Dennis Ribant hoped to be the second person _ and first American _ to play in both the National Hockey League and in baseball’s major leagues.

He made a good run at it, playing in the farm systems of baseball’s Milwaukee Braves and hockey’s Detroit Red Wings.

Encouraged by the Braves to focus on baseball, Ribant reluctantly gave up hockey and pitched in the majors with six teams, including one game for the Cardinals. He was 81 when he died on April 24, 2023.

Cleats and skates

A Detroit native, Ribant was 12 when he worked for tips dusting off seats for fans at Tiger Stadium, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted.

A right-handed pitcher, Ribant got offers from the Tigers and Yankees after he graduated from high school but both were contingent on him quitting hockey, the Detroit Free Press reported. He signed with the Braves for less money because they “didn’t object too strenuously to hockey,” according to the newspaper.

About the same time, Ribant, 19, got assigned to the Detroit Red Wings’ Junior A hockey team in Hamilton, Ontario, for the 1960-61 season. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment in itself for an American kid to make a Junior A team,” Red Wings scout Jimmy Skinner told the Free Press. “It’s really rare.”

In a late-season game, Ribant “was hit blindside by a burly defenseman of the Toronto Marlboros and sent reeling into the boards of Maple Leaf Gardens,” Dick Young reported in the New York Daily News.

Ribant dislocated his left elbow. Soon after, when he showed up for his first spring training with the Braves in 1961, they were surprised to see his left arm in a sling.

(Five years later, Ribant still felt pain in the left elbow when he swung a bat, the Daily News reported in 1966.)

Fortunately for him, Ribant’s pitching arm, the right one, was undamaged. Assigned to Davenport (Iowa), a Class D team in 1961, Ribant was 17-2 and pitched a perfect game. Promoted to Class AA Austin (Texas) late in the season, he was 4-2. His overall ERA for the year was 1.68.

Playing hardball

After his successful pro baseball debut in 1961, Ribant planned to play another junior hockey season in the Red Wings’ system, but the Braves “shudder at the thought of him playing hockey,” the Free Press reported.

Braves general manager John McHale contacted his Red Wings counterpart, Jack Adams, and asked him to help convince Ribant to give up hockey, according to the New York Daily News.

As the Free Press noted, “The Red Wings find themselves in the strange position of discouraging a hockey prospect, especially an American hockey prospect and, taking it a step further, one born and raised in Detroit … Good American boys don’t come along very often, especially one from the club’s own town.”

According to the Daily News, Adams agreed to send scout Jimmy Skinner to talk with Ribant, but told McHale, “He’s a pretty good hockey player … The decision will be up to the boy.”

Ribant told the Daily News that Skinner said, “You’re going to be a big-league ballplayer. You can make a lot of money in baseball.”

Ribant replied, “I can do both, at least for a little while. I can make the National Hockey League, too, can’t I?”

Skinner said, “Maybe. You have a chance. They tell me you have a better chance in baseball. Think it over.”

Ribant decided to make baseball his sole sport.

(In an interview with the Free Press, Skinner said, “If he stayed in hockey, he would need several more years of seasoning, and I don’t think he’d ever make the National (Hockey) League, although he could play in the high minors.”)

A Canadian, Jim Riley, is the only person to play in the NHL and in baseball’s major leagues. An infielder, Riley played four games with the 1921 St. Louis Browns and two games with the 1923 Washington Senators. He also played in the NHL with Chicago and Detroit in 1927.

On the move

Ribant never did pitch for the Braves, In August 1964, during his fourth season in their farm system, the Braves traded him to the last-place Mets, who put him in their starting rotation. His first big-league win, on Aug. 17, 1964, was a four-hit shutout of the Pirates. Boxscore

After spending part of the 1965 season back in the minors, Ribant returned to the Mets’ starting rotation in 1966, finishing 11-9 with a 3.20 ERA. He and Bob Shaw (11-10) became the first Mets starters to complete a season with a winning mark.

After the season, Mets general manager George Weiss retired and was replaced by Bing Devine, the former Cardinals general manager who had become an assistant to Weiss. Devine determined the Mets needed a center fielder and went shopping for a Pirates prospect, Don Bosch. According to the New York Times, Mets scouts rated Bosch’s fielding skills “as good as Willie Mays, Bill Virdon or Curt Flood.”

Devine offered Pirates general manager Joe Brown a choice of a starting pitcher, Bob Shaw or Jack Fisher, for Bosch, but Brown insisted on Ribant, The Pittsburgh Press reported.

On Dec. 6, 1966, the Mets dealt Ribant and outfielder Gary Kolb to the Pirates for Bosch and pitcher Don Cardwell. “I hated to give up Ribant, but you can’t expect something for nothing in this business,” Devine told the New York Daily News.

Bosch flopped, batting .140 for the 1967 Mets and .171 the next year before being banished to the Expos.

Ribant was 9-8, including 2-0 versus the Cardinals, for the 1967 Pirates, and brought a hockey player’s attitude to the diamond. “Ribant doesn’t walk, he strides,” Roy McHugh wrote in The Pittsburgh Press. “He approaches the mound like John L. Sullivan on his way through the double doors of an 1890 saloon, ready to make the announcement that he can lick anyone in the house.”

After Ribant beat the Braves for his first win with the Pirates, Hank Aaron told The Pittsburgh Press, “He battles you … You get Ribant in a tough spot and he pitches his way out.”

Pirates teammate Roberto Clemente said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I like this Ribant.”

Fast fade

The Pirates traded Ribant to his hometown team, the Tigers, in November 1967. It should have been a dream come true. The Tigers were headed to a World Series championship in 1968, but Ribant didn’t get to partake in the celebration.

Though he was 2-2 with a save and a 2.22 ERA in 14 relief appearances for the 1968 Tigers, they determined they needed a more experienced reliever in the pennant stretch. On July 26, 1968, the Tigers dealt Ribant, 26, to the White Sox for Don McMahon, 38.

An American League expansion team, the Royals, acquired Ribant before the 1969 season but planned to send him to the minors. When Ribant balked, Bing Devine, who had returned to the Cardinals, bought his contract. “I know Ribant,” Devine said to The Sporting News. “I know he likes to work and I’ve never seen him when he wasn’t ready to pitch.”

Ribant was sent to minor-league Tulsa. Its manager, Warren Spahn, was a Braves ace when Ribant joined that organization. Later, Spahn was a pitcher and coach with the Mets when Ribant was there.

“I know I can pitch up there (the majors),” Ribant told the Tulsa World. “I’m young (27), no problems and in good shape. My arm is sound and I’m throwing as good as ever.”

After earning three consecutive wins, including a shutout of Iowa, for Tulsa, Ribant was called up to the Cardinals on June 4, 1969. A day later, he relieved Mike Torrez in a game against the Astros, pitched 1.1 innings and allowed two runs, including a Joe Morgan home run. Boxscore

The Cardinals never gave him another chance. A week later, he was sent to the Reds for pitcher Aurelio Monteagudo.

Ribant made seven relief appearances for the 1969 Reds, posting a 1.08 ERA, and never pitched in the majors again.

Stan Musial won a game for the Cardinals with a walkoff pop-out.

It happened 60 years ago, on May 31, 1963, against the Giants at St. Louis.

In the ninth inning, with the score tied at 5-5, reliever Don Larsen, the former Yankee who pitched a World Series perfect game, walked Cardinals leadoff batter Curt Flood.

Bill White tried to move Flood to second with a sacrifice bunt, but fouled off two attempts. Then he swung away, rapping a grounder to second baseman Cap Peterson. A rookie, Peterson’s throw to shortstop Jose Pagan covering second was too late to get Flood, and White was safe at first on the fielder’s choice.

Bobby Bolin relieved and Dick Groat bunted, pushing the ball between the mound and third base. Bolin fielded it and tried getting Flood at third, but Flood beat the toss and Groat was credited with an infield single, loading the bases for Musial.

A left-hander, Billy Pierce, was brought in to face him.

Giants manager Al Dark moved the infield in and called for his outfielders to play shallow, hoping to make a play at the plate if necessary.

Musial swung at Pierce’s first pitch and hit a pop-up toward the right side of the infield. The umpires shouted, “Infield fly,” meaning Musial automatically was out.

Dazed and confused

The infield fly rule is called on a fair ball that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort when runners either are on first and second, or when the bases are loaded, before two are out. The rule is for the benefit of the runners because it keeps infielders from letting a shallow fly drop with the intention of causing a force play at second and third, or second, third and home, according to MLB.com. A runner is allowed to attempt to advance at his own risk.

When Musial’s pop fly went into the air, Peterson turned and started back toward his normal second base position, the San Francisco Examiner reported. Then he froze, according to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

When center fielder Willie Mays and right fielder Felipe Alou saw Peterson fail to react, they raced in to try for a catch.

“Mays came closest to getting the ball,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but it fell among he and Alou and Peterson. According to the Examiner, “the ball landed right where Peterson was standing when the ball was pitched.”

When Curt Flood on third saw that the ball was unlikely to be caught, he dashed to the plate. Mays tried to grab the ball on one bounce so that he could throw home, the Post-Dispatch reported, but he could not come up with it. Flood streaked across the plate with the winning run and Musial was credited with a RBI.

Disgusted, Mays kicked his glove about 30 feet, the Post-Dispatch reported. Boxscore

The pop fly was Peterson’s responsibility to catch, Dark said to the Post-Dispatch. Regarding the outcome of a game being decided on an infield fly rule out, Dark told the newspaper, “I’ve never seen such a play at any point in any game.”

The wining pitcher was Bob Gibson, who had entered in the top of the ninth and pitched a scoreless inning of relief. He retired Willie McCovey, Matty Alou and Harvey Kuenn in order.

Jackie Brandt was an outfielder who earned a National League Gold Glove Award and was named to the American League all-star team, but people wanted more from him.

He was supposed to be the next Mickey Mantle, but he wasn’t.

He was supposed to be a sure bet to receive the National League Rookie of the Year Award with the Cardinals, but he didn’t.

He was supposed to be a flake, but maybe was just good at pretending to be one.

Quick rise

Brandt was an accomplished amateur pitcher and outfielder in his hometown of Omaha, but he didn’t get any offers to turn pro. Three months after he graduated from high school in 1952, he was wielding a sledgehammer as a boilermaker’s helper for the Union Pacific Railroad when Bob Hall, president of the minor-league club in Omaha, contacted the Cardinals and recommended Brandt to them, The Sporting News reported.

Cardinals scout Runt Marr went to Omaha, saw him throw and offered a contract, Brandt recalled to The Sporting News. A right-handed batter, Brandt preferred playing the outfield instead of pitching, and the Cardinals went along with his request, he told the Associated Press.

In his first regular-season game as a pro for Ardmore (Okla.) in the Class D Sooner State League, Brandt tore ligaments in his right leg and was sidelined for a month. When he came back, he tore up the league, hitting .357 with 131 RBI in 120 games.

Brandt made an impressive climb through the Cardinals’ system, hitting .313 for manager George Kissell’s Class A Columbus (Ga.) team in 1954 and .305 for Class AAA Rochester in 1955.

His performance for Rochester marked Brandt, 21, as a prime prospect for the majors. He excelled as a hitter (38 doubles, 12 triples), fielder (20 assists, 420 putouts) and base runner (24 steals). “Brandt is one of the best-looking kids I’ve ever seen,” Rochester manager Dixie Walker told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “He’ll be a major league star.”

Cardinals general manager Frank Lane said his Reds counterpart, Gabe Paul, offered $100,000 for Brandt. In rejecting the proposal, Lane told The Sporting News, “If Gabe offers $100,000 for him, the kid is worth every bit of $400,000.”

After Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson saw Brandt play winter ball in Havana following the 1955 minor-league season, he said to The Sporting News, “He has a physical makeup similar to Mickey Mantle. He’s got the same kind of sloping shoulders, strength and speed. He showed exceptional aptitude defensively, a great knack of getting a jump on the ball and a strong arm.”

When New York Times columnist Arthur Daley got his first look at Brandt during spring training in 1956, he observed that the rookie had the “cat-like gait of Mickey Mantle. In fact, he looks as if he might be Mickey’s little brother.”

Another New York columnist, Red Smith, described Brandt as “a smaller, slighter version of Mickey Mantle.”

Great expectations

Brandt’s spring training performance earned him a spot on the Cardinals’ 1956 Opening Day roster and heightened expectations. Cardinals outfielders had won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1954 (Wally Moon) and 1955 (Bill Virdon), so Brandt was being touted as a favorite to get the honor in 1956.

“He is faster than either Moon or Virdon, both on the bases and in the outfield,” The Sporting News reported. “He loves to run, loves to hit and he doesn’t know the meaning of pressure.”

Brandt “could be another Terry Moore,” Cardinals chief scout Joe Mathes said to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, referring to the center fielder on the club’s 1940s championship teams.

Unfazed, Brandt told The Sporting News he could hit as well as any Cardinals player “except Stan” Musial. “Confidence is my major asset,” Brandt said.

Hutchinson, though, preferred a lineup with experienced big-leaguers. The Cardinals opened the 1956 season with Hank Sauer in left field, Virdon in center, Musial in right, Moon at first base and Brandt on the bench. In May, they dealt Virdon to the Pirates for Bobby Del Greco and made him the center fielder.

When Del Greco got injured, Brandt filled in and came through with consecutive three-hit games. Boxscore and Boxscore

Future shock

After a few starts in late May, Brandt was back on the bench. Dissatisfied with sitting and watching, he asked the Cardinals to send him to the minors so he could play every day, he told author Steve Bitker in the book “The Original San Francisco Giants.”

Instead, the Cardinals traded him. He was part of the June 1956 deal that sent second baseman Red Schoendienst to the Giants for shortstop Al Dark and others. The Giants insisted on Brandt being included. “We wouldn’t have made the deal without him,” Giants general manager Chub Feeney told United Press. “Frankly, we were surprised that the Cards would let him go.”

Brandt batted .286 with one home run in 42 at-bats for the Cardinals and fielded flawlessly. (According to researcher Tom Orf, Brandt is one of two players who began his career with the Cardinals, hit one home run for them and went on to slug 50 or more in the majors. The other is Randy Arozarena.)

On the day the trade was made, the Cardinals were 29-23 and one game out of first place in the National League. Frank Lane thought having Dark as their shortstop could spark them to a pennant. “Brandt could come back to haunt us, but we’re concerned about 1956 and not the future,” Lane explained to The Sporting News.

J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch countered: “We don’t consider the Cardinals a sufficient threat in 1956 to justify trading away Brandt.”

(The Cardinals hit the skids in July and finished 76-78, 17 games behind the champion Dodgers.)

Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch, “Lane didn’t hurt the Cardinals trading me. It was his dealing off young players like Bill Virdon and Jackie Brandt … Brandt alone, counting what he can do now and what he’ll do in the future, is worth all four players the Cardinals got in the Giants deal.”

Golden gate

The Giants made Brandt their left fielder and he hit .299 with 11 home runs for them in 1956.

After spending most of the next two seasons in military service, Brandt was the Giants’ left fielder when they opened the 1959 season at St. Louis against the Cardinals. In the ninth inning, with a runner on first, one out and the score tied at 5-5, Brandt made two unsuccessful sacrifice bunt attempts, then ripped a Jim Brosnan pitch 400 feet to left-center for a double, driving in the winning run. Boxscore

Brandt went on to hit .270 for the 1959 Giants and ranked first among National League left fielders in fielding percentage (.989), earning him a Gold Glove Award. The other NL Gold Glove outfielders that season were teammate Willie Mays (center) and the Braves’ Hank Aaron (right).

(According to the authorized biography “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” there were tensions between Brandt and Mays. “Brandt was outspoken and he was always criticizing Mays,” Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons said.)

Brandt was traded to the Orioles after his Gold Glove season.

Offbeat Oriole

Brandt played six seasons (1960-65) for the Orioles and was their center fielder for most of that time. In 1961, when he hit .297 and scored 93 runs, Brandt was named to the American League all-star team, but it was during his Orioles days that he got labeled a flake.

Teammate Boog Powell told the Baltimore Sun, “He had a pair of alligator shoes and, at a team party, decided to take them for a swim. He just walked into the pool, then out, and continued the evening like nothing had happened.”

(Decades later, when Powell operated a barbecue stand at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Brandt tapped him on the shoulder, said, “Pardon me, sir, but can you spare a poor man a sandwich?” and then kissed his old teammate square on the lips, the Sun reported.)

In a spring training game, Brandt got caught in a rundown and did a backflip to avoid the tag, the Sun reported. Another time, Brandt scored ahead of Jim Gentile, who missed the plate with his slide. Brandt bent down, picked up Gentile’s foot and placed it neatly on the plate, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Brandt’s words could be as amusing as his actions.

According to Milton Gross of the North American Newspaper Alliance, after the 1964 season, when Brandt hit less than .250 for the second straight year, Orioles general manager Lee MacPhail wished him a good winter. Brandt replied, “I always have a good winter. The bad summers are what troubles me.”

Regarding his inability to measure up to Mickey Mantle, Brandt told Gross, “I do everything pretty fair, but I’m not up to my potential. Maybe I’m living in the future.”

Orioles manager Hank Bauer said to the Sun, “I asked him how he managed to misplay a fly. He said, ‘I lost in the jet stream.’ “

According to the Baltimore newspaper, other gems uttered by Brandt included:

_ “This year, I’m going to play with harder nonchalance.”

_ “It’s hard to tell how you’re playing when you can’t see yourself.”

Brandt told author Steve Bitker, “My mind works crazy. I don’t do anything canned. Whatever comes to mind, I say or do.”

At least one popular story told about Brandt turned out to be untrue. As reported by the Associated Press and the Newspaper Enterprise Association, Brandt, wanting to experience some of the 40 flavors offered at an ice cream place, drove 30 miles out of his way to get there _ and then ordered vanilla. In 1983, the Baltimore Sun reported it was Ed Brandt, a reporter who covered the Orioles for the newspaper, who drove the extra miles for the ice cream and settled for vanilla. Over time, Jackie, not Ed, got associated with the tale.

“I’m shrewder than most of the guys think,” Brandt, the player, said to North American Newspaper Alliance.

Being a pro

When the Phillies swapped Jack Baldschun to the Orioles for Brandt in December 1965, Larry Merchant of the Philadelphia Daily News called it a trade of “a screwballing relief pitcher for a screwball of an outfielder.”

Regarding his reputation for being a flake, Brandt told Merchant, “We’re paid to entertain. It’s like being on stage. People want a show. They pay three bucks, so they ought to get one.”

The 1966 Phillies were a haven for free spirits, with Bo BelinskyPhil Linz and Bob Uecker joining Brandt on the roster. Brandt didn’t play regularly, but was serious about finding ways to contribute.

“For weeks at a stretch, he would pitch batting practice 25 minutes a day,” Bill Conlin reported in the Philadelphia Daily News. “He would catch batting practice and became Jim Bunning’s preferred warmup catcher because of his knack of setting a low target with his glove.”

The Phillies sent Brandt to the Astros in June 1967 and he completed his final season in the majors with them. In his last big-league appearance, on Sept. 2, 1967, at St. Louis, Brandt singled versus Steve Carlton. Boxscore

In 11 seasons in the majors, Brandt produced 1,020 hits, including 112 home runs.

As Tom Murphy felt his pitching career sliding downhill, the Cardinals pulled him back into the big leagues.

Fifty years ago, on May 8, 1973, the Cardinals rescued Murphy from the Royals’ farm system, acquiring him for pitcher Al Santorini.

A right-hander who had been in the Angels’ starting rotation for four years, Murphy used his season in St. Louis to show he could be effective again in the majors, After that, he transformed into a closer _ but not with the Cardinals.

Baseball cards come to life

Born in Cleveland and raised in nearby Euclid, Ohio, Tom Murphy and his identical twin brother, Roger, became college athletes. Tom was a pitcher for Ohio University and Roger became a wide receiver for Northwestern’s football team.

Tom Murphy had a combined 16-1 record his sophomore and junior seasons at Ohio U. Roger Murphy had 51 catches for Northwestern in 1966 and went on to play in the Canadian Football League.

The Astros (1965) and Giants (1966) drafted Tom Murphy but he preferred to stay in college. When the Angels drafted him in January 1967, one of the reasons he signed was they agreed to let him complete his bachelor of arts degree in English that spring, The Sporting News reported.

Murphy’s first stop in the Angels’ system was with Quad Cities, a Class A club in Iowa managed by Fred Koenig. Murphy was 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in six starts.

The Angels called up Murphy, 22, the next year, in June 1968, and put him in the starting rotation. The Angels’ pitching coach, Bob Lemon, had been Murphy’s favorite boyhood player with the Indians, according to The Sporting News.

In beating the Yankees for his first big-league win, Murphy faced another baseball icon from his childhood, Mickey Mantle. Though Mantle, 36, was playing in his last season on wobbly knees, “I was scared,” Murphy told the Los Angeles Times. “You better believe I did a little trembling. Here was a guy I idolized.”

Murphy managed to twice retire Mantle in key situations. His strategy, he told the Times, was, “I figured I’d challenge him with my best, and let him hit it as far as he could,”

In the third inning, with runners on second and third, one out, Mantle hit “a whistling drive directly at first baseman Chuck Hinton, who threw to shortstop Jim Fregosi at second for a double play,” the Times noted.

Two innings later, Mantle batted with two on and two outs. “Murphy threw two sweeping curveballs and Mantle could do no better than hit foul balls,” the Times reported. “The third pitch was a high fastball. Mantle swung ferociously, but the ball nestled in catcher Tom Satriano’s glove” for strike three. Boxscore

Murphy made 15 starts for the 1968 Angels and had a 2.17 ERA.

California dreaming

Being a rookie in the big leagues in Southern California in 1968 made for heady times for Murphy. Tall (6 feet 3) and angular, Murphy was a bachelor who enjoyed the California beach life. Murph the Surf, they called him.

He wore the mod clothes of the time, including silk brocade Nehru jackets. As the Los Angeles Times observed when he arrived for an interview, “Murphy wears a brown shirt of Edwardian cut. It is complemented by a brown and gold ascot. The pants are hip huggers. They are white with a black stripe and bell-bottomed.”

His road roommate, pitcher Andy Messersmith, told the Times, “I get my kicks walking around with Tom and hearing what people say about his clothes. Like the day in Boston after he had just bought this gold Nehru. We walked around downtown and people thought he was Ken Harrelson (of the Red Sox). They thought he was The Hawk.”

Murphy replied, “Aw, it was because of my nose.”

In 1969, Murphy and Messersmith joined Rudy May and Jim McGlothlin _ the four M’s _ in a mod Angels starting rotation, all 25 or younger.

During spring training, players sneaked Murphy’s twin brother Roger into an Angels uniform and sent him onto the field for calisthenics. Roger lied down in the grass and used first base for a pillow, then got up and told astonished Angels manager Bill Rigney he was retiring. Rigney thought Roger was Tom until he was brought in on the gag, the Times reported.

There wasn’t much funny, though, about Tom Murphy’s season for the 1969 Angels. He had 16 losses, threw 16 wild pitches and hit 21 batters with pitches. “The statistics seem to suggest that Murphy’s pitching was as wild as his wardrobe,” John Wiebusch of the Times reported.

Murphy told the newspaper, “There are smart pitchers and stupid pitchers, and it doesn’t take a genius to classify me.

“I tend to lose my cool too quickly. Things upset me and when that happens I lose my poise.”

Murphy did much better in 1970 (16 wins) but not so well in 1971 (17 losses, but in eight of those the Angels failed to score. He also lost three games by 2-1 scores and another by 3-2.)

K.C. and the Sunshine Band

After the 1971 season, the Angels obtained a pitcher who was 29-38 with the Mets (Nolan Ryan), put him into their starting rotation and traded Murphy to the Royals in May 1972. “I can’t quite picture myself sunbathing in Kansas City,” Murphy quipped to The Sporting News.

Bob Lemon was the Royals’ manager. Murphy’s first start for him was against the Angels. He pitched well (two runs allowed in seven innings) but lost. Boxscore

In July, Murphy (3-2, 4.79 ERA) was demoted to minor-league Omaha. He pitched a no-hitter against Indianapolis and was back with the Royals in September. His highlight was a shutout against a Twins lineup with Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew, beating Bert Blyleven. Boxscore

Murphy had an 0.34 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched for the Royals in September 1972, but when the season opened in 1973 he was back in the minors.

Join the club

The 1973 Cardinals lost 20 of their first 25 games and were looking for any help.  Cardinals director of player development Fred Koenig, Murphy’s first minor-league manager, recommended him and the deal was made with the Royals.

Murphy joined a pitching staff populated with other American League castoffs such as Alan Foster, Orlando Pena and Diego Segui. His first two Cardinals appearances, both in relief, resulted in 4.1 scoreless innings, and he was moved into the starting rotation on June 10.

Though Murphy lost his first three decisions as a Cardinals starter, he pitched well. He allowed one run in a 3-1 loss to the Expos Boxscore and two runs in a 2-0 loss to the Cubs. Boxscore

His breakthrough came on July 4, 1973, with a complete-game win against the Pirates. Murphy also contributed a single and a double, scored a run and drove in another. Boxscore

He won his next start as well, beating the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Boxscore

The next day, Murphy’s twin brother pulled another prank. He got into the clubhouse, dressed in Tom’s uniform and asked trainer Gene Gieselmann for a rubdown, saying he’d hurt his arm in a surfing accident. Gieselmann went to work, thinking it was Tom.

Murphy also became a source of amusement for Bob Gibson, who delighted in imitating his teammate’s herky-jerky pitching motion. “Murphy has the habit of prefacing his windup by flipping his gloved hand forward, as if shooing flies,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

On July 29, 1973, Murphy had two hits in the Cardinals’ win against the Cubs but didn’t qualify for a decision. Boxscore In his next start, he limited the Expos to two runs. but was the losing pitcher. Balor Moore shut out the Cardinals on four hits. Boxscore

Soon after that, Murphy was moved to the bullpen and was effective. He finished the season 3-7 with a 3.76 ERA. In his six relief appearances totaling 13.1 innings, he was 1-0 with an 0.68 ERA.

Finding a niche

Murphy’s strong relief work for the Cardinals was a sign of good things to come for him. It was the Brewers, though, who benefitted.

On Dec. 8, 1973, the Cardinals sent Murphy to the Brewers for utilityman Bob Heise. Brewers manager Del Crandall made Murphy, 28, the closer. “He’s got heart,” Crandall told The Sporting News. “While other guys get nervous in certain situations, he can go out there and do the job.”

Using a combination of sinkers and sliders, Murphy made 70 relief appearances for the 1974 Brewers and was 10-10 with 20 saves and a 1.90 ERA.

He had 20 saves again for the Brewers the next year but overall wasn’t as dominant, posting a 1-9 record and 4.60 ERA.

Murphy went on to finish his playing career with the Blue Jays. In 12 seasons in the majors, he was 68-101 with 59 saves and a 3.78 ERA.

Not even a dugout full of four-leaf clovers would have been enough to help Patsy Donovan turn the 1903 Cardinals into winners.

What Donovan needed more than the luck of the Irish was a dugout full of run producers and premium pitchers.

As player-manager of the 1903 Cardinals, Donovan (pictured here) did all he could. He was a crafty hitter and a smart manager _ and he also had a rookie pitcher who would become a Hall of Famer _ but that was not enough to compete in the National League 120 years ago.

The 1903 Cardinals finished in last place in the eight-team league at 43-94. Their .314 winning percentage is the lowest in Cardinals franchise history, and the 43 wins are the fewest by a Cardinals club in a season not shortened by labor strife or pandemic.

Popular lad

Born in County Cork, Ireland, Patsy Donovan immigrated to the United States with his family when he was a boy and settled in Massachusetts.

An outfielder and left-handed batter, Donovan reached the big leagues in 1890 and replaced Connie Mack as player-manager of the Pirates in 1896. “As a field general, Patsy ranks with the best in the business,” The Pittsburgh Press noted.

After the 1899 season, the Pirates had an ownership change and Donovan’s contract was sold to the Cardinals. Playing right field for them in 1900, Donovan hit .316 with 45 stolen bases, but the team finished 65-75.

Donovan became Cardinals player-manager in 1901 and led them to a 76-64 record. He hit .303 with 73 RBI and 28 steals. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch declared that “Donovan comes very near to being the best-versed man in the inside workings of the game.”

Many eyes, Irish or otherwise, were smiling on Donovan, whose “classic features (unlike those of some roughhouse ballplayers) don’t look as if they had been chiseled out with a crowbar,” the Post-Dispatch observed.

As the newspaper noted, “The ladies turned out in full force to see the old favorite of the fair fans, Patsy Donovan.”

Shuffling the Cards

Any hopes the Cardinals had of continuing a rise in the National League standings in 1902 were dashed when the fledgling American League made a raid on their roster. Five of their eight starting position players (first baseman Dan McGann, second baseman Dick Padden, shortstop Bobby Wallace, left fielder Jesse Burkett and center fielder Emmet Heidrick) and three top starting pitchers (Jack Harper, Jack Powell and Willie Sudhoff) were enticed to jump to the American League. Most went to the St. Louis Browns.

Donovan hit .315 with 34 steals in 1902, but with so much of his supporting cast departed, the Cardinals fell to 56-78.

Discouraged, Donovan resigned and planned to quit baseball. “He had no money (from the Cardinals) with which to build up a team,” the Post-Dispatch reported in November 1902. “With the prospect of going through another season like the one closed, Donovan concluded he wanted to change.”

Cardinals owners Frank and Stanley Robison convinced Donovan to change his mind and come back for the 1903 season. To help appease him, they acquired a third baseman, Jimmy Burke, from the Pirates and purchased the contract of a minor-league pitcher, Mordecai Brown.

Helping hands

A son of Irish immigrant parents, Jimmy Burke was born and raised in Old North St. Louis. Playing for the Shamrocks, an amateur sandlot team, Burke developed a reputation as a scrappy competitor. As The Sporting News noted, “He made up in hustle and fight what he may have lacked in exceptional ability.”

Mordecai Brown hailed from Nyesville, Ind., 30 miles northeast of Terre Haute. He was a youth when he mangled his right hand in a corn chopper accident, the Chicago Tribune reported. Soon after, he fell while chasing an animal on the family farm and did more damage to the hand.

As a teen, Brown worked in a coal mine and played baseball. Because of the unusual way he was forced to grip the ball in his deformed hand, Brown’s pitches had an unorthodox spin that often baffled batters, the Chicago Tribune noted.

Brown was 24 when he entered professional baseball with a minor-league team in Terre Haute in 1901. After posting 27 wins for Omaha in 1902, he was signed by the Cardinals, and by then he had a nickname _ Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.

On the skids

Donovan began to feel optimistic about his 1903 team. In February, he told The Pittsburgh Press, “The Cardinals will be much stronger than they were last year.”

The good vibes continued when the Cardinals won their season opener, beating the Cubs, 2-1, on a five-hitter by Clarence Currie. Boxscore

“Three Finger” Brown made his big-league debut against the Cubs and pitched a one-hit shutout for the win in a game shortened to five innings because of rain. Boxscore

Before Brown’s next start, against Pittsburgh, “Patsy Donovan warned the Pirates that they would be surprised when they saw his find in the person of a pitcher with only three (usable) digits on his throwing hand,” The Pittsburgh Press reported. “The (Pirates) laughed, but their laughs turned to weeping when the battle was on.”

Brown gave up five runs in the fourth inning, held the Pirates scoreless for the other eight innings, and got the win. Boxscore

The good times faded fast. After a 6-7 record in April, the Cardinals were 4-23 in May. They collapsed over the last two months, losing 38 of 48 games. Their 43-94 mark for the season put them 46.5 games behind the National League champion Pirates (91-49).

The Cardinals gave up the most runs (787) in the league and scored the fewest (505). Their top home run slugger, Homer Smoot, hit four.

Patsy Donovan, 38, was the club’s leading hitter (.327) and also had 25 stolen bases. Jimmy Burke hit .285 with 28 steals.

“Three Finger” Brown led the pitching staff in ERA (2.60) and strikeouts (83), and tied Chappie McFarland for the team high in wins (nine).

On the move

After the season, the Cardinals made matters worse, trading “Three Finger” Brown and catcher Jack O’Neill to the Cubs for pitcher Jack Taylor and catcher Larry McLean. Patsy Donovan left to manage the Washington Senators.

Brown went on to help the Cubs win four National League pennants and two World Series titles. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Donovan finished with 2,256 hits and a .301 batting average. He managed the Senators, Dodgers and Red Sox after leaving the Cardinals.

In 1914, when he was a Red Sox scout, Donovan was sent to Baltimore to check out a pitching prospect, Dave Danforth. The player who got his attention was Babe Ruth. Donovan told the Red Sox to sign Ruth immediately and, acting on his recommendation, they did, The Sporting News reported.

According to the Associated Press, Donovan’s acquaintance with one of the Xavierian brothers who coached Ruth at a Baltimore orphanage helped get The Babe to sign with the Red Sox.

Described by The Sporting News as “a great developer of young players,” Donovan was hired to manage the minor-league Buffalo Bisons in 1915. He encouraged one of their infielders, Joe McCarthy, “to study the strategy of the game,” The Sporting News reported.

McCarthy followed Donovan’s advice and embarked on a managing career with the Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox that led to his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Russ Van Atta, a left-handed pitcher fresh off a promising start in the majors, earned a noble, but costly, save.

Ninety years ago, after an impressive rookie season with the 1933 Yankees, Van Atta injured his pitching hand when he rescued his dog from a house fire.

No longer able to control a curveball, his performance waned and he got sent from the Yankees to the St. Louis Browns.

Iron man

Born in the northwestern New Jersey community of Augusta, Van Atta turned 14 in 1920, the year his father died of typhoid fever, he told the Morristown (N.J.) Daily Record. Van Atta said he went to work in a local zinc mine. “I worked at the 700-foot level and I made 57 cents an hour,” he said to the Morristown newspaper.

Van Atta also excelled in local baseball games and the owner of the mine helped him get an athletic scholarship to Penn State. In 1928, Yankees scout Paul Krichell, who signed Lou Gehrig, Leo Durocher and Tony Lazzeri, got Van Atta, 22, a bonus offer of $250.

After five seasons in the minors, Van Atta was nearly 27 when he made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster in 1933, joining a starting rotation that included Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing.

Welcome to the show

On April 25, 1933, Van Atta made his big-league debut with a start against the Senators at Washington.

The starting lineups were loaded with future Hall of Famers _ center fielder Earle Combs, third baseman Joe Sewell, right fielder Babe Ruth, first baseman Lou Gehrig, second baseman Tony Lazzeri and catcher Bill Dickey for the Yankees; left fielder Heinie Manush, right fielder Goose Goslin and shortstop Joe Cronin for the Senators. (Another, Senators outfielder Sam Rice, entered the game in the ninth.)

Van Atta shined amid the stellar cast. He pitched a five-hit shutout and produced four singles and a sacrifice bunt in the Yankees’ 16-0 victory. Years later, he told The Montana Standard, a newspaper in Butte, that “the greatest thrill was going 4-for-4.”

Stealing the spotlight, though, was the brawl that occurred in the fourth inning after the Yankees’ Ben Chapman slid hard into second, knocking down the Senators’ Buddy Myer. As several players fought, “hundreds of fans came pouring out of the lower tier” of the stands and joined in a “pitched battle,” the New York Times reported. Five spectators were arrested, and three players (Chapman and Dixie Walker of the Yankees, and Myer) were ejected. Boxscore

Outdoors with the Babe

Van Atta relished being a member of the Yankees and was especially fond of Babe Ruth and manager Joe McCarthy.

“Babe came down (to New Jersey) one time for a turkey hunt,” Van Atta recalled to the Morristown Daily Record. “It was supposed to be a wild turkey hunt, but the turkey was actually a tame one that weighed about 36 pounds. The turkey was on an oak tree and Babe was supposed to be the guy who shot it, but his first shell jammed. Finally, he put another shell in the gun and he put the buckshot through the turkey, and we carried the turkey to (the) house.”

Van Atta said Ruth took the bird to the Fulton Fish Market in New York to get it cleaned, then served it for dinner at his apartment.

Regarding Joe McCarthy, Van Atta told the Morristown newspaper, “He knew the game like no one else alive.”

Van Atta completed his rookie season with a 12-4 record and a .283 batting average. His .750 winning percentage tied him with Lefty Grove of the Athletics for best among American League pitchers in 1933.

Good deed

At 2;30 a.m. on Dec. 13, 1933, Van Atta was awakened at his Mohawk Lake, N.J., home by his wife, who discovered the house was on fire, Van Atta recalled to the Montana Standard.

In addition to Van Atta and his wife, others in the house were their child and Van Atta’s mother, United Press reported. All escaped, but then Van Atta realized his cocker spaniel pup still was in the burning house, the St. Louis Star-Times reported.

Van Atta rushed back into the building and grabbed the dog, “but in trying to get back out he smashed into a glass door,” the Star-Times reported. Among his injuries was a severed nerve on the index finger of his pitching hand.

The index finger went numb and Van Atta said he never recovered any sense of feeling in the digit. (More than 40 years later, Van Atta lit a match under the finger and held it there without flinching to demonstrate to a newspaper reporter that the numbness remained.)

Van Atta kept the injury a secret from the Yankees, the Montana Standard reported.

Without any feeling in the index finger, Van Atta couldn’t control the curveball. “I had a good fastball and I still had the curve, but I never knew where the curve would go,” he told the Montana newspaper. Batters “started laying for my fastball,” he said.

Van Atta was 3-5 with a 6.34 ERA for the 1934 Yankees. In May 1935, his contract was sold to the Browns

Change of scene

Going from the Yankees, who never had a losing season during the 1930s, to the Browns, who never had a winning season during that decade, was a step down in every regard.

“When the Yankees traveled (by train), they had two sleeping cars for the players and only used the bottom berths,” Van Atta told the Montana Standard. “The Browns had one sleeping car, and the players had to use both the upper and lower berths.”

Fortunately for Van Atta, the Browns were desperate for pitching, and they gave him plenty of work. He led American League pitchers in appearances (58) in 1935, but was 9-16 with a 5.34 ERA.

In 1936, Van Atta again appeared in the most games (52) among American League pitchers, but was 4-7 with a 6.60 ERA.

On June 10, 1937, Van Atta tore a ligament in his pitching arm while trying to complete a game against the Senators. He didn’t win again for the rest of the season. During the winter, he underwent an elbow operation.

In his first start in 1938, Van Atta was pitted against Cleveland’s Bob Feller. For four scoreless innings, he “matched Feller pitch for pitch,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported, then was knocked out of the game when struck in the left forearm by a Lyn Lary line drive. “Desperately, Van Atta tried to keep on pitching but he could barely lift the arm,” the newspaper observed. Boxscore

Van Atta sat out most of the 1939 season. At spring training with the Browns in 1940, he called it quits at 33. “I can’t throw right, so there’s no use wasting my time and the club’s money,” he told the Star-Times.

In seven years in the majors, Van Atta was 33-41 overall and 21-37 after the house fire.

Reflecting on the turn his career took after injuring his finger in the rescue of his dog, Van Atta good-naturedly told the newspaper, “I still got him, and every time I look at him I say, ‘There goes $100,000.’ “

According to the Morristown Daily Record, Van Atta was elected sheriff and then freeholder (or commissioner) in New Jersey’s Sussex County. He owned seven Gulf Oil service stations there from 1950-71.