Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

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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With Vince Coleman offering a younger, less expensive and more productive alternative as a left fielder, the Cardinals deemed Lonnie Smith expendable.

lonnie_smith5Thirty years ago, on May 17, 1985, the Cardinals dealt Smith to the Royals for John Morris, a minor-league outfielder.

The trade upset Smith, who wanted to remain with St. Louis, and Cardinals fans, who generally thought the club should have received more in return for him. Five months later, Smith played an integral role in the Royals defeating the Cardinals in seven games in the 1985 World Series.

St. Louis sparkplug

In 1982, his first season with the Cardinals, Smith ignited the offense, hitting .307, scoring 120 runs and stealing 68 bases. In the 1982 World Series, Smith hit .321 with six runs scored, helping the Cardinals beat the Brewers in seven games.

Smith underwent rehabilitation for drug abuse in 1983, missing about a month of the season, but still hit .321 with 43 steals.

In 1984, though, his batting average dropped to .250.

Smith opened the 1985 season as the Cardinals’ left fielder, joining Willie McGee in center and Andy Van Slyke in right. When McGee was sidelined by an injury in April, the Cardinals promoted Coleman from Class AAA Louisville. The rookie speedster quickly established himself as a force, hitting .300 with 12 steals in his first dozen games. When McGee returned to the lineup, Smith was odd man out.

Coleman, 23, was receiving a salary of $60,000, according to baseball-reference.com. Smith, 29, was receiving a salary of $850,000, according to The Sporting News.

Royals come calling

The Royals were among several clubs that expressed interest in Smith, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said.

The proposed deal with Kansas City called for the Royals to send the Cardinals a player to be named. Maxvill reconsidered and asked instead for Morris, who was hitting .258 at Class AAA Omaha.

Morris, 24, was the first-round choice of the Royals in the 1982 amateur draft. In 1983, Morris was named winner of the Southern League Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .288 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI for Jacksonville.

Three days before the trade was made, the New York Daily News reported a deal was in the works. Morris got a phone call from his mother, who informed him of the newspaper report. Stunned, Morris called Royals general manager John Schuerholz and asked him about it.

According to Morris’ book “Bullet Bob Comes to Louisville,” Schuerholz told him, “Johnny, the news about you being traded is strictly a rumor created by the St. Louis media. You have nothing to worry about. Everything will be fine.”

Hurt feelings

Morris was with the Omaha club in Buffalo when he got a call from Schuerholz. According to Morris’ book, the conversation went like this:

Schuerholz: “John, we just made a trade. You’ve been dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for Lonnie Smith. I know we discussed this the other day, but at the time I couldn’t give you any information.”

Morris: “So, you knew all along that I was going to be traded. I think it’s unfortunate that I had to find out from my mom, who just happened to stumble upon it in the newspaper.”

Schuerholz: “Listen, John, you’re going to a first-class organization and we know you will do well with the Cardinals … Whitey Herzog is a great manager who thinks the world of you. He even told me that himself in spring training.”

In the book “Whitey’s Boys,” Smith, recalling his reaction to the trade, said, “I actually thought about giving up baseball. I didn’t think I could go anyplace better (than St. Louis).”

Maxvill told The Sporting News he expected to be criticized for trading Smith. “People are going to say that it’s a matter of economics, that the Cardinals don’t want to pay the salaries,” Maxvill said.

Unapologetic, Herzog said, “I would venture to say there’s never been a better defensive outfield than Van Slyke, McGee and Vince.”

Royals benefit

The Cardinals assigned Morris to Class AAA Louisville. In 130 games combined for Omaha and Louisville in 1985, Morris hit .251 with five home runs and 50 RBI.

Smith became the Royals’ everyday left fielder. He replaced Darryl Motley, who moved to right field and platooned there with Pat Sheridan.

“The key things are his bat and his speed and that we think he can give us a boost offensively,” Royals manager Dick Howser said of Smith to the Associated Press.

Regarding Smith’s previous drug problem, Howser told United Press International, “Our indications are _ and we’ve checked it out _ that he’s very good. He’s done what he’s had to do. We feel comfortable with the fact that he’s clean.”

(In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said of Smith’s drug problem, “I admired him, and still do, for having the guts to ask for help.”)

Smith hit .257 with 40 steals for the 1985 Royals. In the World Series versus the Cardinals, Smith batted .333 with four runs scored, four RBI, three doubles and two steals.

Morris played five seasons (1986-90) with the Cardinals, hitting .247 with six home runs and 54 RBI. Granted free agency in October 1990, Morris signed with the Phillies. He finished his big-league career with the 1992 Angels.

In four seasons (1982-85) with the Cardinals, Smith hit .292 with 491 hits in 459 games, 173 steals and a .371 on-base percentage.

Previously: How Lonnie Smith came clean with the Cardinals

Previously: Why Lonnie Smith was a nemesis of Nolan Ryan

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Unwilling to bend on principle, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill reluctantly traded a slugger he wanted to keep. In a stroke of good fortune, he got in exchange a closer who would rank among the franchise’s all-time best.

lee_smith3Twenty-five years ago, on May 4, 1990, the Cardinals sent right fielder Tom Brunansky to the Red Sox for reliever Lee Smith.

It was one of Maxvill’s best trades during his tenure (1985-94) as Cardinals general manager.

Anatomy of a deal

Maxvill didn’t want to trade Brunansky.

Brunansky wasn’t seeking a trade.

Yet, when Brunansky demanded a no-trade clause as a condition for waiving free agency and re-signing with the Cardinals, Maxvill wouldn’t budge. He called Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman and quickly arranged the trade.

According to the Associated Press, the deal “climaxed several weeks of talks” between the Cardinals and Red Sox.

Maxvill, though, insisted the Cardinals never discussed with the Red Sox a trade of Brunansky for Smith until Maxvill called Gorman the afternoon of May 4 “despite Gorman’s public posturing that the deal had almost been made in early April,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“I haven’t been looking to trade him,” Maxvill said. “We wanted to keep Brunansky.”

Seeking security

The Cardinals had acquired Brunansky from the Twins for second baseman Tommy Herr on April 22, 1988, five months after Minnesota had prevailed in a seven-game World Series with St. Louis.

Early in the 1990 season, the Cardinals approached Brunansky about a three-year contract. Brunansky, like Smith, was eligible to become a free agent after the 1990 season. In the contract the Cardinals inherited from the Twins in 1988, Brunansky had a limited no-trade clause. Brunansky wanted a no-trade provision in any new contract.

“We tried to work around this somehow, but it just couldn’t be done,” Maxvill said.

Said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog: “We tried to negotiate a little bit with (Brunansky), but he wanted a no-trade contract and we don’t have those in St. Louis.”

Brunansky explained “my wife and I wanted to settle down and buy a house here,” but couldn’t commit to that without the no-trade clause.

“The no-trade was the whole thing,” said Brunansky. “We never got to the point of talking money. For me to stay here, I would need some kind of security. I wasn’t going to sign here for three years, buy a house and everything and keep hearing trade rumors. It was a big issue for me and, of course, it was a big issue for the ball club.”

Motivated to act

The Red Sox were eager to deal because they needed a right fielder to replace Dwight Evans, who was restricted to designated hitter duties because of back problems.

The Cardinals needed an established closer to replace Todd Worrell, who was recuperating from elbow surgery. The Cardinals had opened the 1990 season with Scott Terry as the closer.

Smith, 32, became available when the Red Sox signed free-agent closer Jeff Reardon.

Brunansky, 29, was deemed expendable because reserve Milt Thompson could step in as Cardinals right fielder.

The Cardinals also had talked with the White Sox about closer Bobby Thigpen, according to the Post-Dispatch. The Red Sox, though, were motivated to act fast.

“They called us. It’s as simple as that,” Red Sox manager Joe Morgan said to the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram and Gazette. “Nobody would give us the kind of pitcher we wanted, so we went with the right-handed power.”

Reunited with Roarke

Brunansky hit 43 home runs in three years with the Cardinals, but only 11 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. “He’ll hit homers in Fenway (Park),” said Red Sox catcher Tony Pena, a former Cardinal. “St. Louis was a tough park for him to hit in.”

Said Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs: “He’s the stick we need in the middle of the lineup.”

Smith had posted a 2-1 record with four saves, a 1.88 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14.1 innings for the 1990 Red Sox. In joining the Cardinals, Smith was reunited with coach Mike Roarke, who had been his coach as a rookie with the 1980 Cubs.

Said Smith: “I’m really pleased. Something had to be done. With the two closers we had, it wasn’t fair to either one of us. I’ve always been a Whitey Herzog fan and the way he uses pitchers. And I like pitching in Busch Stadium.”

Lee Smith joined a Cardinals roster that included pitcher Bryn Smith and shortstop Ozzie Smith. “We might as well try to get Lonnie (Smith of the Braves) and Zane (Smith of the Pirates),” said Ozzie Smith.

Brunansky played four years with the Red Sox and hit 56 home runs.

Lee Smith played four years with the Cardinals and earned 160 saves while posting a 2.90 ERA. Only Jason Isringhausen (217) has more saves as a Cardinal.

Previously: Why Cardinals traded Tommy Herr to Twins in 1988

Previously: Cardinals years among best for Hall candidate Lee Smith

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In theory, the trade for Scott Cooper appeared to be ideal for the Cardinals. Cooper was a St. Louis native, a Cardinals fan and a two-time all-star third baseman who looked to be entering his prime. In reality, though, the deal was a bust.

scott_cooper2Twenty years ago, on April 8, 1995, the Cardinals acquired Cooper and reliever Cory Bailey from the Red Sox for outfielder Mark Whiten and pitcher Rheal Cormier.

Cooper, 27, was thrilled to join his hometown team and the Cardinals were thrilled to get a player with a reputation for producing steady hitting and solid defense.

After a fairy tale debut _ he hit a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Cardinals to a 7-6 victory over the Phillies in the season opener at St. Louis _ Cooper failed to meet expectations. He hit .230 with three home runs for the 1995 Cardinals and made 18 errors.

When the season ended, he became a free agent and went to Japan.

Replacing a legend

Cooper was 15 when the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series title. The exhilarating experience of seeing his favorite team become big-league champions “left a dent in my soul,” he told the Associated Press.

A standout player at Pattonville High School in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights, Mo., Cooper was chosen by the Red Sox in the third round of the 1986 amateur draft. He signed with them and made his big-league debut with Boston in 1990.

When free-agent Wade Boggs left the Red Sox for the Yankees after the 1992 season, Cooper replaced the five-time American League batting champion as Boston’s third baseman.

Cooper responded splendidly to the challenge. He was named an AL all-star in 1993 and 1994. His batting average in five years with Boston was .284.

Cardinals calling

In April 1995, general managers Walt Jocketty of the Cardinals and Dan Duquette of the Red Sox discussed a deal. The Red Sox wanted Whiten and Cormier. Jocketty wanted Cooper.

Jocketty agreed to trade Whiten but offered pitcher Tom Urbani instead of Cormier.

“We needed Cormier in the deal to make it go,” Duquette said.

Talks stalled. Jocketty gave the Red Sox a deadline of April 8.

When it became clear the Red Sox wouldn’t make the deal without Cormier being included _ “They were pretty adamant about it,” Cardinals manager Joe Torre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch _ Jocketty relented.

No joke

On the afternoon of April 8, Cooper and teammates Roger Clemens and Eric Wedge were golfing in Fort Myers, Fla. “I was getting ready to hit this ball and this guy in a cart comes barreling around the corner,” Cooper said.

“Are you Scott Cooper?” asked the man in the cart. “Mr. Dan Duquette wants you to call him immediately.”

Said Cooper: “My heart sank. I looked at Clem and said, ‘Are you messing with me?’ … Roger looked at me and he was real serious. He said, ‘I would never play that kind of trick on you.’ ”

Duquette told Cooper of the trade to the Cardinals.

Contacted soon after by Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, Cooper said, “I can’t begin to describe the emotion I’m feeling right now. I’m numb all over. The Red Sox let me fulfill my dream. They gave me the opportunity to be a major leaguer. But my lifetime dream as a kid was to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Asked about the pressure of playing at home, Cooper told The Sporting News, “If I can come in and take the place of Wade Boggs and play in front of that crowd in Boston and make two all-star teams, I can play in my hometown in front of my family and friends.”

Lineup shifts

The Cardinals moved Todd Zeile, a converted catcher, from third base to first base, replacing Gregg Jefferies, who had become a free agent and signed with the Phillies. Brian Jordan, a highly-regarded prospect, replaced Whiten in right field. Urbani took over for Cormier in the starting rotation.

“Cooper is known for his defense and that was one of the major reasons we wanted to get him,” Jocketty said. “Plus, he’s a good left-handed bat.

“We feel Zeile will be a better first baseman than Jefferies was and we feel Cooper will make us better defensively at third. He has good hands, a good arm. He’s a real third baseman.”

(Bailey, the other player acquired from Boston by the Cardinals, became a productive reliever. He spent most of the 1995 season as the closer at Class AAA Louisville, earning 25 saves, and then was 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 51 games for the 1996 Cardinals.)

Plans unravel

By mid June, the 1995 Cardinals were scuffling. Torre got fired. Zeile was traded to the Cubs.

Cooper, hitting .310 as late as May 20, had a miserable summer. He batted .164 in July and .183 in August.

For the season, Cooper hit .210 (21-for-100) with runners in scoring position. He had almost as many strikeouts (85) as hits (86).

After spending the 1996 season in Japan (where he hit .243 in 81 games), Cooper returned to the big leagues with the 1997 Royals and batted .201.

That would be his final major-league season. At age 30, three years after being named an all-star, his big-league playing career was finished.

Previously: How Scott Cooper made memorable Cardinals debut

Previously: How a tragic accident brought Mark Whiten to Cardinals

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When the Cardinals reacquired Ken Hill, they thought they’d found an ace. Instead, he was a dud.

ken_hillTwenty years ago, on April 5, 1995, in one of the first big trades made by general manager Walt Jocketty, the Cardinals got Hill from the Expos for pitchers Bryan Eversgerd and Kirk Bullinger and outfielder DaRond Stovall.

The deal was considered a steal. Hill had 16 wins for the 1994 Expos, sharing the National League lead with Greg Maddux of the Braves.

Hill, 29, a right-hander, joined a rotation of left-handers Danny Jackson, Allen Watson, Donovan Osborne and Tom Urbani. Like Hill, Jackson ranked among the top four in the NL in wins in 1994. He had 14 for the Phillies.

An intimidator

“In acquiring Kenny Hill, we’ve got probably one of the top two or three pitchers in the game today,” Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think we’re on our way to putting together the championship club we thought we could.”

Said manager Joe Torre: “Kenny Hill is the type of pitcher we really haven’t had. He’s the type of pitcher who can go out and dominate a game. He’s an intimidator, a guy who can go out and pitch a no-hitter.”

The Expos were slashing payroll and general manager Kevin Malone was under orders to unload top-salaried players such as Hill, reliever John Wetteland and outfielder Marquis Grissom.

The Blue Jays and Rockies also had made strong bids for Hill. “The Jays thought they had offered a better deal for Ken Hill than the one the Expos accepted with the Cardinals,” The Sporting News reported, adding that the cash-strapped Expos were in no mood to help their Canadian counterparts.

Jocketty was thrilled he didn’t have to trade to the Expos one of the Cardinals’ top three pitching prospects: Alan Benes, Brian Barber or John Frascatore.

Said Torre: “This shows how serious we are. It’s very exciting to me that the Cardinals have gone out and established themselves as helping the club _ right now. That should put to rest any question about the desire of the Cardinals to win.”

First time around

Hill was a prospect in the Tigers’ minor-league system when the Cardinals acquired him and first baseman Mike Laga from Detroit for catcher Mike Heath on Aug. 10, 1986.

Hill made his big-league debut with St. Louis in 1988. In four seasons with the Cardinals, Hill was 23-32. According to catcher Tom Pagnozzi, Hill and pitching coach Joe Coleman “didn’t get along.”

After the 1991 season, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill sought to acquire Expos first baseman Andres Galarraga. The Expos wanted pitcher Rheal Cormier, a Canadian, in return. Maxvill refused and instead offered Hill. The Expos accepted.

The deal was a bust for St. Louis. Plagued by injuries, Galarraga was limited to 95 games and hit .243 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI for the 1992 Cardinals. A free agent, he departed for the Rockies after the season. Hill had 16 wins for the 1992 Expos. In three years with Montreal, Hill was 41-21.

When Jocketty brought back Hill to St. Louis, it was as if a wrong had been righted.

Welcome back

“The Cardinals made belated amends for one of their worst trades in recent years,” Rick Hummel wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Hummel’s colleague, Bernie Miklasz, opined, “Walt Jocketty needed one long distance phone call to erase one of Dal Maxvill’s worst mistakes.”

In The Sporting News, Bob Nightengale offered, “The Cardinals, always regretting they traded Hill … made up by stealing Hill back.”

Hill returned to find Mark Riggins had replaced Coleman and that Bob Gibson had been added to the coaching staff. Riggins had coached Hill in the minors.

“I never didn’t like Hill,” Torre said after the pitcher was reacquired. “I’ve always had a good opinion of him. I just thought he was a little casual at times. But he’s grown up since then.”

Said Hill: “I love the deal … I couldn’t stand it when they (the Cardinals) traded me out. But I think that change of scenery helped.”

Pitching potential

The 1994 Cardinals had tied with the Rockies for the worst ERA in the league at 5.15. With Hill and Jackson joining the rotation, hopes were high for the 1995 St. Louis staff.

“Suddenly, the 1995 Cardinals have the ingredients for a fine starting rotation _ just as Jocketty had promised,” wrote Miklasz.

Hill won his first four decisions for the 1995 Cardinals, then lost his next four in a row. He said he wasn’t happy with Pagnozzi as his catcher. He asked to be traded to a contender.

Hill had a 6-7 record and 5.06 ERA when he was traded again by the Cardinals on July 27, 1995, to the Indians for infielder David Bell, pitcher Rick Heiserman and catcher Pepe McNeal.

“I was not happy with his performance or with his attitude,” Jocketty said of Hill in explaining the trade to the Post-Dispatch.

In two stints with St. Louis over five seasons, Hill was 29-39 with a 4.23 ERA. He pitched in the big leagues until 2001. In 14 years with the Cardinals, Expos, Indians, Rangers, Angels, White Sox and Rays, Hill was 117-109 with a 4.06 ERA.

Previously: Cardinals rookie pitchers tested Joe Torre in 1994

Previously: How David Bell rang up a special Cardinals home run

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The Cardinals acquired Jose Oquendo with the notion he would become the eventual replacement for Ozzie Smith at shortstop. Instead, Oquendo became their second baseman and paired with Smith in forming a quality keystone combination for St. Louis.

jose_oquendo5Thirty years ago, on April 2, 1985, the Cardinals got Oquendo from the Mets in the first trade engineered by Dal Maxvill, who had become St. Louis general manager two months earlier.

Maxvill knew what it took to play shortstop, having been the starter for the Cardinals at that position on pennant-winning clubs in 1967 and 1968.

Like Maxvill, Smith was a Gold Glove Award winner. Like Maxvill in 1967, Smith helped the 1982 Cardinals to a pennant and World Series title.

The Cardinals wanted Smith to remain their shortstop. He was eligible to become a free agent, though, after the 1985 season. If Smith and the Cardinals were unable to negotiate a contract extension, Maxvill was prepared to trade him.

Shoring up shortstop

A headline in an April 1985 edition of The Sporting News declared, “Cardinals Admit Ozzie May Be Dealt.”

“If we can’t sign him, there’s got to be some thought about trading him,” said Fred Kuhlmann, Cardinals chief operating officer.

Said Smith: “A trade is a possibility.”

The Cardinals, though, had no suitable replacement for Smith.

That’s when Maxvill went to work.

The Cardinals dealt shortstop Angel Salazar, whom they had acquired from the Expos three months earlier, and minor-league pitcher John Young to the Mets for Oquendo and minor-league pitcher Mark Davis. Four days later, April 6, 1985, the Cardinals got veteran shortstop Ivan De Jesus and reliever Bill Campbell from the Phillies for reliever Dave Rucker.

Maxvill saw De Jesus, 32, as the stopgap and Oquendo, 21, as the long-term answer at shortstop if Smith was traded or became injured.

“You have to prepare yourself for any eventuality,” Maxvill said. “I looked in our system and there was nothing there at shortstop. You have to backstop yourself whether (Smith) is here or not.”

Mets prospect

Oquendo was 15 when he signed with the Mets as an amateur free agent in 1979 and made his professional debut that year with their Class A affiliate, the Grays Harbor Loggers of Aberdeen, Wash., in the Northwest League. He made 40 errors in 63 games at shortstop that season.

Four years later, Oquendo, 19, became the starting shortstop for the 1983 Mets under manager George Bamberger.

By April 1985, though, the Mets were managed by Davey Johnson. He saw Rafael Santana, a former Cardinal, and Ron Gardenhire as shortstop options.

“Johnson felt Oquendo had to be a better hitter,” The Sporting News wrote. “He also was less enamored of Oquendo’s fielding than that of other shortstops in the organization.”

Smith stays

Maxvill saw Oquendo as the shortstop prospect the Cardinals needed. (After the deal was made, Johnson learned Gardenhire had back problems. “If I had known about this,” said Johnson, “Jose Oquendo might still be here.”)

The Cardinals assigned Oquendo to Class AAA Louisville.

“You can look for the Wizard to pack his bags any day now,” Bill Conlin, a columnist for The Sporting News, wrote of Smith after the Cardinals got Oquendo and De Jesus.

Instead, on April 15, hours before the Cardinals played their 1985 home opener that night against the Expos, Smith agreed to a four-year contract extension to remain with St. Louis.

The deal was worth $8.7 million. Smith received a $700,000 signing bonus and salaries of $1.8 million a year in 1986 and 1987 and $2.2 million a year in 1988 and 1989, The Sporting News reported. Also, the Cardinals provided Smith a $500,000 loan at 10 percent interest and Anheuser-Busch promised him consideration for a wholesale beer distributorship.

Smith would play for the Cardinals through the 1996 season before retiring.

Shift to second

Oquendo spent the 1985 season with Louisville. His manager was Jim Fregosi, who had been an all-star shortstop with the Angels. Oquendo hit .211 in 133 games for Louisville and made 23 errors at shortstop.

In 1986, Oquendo stuck with the Cardinals as a backup to Smith at shortstop and to Tommy Herr at second base. He hit .297 in 76 games, establishing himself as a valuable utility player.

After Herr was traded to the Twins in 1988, Oquendo became the Cardinals’ starter in 1989. He led National League second basemen in fielding percentage in 1989 (.994) and 1990 (.996).

In 10 seasons with the Cardinals (1986-1995), Oquendo hit .264 with an on-base percentage of .359. In 1989, he was eighth in the NL in batting at .291.

A Cardinals instructor in 1997 and a minor-league manager in 1998, Oquendo has been a big-league coach for St. Louis under managers Tony La Russa and Mike Matheny each year from 1999 through 2015.

Previously: How Jose Oquendo became a Cardinals catcher

Previously: Why Jose Oquendo, not Ozzie Smith, opened at shortstop

Previously: How Andy Van Slyke amazed Jose Oquendo

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