Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

After more than a decade with the Cubs as one of the premier shortstops in the National League, Don Kessinger joined the rival Cardinals and stabilized the position until a phenom was ready to take over.

don_kessingerForty years ago, on Oct. 28, 1975, the Cardinals acquired Kessinger from the Cubs for reliever Mike Garman and a player to be named (minor-league infielder Bobby Hrapmann.)

Shortstop had become a weakness since the Cardinals dealt Dal Maxvill to the Athletics in August 1972. The Cardinals had tried an array of shortstops, including Ray Busse, Mario Guerrero, Ed Brinkman and Mike Tyson, but none excelled.

The Cardinals had selected a high school shortstop, Garry Templeton, in the first round of the 1974 draft and saw him as the solution to their problem.

In the meantime, they hoped Kessinger, 33, could hold down the position while Templeton developed in the minor-league system.

Cardinals country

Kessinger, an Arkansas native, had been a baseball and basketball standout at the University of Mississippi. “I used to listen to (Cardinals) games on radio and (Stan) Musial was my favorite,” Kessinger told The Sporting News.

He signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1964 and debuted with them that year. Kessinger, possessing a strong arm and wide range, was a six-time NL all-star with the Cubs and twice (1969 and ’70) was a winner of the NL Gold Glove Award.

By September 1975, though, the Cubs were looking to rebuild with younger players. Published speculation was the Cubs would trade Kessinger.

Teams expressing the most interest were the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves. The Yankees were reported to be offering reliever Sparky Lyle and the Cardinals were said to be offering pitcher John Curtis.

Before the season ended, Kessinger _ “acting for all the world like a displaced person,” The Sporting News wrote _ sold his house in suburban Chicago.

“I can do more to help a club now than ever before … I’ve taken care of myself and now is the time to reap the benefits from that,” Kessinger said. “I know that I’m still able to do anything on the field that I ever did. I don’t smoke, drink or run around.”

Infield shifts

Tyson had been the primary shortstop for the 1975 Cardinals. He replaced Brinkman, an American League veteran who couldn’t adjust to the artificial surface at Busch Stadium.

After acquiring Kessinger, the Cardinals traded second baseman Ted Sizemore to the Dodgers and decided to shift Tyson from shortstop to second.

During spring training in 1976, Cardinals instructor George Kissell helped Tyson adapt to his new role.

“We wanted Mike Tyson down early (in spring training) as the new second baseman so that he could get used to working with Kessinger,” Kissell said. “It’s easier for Kessinger to get used to Tyson than it is for Tyson to get used to Kessinger.”

Said manager Red Schoendienst: “If we can catch the ball, we can win.”

Fielding woes

Unfortunately for Schoendienst, the Cardinals fumbled a lot _ and lost.

Meanwhile, Templeton, 20, was establishing himself as a force. Like Kessinger, a switch-hitter, Templeton batted .321 for manager Ken Boyer at Class AAA Tulsa in 1976. He produced 142 hits in 106 games, with 24 doubles, 15 triples and 25 stolen bases.

On Aug. 9, 1976, the Cardinals called up Templeton from Tulsa and placed him in the starting lineup at shortstop. With Tyson injured, Kessinger moved to second base, a position he hadn’t played since college.

Boyer endorsed the promotion of Templeton. “I’d pay to see him play,” Boyer said.

The 1976 Cardinals committed 174 errors. Only the Giants had more errors that season among NL clubs. The Cardinals finished 72-90.

Hector Cruz, who had replaced the smooth-fielding Ken Reitz at third, had 26 errors for the 1976 Cardinals. Templetom made 24 errors in 53 games at shortstop.

Kessinger also committed 24 errors _ 18 in 113 games at shortstop and six in 31 games at second base.

Batting primarily in the No. 2 spot in the order, Kessinger hit .239 overall, with 22 doubles and 120 hits in 145 games. He was better as the No. 8 batter (.290 in 33 games) than he was in the No. 2 spot (.230 in 74 games).

Changes and transactions

After the 1976 season, Schoendienst was fired and replaced by Vern Rapp, who in 1977 started Templeton at shortstop, Tyson at second base and moved Kessinger to a utility role.

In 59 games, including 16 starts at second base and 13 starts at shortstop, Kessinger again hit .239 for the 1977 Cardinals before he was traded in August to the White Sox for minor-league pitcher Steve Staniland.

Two years later, Kessinger was named player-manager of the 1979 White Sox. He was fired in August (with a 46-60 record) and replaced by a rookie big-league manager named Tony La Russa.

Previously: How Bee Bee Richard became Cards’ starting shortstop

Previously: Garry Templeton broke Cardinals string of poor top picks

Previously: Why Ed Brinkman wasn’t shortstop savior for Cardinals

Previously: Cardinals gambled, lost with Ray Busse at shortstop

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Randy Wiles was the pitcher the Cardinals traded to acquire Tony La Russa.

randy_wilesIn a deal made with the intention of jump-starting a pair of stalled minor-league careers, the Cardinals sent Wiles to the White Sox in exchange for La Russa on Dec. 15, 1976.

From there, the careers of the two players took different paths.

La Russa played one season as an infielder in the Cardinals system before beginning a long and successful second career as a manager, including 16 years (1996-2011) with St. Louis. His two World Series titles, three National League pennants and a franchise-leading 1,408 wins with the Cardinals helped get him elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wiles, a left-hander, pitched briefly with the White Sox in 1977, got traded back to the Cardinals after the season and was out of baseball by the end of 1978.

His death on Sept. 15, 2015, at age 64 prompted me to research his story and tell it here.

Good potential

Randy Wiles was selected by the Cardinals in the fifth round of the 1973 draft after earning all-Southeastern Conference honors at Louisiana State University.

He was drafted just ahead of another pitcher, LaMarr Hoyt, who went on to become a big-league all-star.

In his first two seasons in the Cardinals’ system, Wiles established himself as a prospect with big-league potential.

He spent 1973 with the Gulf Coast Cardinals (managed by Ken Boyer) and Class A St. Petersburg, posting a 2.81 ERA in 16 games.

In 1974, Wiles had one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the Cardinals organization, with eight wins and a 2.56 ERA in 30 games at Class AA Arkansas. Wiles won seven of his last eight decisions, yielding two runs for the month of August.

“Everything just clicked,” Wiles told The Sporting News. “I was consistent every time out.”

Reverse course

Wiles opened the 1975 season at Class AAA Tulsa, playing again for Boyer. Instead of positioning himself for a promotion to the big leagues, Wiles took a step back, posting a 5.92 ERA in 11 games.

“I was so inconsistent … I couldn’t keep the ball down,” said Wiles.

The Cardinals demoted him to Arkansas. Dejected, Wiles was 4-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 12 games for the Class AA club.

“I probably had an attitude problem when I was sent down to Arkansas from Tulsa,” Wiles said. “I tried to shake it, but I couldn’t. I gained a lot of weight, too. I wasn’t in shape.”

At spring training in 1976, Wiles pitched well. “I had the best spring I’ve ever had,” he said. “I gave up only one run. Ken Boyer said I would be with him (at Tulsa).”

Instead, the Cardinals sent Wiles to Arkansas. The Cardinals had signed a batch of former big-league pitchers _ Lloyd Allen, Roric Harrison, Lerrin LaGrow and Harry Parker _ and assigned them to Tulsa, leaving no spots available for Wiles.

Relying primarily on a fastball and slider, Wiles rebounded, with a 2.72 ERA in 21 games for Arkansas. “He should be in Tulsa,” said Arkansas manager Jack Krol. “He just got caught up in the numbers game this year. The organization is still high on him. He’s a good pitcher.”

Wiles did get promoted to Tulsa during the 1976 season and, reunited with Boyer, had a 3.90 ERA in 12 games.

Minor deal

After the season, his fourth in the Cardinals system, Wiles, 25, was traded to the White Sox for La Russa, who had batted .259 at Class AAA Iowa in 1976.

La Russa, 32, no longer was considered a big-league prospect, but he appealed to the Cardinals as a player-coach who could mentor infielders such as Jim Riggleman and Ken Oberkfell at Class AAA New Orleans.

“He was kind of looking out for me a little bit,” Riggleman said in the book, “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission.” “He became like a big brother to me. He gave me a lot of advice and you knew there was a lot of respect for him among the players.”

The White Sox sent Wiles to Iowa for the 1977 season. In August, seeking a left-handed reliever, the White Sox promoted Wiles to the big leagues.

Wiles appeared in five games for Chicago, with a 1-1 record and 10.12 ERA. After two weeks with the White Sox, Wiles was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cardinals, who sent him to join La Russa in New Orleans.

After the season, the Cardinals traded Wiles again _ to the Astros for minor-league pitcher Ron Selak, a former Cardinals prospect who had been selected by St. Louis three rounds ahead of Wiles in the 1973 draft.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals talked with La Russa about becoming manager of their rookie league club at Johnson City, Tenn. Though flattered, La Russa said he’d rather seek a position at a higher level of the minor leagues.

In 1978, Wiles, 27, pitched his final season of professional baseball, with the Astros’ Class AAA club in Charleston, W.Va. La Russa launched his career as a manager that season, with the Class AA Knoxville affiliate of the White Sox. A year later, La Russa, 34, became White Sox manager.

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

Previously: Tony La Russa and the night he got to be No. 3

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Because of the rate at which he strikes out batters, Alex Reyes clearly is a special talent. That’s why he’s my choice as the top prospect in the Cardinals’ organization.

Members of the United Cardinal Bloggers were invited to rate the top seven Cardinals prospects. For this exercise, I define a prospect as a player who hasn’t appeared in the big leagues.

My selections:


alex_reyesIn 22 combined starts for Springfield, Palm Beach and the Gulf Coast Cardinals during 2015, Reyes, 21, struck out 151 in 101.1 innings pitched. The right-hander had a 2.49 ERA.

Reyes’ rise to the top among Cardinals prospects is a story of perseverance. He wasn’t selected by any team in the amateur draft. The Cardinals signed him as a free agent in 2012 after he was graduated from Elizabeth (N.J.) High School.


The right-handed pitcher was 8-5 with a 1.62 ERA in 19 starts for Palm Beach in 2015. Weaver, 22, allowed two home runs in 105.1 innings pitched.

Unlike Reyes, Weaver was highly touted. The Cardinals chose him in the first round of the 2014 draft after a stellar college career at Florida State.


The shortstop appears to be the heir apparent to Cardinals veteran Jhonny Peralta.

Diaz, 25, had 118 hits in 116 games combined for Springfield and Memphis in 2015. He produced 28 doubles and 13 home runs.

The native Cuban signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals as a free agent in 2014.


An outfielder and left-handed batter, Tilson, 22, has the potential to thrill fans and ignite an offense. At Springfield in 2015, Tilson batted .295 with 46 stolen bases. He had 159 hits in 134 games and an impressive .351 on-base percentage.

Tilson, a second-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2011 draft, also is a splendid defensive outfielder.


The left-handed pitcher was an ace for Peoria in 2015. In 22 starts, Gomber, 21, was 15-3 with a 2.67 ERA, striking out 140 in 135 innings.

The former Florida Atlantic University standout was a fourth-round choice of the Cardinals in the 2014 draft.


After being named Cardinals 2014 minor league player of the year, Sierra, 19, experienced some struggles at Johnson City and Peoria in 2015. Still, the outfielder produced 102 hits in 104 games, with 19 stolen bases.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Sierra was signed as a free agent by the Cardinals in 2012.


The infielder is an explosive base runner. With Peoria in 2015, Mercado, 20, had 120 hits in 117 games, with 50 stolen bases. He has 88 steals in three years in the St. Louis system since being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft.

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Rogers Hornsby was a 19-year-old scrawny shortstop from Texas when he was promoted from the lowest levels of the minor leagues to the Cardinals 100 years ago.

rogers_hornsby5Spurned by his teammates and intimidated by big-league cities, Hornsby seemed more outcast and misfit than elite prospect when he left the Class D Denison Railroaders of the Western Association and joined the Cardinals in Cincinnati on Sept. 3, 1915.

At 135 pounds, Hornsby appeared ill-equipped to handle power pitching in the big leagues. Cardinals manager Miller Huggins feared the rookie lacked the strength to generate enough bat speed.

Thus began the Cardinals career of the player who would develop into one of the all-time best hitters in the game.

Big break

Determined to become a professional ballplayer, Hornsby quit high school in Fort Worth and landed a spot with a minor-league club in Hugo, Okla. When the franchise folded, his contract was sold to the team in Denison, Texas.

During spring training in 1915, a Cardinals “B squad” club of prospects and reserves played an exhibition game against the Denison team.

In the book, “My War With Baseball,” Hornsby said, “It was my big break.”

Hornsby impressed Cardinals scout Bob Connery, who tracked the shortstop throughout the season.

The 1915 Cardinals were strapped for cash, especially after fighting the upstart Federal League’s efforts to woo players, and tended to seek inexpensive prospects from low-rung outposts rather than compete financially for top talent from the highest levels of the minor leagues.

Connery recommended Hornsby to the Cardinals. In August 1915, Roy Finley, president of the Denison team, agreed to sell Hornsby’s contract to the Cardinals for $600.

“They told me to meet the Cardinals in Cincinnati (where the club was playing the Reds on Sept. 3),” Hornsby said. “I had never been north before, let alone a big city like Cincinnati.”

Toughen up

When Hornsby arrived, he was a stranger to a team whose veterans saw him as a threat to take someone’s job.

“You didn’t have a bunch of coaches helping the rookies,” Hornsby said. “You had to scratch for everything you got. The veterans on the teams were so jealous of their jobs that most of them wouldn’t give you the time of day.”

In his first week with the Cardinals, Hornsby watched the games from the bench. He looked forward to batting practice, but sometimes was blocked by the veterans. When the club was in St. Louis, Connery was there and he pitched to Hornsby after games.

On Sept. 10, 1915, the Cardinals were playing the Reds at Robison Field in St. Louis. With the Reds ahead, 7-0, in the sixth, manager Miller Huggins sent Hornsby into the game to replace shortstop Art Butler.

Hornsby went 0-for-2 against King Lear, who pitched a three-hitter in the Reds’ 7-1 victory. Boxscore

Huggins approached Hornsby after the game and said, “They throw a lot harder in the majors than Class D and you don’t have the strength to get the bat around. Try choking up on the bat.”

Fitting in

Hornsby followed his manager’s suggestion.

Four days later, on Sept. 14, Hornsby appeared in his third game, starting at shortstop and batting eighth against the Dodgers at St. Louis. Facing Rube Marquard (who, like Hornsby, would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame), Hornsby got his first Cardinals hit, a single.

Hornsby was 2-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt in the game, a 6-2 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

In 18 games with the 1915 Cardinals, Hornsby had 14 hits, batting .246.

Milking his chance

Before Hornsby went home to Texas for the winter, Huggins told him, “I think I’m going to have to farm you out for next year.”

In his book, Hornsby related, “I was just a country boy … so I took him at his word. I thought he meant a real farm and go to work. So I went down to my aunt and uncle’s farm at Lockhart, Texas, and went to work. I also drank all the milk I could and tried to put on some weight.”

When Hornsby reported to spring training in 1916, he was a strapping 160 pounds. Huggins told him to go back to gripping the bat at the knob. Hornsby performed so well that Huggins kept him on the Opening Day roster and started him at shortstop before eventually shifting him to third base.

Hornsby was in the big leagues to stay. Second base became his primary position and hitting was his special skill.

Hornsby went on to win seven National League batting titles (six with the Cardinals). He twice won the Triple Crown (leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI) and twice won the NL Most Valuable Player Award.

His .358 career batting average is best all-time for a right-handed batter and rates second overall to Ty Cobb’s .366.

Hornsby hit .359 with the Cardinals. He has the most career hits by a Cardinals right-handed batter (2,110). The only players with more hits as Cardinals are left-handers Stan Musial (3,630) and Lou Brock (2,713).

Previously: Rogers Hornsby tops Albert Pujols among Cards’ best

Previously: Rogers Hornsby raised bar for second basemen

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Put at ease by management and welcomed by teammates, including those he might replace, Ray Lankford quickly felt at home with the Cardinals and delivered a stellar performance in his big-league debut.

ray_lankford6Twenty-five years ago, on Aug. 21, 1990, Lankford, 23, went 2-for-4 with a RBI, a run scored and a stolen base against future Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz of the Braves in his first game with the Cardinals.

Batting sixth and starting in center field, Lankford singled in his first at-bat _ a soft line drive to center in the second inning _ and swiped second base.

In the eighth, Lankford doubled into the right-field corner off Smoltz with two outs, driving in Todd Zeile from second, and scored on a single by Rex Hudler.

“I did a little bit of everything,” Lankford said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’m happy. I couldn’t have asked for much more.” Boxscore

Top prospect

Lankford was selected by the Cardinals in the third round of the 1987 amateur draft. He and another well-regarded Cardinals outfield prospect, Bernard Gilkey, became friends and were road roommates with the 1990 Class AAA Louisville farm club.

With Willie McGee eligible to become a free agent after the 1990 season, speculation was rampant that Lankford would replace McGee as the St. Louis center fielder in 1991.

“When he plays hard, he’s awesome,” Gilkey said of Lankford to Mike Eisenbath of the Post-Dispatch. “… He reminds me of Kal Daniels of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he plays better defense and he runs better (than Daniels). His style is like Daniels and he’s built like Willie Mays.”

One of the few to cast doubts about Lankford was Whitey Herzog. After abruptly quitting as Cardinals manager in July 1990, Herzog remained with the club as a vice president.

“You can talk about prospects all you want, but if you and I are hitting .270 at Louisville … those aren’t good credentials to take Willie McGee’s job,” a cranky Herzog said of Lankford to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Herzog was sent in August to scout Cardinals prospects. The Post-Dispatch’s Dan O’Neill reported that Herzog said in a Louisville radio interview that his opinions on Cardinals prospects “might not be the same” as those of director of player development Ted Simmons. Herzog concluded Lankford could benefit from another season at Class AAA.

No war zone

Disregarding Herzog’s advice, the Cardinals called up Lankford on Aug. 20, 1990. He was batting .260 for Louisville, but he had a .362 on-base percentage, with 25 doubles, 72 RBI, 30 stolen bases, 72 walks and 123 hits in 132 games.

After reporting to Busch Stadium on Aug. 21, Lankford met with Simmons, manager Joe Torre and instructor George Kissell in Torre’s office.

“Teddy told him he wasn’t going to Vietnam,” Torre related. “This isn’t war here. Just go out and have a good time.”

Torre met with the Cardinals’ starting outfielders _ McGee, Vince Coleman and Milt Thompson _ and explained to them he would start Lankford in center and move McGee to right, putting Thompson (who was batting .219) on the bench.

Torre admitted he wanted Lankford to play center “in the event McGee’s not here next year. We want to get him used to the bigger outfield here (at Busch Stadium).”

One of the first to greet Lankford in the clubhouse was Thompson. “I just have to keep my head up and keep working hard,” Thompson said to the Post-Dispatch.

McGee and Coleman also were friendly to Lankford.

“Willie and Vince are both great players and I’m not here to take any jobs away,” Lankford said.

McGee said he hadn’t played right field since attending Diablo Valley College in California.

Asked his reaction to being moved from center to right, McGee said, “I’m the employee. I do what I’m told.”

Let loose

Lankford batted .400 (6-for-15) in his first four games for the Cardinals.

“We’ll baby Lankford a little bit, but we want to get a good read on him so we know what to expect,” Torre said.

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, endorsed the decision to play Lankford.

“The Cardinals need to turn Lankford loose, let him flail away at big-league pitching,” Miklasz wrote. “… Lankford can’t be held back. Stunting his progress at this stage is counterproductive.”

On Aug. 29, 1990, the Cardinals traded McGee to the Athletics for outfielder Felix Jose, infielder Stan Royer and minor-league pitcher Daryl Green.

In 39 games with the 1990 Cardinals, Lankford hit .286 with 10 doubles, eight stolen bases and a .353 on-base percentage.

After getting the chance to see Lankford, Gilkey and Jose play in the big leagues in September 1990, the Cardinals made that trio their regular outfield in 1991.

Previously: Ray Lankford did what Mays, Mantle could not

Previously: Ray Lankford found redemption in 5-strikeout game

Previously: How Ray Lankford made a surprise Cardinals comeback

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Joe DiFabio had the credentials one would expect from an elite Cardinals prospect.

joe_difabioIn high school, he was mentored by a coach who would become one of the best in his profession. In college, DiFabio sharpened his skills playing for a coach who had excelled as a pitcher in the big leagues.

As a professional, though, DiFabio wasn’t quite good enough to pitch for the Cardinals.

Fifty years ago, on June 8, 1965, in the first amateur draft held by big-league baseball, the Cardinals made DiFabio their original No. 1 pick.

A right-handed pitcher, DiFabio achieved success at multiple levels of the Cardinals’ minor-league system, but never pitched a game in the majors.

Impressive resume

DiFabio developed into a standout pitcher at Cranford High School in New Jersey. His coach was Hubie Brown, who also was the assistant basketball coach. After leaving Cranford, Brown built a long career in basketball. He twice was named NBA Coach of the Year and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

After graduating from high school, DiFabio continued his baseball career at Delta State in Mississippi. Boo Ferriss was the baseball coach there. Ferriss had pitched for the Red Sox. In 1946, he had a 25-6 record for Boston and was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the World Series against the Cardinals.

In 1965, his junior year at Delta State, DiFabio was 7-0 with an 0.55 ERA. He struck out 97 in 65 innings. He pitched three one-hitters and yielded 28 hits all season.

Buddy Lewis, a former third baseman and outfielder for the Senators, scouted DiFabio for the Cardinals. Lewis knew what it took to play in the majors. He recommended DiFabio to the Cardinals.

First choice

Until 1965, an amateur player could sign with any big-league organization that made an offer. That changed when Major League Baseball started a draft of amateur players.

As defending champions, the Cardinals chose last among the 20 big-league clubs in the first round. Several teams had shown interest in DiFabio. When he was available at the end of the first round, the Cardinals took him.

Signed at the end of June, DiFabio, 20, was sent by the Cardinals to their Class AA Tulsa team in the Texas League. Playing for manager Vern Rapp, DiFabio made seven appearances and was 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA. The Cardinals ordered him to improve his physical conditioning before the 1966 season.

“He’s about 5-foot-10 and weighed over 220,” Chief Bender, the Cardinals’ farm director, told The Sporting News.

DiFabio got his weight down to about 197 pounds in 1966, Bender said. Pitching for Class A Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League, DiFabio was 11-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 17 starts for manager Ron Plaza.

“He had a good year at Cedar Rapids after he was unable to get in shape in 1965,” Bender said.

In 1968, DiFabio had another good year. At Class AA Arkansas of the Texas League, he was 13-6 with a 2.17 ERA in 24 starts for Rapp.

At a crossroads

Meanwhile, pitchers such as Steve Carlton, Nellie Briles and Larry Jaster _ all of whom had been signed by the Cardinals as amateur free agents in the years before a draft  _ were advancing through the organization and receiving promotions to St. Louis.

Major League Baseball expanded from 20 to 24 teams in 1969, opening opportunities for more players to get into the big leagues, but no one chose DiFabio.

Entering the 1970 season, his sixth in the Cardinals’ system, DiFabio, 25, told The Sporting News, “I know I can win in the Texas League, but I’ve got to find out if I can pitch in the majors … I’ll have to make it to the big leagues soon or get out of baseball.”

Assigned to Arkansas in 1970, DiFabio was 10-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 26 games for manager Ken Boyer. Still, the Cardinals didn’t call.

After the 1970 season, DiFabio and the Cardinals parted ways. He signed with the Reds organization. In 1971, pitching for Rapp at Class AAA Indianapolis, DiFabio was 0-2 with a 15.00 ERA in two starts. He was finished as a professional ballplayer.

In seven minor-league seasons (1965-71), DiFabio was 45-34 with a 3.28 ERA.

Impressively, DiFabio had continued his education in the off-seasons, earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Delta State.

Dandies and duds

Of the 20 selections in the first round of the 1965 draft, seven didn’t play in the major leagues.

The Cardinals chose 60 players in the 1965 draft. Six reached the major leagues and just one of those _ pitcher Harry Parker, a fourth-round pick _ played for the Cardinals.

The other five Cardinals 1965 draft picks who got to the big leagues: pitcher Dan McGinn, 21st round; pitcher Jerry Robertson, 27th round; shortstop Rich Hacker, 39th round; pitcher Pete Hamm, 41st round; and second baseman John Sipin, 55th round. Hacker also was a Cardinals coach on the staff of manager Whitey Herzog from 1986-90.

Like DiFabio, neither the Cardinals’ 1965 second-round choice, first baseman Terry Milani, nor their third-round selection, outfielder Billy Wolff, played in the big leagues.

Previously: Harry Parker: Best selection of Cardinals first draft

Previously: The story of how Ted Simmons became a Cardinal

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