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A risky decision by Giants manager Al Dark backfired against the 1964 Cardinals, helping them rally for a key victory and keeping alive their longshot pennant hopes. In retrospect, the Cardinals might not have won the National League pennant and advanced to a World Series championship if Dark hadn’t made his controversial move.

alvin_darkFifty years ago, on Aug. 21, 1964, the Giants had a 5-3 lead against the Cardinals with two outs in the ninth when Dark ordered an intentional walk to Bill White, putting the potential tying run on base. The Cardinals took advantage, scoring three runs and winning, 6-5.

On the morning of Aug. 16, the Giants had been in second place in the National League, four behind the Phillies. Then they lost five in a row. As the Cardinals opened a three-game series at San Francisco, the Giants were 7.5 behind the Phillies and St. Louis was 10 back.

A win in the series opener was essential for the Cardinals to keep alive their slim pennant hopes.

The Giants, though, scored five runs in the first three innings against Curt Simmons and Bob Humphreys.

Jim Duffalo, a right-hander, relieved starter Bob Hendley with one out in the sixth and held the Cardinals scoreless for 2.2 innings. He entered the ninth with the 5-3 lead.

Lou Brock led off with a single to left. Dick Groat grounded out, with Brock moving to second. Then, Ken Boyer also grounded out, with Brock staying put.

Dark and White

White, a left-handed batter, was up next. He was hitless in the game, but he had hit a couple of foul balls over the right-field fence.

On four previous occasions that season, Dark had put the potential winning run on base intentionally. Each time, the Giants won.

Concerned about White’s power and preferring Duffalo face a right-handed batter, Dark ordered an intentional walk to White, putting runners on second and first.

In his book “When in Doubt, Fire the Manager” (1980, Dutton), Dark wrote, “You can do everything by the book day after day, but there’ll come a time when you feel a need to try something unorthodox, and if it fails you’re sure to be criticized … Never put the winning run on base? I’ve done it when I thought the batter was a greater threat to beat us than the man on deck.”

The next batter was light-hitting Dal Maxvill.

Maxvill hit a soft liner to left for a single, scoring Brock and reducing the Giants lead to 5-4. White advanced to second.

Mike Shannon came to the plate. He hit a ground ball that eluded Duffalo and rolled toward second base. As second baseman Hal Lanier fielded the ball on the grass, White rounded third and steamed toward home.

Lanier hurried an off-balance throw toward the plate, but the ball went up the third-base line and eluded catcher Tom Haller as White, unchallenged, scored the tying run.

Duffalo, backing up the play, couldn’t field the errant throw. As the ball bounced away from him and toward the wall, Maxvill, who never stopped running, scored, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead.

The intentional walk had opened the door to a pair of singles and an error, resulting in three runs.

Dark lifted Duffalo for left-hander Billy Pierce, who got Jerry Buchek to fly out to center.

Save for Schultz

The Giants, though, still had a chance.

Cardinals manager Johnny Keane brought in knuckleball specialist Barney Schultz to face a formidable trio of Harvey Kuenn, one-time American League batting champion, and future Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Willie Mays.

Schultz, 38, who had been called up from the minor leagues three weeks earlier, was up to the challenge. Kuenn and Snider grounded out; Mays popped out to shortstop.

The Associated Press wrote, “Al Dark pulled the trigger once too often in his gambling game of Russian roulette.”

The Oakland Tribune wrote, “When you’re going bad, nothing seems to work.”

Undaunted, Dark, a former Cardinals shortstop, shrugged and said,  “You gotta lose some.” Boxscore

The Cardinals went on to win the pennant, finishing a game ahead of both the Reds and Phillies.

The Giants finished fourth, three behind the Cardinals. After the season, Dark was fired and replaced by Herman Franks.

Previously: 1956 Cardinals groomed nine managers

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(Updated Aug. 24, 2014)

In 2000, Edgar Renteria established the Cardinals single-season record for most home runs hit by a shortstop. In 2014, Jhonny Peralta topped that mark.

edgar_renteria5Peralta, in his first season as the Cardinals’ shortstop, has 18 home runs.

Renteria, in his second season as the Cardinals’ shortstop, hit 16 homers in 2000. Those were the most home runs hit by a Cardinals shortstop in a season since Solly Hemus slugged a career-best 15 in 1952.

(Daryl Spencer hit 16 home runs for the 1960 Cardinals, 13 as a shortstop and 3 as a second baseman.)

During spring training in 2000, Renteria told Marlins manager John Boles he intended to hit 20 home runs for the Cardinals. Tony La Russa, the Cardinals’ manager, flinched when he heard Renteria’s remark, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa wanted Renteria focused on hitting for average, not power.

Renteria did both. He led the 2000 Cardinals in hits (156), doubles (32) and stolen bases (21). He batted .278 and was second on the club in RBI (76), behind only Jim Edmonds (108). Renteria was named to the National League Silver Slugger team, the first Cardinals shortstop to have done so since Ozzie Smith in 1987.

Record rocket

On Aug. 29, 2000, Renteria hit a solo home run off Marlins rookie Chuck Smith. It broke Hemus’ club record and was Renteria’s last home run of the season.

“I think that was the only mistake (Smith) made the whole game,” Renetria told the Post-Dispatch.

Said La Russa: “He’s been the complete shortstop. You can’t ask for any more than he’s done.” Boxscore

Many of Renteria’s home runs in 2000 came in bunches.

He hit a home run in each of three consecutive games from April 9-11. Those blasts came off Valerio de los Santos of the Brewers and the Astros’ Jose Lima and Doug Henry.

Renteria also hit home runs in back-to-back games against the Giants’ Russ Ortiz and Kirk Rueter on May 9-10.

Hungry hitters

Renteria, a right-handed batter, contributed to a homer-happy 2000 Cardinals team that ranked second in the National League in home runs at 235, trailing only the Astros (249). Nine Cardinals in 2000 hit 12 homers or more, led by Edmonds (42) and Mark McGwire (32).

“All these guys are coming to home plate hungry,” Cardinals hitting coach Mike Easler said to the Post-Dispatch. “That’s what I like about it. They’re never satisfied with the at-bat before. The next at-bat is always like their last one. Their intensity at home plate is much higher than last year.”

Renteria, who turned 24 in 2000, hit 12 of his 16 home runs on the road. Eleven of the 16 were struck versus right-handed pitchers. Ten were solo shots.

The 16 home runs in 2000 were Renteria’s single-season high in 16 major-league seasons. He hit 140 homers in the big leagues, 71 in six seasons (1999-2004) with the Cardinals.

Previously: Edgar Renteria had epic season at shortstop for 2003 Cardinals

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Three prominent Cardinals from the Whitey Herzog era _ Willie McGee, Tom Pagnozzi and, yes, Ozzie Smith _ thrived under Tony La Russa in his first season as St. Louis manager.

ozzie_smith7Though Smith remains upset with La Russa because the manager reduced his playing time in 1996, relegating him to a reserve role behind shortstop Royce Clayton, what often gets overlooked is that Smith produced a quality final season under La Russa’s management.

In a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, Rick Hummel pointed out that Smith played for all four living Cardinals managers who have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame: Herzog, Red Schoendienst, Joe Torre and La Russa.

McGee and Pagnozzi played for all four of them as Cardinals, too.

(McGee, Pagnozzi and Smith all joined the Cardinals in the 1980s when Herzog was manager. They were Cardinals in July 1990 when Herzog, who abruptly resigned, was replaced by his coach, Schoendienst, for 24 games. All three played for Torre in August 1990 when he took over for Schoendienst.)

After Torre was fired in 1995, La Russa was hired to manage the Cardinals in 1996.

Pagnozzi and Smith were holdovers from the 1995 Cardinals. McGee, who was traded to the Athletics (managed by La Russa) about a month after Torre became Cardinals manager, signed with St. Louis as a free agent after spending the 1995 season with the Red Sox.

After spring training in 1996, La Russa declared Clayton the starting shortstop. The decision created a rift between La Russa and Smith that has lasted for 18 years. (Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz recently pleaded for a truce between the two Hall of Famers.)

Unlike Smith, McGee and Pagnozzi built respectful relationships with La Russa in 1996.

Like Smith, McGee and Pagnozzi performed well under La Russa’s management that year.

McGee: Team player

_ McGee batted .307 (12 points above his career mark) for the 1996 Cardinals. It was his highest batting average in five years, since he hit .312 for the 1991 Giants. McGee led the 1996 Cardinals in pinch-hitting batting average (.350, 14-for-40).

In October 1996, just before the Cardinals opened the National League postseason (their first appearance in nine years), Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch wrote, “McGee brought a lot more than heritage or aesthetics to the table. He filled in admirably for (Brian) Jordan and (Ron) Gant and proved dangerous as a part-timer coming off the bench.”

Said McGee of La Russa: “Whatever he asks me to do, I do. Pinch-hit, play, whatever … I’m sure he’ll try to put the best team he can out there.”

Pagnozzi: Rises to challenge

_ Pagnozzi produced single-season career highs in home runs (13), slugging percentage (.423) and runs scored (48) for the 1996 Cardinals while elevating his skill as a pitch caller. (St. Louis finished among the top six in the league in ERA.) Pagnozzi batted .270 (17 points above his career mark) in 1996 and especially was effective (.311, 56-for-180) with runners on base.

Describing the celebration after the Cardinals clinched the division title on Sept. 24, 1996, at Pittsburgh, Hummel wrote, “One of the more poignant clubhouse scenes was a tearful Tom Pagnozzi, the Cardinals catcher, hugging manager Tony La Russa, who didn’t seem all that impressed with Pagnozzi early in the season.”

Said Pagnozzi: “We went through a lot. I just thanked him for staying with me and keeping me here. We respect each other and I think I’ve risen to his challenge. To me, this was a great feeling because I was able to go up and look him in the eye and he knows I’m a player. “

Smith: Blinded by pride

_ Smith, who was 41 during the 1996 season, hit .282 (20 points above his career mark) that year. He started 50 games at shortstop and otherwise was used primarily as a pinch hitter. He hit .351 (40-for-114) at home under La Russa’s management.

Wrote Gordon: “La Russa’s unsentimental handling of Smith set the tone for this season. He was here to win, not to massage egos. Those who played had to bust their tails and those who sat were supposed to stay ready.”

“The key is, this is a team sport,” La Russa said. “They’ve got to handle their emotions so that they’re contributing something positive to the club. If the guy on the bench is in the corner and not getting ready to put a piece in later on, I have a problem with that. I’m checking that all the time. My job is not making guys happy. It’s to do what’s best for the team.”

Previously: How Ron Gant, Jeff Brantley burned bridges with Cardinals

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An item about Matt Carpenter in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article grabbed my attention. Rick Hummel reported that the combined regular-season and postseason plate appearances by Carpenter in 2013 were the most all-time for a Cardinals player.

matt_carpenter3Carpenter had 717 regular-season plate appearances and 76 postseason plate appearances for a total of 793 in 2013.

That got me wondering where Carpenter ranked among Cardinals in most regular-season plate appearances in a year.

What I learned stunned me: Carpenter didn’t make the top 10.

Another surprise: the Cardinals’ all-time leader in regular-season plate appearances for a year isn’t a noted leadoff batter such as Lou Brock or Vince Coleman.

It’s Taylor Douthit.

Blasingame rates over Musial

The Cardinals’ top 10 in regular-season plate appearances in a year, according to Baseball-reference.com:

1. Taylor Douthit, 752 in 1928.

2. Taylor Douthit, 748 in 1930.

3. Curt Flood, 739 in 1964.

4. Lou Brock, 729 in 1970.

5. Don Blasingame, 728 in 1957.

6. Lou Brock, 727 in 1973.

7. Bill White, 726 in 1963.

8. Lou Brock, 724 in 1967.

9. Stan Musial, 722 in 1949.

10. Lou Brock, 721 in 1971.

A player is credited with a plate appearance each time he completes a turn batting. Unlike an at-bat, a plate appearance may result in a walk, a hit by pitch, a sacrifice bunt or a sacrifice fly.

The all-time major-league leader in regular-season plate appearances in a year is Jimmy Rollins of the 2007 Phillies at 778.

Musial is the Cardinals’ career leader in regular-season plate appearances at 12,717.

Cardinals catalyst

Among Cardinals, no one was better at getting to the plate in a season than Douthit.

A right-handed batter, Douthit, 27, was the center fielder and leadoff batter for the 1928 National League champion Cardinals. He hit .295 with 191 hits, 35 doubles and 84 walks in 752 plate appearances in 1928. He batted leadoff in 153 games and 748 plate appearances. In the only game he wasn’t in the leadoff spot that season, he batted fifth in four plate appearances.

He also was a high-quality center fielder.

Despite his success, Douthit was the subject of trade speculation after the 1928 season.

In its Oct. 25, 1928, edition, The Sporting News wrote of Douthit, “He is one of the mysteries of baseball. He has been a great fielder for years, perhaps the best fly chaser in the game today … This year, he started out like a champion batter. He was the first hitter to collect 100 safeties. His fielding, as always, was brilliant. Then, in midseason, he slumped as a batter and stayed in the slump right through the World Series.”

At the end of July, Douthit had a season batting average of .347. But he hit .218 in August and .179 in September. In the 1928 World Series against the Yankees, Douthit was 1-for-11 (.091).

“If Douthit is traded,” The Sporting News reported, “he’ll make the Cards weep frequently … It will be difficult to remember his early-season hitting after the long late summer and fall when he was looked upon as the man who officially opened every game by making the first out.”

The Cardinals, though, kept Douthit. It was a good decision. He helped them win another National League pennant in 1930. Douthit hit .303 that season with 201 hits, 41 doubles and 60 walks in 748 plate appearances. He batted leadoff in 143 games and 694 plate appearances. In the 11 games he wasn’t in the leadoff spot, he batted third in 54 plate appearances.

Again, though, he had a miserable World Series, hitting .083 (2-for-24) against the Athletics.

In 1931, Douthit was challenged for the center field job by rookie Pepper Martin. On March 26, 1931, The Sporting News wrote, “There was much winter conversation about (Pepper) Martin … But that doesn’t make Douthit anybody’s snail. Taylor always has been a good hitter and a brilliant fielder and, unless he breaks a leg or an arm, he’ll play 154 games for the Redbirds in center field.”

That prediction didn’t pan out. The Cardinals wanted Martin in center field. Though Douthit was hitting .331, he was traded to the Reds on June 15, 1931, for outfielder Wally Roettger.

In nine seasons (1923-31) with the Cardinals, Douthit hit .300 and produced 1,006 hits. His on-base percentage with St. Louis was a sparkling .373.

Previously: Cardinals classic: Skip Schumaker bests Roy Halladay

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Desperate for a power-hitting right fielder and feeling the sting of the defection of free-agent Jack Clark, the Cardinals stunned nearly everyone when they traded second baseman Tommy Herr, a stalwart of their three pennant-winning teams of the 1980s, to the defending World Series champion Twins in 1988.

tom_herrAs he departed, Herr said he hoped to return to the Cardinals as their manager. It never happened.

On April 22, 1988, Herr was dealt to Minnesota for outfielder Tom Brunansky. The trade was announced after the Mets beat St. Louis, 4-0, dropping the Cardinals’ record to 4-11.

Joe Durso of the New York Times wrote, “It stunned Herr and his teammates as they came into the locker room. Herr was asked to step into manager Whitey Herzog’s office, where he received the news from Herzog and Dal Maxvill, the Cardinals’ general manager.”

Said Herr: “Sure, I’m shocked. I’ve loved my years as a Cardinal and it’s hard to say goodbye.”

Herr had played 10 seasons (1979-88) with the Cardinals, batting .274 with 1,021 hits in 1,029 games. He was the starting second baseman on the pennant-winning clubs of 1982, ’85 and ’87. He was an all-star in 1985 when he placed third in the National League in both RBI (110) and doubles (38). Herr ranked among the top three second basemen in the league in fielding percentage six times.

“It’s not an easy thing trading a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman,” Maxvill said to the Associated Press.

Three factors prompted the trade:

_ The Cardinals lacked power. Their top run producer, Clark, had signed with the Yankees after the 1987 season. Jim Lindeman, the Opening Day right fielder, was headed to the disabled list because of back spasms. The Cardinals were averaging 2.8 runs per game. Brunansky, who had hit 20 or more home runs in six consecutive seasons (1982-87) for the Twins, provided a much-needed power source.

“The deciding factor was our (poor) run production,” Maxvill said to the Associated Press. “Brunansky can help.”

_ The Cardinals feared Herr would depart for free agency. Herr was in the final season of a four-year contract. After losing reliever Bruce Sutter and Clark to free agency, the Cardinals were determined to get value in return for Herr before he could depart.

“I could see the writing on the wall,” Herr said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but I didn’t think it would happen this soon.”

Said Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez, who played with Herr on the 1982 World Series champion Cardinals: “If they had Clark, Tommy Herr’s on the team.”

_ The Cardinals had a replacement for Herr. Luis Alicea, a first-round selection of the Cardinals in the 1986 draft, was promoted from Class AAA Louisville to replace Herr at second base.

“We think we have a fine young man who is ready to be an everyday player here in Alicea,” Maxvill said to United Press International.

Twins general manager Andy MacPhail told the Associated Press he contacted Maxvill about a trade. The Twins were seeking a left-handed batter for the top of their order. Herr, a switch-hitter, fit the need.

MacPhail said Maxvill first asked about third baseman Gary Gaetti and outfielder Kirby Puckett.

“I told him I wouldn’t trade Gaetti and that my house would be burned to the ground if I traded Puckett,” MacPhail said.

The Twins had defeated the Cardinals in a seven-game World Series in October 1987. Now, six months later, they were swapping position starters.

“I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve had here,” Herr said to the Associated Press. “I wanted to play my whole career here. That dream has gone. It’s been a good time. Maybe I’ll be back and manage this ballclub.”

Previously: Cardinals deal for Tony Pena not as lopsided as thought

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With the NFL playoffs in full swing, we take a break from our St. Louis Cardinals baseball posts and present a timely tribute on a milestone anniversary to the best coaching hiring in St. Louis Cardinals football history.

don_coryellForty years ago, Jan. 18, 1973, the football Cardinals, responding to an unsolicited letter, hired Don Coryell to be their head coach.

An innovator known for producing winning college teams and high-powered offenses, Coryell overcame his lack of NFL experience and transformed the Cardinals into a championship-caliber club.

In five seasons (1973-77) under Coryell, the Cardinals posted a 42-27-1 record and twice qualified for the playoffs. Those were the Cardinals’ first playoff berths since 1948 and their first division titles since moving from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960.

Few predicted such success in January 1973. The Cardinals had finished the 1972 season with their second consecutive 4-9-1 record under head coach Bob Hollway. They ranked 23rd in scoring in the 26-team NFL.

Coryell, 48, had a 104-19-2 record in 12 years at San Diego State. He had developed future NFL players such as quarterbacks Dennis Shaw of the Bills, Don Horn of the Broncos and Brian Sipe of the Browns, and receivers Isaac Curtis of the Bengals and Gary Garrison of the Chargers.

But, wrote Rich Koster of The Sporting News, Coryell was “an unfamiliar name to most” outside of the San Diego area.

In the book “Big Red: The Story of the Football Cardinals” (1975, Piraeus), author Robert Burnes wrote that reporters at the St. Louis press conference announcing Coryell’s hiring asked, “Don who?”

Seeking a challenge at a higher level, Coryell had written a letter to Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, inquiring about the job after Hollway was fired. Meanwhile, Bidwill told Koster, “people told me that, if I wanted a college coach, there was this guy at San Diego State.”

Coryell received a three-year contract from the Cardinals. The only other candidate considered for the position was former Packers quarterback Bart Starr, United Press International reported.

“I wanted someone who could put the offense back into the Cardinals,” Bidwill said to the Associated Press. “(Coryell) has always had this. He comes to us very highly recommended from many sources. He has a consistent record of winning seasons.”

Said Coryell: “I believe in a wide-open style of play. I like to throw the ball. I believe in attacking the defense.”

One reason Coryell was confident he could succeed was the presence of veteran quarterback Jim Hart on the Cardinals’ roster. Hollway had soured on Hart and had tried Gary Cuozzo and Tim Van Galder at quarterback in 1972.

Coryell watched film of Hart and determined Hart would be his starter. “(Hart) can throw long and he can throw the deep sideline pattern,” Coryell said to The Sporting News. “If he can do that, I know he can throw the short stuff. I want a quarterback who can explode the ball, particularly against the zone defense.”

Said Hart to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2010: “After the first meeting we had with him, and he started talking about how he liked to throw the ball … It was like, ‘Whoa, you got us, pal.’ “

After a 4-9-1 record in 1973 (the Cardinals did improve to 11th in the NFL in scoring), St. Louis was 10-4 and won a division championship in Coryell’s second season, 1974. Hart thrived in an offense that included running backs Jim Otis and Terry Metcalf; receivers Mel Gray, Earl Thomas, Jackie Smith and J.V. Cain (Ike Harris and Pat Tilley later contributed significantly to the receiving corps); and linemen Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler and Tom Banks.

The Cardinals were 11-3 and won a second consecutive division title in 1975. Their offense ranked seventh in the NFL in scoring. St. Louis won seven times in the last minute of a game that season, earning the nickname “Cardiac Cardinals.”

Winning championships with flair, the football Cardinals began to rank in popularity with the baseball Cardinals, who went without a championship in the 1970s, and Coryell began to emerge as one of the iconic coaches in St. Louis sports history.

A 10-4 finish in 1976 was followed by a 7-7 record in 1977. Coryell and Bidwill feuded over control of the draft and personnel decisions. Disenchanted, Coryell went back to San Diego to coach the Chargers and led them to the NFL playoffs in four consecutive seasons.

Previously: 1987: year of the Smiths, Ozzie and J.T., for Cardinals

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