Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Vern Rapp, rebel? Indeed. As a manger in the Cardinals’ system, Rapp challenged authority in a manner that would have made the hairs on Al Hrabosky’s Fu Manchu stand on end.

vern_rapp2Known as an unyielding disciplinarian for implementing a policy against facial hair while Cardinals manager in 1977, Rapp clashed with several Cardinals players, including Hrabosky, who grew a Fu Manchu moustache while developing a persona as “The Mad Hungarian.”

They may have been surprised to learn Rapp once caused such a fuss in an argument with an umpire that a police officer was called onto the field to intervene.

Sit down strike

In researching the baseball career of Rapp, a St. Louis native who played and managed in the Cardinals’ system and who died on Dec. 31, 2015, at 87, I came across news reports from a minor-league game played at Albuquerque, N.M., on Aug. 13, 1966.

Rapp, manager of the Cardinals’ Class AA Arkansas club, staged a protest by sitting on home plate after being ejected following a dispute with umpire Larry Barnett.

When Rapp refused to move, the umpire called police, who escorted Rapp from the field.

Photographs show police officer Fred Leyva standing over Rapp at home plate while Arkansas catcher Danny Breeden watches the drama unfold.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, “Rapp actually sat down on home plate and didn’t leave until a policeman talked him into leaving.” Rapp “had to be escorted off the field” by the officer, the newspaper reported.

Wrong word

The incident began when Rapp argued a close play at second base. Frank Godsoe, associate sports editor of the Amarillo Daily News, reported this exchange:

Barnett: “One more peep out of you and you’re out of the ballgame.”

Rapp: “Peep.”

That did it. Barnett ejected Rapp, who refused to leave because he felt the punishment didn’t fit the crime. Rapp said it was the first time he’d been ejected for saying the word “peep.”

Wrote Godsoe of Rapp: “Before a ballgame, he is as friendly as a collie dog. Once in a game, he’ll use anything up to poison gas to try to beat you. He is a tough loser and in the heat of battle he can erupt like a volcano.”

Godsoe asked Hugh Finnerty, president of the Texas League, which manager in the league was toughest on umpires. “Vern Rapp,” Finnerty replied.

Rapp likely was fined $25 for the ejection, Godsoe reported.

No harm, no foul

The theatrics didn’t damage the careers of Rapp or Barnett

Barnett became a big-league umpire in 1969 and stayed on the job through 1999.

Rapp managed Arkansas to an 81-59 record in 1966 and was named Texas League manager of the year.

He managed Arkansas again in 1967 and 1968, then left the Cardinals’ organization to join the Reds as manager of their Class AAA Indianapolis team.

Rapp managed Class AAA clubs through the 1976 season before getting his first big-league managing chance with the 1977 Cardinals, replacing Red Schoendienst.

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

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As a longtime player, coach and manager in the Cardinals’ system, perhaps the most important contribution Bobby Dews made was helping Bob Forsch take a successful step in transforming from a third baseman into a pitcher.

bobby_dewsDews was manager of the Cardinals’ 1971 Class A club at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Forsch, a 26th-round draft choice who had flopped as a third-base prospect, was in his first full season as a starting pitcher. At 21, his playing career was at a crossroads.

With Dews as his manager, Forsch had a successful year, posting an 11-7 record and 3.13 ERA in 23 starts for Cedar Rapids. He ranked second on the team in both innings pitched (158) and strikeouts (134). That performance convinced the Cardinals Forsch had potential as a pitcher.

Three years later, Forsch debuted with the Cardinals and went on to a productive career with them. He ranks third all-time among Cardinals pitchers in wins (163) and innings pitched (2,658.2). In 2015, Forsch was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Bobby Dews helped him get there.

Dews was in the Cardinals’ organization from 1960 to 1974 before joining the Braves as a minor-league manager. He remained with the Braves in various roles, including big-league coach, until he retired in 2012.

When Dews died at age 76 on Dec. 26, 2015, his obituaries naturally focused on his 37 years of service to the Braves. Often overlooked was his Cardinals connection.

Shortstop prospect

Dews was a varsity baseball and basketball player at Georgia Tech. He launched his professional baseball career when signed by the Cardinals in 1960.

Shortstop was Dews’ primary position, though he also played at second base and in the outfield.

His best season as a player in the Cardinals’ system was with Class AA Tulsa in 1964. Dews batted .277 that year and established single-season career highs in games played (134), hits (138), RBI (40) and stolen bases (30). He had 14 hits in 28 at-bats in a stretch from July 20-25.

Dews was promoted to Class AAA Jacksonville in 1965. His progress was slowed, however, when he underwent surgery for a ruptured spleen on May 18, 1965.

For Dews, who had little power, the highlight of his 1965 season occurred when he hit home runs on consecutive nights (July 22-23) against Rochester.

The first of those home runs was hit off Darold Knowles, a future Cardinals reliever. “That was strictly a shot in the dark,” Dews told The Sporting News. “I didn’t know what he threw or where it was.”

The next night, Dews hit a home run off Bill Short, who had pitched for the 1960 American League champion Yankees. Said Dews: “Bill threw me a fastball and I think he thought I was going to take it. Instead, I hit it. Isn’t that real crazy?”

In 1966 with Class AA Arkansas, Dews played all nine positions in the Sept. 5 regular-season finale against Austin. Vern Rapp, Arkansas manager, pitched two hitless innings in the game and Hub Kittle, Austin manager, pitched a scoreless inning.

Dews was a player-coach in the Cardinals’ system in 1967 and 1968.

Learning to manage

At 30, Dews was named manager of the Cardinals’ 1969 Class A club in Lewiston, Idaho. One his players was Forsch, who, at 19, was in his second professional season as a third baseman. Forsch hit .203 in 26 games for Lewiston.

Dews was a coach for Tulsa manager Warren Spahn in 1970. After that, Dews was assigned to manage Cardinals farm clubs in each of the next four seasons: Cedar Rapids in 1971, Sarasota in 1972, Modesto in 1973 and Sarasota again in 1974.

Besides Forsch, two of the future big-leaguers Dews managed in the Cardinals’ system were outfielders Hector Cruz (23 home runs in 111 games for Cedar Rapids) and Mike Vail (31 doubles, 80 RBI in 134 games for Modesto).

Life after Cardinals

In 1975, Dews was named manager of the Braves’ Class A Greenwood team in the Western Carolinas League.

His most prominent roles with the Braves were as a big-league coach under manager Bobby Cox from 1979-81 and from 1997-2006.

In an interview with MLB.com, Cox said of Dews: “He was a special guy. He helped so much in getting this organization going.”

Dews also wrote books, the best-known of which was “Legends, Demons and Dreams,” a collection of short stories.

“My grandfather wanted me to be a lawyer and a writer,” Dews told Jim Wallace of WALB.com. “Of course, everybody else in town wanted me to be a baseball player. So I guess I tried to blend the two.”

Previously: The story of how Bob Forsch converted to pitching

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Playing for a new manager, Vern Rapp, and with a core of young, highly regarded players, such as Keith Hernandez, Garry Templeton and John Denny, the Cardinals enjoyed a successful opening to the 1977 season.

keith_hernandez5On April 7, 1977, amid strong winds and a mix of rain and light snow, the Cardinals beat the Pirates, 12-6, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

That was the last of four season openers the Cardinals have played at Pittsburgh.

On April 3, 2016, the Cardinals are scheduled to start their season against the Pirates at Pittsburgh for the first time in 39 years.

The 2016 Cardinals will open the season at PNC Park as the defending National League Central Division champions. The 1977 Cardinals opened the season as a franchise looking to rebuild.

New approach

In 1976, the Cardinals finished 72-90. Red Schoendienst, who had managed the Cardinals since 1965, was fired after that 1976 debacle. He was replaced by Rapp, a St. Louis native who had played and managed in the Cardinals’ system but who never had reached the major leagues.

A disciplinarian, Rapp instructed Cardinals players during 1977 spring training to shave off their moustaches and beards and keep their hair trim.

In the opener at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals started Denny, 24, against Jerry Reuss, a St. Louis native who had began his career with his hometown team.

Along with established standouts such as left fielder Lou Brock and catcher Ted Simmons, the Cardinals’ lineup included Hernandez, 23, at first base and Garry Templeton, 21, at shortstop.

Denny and Templeton were making their first Opening Day starts in the big leagues.

Helped by three Pirates errors, the Cardinals scored four runs in the opening inning off Reuss. The Pirates’ sloppy start prompted “lusty boos from many of the 35,186 spectators,” the Associated Press reported.

The Cardinals never trailed. Denny held the Pirates to three runs in 5.2 innings and got the win. Templeton had two hits and scored three runs.

Hernandez, a left-handed batter, scored twice and had key hits against a pair of left-handed relievers. Hernandez hit a two-run double off Grant Jackson and a two-run home run (estimated at 425 feet) against Terry Forster. For Hernandez, it was his first four-RBI game in the big leagues.

Playing to win

“The thing about Vern Rapp is that he has us playing aggressive baseball, taking the extra base, playing at our maximum,” Hernandez said after the game. “We don’t have a lot of power, but we do have good hitting and exceptional speed and I think we’re going to make the most of it.”

Asked about playing without his signature moustache, Hernandez replied, “I’m here to play baseball. That’s what is important to me. I’ve got five months in the off-season to grow a moustache and long hair, but right now I want to help the Cardinals play winning baseball.” Boxscore

Behind stellars seasons by Hernandez (.291 batting average, 41 doubles, 91 RBI), Templeton (.322 batting average, 200 hits, 18 triples, 28 stolen bases), Simmons (.318 batting average, 21 home runs, 95 RBI) and pitcher Bob Forsch (20 wins), the 1977 Cardinals improved to 83-79.

Hernandez’s effective hitting against left-handers continued through the season. He batted .313 in 201 at-bats versus left-handers in 1977.

Here are the results of the other three Cardinals season openers played at Pittsburgh:

Cardinals comeback

With a three-run seventh inning off starter Bob Klinger, the Cardinals erased a 2-0 Pirates lead and won, 3-2, on April 18, 1939, at Forbes Field. Joe Medwick drove in two of the St. Louis runs and Johnny Mize knocked in the other.

Bob Weiland started for St. Louis and pitched six innings for the win. Clyde Shoun produced three shutout innings of relief for the save. Boxscore

Dickson delivers

On April 17, 1951, the Pirates beat the Cardinals, 5-4, at Forbes Field behind the pitching and hitting of Murry Dickson.

Acquired by the Pirates from the Cardinals, Dickson started and got the win, though he yielded seven walks and four hits in six innings.

In the fourth, Dickson broke a 3-3 tie with a solo home run off starter Tom Poholsky. It was Dickson’s first big-league home run and one of only three he would hit in 18 years in the majors.

Left fielder Wally Westlake added a solo home run in the sixth off Poholsky.

Bill Werle pitched three shutout innings in relief of Dickson. The Cardinals stranded 10 base runners. Boxscore

Shaky relief

The Cardinals led, 5-2, after seven innings behind starter Bob Gibson, but the Pirates rallied for five runs in the eighth and won, 7-5, on April 6, 1973, at Three Rivers Stadium.

After the Pirates loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, Schoendienst lifted Gibson and called on Diego Segui to preserve the three-run lead.

Segui struck out Bob Robertson for the second out of the inning. Then, Richie Hebner hit a two-run double, cutting the St. Louis lead to 5-4, and Gene Clines followed with a two-run triple, giving the Pirates a 6-5 lead. An error by rookie shortstop Ray Busse allowed another run to score for Pittsburgh.

Right fielder Bernie Carbo had two hits, a RBI and a run scored for St. Louis. Boxscore

Previously: Cardinals debut was dream come true for Keith Hernandez

Previously: Pete Vuckovich was fearless in great escape for Cardinals

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Like Terry Collins did with Matt Harvey, Johnny Keane made a commitment to the heart of Bob Gibson. For Keane and Gibson, the result was successful for the 1964 Cardinals. For Collins and Harvey, the outcome was a flop for the 2015 Mets.

cards_celebrateThough the circumstances weren’t the same, the ninth inning drama involving Collins and Harvey in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series brought to mind how Keane utilized Gibson in the ninth inning in Game 7 of the 1964 World Series.

Perhaps the biggest differences between the two scenarios:

_ Keane had decided to let Gibson start the ninth inning in the decisive game of the 1964 World Series; Collins had decided to let a reliever start the ninth in the decisive game of the 2015 World Series, then changed his mind and stayed with Harvey.

_ Gibson entered the ninth with a four-run lead; Harvey entered the ninth with a two-run lead.

Nonetheless, in each instance a manager was counting on a tiring ace to put his team’s title hopes on his right arm and deliver a victory.

Leave me in

On Nov. 1, 2015, the Mets needed to beat the Royals in Game 5 to avoid elimination in the best-of-seven series. Harvey, 26, had pitched eight scoreless innings and the Mets led, 2-0, entering the ninth at New York. Collins told Harvey that closer Jeurys Familia would pitch the ninth. Harvey objected.

“He just came over and said, ‘I want this game. I want it bad. You’ve got to leave me in,’ ” Collins said to Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. “I said, ‘Matt, you’ve got us exactly where we wanted to get.’ He said, ‘I want this game in the worst way.’

“So, obviously, I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players. And I trust them. And so I said, ‘Go get ’em out.’ ”

Harvey walked the first batter and yielded a RBI-double to the second. Familia relieved and the Royals rallied to tie the score. In the 12th, the Royals scored five times and won, 7-2, clinching their first World Series title in 30 years. Boxscore

Don’t be cute

On Oct. 15, 1964, the Yankees and Cardinals played the decisive Game 7 at St. Louis. The Cardinals, behind Gibson, led, 7-3, entering the ninth.

Gibson, 28, had pitched eight innings in Game 2 and 10 innings in Game 5. He also had pitched eight innings in his final start of the regular season on Oct. 2 and, two days later, four innings of relief in the pennant-clinching season finale.

Keane never wavered in sending out Gibson to pitch the ninth inning of Game 7.

In his book, “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “By this time, I was simply throwing as hard as I could on every pitch, grunting up my best frazzled-arm fastballs. Keane had sent me out there with the advice to throw nothing but fastballs, remarking that he didn’t think the Yankees could hit four home runs in one inning.”

Author David Halberstam, in his book “October 1964,” wrote, “Rarely had Bob Gibson wanted anything so badly as to finish this game. Johnny Keane, who knew (Gibson) was tired and knew he was wearing down, came over to Gibson and told him he was going to stay with him.”

Said Keane to Gibson: “Bob, I’m going with you in the ninth. Just throw it over the plate. Don’t be cute. Don’t go for the corners. Just get it over.”

Strikeouts and homers

The first batter, Tom Tresh, struck out. The next, No. 8 batter Clete Boyer, “jumped on the fastball he knew was coming,” Gibson said, and hit a home run over the left-field wall, making the score, 7-4.

Gibson struck out Johnny Blanchard, pinch-hitting for reliever Pete Mikkelsen.

With one more out, the Cardinals would be World Series champions.

Phil Linz, a shortstop who had hit five home runs during the regular season, stepped to the plate.

Linz homered over the left-field wall.

The score was 7-5. Bobby Richardson was up next. He had produced 13 hits in this World Series. If Richardson reached base, slugger Roger Maris would follow, then Mickey Mantle.

“I looked over to the dugout at Keane,” Gibson said, “wondering if perhaps he had overestimated my speed and underestimated the Yankees’ power.”

Lots of heart

Ray Sadecki, a left-hander who had started Games 1 and 4 of the World Series, was loosening in the bullpen. Keane had decided he would bring in Sadecki to face the left-handed Maris if Richardson got on base.

Gibson worked the count to 1-and-1 on Richardson. Keane went to the mound to talk with his pitcher. Catcher Tim McCarver “did not go all the way out because he knew Gibson hated it when the catcher came out _ and, besides, there was nothing to say,” Halberstam wrote.

The next pitch from Gibson was a fastball. Richardson swung and hit a pop-up to second baseman Dal Maxvill, who made the catch.

The Cardinals were World Series champions for the first time in 18 years.

Asked by reporters why he had stayed with a tiring Gibson in the ninth, Keane replied, “He didn’t pitch only with his arm. He pitched with his heart. He’s got lots of heart … I went all the way with him because I was committed to this fellow’s heart.” Boxscore

Privately, a proud Keane said to Gibson after the game, “You’re on your way.”

In the New York Daily News, Phil Pepe wrote, “The story of the Cardinals’ world championship is the story of Johnny Keane and yesterday it was the story of Bob Gibson. It is the story of faith … of John Keane’s faith in Bob Gibson and of Bob Gibson’s faith in himself.”

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

Previously: Johnny Keane to Gussie Busch: Take this job and shove it

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Among Walt Jocketty’s many successful acquisitions as Cardinals general manager, including players such as Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Chris Carpenter, the most significant was the manager he hired, Tony La Russa.

tony_larussa14Twenty years ago, on Oct. 23, 1995, La Russa left the Athletics and joined the Cardinals, signing a two-year contract, with an option for a third year, at $1.5 million a year.

In replacing Mike Jorgensen, who had been interim manager after Joe Torre was fired in June 1995, La Russa was seen by Jocketty and team president Mark Lamping as the on-field leader needed to transform the Cardinals from disgruntled underachievers to classy contenders.

“The hiring of Tony La Russa to manage the Cardinals is a huge step in the rebuilding process of this organization,” said Jocketty, who had replaced Dal Maxvill as general manager a year earlier.

Said La Russa to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I believe in high goals and I believe in big dreams. My dream real quickly for this franchise is to draw 3 million fans. And, as early as possible, to get to Sept. 1 with a chance to win.

“When you look at me, you’re going to find a very simple perspective. Everything from this moment on will be geared to win the next game that the Cardinals play.”

Winning ways

At Oakland, La Russa took over an Athletics team that posted a losing record in 1986 and led them to three consecutive American League pennants (1988-90) and a World Series crown (1989). Before that, at Chicago, he led the White Sox to their first division title (1983).

La Russa, 51, inherited a Cardinals club that had experienced consecutive losing seasons (1994-95) and hadn’t been to the postseason since 1987 under manager Whitey Herzog.

Observers such as Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz said too many Cardinals players had developed poor attitudes and “disgraced the uniform and sacred tradition of St. Louis baseball with their selfish, lax play.”

Said La Russa: “My statement to all Cardinals fans is that we’re going to have a hustling, aggressive ballclub that plays the game right.

“If somebody loafs, they will embarrass our franchise and everybody else. The first time they do that, you pull them aside. The second time they do it, you take their money. The third time they do it, you take them out of the lineup.”

In endorsing the hiring of La Russa, Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi said, “He’s kind of like bringing Whitey Herzog back.”

Cards make a pitch

According to a report in the Oct. 6 Post-Dispatch, Jocketty and La Russa met informally in San Francisco to discuss the Cardinals job. Eleven days later, Rick Hummel reported that Jocketty and Lamping had met with La Russa in St. Louis.

“We had a good meeting, but I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Jocketty told an Oakland reporter.

Jeff Gordon, a Post-Dispatch columnist, wrote: “Somebody has to remake the attitude of this ballclub and the culture of the organization.”

On Oct. 19, the Cardinals made La Russa an offer. He asked for time to consider it. Davey Johnson, former manager of the Mets and Reds, was a backup candidate if La Russa balked at the opportunity, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In his book “One Last Strike,” La Russa revealed he indeed was considering other offers.

“I had a few opportunities to consider, including returning to Chicago and the White Sox,” La Russa said. “I’d hoped to sign on with Baltimore; something about that legendary franchise and the great tradition of Earl Weaver really appealed to me. But when I’d interviewed with them, I’d thought the position was already vacant.

“As it turned out, it wasn’t, so when I found that out I immediately called back and said thanks but no thanks.”

Providing the tools

Jocketty, who had worked in the Oakland front office, was a big reason La Russa eventually felt comfortable going to St. Louis. La Russa also was able to bring with him coaches Dave Duncan, Dave McKay and Tommie Reynolds from Oakland to St. Louis.

Miklasz, noting the Athletics finished in last place under La Russa in 1995, opined, “La Russa will only be as effective as the players he manages … Now that Cardinals president Mark Lamping and general manager Walt Jocketty have persuaded La Russa to join the home team, they owe it to La Genius to give him a competitive roster.”

Jocketty delivered, acquiring impact players such as third baseman Gary Gaetti, shortstop Royce Clayton, outfielders Ron Gant and Willie McGee and pitchers Andy Benes, Todd Stottlemyre, Dennis Eckersley and Rick Honeycutt for La Russa’s first Cardinals team.

After a rocky start, including a public feud with shortstop and franchise icon Ozzie Smith, La Russa led the 1996 Cardinals to a National League Central Division championship.

La Russa would manage the Cardinals for 16 seasons, achieving a franchise-record 1,408 wins and joining Billy Southworth as the only managers to win two World Series titles with the Cardinals.

On July 27, 2014, La Russa and Torre (who went on to achieve spectacular success with the Yankees after leaving the Cardinals) were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.

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

Previously: The story of how Tony La Russa got 1st Cardinals win

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If Tommy Lasorda had ordered Tom Niedenfuer to intentionally walk Jack Clark in the ninth inning of Game 6 in the National League Championship Series, Brian Harper likely would have been facing Jerry Reuss with the outcome on the line.

jack_clark5Instead, Lasorda, the Dodgers’ manager, made the fateful decision to allow Niedenfuer to pitch to Clark with Willie McGee on third, Ozzie Smith on second, first base open and two out.

Thirty years ago, on Oct. 16, 1985, Clark cracked a first-pitch fastball from Niedenfuer for a three-run home run, erasing a 5-4 Dodgers lead and carrying the Cardinals into the World Series with a 7-5 pennant-clinching victory at Los Angeles.

“After he hits the home run, even my wife knows I should have walked him,” Lasorda told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif.

Match game

Jay Johnstone, a Dodgers reserve outfielder, wrote in his postseason column for the Daily News of Los Angeles that “Tommy, in fact, was going to walk him. Then he changed his mind.”

Andy Van Slyke, a left-handed batter, was on deck when Clark stepped to the plate against Niedenfuer.

“I was looking into the Dodgers dugout, waiting for Tommy to put up four fingers,” Van Slyke told reporters.

“If you were Tommy Lasorda, wouldn’t you rather pitch to me than to Jack Clark?”

Not, it turns out, if the pitcher is a right-hander, such as Niedenfuer.

If Clark had been walked intentionally, Lasorda intended to have a left-hander face Van Slyke. The left-hander the Dodgers had warming in the bullpen was Reuss, a starter who had began his career with St. Louis.

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said, “If Tommy walks Clark and brings in a lefty to pitch to Andy, I would have countered with Brian Harper, the only right-handed pinch-hitter I had left.”

Harper, a utility player, had batted .250 with no home runs in 43 games for the 1985 Cardinals.

In a rebuke of Lasorda, Herzog said, “I would rather let Brian Harper try to beat me than Jack Clark.”

Watching from the dugout, Harper was preparing for the chance to bat with the bases loaded. “Even when they pitched to Jack, I figured they would pitch around him,” Harper told the Daily Breeze.

Clark agreed, saying, “When they decided to pitch to me … I didn’t expect to get a pitch to hit.”

Cat and mouse

Niedenfuer was thinking the same. In the seventh inning, with the score tied at 4-4 and Cardinals runners on first and third, Niedenfuer had struck out Clark on sliders.

So, when Clark came to bat in the ninth, “I figured he wouldn’t be looking for a fastball,” Niedenfuer said.

Niedenfuer’s assumption had merit. In his book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog called Clark “the greatest fastball hitter of his era,” but added that the slugger “took more heaters for strikes than any player I’ve ever seen.”

Said Herzog: “Jack Clark might have been the worst guesser I ever saw. He terrified people as a fastball hitter, but he took the wrong message from that. He believed nobody _ nobody _ would ever throw him a fastball. So he never sat on his best pitch. Jack would stand there waiting for the curve and … those pitchers would sneak heaters right by him.”

Knowing this, Niedenfuer said he intended to start Clark with a fastball on the outside part of the strike zone and then, ahead on the count, try to get Clark to chase subsequent pitches outside the zone.

There were, however, two problems with this approach:

_ “I was looking for a fastball,” Clark said to the Daily News.

_ The fastball Niedenfuer delivered wasn’t on the outside corner. Instead, it was in the middle of the plate, about belt high.

Clark swung at the pitch and lifted a drive deep into the left-field bleachers.

“The only hope was that it would hit the Goodyear blimp and fall straight down,” Niedenfuer told Knight-Ridder Newspapers.

Said Clark: “It was the biggest, furthest, most important hit of my career.” Video

It also was the only home run Clark would hit in 47 career postseason at-bats. Boxscore

Previously: Trade for Jack Clark shook Cardinals from slumber

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