Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

The 1970s was a decade when the Cardinals dealt a significant number of quality starting pitchers, most notably Steve Carlton, Jerry Reuss, Mike Torrez and Jim Bibby.

jim_bibby2A 6-foot-5, 235-pound right-hander, Bibby possessed a fastball that Whitey Herzog compared with Nolan Ryan’s.

Bibby’s name was back in the news when the Astros’ Mike Fiers pitched a no-hitter against the Dodgers on Aug. 21, 2015. Fiers, acquired by the Astros from the Brewers on July 30, 2015, became the first pitcher since Bibby in 1973 to throw a no-hitter after switching teams midseason. Boxscore

Bibby, traded by the Cardinals to the Rangers on June 6, 1973, pitched his gem for Texas against the Athletics on July 30, 1973. Boxscore

Herzog, manager of the 1973 Rangers, knew Bibby could be special. Bibby pitched in the Mets’ minor-league system when Herzog was their farm director. It was Herzog who encouraged the Rangers to acquire Bibby from St. Louis.

Career challenges

Bibby, 20, signed with the Mets as an amateur free agent in July 1965. The Mets assigned him to their rookie league club at Marion, Va. One of his teammates was another hard-throwing prospect, 18-year-old Nolan Ryan.

After the season, Bibby was drafted into the Army and his baseball career was put on hold. He spent 1966 and 1967 in the military, including a hitch in Vietnam.

When Bibby resumed his baseball career in 1968, Herzog was in his second year overseeing the Mets’ farm system as their director of player development. Over the next two years, Bibby progressed through that system. The Royals tried to trade for him in December 1969, but the Mets declined.

Then Bibby’s career hit another roadblock.

Bibby needed back surgery in 1970. The procedure required removing bone from his hip and attaching it to his spine to strengthen vertebrae. Bibby sat out the 1970 season, the third year in the last five that he couldn’t play baseball.

“There were times during that recuperation period when I wondered if it was worth it,” Bibby told The Sporting News. “I thought maybe it just wasn’t meant for me to play baseball, that maybe I should quit and get into something else.”

Bibby persevered and returned in 1971. Herzog assigned him to Class AAA Tidewater. Bibby’s record at the end of July was 14-2. He awaited a promotion to the big leagues. “I wonder what more the Mets want me to do or show,” Bibby said. “I feel I’ve proved myself down here.”

Bibby finished 15-6 with a 4.04 ERA in 27 games for Tidewater. He struck out 150 in 176 innings but issued 109 walks.

Terrific at Tulsa

On Oct. 18, 1971, the Mets traded Bibby, pitchers Rich Folkers and Charlie Hudson and outfielder Art Shamsky to the Cardinals for pitchers Chuck Taylor and Harry Parker, first baseman Jim Beauchamp and second baseman Chip Coulter.

The Sporting News opined that it “came as no surprise” that the Mets gave up on Bibby and added, “The big guy throws hard, but that’s about all.”

Bibby, 27, went to spring training in 1972 as a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the Cardinals’ rotation. The role instead went to Al Santorini. Bibby was sent to Class AAA Tulsa.

With his path to the big leagues stalled again, Bibby was becoming best known as the older brother of Henry Bibby, a starting guard for three national championship basketball teams under UCLA coach John Wooden.

At Tulsa, Jim Bibby started well, pitching a four-hit shutout on Opening Day.

In July, Bibby struck out 16 in each of two consecutive starts.

In 27 starts for Tulsa, Bibby was 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA, striking out 208 in 195 innings. He pitched 13 complete games and showed improved control, walking 76.

Winning debut

Bibby was promoted to the Cardinals in September 1972. He made his big-league debut on Labor Day, Sept. 4, getting the start and the win in the second game of a doubleheader against the Expos at St. Louis.

Bibby gave up three runs in the first, including a two-run triple by Expos catcher and former Cardinal Tim McCarver, then pitched five consecutive scoreless innings before yielding another run in the sixth.

The Cardinals won, 8-7. Bibby’s line: 6.1 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts. Boxscore

In six starts for the 1972 Cardinals, Bibby was 1-3 with a 3.35 ERA.

Command issues

At spring training in 1973, Bibby competed with Alan Foster, Mike Nagy and Santorini for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

In the exhibition opener, a 4-0 Cardinals triumph over the Mets, Bibby displayed a “powder-river fastball,” The Sporting News gushed.

Bibby and Nagy became the finalists for the last pitching spot on the Opening Day roster. Both had run out of minor-league options. The Cardinals chose Bibby, trading Nagy to the Rangers “because Bibby throws harder than Nagy,” The Sporting News reported.

Used sparingly, Bibby struggled with his command, walking 17 in 16 innings. In six appearances, including three starts, Bibby was 0-2 with a 9.56 ERA for the 1973 Cardinals.

Whitey’s wisdom

On June 6, 1973, the Cardinals dealt Bibby to the Rangers for Nagy and catcher John Wockenfuss. In two seasons with St. Louis, Bibby was a combined 1-5 with a 5.11 ERA.

Explaining the deal, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said of Bibby, “There’s his age (28) and Whitey Herzog knows about him. Whitey said Bibby has a better arm than half his pitchers.”

Said Herzog: “What interested us about Bibby was the fastball. I’d say only Nolan Ryan throws consistently harder in this league. Since this is a breaking-ball league, we felt that if Bibby could get the ball over the plate, he might be successful.”

Herzog instructed Bibby to reduce his assortment of pitches, saying, “With your speed and your slider, you don’t need a curveball … Smoke. That’s your strength. Smoke! Use it.”

Following Herzog’s advice and getting the work he craved, Bibby pitched effectively. Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski said of Bibby, “He’s faster than Vida Blue.”

Bibby at his best

On July 30, 1973, Bibby pitched his masterpiece, a no-hitter in a 6-0 Rangers victory at Oakland. Bibby struck out 13 and walked six.

In the ninth, Bibby issued a leadoff walk to Sal Bando, who swiped second. The next batter, Reggie Jackson, worked the count full. Bibby unleashed a fastball that Jackson said he never saw for strike three.

“That last one was the best pitch I ever saw,” said Jackson. “Well, really, I didn’t see it. I heard it.”

Bibby retired Deron Johnson on a groundout and got Gene Tenace to pop out, completing the first Rangers no-hitter.

In 12 years with the Cardinals, Rangers, Indians and Pirates, Bibby had a record of 111-101 with a 3.76 ERA. He made two starts for the Pirates in the 1979 World Series, including Game 7, and posted a 2.61 ERA. In 1980, he had 19 wins for the Pirates and was named an all-star.

In 1984, Bibby, 39, was in his second stint with the Rangers. They released him on June 1 and, eight days later, the Cardinals, managed by Herzog, gave him another chance.

The Cardinals assigned Bibby to Class AAA Louisville, which was managed by his former Rangers and Pirates teammate, Jim Fregosi.

Bibby made two relief appearances for Louisville and didn’t allow a run in five innings, though he walked six and gave up five hits. On July 1, the Cardinals released him. Nearly 20 years after he signed with the Mets, Bibby’s pitching career was done.

Previously: Cardinals, Texas deals: Jim Bibby to Fernando Tatis

Read Full Post »

Unwilling to reward him sufficiently for being one of their key players of the 1980s, the Cardinals were prepared to let Willie McGee depart as a free agent after the 1990 season. Then the Athletics unexpectedly found themselves in need of a center fielder and suddenly the Cardinals were in position to deal.

willie_mcgee4Twenty-five years ago, on Aug. 29, 1990, the Cardinals traded McGee to the Athletics for outfielder Felix Jose, third baseman Stan Royer and minor-league pitcher Daryl Green.

The Cardinals had been resigned to receiving only a compensation pick in the amateur draft if, as expected, McGee had become a free agent and signed with another club.

General manager Dal Maxvill was delighted when his counterpart, Sandy Alderson of the Athletics, called and expressed interest in trading for McGee. Because McGee figured to become available as a free agent, Maxvill said he hadn’t been receiving attractive trade offers for him.

The Athletics, though, became motivated to deal when their center fielder, Dave Henderson, suffered a knee injury on Aug. 20 and went on the disabled list. Unsure how long Henderson would be sidelined but fearing it could be for the remainder of the season, the defending World Series champions didn’t want to jeopardize a chance at another title by lacking an experienced center fielder.

Right circumstance

Alderson said he and Maxvill talked for several days about a deal for McGee. The Cardinals wanted Jose. The Athletics were reluctant to trade him. Alderson described Jose as being “a powerful switch-hitter” with an “outstanding arm” and “excellent speed.” When Alderson relented, the Cardinals felt fortunate to receive such a prized prospect.

“I feel pretty good about it, really,” Maxvill said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If we had to move McGee for whatever reasons, we did well. But it was circumstance _ Henderson’s injury _ more than any ability on my own.”

Said Cardinals manager Joe Torre: “We made out very well rather than (McGee) walking off and us getting a draft choice.”

Added Alderson: “With the injury to Henderson, we really looked at the short term rather than the long term potential for us.”

Being a switch hitter added to the Athletics’ interest in McGee. Anticipating that they would face the Red Sox and their right-handed aces, Roger Clemens and Mike Boddicker, in the American League Championship Series, the Athletics wanted hitters who could bat left-handed. On the same day they acquired McGee, the Athletics also got Harold Baines, a designated hitter and left-handed batter, from the Rangers.

Athletics manager Tony La Russa told the Los Angeles Times, “Felix Jose has done a fine job for us … but if anyone thinks he gave us a better chance to win than Willie McGee does, I’d have to question that judgment.”

Location added to the appeal of the trade. McGee was born in San Francisco, went to high school in Richmond (10 miles north of Oakland) and had a house about a 25-minute drive from Oakland Coliseum.

“I just didn’t want to trade him to some city just for the heck of it,” Maxvill said. “I made an effort to get him back home to Oakland.”

Said McGee: “If I had any place to go, that was it.”

Late-night goodbye

McGee, 31, was a four-time all-star and fan favorite who had played a central role in the Cardinals winning three National League pennants and a World Series championship in the 1980s. He had won the NL Most Valuable Player Award and a batting title in 1985.

After the 1987 season, McGee had signed a three-year, $4.1 million contract. With that deal about to expire after the 1990 season, McGee was seeking a contract from the Cardinals for three years and $9 million. The Cardinals, though, were offering no more than $7 million for three years, according to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Maxvill conceded that the Cardinals were unlikely to sign McGee. They had a prospect, Ray Lankford, ready to take over in center field.

After the Cardinals had beaten the Reds in Cincinnati on Aug. 29, they were preparing to leave the ballpark about 1 a.m. and go to the airport for a flight to Atlanta when McGee, walking in a tunnel at Riverfront Stadium, was approached by Torre and informed of the trade.

McGee, with a smile and with tears welling in his eyes, told Hummel, “I just appreciated the opportunity to play in St. Louis. There were some of the best people and some of the best managers there.” He added that playing for the Cardinals since 1982 had been “a beautiful nine years of my life.”

McGee’s departure left shortstop Ozzie Smith as the lone remaining Cardinals player from their 1982 World Series championship team.

Saying that he and McGee “were like brothers,” Smith added, “It’s a sad ending to a great time in baseball history for St. Louis.”

Batting champ

McGee hit .335 in 125 games for the 1990 Cardinals. He ranked second in the NL in batting at the time of the trade. At the end of the season, McGee had the best batting average in the NL and was declared the league’s batting champion because he had 542 plate appearances with the 1990 Cardinals, exceeding the requisite number (502) needed to qualify for the title.

McGee hit .274 in 29 games for the Athletics. With 31 hits for Oakland and 168 for St. Louis, McGee led the major leagues in hits in 1990, with a total of 199.

After the season, McGee became a free agent and was signed by the Giants for four years and $13 million. After stints with the Giants and Red Sox, McGee, again a free agent, returned to the Cardinals for the 1996 season and was reunited with La Russa. McGee’s second stint with St. Louis lasted four years. He retired after the 1999 season.

Jose was the Cardinals’ starting right fielder in 1991 and ’92. He batted .298 overall for St. Louis, with an on-base percentage of .352. The Cardinals traded him to the Royals in the deal that brought them first baseman Gregg Jefferies.

Royer hit .258 in parts of four seasons (1991-94) with the Cardinals. Green pitched in the Cardinals’ farm system in 1991 and never reached the big leagues.

Previously: Five fabulous facts about Willie McGee

Read Full Post »

Three years after his pitching helped the Cardinals to a National League pennant and World Series title, Jim Kaat used his skills as a talent evaluator to help St. Louis to another championship season.

cesar_cedenoKaat, a left-handed reliever for the 1982 champion Cardinals, was a coach for the 1985 Reds when he recommended to St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog that the club acquire Cesar Cedeno from Cincinnati.

Acting on Kaat’s advice, the Cardinals got Cedeno from the Reds _ 30 years ago, on Aug. 29, 1985 _ for minor-league outfielder Mark Jackson.

The deal rejuvenated the Cardinals and Cedeno.

Filling in for injured first baseman Jack Clark, Cedeno batted .434 (33-for-76) with six home runs in 28 games, sparking the Cardinals to the 1985 NL East Division title and on a path to a pennant and a berth in the World Series.

After clinching the division crown in the next-to-last game of the 1985 season, Herzog told The Sporting News, “If we hadn’t got Cedeno, we would have been at least three games out of first, maybe more, going into this last week.”

Breakfast bunch

With the Astros from 1970-81, Cedeno batted .289 with 343 doubles and 487 stolen bases. He won the Gold Glove Award five years in a row (1972-76), was named an all-star four times and twice led the NL in doubles.

The Astros traded Cedeno to the Reds in December 1981 for third baseman Ray Knight. By 1985, Cedeno, 34, had fallen into disfavor with Reds manager Pete Rose.

Cedeno, eligible to become a free agent after the 1985 season, said he expected to be traded. He’d heard the Blue Jays were interested.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, were in Cincinnati for an Aug. 26-28 series with the Reds. Kaat, who pitched for St. Louis from 1980-83, and Herzog met for breakfast.

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “Kaat told me that Cesar Cedeno might be available to us, to fill in for Clark. Cesar was on the outs with Pete Rose … Kaat said he thought (Cedeno) could still play.”

The Cardinals and Reds arranged a deal.

“I’m very happy an opportunity like this _ to play with a contender _ came around,” Cedeno said. “I will welcome whatever they want me to do. I’m thrilled an organization like the Cardinals has interest in me. It’s a great feeling to be wanted.”

When the trade was made, the Cardinals led the second-place Mets by 2.5 games.

A right-handed batter, Cedeno had hit .241 in 83 games for the 1985 Reds, but the Cardinals saw him as a capable candidate to platoon with Mike Jorgensen at first base until Clark, who had suffered a rib injury on Aug. 23, could return to the lineup.

Hot hitter

The trade paid immediate dividends.

In his first at-bat with the Cardinals, Cedeno hit the first pitch he saw from the Astros’ Mike Scott for a home run on Aug. 30 at St. Louis. Boxscore

A week later, on Sept. 6, Cedeno, pinch-hitting for Jorgensen, clouted a grand slam off Gene Garber in an 8-0 Cardinals victory over the Braves at St. Louis. Boxscore

“I was looking for him to try to get ahead (of the count) … He’s always around the plate,” Cedeno said to the Associated Press.

Cedeno had eight hits in his first 16 at-bats for the Cardinals. “He’s been awesome, hasn’t he?” Cardinals pitcher John Tudor said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. It seems like every time he’s up he hits the ball on the nose.”

Beat the Mets

On Sept. 10, the Mets beat the Cardinals at New York and moved into first place in the NL East, a game ahead of St. Louis.

The next night, Sept. 11, produced a matchup of aces: the Cardinals’ John Tudor vs. the Mets’ Dwight Gooden. Both were sharp and the game was scoreless through nine innings.

In the 10th, Jesse Orosco relieved Gooden. The first batter he faced was Cedeno. Orosco hung a slider and Cedeno belted a home run, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Tudor held the Mets scoreless in the 10th, clinching the victory and moving the Cardinals into a tie for first place with New York. Boxscore

Thanks, Pete

Four days later, Sept. 15, with the Cardinals clinging to a half-game lead over the Mets, Cedeno went 5-for-5 with four RBI in a 5-1 St. Louis victory over the Cubs at Chicago. Cedeno had two singles, two doubles, a two-run home run and a stolen base. Boxscore

Cedeno said he recently had spoken with Rose and told him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for trading me to St. Louis.”

Said Herzog: “He’s been a blessing to us.”

In his month with the Cardinals, Cedeno hit .528 (19-for-36) at home and .541 (20-for-37) against left-handers. He had a .477 batting average (21-for-44) with runners on base. Cedeno further endeared himself to Cardinals fans by shredding Cubs pitchers at a .560 clip (14-for-25) with nine RBI.

It was a different story in the postseason. Cedeno hit .167 (2-for-12) in the NL Championship Series versus the Dodgers. Playing in his only World Series, Cedeno batted .133 (2-for-15) against the Royals.

In March 1986, Cedeno signed with the Blue Jays, got released before the season began and was picked up by the Dodgers. In June 1986, the Dodgers released him, A month later, he signed with the Cardinals and was sent to Class AAA Louisville.

Cedeno hit .169 in 20 games for Louisville and never returned to the big leagues.

Previously: Jim Kaat interview: ’82 Cards were close-knit club

Previously: How Cardinals’ Jim Kaat appeared forever young

Previously: Jim Kaat revived both his career and the Cardinals

Read Full Post »

For pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth, being part of one of the Cardinals’ best trades did little for their careers other than making them answers to a trivia question.

spring_tothWho were the players the Cardinals acquired with outfielder Lou Brock from the Cubs on June 15, 1964, for pitchers Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens?

Spring and Toth.

Because of the impact of the deal on Brock and the Cardinals, few recall St. Louis got anyone else in the trade.

Brock sparked the Cardinals to the 1964 National League pennant and World Series championship and built a Hall of Fame career in St. Louis.

For Spring, the Cardinals became a brief stop during a year in which he played for three big-league teams before finishing the season in the minors.

For Toth, the trade was a reunion of sorts, returning him to the organization he started with but doing nothing to get him back to the major leagues.

Spring, 82, died on Aug. 2, 2015, leaving Brock as the sole survivor among the trio the Cardinals acquired in the trade. Toth, 63, died on March 20, 1999.

Aloha, Jack

Spring, a left-hander, debuted in the major leagues with the 1955 Phillies. He also pitched for the 1957 Red Sox and 1958 Senators before joining the expansion Angels in 1961. In four years with the Angels, Spring was 11-2 with eight saves.

In 1964, Spring began the season with the Angels before being sent to the Cubs on May 15 in a cash transaction.

He made his Cardinals debut on the same day he was traded from the Cubs. In an inning of relief against the Colt .45s at Houston, Spring yielded four runs, one earned, on three hits and walk. In the eighth, Brock made his Cardinals debut, pinch-hitting for Spring. Boxscore

“When the trade was made, I was home in Chicago,” Spring told Jim Price of the Society for American Baseball Research. “My wife called out to me that they’re talking about it on the TV. Brock and I flew to Houston, where the game had already started. I went to the bullpen. They told me to warm up and go into the game. The catcher was Tim McCarver. I got to the mound, and he said, ‘Hi, Jack. I’m Tim. What do you throw?’ ”

Five days later, on June 20, Spring made his second and last Cardinals appearance. In two innings of relief against the Giants at St. Louis, Spring gave up five runs on five hits, including a three-run double by Hal Lanier and a two-run home run by Orlando Cepeda. All the runs were unearned. Boxscore.

Spring had yielded nine runs in three innings for St. Louis but had an ERA of 3.00 because only one of those runs was earned.

The Cardinals assigned Spring, 31, to their Class AAA club at Jacksonville, Fla. He refused to report. If he was going to accept a demotion to the minor leagues, Spring, a resident of Spokane, Wash., preferred to play in the Pacific Coast League.

On July 9, the Cardinals accommodated Spring, sending him to the Angels in a cash transaction. The Angels assigned him to their Pacific Coast League team in Hawaii. Bob Lemon, the Hall of Fame pitcher, was Hawaii’s manager. Spring thrived there, posting a 3-3 record and 2.11 ERA in 30 games.

Spring got his final big-league chance with the 1965 Indians, pitching in 14 games. He spent the remainder of his playing career in the Pacific Coast League, finishing with his hometown club, Spokane, in 1969.

Cardinals prospect

Unlike Spring, Toth was sent directly to the minor leagues after his trade to the Cardinals and never returned to the big leagues.

Toth, a right-hander, was signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1955. He pitched in their system until 1958 before spending two years in military service.

When he resumed his playing career in 1961, the Cardinals assigned Toth to Class AA Tulsa. He had his most successful season, posting an 18-7 record and 2.37 ERA.

That performance caught the attention of Cardinals manager Johnny Keane. At the 1962 spring training camp, Toth got to pitch in exhibition games for the Cardinals and did well. He held the Mets to a hit in three innings in the second exhibition of the spring and was cited by The Sporting News as the “sleeper” prospect of the camp.

Toth was one of 10 pitchers on the Cardinals’ 1962 Opening Day roster. He appeared in six games and was 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA. His highlight was a complete-game win in a start against the Colt .45s on Aug. 5 at St. Louis. Boxscore

“Paul showed a good assortment and plenty of poise,” said Cardinals pitching coach Howie Pollet.

Wrote The Sporting News: “Toth’s chief assets are a good slider and a reputation as a tough battler.”

Less than a month later, though, on Sept. 1, the Cardinals traded Toth to the Cubs for pitcher Harvey Branch.

Toth was 3-1 with a 4.24 ERA for the 1962 Cubs. He earned his first win for them on Sept. 18 against the Cardinals in a 4-3 Chicago victory at Wrigley Field. Toth pitched 8.2 innings, yielding a solo home run in the second to his former road roommate, catcher Carl Sawatski, and a two-run homer in the ninth to Stan Musial. Boxscore

“He figures in my plans for next year,” Cubs manager Charlie Metro said of Toth. “He’s the kind of guy you like to have on your club. A real bear-down guy. He knows how to pitch. He moves all of his pitches around and showed a real good change-up.”

Toth was 8-12 in three seasons with the Cubs. He was with their Salt Lake City farm club when he was traded back to the Cardinals in the Brock deal.

The Cardinals assigned Toth, 29, to Jacksonville. He was 4-6 with a 3.25 ERA. After the 1964 season, Toth was sent to the Yankees, managed by Keane, in a cash transaction.

Toth never pitched for the Yankees, finishing his playing career in the minor leagues in 1967.

Previously: Lou Brock hit the ground running in 1st start with Cardinals

Read Full Post »

Unable or unwilling to manage his personal finances, outfielder Willie Davis left the Cardinals during a pennant drive in an effort to protect his wages from being claimed by his ex-wife.

willie_davisThough the Cardinals helped Davis reach a settlement that expedited his return to the club, he didn’t endear himself to management by demanding a long-term contract for nearly double his yearly salary.

Forty years ago, on Aug. 15, 1975, Davis, the Cardinals’ right fielder, was placed on the club’s disqualified list after informing management he was quitting because of financial problems.

The incident added another twist to a bizarre year in which Davis served a stint in jail, got into a shouting match with a manager, staged a protest during a game and got traded twice.

Trouble in Texas

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Davis had been the Dodgers’ center fielder. He appeared in three World Series for them, twice was named an all-star and twice led the National League in triples.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills said of Davis: “He was so talented. God really blessed him with some great tools _ for any sport, really _ speed, strength, agility _ everything an athlete needs in order to make the big time.”

The Dodgers traded Davis to the Expos in December 1973. Twelve months later, he was dealt to the Rangers.

Davis got into trouble before playing a game for Texas.

On Feb. 13, 1975, Davis was released from the Los Angeles County jail after serving two days of a five-day sentence for failure to make child support payments, The Sporting News reported. Davis’ attorney arranged for the release by promising that the Rangers would withhold some of Davis’ salary for alimony and child support payments. Davis agreed to pay about $12,000 in back payments, according to the Associated Press.

Calm before storm

At spring training, Davis told columnist Melvin Durslag he was at peace because he had become a member of Nicherin Shoshu, a Buddhist religious order based on the teachings of a 13th-century Japanese monk. Davis said he spent one to four hours a day chanting. Believers say chanting enables a person to change bad karma and achieve enlightenment, according to Wikipedia.org.

“I consider myself better adjusted than anyone else in this game,” Davis told Durslag. “That’s because nothing can make me unhappy.”

Two months later, on May 7, 1975, Davis and Rangers manager Billy Martin got into a shouting match after Davis interrupted Martin while the manager was berating the team during a locked-door clubhouse meeting.

Three weeks later, Davis staged a protest by petulantly squatting in center field throughout an inning because teammate Steve Hargan didn’t hit a batter with a pitch after a Red Sox pitcher threw at Davis.

Fed up, the Rangers looked to trade Davis.

Cardinals roll dice

The 1975 Cardinals had handed their first base job to rookie Keith Hernandez, but he was overmatched. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine was seeking to make a move to wake up a club that was scuffling at 21-25.

On June 4, 1975, the Cardinals traded shortstop Ed Brinkman and pitcher Tommy Moore to the Rangers for Davis. Hernandez, batting .203, was sent to the minors. The Cardinals switched Reggie Smith from right field to first base and Davis, 35, joined an outfield with Lou Brock in left and Bake McBride in center.

Wrote columnist Dick Young: “The Cards took a good gamble with Willie Davis, only if they can get him to stop spending money faster than he runs.”

Devine and Davis said they believed Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst would be key to making the deal successful.

“We take chances on players other teams might not want because of Red Schoendienst’s philosophy,” Devine said. “All Red looks for is a guy’s ability and how he can fit into our picture. Then, when we get a guy, Red leaves him alone.”

Said Davis of Schoendienst: “He’s a lot like Walter Alston when I was with the Dodgers. Both of them leave you alone and let you enjoy playing this game.”

Unexpected departure

A left-handed batter, Davis hit .256 in June for the Cardinals, then .382 in July. The Cardinals entered August at 52-52 _ 11 games out of first place.

In early August, Schoendienst was asked why he didn’t fine Davis after the outfielder made a blunder against the Padres. Replied Schoendienst: “How can I? He doesn’t have any money.”

Davis again had fallen behind in alimony and child support payments. His ex-wife indicated she would seek a court order to have the Cardinals withhold his pay and send the money to her.

Davis said he was quitting. The Cardinals placed him on the disqualified list and provided attorneys to help Davis resolve the issue, the Associated Press reported.

“My ex-wife is trying to claim all my wages, which would in effect have me playing for nothing,” Davis said. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back (to playing). The only way is if my ex-wife and I sit down and agree there will be no pressure put on me.”

Davis’ yearly salary was $110,000. He was due about $30,000 for the remainder of the season, according to United Press International.

After missing five games, Davis and his ex-wife reached an agreement to split the remaining salary that season. Davis said she would receive $17,000.

“She’s satisfied and I’m satisfied,” Davis said.

Welcome back

The Cardinals were within 4.5 games of the first-place Pirates when Davis left the club. He was hitting .308.

When he returned, Davis told reporters that Buddhism had helped him deal with his financial problem. He delivered a few sample chants; then, a bombshell. “I want a contract for five years and a million dollars,” Davis said. “St. Louis will have the first shot at me, but I won’t care where I go.”

In his first game back from the disqualified list, Davis started in right field, received an ovation from the fans at Busch Stadium and went 4-for-4 with a triple, double and two singles against the Reds’ Gary Nolan. Boxscore

“I felt like I was reborn,” Davis said.

Davis hit .368 in August. His Cardinals batting average entering September was .335. The Cardinals were 20-11 in August and were 72-63 overall, four games out of first place.

Said Reggie Smith of Davis: “He’s the difference between winning and losing.”

Tough times

In September, Davis swooned and so did the Cardinals. He hit .141 in September. The Cardinals were 10-17 that month and finished at 82-80 _ 10.5 games behind first-place Pittsburgh.

Davis hit .291 with the 1975 Cardinals. He had 102 hits in 98 games, with 50 RBI, 19 doubles and 10 stolen bases. His batting average versus right-handed pitching was .329.

The Cardinals sought to trade him and found little interest until Padres president Buzzie Bavasi, who had been Dodgers general manager when Davis played for Los Angeles, made an offer.

On Oct. 20, 1975, the Cardinals dealt Davis to the Padres for outfielder Dick Sharon.

After his playing career, Davis “had a very difficult time … living life away from the game,” said Tommy Hawkins, a Dodgers executive.

In 1996, Davis was arrested and charged with threatening to kill his parents and burn down their house unless they gave him $5,000, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was armed with a set of throwing knives and a samurai sword.

Said Bavasi: “There was nothing more exciting than to watch Willie run out a triple. He could have been a Hall of Famer, but he had million-dollar legs and a 10-cent head.”

His short, strange stay with the Cardinals largely forgotten, Davis, 69, died on March 9, 2010, in Burbank, Calif.

Previously: Ken Boyer aided Willie Davis’ hitting streak

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers