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In 2000, Edgar Renteria established the Cardinals single-season record for most home runs hit by a shortstop. In 2014, Jhonny Peralta is likely to top that mark.

edgar_renteria5Peralta, in his first season as the Cardinals’ shortstop, entered the 2014 All-Star Game break with 14 home runs.

Renteria, in his second season as the Cardinals’ shortstop, hit 16 homers in 2000. Those are the most home runs hit by a Cardinals shortstop in a season since Solly Hemus slugged a career-best 15 in 1952.

During spring training in 2000, Renteria told Marlins manager John Boles he intended to hit 20 home runs for the Cardinals. Tony La Russa, the Cardinals’ manager, flinched when he heard Renteria’s remark, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa wanted Renteria focused on hitting for average, not power.

Renteria did both. He led the 2000 Cardinals in hits (156), doubles (32) and stolen bases (21). He batted .278 and was second on the club in RBI (76), behind only Jim Edmonds (108). Renteria was named to the National League Silver Slugger team, the first Cardinals shortstop to have done so since Ozzie Smith in 1987.

Record rocket

On Aug. 29, 2000, Renteria hit a solo home run off Marlins rookie Chuck Smith. It broke Hemus’ club record and was Renteria’s last home run of the season.

“I think that was the only mistake (Smith) made the whole game,” Renetria told the Post-Dispatch.

Said La Russa: “He’s been the complete shortstop. You can’t ask for any more than he’s done.” Boxscore

Many of Renteria’s home runs in 2000 came in bunches.

He hit a home run in each of three consecutive games from April 9-11. Those blasts came off Valerio de los Santos of the Brewers and the Astros’ Jose Lima and Doug Henry.

Renteria also hit home runs in back-to-back games against the Giants’ Russ Ortiz and Kirk Rueter on May 9-10.

Hungry hitters

Renteria, a right-handed batter, contributed to a homer-happy 2000 Cardinals team that ranked second in the National League in home runs at 235, trailing only the Astros (249). Nine Cardinals in 2000 hit 12 homers or more, led by Edmonds (42) and Mark McGwire (32).

“All these guys are coming to home plate hungry,” Cardinals hitting coach Mike Easler said to the Post-Dispatch. “That’s what I like about it. They’re never satisfied with the at-bat before. The next at-bat is always like their last one. Their intensity at home plate is much higher than last year.”

Renteria, who turned 24 in 2000, hit 12 of his 16 home runs on the road. Eleven of the 16 were struck versus right-handed pitchers. Ten were solo shots.

The 16 home runs in 2000 were Renteria’s single-season high in 16 major-league seasons. He hit 140 homers in the big leagues, 71 in six seasons (1999-2004) with the Cardinals.

Previously: Edgar Renteria had epic season at shortstop for 2003 Cardinals

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For Bob Gibson, a win was more important than a record.

bob_gibson17Forty years ago, Gibson became the first National League pitcher to achieve 3,000 career strikeouts. On July 17, 1974, the Cardinals right-hander struck out the Reds’ Cesar Geronimo to become the second big-league pitcher to strike out 3,000 batters.

Walter Johnson of the Senators struck out 3,509 from 1907-1927.

Gibson, 38, achieved his milestone by getting Geronimo to strike out on a high fastball to end the second inning. The crowd of 28,743 at Busch Stadium II in St. Louis gave Gibson a lengthy standing ovation. As he neared the Cardinals dugout, he doffed his cap to the appreciative fans.

With Tim McCarver catching on that Wednesday night, Gibson recorded three more strikeouts, including Johnny Bench and Geronimo again, before being lifted for pinch-hitter Luis Melendez in the seventh with the score tied at 4-4. The Reds won, 6-4, in 12 innings.

Pensive occasion

Afterward, reporters discovered Gibson had departed quickly and wasn’t available to talk about his achievement.

In his book “Stranger to the Game” (1994, Viking), Gibson wrote, “It wasn’t a grand occasion. I was taken out in the (seventh) for a pinch-hitter and we lost the game.”

Gibson yielded 4 runs and 10 hits, walking 2.

“I thought he was getting a little tired,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the Associated Press in explaining why he removed Gibson. “He was also leading off the (seventh) inning and I thought we might get a run.” Boxscore

Adding to a pensive atmosphere, despite the milestone strikeout, was the news that Dizzy Dean, 64, had died that day. The Hall of Fame pitcher had held the Cardinals’ record for career strikeouts (1,095) until Gibson surpassed the mark. Gibson finished his Cardinals career with 3,117 strikeouts and remains the franchise’s leader in that category.

Geronimo struck out nine times in 21 career at-bats versus Gibson.

Big-name victims

The players who struck out the most against Gibson:

_ Willie Stargell, 41 strikeouts

_ Donn Clendenon, 37 strikeouts

_ Ron Santo, 35 strikeouts

_ Hank Aaron, 32 strikeouts

_ Roberto Clemente, 32 strikeouts

_ Tony Taylor, 32 strikeouts

The first big-league batter Gibson struck out was Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones of the Reds on July 30, 1959. Boxscore

Jim Pagliaroni of the Pirates was the 1,000th batter to strike out against Gibson and Clemente was the 2,000th batter to do so.

In 2014, Gibson ranks 14th on the all-time strikeout list, one ahead of Curt Schilling (3,116) and 37 behind the pitcher just ahead of him, Pedro Martinez (3,154).

Join the club

Ever since Bob Gibson joined Walter Johnson as the only pitchers to have 3,000 strikeouts, 14 others have achieved the feat. Here is the list of pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts:

_ Nolan Ryan, 5,714

_ Randy Johnson, 4,875

_ Roger Clemens, 4,672

_ Steve Carlton, 4,136

_ Bert Blyleven, 3,701

_ Tom Seaver, 3,640

_ Don Sutton, 3,574

_ Gaylord Perry, 3,534

_ Walter Johnson, 3,509

_ Greg Maddux, 3,371

_ Phil Niekro, 3,342

_ Ferguson Jenkins, 3,192

_ Pedro Martinez, 3,154

_ Bob Gibson, 3,117

_ Curt Schilling, 3,116

_ John Smoltz, 3,084

Previously: Slider was key to 15 wins in row for Bob Gibson in 1968

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Ozzie Smith and Matt Adams, opposites in size, shared at least one common trait: Both were able to drive in key runs for the Cardinals over a stretch of games.

ozzie_smith8Adams in 2014 became the first Cardinals player to deliver game-winning RBI in four consecutive games since Smith did so in 1988, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

A 6-foot-3, 260-pound first baseman, Adams primarily utilized power to produce his game winners in a stretch from June 13-16, 2014.

In three consecutive Cardinals wins over the Nationals at St. Louis from June 13-15, Adams hit a home run for the winning RBI in each game. The home runs were hit off Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister. The Cardinals won, 1-0, on June 13 Boxscore; 4-1 on June 14 Boxscore; and 5-2 on June 15. Boxscore

Adams snapped a 1-1 tie with a RBI-single off Jacob deGrom for the game-winning hit on June 16 in a 6-2 Cardinals victory over the Mets at St. Louis. Boxscore

Twenty-six years earlier, Smith used a very different combination of productive at-bats for his four consecutive game-winning RBI. A 5-foot-11, 150-pound shortstop, Smith had a bunt, but no home runs, among his game winners in a stretch from Sept. 8-11, 1988. Here’s what he did:

Cardinals 1, Phillies 0, at St. Louis, Sept. 8, 1988

The Cardinals had the bases loaded with two outs in the fifth inning when Smith came to bat against Phillies starter Kevin Gross. With the count at 3-and-2, Smith checked his swing and walked, forcing in Tony Pena from third base with the run. The Phillies appealed, saying Smith had swung and missed at strike three, but third-base umpire Steve Rippley upheld the call of home-plate umpire Fred Brocklander.

Phillies manager Lee Elia said Rippley blew the call.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog conceded to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “A lot of guys would have punched (Smith) out.” Boxscore

Cardinals 6, Cubs 2, at St. Louis, Sept. 9, 1988

With the Cubs ahead, 1-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the sixth. Facing starter Calvin Schiraldi, Smith said he was trying for a sacrifice fly. Instead, he doubled off the right-field wall, driving in Jose Oquendo and Greg Mathews and giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.

Deflecting attention away from himself, Smith credited Pedro Guerrero, whom the Cardinals acquired from the Dodgers on Aug. 16, with boosting the offense. Guerrero had three RBI in the game.

“We’re a different team now,” Smith said. “We’re doing a lot more things with our pitching and a lot more with our offense. The addition of one person (Guerrero) has stabilized our offense.” Boxscore

Cardinals 9, Cubs 3, at St. Louis, Sept. 10, 1988

With the score tied at 2-2, Tom Pagnozzi at second and two outs, Smith doubled to center off starter Rick Sutcliffe, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

“What you’re seeing now is something that didn’t happen in spring training,” Smith said. “We never jelled offensively. We’re settling in now.” Boxscore

Cardinals 3, Cubs 2, at St. Louis, Sept. 11, 1988

In the seventh inning, with the score tied at 2-2, Curt Ford was on third with one out. With Smith at the plate, Herzog called for the squeeze play. Smith executed, dropping a bunt to the right side of the infield. Ford dashed home with the go-ahead run. The only play for pitcher Mike Harkey, who fielded the ball, was to toss to second baseman Ryne Sandberg, covering first, to retire Smith.

“You just hope you get a decent pitch and you can put it in play,” Smith said of the bunt.

Asked about the four consecutive game-winning RBI, Smith told the Post-Dispatch, “It’s good to be in a position to say you got the record game-winning RBI, but the important thing is we won the game.” Boxscore

Smith finished the 1988 season with 51 RBI and was tied with Pena for third on the team, behind Tom Brunansky (79) and Terry Pendleton (53). The Cardinals ranked 11th in the 12-team National League in both RBI (536) and runs (578).

Previously: Intimidation: Ozzie Smith, Will Clark and the Battle at Busch

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(Updated July 2, 2014)

Solly Hemus had a knack for getting on base atop a Cardinals lineup stacked with Hall of Fame hitters. In 1953, Hemus was so adept at reaching base he established a record that was pursued in 2014 by Matt Holliday.

solly_hemusHolliday reached base safely in each of the first 30 Cardinals home games in 2014. He fell 3 games short of tying the franchise record held by Hemus, who reached base safely in the first 33 Cardinals home games in 1953.

Physically, Hemus was nothing like Holliday. A left-handed batter, Hemus was listed at 5 feet 9, 165 pounds in 1953. A right-handed batter, Holliday is listed at 6 feet 4, 250 pounds in 2014.

Yet, these Cardinals of different generations had this in common: Both wore uniform No. 7 for St. Louis and both could get on base often. In 11 big-league seasons, Hemus had an on-base percentage of .390. Holliday, in his 11th big-league season in 2014, has a career on-base percentage of .386.

Mighty Mouse

Eddie Stanky, manager of the 1953 Cardnals, described Hemus to The Sporting News as a batter who “worried pitchers” and “annoyed catchers.” Bob Broeg, longtime St. Louis baseball writer, tabbed Hemus as “Mighty Mouse.”

Usually batting first or second in a 1953 Cardinals lineup that included eventual Hall of Fame inductees Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, Hemus, a shortstop, ranked sixth in the National League that year in most times on base (261). The 1953 league leader in that category was Musial at 305.

Unlike Musial, Hemus didn’t bat for a high average. (Hemus hit .279 in 1953; Musial hit .337.) So Hemus depended on working walks and getting hit by pitches to boost his on-base percentage.

In his first 55 games overall in 1953, Hemus reached base 108 times _ 62 hits, 43 walks and 3 hit by pitches, including one that knocked him cold, The Sporting News reported.

Hemus led the National League in most times hit by pitches (12) in 1953, one of three times he led the league in that category.

Explaining why Hemus often was struck by pitches, Oscar Ruhl of The Sporting News wrote, “Hemus stands with his feet almost even with the plate and leans his arms far over it.”

Shortcomings at short

After reaching base safely _ by base hit, walk or hit by pitch _ in the first 33 Cardinals home games of 1953, Hemus had the streak snapped in the second game of a doubleheader versus the Phillies on June 27 at St. Louis. Hemus was 0-for-4 against Phillies pitchers Bob Miller and Andy Hansen. Though Hemus reached on an error by first baseman Earl Torgeson, that didn’t count toward the streak because it occurred as a result of a miscue. Boxscore

Hemus finished the 1953 season with 163 hits in 154 games and 86 walks. He scored 110 runs and achieved double figures in doubles (32), triples (11) and home runs (14).

Though a favorite of Stanky (who was 5 feet 8, 170 pounds and, in 11 big-league seasons as an infielder, produced a .410 on-base percentage), Hemus’ assets on offense couldn’t overcome his liabilities on defense.

“Hemus is handicapped by limited range and, though he has adhesive hands, his throwing arm isn’t top-grade either,” wrote Bob Broeg in The Sporting News.

Though better suited for second base than shortstop, Hemus couldn’t supplant Schoendienst at second. Instead, Hemus was replaced by Alex Grammas as the starting shortstop in 1954 and converted into a utility player for the Cardinals.

Previously: Why Bing Devine was forced to fire Fred Hutchinson

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Sixty years after Stan Musial became the first big-league player to hit five home runs in a doubleheader, only one other has matched the feat and no one has surpassed it.

musial_marisOn May 2, 1954, Musial hit three home runs in the Cardinals’ 10-6 victory in Game 1 and then clubbed two more in Game 2, a 9-7 victory for the Giants at Busch Stadium I in St. Louis.

Eighteen years later, on Aug. 1, 1972, Padres first baseman Nate Colbert, a St. Louis native, hit five home runs off five different pitchers in a doubleheader against the Braves at Atlanta.

Musial is the only left-handed batter to achieve the feat in the majors. Colbert is the only right-handed batter to do the same.

Although sluggers such as Roger Maris, Hank Aaron, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds have broken cherished single-season and career home records in the years since Musial hit five home runs in a doubleheader, the record likely will continue to endure because of the degree of difficulty and because the number of doubleheaders played each season has decreased significantly.

Move over, Babe

For instance, in 2001, when he hit a single-season record 73 home runs for the Giants, Bonds didn’t play in both games of any doubleheader. The previous record holder, Mark McGwire, played in both games of three doubleheaders in 1998 when he hit 70 home runs for the Cardinals. The most total home runs McGwire hit in a doubleheader that season were two versus the Mets on Aug. 20.

However, the longtime single-season and career home run leader, Babe Ruth, played in a lot of doubleheaders. So did Aaron and Maris. Only Maris came close to matching Musial’s feat.

In 1961, when he surpassed Ruth by hitting 61 home runs for the Yankees, Maris played in both games of 23 doubleheaders. On July 25 that season, he hit four home runs in a doubleheader against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. Maris hit two homers in Game 1 and two in Game 2. In his last at-bat of Game 2, with a chance to match Musial’s record, Maris grounded out to second base.

When Ruth hit 60 home runs for the 1927 Yankees, the most he had in a doubleheader were three against the Red Sox at Boston on Sept. 6. Ruth played in both games of a doubleheader 18 times that season. He also hit three home runs in a doubleheader, all in Game 1, on May 21, 1930, versus the Athletics at Philadelphia.

Aaron, who surpassed Ruth’s career mark of 714 by slugging 755 home runs, had a single-season best 47 home runs for the 1971 Braves. He played in both games of a doubleheader five times that year and his best total was one home run. The next year, Aaron played in both games of the doubleheader in which Colbert tied Musial’s record. Aaron didn’t hit any home runs that Tuesday night.

Musial hit well against all teams, but his run production was best versus the Giants; in part because of the short distances down the lines at the Polo Grounds in New York, home of the Giants before they moved to San Francisco in 1958.

Jolting the Giants

In 1954, Musial hit more home runs (12) and had more RBI (27) versus the Giants than he did against any other team. He batted .338 against the Giants that year. Musial also had career highs in home runs (89) and RBI (312) versus the Giants.

Musial’s five home runs in the May 2, 1954, doubleheader came off three pitchers: left-hander Johnny Antonelli and right-handers Jim Hearn and Hoyt Wilhelm (who, like Musial, would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame).

Musial hit well against all three throughout his career. Here’s a look:

_ vs. Antonelli, 9 home runs, .301 batting average (34-for-113).

_ vs. Hearn, 4 home runs, .341 batting average (15-for-44).

_ vs. Wilhelm, 4 home runs, .375 batting average (9-for-24).

5 for No. 6

In Game 1, Musial hit two home runs off Antonelli, with the bases empty in the third and one on in the fifth, and a three-run shot off Hearn in the eighth, breaking a 6-6 tie. Here is how The Sporting News described each:

_ Home run #1: “Swinging like a golfer with arms close to his body, Stan lifted a low pitch inside the strike zone onto the right field roof at Busch Stadium.”

_ Home run #2: Musial “socked a slow curve to the top of the 40-foot pavilion.”

_ Home run #3: Musial hit “a slider and the ball … reached the roof.”

It was the first time Musial hit three home runs in a big-league game. Boxscore

In Game 2, Musial hit both home runs off Wilhelm, with one on in the fifth and none on in the seventh. The Sporting News report:

_ Home run #4: Musial “hammered a slow curve clear out of the park onto Grand Boulevard.”

_ Home run #5: Musial “whacked a knuckler out on the streetcar tracks, this one farther toward right-center.”

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story” (1964, Doubleday), Musial wrote of that fifth home run, “I’m especially proud that it was hit off a knuckleball. Not just any old knuckleball _ and they’re all pretty tough _ but a great knuckler’s, Wilhelm’s.”

Musial, who wore No. 6 on his uniform, almost had a sixth home run that Sunday afternoon. In the third inning of Game 2, he “sent a tremendous drive to dead center, where it was caught by Willie Mays some 410 feet away and just 15 feet from the bleacher wall,” The Sporting News wrote.

In his book, Musial wrote of that long fly out, “The wind that day blew toward left field. If it had blown toward right, I believe I would have had two three-homer games the same afternoon.”

In his last at-bat of Game 2, facing right-hander Larry Jansen, a pitcher Musial hit .344 against in his career with four home runs, the Cardinals standout admitted he was swinging for a home run. Instead, he popped out to first base. “It was high, inside _ a bad pitch,” Musial said to The Sporting News. Boxscore

Musial, batting third and playing right field in both games, was 4-for-4 with 6 RBI, 3 runs scored and a walk in the opener. He was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, 3 runs scored and a walk in the second game.

Musial’s totals for the doubleheader: 6-for-8, 5 home runs, 9 RBI, 6 runs scored, 2 walks. His batting average after the doubleheader, 16 games into the season, was .400. He would finish the 1954 season at .330 with 35 home runs.

“In the clubhouse afterward,” Musial wrote, “manager Eddie Stanky, who had been coaching third base, told reporters I not only had smiled, but actually had laughed as I trotted around the bases after that fifth homer. You know, I just couldn’t believe I’d hit five homers in one day _ and that no one else had.”

Previously: How Stan Musial got his fourth 5-hit game in one season

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Winning often early is good, but, for Cardinals pitchers, it is no guarantee of a stellar season.

darryl_kile2Adam Wainwright in 2014 became the fourth Cardinals pitcher to earn five wins in the opening month of a season. Only one of the other three, Darryl Kile in 2000, finished with a 20-win season. The other two, John Denny in 1977 and Bob Tewksbury in 1994, both lost more than they won after the opening month.

Here is a look at how Denny, Tewksbury and Kile did after each won five in a season’s first month:

JOHN DENNY

After beating the Cubs on April 27, 1977, Denny was 5-0 with a 2.94 ERA. He got to 7-0 with a pair of wins in May, the last another against the Cubs on May 31.

Two weeks later, while facing the Dodgers on June 11 at St. Louis, Denny hit Reggie Smith, his former Cardinals teammate, in the back with a pitch after Bill Russell tripled during a six-run second inning. Smith charged the mound and tangled with Denny. The Cardinals right-hander took the loss (yielding seven runs, four earned, in 1.1 innings) in a 9-8 Dodgers victory and wasn’t the same after that. Boxscore

Denny was 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in June before suffering a hamstring injury that sidelined him for about 40 games from June 21 to July 30.

He was 0-3 with a 6.93 ERA in August and 1-3 with a 5.20 ERA in September.

“He hasn’t been the Denny I know,” first baseman John Milner told The Sporting News after driving in two runs against Denny in a 4-1 Mets victory on Aug. 9. “He’s been missing his spots.”

Denny lost eight consecutive decisions before winning his final start on Sept. 30 versus the Mets. He finished the season 8-8 with a 4.51 ERA in 26 starts.

BOB TEWKSBURY

Tewksbury was 5-0 with a 3.29 ERA in the opening month of the 1994 season and boosted his record to 7-0 by winning his first two decisions in May. After a loss, Tewksbury went to 8-1 with a win versus the Marlins on May 21.

The right-hander then lost six consecutive decisions from May 27 to June 22. In that stretch, he yielded 57 hits and 33 runs in 29.1 innings. “This has been the worst time of my whole career,” Tewksbury said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

His stats for June: 1-5 record, 7.92 ERA in six starts. “If you pitch bad, you get hit hard,” he said.

Tewksbury was 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in July and won his only August start before the season was halted by the players’ strike. Tewksbury lost nine of his last 13 decisions and finished the season at 12-10 with a 5.32 ERA in 24 starts.

DARRYL KILE

In 2000, his first season with St. Louis after being acquired from the Rockies, Kile was 5-1 in the opening month.

After winning his first two decisions, Kile was battered by the Rockies in his return to Denver, yielding 11 runs, eight earned, in 1.2 innings. Boxscore

“I made a lot of mistakes and they hit every single one of them,” Kile told the Post-Dispatch. “Most of the pitches they hit were fastballs right down Broadway.”

Said manager Tony La Russa: “It looked like the harder he tried, the worse it got.”

Kile recovered to win his next three April decisions. After Kile beat the Brewers, striking out 10 in seven innings on April 25, Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny told the Post-Dispatch, “He had the best breaking ball I’ve seen in a long time.” Boxscore

The right-hander was 15-9 through August, then went 5-0 with a 2.86 ERA in September, sparking St. Louis to a division championship and its first postseason appearance in four years.

He finished at 20-9 with a 3.91 ERA in 34 starts in 2000.

Previously: Jack Buck, Darryl Kile faced same foe in Cardinals debuts

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