Being discarded by the Cardinals was tough on Tim McCarver the first time it happened. The second time was worse.
At the time of the transaction, the Cardinals were in second place in the National League East, 2.5 games behind the Pirates.
It hurt McCarver that the Cardinals saw him as a liability rather than an asset in their late-season bid for a division championship.
McCarver, 32, was in his second stint with the Cardinals in 1974. He had debuted with them as a 17-year-old catcher in 1959. A two-time all-star who finished runner-up to teammate Orlando Cepeda in voting for the 1967 Most Valuable Player Award, McCarver was an integral part of a Cardinals club that won three National League pennants and two World Series titles in the 1960s. His leadership skills and special bond with pitching ace Bob Gibson also were important.
Feeling the hurt
In October 1969, the Cardinals dealt McCarver, center fielder Curt Flood, pitcher Joe Hoerner and outfielder Byron Browne to the Phillies for slugger Richie Allen, infielder Cookie Rojas and pitcher Jerry Johnson.
In his book “Oh, Baby, I Love It” (1987, Villard), McCarver recalled, “When general manager Bing Devine broke the news to me about my going to Philly, he said it hurt him to do it. That’s like a father dangling a razor strap in front of his 4-year-old son and saying, ‘This is going to hurt me more than it’ll hurt you.’ Bull. Since St. Louis had been my baseball home since my rookie year in 1959, it had to hurt me more than a little, too.”
Reacquired by St. Louis in a November 1972 trade with the Expos for outfielder Jorge Roque, McCarver batted .266 with 49 RBI as a utility player for the 1973 Cardinals.
In 1974, McCarver’s role primarily was to be the Cardinals’ top pinch-hitter, although he also filled in at catcher and at first base. He struggled, hitting .179 (7-for-39) as a pinch-hitter and .217 (23-for-106) overall. He produced just one extra-base hit.
Bound for Beantown
On Aug. 29, as the Cardinals left San Diego to open a series in San Francisco, Bob Kennedy, Cardinals player personnel director, informed McCarver he likely would be dealt to the Athletics, who were atop the American League West and headed to their third consecutive World Series championship. The Athletics were seeking a veteran backup to catcher Ray Fosse.
“I thought I was being traded to Oakland,” McCarver said in his book. “When the Cards took a flight to San Francisco, I went with them, fully expecting to transfer across the bay.”
After arriving at San Francisco, McCarver called his wife, Anne, at their home in Memphis and said, “I need you.”
Said McCarver: “I was pretty depressed about leaving the Cards, who had a shot at the pennant that year. Anne flew from Memphis to San Francisco and we had dinner that Friday night. The next morning, I got word that I was heading to (Boston).”
The Red Sox, who led the American League East, were seeking help for catcher Bob Montgomery, who was filling in for an injured Carlton Fisk.
“When the Red Sox picked me up, I hadn’t the slightest notion they had any interest in me,” McCarver said.
The transaction caught many by surprise.
In The Sporting News, Peter Gammons reported this exchange with Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson: “On Aug. 30, Johnson was asked if the Sox were interested in Tim McCarver. ‘No,’ he answered, but McCarver was bought the next day.”
Wrote St. Louis reporter Neal Russo: “It’s usually the custom to add a few veterans for a club’s final push, but the Cardinals dropped one.”
With McCarver gone, the Cardinals called up prospects Marc Hill to back up catcher Ted Simmons and Keith Hernandez to back up first baseman Joe Torre.
In the end, neither the Cardinals nor the Red Sox qualified for the postseason. The Cardinals finished in second place, 1.5 games behind the Pirates, and Boston placed third, seven behind the first-place Orioles.
Previously: How Tim McCarver became a Cardinal at 17