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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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Paul Molitor is linked with Willie McGee and Darrell Porter as central figures in two of the most prominent plays in the 1982 World Series between the Brewers and Cardinals.

paul_molitorThirty-two years after he batted leadoff and played third base for the American League champion Brewers, Molitor was named manager of the Twins on Nov. 4, 2014.

Selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 after a 21-year big-league career as a player for the Brewers, Blue Jays and Twins, Molitor had 3,319 hits, ranking 10th all-time.

In 1982, Molitor, along with Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper and Ted Simmons, played a prominent role in the Brewers winning their lone league championship.

Molitor then had a World Series versus the 1982 Cardinals that was both sensational and strange.

Here’s a look:

Hits record

Molitor became the first player to get five hits in a World Series game. After grounding out in the first inning, Molitor had five singles in his next five at-bats in Game 1 at St. Louis.

Only one other player, the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, has had five hits in a World Series game. Boxscore

Molitor got his five hits in Game 1 off three pitchers: Bob Forsch (singles in the second, fourth and sixth), Dave LaPoint (single in the eighth) and Jeff Lahti (single in the ninth). Boxscore

“He’s a heck of a ballplayer,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said to The Sporting News about Molitor. “But he had only one line drive. He had three infield singles and a broken-bat bloop. Nothing you can do to stop things like that.”

In the book “Where Have You Gone ’82 Brewers?,” Molitor said, “Five singles. Ozzie (Smith) dove and knocked down three of them at short and almost threw me out on two of them. It was a heck of a way to have your first World Series game unfold.”

Molitor and Yount (four hits in Game 1) were the first teammates to get four hits apiece in a World Series game since the Cardinals’ Joe Garagiola, Whitey Kurowski and Enos Slaughter each had four hits against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 1946 World Series. Boxscore

Bashing at Busch

Molitor batted .355 (11-for-31) in the seven-game World Series in 1982.

Surprisingly, though, he hit .526 (10-for-19) in the four games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and .083 (1-for-12) in the three games at County Stadium in Milwaukee.

After his 5-for-6 performance in Game 1, Molitor hit .240 (6-for-25) for the remainder of the World Series. When he grounded out to lead off Game 2, he missed a chance to tie Goose Goslin (1924 Senators) and Thurman Munson (1976) for the World Series record of hits in six consecutive at-bats.

Molitor was devastating when batting with runners in scoring position, hitting .714 (5-for-7) against the Cardinals.

Porter power

After the Brewers won Game 1, 10-0, at St. Louis, the Cardinals felt pressure to win Game 2 before heading to Milwaukee. In the eighth, the Cardinals scored a run, breaking a 4-4 tie.

Molitor led off the ninth against closer Bruce Sutter. In a matchup of future Hall of Famers, Molitor bunted for a single, increasing the pressure on Sutter and his catcher, Porter.

The next batter was another future Hall of Famer, Yount.

“I told Bruce to be sure to hold him (Molitor) close to the base because I figured they might either try a bunt or a steal,” Porter said to The Sporting News.

Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn called for a hit-and-run.

Said Porter: “I never thought they would try to hit and run.”

Sutter threw his signature pitch, the split-finger fastball. When thrown effectively, the ball dipped sharply into the dirt.

This time, Sutter made a mistake. The pitch stayed up, at shoulder level.

Yount, trying to hit the ball the opposite way to right field, swung and missed.

Porter fired a strike to second base and nailed Molitor on the botched hit-and-run attempt.

Sutter retired the next two batters and the Cardinals had their first World Series win since Game 4 of 1968. Boxscore

Robbed by McGee

In Game 3 at Milwaukee, Molitor led off the bottom of the first by smashing a Joaquin Andujar fastball into the teeth of a 16 mph wind in center field. McGee, the rookie center fielder, raced to the wall, 402 feet from home plate, climbed the canvas and made the catch.

Inspired, McGee went on to have one of the all-time best games in World Series lore, hitting two home runs, driving in four runs and making another leaping grab in the ninth to deprive Gorman Thomas of a two-run home run. Boxscore

Previously: George Hendrick influenced hitting style of John Mabry

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Performing an escape act on the sport’s grandest stage, the Cardinals were the first team to emerge victorious in a World Series that ended with the tying run on third base.

red_schoendienst9In Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, the Royals had the tying run (Alex Gordon) on third base with two outs in the ninth when Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner got Salvador Perez to pop out to third, clinching the title for San Francisco.

That was the fourth time a World Series had ended with the tying run on third base, according to Jacob Pomrenke of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The first time it happened was in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series between the Red Sox and Cardinals.

(The 1962 and 1992 World Series also ended with the tying run on third. In Game 7 in 1962, Willie McCovey of the Giants lined out to second with two outs in the ninth, stranding Matty Alou on third with the tying run against the Yankees. In the decisive Game 6 in 1992, Otis Nixon of the Braves bunted into a ground out to pitcher Mike Timlin with two outs in the 11th, stranding John Smoltz on third with the tying run against the Blue Jays.)

Nervous ninth

Game 7 of the 1946 World Series is best remembered for the daring dash by Enos Slaughter from first to home on a hit by Harry Walker that scored the decisive run in the eighth inning, earning the Cardinals their third World Series championship in five years. What often is overlooked is that the Red Sox nearly tied the score in the ninth.

Like fellow left-hander Bumgarner in 2014, the Cardinals’ Harry Brecheen was pitching in relief in Game 7 in 1946 after having achieved wins in two starts in the World Series.

Rudy York led off the Red Sox ninth with a single and Bobby Doerr followed with another single, advancing York to second. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin replaced York with pinch-runner Paul Campbell.

That brought to the plate Pinky Higgins, 37, a 14-year big-league veteran. In what would be his last major-league at-bat, Higgins grounded to third baseman Whitey Kurowski, who threw to shortstop Marty Marion to get the force out on Doerr at second base.

Campbell advanced to third on the play.

With one out, Roy Partee batted next. A backup catcher, Partee had hit .315 in 1946.

Brecheen got him to pop out to first baseman Stan Musial for the second out.

Brecheen vs. McBride

Cronin then sent Tom McBride, a right-handed batter, to pinch-hit for pitcher Earl Johnson.

McBride had hit .301 in 1946, including .333 against left-handers.

In the press box, some expected Cronin to use Don Gutteridge as a pinch-runner for Higgins at first base. Cronin, though, didn’t make the move.

Brecheen threw McBride “a good screwball.” McBride rapped it on the ground. Red Schoendienst, the second baseman, got to the ball and gloved it, but the ball rolled up his arm.

In his book “Red: A Baseball Life,” Schoendienst wrote, “Just as I went to field the ball, it took a crazy hop and I blocked the ball with my left shoulder. Luckily, I was able to trap it.”

Schoendienst kept his cool and flipped a low, underhand toss to Marion, who caught it just in time to nip Higgins at second base for the final out.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial told writer Bob Broeg, “Our hearts stood still” as the ball rolled up Schoendienst’s arm. “Red looked like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his sleeve when he finally flipped the ball to Marion,” said Musial.

$40,000 assist

In the St. Louis Star-Times, Sid Keener reported that Schoendienst’s toss beat Higgins to the bag “by no more than a step.”

Wrote Keener: “Cronin’s critics insist Gutteridge would have beaten the play at second,” enabling Campbell to score from third with the tying run.

McBride told biographer Jim Sargent of SABR, “The ball I hit was a low liner right by Brecheen’s left knee, and when it went by Harry, I thought I had a hit … But the second baseman, Schoendienst, made a good play on the ball. He didn’t catch it clean. The ball bounced up and looked as if it balanced on the web of his glove. He picked it off and threw to second base for a force out.”

Said Schoendienst: “People began to refer to that play as the $40,000 assist because the $40,000 was the approximate difference between the total shares for the winning team and the losing side.”  Boxscore

The play had another benefit to Schoendienst. He wanted to marry his girlfriend, Mary, but her grandfather, Patrick O’Reilly, said he wasn’t keen about a “German” joining the family.

Said Mary: “He was still not sure about Red until he made that play. After the ball hit him in the chest, then rolled up his arm, and he still made the play and we won the game, then my grandfather said, ‘You can marry him now.’ “

Previously: Think Buster Posey is good? How about Joe Garagiola?

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Teetering on the brink of another letdown in their bid to end a pennant drought, the Cardinals got the matchup they sought against the Astros in Game 6 of the 2004 National League Championship Series. Jim Edmonds provided the desired result.

jim_edmonds4Ten years ago, on Oct. 20, 2004, Edmonds launched a two-run, walkoff home run in the 12th inning, ending a tense drama and carrying the Cardinals to a 6-4 victory at St. Louis.

At the time, Edmonds joined Ozzie Smith (Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series) as the only Cardinals to end postseason games with walkoff home runs. Edmonds was the first Cardinals hitter to do so in an elimination game. Since then, two others _ David Freese (Game 6 of 2011 World Series) and Kolten Wong (Game 2 of 2014 National League Championship Series) _ have produced walkoff home runs in Cardinals postseason victories.

Kept alive by Edmonds’ home run, the Cardinals won Game 7 _ helped, in part, by a diving catch by Edmonds that prevented two runs from scoring in the second inning _  and earned their first National League pennant in 17 years.

Under manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals had gotten to the National League Championship Series three previous times (1996, 2000 and 2002) but couldn’t clinch a pennant.

It appeared for a while during Game 6 in 2004 that the Cardinals would fall short again.

Sense of dread

After scoring four runs in the first 2.1 innings off starter Peter Munro, the Cardinals were held scoreless by four Astros relievers _ Chad Harville, Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler and Brad Lidge _ over the next 8.2 innings.

Lidge, the Astros’ closer, had been especially dominating. Bernie Miklasz, columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, described Lidge as “bulletproof.”

Lidge, who entered in the ninth, retired all nine batters he faced. He struck out five, including Edmonds. Only one batter, pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson, who flied to left in the 11th, hit a ball out of the infield against Lidge.

Miklasz wrote that “a growing sense of dread spread through Busch Stadium” as Lidge mowed down the Cardinals.

Lidge, though, had been stretched to the limit with his three innings of relief. He had appeared in 80 games during the regular season and never had worked more than a two-inning stint.

In the 12th, manager Phil Garner lifted Lidge and, in so doing, lifted the spirits of the Cardinals and their fans.

High pitch, high drive

Dan Miceli, 34, a right-hander pitching for his 10th big-league team, replaced Lidge.

Miceli walked the leadoff batter, Albert Pujols. Scott Rolen then popped out to the catcher.

Edmonds stepped to the plate. This was the matchup La Russa wanted.

In the 2004 regular season, left-handed batters hit .307 versus Miceli, with seven home runs.

Edmonds, with his upper-cut swing, had hit 37 of his 42 home runs against right-handers in 2004. More than half of Edmonds’ hits (83 of 150) that season were for extra bases.

“I was yelling at him, ‘Hit a line drive. Let’s get first and third.’ That’s all I wanted,” La Russa said to the Associated Press.

On an 0-and-1 pitch, Edmonds got a high, tight fastball. He whipped the bat around and connected, sending the ball on a majestic arch over the right-field fence before it crashed against the wall behind the Cardinals’ bullpen. Check out the You Tube video.

“I got the pitch up again and they hit it out again,” said Miceli, who had yielded home runs to Pujols and Rolen in the eighth inning of Game 2.

Said Edmonds: “I wasn’t trying to go deep. I was just trying to hit the ball hard.”

La Russa, delighted Edmonds hadn’t settled for the single his manager had been urging him to hit, said, “I didn’t feel too smart. Just happy. Happy and stupid.” Boxscore

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

Previously: How Jim Edmonds got Tony La Russa an April champagne toast

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