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Convinced he had the leverage to demand a more lucrative contract, Cardinals ace Mort Cooper played hardball with Sam Breadon. The club owner responded by trading Cooper rather than negotiating with him.

mort_cooper4“In reckoning on his ability to outmaneuver Sam Breadon, Cooper encountered an old master who is familiar with a wide variety of curves,” The Sporting News wrote.

Seventy years ago, on May 23, 1945, the Cardinals traded Cooper, 32, to the Braves for pitcher Red Barrett, 30, and $60,000. Three months later, Cooper had elbow surgery. Barrett earned 21 wins for the 1945 Cardinals.

Show me the money

Cooper was a key reason the Cardinals won three National League pennants and two World Series championships from 1942-44. He was named winner of the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1942 when he was 22-7 with a 1.78 ERA. He followed that with a 21-8 record and 2.30 ERA in 1943 and a 22-7 record and 2.46 ERA in 1944.

Before the 1945 season, Cooper signed a one-year contract for $12,000. That amount, Breadon told Cooper, was the club ceiling on salaries. In spring training, though, Cooper learned the Cardinals had made an exception for Marty Marion and had signed the shortstop for $13,500.

Cooper demanded the Cardinals give him a new contract for $15,000. Breadon refused. In protest, Cooper and his brother, Walker Cooper, left the Cardinals’ spring training camp at Cairo, Ill., and threatened to boycott the club’s opening series against the Cubs.

The Cooper brothers eventually gave in and were with the club on Opening Day at Chicago. Soon after, Walker Cooper was inducted into the Navy. Mort Cooper made his first appearance of the season on April 22, pitching in relief against the Reds at St. Louis.

When the Cardinals left St. Louis by train for an April series at Cincinnati, Cooper, still miffed about his contract, didn’t show. Instead, he arrived in Cincinnati the next day with his lawyer, Lee Havener, and demanded a salary increase.

Cooper started on April 29 against the Reds and earned the win. He also won his next start, versus the Cubs, on May 6 and got a no-decision in his third start on May 13 against the Giants.

With a 2-0 record and 1.52 ERA, Cooper appeared headed toward another big season. Because of injuries and commitments to military service, the Cardinals had little pitching depth. Sensing he had the upper hand, Cooper decided the time was right to force the issue of a new contract.

Jumping ship

In mid-May, while the Cardinals were in Boston, Cooper called traveling secretary Leo Ward about 3 a.m. at the team hotel and informed him he was leaving without permission and returning to St. Louis. Manager Billy Southworth suspended the AWOL pitcher indefinitely and fined him $500.

In St. Louis, Cooper and Havener asked Breadon to discuss a new contract. A meeting was scheduled for May 23 in Breadon’s office.

Secretly, Breadon began talking with clubs to gauge interest in trading for Cooper. The Giants offered cash but no players. The Cubs and Phillies offered a combination of players and cash. The Braves, though, offered the most cash, plus Barrett.

On May 23, Cooper and Havener arrived at Breadon’s office, expecting to renegotiate a contract. Southworth was there with Breadon. After exchanging pleasantries, Breadon delivered his surprise, informing Cooper he had been traded to the Braves.

Deal of the year

“In disposing of Cooper, Breadon took the best course, since there was little chance of an amicable agreement,” The Sporting News opined.

United Press wire service called the transaction “the most important baseball deal of 1945″ because the departure of a perennial 20-game winner gave hope to NL teams that the three-time defending champion Cardinals could be dethroned.

Cooper “almost overnight transformed (the Braves) into a pennant contender,” wrote The Sporting News.

Singing slinger

Barrett nearly was overlooked in most reviews of the trade. He was 2-3 with a 4.74 ERA for the 1945 Braves.

Barrett was almost as well-known as a singer as he was a pitcher. He sang a role in the opera “Narcissus” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He toured with bands during the off-season.

“There is scarcely a big jazz band in the country that I haven’t sung with,” Barrett said. “Sammy Kaye. Tommy Dorsey. Skinny Ennis and the rest of them.”

No one expected Barrett would be the equal of Cooper. His career record in seven seasons with the Reds and Braves was 16-37.

Barrett, though, sensed a turnaround. “A fellow really ought to win a few ballgames with that club,” Barrett said of the Cardinals. “What a treat it is to have a real infield in back of you.”

Informed of the trade by Braves manager Bob Coleman, Barrett said, “I didn’t give them a chance to change their minds. I was packed and ready to leave for St. Louis two minutes later. I’d have been ready sooner but I had difficulty in getting my suitcase closed.”

Inserted into the rotation, Barrett was 21-9 with a 2.74 ERA and pitched 22 complete games for the 1945 Cardinals. Cooper was 7-4 with a 3.35 ERA for the 1945 Braves.

Final years

The 1945 Cardinals finished in second place at 95-59, three games behind the Cubs. The Braves finished sixth in the eight-team league at 67-85, 30 games behind Chicago.

With Breadon’s approval, Southworth left the Cardinals after the 1945 season and accepted an offer to manage the Braves. His replacement, Eddie Dyer, preferred using Barrett in relief and giving him spot starts. Barrett was 3-2 for the 1946 Cardinals. After the season, he was sent back to the Braves. He pitched three more years for them.

Under Southworth, Cooper was 13-11 with a 3.12 ERA for the 1946 Braves. It was his last hurrah. In 1947, his final season as a major-league pitcher, Cooper was a combined 3-10 with a 5.40 ERA for the Braves and Giants.

Previously: How Mort Cooper pitched 2 straight one-hitters for Cardinals

Previously: Big-game losses haunt Mort Cooper, Justin Verlander

Previously: Mike Matheny, Eddie Dyer share rare rookie achievement

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Combining an effective hitting stroke with a strikeout pitch that dazzled a lineup stacked with fellow future Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley and Chick Hafey, Dazzy Vance gave one of the best individual performances all-time against the Cardinals.

dazzy_vanceOn July 20, 1925, Vance, 34, struck out 17 and produced three RBI, including the walkoff hit in the 10th, carrying Brooklyn to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Ebbets Field.

Ninety years later, on May 13, 2015, Corey Kluber, 29, struck out 18 in eight innings, lifting the Indians to a 2-0 victory over the Cardinals at Cleveland. Boxscore

Kluber’s strikeouts are the most by one pitcher against the Cardinals, topping the mark held by Vance.

Whiff wiz

A right-hander, Vance didn’t get his first big-league win until he was 31 in 1922.

He was named winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1924 when he was 28-6 for Brooklyn and led the league in wins, ERA (2.16), strikeouts (262) and complete games (30).

Mixing a powerful fastball with a sweeping curve, Vance led the NL in strikeouts with Brooklyn for seven consecutive years (1922-28). His 17 against St. Louis represented his single-game high in 16 big-league seasons.

Vance struck out every player in the Cardinals lineup that day except shortstop Specs Toporcer, who got his nickname because he wore eyeglasses.

Hornsby and Bottomley each struck out three times, tying career highs. Hafey struck out once.

Unlike Kluber, who held the 2015 Cardinals to one hit, Vance wasn’t untouchable against the 1925 Cardinals. He yielded nine hits and walked six. Vance used his bat as well as his strikeout pitches to put himself in position to win.

Power pitcher

In the first inning, Vance walked the first two batters, Max Flack and Ralph Shinners, then struck out Hornsby and Bottomley and got Hafey to fly out to right.

Vance quickly found a groove. He struck out the last two batters of the second and the first two batters of the third.

The Cardinals’ starter, left-hander Duster Mails, was effective early, too, holding Brooklyn scoreless in the first three innings.

In the fourth, Les Bell reached Vance for a two-run single, breaking the scoreless tie.

Vance responded in the fifth, hitting a two-run home run.

Vance hit .143 in 1925 and .150 for his big-league career. Most of his hits came against off-speed pitches. Known for his wit, Vance explained his approach to hitting in the 1976 book “The Gashouse Gang” by Robert Hood:

“I was a slow-ball hitter,” Vance said. “I found that out years ago when I was a boy on a farm. We were plagued with rats, so we got a ferret and shoved him down a hole. I stood at another hole with a baseball bat. When a rat ran out, I swung and missed. Another came and I swung and missed. I must have missed half a dozen.

“Then out came this fellow nice and slow and I clouted him good. Unfortunately, it was the ferret. From then on, I knew I was a slow-ball hitter.”

Walkoff winner

In the eighth, with Hornsby on first, one out and the score still tied at 2-2, Vance struck out Bottomley and Hafey. Vance singled leading off the bottom half of the inning and Brooklyn got the go-ahead run on Milt Stock’s RBI-double.

The Cardinals tied the score at 3-3 in the ninth when Toporcer tripled and Bell singled for his third RBI of the game.

After nine innings, Vance had struck out 15, tying his career high. Rube Waddell of the 1908 Browns had established the big-league record for strikeouts in nine innings with 16 against the Athletics.

In the 10th, Vance struck out Hornsby and Bottomley, giving him his total of 17.

After catcher Hank DeBerry led off the bottom of the 10th with a double and was lifted for pinch-runner Johnny Mitchell, Vance followed with a single, scoring Mitchell with the run that gave Vance the win and Brooklyn a 4-3 victory. Boxscore

Vance finished the 1925 season with a 22-9 record and 221 strikeouts in 265.1 innings.

Vance pitched for the Cardinals in 1933 and ’34, giving St. Louis a tandem of Dazzy and Dizzy (Dean). Vance appeared in his lone World Series in 1934 for St. Louis against the Tigers. His career record is 197-140 (190 wins for Brooklyn and seven for St. Louis) with 2,045 strikeouts.

He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.

Previously: Arthur Rhodes: 1 of 5 Cardinals in a Series age 40

Previously: Cardinals were Bob Feller’s first big-league test

Previously: Stan Musial: Bob Feller was best pitcher

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In one weekend, Troy Percival went from being perceived as a risk to being viewed as a valuable reliever for the Cardinals.

troy_percivalPercival earned wins in his first two appearances for the Cardinals in 2007. Eight years later, Miguel Socolovich became the first St. Louis reliever to match that feat, getting wins in his first two appearances for the 2015 Cardinals.

Socolovich, 28, signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in November 2014, went 1-0 in seven scoreless appearances for Class AAA Memphis in April 2015 and was called up by the Cardinals in May 2015.

The right-hander earned a win in his Cardinals debut with a flawless inning of relief on May 3, 2015, in the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over the Pirates in 14 innings at St. Louis. Boxscore

Socolovich followed that with a win in his next appearance, pitching a scoreless inning of relief on May 4, 2015, in the Cardinals’ 10-9 victory over the Cubs at St. Louis. Boxscore

Angel in St. Louis

Percival, 37, signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in June 2007, posted a 1.35 ERA in six appearances for Memphis and was called up by the Cardinals before a weekend series against the Reds at Cincinnati.

A closer with the Angels and Tigers, Percival had retired as a big-league player and had sat out the 2006 season because of persistent arm ailments.

In 2007, though, Percival found he was able to throw effectively again. He was in contact with several former Angels teammates who had become Cardinals. They included infielders Adam Kennedy, Scott Spiezio and David Eckstein; outfielder Jim Edmonds and pitcher Russ Springer. Percival threw for the Cardinals during a workout. Impressed, the Cardinals signed him on June 8, 2007, and sent him to Memphis to get into game condition.

The right-hander earned a win in his Cardinals debut with a flawless inning of relief on June 29, 2007, in the Cardinals’ 4-2 victory over the Reds.

With the Reds ahead, 2-1, Percival entered the Friday night game in relief of starter Brad Thompson and retired all three batters he faced in the seventh. After the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the eighth on RBI-singles by Chris Duncan, Juan Encarnacion and Yadier Molina, Percival was credited with his first big-league win since April 22, 2005, for the Tigers against the Twins.

“It’s a dream come true,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said to the Associated Press. “He gets three outs and gets the winning decision. That’s movie material.”

Said Percival: “I didn’t come back for myself. A lot of friends on this team called me and said they needed pitching help. My arm felt good enough to do it.” Boxscore

Encore performance

Two days later, on Sunday July 1, 2007, Percival made his second Cardinals appearance. With the Cardinals ahead, 8-5, in the fourth inning, Percival relieved starter Mike Maroth. The Reds had two runners on base and no outs. Percival got out of the mess he inherited by retiring all three batters he faced without allowing either base runner to advance.

After walking the leadoff batter in the fifth, Percival was relieved by Troy Cate. The runner, Brandon Phillips, moved to third on a single by Ken Griffey Jr. and scored on Jeff Conine’s sacrifice fly. The run was charged to Percival but it didn’t impact the outcome. The Cardinals won, 11-7. Percival was credited with the win in a scorer’s decision for his successful rescue effort in the fourth. Boxscore

Bolstering a Cardinals bullpen that included closer Jason Isringhausen and setup reliever Ryan Franklin, Percival contributed a 3-0 record and 1.80 ERA in 34 appearances for the 2007 Cardinals. Granted free agency after the season, Percival signed with the Rays and finished his career with them in 2008 and 2009.

In July 2014, Percival was named head coach of the baseball team at University of California, Riverside. Percival was a catcher at UC Riverside for three seasons before he was drafted by the Angels after his junior year. After one season as a catcher in the Angels’ farm system, Percival converted to pitching.

Previously: The story of how the Cardinals acquired Lee Smith

Previously: Trevor Rosenthal: 1st Cardinal younger than 30 to save 40

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Rescued from the minors and given the chance for a final fling with the franchise he rooted for as a boy in Illinois, T.J. Mathews delivered his longest and most impressive big-league performance for the Cardinals.

tj_mathewsOn Sept. 9, 2001, Mathews pitched 4.1 flawless innings of relief for the Cardinals and got the win in an 8-1 St. Louis victory over the Dodgers at Busch Stadium II. Mathews retired all 13 batters he faced, striking out five.

Fourteen years later, on April 30, 2015, Carlos Villanueva pitched 3.2 perfect innings of relief for the Cardinals and got the win in a 9-3 St. Louis victory over the Phillies at Busch Stadium III. Villanueva became the first Cardinals reliever to work 3.2 innings or more without allowing a base runner since Mathews shut down the Dodgers. Boxscore

Baseball pedigree

Mathews, a Belleville, Ill., native, grew up as a Cardinals fan. His father, Nelson Mathews, had been an outfielder with the Cubs and Athletics in the 1960s. In 1992, T.J. Mathews was selected in the 36th round of the amateur draft by the Cardinals.

A right-hander, Mathews debuted with the Cardinals in 1995 and pitched effectively for them in relief. On July 31, 1997, Mathews was one of three players traded by the Cardinals to the Athletics for first baseman Mark McGwire.

Four years later, on June 22, 2001, Mathews, 31, was released by the Athletics. The Cardinals signed him two weeks later. After three appearances for St. Louis, Mathews was sent to Class AAA Memphis. In September, when the minor league seasons ended and big-league rosters expanded, the Cardinals brought him back.

Postseason quest

On Sept. 9, 2001, the Cardinals entered the day tied for second place with the Cubs in the National League Central Division at 77-64, 5.5 games behind the Astros. With 21 games remaining, the Cardinals needed a strong finish to have a chance at earning a postseason berth as either division champion or the wild-card entry.

Matt Morris, seeking his 20th win, was the Cardinals’ starter that Sunday afternoon against the Dodgers. After an inning, the game was halted by rain. The delay lasted two hours and four minutes.

Morris wanted to continue. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, concerned the long delay could hamper Morris’ ability to properly loosen his arm, sent Luther Hackman to pitch the second.

“That was a real tough decision,” La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Morris: “When they make a decision that benefits your future, you can’t really complain.”

Hackman pitched a scoreless second. In the third, with the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, Hackman lost command. With one on and two outs, he walked three consecutive batters, forcing in a run and enabling the Dodgers to get within a run, 2-1.

La Russa lifted Hackman and brought in Mathews to face Adrian Beltre with the bases loaded. Mathews got Beltre to fly out, ending the threat.

Untouchable

Mathews retired the Dodgers in order in the fourth through seventh innings. He was lifted for a pinch hitter with the Cardinals ahead, 7-1. Mike James and Mike Timlin mopped up, pitching an inning apiece. Boxscore

Mathews got the win, the last of his 32 in an eight-year major-league career. The win also was his first since 2000 with the Athletics and his first as a Cardinal since 1997.

“He’s hard (for batters) to pick up,” said Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny. “Even catching him is tough. The ball comes right out of his jersey. His release point is kind of funny.”

Said Mathews: “Somebody had to go out and give us some innings. I thought maybe I’d go three at the most. After that third one, I thought, ‘Aw, what the heck.’

“I haven’t thrown that much since I was in the starting rotation in (Class AAA) Louisville in ’95. I wasn’t tired. When you get outs early, you can stay out there a little bit longer.”

Said La Russa to the Associated Press: “It’s kind of hard to believe he could throw that many pitches and keep his effectiveness.”

The win by Mathews sparked a stretch in which the Cardinals won 16 of their last 21 games, tying the Astros for first place in the NL Central at 93-69 and qualifying for the postseason as the wild-card entry.

Mathews became a free agent after the season and signed with the Astros. His 2002 season with Houston would be his last in the big leagues.

Previously: Deal for Woody Williams sparked 2001 Cardinals

Previously: Matt Morris close to perfect at home in 2001

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On the field, pitcher Bob Gibson and center fielder Curt Flood were all-star players who exceled for a Cardinals club that won two World Series titles and three National League pennants in the 1960s. Off the field, Gibson and Flood were road roommates and confidantes.

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson called Flood “my best friend in baseball.”

On May 4, 2015, Flood joined Gibson as a member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Flood was elected along with catcher Ted Simmons, pitcher Bob Forsch and instructor George Kissell. Gibson is a charter member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

In 12 years (1958-69) with the Cardinals, Flood batted .293 (1,853 hits in 1,738 games) and three times led the NL in singles. He also won the Gold Glove Award seven times and was named an all-star three times.

“Curt Flood was more than my best friend on the ballclub,” Gibson said in his book. “To me, he personified what the Cardinals were all about. As a man and teammate, he was smart, funny, sensitive and, most of all, unique. As a ballplayer, he was resourceful, dedicated and very, very good.”

After being traded by the Cardinals to the Phillies in October 1969, Flood refused to report and challenged baseball’s reserve clause, opening the path to free agency for players.

“As Flood’s suit made the judicial circuit, Curt waited it out in Copenhagen, Denmark,” Gibson recalled. “I received long, philosophical letters from him every now and then. I missed him.

“At the ballpark, I missed Flood in center field, where his remarkable catches would often bring his cynical teammates to the top step of the dugout in applause. But I also missed his discussions about the latest works of (writer) James Baldwin and I missed his play on words. When, for instance, he took his place in the outfield between Stan Musial and Minnie Minoso, he referred to the alignment as Old Taylor and Ancient Age with a little Squirt for a chaser.

“I especially missed him as a roommate. By that time, Curt and I understood each other so well that we no longer had to talk to communicate.”

Regarding Flood’s self-sacrifice in challenging the reserve clause and, by so doing, shortening his playing career, Gibson said in his 1994 book, “The modern player has gotten fat from the efforts of Curt Flood and has returned him no gratitude or any other form of appreciation.

“I’ve often thought of what an appropriate and decent thing it would be if every player in the major leagues turned over 1 percent of his paycheck just one time to Curt Flood. They certainly owe him that much and more.”

gibson_jackson_flood

 

Previously: George Crowe was Cardinals mentor to Curt Flood

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It is fitting that pitcher Bob Forsch and catcher Ted Simmons were elected together for induction in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Forsch and Simmons, elected on May 4, 2015, along with outfielder Curt Flood and instructor George Kissell, formed an iconic Cardinals pitcher-catcher battery from 1974-80.

Simmons, by far, caught more of Forsch’s games than any other catcher.

Forsch pitched in 498 regular-season games. Simmons was his catcher in 181 of those, according to baseball-reference.com. (The catcher who caught Forsch the next-most was Darrell Porter at 85.)

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

On April 16, 1978, Simmons was the catcher when Forsch pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies at St. Louis. Simmons also contributed two hits in four at-bats and scored a run in a 5-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

In his book “Tales from the Cardinals Dugout,” Forsch said of Simmons, “Teddy Simmons was my catcher, but we also became really good friends. We drove down to the ballpark together for every home game. So I may be prejudiced, but I think Teddy’s been slighted for the (National Baseball) Hall of Fame. Without a doubt.

“The thing that really impressed me about Teddy Simmons … he never, ever asked for a day off. Never. He just wouldn’t do it.”

 

simmons_forsch

 

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

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