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Since 1950, Tony La Russa has more wins than any manager in the big leagues. He became the all-time wins leader among modern managers 10 years ago when he passed Sparky Anderson on the career list.

larussa_leylandOn Aug. 25, 2005, La Russa got his 2,195th win as a big-league manager when the Cardinals beat the Pirates, 6-3, at Pittsburgh. That moved La Russa to third in career wins, ahead of Anderson (2,194) and behind Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763).

Six years later, when La Russa, 67, retired after leading the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series championship, he remained third in career wins with 2,728.

Mack and McGraw compiled all of their wins between 1894 and 1950.

Mack managed the Pirates from 1894-96 and the Athletics from 1901-50.

McGraw managed the Orioles in 1899 and from 1901-02 and the Giants from 1902-32.

La Russa managed the White Sox from 1979-86, the Athletics from 1986-95 and the Cardinals from 1996-2011.

Sparky helps Tony

Anderson, while managing the Tigers, had offered advice to La Russa when he was with the White Sox. Anderson remained a mentor to La Russa.

“Nobody was as ready to help or impart knowledge as Sparky,” La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In the book “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission,” La Russa said Anderson, who managed in the Cardinals minor-league system in the 1960s, taught him that a major responsibility of a manager “is to try to figure out what your guys do well and where they struggle _ and try to play one away from the other.”

“For example,” said La Russa, “if a guy can’t bunt, don’t put him in a position to bunt. If someone is a bad runner, don’t give him a green light to run. If a guy has trouble going back on the ball but can come in, play him deeper. If a guy can go better to his right, shade him to the left. All of that crystallized the idea to play to strengths and away from weaknesses.”

Cardinals celebrate

On the night La Russa passed Anderson in career wins, Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds told the Post-Dispatch, “To have the most wins in the modern era is pretty special.” Boxscore

The Cardinals made sure the achievement was treated as special.

After the game, Edmonds spoke to his teammates in a closed-door meeting to make certain everyone understood the significance of the win.

Reliever Jason Isringhausen presented La Russa with the ball from the final out.

The players doused La Russa with beer. First baseman Albert Pujols playfully dumped a tub of ice water on him.

Isringhausen said the beer shower was planned; the ice water dump was spontaneous _ and momentarily worrisome. “We were afraid his heart was going to stop,” Isringhausen told reporter Rick Hummel.

The club brought out a case of Dom Perignon champagne and made a toast to their field leader.

Team owner Bill DeWitt Jr. had come to Pittsburgh for the occasion. Roland Hemond was there as a guest of the Cardinals. Hemond was the general manager who promoted La Russa, 34, from Class AAA Knoxville and gave him a chance to be a big-league manager with the White Sox in August 1979.

Jim Leyland, a coach for La Russa with the White Sox from 1982-85 and a scout for the 2005 Cardinals, presented La Russa with a personal check for $2,194 _ a dollar for each win that tied La Russa with Anderson _ to be donated to the manager’s Animal Rescue Foundation.

Asked what career he would have pursued if he had flopped as a baseball manager, La Russa said, “I’d be an attorney. That would have been bad. I don’t think I would have been a very good one.”

La Russa thanked his wife, Elaine, and daughters Bianca and Devon. “Without the support of Elaine and the two girls, I would have been gone a long time ago,” La Russa said.

Third will suffice

Anderson had said La Russa could pass McGraw on the wins list. “I don’t think so,” La Russa told Hummel.

Pujols predicted La Russa would aim higher. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to shoot for No. 1,” Pujols said. “Knowing him, it’s going to be real tough for him to walk out of this game.”

During the 2011 season, though, La Russa privately determined he was ready to stop managing. He wasn’t getting enough enjoyment from the job, even though he still loved the game.

In the book “One Last Strike,” La Russa said he spoke with his wife Elaine in September 2011 about his plan to retire after the Cardinals’ final game that year.

“She said it would mean a lot to her and the girls if I passed John McGraw for second on the list for most managerial wins in a career,” La Russa said. “I could understand their thinking, but I couldn’t give in to it because that was something personal and not professional. Doing it for them, knowing that I shouldn’t be there, wasn’t something I could do. I hated to disappoint them.”

Previously: Jim Edmonds got champagne toast for Tony La Russa

Previously: Sparky Anderson, Tony La Russa differ on cap choice

Previously: Tony La Russa: proud pupil of mentor Paul Richards

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In an unusual play that involved a Penguin, a Bull and Vince Coleman establishing a major-league rookie record, the Cardinals stole four bases on one pitch in a game against their archrivals, the Cubs.

vince_coleman2Thirty years ago, on Aug. 1, 1985, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Cardinals speedsters Coleman and Willie McGee turned a double-steal attempt into a successful quadruple steal.

In the first inning, Coleman was on second base and McGee on first with none out and Tommy Herr at-bat, facing Scott Sanderson.

Coleman had entered the game with 72 steals, tying him with Juan Samuel of the 1984 Phillies for the big-league single-season record for a rookie.

Dead duck

On a pitch to Herr, Coleman and McGee took off for third and second. Catcher Jody Davis threw to third baseman Ron “Penguin” Cey in a futile attempt to nab Coleman.

Coleman slid across the bag, “way deep in foul territory, almost in back of the coach’s box,” Cubs manager Jim Frey said to the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill.

Slow to react, Cey didn’t rush to tag Coleman. “He would have been a dead duck had there not been a brain-dead Penguin on the scene,” wrote Mike Lucas, covering the game for the Madison (Wis.) Capital Times.

Seeking an escape route, Coleman got up and scampered down the third-base line, with Cey in pursuit.

“When Ron went after him … he ran out of the base line,” Frey complained of Coleman.

Knowing he had no chance to catch Coleman, Cey tossed the ball to Davis. Coleman applied the brakes and headed back toward Cey. Davis ran toward Coleman, then lobbed the ball to Cey.

No one at home

When Coleman looked back, he saw Davis near him and no Cubs player protecting the plate. Sanderson had gone over to cover third. First baseman Leon “Bull” Durham, the former Cardinal, should have covered the plate but instead stood frozen along the first-base line, watching the rundown.

Coleman whirled around, slipped past Davis and sped toward the plate. Cey, clutching the ball, gave chase.

Wrote Lucas: “Cey’s only option was to chase down Coleman from behind. With his ample behind, he couldn’t chase down (actor) Gary Coleman, let alone Vince Coleman.”

Coleman crossed the dish and McGee dashed uncontested from second base to third. The official scorer credited each with two stolen bases on the play.

Wrote Rick Hummel for The Sporting News: “One pitch, four stolen bases _ sounds something like (Hall of Famer) Cool Papa Bell flicking off a light switch and jumping in bed before it was dark.”

Said Coleman to the Associated Press: “I’ve never seen a play like that before. I couldn’t get back to third, so my reaction was to go to the next base.”

Record setter

In so doing, Coleman had 74 steals for the season, breaking the rookie record.

“Just another day’s work, but I am honored about the record,” Coleman said. “I’m looking for more records. No goals. I just let my ability dictate my future.” Boxscore

Coleman achieved 110 stolen bases in 1985 and was named winner of the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He also topped more than 100 steals in 1986 (107) and 1987 (109) and led the NL in stolen bases for six consecutive years (1985-90) with the Cardinals.

McGee contributed a career-high 56 steals in 1985 and was selected winner of the NL Most Valuable Player Award, batting a league-high .353 with 216 hits in 152 games.

The 1985 Cardinals, managed by Whitey Herzog, had 314 steals. No other team in the major leagues that season had more than 182.

Previously: The night Vince Coleman first hit a homer over the wall

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Concerned he would become forgotten in their vast minor-league system, Ted Williams rejected an offer to begin his professional career with the Cardinals.

ted_williamsIf he would have signed with the Cardinals, Williams likely would have been in their organization at the same time as Stan Musial. It would have been possible then that the 1940s Cardinals could have had two of the game’s best left-handed hitters, Musial and Williams, in the same lineup.

Instead, Williams played two years with his hometown minor-league San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League before signing with the Red Sox. In his only World Series appearance, Williams opposed Musial and the Cardinals in 1946.

Meet me in St. Louis

In 1935, Williams was in his junior year at Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego. Playing mostly outfield and first base, he hit .588 in 15 games for the Hoover baseball team that season. He also pitched, posting a 4-2 record.

Herb Benninghoven, a scout for the Cardinals in San Diego, took notice of Williams, began attending his games and befriended him.

Often, after games, Benninghoven “might drive Ted home, and they’d talk baseball, or he’d invite the boy over to his house. His wife was always cooking and baking something good,” wrote Ben Bradlee Jr. in his book “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams.”

On Aug. 6, 1935, the San Diego Evening Tribune reported that Williams had been invited to try out for the Cardinals in St. Louis. It was the first public indication that Williams was considered a professional baseball prospect.

“Ted Williams, slim Herbert Hoover High pitcher, with whom local diamond fans are well acquainted, has received an offer to try out with the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League,” the Evening Tribune wrote. “Herb Benninghoven … tendered the offer and informed Williams his expenses would be taken care of should he care to make the trip east for the trial.”

The newspaper added, “Doubt was expressed that Ted would accept, however, since he still has one more year of high school and should he go into organized baseball he would be declared ineligible for further high school competition.”

Williams still was 16 _ he would turn 17 a few weeks later on Aug. 30, 1935 _ and speculation was his parents didn’t want him to leave home yet.

He didn’t attend the Cardinals tryout and instead returned to high school for his senior year.

In hot pursuit

Meanwhile, the Yankees joined the Cardinals in pursuing Williams. The Yankees offered Williams a chance to play for their Oakland affiliate in the Pacific Coast League and, according to the Bradlee book, Williams and his family agreed in principle that Ted would sign with New York after he graduated from high school.

Still, the suitors kept arriving, most notably the Tigers and the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels. Also, Benninghoven and the Cardinals hadn’t given up either.

In January 1936, in the middle of Williams’ senior year, San Diego was granted a franchise in the Pacific Coast League. The team was named the Padres.

Soon after, Benninghoven, looking to sign Williams before he graduated, invited him to attend a Cardinals tryout camp in Fullerton, Calif. This time, Williams accepted.

Branch Rickey, general manager of the Cardinals and originator of their farm system, was overseeing the tryout camp. The night before, Williams was hit by a pitch in the thigh during a game. At the tryout camp, his sore thigh hampered his mobility and Rickey was unimpressed by Williams, according to the Bradlee book.

Still, because of a strong endorsement from Benninghoven, the Cardinals offered Williams a contract.

He spurned the offer.

In his book “My Turn at Bat,” Williams said of the Cardinals, “They would have probably sent me to Oshkosh or Peoria or someplace, because they had a huge farm system and you could get lost.”

Bound for Boston

Money also may have been a factor in Williams’ decision to reject the Cardinals.

When Benninghoven died in January 1970, an obituary by the Associated Press reported, “He once said he missed signing Ted Williams out of high school when the St. Louis Cardinals refused an extra $1,000 which Williams demanded.”

Williams also turned his back on the Yankees and instead, with his parents urging him to stay home, signed with the Pacific Coast League Padres.

After two seasons with the Padres, Williams, 19, signed with the Red Sox in December 1937. After a year with minor-league Minneapolis, Williams joined the Red Sox in 1939 and embarked on a Hall of Fame career in which he would hit .344 with 521 home runs and 1,839 RBI in 19 years with Boston. In 1941, Williams hit .406, becoming the last big-league player to achieve a .400 batting average.

Two years after Williams first appeared with the Red Sox, Musial, who had converted from pitcher to outfielder, debuted with the 1941 Cardinals and launched his own Hall of Fame career in which he would hit .331 with 475 home runs and 1,951 RBI in 22 years with St. Louis.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said of Williams: “Ted was a once-in-a-generation hitter, the best in our time. He knew his art and he knew his (opposing) pitchers. He had a keen appreciation of the strike zone, a great eye, quick hands and power.”

Previously: How Tony Gwynn tormented Dennis Eckersley, Cardinals

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In a season fraught with futility, the pitcher who epitomized the plight of the 1995 Cardinals was Danny Jackson. Expected to provide wins and hope, Jackson instead represented losses and despair.

danny_jacksonTwenty years ago, on July 2, 1995, Jackson was the losing pitcher for St. Louis against the Cubs at Chicago, dropping his season record to 0-9.

Jackson became the first Cardinals pitcher to start a season 0-9 since Art Fromme in 1907 and the first Cardinals pitcher to lose nine in a row since Bob Forsch did so from July 5 through Aug. 19 in 1978.

Tough guy

A left-hander, Jackson was signed by the Cardinals as a free agent in December 1994 after posting a 14-6 record and 3.26 ERA for the 1994 Phillies.

Jackson had pitched in three World Series for three different franchises (1985 Royals, 1990 Reds and 1993 Phillies) and had been a 23-game winner with the 1988 Reds.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty gave Jackson a three-year contract for a guaranteed $10.8 million.

“Danny Jackson gives us the toughness we’ve lacked in our pitching staff,” Cardinals manager Joe Torre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Troubled pitcher

Jackson, 33, who underwent thyroid surgery during the off-season, got off to a poor start with the 1995 Cardinals, yielding four runs or more in each of his first four starts. Jackson had complications with his medications. He also was hampered by an unsteady defense and erratic offense.

Still, Jackson’s ineffectiveness was his own doing. His pitching mechanics were out of synch.

His ERA after his ninth loss was 7.83. Jackson gave up three or more runs in an inning 11 times in his first 11 starts for the Cardinals. He was unable to last longer than five innings in eight of those starts.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I know one thing: I’m sick and tired of losing,” Jackson said after his record fell to 0-9. “It doesn’t seem to make any difference what I do. It’s always the same.”

Said Mike Jorgensen, who had replaced Torre as manager: “We’re going to keep sending him out there until we get him smoothed out.” Boxscore

Goodbye gorilla

Five days after his loss to the Cubs, Jackson ended the streak in spectacular fashion, shutting out the Marlins on a four-hitter on July 7, 1995, at St. Louis.

“I feel like I got King Kong off my back,” Jackson said.

Said catcher Tom Pagnozzi: “That was the best he had looked as far as not muscling the ball and throwing fluidly.” Boxscore

Jackson won his next start, beating the Phillies for his second win of the season, and then lost three decisions in a row.

Bad numbers

In his last start of the season, Aug. 11 against the Padres, Jackson injured an ankle, was lifted in the second inning and didn’t pitch again in 1995.

His season record: 2-12 with a 5.90 ERA.

In 19 starts, Jackson yielded 120 hits in 100.2 innings and had almost as many walks (48) as strikeouts (52). Batters hit .303 against him.

His failures were a key factor in the Cardinals having a 62-81 record.

Jackson never recovered. In three seasons with the Cardinals, he was 4-15 with a 5.78 ERA.

On June 13, 1997, the Cardinals dealt Jackson, pitcher Rich Batchelor and outfielder Mark Sweeney to the Padres for pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, outfielder Phil Plantier and third baseman Scott Livingstone.

Previously: The day Cardinals fired Joe Torre, traded Todd Zeile

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In his final career win as a starter, Bob Gibson achieved a milestone.

bob_gibson19Forty years ago, on June 27, 1975, Gibson earned his 250th career win, pitching six innings in a 6-4 Cardinals victory over the Expos in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Montreal.

The win was significant for several reasons, including:

_ Gibson became the first and only Cardinals pitcher to achieve 250 wins. No one else has come close. The pitchers with the next-best career wins totals as Cardinals are Jesse Haines (210) and Bob Forsch (163).

_ Gibson was the career wins leader among all active big-league pitchers in 1975.

_ The win was the first for Gibson since May 5, 1975.

“No. 250 doesn’t mean any more than 249,” Gibson said to the Associated Press. “It feels good to be able to win a game and help the ball club. I want to be part of a winning ball club. I haven’t lost that.”

Breaking stuff

Gibson, 39, shut out the Expos through six innings.

“I was getting my breaking ball over,” Gibson said. “If you don’t have the breaking stuff. you just have the fastball. It’s tough to pitch with just the fastball.”

Gibson also contributed a RBI-single in the fifth off Expos starter Steve Rogers and scored on a Ted Sizemore two-run double.

In the seventh, with the Cardinals ahead, 4-0, the first two Expos batters reached base and Gibson was lifted by manager Red Schoendienst. Ron Bryant relieved and yielded a RBI-double to Barry Foote. Rookie Greg Terlecky replaced Bryant and gave up a two-run single to Bob Bailey. Two of the runs were charged to Gibson.

Gibson’s line for the game: 6 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 6 walks, 1 strikeout.

In The Sporting News, columnist Jerome Holtzman wrote, “Bob Gibson has not only lost a foot off his fastball, but he isn’t hitting the corners the way he used to.” Boxscore

One more win

Gibson made two more starts, the last of his career, against the Phillies and Giants, and lost both, dropping his season record to 2-8.

His 251st and final win of his career came in relief on July 27, 1975, against the Phillies at St. Louis.

Relieving rookie starter John Denny in the fourth, Gibson pitched four shutout innings in a 9-6 Cardinals triumph. Gibson struck out Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt to end the sixth and struck out Greg Luzinski to start the seventh.

Gibson’s line for the game: 4 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts. Boxscore

It was Gibson’s first win in relief since beating the Mets on the final day of the 1964 season, clinching the National League pennant for St. Louis.

Gibson made six more relief stints for the 1975 Cardinals and lost two, finishing his final season at 3-10 with a 5.04 ERA.

In 17 seasons (1959-75) with St. Louis, Gibson was 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA. Among his accomplishments: two NL Cy Young awards, two World Series Most Valuable Player awards, a NL MVP Award and nine Gold Glove awards. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Previously: Bob Gibson and his final Opening Day with Cardinals

Previously: How Ron Reed replaced Bob Gibson in Cardinals rotation

Previously: Bob Gibson and his last Cardinals game

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Joining a starting rotation that featured future Hall of Famers Jesse Haines and Grover Cleveland Alexander, rookie Fred Frankhouse strung together a September winning streak that nearly lifted the Cardinals to a second consecutive National League pennant.

fred_frankhouseFrankhouse, 23, won each of his first five starts after being promoted from the minor leagues to the Cardinals in September 1927.

In April 2015, Michael Wacha became the first Cardinals pitcher 23 or younger to win each of his first four starts in a season since Frankhouse.

Stretch run

Frankhouse, 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, was the ace of the Cardinals’ minor-league Houston affiliate in the Texas League in 1927. The right-hander with the sidearm delivery was 21-9 with a 3.24 ERA in 261 innings for Houston.

The defending World Series champion Cardinals, in a four-way race with the Pirates, Giants and Cubs for the 1927 pennant, called up Frankhouse and gave him a start in his big-league debut in the opener of a doubleheader against Chicago on Sept. 7 at St. Louis. The Cardinals started the day in third place, 2.5 games behind the Pirates, 1.5 behind the Giants and a half-game ahead of the Cubs.

Using a sweeping curve, Frankhouse held the Cubs to two runs in seven innings before being relieved by Haines. A 24-game winner in 1927, Haines, making his second and last relief appearance of the season, shut out the Cubs over the final two innings, earning the save and preserving the win for Frankhouse in a 6-2 Cardinals victory. Frankhouse also contributed two hits in three at-bats. Boxscore

Four days later, on Sept. 11, Frankhouse got his second start. He responded with a four-hit shutout, pitching the Cardinals to a 5-0 victory over the Dodgers at St. Louis. The game finished in 1:48. Left fielder Harvey Hendrick got three of the Dodgers’ hits (two singles and a double). The win lifted the Cardinals into a second-place tie with the Giants, two games behind the Pirates. Boxscore

On a roll

Cardinals manager Bob O’Farrell started Frankhouse for the third time on Sept. 15 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Giants at St. Louis. The Giants had five future Hall of Famers in the No. 2 through No. 5 spots in the batting order: Freddie Lindstrom, Edd Roush, Rogers Hornsby, Bill Terry and Travis Jackson.

Frankhouse yielded five runs, but got the win and his second consecutive complete game in an 8-5 Cardinals victory. The game was called after the top of the eighth because of darkness. Frankhouse retired another future Hall of Famer, Mel Ott, with a runner on base to end the game. The Cardinals, who had lost the opener, closed the day still tied with the Giants for second place, but 4.5 behind the Pirates. Boxscore

The Pirates, featuring a lineup with Pie Traynor and brothers Paul and Lloyd Waner, were distancing themselves from the Cardinals and Giants, winning 11 in a row from Sept. 9 through Sept. 17.

On Sept. 19, Frankhouse made his fourth start and pitched his third consecutive complete game, a 12-5 Cardinals victory over the Phillies at St. Louis. Backed by five RBI from his catcher, Frank Snyder, Frankhouse improved his record to 4-0, even though he yielded nine hits and walked five. The Cardinals trailed the Pirates by four with 10 to play. Boxscore

Five days later, on Sept. 24, the Giants beat the Pirates. The Cardinals, behind a fourth consecutive complete game by Frankhouse, defeated the Braves, 4-3, at St. Louis. With Frankhouse improving to 5-0, the Cardinals were within two of the Pirates. Boxscore

NL staple

St. Louis won five of its last six _ the lone loss was by Frankhouse, a 3-2 setback at Cincinnati against the Reds _ and finished the season in second place at 92-61, 1.5 behind the champion Pirates (94-60). The Giants (92-62) finished third, a half-game behind the Cardinals, and the Cubs ended up fourth at 85-68.

In six starts for the 1927 Cardinals, Frankhouse was 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA. The Sporting News called him a “sensational flash.” He pitched a total of 311 innings that season, including 50 for the Cardinals.

Frankhouse was 3-2 in 21 games for the NL champion 1928 Cardinals and 7-2 in 30 games for the 1929 Cardinals. After a rough start to the 1930 season (2-3 with a 7.32 ERA in eight games), Frankhouse and pitcher Bill Sherdel were shipped to the Braves for pitcher Burleigh Grimes on June 16. In four years with the Cardinals, Frankhouse was 17-8 with a 4.05 ERA.

The trade was significant for the Cardinals. Grimes helped them win consecutive pennants and a World Series title. Grimes was 13-6 for St. Louis in 1930 and 17-9 in 1931. He also earned two wins against the Athletics in the 1931 World Series, including the decisive Game 7.

Frankhouse pitched seven years with the Braves (63-61) and three years with the Dodgers (26-28). In 13 big-league seasons, his overall record was 106-97 with a 3.92 ERA.

He died on Aug. 17, 1989, at 85.

Previously: Cardinals home opener links Michael Wacha, Jerry Reuss

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