In one of their worst deals, the Cardinals paid $75,000 and gave up a trio of players for a pitcher who netted them two outs.
Ignoring the Cardinals’ directive to stop pitching during the winter, left-hander Memo Luna, the ERA leader of the Pacific Coast League in 1953, injured his arm, appeared in one game for St. Louis, failed to complete an inning and never played in the big leagues again.
Sixty years ago, on April 20, 1954, Guillermo Romero “Memo” Luna made his big-league debut as the Cardinals’ starter against the Reds at St. Louis. In the first inning, Luna yielded two runs on two doubles, two walks and a sacrifice fly. He was lifted with two outs and dispatched to the Cardinals’ Class AAA Rochester club. Boxscore
Though he continued to pitch in the minor leagues until 1961, Memo Luna never returned to the majors.
His big-league career totals: 0-1 record, 27.00 ERA, 0.2 innings, 2 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 6 batters faced.
Seven months earlier, on Sept. 23, 1953, the Cardinals acquired Luna from San Diego for $75,000 and players to be named. They eventually sent pitchers Cliff Chambers and John Romonosky and outfielder Harry Elliott to San Diego, completing the deal.
At the time, Luna, 23, seemed worth the price. He had a 17-12 record and a league-best 2.67 ERA with 16 complete games for San Diego in 1953. Jack Bliss, a catcher for the 1908-1912 Cardinals, had watched Luna at San Diego and told Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky, “He’s got exceptional control and a good curve.”
Cardinals scouts also checked him out and were impressed by Luna’s knuckleball and slider.
That fall, Luna pitched in the Cuban League for Almendares and manager Bobby Bragan. The Cardinals had granted permission with the understanding Luna would quit around Dec. 1, The Sporting News reported.
Luna posted a 4-1 record in his first five decisions for Almendares. The Sporting News wrote that Luna “has shown remarkable poise and control, plus a fine knuckler.”
After Luna lost his next two decisions as the Dec. 1 deadline loomed, the Cardinals suggested he leave the Cuban League and rest his arm before reporting to spring training in February. Luna obliged, went from Cuba to St. Louis, passed a physical examination and went home to his native Mexico.
Instead of resting, though, Luna pitched in the Veracruz League in Mexico without the Cardinals’ knowledge. On Feb. 19, 1954, pitching for the Mexico City Reds against Aztecas, Luna struck out a batter in the third inning and grabbed his left elbow in pain.
According to The Sporting News, Luna stayed in the game until its completion, yielding five runs and nine hits, and “was throwing with only half speed after the injury.” He earned the win in an 8-5 Mexico City victory.
Luna reported to Cardinals spring training camp in Florida, complaining of a sore arm.
“We asked Luna to quit pitching Dec. 1, but we have no way of controlling what a man does back in his home country,” said Stanky.
In spring training, Luna failed to impress. He gave up three runs in two innings to the Phillies and surrendered a two-run, game-winning home run to the Reds’ Gus Bell.
Still, having paid a high price for him, the Cardinals put Luna on the Opening Day roster.
He got the start in the Cardinals’ sixth game of the season _ and never got another chance with them again.