a single to Bruce Boisclair in the first inning, Forsch gave up one other hit _ a Lenny Randle single in the sixth _ in pitching a two-hitter against the Mets on Aug. 17, 1977, at St. Louis.

Simmons had a single and a walk and scored a run in the Cardinals’ 2-0 triumph. Boxscore

Unhittable

Forsch pitched the first of his two no-hitters, beating the Phillies, 5-0, on April 16, 1978, at St. Louis.

In the ninth, Forsch retired Jay Johnstone, Bake McBride and Larry Bowa on groundouts.

Simmons was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Boxscore

On a roll

In his third start after the no-hitter, Forsch pitched a five-hitter in a 9-0 Cardinals victory over the Giants on May 2, 1978, at St. Louis. Simmons and Forsch each had a RBI.

The Giants had three doubles, including one by Jack Clark, and stranded seven. Boxscore

Ted goes deep

Simmons broke a scoreless tie in the seventh with a home run off Burt Hooton and Forsch pitched a three-hitter in a 2-0 Cardinals victory over the Dodgers on May 11, 1978, at Los Angeles.

In the bottom of the ninth, Vic Davalillo, the former Cardinal, led off with a single. Forsch then got Ron Cey to hit into a double play and followed that with a strikeout of Steve Garvey. Boxscore

Phillies baffled

Forsch held the Phillies to three singles _ including one by their 37-year-old catcher, McCarver _ in a 5-0 Cardinals victory on July 27, 1979, at Philadelphia.

Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt were a combined 0-for-6 with a walk against Forsch.

Simmons and Forsch each contributed a RBI. Boxscore

Previously: Bob Forsch, Ted Simmons: Cardinals classic battery

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

Previously: Bob Forsch: touch of class from his Cardinals debut

Previously: A salute to Ted Simmons and his lionhearted ’73 season

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Unable or unwilling to manage his personal finances, outfielder Willie Davis left the Cardinals during a pennant drive in an effort to protect his wages from being claimed by his ex-wife.

willie_davisThough the Cardinals helped Davis reach a settlement that expedited his return to the club, he didn’t endear himself to management by demanding a long-term contract for nearly double his yearly salary.

Forty years ago, on Aug. 15, 1975, Davis, the Cardinals’ right fielder, was placed on the club’s disqualified list after informing management he was quitting because of financial problems.

The incident added another twist to a bizarre year in which Davis served a stint in jail, got into a shouting match with a manager, staged a protest during a game and got traded twice.

Trouble in Texas

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Davis had been the Dodgers’ center fielder. He appeared in three World Series for them, twice was named an all-star and twice led the National League in triples.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills said of Davis: “He was so talented. God really blessed him with some great tools _ for any sport, really _ speed, strength, agility _ everything an athlete needs in order to make the big time.”

The Dodgers traded Davis to the Expos in December 1973. Twelve months later, he was dealt to the Rangers.

Davis got into trouble before playing a game for Texas.

On Feb. 13, 1975, Davis was released from the Los Angeles County jail after serving two days of a five-day sentence for failure to make child support payments, The Sporting News reported. Davis’ attorney arranged for the release by promising that the Rangers would withhold some of Davis’ salary for alimony and child support payments. Davis agreed to pay about $12,000 in back payments, according to the Associated Press.

Calm before storm

At spring training, Davis told columnist Melvin Durslag he was at peace because he had become a member of Nicherin Shoshu, a Buddhist religious order based on the teachings of a 13th-century Japanese monk. Davis said he spent one to four hours a day chanting. Believers say chanting enables a person to change bad karma and achieve enlightenment, according to Wikipedia.org.

“I consider myself better adjusted than anyone else in this game,” Davis told Durslag. “That’s because nothing can make me unhappy.”

Two months later, on May 7, 1975, Davis and Rangers manager Billy Martin got into a shouting match after Davis interrupted Martin while the manager was berating the team during a locked-door clubhouse meeting.

Three weeks later, Davis staged a protest by petulantly squatting in center field throughout an inning because teammate Steve Hargan didn’t hit a batter with a pitch after a Red Sox pitcher threw at Davis.

Fed up, the Rangers looked to trade Davis.

Cardinals roll dice

The 1975 Cardinals had handed their first base job to rookie Keith Hernandez, but he was overmatched. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine was seeking to make a move to wake up a club that was scuffling at 21-25.

On June 4, 1975, the Cardinals traded shortstop Ed Brinkman and pitcher Tommy Moore to the Rangers for Davis. Hernandez, batting .203, was sent to the minors. The Cardinals switched Reggie Smith from right field to first base and Davis, 35, joined an outfield with Lou Brock in left and Bake McBride in center.

Wrote columnist Dick Young: “The Cards took a good gamble with Willie Davis, only if they can get him to stop spending money faster than he runs.”

Devine and Davis said they believed Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst would be key to making the deal successful.

“We take chances on players other teams might not want because of Red Schoendienst’s philosophy,” Devine said. “All Red looks for is a guy’s ability and how he can fit into our picture. Then, when we get a guy, Red leaves him alone.”

Said Davis of Schoendienst: “He’s a lot like Walter Alston when I was with the Dodgers. Both of them leave you alone and let you enjoy playing this game.”

Unexpected departure

A left-handed batter, Davis hit .256 in June for the Cardinals, then .382 in July. The Cardinals entered August at 52-52 _ 11 games out of first place.

In early August, Schoendienst was asked why he didn’t fine Davis after the outfielder made a blunder against the Padres. Replied Schoendienst: “How can I? He doesn’t have any money.”

Davis again had fallen behind in alimony and child support payments. His ex-wife indicated she would seek a court order to have the Cardinals withhold his pay and send the money to her.

Davis said he was quitting. The Cardinals placed him on the disqualified list and provided attorneys to help Davis resolve the issue, the Associated Press reported.

“My ex-wife is trying to claim all my wages, which would in effect have me playing for nothing,” Davis said. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back (to playing). The only way is if my ex-wife and I sit down and agree there will be no pressure put on me.”

Davis’ yearly salary was $110,000. He was due about $30,000 for the remainder of the season, according to United Press International.

After missing five games, Davis and his ex-wife reached an agreement to split the remaining salary that season. Davis said she would receive $17,000.

“She’s satisfied and I’m satisfied,” Davis said.

Welcome back

The Cardinals were within 4.5 games of the first-place Pirates when Davis left the club. He was hitting .308.

When he returned, Davis told reporters that Buddhism had helped him deal with his financial problem. He delivered a few sample chants; then, a bombshell. “I want a contract for five years and a million dollars,” Davis said. “St. Louis will have the first shot at me, but I won’t care where I go.”

In his first game back from the disqualified list, Davis started in right field, received an ovation from the fans at Busch Stadium and went 4-for-4 with a triple, double and two singles against the Reds’ Gary Nolan. Boxscore

“I felt like I was reborn,” Davis said.

Davis hit .368 in August. His Cardinals batting average entering September was .335. The Cardinals were 20-11 in August and were 72-63 overall, four games out of first place.

Said Reggie Smith of Davis: “He’s the difference between winning and losing.”

Tough times

In September, Davis swooned and so did the Cardinals. He hit .141 in September. The Cardinals were 10-17 that month and finished at 82-80 _ 10.5 games behind first-place Pittsburgh.

Davis hit .291 with the 1975 Cardinals. He had 102 hits in 98 games, with 50 RBI, 19 doubles and 10 stolen bases. His batting average versus right-handed pitching was .329.

The Cardinals sought to trade him and found little interest until Padres president Buzzie Bavasi, who had been Dodgers general manager when Davis played for Los Angeles, made an offer.

On Oct. 20, 1975, the Cardinals dealt Davis to the Padres for outfielder Dick Sharon.

After his playing career, Davis “had a very difficult time … living life away from the game,” said Tommy Hawkins, a Dodgers executive.

In 1996, Davis was arrested and charged with threatening to kill his parents and burn down their house unless they gave him $5,000, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was armed with a set of throwing knives and a samurai sword.

Said Bavasi: “There was nothing more exciting than to watch Willie run out a triple. He could have been a Hall of Famer, but he had million-dollar legs and a 10-cent head.”

His short, strange stay with the Cardinals largely forgotten, Davis, 69, died on March 9, 2010, in Burbank, Calif.

Previously: Ken Boyer aided Willie Davis’ hitting streak

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