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Before Johnny Mize played a game for the Cardinals, they gave up on him and gave him away to the Reds.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, the Reds gave him back.

johnny_mize5During six seasons as the Cardinals’ first baseman, Mize would win a National League batting title (.349 in 1939), a RBI crown (137 in 1940) and twice would lead the league in home runs (28 in 1939 and 43 in 1940).

In three consecutive years (1938-40) with the Cardinals, Mize led the NL in slugging percentage and total bases. Nicknamed “The Big Cat,” Mize was a four-time all-star with St. Louis. He would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The story of how Mize transformed into one of the Cardinals’ all-time sluggers is filled with a dizzying array of twists and turns.

Rich Reds

In 1934, Mize, 21, was with the Cardinals’ minor-league Rochester (N.Y.) affiliate. His season was cut short because of a groin injury. In 90 games, Mize hit .339 with 17 home runs.

Larry MacPhail, the Reds’ brash general manager, needed sluggers for a team that ranked last in the major leagues in runs scored (590) in 1934. MacPhail saw Mize as a cornerstone for that rebuilding project.

Jim Bottomley was the Reds’ first baseman. Bottomley, who would be elected to the Hall of Fame, had been a standout for the Cardinals, helping them win two World Series titles (1926 and 1931) and four pennants. He won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1928 when he produced 42 doubles, 20 triples, 31 home runs and 136 RBI. The Cardinals traded him to the Reds in December 1932.

Though he hit .284 with 31 doubles for the 1934 Reds, Bottomley, 34, had peaked as a run producer.

Powel Crosley, the Cincinnati radio manufacturer and broadcasting titan, had purchased the Reds in 1934 and was willing to spend money to revive a franchise that had finished in last place in the NL that year. In December 1934, MacPhail approached the Cardinals and offered $55,000 for Mize.

It was an astonishing sum at a time when the nation still was staggered by the economic hardships of the Great Depression. MacPhail’s offer topped the $50,000 the Yankees had paid the San Francisco Seals a month earlier for their highly touted prospect, outfielder Joe DiMaggio.

The Cardinals, who had won the 1934 World Series championship, were quite willing to accept such a large sum for a hobbled player who never had appeared in the big leagues.

Eighty years ago, on Dec. 13, 1934, the Cardinals sent Mize to the Reds.

String attached

“Whatever happens to the Reds (in 1935), it cannot be said (they) have not put plenty of cash and industry into their efforts,” The Sporting News reported. “The substantial sum of $55,000 was turned over to the Cards for (Mize) … There is ample reason for believing that Mize will prove well worth the expenditure. He is a strapping youngster … who puts a great deal of power into his swing.”

The deal came with one important condition. Wrote The Sporting News: “As for the injury, so confident are the Cardinals that it will not prove a hardship that they have guaranteed the first sacker will be sound for 1935, which means that if the injury still handicaps the player, the Reds need not keep him but instead may return him and get back the money paid for his services.”

As spring training started in February 1935, Mize told reporters he was “entirely recovered” from the groin injury. The Sporting News speculated Bottomley would be traded to the Cubs or Giants.

After watching Mize perform, though, it became evident something was wrong with him. It later was determined spurs had developed on his pelvic bone, restricting his movement and causing pain.

Return to sender

On April 15, 1935, the Reds voided the deal, returning Mize to the Cardinals the day before the start of the season.

Assigned to Rochester, Mize played in 65 games and hit .317 with 12 home runs until the pain became too intense to continue. With his career in jeopardy, Mize agreed to surgery after the season.

In December 1935, The Sporting News reported, “Mize recently underwent an operation to correct a condition that interfered with the free action of his legs … The surgery (Mize) submitted to was for the removal of a growth on the pelvic arch and it has been pronounced a success.”

The report was accurate. Mize opened the 1936 season with the Cardinals and soon after took over from Rip Collins as the everyday first baseman. The rookie hit .329 with a team-leading 19 home runs and 93 RBI for the 1936 Cardinals.

In six seasons with St. Louis (1936-41), Mize batted .336 with 1,048 hits in 854 games. His .600 slugging percentage with the Cardinals ranks third all-time in franchise history and first among left-handed batters. The only players with higher career slugging percentages as Cardinals are Mark McGwire (.683) and Albert Pujols (.617).

Mize also ranks fifth all-time among Cardinals in career on-base percentage. At .419, Mize is just below Pujols (.420) and just ahead of Stan Musial (.417).

On Dec. 11, 1941, seven years after they sent him to the Reds, the Cardinals traded Mize to the Giants for catcher Ken O’Dea, first baseman Johnny McCarthy, pitcher Bill Lohrman and $50,000.

Previously: How Mark McGwire learned about Johnny Mize

Previously: Johnny Mize and his 4 three-homer games for Cardinals

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(Updated Dec. 8, 2014)

Jim Kaat is a candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame because of his pitching and fielding achievements. He also accomplished base running and hitting feats for the Cardinals that enhance his status as a special baseball player.

jim_kaat4Kaat, one of 10 finalists on the Golden Era ballot for election to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., was 41 when he stole a base and hit a home run in separate games for the 1980 Cardinals.

At an age when most players are retired, Kaat still pitched effectively and remained a complete ballplayer.

Speed demon

On June 23, 1980, two months after he had been acquired from the Yankees, Kaat earned the win and pitched a complete game for the Cardinals in their 6-1 victory over the Pirates at St. Louis. Kaat didn’t allow a walk or an extra-base hit. He held the Pirates scoreless over the last seven innings and earned his 266th career win, tying Hall of Famer Bob Feller.

In the seventh, he stole a base.

Bobby Bonds was at the plate when Kaat dashed for second. Bonds took a pitch from Enrique Romo. Catcher Steve Nicosia gunned a throw to Phil Garner, covering second. Kaat beat the peg.

The fans at Busch Stadium rewarded him with a standing ovation.

In its account of the game, the Associated Press wrote, “It was the aging hurler’s speed that brought the customers to their feet … The accomplishment nearly overshadowed his hurling.”

Said Kaat: “It was the element of surprise. I had a good lead. It was worth it.” Boxscore

The steal was Kaat’s first in nine years. He was 32 when he swiped a base for the Twins against Yankees pitcher Stan Bahnsen and catcher Thurman Munson on July 30, 1971.

His stolen base for the Cardinals was Kaat’s fifth and last in a 25-year career (1959-83) in the majors.

Sultan of swat

Two months after his steal for the Cardinals, Kaat hit a home run for them.

On Aug. 26, 1980, Kaat homered off the Astros’ Joe Niekro at St. Louis.

“He hit a knuckleball up,” Niekro said to the Associated Press. “He’s a pretty good hitter. I’ve got a brother (Phil) who is 41 and he hits home runs. It’s not the first time I gave up one to a pitcher and it probably won’t be the last.” Boxscore

The home run was the last of 16 hit by Kaat. He slugged his first 18 years earlier on June 19, 1962, off Dom Zanni of the White Sox.

(The oldest player to hit a big-league home run was Mets first baseman Julio Franco, 48, against Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks on May 4, 2007. Franco was three months shy of his 49th birthday.)

Going strong

Exactly one year after his home run, Kaat, 42, got his last big-league hit, a single for the Cardinals against 25-year-old Giants rookie Bob Tufts on Aug. 26, 1981. Boxscore

The next year, Kaat, 43, appeared in 62 regular-season games for the Cardinals (earning five wins and two saves) and pitched in four games of the 1982 World Series against the Brewers.

He pitched his last game at 44, tossing 1.1 scoreless innings in relief of Joaquin Andujar for the Cardinals against the Pirates on July 1, 1983, at Pittsburgh. Boxscore

Kaat was 19-16 with 10 saves in four seasons (1980-83) with the Cardinals.

He’s a Hall of Fame candidate primarily because his 283 career wins rank eighth all-time among left-handers and because he won 16 Gold Glove awards for fielding. He has more career wins than several Hall of Famers, including Jim Palmer (268), Carl Hubbell (253), Bob Gibson (251) and Juan Marichal (243).

Kaat and three other former Cardinals players _ Dick Allen, Ken Boyer and Minnie Minoso _ and former Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam are being reviewed by a 16-person Golden Era committee for Hall of Fame consideration. The other five on the ballot are former players Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.

The Golden Era covers the period of 1947 to 1972. A Golden Era candidate must receive 75 percent of the votes (12 of 16) to earn election. Kaat received 10 votes when Golden Era candidates were considered in 2011.

Results will be announced Dec. 8, 2014. (Update: None of the 10 finalists was elected. Allen and Oliva each received 11 votes. Kaat got 10. Wills got nine. Minoso got eight. Receiving three or fewer votes were Boyer, Hodges, Howsam, Pierce and Tiant.)

Committee members are Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton; baseball executives Jim Frey, David Glass, Roland Hemond and Bob Watson; and media members Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby.

Kaat was a teammate of Carew (Twins), Smith (Cardinals) and Watson (Yankees). Pepe co-wrote a book with Kaat.

Previously: Jim Kaat revived both his career and the Cardinals

Previously: Jim Kaat interview: 1982 Cardinals were most close-knit club

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As an 11-year-old Cardinals fan, Bill Mueller attended Game 7 of the 1982 World Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and witnessed his hometown team clinch the championship against the Brewers.

bill_muellerTwenty-two years later, Mueller returned to a World Series for the first time.

As a 33-year-old big-league veteran, Mueller was the third baseman for the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and witnessed Boston break the hearts of his hometown team by clinching the championship against the Cardinals.

Ten years after that, Mueller has come full circle.

On Nov. 17, 2014, Mueller was named assistant hitting coach of the Cardinals, replacing David Bell, who was promoted to bench coach after Mike Aldrete departed for a coaching job with the Athletics. Mueller had been hitting coach of the Cubs during the 2014 season. He will serve under Cardinals hitting coach John Mabry in 2015.

McGee a favorite

A native of the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights, Mo., Mueller grew up a Cardinals fan. Center fielder Willie McGee was his favorite player, Mueller told Jeff Horrigan of the Boston Herald in October 2004.

As a rookie in 1982, McGee sparked the Cardinals to their first National League pennant in 14 years. After splitting the first six games of the 1982 World Series with the Brewers, the Cardinals faced a Game 7 showdown at Busch Stadium.

Mueller attended the game with his father. Their seats were in the upper deck of the outfield. “The nosebleed section,” Mueller told The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., in 2004.

The Brewers’ Ben Oglive smacked a home run off Joaquin Andujar near the section where the Muellers sat. That’s one of Bill Mueller’s enduring memories of the game. What’s most memorable, of course, is that the Cardinals won, 6-3, earning their first World Series title since 1967. “Pretty cool,” Mueller said of the experience. Boxscore

Turning pro

Mueller became a baseball standout at De Smet Jesuit High School in Creve Coeur, Mo., and at Missouri State University in Springfield. He was drafted by the Giants and made his big-league debut with them in 1996.

In his first appearance at Busch Stadium with the Giants in August 1996, Mueller got five hits in 10 at-bats during a four-game series. Three years later, on May 25, 1999, Mueller hit a grand slam off Kent Mercker at Busch Stadium before more than 30 family and friends in a 17-1 Giants victory over the Cardinals. Boxscore

After the 2000 season, the Giants traded Mueller to the Cubs. He spent two years in Chicago, became a free agent and signed with the Red Sox. In his first season with Boston, Mueller was the 2003 American League batting champion, hitting .326 in 146 games.

Mueller vs. Rolen

The next season, Mueller helped Boston win the American League pennant, their first since 1986. He would be going to the World Series for the first time as a player and for the only time since he attended as a fan in 1982.

“That (1982) was my last experience with a World Series and now I’m going back for a World Series in St. Louis and I’m part of it,” Mueller said to Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the eve of the 2004 World Series. “It’s really a pretty amazing thing when you think about it.”

In most media previews of the 2004 World Series, the Cardinals, with Scott Rolen, were rated as having the advantage at third base over Mueller and the Red Sox. Rolen had hit 34 home runs with 124 RBI during the regular season and would win his fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award in 2004.

Mueller, though, proved the experts wrong.

The Red Sox swept the Cardinals, winning the first two games at Boston and the next two at Busch Stadium, and earned their first World Series championship since 1918, ending what some considered to be a curse placed on the franchise after it had traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

Mueller played an integral role in Boston’s dominance of the Cardinals. He batted .429 (6-for-14) with four walks in the World Series. His on-base percentage was .556. He scored three runs and drove in two.

His counterpart, Rolen, was hitless in 15 at-bats.

Previously: Paul Molitor vs. Cardinals: Sensational, strange 1982 World Series

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Five months after it appeared he might pitch his way out of the starting rotation, Ray Sadecki earned his 20th win and propelled the 1964 Cardinals into first place in the National League.

ray_sadecki4This post is a tribute to Sadecki, who died at age 73 on Nov. 17, 2014.

On Sept 29, 1964, Sadecki got the win, his career-best 20th of the season, in the Cardinals’ 4-2 triumph over the Phillies at St. Louis. The victory was the seventh in a row for the Cardinals and moved them into a tie for first place with the Phillies, who lost their ninth in a row after building a 6.5-game lead with 12 to play.

The Cardinals moved into sole possession of first place on Sept. 30 and went on to win the pennant five days later by a game over the Phillies and Reds.

Early troubles

Based on his subpar beginning, few could have predicted Sadecki would be such a stellar pitcher for the 1964 Cardinals.

Sadecki was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in three April appearances for St. Louis.

Wrote The Sporting News: “Sadecki looked terrible in spring training, was beaten his first three times out during the season and was booed consistently by the normally restrained Cardinals fans.”

Sadecki recovered, earning four wins in each of the next five months, with the last being the 20th on Sept. 29.

In a matchup of left-handers, the Phillies started Dennis Bennett against Sadecki. The Cardinals led, 3-0, after two innings and knocked out Bennett, who was lifted after recording just four outs. Sadecki gave up a two-run single to pinch-hitter Gus Triandos in the fourth. Bill White hit a home run in the sixth off John Boozer, extending the St. Louis lead to 4-2.

In the seventh, the Phillies had the tying runs on first and second, with two outs, when Cardinals manager Johnny Keane replaced Sadecki with Barney Schultz, who got Richie Allen to pop out to first. Schultz pitched 2.1 hitless innings in relief of Sadecki and earned his 13th save. Boxscore

World Series winner

Sadecki became the first Cardinals left-hander since Harvey Haddix in 1953 to win 20 in a season. Sadecki was the only National League left-hander to win 20 in 1964. (Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers won 19; Bob Veale of the Pirates and Sadecki’s teammate, Curt Simmons, each won 18.) The 1964 season was the only time Sadecki won more than 14 during an 18-year major-league career.

A week after winning his 20th, Sadecki started Game 1 of the World Series on Oct. 7 against Whitey Ford and the Yankees. He gave up eight hits and five walks in six innings but earned the win in a 9-5 Cardinals victory at St. Louis. The highlight of Sadecki’s performance was when he struck out Roger Maris to end the second and struck out Mickey Mantle to open the third.

“I had a good curve and was putting it where I wanted, but I had all kinds of trouble with my fastball,” Sadecki said. Boxscore

Previously: How the 1964 Cardinals broke the heart of Gus Triandos

Previously: 1964 Cardinals were menace to Dennis Bennett

Previously: Battle of wills: Bob Gibson, Gene Maych play hardball

Previously: Five-game sweep of Pirates positioned Cardinals for pennant

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At 19, Ray Sadecki replaced Bob Gibson on the 1960 Cardinals staff. As if that wasn’t enough pressure, Sadecki also was given a spot in the starting rotation.

ray_sadecki3Initially, it appeared the Cardinals had made a mistake. Sadecki was 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA after his first five starts for the Cardinals.

So, what happened in his sixth start on June 15, 1960, at Cincinnati couldn’t have been predicted.

Sadecki pitched a three-hit shutout, earning his first big-league win in the Cardinals’ 6-0 victory over the Reds. It was the first shutout by a Cardinals pitcher in 1960.

All three Reds hits _ by Billy Martin, Gus Bell and Frank Robinson _ were doubles.

Sadecki walked eight and struck out nine. The Reds stranded 11 base runners. The eight walks were one shy of Vinegar Bend Mizell’s National League record for a nine-inning shutout win.

“I don’t know whether the pitching is that good, or our batters are that bad,” Reds general manager Gabe Paul said to The Sporting News.

This post is a tribute to Sadecki, who died Nov. 17, 2014, at age 73. Sadecki had a 68-64 record in eight seasons (1960-66 and 1975) with the Cardinals. He was 20-11 for the 1964 Cardinals and won Game 1 of the World Series that year versus Whitey Ford and the Yankees.

Bonus baby

Signed by Cardinals scout Runt Marr for $50,000 after graduating from high school in Kansas City, Kan., at age 17 in 1958, Sadecki opened the 1960 season at Class AAA Rochester. He was 2-1 with a 1.76 ERA in six games for Rochester when the Cardinals promoted him in May. Sadecki replaced Gibson, who was sent to Rochester after posting a 9.72 ERA in five appearances for the Cardinals.

Sadecki failed to go beyond six innings in any of his first five starts for St. Louis.

Still, manager Solly Hemus stuck with the teenager as part of a rebuilt rotation that also included Larry Jackson, Ernie Broglio and Curt Simmons.

Change and speed

Against the Reds on June 15 at Crosley Field, Sadecki displayed “a brilliant changeup to go with a hopping fastball,” The Sporting News reported.

The Reds had a runner on base in every inning except the seventh and ninth, but Sadecki consistently worked out of trouble. In the fourth, the Reds had the bases loaded and two outs when Sadecki got Martin on a fly out to left, ending Cincinnati’s biggest threat.

Sadecki got support from center fielder Curt Flood, who hit a pair of home runs off starter Joe Nuxhall. Flood, batting seventh, hit a three-run home run in the second and a solo shot in the fourth. It was the first time he hit two homers in a big-league game. Boxscore

Enjoying a midnight snack after his triumph, Sadecki said, “It was a big one, that first major-league victory.”

Sadecki stayed in the Cardinals’ rotation for the remainder of the 1960 season, finishing 9-9 with a 3.78 ERA in 26 starts.

Said Hemus: “Sadecki came along real good for us … His last few games were his strongest.”

Previously: Cardinals swept series in initial visit to Dodger Stadium

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Jerry Reuss Banner

On Nov. 11, 2014, I visited the Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., to seek out Jerry Reuss for an interview about his time as a pitcher with the Cardinals.

Dressed in a home white Dodgers uniform, Reuss, 65, was patient, thoughtful, articulate and polite.

He debuted with the Cardinals in September 1969 and pitched for them in 1970 and 1971, posting an overall 22-22 record before he was traded to the Astros in April 1972.

In a 22-year major-league career, primarily with the Dodgers (nine years) and Pirates (six years), Reuss was 220-191 with a 3.64 ERA. In 2014, he published a book “Bring in the Right-hander,” a delightful retrospective on his career. You can order an autographed copy at his Web site www.jerryreuss.com.

jerry_reuss2Q.: Two months after the Cardinals traded Steve Carlton, they traded you. It was first reported that you were traded because you were in a contract dispute with owner Gussie Busch. Later it comes out it was about your mustache. True?

Reuss: “It was about growing a mustache. Bob Broeg (a writer) had said something to that effect and I thought, ‘No, they wouldn’t be that concerned about that.’ I lived with that for 20 or 25 years.

“It wasn’t until the mid-90s when I was in St. Louis and I went to a ballgame and I saw Bing Devine, who was working as a scout. He had been the general manager of the Cardinals when I was traded. I said, ‘Bing, you got a minute?’ He said, ‘Yeah. Why don’t you sit down and we’ll talk.’ So I asked him about the deal. I figured enough time had passed that I could do that.

“He was more than happy to tell me. He said Mr. Busch at times would act on an impulse. This was one of those times. He insisted on me being traded because I had the mustache. Bing thought if given a little time he (Busch) would come to his senses and make a wise baseball decision rather than a personal decision.

“But he kept hammering about the mustache and would say, ‘Did you get rid of him yet? Why not?’ And the ultimatum was put like this: ‘If you don’t get rid of him, I’ll get rid of you and get somebody who will get rid of him.’ So when you’re faced with a situation like that, you do what has to be done.”

Q.: You still have a mustache and it has become something of a signature look for you…

Reuss: “Yeah. But when you look back about how that was the thinking in baseball in the early 70s and then just two or three years later baseball began to change with the times. Guys were coming in with long hair and beards. And you just wonder: What was the stink all about?

“So on the matter of just a little bit of facial hair _ you could barely see it _ people would ask, “Why didn’t you shave it?’ And I’d say, ‘There wasn’t a rule that the Cardinals had to be clean-shaven and be like a military situation. If it doesn’t bother anybody, if it’s not a rule, then what are we talking about here?’ “

Q.: Your last year with the Cardinals, 1971, was the year your teammate, Joe Torre, led the National League in hitting and RBI and won the MVP Award. Could you see then the leadership qualities that later would make him a Hall of Fame manager with the Yankees?

Reuss: “Oh, sure. Lights out. At that early age, I just wondered whether there were guys like that on every team.

“He was managing the club on the field. Red (manager Schoendienst) just stepped back and said, ‘Joe, you have a grasp of it. You take care of it. When you’re on the field, you see things that I don’t.’ And Joe, being wise enough and knowing his boundaries, would go to Red and say, ‘Would you consider this or would you consider that?’

“Sometimes there was a lineup that was put out and Joe would go to Red and say, ‘This player won’t say it to you but he’ll say it to me. You might want to give him a day off.’ And Red would say, ‘All right. Let’s do that.’ He’d make the lineup change. Joe was able to get those things from players and he did it only because it helped the club. It wasn’t anything personal with the player.

“You could see the leadership. I’ve never come across another player who was like him. There were a couple that had some of those qualities _ I understand Cincinnati had a few. (Johnny) Bench was one of those guys _ that when he spoke, everybody just said, ‘Let’s reconsider this.’ Joe was that way all the time. Joe was more far-reaching. You knew he would to be a manager.”

Q,: After leaving the Cardinals, you played for seven big-league teams. As a St. Louis native who began his career with the hometown team, did you ever hope to return to the Cardinals?

Reuss: “I never gave it a whole lot of thought. Once I got to Los Angeles (in 1979), I said, ‘This is home. This is where I want to be.’ It’s where I always wanted to play.

“Back in those days, it was one of the few grass fields. Lots of artificial turf then. My knees were feeling it. And then I became a ground ball pitcher and the infield I had behind me was particularly adept at playing at Dodger Stadium on the lawn.

“As a result, I had a good defensive ball club become a great defensive ball club. They got a lot of ground balls. That’s where my success was and that’s where I wanted to stay. When I was ready to change teams, I was past my prime. Rather than a lot of teams coming to me, I was going to them and just hoping for a chance.”

Q.: The player who had the most at-bats against you was

Reuss: “Pete Rose. Did you see what he hit against me?”

Q.: .244 in the regular season. (29-for-119).

Reuss: “I couldn’t believe that.”

Q.: What was your secret?

Reuss: “There was no secret. Pete hit me the same way he hit everybody else. It’s just that, when he hit the ball against me, more often it was right at somebody. Did you see the number of times he struck out against me? (9) He was making contact. He came up there swinging.”

Part 1: Jerry Reuss on Bob Gibson as a teammate: He was tough

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