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Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Twenty years ago, in June 1995, the Cardinals were a franchise in disarray. The depth of their dysfunction was revealed on one dismal day, June 16, when they fired their manager, Joe Torre, and traded their cleanup hitter, Todd Zeile.

todd_zeileRather than signal an inspiring beginning, the moves had the feel of surrender.

The termination of Torre largely was viewed as a lame effort to deflect attention from management’s shortcomings.

The trading of Zeile largely was viewed as spiteful.

A bad team

After being named Cardinals manager in August 1990, Torre led the Cardinals to winning seasons each year from 1991 through 1993. His best record was 87-75 in 1993. When the Cardinals fell to 53-61 in strike-shortened 1994, Torre’s friend, general manager Dal Maxvill, was fired and replaced by Walt Jocketty.

By then, the Anheuser-Busch ownership of the Cardinals seemed more interested in minimizing expense to enhance profitability than it did in investing in the team.

The 1995 Cardinals split their first 18 games, then lost 10 of their next 13 and sunk to 12-19.

“This is a bad team and someone must pay the price,” columnist Bob Nightengale wrote in The Sporting News. “They don’t have a marquee power hitter. They’re awful defensively. They have no speed.”

Published reports indicated Cardinals president Mark Lamping was pressuring a reluctant Jocketty to appease a restless fan base by changing managers.

Cheap PR move

On the morning of June 16, with the Cardinals’ record at 20-27, Jocketty went to Torre’s home and informed the manager he was fired.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Torre told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

His overall record as Cardinals manager: 351-354.

“We worked hard and we did a lot of things,” Torre said. “We just didn’t win enough.”

Said Jocketty: “We will not stand pat and let things keep going as they were.”

Unimpressed, Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote that the Cardinals “dumped a classy guy, Torre, to feed the wolfpack.”

“All I see is a cheap PR move.” Miklasz wrote. “All I see is a twitch reflex from a panic attack.”

Change the dynamics

After considering Cardinals coaches Chris Chambliss and Gaylen Pitts as candidates to replace Torre, Jocketty chose director of player development Mike Jorgensen.

“He is an intense guy … He’ll bring a little fire to the clubhouse as well as to the field,” Cardinals pitcher Tom Urbani said of Jorgensen.

Said Jocketty: “I wanted to bring in someone who could change the dynamics a little.”

Jocketty, though, wasn’t done for the day. Next, he dealt Zeile.

Deal or no deal

Zeile was batting .291 with five home runs and 22 RBI as the first baseman and cleanup hitter for the 1995 Cardinals. In June that year, he revealed that the Cardinals had reneged on a three-year, $12 million handshake agreement he said they made in April.

Lamping was furious. “There never was a deal with Todd Zeile,” Lamping said to Hummel.

Jocketty traded Zeile, 29, to the Cubs for pitcher Mike Morgan, 35, and a pair of minor-league players, first baseman Paul Torres and catcher Francisco Morales.

“We’re not happy with the chemistry and the focus of this team,” Jocketty said. “If you saw Todd Zeile play, you could see he’s not a real aggressive person in his approach to the game. He was kind of at one gait.

“Todd Zeile was not happy here. Todd Zeile asked to be traded … We didn’t want someone here who wasn’t happy.”

In seven seasons with St. Louis, Zeile started at three positions _ catcher, third base and first base _ and batted .267 with 75 home runs.

Zeile told Hummel he would depart “with a lot more fond memories than negative,” but added, “Unfortunately, this situation turned kind of ugly at the end. I think it will be better in the long run to go somewhere where I’ll be embraced.”

Miklasz blasted Lamping and Jocketty, saying the Cardinals executives “smeared Zeile, suggesting he was responsible for poor team chemistry. Zeile wasn’t any more at fault than any of the other veterans on the team. Why single him out as the villain?”

Noting the decisions by Jocketty to acquire underperforming third baseman Scott Cooper and pitcher Danny Jackson, Miklasz wrote: “Jocketty traded for Cooper and he’s a nervous wreck. Jocketty signed Jackson and he’s a physical wreck.”

The aftermath

Getting fired by the Cardinals turned out to be a blessing for Torre. He was hired to manage the Yankees and led them to four World Series titles and six American League pennants. Torre was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Jorgensen managed the Cardinals to a 42-54 record and returned to the front office after the season. He was replaced as manager by La Russa, who would lead St. Louis to two World Series championships and three National League pennants and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Torre.

Rookie John Mabry replaced Zeile as the Cardinals’ first baseman.

Zeile was a bust with the 1995 Cubs, hitting .227. After leaving the Cardinals, Zeile played for 10 teams: Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees and Expos. He had 2,004 hits and 1,110 RBI in 16 seasons in the majors.

Morgan made 17 starts for the 1995 Cardinals and was 5-6 with a 3.88 ERA. The next year, he was 4-8 with a 5.24 ERA for St. Louis before he was released.

The two minor-league players acquired with Morgan from the Cubs never reached the big leagues.

Previously: George Kissell, Cardinals inspired Joe Torre to be manager

Previously: Why the best Joe Torre Cardinals club was not good enough

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Determined to reconstruct their bullpen, the 1965 Cardinals acquired the closer they needed, but gave up an ace to get him.

mike_cuellarFifty years ago, on June 15, 1965, the defending World Series champions traded pitchers Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor to the Astros for pitchers Hal Woodeshick and Chuck Taylor.

Woodeshick became the closer for the 1965 Cardinals and pitched effectively.

Cuellar developed into an all-star for the Astros, mastering the screwball and curve and paving his way to becoming a Cy Young Award winner with the Orioles.

Seeking a stopper

Barney Schultz and Ron Taylor had been the top relievers for the World Series champion 1964 Cardinals. Schultz had a team-high 14 saves and a win, all after his call-up from the minors in August 1964. Taylor had eight saves and eight relief wins.

Cuellar also had been a useful reliever for the 1964 Cardinals. Overall, his record that season was 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA. As a reliever, though, Cuellar was 3-0 with four saves and a 2.53 ERA in 25 appearances.

Red Schoendienst, who replaced Johnny Keane as Cardinals manager, went into the 1965 season with Schultz and Taylor as his top two relievers. Cuellar was sent to Class AAA Jacksonville and placed in the starting rotation.

Schultz and Taylor struggled early with the 1965 Cardinals. Schultz gave up runs in five of his first six outings. Taylor yielded runs in three of his first four appearances. The Cardinals lost five of their first six games.

Through June 14, 1965, the Cardinals were in seventh place at 28-30. The bullpen had accounted for only five saves: two apiece by Schultz and Bob Purkey; one by Taylor.

Also, the Cardinals had only one left-handed reliever, 20-year-old rookie Steve Carlton.

Saves leader

The experienced left-handed relievers sought by Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam were Ron Perranoski of the Dodgers and Woodeshick. Perranoski had led the NL in appearances in 1962 and 1963 and had posted 14 saves or more each season from 1962-64. Woodeshick had led the NL in saves in 1964, with 23.

Promoting Cuellar from the minors was an option the Cardinals rejected, even though the left-hander had compiled a 9-1 record and 2.41 ERA in 15 games.

Instead, Howsam offered Cuellar in trade talks. The Astros wanted him, but insisted on Taylor, too.

“Ron Taylor was in demand,” Schoendienst told The Sporting News. “Houston wouldn’t make the trade without him.”

Said Taylor: “I had no hint of a trade.”

Howsam agreed to send Cuellar, 28, and Taylor, 27, to the Astros for Woodeshick, 32, and Chuck Taylor, 23. The Cardinals assigned Chuck Taylor to Jacksonville, where he began his second stint in the St. Louis system. Signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1961, Chuck Taylor and outfielder Jim Beauchamp were dealt to Houston in February 1964 for outfielder Carl Warwick.

After acquiring Woodeshick, the Cardinals called up rookie right-hander Don Dennis from Jacksonville. Woodeshick and Dennis replaced Schultz and Taylor as the top Cardinals relievers. Schultz remained on the team, but in a low-profile role.

“This deal makes our staff well-balanced,” Howsam said.

Good start

Initially, the trade appeared to favor the Cardinals.

hal_woodeshickWoodeshick was as good as expected. He had seven saves and a win in July when the Cardinals had a NL-best 17-10 record. Overall, Woodeshick was 3-2 with 15 saves and a 1.81 ERA for the 1965 Cardinals. Left-handed batters hit .154 (10-for-65) against him, with no home runs.

Dennis helped, too, with six saves and a 2.29 ERA.

For the 1965 Astros, Cuellar was 1-4 and Taylor was 1-5.

By 1967, the trade looked a lot different.

Orioles, Mets benefit

Woodeshick was 2-1 with two saves and a 5.18 ERA for the 1967 NL champion Cardinals. He pitched a scoreless inning in the 1967 World Series and was released after the Cardinals won the championship. In three seasons with St. Louis, Woodeshick was 7-4 with 21 saves and a 2.67 ERA.

Cuellar was 16-11 for the 1967 Astros. He pitched two scoreless innings for the NL in the All-Star Game. After the 1968 season, Cuellar was traded to the Orioles. He won the 1969 American League Cy Young Award, compiling 23 wins, a 2.38 ERA and five shutouts. He helped the Orioles win three consecutive pennants (1969-71) and a World Series title (1970) and four times won 20 or more in a season.

Ron Taylor was traded to the Mets before the 1967 season and revived his career, with eight saves and a 2.34 ERA that season. Like in 1964 for the Cardinals, Taylor was a stellar reliever for the 1969 Mets, helping them win their first World Series championship versus Cuellar and the Orioles.

Chuck Taylor made his big-league debut with the 1969 Cardinals. In three seasons with St. Louis (1969-71), he was 16-13 with 11 saves and a 2.99 ERA.

Previously: The top 5 Cubans to play for the Cardinals

Previously: Roger Craig, Ron Taylor: Great relief for Cardinals

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Joe Medwick was a special hitter for the Cardinals. He also was expensive and high maintenance. When his popularity waned, the Cardinals decided the value Medwick could bring them in a trade was greater than what he could produce for them in the lineup.

joe_medwick3Seventy-five years ago, on June 12, 1940, the Cardinals traded Medwick and pitcher Curt Davis to the Dodgers for $125,000 and four undistinguished players, or, as one writer described them, “a few ham sandwiches.”

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey got exactly what they wanted. With attendance sagging and the Cardinals out of contention, Breadon and Rickey were seeking cash.

As The Sporting News noted, the Cardinals traded Medwick “while he had high market value.”

Medwick, a hitter of Hall of Fame skills, had sulked about being lifted in the late innings for a defensive replacement. When he fell into a hitting funk, Cardinals fans taunted him from the Sportsman’s Park bleachers. Witnessing this, Breadon realized there wouldn’t be a public relations backlash if he traded the club’s standout hitter. That’s when he instructed Rickey to pursue a deal.

“The tide had turned,” wrote columnist Dan Daniel. “The fans would not shout against the departure of (Medwick).”

Remarkable hitter

A right-handed batter who swung at pitches outside the strike zone with savage aggressiveness, Medwick, 20, debuted with the Cardinals in September 1932 and became their starting left fielder in 1933.

Among his many remarkable hitting feats with the Cardinals, Medwick:

_ Achieved the Triple Crown in 1937, leading the National League in batting average (.374), home runs (31) and RBI (154). Medwick is the last NL player to accomplish the feat.

_ Won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1937. He also led the NL that season in runs (111), hits (237), doubles (56), slugging percentage (.641) and total bases (406).

_ Led the NL in hits in 1936 (223).

_ Led the NL in doubles in 1936 (64) and 1938 (47).

_ Led the NL in RBI in 1936 (138) and 1938 (122).

_ Hit .379 (11-for-29) with five RBI in the 1934 World Series vs. the Tigers.

Medwick remains the Cardinals’ all-time single-season leader in doubles (64) and RBI (154).

Interest from Dodgers

Larry MacPhail, Dodgers president, had offered the Cardinals $200,000 for Medwick in 1939, The Sporting News reported. In contention then, the Cardinals rejected the offer.

In 1940, the Cardinals started poorly, losing 20 of their first 32 games. On June 3, Medwick was hitting .297 _ good for most but subpar for him.

Medwick felt disrespected by Breadon and Rickey. After his Triple Crown and MVP season in 1937, the Cardinals rewarded Medwick with a salary of $20,000 in 1938. When he followed his .374 batting average of 1937 with a .322 mark in 1938, the Cardinals cut his pay to $18,000 in 1939. After hitting .332 in 1939, Medwick demanded a $20,000 salary in 1940. Instead, the Cardinals gave him $18,000.

Recalling MacPhail’s interest in Medwick, Rickey contacted the Dodgers in June 1940. “Rickey telephoned and said that the Cardinals were in the mood to do some trading,” MacPhail told The Sporting News.

The ensuing conversation:

MacPhail: “Who will you trade?”

Rickey: “Anybody.”

MacPhail: “Does that go for Medwick, too?”

Rickey: “Yes.”

MacPhail took a flight to St. Louis and closed the deal.

Finances a factor

In exchange for Medwick and Davis (who had 22 wins for the 1939 Cardinals), the Dodgers sent the cash, plus pitchers Carl Doyle and Sam Nahem, outfielder Ernie Koy and third baseman Bert Haas. The Cardinals assigned Nahem and Haas to the minor leagues.

“St. Louis believes the passing of Medwick and the development of a better feeling on the club, minus Joe and his $18,000 salary, will lift the (Cardinals),” Daniel wrote.

Said Breadon: “The Cardinals were going no place with Medwick and Davis on the job _ and they certainly couldn’t be any worse without them.”

The reduction in salaries paired with the infusion of cash helped the Cardinals overcome a drop in attendance. After drawing 400,245 paid customers in 1939, the Cardinals had a total home attendance of 324,078 in 1940. According to columnist Dick Farrington, Breadon was facing “the specter of a financial loss on the season.”

Hit by pitch

In joining the Dodgers, Medwick was reunited with his pal, manager Leo Durocher. They had been Cardinals teammates from 1933-37, when Durocher was the St. Louis shortstop. They played golf together almost daily in the off-season.

Said MacPhail: “Frankly, the Medwick deal surprised me more than anyone else. If you’d have told me a week before that we’d come up with Medwick, I’d have said you were crazy. A month ago, I put out a feeler for him and was told there wasn’t a chance.”

On June 18, in his sixth game for the Dodgers, Medwick faced the Cardinals at Brooklyn. In the first inning, a fastball from Bob Bowman struck Medwick behind the left ear, knocking him unconscious. As Medwick was carried on a stretcher to the clubhouse, MacPhail “stormed over to the Cardinals dugout and challenged the players, individually and collectively,” The Sporting News reported.

All of the Cardinals stood but none made a move. “Take it easy,” Cardinals outfielder Pepper Martin said to MacPhail.

Medwick was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.

Bowman said he didn’t intend to hit him. “Medwick was looking for a curveball, expecting the ball to break,” Bowman said.

After the game, Bowman was being escorted from the ballpark by two detectives when MacPhail approached and “sent a wild swing at him,” according to The Sporting News.

The Cardinals visited Medwick in the hospital. Manager Billy Southworth, the only member of the contingent admitted to the room, expressed regrets for the injury. Medwick absolved the Cardinals, calling the incident “just one of those things.” Boxscore

Medwick was released from the hospital on June 21. He hit .300 in 106 games for the 1940 Dodgers. In 1941, he helped them win the pennant, hitting .318 with 18 home runs and 88 RBI.

Medwick returned to the Cardinals in 1947 and finished his playing career with them in 1948. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968.

Previously: Joe Medwick set a doubles pace that is hard to beat

Previously: Joe Medwick, Stan Musial: Double trouble for pitchers

 

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Convinced Bob Gibson no longer should be a starter, the Cardinals acquired Ron Reed from the Braves and put him in the rotation as the replacement for their long-time ace.

ron_reedForty years ago, on May 28, 1975, the Cardinals traded relievers Ray Sadecki and Elias Sosa to the Braves for Reed and a player to be named. Five days later, the Braves sent Wayne Nordhagen, a minor-league outfielder, to the Cardinals, completing the deal.

At the time of the trade, the Cardinals’ rotation consisted of Gibson, Bob Forsch, Lynn McGlothen and John Curtis. With the May acquisitions of Reed from the Braves and Ron Bryant from the Giants, the Cardinals planned to move Gibson to the bullpen and go with a revamped rotation of Forsch, McGlothen, Reed, Curtis and Bryant.

Embarrassment to Bob

Gibson, 39, was upset with the decision.

“I think they’re making a mistake,” Gibson said to The Sporting News. “I still think I can throw better than 50 percent of the pitchers in the league. I think I’ve still got good stuff, not just competitive fire.”

Said Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst: “It was a tough decision to make. He’s still a good pitcher, but he’s not pitching as great as he has in the past.”

Gibson was a five-time 20-game winner and eight-time all-star with the Cardinals. He twice was named winner of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award and twice was named winner of the National League Cy Young Award.

In 1975, though, his record was 1-5 with a 4.80 ERA when he was dropped from the rotation on June 1. He yielded 71 hits in 65.2 innings and had more walks (33) than strikeouts (32).

Gibson was hampered by damaged knees. He also admitted he was reeling from a divorce.

In his 1994 book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “I didn’t conceal my anger at being sent to the bullpen, but I suspect now that some of it actually stemmed from my frustrations at home. There was a lot of pressure in suddenly being the primary parent for two teenage girls and a degree of devastation over the shattering of a family life that had been nearly 20 years in the making.”

Said Cardinals outfielder Reggie Smith: “When his body didn’t respond and then the club put him in the bullpen, it was an embarrassment to Bob.”

Two-sport standout

Reed, 32, was a good acquisition for the Cardinals. Bryant, 28, wasn’t.

Like Gibson, Reed was an outstanding basketball player. Gibson played basketball in college for Creighton and as a professional for the Harlem Globetrotters. Reed played basketball in college for Notre Dame and as a professional for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

A basketball and baseball standout at LaPorte (Ind.) High School, Reed was offered a contract by Athletics owner Charlie Finley, a LaPorte resident, after he graduated. Instead, Reed accepted a basketball scholarship from Notre Dame.

At 6 feet 6, Reed averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds per game in three varsity seasons at Notre Dame. He holds the Notre Dame single-season record for rebounding average at 17.7 per game.

After his senior season, Reed was selected by the Pistons in the third round of the 1965 NBA draft. Reed, who played baseball at Notre Dame only as a senior, wasn’t selected in the 1965 major-league amateur draft.

Looking for something to do in the summer before the start of the 1965-66 NBA season, Reed used a connection to contact Braves general manager John McHale, a fellow Notre Dame graduate. McHale signed Reed to a free-agent contract and assigned him to the minors.

The player-coach of the Pistons was Dave DeBusschere. He had pitched for the White Sox in 1962 and ’63. As a rookie, Reed averaged 7.5 points in 57 games for the Pistons. In his second season, Reed averaged 8.5 points in 62 games, including a 30-point performance on Dec. 16, 1966, versus the Baltimore Bullets.

At a crossroads, Reed opted for baseball. “At 6-foot-6, I was sort of caught in the middle (between forward and guard) and I doubt if I could have become anything more than a utility player in the NBA,” Reed told The Sporting News.

By 1968, Reed was in the Braves’ starting rotation. He achieved double-digit wins in five of his seven full seasons with the Braves.

Cardinals contributor

Reed was having breakfast when he learned he had been traded to the Cardinals. “I stood there with my mouth wide open,” Reed said. “I didn’t know how to react. I had never been traded before.”

In his Cardinals debut, on June 3, 1975, Reed got the start against the Braves. He earned the win in a 4-2 Cardinals triumph. “When the game started, my knees began to shake,” Reed said. “I wasn’t scared … but my knees were just shaking.”

Reed won each of his first three starts with the Cardinals and had a 0.76 ERA.

Bryant, meanwhile, was a bust. A left-hander who had 24 wins for the 1973 Giants, Bryant was acquired by the Cardinals from San Francisco on May 9, 1975, for outfielder Larry Herndon and minor-league pitcher Tony Gonzalez.

In his first and only start for the Cardinals on June 16, 1975, Bryant gave up five runs in one inning against the Pirates.

Unimpressed, the Cardinals yanked Bryant from the rotation. Given a reprieve, Gibson replaced him and made four starts, winning one and losing three between June 21 and July 8. After the all-star break, Gibson was sent back to the bullpen, didn’t start again and retired in September.

John Denny and Harry Rasmussen were promoted from the minor leagues to join Forsch, McGlothen and Reed in the rotation, with Curtis being sent to the bullpen.

Reed won eight of his first 12 decisions with the Cardinals and finished 9-8 with a 3.23 ERA in 24 starts for St. Louis.

On Dec. 9, 1975, the Cardinals traded Reed to the Phillies for outfielder Mike Anderson. Converted to a reliever, Reed pitched for the Phillies in the 1980 and 1983 World Series.

Reed finished his career for manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan with the 1984 White Sox. In 19 big-league seasons, Reed was 146-140 with a 3.46 ERA and 103 saves.

Previously: Bob Gibson and his final Opening Day with Cardinals

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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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