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Joe Medwick was at home in suburban St. Louis on a Sunday morning when he got an unexpected phone call from Sam Breadon, Cardinals owner. Breadon wanted to know whether Medwick would be interested in playing again for the Cardinals.

When he recovered from his surprise, Medwick said yes.

Breadon told Medwick to get to Sportsman’s Park right away. The Cardinals wanted him available to play that afternoon.

Seventy years ago, on May 25, 1947, Medwick, who thought he was finished as a big-league player, rejoined the Cardinals, providing them with a much-needed run producer and giving him a chance to bring his career full circle.

Seven years earlier, the Cardinals had traded the moody slugger to the Dodgers.

Squire of Sappington

Medwick hit better than .300 in each of his first nine seasons (1932-40) with the Cardinals. Nicknamed “Ducky” because of how he swayed when he walked, Medwick also was known as “Muscles” because of his powerful and consistent hitting.

As the left fielder for the 1934 Gas House Gang Cardinals, Medwick batted .319 with 40 doubles, 18 triples, 18 home runs and 106 RBI. He hit .379 (11-for-29) in the 1934 World Series, helping the Cardinals win four of seven against the Tigers.

Three years later, Medwick was named winner of the 1937 National League Most Valuable Player Award. Known for taking savage swings with a 35-ounce hickory bat, Medwick achieved baseball’s Triple Crown by leading the league that season in batting average (.374), home runs (31) and RBI (154). He remains the last NL player to earn a Triple Crown.

Medwick was traded to the Dodgers in June 1940 and played for them until July 1943. Over the next three years, Medwick was with the Giants and Braves and had a return stint with the Dodgers.

In December 1946, Medwick, released by the Dodgers, signed with the Yankees. He opened the 1947 season with the Yankees, but never appeared in a game for them. On April 29, when the Yankees arrived in St. Louis for a series with the Browns, they gave Medwick his release.

When no other team showed interest, Medwick went to his home in Sappington, Mo. “Medwick says he’s through with baseball,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Ready or not

After winning the 1946 World Series championship, the Cardinals had a poor start to the 1947 season. On the morning of Sunday, May 25, they were in last place at 11-19. Left-handed pitchers were being especially tough on Cardinals batters. Eddie Dyer, Cardinals manager, suggested to Breadon that Medwick would provide a reliable right-handed bat.

The Cardinals were scheduled to play a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park that Sunday afternoon. Breadon phoned Medwick that morning and made his offer.

“It was mounting concern over Cardinals futility against left-handed pitching … that prompted Sam Breadon to summon Medwick from his country life of leisure and daily 18 holes of golf,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported.

Medwick, 35, rushed to the ballpark, met with Breadon and signed a contract. In the clubhouse, he was issued uniform No. 21 instead of the No. 7 he had worn during most of his first stint with the Cardinals.

“We needed somebody who can get us a fly ball or a hit once in a while in the pinch,” Dyer said.

Arriving too late to take batting practice, Medwick watched from the dugout as the Cardinals won the opener, 10-5.

In the second game, the Pirates started Fritz Ostermueller, 39, a left-hander, against Jim Hearn of the Cardinals.

In the fifth inning, with the Pirates ahead, 2-0, the Cardinals had a runner, Del Rice, on first base with Hearn due to bat. Dyer decided to send up a pinch-hitter for the pitcher.

Welcome back

“A husky Redbird, bearing the numeral 21 on his back, waddled to the plate, swinging a couple of bats,” The Sporting News reported. “The number was not listed on the scorecard, but to many in the crowd the newcomer’s distinctive gait stirred memories. Then, the announcement, ‘Medwick batting for Hearn,’ brought a tremendous cheer from the throng.”

Medwick, who hadn’t had a bat in his hand since he was cut by the Yankees four weeks earlier, dug into the batter’s box and awaited a pitch to his liking.

With a familiar snap of his wrists, Medwick swung at an Ostermueller offering and drilled it off the right-field wall for a run-scoring double, missing a home run by a foot.

“Spectator reaction was close to hysteria” as Medwick, replaced by pinch-runner Jeff Cross, “trotted head down to the dugout,” wrote the Post-Dispatch.

After the inning, Ostermueller walked by Dyer and said, “That’s the last run you’ll get off me today.”

Good to his word, Ostermueller pitched a three-hitter and the Pirates won, 2-1. Boxscore

Older and wiser

Still, the Cardinals had found the hitter they needed.

Utilized as a pinch-hitter and part-time outfielder, Medwick batted .307 in 75 games for the 1947 Cardinals. His on-base percentage was .373.

“There was a time when I went up to bat that I didn’t give a whoop in Glocamorra who was pitching,” Medwick said to The Sporting News. “Half the time, I didn’t bother to learn who was out there on the mound and I didn’t care what they were throwing. A fellow can’t be young forever, but he can be smart. I study ’em now, watch what they are throwing me and where they are throwing it.”

The Cardinals surged after June 1 and finished in second place at 89-65, five games behind the Dodgers.

Medwick “was credited with contributing considerably to the dash that brought the Birds from last place into a pennant contender,” The Sporting News wrote.

Medwick returned to the Cardinals in 1948, but the skills had eroded. He batted .211 in 20 games, all as a pinch-hitter, and made his last Cardinals appearance of a Hall of Fame career on July 25.

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

Previously: How Joe Medwick got traded by Cardinals to Dodgers

Looking to improve their offense, the St. Louis baseball Cardinals sought the help of a standout wide receiver who excelled at scoring with the St. Louis football Cardinals.

In 1961, the baseball Cardinals hired Sonny Randle to come to spring training and instruct major-league and minor-league players on how to run the bases better, with a special focus on teaching them to generate more speed from a standing start.

Four years later, in 1965, Randle was invited to come back and help the baseball Cardinals again.

Innovative idea

The 1960 Cardinals were sixth in the National League in runs scored, ahead of only the Cubs and Phillies. Several factors, including base running, contributed to that showing. Cardinals base runners too often failed to take an extra base, or were unable to score, on a hit.

That year, St. Louis had a NFL team for the first time. The football Cardinals had moved from Chicago to St. Louis for the 1960 season. One of their top players was Randle.

At the University of Virginia, Randle was a sprinter on the track team _ he ran the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds _ and was a wide receiver and kickoff returner on the football team.

Drafted by the football Cardinals, Randle debuted with them in 1959. He had a breakout season in 1960, with 62 catches, including 15 for touchdowns, in 12 games. His 15 touchdown receptions remain the single-season Cardinals franchise record.

Randle and Cardinals baseball general manager Bing Devine were at a banquet in the late fall of 1960 and got into a conversation about how a wide receiver, or split end as Randle’s position was known then, was able to generate speed. That’s when Devine got the idea to have Randle become a running instructor for the baseball club in spring training, according to Bob Broeg, sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

After receiving permission from the football Cardinals, Devine arranged for Randle, 25, to join the coaching staff of the baseball Cardinals for an early training camp at Homestead, Fla.

New game

The early training camp, which started Feb. 12, 1961, had 24 players from the 40-man winter roster, including Curt Flood, Julian Javier, Tim McCarver and Bill White. Manager Solly Hemus was there, along with coaches Johnny Keane, Howie Pollet, Harry Walker and Darrell Johnson.

Randle, given the title of special running instructor, admitted he was unfamiliar with baseball. He hadn’t played the game since the seventh grade, when he got hit in the head by a pitch and then “just laid down the bat and walked over to the track,” according to Broeg.

When Randle arrived at Homestead, Cardinals equipment manager Butch Yatkemen “had to show me how to put on a uniform,” Randle said.

The Feb. 16, 1961, edition of the Post-Dispatch had a photo showing Randle giving a tip to McCarver on how to get a fast start when running from a base.

“He really grows on you,” said Hemus. “The players were a lot more inclined to listen to an active football sprinter than to a veteran track coach, no matter how much more the old coach might know.”

When the early training ended and the 1961 Cardinals opened their big-league camp on Feb. 28 at St. Petersburg, Fla., Randle was with them.

Earning his keep

Hemus, a month shy of his 38th birthday, challenged Randle to a 60-yard sprint across the outfield grass. Randle gave Hemus a 25-yard head start and still won. “I know I never was fast, but you made me look like a sewing machine, running up and down in the same spot,” Hemus said to Randle.

After the Cardinals played their exhibition opener against the Yankees on March 11, Randle went back to Homestead to instruct the minor-league players for two weeks.

Wrote Broeg: “Sonny Randle impressed the baseball Cardinals … The feeling is the running technique of several players has been improved, notably (outfielder) Joe Cunningham and (catcher) Hal Smith.”

Randle said he noticed many Cardinals didn’t use their upper bodies and arms properly when breaking away from a base.

“You’ve got to explode from a standing start and you don’t do it with arms hanging loosely at your side,” Randle said. “You’ve got to use the arms as well as the legs. You can’t run your best with the torso straight up like a prim old lady seated in a car with her nose pointed to the sky. You’ve got to lean forward _ explode.”

Asked by Broeg to compare Cardinals baseball and football training camps, Randle said, “I don’t think baseball players work nearly as hard or as long … They stand around more, too.”

After his stint with the baseball Cardinals, Randle returned to St. Louis to help coach track at John Burroughs School _ its alumni include actor Jon Hamm _ and prepare for the 1961 NFL season.

In the baseball Cardinals’ 1961 season opener against Warren Spahn and the Braves, Smith tripled for the first time in two years. He credited Randle’s running tips with enabling him to reach third base on the hit. Boxscore

Return engagement

After the baseball Cardinals won the 1964 World Series championship, Randle was asked to be an instructor again during 1965 spring training.

Arthur Daley, columnist for the New York Times, visited Randle there and wrote, “He is an expert on quick starts and instant acceleration … His assignment is teaching Redbirds base runners how to get that extra little jump on the base paths.”

Said Randle: “The basic principles are identical for both sports _ the leg action and the arm action generate the same acceleration _ but where I drive straight ahead in football, base runners are facing sideways before they take off. Once they wheel around, though, they pick up speed the same way I do.”

Randle timed the Cardinals in 40-yard dashes. Lou Brock was the fastest at 4.3 seconds.

On March 24, Broeg reported from the minor-league camp that retired Cardinals standout Stan Musial was giving instruction on hitting and Randle was demonstrating running techniques. “It was something to see simultaneously on adjoining diamonds _ Musial at work on one, Randle on the other,” Broeg observed.

In 97 games over eight seasons with the football Cardinals, Randle had 60 touchdown catches among his 328 receptions. He ranks third all-time in touchdown receptions among Cardinals. Only Larry Fitzgerald (104) and Roy Green (66) have more.

Previously: From Bill White to Isaac Bruce: September specials

When the Cardinals acquired Butch Metzger from the Padres, they hardly could believe their good fortune. Metzger, a relief pitcher, was just turning 25, not yet at his prime, and a few months earlier he had won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

To many, it appeared the Cardinals had secured their closer for the next several years.

What the Cardinals didn’t know was that Metzger’s pitching career had peaked and was headed toward a rapid decline.

Forty years ago, on May 17, 1977, the Cardinals traded pitcher John D’Acquisto and minor-league infielder Pat Scanlon to the Padres for Metzger.

“We felt we needed another man, a right-hander, in the bullpen and this is the type fellow we’ve been trying to acquire,” Cardinals manager Vern Rapp said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Hot streak

Metzger had won his first 12 major-league decisions. He earned a win with the 1974 Giants and a win with the 1975 Padres, but still had his rookie status with the 1976 Padres.

Under first-year pitching coach Roger Craig, who had played for the 1964 World Series champion Cardinals, Metzger became the Padres closer in 1976. He won his first 10 decisions and finished with an 11-4 record, 16 saves and a 2.92 ERA. He made 77 appearances and pitched 123.1 innings.

Metzger and Reds pitcher Pat Zachry were named co-winners of the 1976 NL Rookie of the Year Award. Each received 11 votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America, resulting in a tie for the first time in the 25-year history of the award.

“I felt I could pitch in the big leagues if I got the chance,” Metzger told The Sporting News. “I honestly didn’t expect to do as well as I did.”

Still, when Rollie Fingers, the closer who helped the Athletics to three consecutive World Series championships (1972-74), became a free agent after the 1976 season, the Padres signed him.

Opportunity knocks

Fingers figured to be the Padres’ closer in 1977, but Metzger erased any suspense with a poor spring training record, yielding 20 earned runs in 15.2 innings.

Meanwhile, the 1977 Cardinals were looking to upgrade their bullpen. Their closer, Al Hrabosky, was clashing with Rapp and their top right-handed reliever, Clay Carroll, had turned 36.

The Cardinals had approached the Padres about Metzger during the winter meetings in December 1976 and they continued their pursuit in 1977.

“Since they have Rollie Fingers now, we thought this might be a time they could spare him,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said of Metzger.

When Metzger got off to a poor start in 1977 _ four saves but a 5.56 ERA _ the Padres relented, dealing him five days before his 25th birthday.

“He’s been in and out, good outings and bad outings,” said Padres manager John McNamara. “We’ve had a hard time putting our finger on anything. There’s nothing wrong with his arm.”

Said Metzger: “Maybe I didn’t have things in my head right because I knew they’d gotten Fingers and he was one of the best.”

Steady work

After a good May with the Cardinals (1-0, 2.00 ERA in five appearances), Metzger had an inconsistent June (3.75 ERA, no saves in 16 games).

He found his groove late in July. In a stretch from July 25 to Aug. 13, Metzger was 3-0 with six saves and lowered his Cardinals ERA from 3.06 to 2.32.

“Now he’s showing good velocity,” Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons said. “Now I can see how he won 11 games in relief last year.”

Said Metzger: “I finally got my live, high fastball going again.”

Metzger finished with a 4-2 record, seven saves and a 3.11 ERA in 58 games for the 1977 Cardinals.

Overall, Metzger appeared in 75 games and pitched 115.1 innings combined for the Padres and Cardinals in 1977.

Foul ending

The 1978 Cardinals headed to spring training with a revamped bullpen. Hrabosky and Carroll had been traded. Rawly Eastwick, acquired a month after the Cardinals got Metzger, became a free agent and departed. The Cardinals picked up relievers Mark Littell, Dave Hamilton and Aurelio Lopez. The prime bullpen holdovers were Metzger and Buddy Schultz.

Metzger appeared headed for a right-handed setup role _ with Littell the closer _ but a poor spring training (0-2 and 6.35 ERA in eight appearances) altered the outlook.

On April 5, two days before the Cardinals opened the 1978 regular season, Metzger was placed on waivers and claimed by the Mets.

“I smelled something fishy a couple of days ago when I wasn’t pitching,” Metzger said. “Sometimes in spring training they judge you on one or two innings, which is ridiculous.”

Said Cardinals pitching coach Claude Osteen: “He just never seemed to make any adjustment with us. He had a good arm, but he just never showed any consistency.”

In 25 games for the 1978 Mets, Metzger was 1-3 with a 6.51 ERA. He was sent to the Phillies in July and never appeared in the major leagues again.

Previously: How Buddy Schultz found a home with Cardinals

Don Young began his professional baseball career in the Cardinals system, played for George Kissell, departed and was brought back by Stan Musial.

Though he had two stints in the Cardinals organization, Young never played for St. Louis.

Instead, he played for their rival, the Cubs; made his debut in a legendary game; and became a central character in one of their most notorious defeats.

Teen hopeful

Young was 17 when he signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent out of Aurora (Colo.) High School in June 1963.

An outfielder, he was assigned to the Brunswick (Ga.) Cardinals, a Class A club managed by Kissell, the respected instructor. Young batted .280 in 16 games and was sent to another Cardinals Class A team, the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs. He hit .257 in 58 games.

After spring training in 1963, Young was placed on waivers, claimed by the Cubs and began to re-establish himself. In 1965, Young batted .273 with 25 doubles and 16 home runs for the Class AA Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs.

At 19, he was rewarded with a promotion to the Cubs in September 1965.

Big-league welcome

Young made his major-league debut as the starting center fielder and leadoff batter for the Cubs in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Sept. 9.

The Dodgers pitcher that night: Sandy Koufax.

The result: a perfect game.

Koufax retired all 27 batters in a row and struck out 14. Young popped out twice and struck out. The Dodgers, held to one hit by Cubs starter Bob Hendley, won, 1-0. Boxscore

The next night, in San Francisco, Young, described by the Chicago Tribune as “perhaps the Cubs’ top outfield farm prospect,” got his first big-league hit, a solo home run off the Giants’ Ron Herbel. Boxscore

Lou Klein, Cubs manager and former Cardinals infielder, started Young in five games versus the Dodgers and Giants, drawing criticism from Braves manager Bobby Bragan for using a rookie in the pennant stretch against contenders.

Overmatched, Young batted .057 (2-for-35) in his September stint with the Cubs.

Musial maneuvers

Young was back in the minor leagues in 1966 and 1967.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals were trying to figure out what to do with Ted Savage.

Savage, who had hit .266 with 16 stolen bases as a rookie outfielder with the 1962 Phillies, was acquired by the Cardinals after the 1964 season and spent most of the next two years in their minor-league system.

After Musial became Cardinals general manager in January 1967, he promised Savage he would try to keep him in the major leagues.

Savage earned a spot as a utility player on the Opening Day roster of the 1967 Cardinals, but seldom played. In May, Savage was ticketed for a return to the minors. Upset, he indicated he wouldn’t report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote.

Determined to fulfill his vow, Musial looked for a big-league team that would take Savage.

Brief return

Fifty years ago, on May 13, 1967, the Cardinals traded Savage and minor-league outfielder John Kindl to the Cubs for Young and minor-league catcher Jim Procopio.

The Chicago Tribune noted that Young was “once rated a potential Cubs center fielder” but “still was struggling in the minors.”

The Cardinals assigned Young to their Class AAA Tulsa Oilers team. Young played in 12 games for manager Warren Spahn, batted .147 (5-for-34) and was sent back to the Cubs on Aug. 1. The Cubs told Young to report to their Arizona Instructional League team.

Young’s career appeared to be on the brink. He spent the 1968 season with the Lodi (Calif.) Crushers, a Class A club.

Though he wasn’t on their 40-man roster, the Cubs did invite Young, 23, to attend their 1969 spring training camp. It was there that he received an unexpected opportunity.

Rebuilding project

Adolfo Phillips, projected to be the starting center fielder for the 1969 Cubs, broke his hand at spring training. Cubs manager Leo Durocher considered giving the job to a prospect, Oscar Gamble, but the 19-year-old had only a year of minor-league experience.

With his options limited, Durocher turned to Young.

Young “conceivably could be ready for the big time,” Jerome Holtzman of The Sporting News wrote.

“He hasn’t been a strong hitter,” Holtzman opined. “He is, however, a beautiful center fielder … and could very well become a Gold Glove winner _ if he can hit enough to stay.”

Young worked with Klein, his former manager who had become a batting instructor, and Cubs coach Pete Reiser on his hitting. Durocher also wanted Young to become more aggressive.

“He could have a great future, but it’s up to him,” Durocher said. “I can’t do it for him. I don’t care what he hits. I want to see more enthusiasm from him.”

Blame game

With Phillips on the mend, Young was the Opening Day center fielder for the 1969 Cubs.

The Cubs won 11 of their first 12 games and Durocher stayed with Young. In June, Phillips, who clashed with Durocher, was traded to the Expos, solidifying Young’s hold on the job.

On July 8, the Cubs opened a key series with the Mets at New York. The second-place Mets were five games behind the Cubs and Chicago was looking to push them further back.

The Cubs led, 3-1, in the ninth, but the Mets rallied for a 4-3 victory when Young was unable to catch two fly balls that fell for doubles. Cubs third baseman Ron Santo blamed the loss on Young. Boxscore

“He was just thinking of himself,” Santo said. “He had a bad day at the bat, so he’s got his head down. He is worrying about his batting average and not the team … He can keep his head down and he can keep right on going, out of sight, for all I care.”

The next day, Santo apologized: “What I said about Donnie, I didn’t mean. I said it because I was upset.”

The damage, though, had been done. When the Cubs returned to Chicago, Santo was booed at Wrigley Field. The Mets surged ahead of the crumbling Cubs, clinched the division title and went on to win the National League pennant and World Series crown.

Young finished the 1969 season, his last in the big leagues, with a .239 batting average in 101 games.

Previously: 2nd career as Cardinal was long, fruitful for Ted Savage

A passed ball was the key to enabling the Cardinals to achieve one of their most amazing comebacks.

Trailing by nine runs, the Cardinals rallied to beat the defending National League champion Braves 25 years ago on May 9, 1992, at St. Louis.

The comeback represented the largest deficit overcome by the Cardinals since they rallied from being down 11-0 and beat the Giants, 14-12, on June 15, 1952, at New York.

The Cardinals totaled 15 hits and five walks against Braves pitchers John Smoltz, Juan Berenguer and Marvin Freeman, but still may have come up short if not for a mistake by catcher Damon Berryhill.

Makings of a blowout

Smoltz was matched against Cardinals starter Rheal Cormier in the Saturday night game at Busch Stadium.

It quickly became a mismatch.

Smoltz held the Cardinals hitless the first three innings.

The Braves scored eight runs off Cormier and another run off Juan Agosto and led 9-0 entering the bottom half of the fourth.

“You’d think with a 9-0 lead and a no-hitter going that we’re going to win,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi: “When we were down 9-0, I turned to (umpire Bruce) Froemming and said, ‘This is ugly.’ ”

Staying alive

The Cardinals scored three times in the fourth, but the Braves came back with two runs in the fifth off Bob McClure for an 11-3 lead.

With that kind of support, Smoltz, one of the Braves’ best pitchers, usually would take control of a game. However, he gave up two more runs to the Cardinals in the fifth, making the score 11-5.

“When it was 11-5, I thought there still was time,” Pagnozzi said.

Felix Jose led off the St. Louis half of the seventh with a double off Smoltz. After Pedro Guerrero grounded out and Brian Jordan popped out, Todd Zeile singled, driving in Jose and cutting the Braves’ lead to 11-6.

Cox replaced Smoltz with Berenguer.

Big break

An intimidating, hard thrower, Berenguer had pitched for two World Series championship clubs _ 1984 Tigers and 1987 Twins _ and had earned 17 saves for the 1991 NL champion Braves.

He struck out the first batter he faced, Pagnozzi, but the third strike eluded Berryhill for a passed ball, allowing Pagnozzi to reach first and Zeile to move to second.

Instead of being out of the inning and heading to the eighth with an 11-6 lead, the Braves still needed a third out.

“I just blew it,” said Berryhill. “It’s something that should never happen. I kept it alive for them.”

The next batter, Luis Alicea, walked, loading the bases.

Cardinals manager Joe Torre sent Gerald Perry to pinch-hit for pitcher Cris Carpenter. Perry, a former Brave, ripped a bases-clearing double, making the score 11-9.

Ray Lankford popped out, ending the inning, but momentum had swung toward the Cardinals.

“When we got those three runs, we thought we had a chance,” Perry said.

Awesome Alicea

In the eighth, Berenguer walked Ozzie Smith. Jose followed with a home run, tying the score at 11-11.

Cox replaced Berenguer with Freeman.

Guerrero grounded out, Jordan doubled and Zeile struck out.

With two outs and Jordan at second, the Braves opted to intentionally walk Pagnozzi and pitch to Alicea, the St. Louis second baseman who was batting .115. Since the season began, Alicea was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Alicea thwarted the strategy with a single to left. Jordan, racing for the plate, stepped on Berryhill’s foot and fell to the ground. Froemming called him safe, giving the Cardinals a 12-11 lead.

Some thought Jordan’s foot never touched the plate, but Berryhill said, “I don’t know if I tagged him.”

Jordan told the Associated Press, “I was looking to run over him, but he stepped back. He had his foot on the plate, but I kicked it or stepped on it. I scored.”

Defying the odds

Cardinals closer Lee Smith retired the Braves in order in the ninth, sealing the win.

The Braves scored all of their runs against left-handers: Cormier, Agosto and McClure. They were held scoreless by right-handers Carpenter, Mike Perez and Smith.

“This is the best (comeback) I’ve ever witnessed,” Perry said.

Said Cox: “You’re disappointed in every loss, but the odds on you losing a nine-run lead are about 500-to-1.” Boxscore

Previously: How Braves rallied from 9 down to beat Cardinals

Though his stint with the Cardinals was fleeting, Skeeter Barnes made a lasting impression.

In his first Cardinals at-bat, Barnes, 30, a journeyman utility player, hit a three-run home run, helping St. Louis win a goofy game against the Padres.

The shot, which occurred 30 years ago on May 7, 1987, was Barnes’ only hit as a Cardinal. He got three more at-bats before he was returned to the minor leagues.

Though his stay with the Cardinals lasted less than a month, Barnes had the satisfaction of contributing to a team that would become National League champions.

Traveling man

William Henry Barnes was born in Cincinnati. He told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he didn’t know how he got to be called Skeeter.

“If somebody called me William, I wouldn’t turn around,” Barnes said. “It’s been pretty much Skeeter all my life.”

Barnes played baseball at the University of Cincinnati and broke into the major leagues with the 1983 Reds. He also played briefly for the Reds in 1984 and for the Expos in 1985.

After spending the 1986 season in the minor leagues, Barnes became a free agent and went to Puerto Rico to play for Ponce in a winter league. St. Louis coach Nick Leyva, managing Mayaguez that winter, was impressed by Barnes, who could play all of the infield and outfield positions, and suggested the Cardinals sign him.

In January 1987, the Cardinals gave Barnes a minor-league contract and invited him to attend their big-league training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla.

“If I can just get my foot in the door, show them what I can do, things will be all right,” Barnes said. “I do know how to play the game.”

Ready or not

Though Tom Lawless won the competition that spring for a utility job, the Cardinals liked what they saw from Barnes and assigned him to their Class AAA club at Louisville.

On May 2, when Cardinals outfielder Tito Landrum went on the disabled list because of a broken left foot, Barnes, batting .294 for Louisville, was promoted to St. Louis.

The Louisville team was in Oklahoma City when Barnes learned he was being called up to the Cardinals.

“They called Skeeter at 1:15 and wanted to know if he could get on a 2:30 flight” to St. Louis, Louisville coach Joe Pettini told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Said Barnes: “I hope I can come in here and make an impact.”

Five days later, Barnes got to make his Cardinals debut.

Opportunity knocks

Playing on a Thursday afternoon at San Diego, the Cardinals had a 14-0 lead over the Padres in the seventh inning when manager Whitey Herzog began to substitute several of his starters. Barnes was sent in to replace third baseman Terry Pendleton.

The Padres cut the lead to 14-5 in the bottom half of the seventh when starter Bob Forsch yielded a two-run home run to Stan Jefferson and a three-run home run to Bruce Bochy.

In the eighth, St. Louis had runners on first and third, two outs, when Barnes came to bat for the first time as a Cardinal. He drilled a Greg Booker pitch for a three-run home run, extending the St. Louis lead to 17-5.

Barnes’ blast made the Cardinals’ mood a little less irritable in the ninth when the Padres scored five times for a 17-10 final.

“What’s the record for having the biggest lead in the ninth inning and blowing it?” asked Herzog. “I just wondered. That had all the earmarks.”

Said Barnes: “Nobody wants to play in games like that, but I want to get into any game I can.” Boxscore

On the road again

Barnes never got a start for the Cardinals. Herzog used him three times as a pinch-hitter.

On May 20, when pitcher Ken Dayley came off the disabled list, the Cardinals opened a roster spot for him by sending Barnes to Louisville.

Though Barnes played well for the Class AAA club, batting .282, he wasn’t in the Cardinals’ plans.

On July 16, Barnes hit a two-run triple in his final Louisville game, a 5-4 victory at Nashville. After the game, the Cardinals sold his contract for $100 to the Brewers, who assigned him to their minor-league affiliate at Denver.

Barnes returned to the big leagues with the Reds in 1989 and had his best success as a Tigers utility player from 1991-94.

Previously: Tom Lawless and his role in Cardinals World Series lore