Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

The Dodgers had the cash. The Cardinals had the players. That combination led the National League rivals to make their second significant transaction of the year at the end of 1940.

mickey_owenSeventy-five years ago, on Dec. 4, 1940, the Cardinals dealt the best young catcher in the NL, Mickey Owen, to the Dodgers for $65,000, catcher Gus Mancuso and minor-league pitcher John Pintar.

Six months earlier, on June 12, 1940, the Cardinals had sent slugging left fielder Joe Medwick to the Dodgers for $125,000 and four players whom a writer described as “a few ham sandwiches.”

The Dodgers, who hadn’t won a NL pennant since 1920, were willing to spend lavishly to acquire the talent needed to become champions.

The Cardinals, confident their farm system could replenish their big-league roster, were willing to deal standout players at their peak market value to increase profitability.

Daring Dodgers

After the 1940 season, Dodgers president Larry MacPhail spoke openly of his intention to acquire Owen.

Babe Phelps, 32, had been the primary catcher for the 1940 Dodgers. He hit well (.295 batting average, 24 doubles and 61 RBI) and was named an all-star for the third time in his 11-year career in the big leagues. The Dodgers, though, wanted a younger catcher with a better arm, better defensive skills and more agility than the lumbering Phelps (who, at 225 pounds, was unkindly nicknamed “Blimp.”).

Owen, 24, met the criteria. He entered the big leagues with the 1937 Cardinals and became their starting catcher in 1938. In four seasons with St. Louis, Owen hit .257. His prime asset was his ability to deter stolen base attempts.

In 1938, Owen ranked third among NL catchers in percentage of runners caught stealing (50.9 percent). Owen was the league leader in that category in both 1939 (61.1 percent) and 1940 (60.4 percent).

By comparison, Phelps caught 33.3 percent of runners attempting to steal in 1940.

Bidding battle

In its Nov. 21, 1940, edition, The Sporting News wrote that Owen “is No. 1 on the MacPhail shopping list because of his youth and speed. Larry, however, isn’t at all confident of landing the fiery Redbird receiver.”

The Giants and Cubs also wanted Owen. Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey were delighted to have multiple bidders for Owen. They were receptive, in part, because they had a hard-hitting catcher at their Columbus farm club, Walker Cooper, who was deemed ready to be a big-league regular.

The Cardinals “will be on the listening end of one of the most interesting _ and profitable _ bidding contests in a long time,” The Sporting News wrote. “… Cardinals chieftains need only to sit back and let the other fellows do the talking and bidding … They couldn’t have done better if they had written the plot themselves.”

At the baseball winter meetings in Atlanta, the Cubs reportedly made an aggressive play for Owen. MacPhail quickly countered and sealed the deal by increasing the cash offering.

Cash trumps talent

Some were surprised the Cardinals settled for Mancuso instead of Phelps in the deal.

Mancuso, 35, who began his big-league career with the 1928 Cardinals and played in the World Series for them in 1930 and ’31, had hit .229 as backup to Phelps for the 1940 Dodgers. Pintar, 27, a right-hander, had posted an 11-9 record and 2.77 ERA for the Dodgers’ Texas League affiliate in Dallas.

“At first glance, it looked like the Dodgers benefitted most” with the Cardinals “getting the money they like so well,” Judson Bailey of the Associated Press wrote. Bailey called Owen “a smart defensive player and the kind of aggressive worker that (Dodgers) manager Leo Durocher likes.”

In The Sporting News, Dodgers correspondent Tommy Holmes opined, “Everybody knew MacPhail wanted Owen … What no one expected was that Mickey would come to the Dodgers for so small an outlay of useful playing material. It seems Sam Breadon … preferred the cash.”

Why not? The $190,000 the Cardinals got from the Dodgers for Medwick and Owen was a staggering sum. In 1940, the highest-paid player in the big leagues was Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg at $35,000. The average player salary in the 1930s was $7,500. In the 1940s, it was $11,000.

Advantage, Cardinals

In the short term, the deal worked well for both teams. In the long term, the Cardinals did better.

With Medwick and Owen as regulars, the 1941 Dodgers composed a 100-54 record and won the NL pennant, finishing 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Cardinals (97-56).

Medwick batted .318 with 18 home runs, 88 RBI, 100 runs scored and 171 hits in 133 games for the 1941 Dodgers.

Owen was second in the NL in fielding percentage among catchers that season and fourth in percentage of runners caught stealing (51.8). He was named an all-star for the first time. He hit .231 with 44 RBI.

(In the 1941 World Series against the Yankees, Owen failed to catch a third strike pitch with two outs in the ninth inning that should have clinched a 4-3 Dodgers victory in Game 4 and evened the series at 2-2. Instead, the Yankees rallied, won the game, 7-4, and went on to secure the championship with four wins in five games.)

Mancuso and Cooper formed an effective catching platoon for the 1941 Cardinals. Mancuso hit .229 in 106 games, including 98 starts at catcher. However, Mancuso ranked No. 1 among NL catchers that season in percentage of runners caught stealing (69.2 percent).

Cooper batted .245 in 68 games, including 45 starts at catcher, for the 1941 Cardinals and was fifth in the NL in percentage of runners caught stealing (51.4), just behind Owen.

After 1941, Owen never played in another World Series.

Cooper was the starting catcher on Cardinals clubs that won three consecutive NL pennants (1942-44) and two World Series titles.

The left fielder who eventually replaced Medwick and joined Enos Slaughter and Terry Moore as starting outfielders on that 1942 World Series championship club was another standout from the Cardinals farm system, Stan Musial.

Previously: How Joe Medwick got traded by Cardinals to Dodgers

Read Full Post »

After more than a decade with the Cubs as one of the premier shortstops in the National League, Don Kessinger joined the rival Cardinals and stabilized the position until a phenom was ready to take over.

don_kessingerForty years ago, on Oct. 28, 1975, the Cardinals acquired Kessinger from the Cubs for reliever Mike Garman and a player to be named (minor-league infielder Bobby Hrapmann.)

Shortstop had become a weakness since the Cardinals dealt Dal Maxvill to the Athletics in August 1972. The Cardinals had tried an array of shortstops, including Ray Busse, Mario Guerrero, Ed Brinkman and Mike Tyson, but none excelled.

The Cardinals had selected a high school shortstop, Garry Templeton, in the first round of the 1974 draft and saw him as the solution to their problem.

In the meantime, they hoped Kessinger, 33, could hold down the position while Templeton developed in the minor-league system.

Cardinals country

Kessinger, an Arkansas native, had been a baseball and basketball standout at the University of Mississippi. “I used to listen to (Cardinals) games on radio and (Stan) Musial was my favorite,” Kessinger told The Sporting News.

He signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1964 and debuted with them that year. Kessinger, possessing a strong arm and wide range, was a six-time NL all-star with the Cubs and twice (1969 and ’70) was a winner of the NL Gold Glove Award.

By September 1975, though, the Cubs were looking to rebuild with younger players. Published speculation was the Cubs would trade Kessinger.

Teams expressing the most interest were the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves. The Yankees were reported to be offering reliever Sparky Lyle and the Cardinals were said to be offering pitcher John Curtis.

Before the season ended, Kessinger _ “acting for all the world like a displaced person,” The Sporting News wrote _ sold his house in suburban Chicago.

“I can do more to help a club now than ever before … I’ve taken care of myself and now is the time to reap the benefits from that,” Kessinger said. “I know that I’m still able to do anything on the field that I ever did. I don’t smoke, drink or run around.”

Infield shifts

Tyson had been the primary shortstop for the 1975 Cardinals. He replaced Brinkman, an American League veteran who couldn’t adjust to the artificial surface at Busch Stadium.

After acquiring Kessinger, the Cardinals traded second baseman Ted Sizemore to the Dodgers and decided to shift Tyson from shortstop to second.

During spring training in 1976, Cardinals instructor George Kissell helped Tyson adapt to his new role.

“We wanted Mike Tyson down early (in spring training) as the new second baseman so that he could get used to working with Kessinger,” Kissell said. “It’s easier for Kessinger to get used to Tyson than it is for Tyson to get used to Kessinger.”

Said manager Red Schoendienst: “If we can catch the ball, we can win.”

Fielding woes

Unfortunately for Schoendienst, the Cardinals fumbled a lot _ and lost.

Meanwhile, Templeton, 20, was establishing himself as a force. Like Kessinger, a switch-hitter, Templeton batted .321 for manager Ken Boyer at Class AAA Tulsa in 1976. He produced 142 hits in 106 games, with 24 doubles, 15 triples and 25 stolen bases.

On Aug. 9, 1976, the Cardinals called up Templeton from Tulsa and placed him in the starting lineup at shortstop. With Tyson injured, Kessinger moved to second base, a position he hadn’t played since college.

Boyer endorsed the promotion of Templeton. “I’d pay to see him play,” Boyer said.

The 1976 Cardinals committed 174 errors. Only the Giants had more errors that season among NL clubs. The Cardinals finished 72-90.

Hector Cruz, who had replaced the smooth-fielding Ken Reitz at third, had 26 errors for the 1976 Cardinals. Templetom made 24 errors in 53 games at shortstop.

Kessinger also committed 24 errors _ 18 in 113 games at shortstop and six in 31 games at second base.

Batting primarily in the No. 2 spot in the order, Kessinger hit .239 overall, with 22 doubles and 120 hits in 145 games. He was better as the No. 8 batter (.290 in 33 games) than he was in the No. 2 spot (.230 in 74 games).

Changes and transactions

After the 1976 season, Schoendienst was fired and replaced by Vern Rapp, who in 1977 started Templeton at shortstop, Tyson at second base and moved Kessinger to a utility role.

In 59 games, including 16 starts at second base and 13 starts at shortstop, Kessinger again hit .239 for the 1977 Cardinals before he was traded in August to the White Sox for minor-league pitcher Steve Staniland.

Two years later, Kessinger was named player-manager of the 1979 White Sox. He was fired in August (with a 46-60 record) and replaced by a rookie big-league manager named Tony La Russa.

Previously: How Bee Bee Richard became Cards’ starting shortstop

Previously: Garry Templeton broke Cardinals string of poor top picks

Previously: Why Ed Brinkman wasn’t shortstop savior for Cardinals

Previously: Cardinals gambled, lost with Ray Busse at shortstop

Read Full Post »

When the Cardinals traded half of their all-star infield to the Phillies, the all-star they got in return no longer had the skills to be a consistent starter.

art_mahaffeyFifty years ago, on Oct. 27, 1965, the Cardinals traded first baseman Bill White, shortstop Dick Groat and catcher Bob Uecker to the Phillies for pitcher Art Mahaffey, outfielder Alex Johnson and catcher Pat Corrales.

Two years earlier, four Cardinals _ White, Groat, second baseman Julian Javier and third baseman Ken Boyer _ formed the starting infield for the 1963 National League all-star team.

After White and Groat were traded, only Javier remained with the Cardinals from that infield. Boyer had been traded by the Cardinals to the Mets a week before White and Groat were sent to the Phillies.

Mahaffey, a hard-throwing right-hander, had been an all-star with the 1961 and 1962 Phillies. He earned 19 wins in 1962 and was second in the NL that season in complete games (20) and fourth in innings pitched (274).

Though limited by an arm ailment to 71 innings pitched while posting a 2-5 record for the 1965 Phillies, the Cardinals saw Mahaffey, 27, as a candidate to bolster their rotation.

In addition to a starting pitcher, Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam also believed he had acquired a starting left fielder (Johnson) and an upgrade at backup catcher (Corrales) from the Phillies.

Feuding Phillies

During the 1965 season, Mahaffey had fallen into disfavor with Phillies manager Gene Mauch. Mahaffey didn’t make a start after July 5 and appeared just twice in relief after Sept. 1.

Mahaffey and Mauch “have not seen eye to eye for quite a while,” The Sporting News reported.

Published reports speculated the Phillies would trade Mahaffey to an American League club. The Senators expressed keen interest.

“I was waiting to get traded, but I had no idea I would go to the Cardinals,” Mahaffey said after the deal was made.

“All I need to do is start. I’m a starting pitcher, not a reliever. I can’t pitch in relief … because I have to warm up longer since I had the arm trouble a couple of years ago. My arm is all right now, however.”

Rotation depth

Agreeing to a request from Howsam, Mahaffey went to the Cardinals’ Florida Instructional League club at St. Petersburg in November 1965 with the goal of developing a slider.

“The slider should make a big difference for me,” Mahaffey said. “On days when my fastball isn’t as good as it should be, I could use my slider on left-handed hitters.”

Entering spring training in February 1966, the Cardinals had nine prime candidates for the five starting rotation spots.

Joining Mahaffey among the right-handers were Bob Gibson, Ray Washburn, Tracy Stallard and Nellie Briles. The left-handers were Ray Sadecki, Curt Simmons, Al Jackson and Larry Jaster.

“Our pitching depth is much, much better than it was at this time last year,” Howsam said.

In a sign of the confidence they had in Mahaffey, the Cardinals issued him the uniform No. 14 that had been worn by Boyer.

Mahaffey “is one of the hardest workers in the Cardinals camp. He has a mission,” The Sporting News reported.

Said Mahaffey: ” I want to make a good impression. I think I can win and win big. I’m healthy, my arm is sound.”

Mahaffey sealed a spot on the Opening Day roster by pitching four scoreless innings in an exhibition start against the Reds on March 22, 1966, at St. Petersburg.

Unhappy beginning

The Cardinals opened the 1966 season with 13 pitchers. Needing only four starters early in the season, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst and pitching coach Joe Becker chose Gibson, Washburn, Jaster and Briles.

Simmons, Stallard, Sadecki and Mahaffey complained about lack of work.

“We’re rusting and our market value is going down,” Simmons said.

Mahaffey, who switched to uniform No. 30, was the last of the 13 pitchers to appear in a game, making his Cardinals debut with four innings of shutout relief against the Astros on April 28. Boxscore

“I can’t understand it,” Mahaffey said. “I was assured when I was traded that I would be a starting pitcher.

“Bob Howsam wanted me to get off to a quick start this season, so I agreed to go to the winter league for a month. I had to drop my winter jobs and that cost me a couple of thousand dollars. So this is how I get repaid.”

Shaky starts

On May 7, 1966, Mahaffey got his first Cardinals start _ and it was a dud. Facing the Giants in the next-to-last game played at Busch Stadium I (formerly known as Sportsman’s Park), Mahaffey pitched two scoreless innings before yielding seven runs in the third. Four were scored on a grand slam by Orlando Cepeda. Boxscore

(The next day, Cepeda was traded for Sadecki.)

Mahaffey made five starts for the Cardinals and won one _ against the Braves Boxscore _ and was returned to the bullpen. He earned a save _ the only one of his big-league career _ against the Mets. Boxscore

Overall, Mahaffey was 1-4 with a 6.43 ERA in 12 appearances for the Cardinals before he was demoted to Tulsa in mid-July. Mahaffey was 4-4 with a 5.05 ERA in 11 starts for the Class AAA club.

After the 1966 season, the Cardinals retained the rights to Mahaffey but gave him permission to make his own deal with another club. The Giants invited him to spring training at Arizona in 1967 as a non-roster pitcher.

Mahaffey pitched for the Giants in spring training, but they were unimpressed and returned him to the Cardinals. On April 1, 1967, Stan Musial, who had replaced Howsam, traded Mahaffey and infielders Jerry Buchek and Tony Martinez to the Mets for infielder Eddie Bressoud, outfielder Danny Napoleon and cash.

The Mets assigned Mahaffey to their Class AAA Jacksonville club, managed by former Cardinals outfielder Bill Virdon. Mahaffey was 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA before he was released.

Mahaffey signed with Dallas-Fort Worth, the Class AA affiliate of the Cubs, and joined a staff that included his former Cardinals teammate, Stallard, and Don Larsen, 38, who had pitched a perfect game in the World Series for the Yankees 11 years earlier.

After posting a 2-7 record and 6.00 ERA in 16 games for the Class AA club, Mahaffey, 29, was finished as a professional pitcher.

Previously: 1963 NL all-stars started all-Cardinals infield

Previously: The stormy, unfulfilled Cards career of Alex Johnson

Previously: Bill White on being traded from Cardinals to Phillies

Previously: George Kernek: Cardinals’ choice to replace Bill White

Read Full Post »

From a public relations perspective, the trade of Ken Boyer from the Cardinals to the Mets was a disaster. From a baseball perspective, it was a marquee deal that produced mixed results.

ken_boyer11Fifty years ago, on Oct. 20, 1965, the Cardinals traded Boyer, their third baseman and cleanup batter, to the Mets for pitcher Al Jackson and third baseman Charlie Smith.

Bob Howsam, Cardinals general manager, made the trade because he believed Boyer, 34, was in decline and the club needed pitching and speed to adapt to their spacious new downtown stadium in 1966.

Howsam believed Jackson, 29, bolstered the rotation and gave the Cardinals a needed left-hander in case Ray Sadecki was unable to rebound from a poor 1965 season. Howsam saw Smith, 28, as a more agile third baseman than Boyer with more power potential.

Bing Devine, the former Cardinals general manager who was special assistant to Mets president George Weiss, advocated for New York to acquire Boyer as much for his leadership and professionalism as for his ability to produce runs and stabilize the third base position.

In their first four seasons after entering the National League as an expansion team in 1962, the Mets had developed a reputation as a clownish club. Devine envisioned Boyer as a player who could help change that perception.

Ham-handed Howsam

The trade, though, largely was unpopular with Cardinals fans. Boyer was Cardinals royalty. In handling the trade callously, Howsam appeared to treat Boyer disrespectfully.

Boyer, who had signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1949, played 11 seasons for St. Louis (1955-65) and was named an all-star seven times.

He also won the Gold Glove Award five times and earned the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1964, when he produced 24 home runs, 119 RBI and 100 runs in leading the Cardinals to a pennant and World Series title. Overall, Boyer had 1,855 hits in 1,667 career games with the Cardinals, including 255 home runs and 1,001 RBI.

Yet, Howsam didn’t do Boyer the courtesy of informing him of the trade. Boyer learned of the deal in a phone call with reporter Jack Herman of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

“You’re kidding,” Boyer said when told of the trade. “That’s really something.

“Seventeen years is a long time (with one organization). I don’t know what to think right now. I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say I was sorry to be leaving.”

The Sporting News reported that “various Cardinals officials tried to contact” Boyer to tell him about the trade. Cardinals fans concluded that management, especially Howsam, didn’t try hard enough.

“As soon as the Boyer deal became public property, Cardinals fans touched off a storm,” The Sporting News wrote. “They swamped all the news media and even tried to get through to Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam to register protests and threats to cancel tickets.”

The furor was comparable to the uproar that ensued when the Cardinals had traded popular standouts such as Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter and Red Schoendienst.

Support from Stan

Schoendienst, who had completed his first season as Cardinals manager in 1965, endorsed the trade of Boyer.

“We’re sorry to see Kenny go, but good left-handed pitchers are few and far between,” Schoendienst told the Associated Press, referring to Jackson. “Smith can drive in the runs and is an improved fielder.”

The most venerable Cardinals icon, Stan Musial, a team vice president in 1965, told United Press International that the trade was a “good deal” for St. Louis.

Musial was impressed especially by Jackson. “Al is a good competitor,” Musial said. “That guy can beat the tough clubs.”

Said Howsam: “We hate to see a player of Ken’s caliber go, but we had a chance to get a man in Smith who is a power hitter and good fielder, and a fine starting pitcher in Jackson. We felt we couldn’t pass it up.”

Developing a deal

Initially, the Cardinals had talked with the Astros about a deal that would have featured Boyer for third baseman Bob Aspromonte. The Mets had been discussing with the Angels a trade of Jackson and Smith for outfielder Jose Cardenal.

When those talks stalled, The Sporting News reported, the Cardinals and Mets struck their deal.

Jackson had earned a franchise-leading 40 wins in his four seasons with the Mets. In 1965, Jackson was 8-20 with a 4.34 ERA.

Smith, who had played for the Dodgers, Phillies and White Sox before joining the Mets, hit .244 in 1965. His power numbers that season (20 doubles, 16 home runs, .393 slugging percentage) were better than those produced in 1965 by Boyer (18 doubles, 13 home runs, .374 slugging percentage).

“I think I’ll be able to help the Mets,” Boyer told United Press International. “The sentiment is gone for the Cardinals … It will strictly be on a business basis now.”

Boyer led the 1966 Mets in RBI (61) and doubles (28) and was second on the club in home runs (14). In July 1967, the Mets traded Boyer to the White Sox.

Jackson was second to Bob Gibson in wins (13), complete games (11) and innings pitched (232.2) for the 1966 Cardinals. He also had nine wins for the 1967 World Series champion Cardinals. After that season, he was dealt back to the Mets.

Smith had 104 hits and struck out 81 times in 116 games for the 1966 Cardinals. He produced 10 home runs and 43 RBI. After the season, Smith was traded to the Yankees for Roger Maris and was replaced at third base by Mike Shannon.

Previously: Cards initially sought Bob Aspromonte for Ken Boyer

Previously: An interview with former Cards pitcher Al Jackson

Read Full Post »

Seeking a general manager who could turn the Cardinals from flops into champions, team owner Gussie Busch sought the advice of the leader of the publication considered the authority on baseball.

frank_laneSixty years ago, as the 1955 season neared its end, Busch asked J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News, to recommend the best general manager to hire. Spink suggested Frank Lane of the White Sox.

In September 1955, Lane resigned from the White Sox. He sent a telegram to Busch. The wire read: “Have tux, will travel.”

A short time later, on Oct. 6, 1955, Busch hired Lane to be general manager of the Cardinals.

In his St. Louis-based weekly, Spink wrote of Lane’s hire, “Probably the most exciting chapter in the history of St. Louis baseball is about to be enacted … The Cardinals will have a team that will win more games _ or the players who lose won’t be around long.”

Taking a trader

Busch had bought the Cardinals in 1953 and had appointed one of his Anheuser-Busch executives, Dick Meyer, as general manager. Meyer was better suited to run the business side of the franchise rather than the baseball operations side.

As the Cardinals headed to a 68-86 record and next-to-last finish in the National League in 1955, Busch wanted a general manager with a proven record of producing a winner.

Busch turned for advice to Spink, who, according to St. Louis journalist Bob Broeg, recommended Lane as the best general manager available.

Lane, a longtime baseball executive, had become general manager of the White Sox after they finished the 1948 season in last place in the American League at 51-101.

Lane turned around the White Six through trades. The White Sox produced a winning season at 81-73 in 1951. Then they became contenders. The White Sox had 89 wins in 1953, 94 in 1954 and 91 in 1955.

In seven seasons (1949-55) with the White Sox, Lane made 241 trades involving 353 players. He earned the nickname “Trader.”

Rich resources

Busch sent Meyer to New York to begin negotiations with Lane during the 1955 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees. That led to a follow-up meeting involving Busch, Lane and Meyer in St. Louis.

The Cardinals signed Lane, 59, to a three-year contract. Meyer was promoted to executive vice president. Bill Walsingham Jr., a Cardinals vice president for nine years, resigned, acknowledging the club didn’t need two vice presidents.

Busch gave Lane “full authority” to make all baseball decisions.

“I had three offers but only considered one of them _ the job with the St. Louis club,” Lane said. “Why? Because the Cardinals have the potential for a great club and I know the management has the wherewithal to get what it needs if it doesn’t have what it takes to win.

“I don’t think I’m going too far when I say we should be a first division club and quite possibly a contender if we made the deals needed to augment an already fine nucleus of talent.”

Asked if any Cardinals players were untouchables for trading, Lane replied, “Yes. We’ll start with Stan Musial, then add Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon, Wally Moon, Ken Boyer, Harvey Haddix and a few others.”

Lane identified the Cardinals’ top needs as a first baseman, catcher and pitching.

His first major move was to replace manager Harry Walker with Fred Hutchinson, the former Tigers manager.

Bad deals

According to Broeg, Lane would watch Cardinals home games from the roof outside the press box, “squinting like a sunworshipper who didn’t see well and listening to the radio.”

“Lane lived for baseball, traveling always with a radio at his ear and a stack of newspaper sports sections under his arm,” Broeg wrote in the book, “Redbirds: A Century of Cardinals Baseball.”

Expecting magic, the Cardinals instead saw blunders in the trades Lane made in 1956. Among his worst deals that season:

_ Pitchers Harvey Haddix and Stu Miller to the Phillies for pitchers Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier.

_ Center fielder Bill Virdon to the Pirates for outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield.

_ Second baseman Red Schoendienst and others to the Giants for shortstop Al Dark and others.

When Busch got wind of Lane’s plans to trade Musial to the Phillies for pitcher Robin Roberts, he blocked the deal, then told Lane that any future trade proposals would have to be approved by Busch and Meyer before being enacted.

(Lane reportedly also wanted to deal Boyer to the Phillies for outfielder Richie Ashburn.)

The 1956 Cardinals finished in fourth place at 76-78.

Win or else

Before the 1957 season, Busch told a Knights of Columbus banquet audience, “If the Cardinals don’t win this year or next, Frank Lane will be out on his ass.”

Lane was miffed. Wanting assurances he had the owner’s support, Lane asked Busch to extend his contract beyond 1958. Busch refused.

Lane did make a couple of good trades before the 1957 season, acquiring pitcher Sam Jones from the Cubs and slugging outfielder Del Ennis from the Phillies. The Cardinals placed second in the NL in 1957 at 87-67.

Still upset by Busch’s win-or-else ultimatum before the season and offended that he had to get approval before making deals, Lane resigned on November 1957, with a year remaining on his Cardinals contract, and became general manager of the Indians.

Busch replaced Lane with Bing Devine.

Previously: How Al Dark won respect of Cardinals fans

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine

Read Full Post »

Randy Wiles was the pitcher the Cardinals traded to acquire Tony La Russa.

randy_wilesIn a deal made with the intention of jump-starting a pair of stalled minor-league careers, the Cardinals sent Wiles to the White Sox in exchange for La Russa on Dec. 15, 1976.

From there, the careers of the two players took different paths.

La Russa played one season as an infielder in the Cardinals system before beginning a long and successful second career as a manager, including 16 years (1996-2011) with St. Louis. His two World Series titles, three National League pennants and a franchise-leading 1,408 wins with the Cardinals helped get him elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wiles, a left-hander, pitched briefly with the White Sox in 1977, got traded back to the Cardinals after the season and was out of baseball by the end of 1978.

His death on Sept. 15, 2015, at age 64 prompted me to research his story and tell it here.

Good potential

Randy Wiles was selected by the Cardinals in the fifth round of the 1973 draft after earning all-Southeastern Conference honors at Louisiana State University.

He was drafted just ahead of another pitcher, LaMarr Hoyt, who went on to become a big-league all-star.

In his first two seasons in the Cardinals’ system, Wiles established himself as a prospect with big-league potential.

He spent 1973 with the Gulf Coast Cardinals (managed by Ken Boyer) and Class A St. Petersburg, posting a 2.81 ERA in 16 games.

In 1974, Wiles had one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the Cardinals organization, with eight wins and a 2.56 ERA in 30 games at Class AA Arkansas. Wiles won seven of his last eight decisions, yielding two runs for the month of August.

“Everything just clicked,” Wiles told The Sporting News. “I was consistent every time out.”

Reverse course

Wiles opened the 1975 season at Class AAA Tulsa, playing again for Boyer. Instead of positioning himself for a promotion to the big leagues, Wiles took a step back, posting a 5.92 ERA in 11 games.

“I was so inconsistent … I couldn’t keep the ball down,” said Wiles.

The Cardinals demoted him to Arkansas. Dejected, Wiles was 4-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 12 games for the Class AA club.

“I probably had an attitude problem when I was sent down to Arkansas from Tulsa,” Wiles said. “I tried to shake it, but I couldn’t. I gained a lot of weight, too. I wasn’t in shape.”

At spring training in 1976, Wiles pitched well. “I had the best spring I’ve ever had,” he said. “I gave up only one run. Ken Boyer said I would be with him (at Tulsa).”

Instead, the Cardinals sent Wiles to Arkansas. The Cardinals had signed a batch of former big-league pitchers _ Lloyd Allen, Roric Harrison, Lerrin LaGrow and Harry Parker _ and assigned them to Tulsa, leaving no spots available for Wiles.

Relying primarily on a fastball and slider, Wiles rebounded, with a 2.72 ERA in 21 games for Arkansas. “He should be in Tulsa,” said Arkansas manager Jack Krol. “He just got caught up in the numbers game this year. The organization is still high on him. He’s a good pitcher.”

Wiles did get promoted to Tulsa during the 1976 season and, reunited with Boyer, had a 3.90 ERA in 12 games.

Minor deal

After the season, his fourth in the Cardinals system, Wiles, 25, was traded to the White Sox for La Russa, who had batted .259 at Class AAA Iowa in 1976.

La Russa, 32, no longer was considered a big-league prospect, but he appealed to the Cardinals as a player-coach who could mentor infielders such as Jim Riggleman and Ken Oberkfell at Class AAA New Orleans.

“He was kind of looking out for me a little bit,” Riggleman said in the book, “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission.” “He became like a big brother to me. He gave me a lot of advice and you knew there was a lot of respect for him among the players.”

The White Sox sent Wiles to Iowa for the 1977 season. In August, seeking a left-handed reliever, the White Sox promoted Wiles to the big leagues.

Wiles appeared in five games for Chicago, with a 1-1 record and 10.12 ERA. After two weeks with the White Sox, Wiles was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cardinals, who sent him to join La Russa in New Orleans.

After the season, the Cardinals traded Wiles again _ to the Astros for minor-league pitcher Ron Selak, a former Cardinals prospect who had been selected by St. Louis three rounds ahead of Wiles in the 1973 draft.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals talked with La Russa about becoming manager of their rookie league club at Johnson City, Tenn. Though flattered, La Russa said he’d rather seek a position at a higher level of the minor leagues.

In 1978, Wiles, 27, pitched his final season of professional baseball, with the Astros’ Class AAA club in Charleston, W.Va. La Russa launched his career as a manager that season, with the Class AA Knoxville affiliate of the White Sox. A year later, La Russa, 34, became White Sox manager.

Previously: The story of how Tony La Russa got his 1st Cards win

Previously: Tony La Russa and the night he got to be No. 3

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers