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Rescued from the Reds farm system, where he languished as a reliever, Kurt Kepshire developed into a starter for a Cardinals contender.

Forty years ago, on Dec. 6, 1982, Kepshire was chosen by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft after being left off the Reds’ big-league winter roster.

The Cardinals might have kept Kepshire in a relief role as well if not for a fluke incident involving an Army tank.

Smashing success

A right-hander, Kepshire was a standout pitcher his senior season at Bridgeport Central Catholic High School in Connecticut. Five days before he was to start in a state quarterfinal playoff game, a careless classmate accidently pounded Kepshire’s pitching hand with a sledgehammer, breaking his index and middle fingers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“My coach said, ‘You can’t pitch,’ ” Kepshire recalled to The Sporting News. “I said, ‘Watch me warm up.’ “

Given the start, Kepshire struck out 17 and got the win. A few days later, he started and won the state championship game. “I pitched in pain, I’ll tell you that,” Kepshire said to The Sporting News. “It was pride. I love to pitch and I love a challenge.”

Kepshire enrolled at the University of New Haven and signed with the Reds after being selected in the 25th round of the 1979 amateur draft.

Used primarily as a reliever, Kepshire pitched four seasons in the Reds organization before he was drafted by the Cardinals on the recommendation of their Louisville farm club manager, Joe Frazier, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Ready, aim, fire

Assigned to the Cardinals’ Class AA Arkansas team in 1983, Kepshire made 19 relief appearances before being promoted to Class AAA Louisville.

Soon after Kepshire arrived in Louisville, Jim Fregosi, who had replaced Frazier as manager, approached him an hour before a game versus Omaha and asked if he could start. “I was shocked,” Kepshire told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Fregosi made the request because Louisville’s scheduled starting pitcher, Todd Worrell, sprained his back “when he slipped off a tank that he was inspecting” while visiting a military museum at Fort Knox earlier that day, the Louisville newspaper reported.

Under the headline “Tanks A Lot,” the Courier-Journal reported that Kepshire pitched six scoreless innings in his surprise start and got the win in Louisville’s 2-0 triumph over Omaha.

“He threw great,” catcher Tom Nieto told the Louisville newspaper. “His fastball was just taking off and he was spotting pitches and keeping the ball down, going right at them.”

In 21 appearances, including 10 starts, for Louisville in 1983, Kepshire was 6-2.

Big-league stuff

Sent back to Louisville to begin the 1984 season, Kepshire was in the starting rotation from the first day. Relying on a fastball and slider, he was 7-5 in 16 starts when the Cardinals called him to the big leagues in July to replace John Stuper in the starting rotation.

“Kepshire wasn’t ready (for the majors) at the beginning of the season, but he’s come into his own,” Fregosi told the Post-Dispatch. “He has a better idea of how to pitch.”

Making his debut in a start against the Giants the day after his 25th birthday, Kepshire allowed one run in 8.1 innings and got the win. “He challenges those guys,” Herzog told The Sporting News. “He’s got guts. I love it.” Boxscore

A month later, Kepshire prevailed in a start against Nolan Ryan and the Astros. Boxscore

Praising Kepshire for his willingness to pitch inside to batters, Herzog told The Sporting News, “He’s got nerve. Of all the kid pitchers, he’s going to be the best.”

The rookie capped his season with shutouts of the Cubs and Expos, finishing 6-5 with a 3.30 ERA. Boxscore and Boxscore

Cardinals pitching coach Mike Roarke said Kepshire “made tremendous progress” since spring training and adjusted to a change in his delivery that enabled him “to throw downhill,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Falling out

Kepshire went to spring training in 1985 assured of a spot in a Cardinals starting rotation with Joaquin Andujar, John Tudor and Danny Cox. “He goes after hitters and he doesn’t rattle easily,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch in March 1985. “Right now, I’m looking at him as a good No. 3 starter.”

After beating the Pirates on Aug. 15, Kepshire had a season record of 9-6, but then staggered down the stretch, winning one of his next six starts.

In his last start, Sept. 14 versus the Cubs, Kepshire threw 14 pitches and 13 were out of the strike zone. After walking the bases loaded, he was lifted with the count 1-and-0 count on the next batter. Boxscore

Kepshire finished the season 10-9. His wins were important for a division champion that finished just three games ahead of the Mets, but he walked more (71) than he struck out (67) and gave up more hits (155) than innings pitched (153.1). The Cardinals left him off their playoff roster.

“I still think he can be a hell of a pitcher,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch. “He needs an off-speed pitch, and he’s got a good one in the bullpen, but he can’t get it over in a game.”

Kepshire said to the newspaper, “I stunk it up the second half of (the) season. That’s my fault. It was a mental thing. I was in a rut.”

Different direction

The Cardinals tried to trade Kepshire after the season but didn’t get any takers, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“The Cardinals are dead wrong on me,” Kepshire said to the Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register. “I can throw strikes.”

He opened the 1986 season with them, made two appearances, including a start, and was demoted to Louisville.

“I don’t ever see myself coming back here,” Kepshire said to the Post-Dispatch as he left St. Louis.

Herzog responded, “If he has that attitude, he’ll never come back.”

Kepshire spent what he described to United Press International as “a miserable year” in the Cardinals farm system in 1986, signed with the Cleveland Indians after the season, got released in spring training, pitched in Mexico and in the minors for Expos and Twins affiliates, but never got back to the majors.

His career record with the Cardinals was 16-15, including marks of 4-1 against the Cubs and 3-0 versus the Giants.

Ken Griffey Jr. should have been in the lineup for the Padres when the Cardinals faced them in the 2005 and 2006 National League playoffs. Instead, Griffey remained with the Reds, a team that never reached the playoffs during his nine seasons with them.

Twenty years ago, in November 2002, the Reds and Padres agreed to a trade of Griffey for Phil Nevin. Griffey would have been a Padre if Nevin hadn’t invoked a no-trade clause in his contract and blocked the deal.

The idea of trading Griffey for a journeyman such as Nevin would have been deemed preposterous a few years earlier, but the Reds were ready to cut their ties with a player once considered to be the best in baseball.

Special treatment

With the Mariners from 1989 to 1999, Griffey four times led the American League in home runs, and won 10 Gold Glove awards and a Most Valuable Player honor, but he wanted out of Seattle.

Born in the the same town (Donora, Pa.) and on the same date (Nov. 21) as Stan Musial, Griffey grew up in Cincinnati, where his father played for the Reds, and eventually relocated to Orlando. After the 1999 season, he rejected an eight-year, $140 million offer from the Mariners, saying he wanted to play for a team closer to his Florida home.

Though the Cardinals tried to acquire him, Griffey was traded to the Reds. According to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, Reds general manager Jim Bowden “made no secret of the fact that Griffey was going to get special treatment, a grievous mistake … Numerous Reds, past and present, have blasted Griffey as being self-absorbed and an island unto himself in the clubhouse.”

Limited to 70 games because of leg injuries in 2002, Griffey produced eight home runs and 23 RBI.

Content in California

A few days after Griffey turned 33, the Reds agreed during the Thanksgiving weekend to swap him to the Padres for Nevin, the Associated Press reported.

Primarily a third baseman and first baseman, Nevin had come to the Padres after stints with the Astros, Tigers and Angels. After producing 41 home runs and 126 RBI for the 2001 Padres, Nevin, 31, totaled 12 homers and 57 RBI in 2002.

The Reds viewed Nevin (due $31 million for the next four years) as a less expensive alternative to Griffey (due $86 million for the next six years). Also, Nevin was friends with Reds manager Bob Boone.

“Boone and Nevin have a longstanding friendship dating to Nevin’s childhood, when he grew up in the same Southern California neighborhood where Boone lived,” The Cincinnati Post reported.

Nevin’s agent, Barry Axelrod, said his client rejected a trade to the Reds because he wanted to remain on the West Coast, The Cincinnati Post reported.

Acting on orders from the Reds’ front office, Boone met with Nevin for lunch and tried to convince him to change his mind, but was unsuccessful, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Bargain basement

The Reds initially denied trying to trade Griffey, but came clean after Nevin confirmed to reporters he had blocked the deal.

Reds chief operating officer John Allen said the trade, orchestrated by Bowden, had the support of team owner Carl Lindner, The Cincinnati Post reported.

According to USA Sports Weekly, after the proposed deal with the Padres collapsed, the Reds offered Griffey to the White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez, but were quickly turned down.

Among the reactions to the Reds’ attempts to peddle Griffey:

_ Mike Anthony, Hartford Courant: “How quickly Griffey has fallen off the map of baseball stars in three years with the Reds. The minute he left Seattle, he got old. He’s been injured and, at times, unhappy.”

_ Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Seems hard to believe Ken Griffey Jr., considered hands-down the best player in the game a few years back, is now being shopped like a used lawn mower.”

_ Bill Simmons, ESPN.com: “He’s 33, plagued by injuries, miserable and bitter, on the downside of his career, and his team can’t even give him away.”

_ Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati Enquirer: “Griffey can be paranoid when he has no reason. Now, he has plenty of reason.”

Still got game

Three years later, in July 2005, the Padres traded Nevin to the Rangers. He went on to play for the Cubs and Twins, too. In 12 years in the majors, Nevin hit 208 home runs. During the 2022 season, he replaced Joe Maddon as Angels manager.

Griffey had more injury-marred seasons in 2003 and 2004 (when he hit his 500th career home run versus the Cardinals), but returned to form in 2005, when he was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year with the Reds.

Griffey produced 35 home runs and 92 RBI for the 2005 Reds. If he had been with the Padres that season, he would have been their team leader in home runs and RBI. The 2005 Padres, with top producers Ryan Klesko (18 home runs) and Brian Giles (83 RBI), qualified for the playoffs but were eliminated by the Cardinals in the first round.

In 2006, Griffey slugged 27 home runs for the Reds, three more than the Padres’ team leader, Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres again were eliminated by the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs.

The Reds traded Griffey to the White Sox in July 2008. Granted free agency after the season, he returned to the Mariners for two more years. In 22 seasons in the majors, Griffey batted .284 with 2,781 hits, 630 home runs and 1,836 RBI, but never played in a World Series.

In the early days of baseball on television, Cardinals owner Fred Saigh was one of the first to go dialing for dollars.

Seventy years ago, in November 1952, Saigh tried to get a form of revenue sharing started among National League franchises regarding broadcast rights fees.

To Saigh, baseball’s television audience was an extension of the ballpark audience, and he wanted a split of the television money that home teams were getting for broadcasting Cardinals road games.

If Saigh was denied a share of those television revenues, he threatened to unplug the broadcasts.

On the air

The first televised major-league game was Aug. 26, 1939, when New York’s NBC station aired the Reds versus the Dodgers from Brooklyn, but it wasn’t until after World War II ended that TV sets became widely available and more affordable to mass markets.

The first television station in St. Louis, and the 13th in the United States, was KSD-TV, Channel 5. A NBC affiliate, the station was owned by Pulitzer Publishing, also the owners of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pulitzer became the first to own both a newspaper and a television station.

(In 1979, when Pulitzer sold the station, its call letters were changed to KSDK.)

KSD-TV began broadcasting on Feb. 8, 1947, with a 90-minute local information afternoon program. In one of the program’s segments that day, Post-Dispatch sports editor J. Roy Stockton interviewed Cardinals catcher and future broadcaster Joe Garagiola.

The KSD-TV studio was located with the Post-Dispatch building on Olive Street in St. Louis. According to the station, the newspaper’s press operators also handled the studio lights. Sometimes, when needed to put out the latest edition of the afternoon paper, they’d leave the studio, delaying the start of a local program.

Show time

KSD-TV management recognized immediately the potential audience and advertising value of baseball programming, and entered into agreements with the Browns of the American League and the Cardinals of the National League to televise some of their games.

The first televised games in St. Louis were KSD-TV broadcasts of two Browns versus Cardinals exhibitions at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on April 12-13, 1947, just before the start of the regular season.

KSD-TV also broadcast the Browns’ season opener against the Tigers on April 15 in St. Louis, and the Cardinals’ home opener against the Cubs on April 18.

From then on, Browns and Cardinals games in 1947 were a programming staple on KSD-TV.

Rights and wrongs

Sam Breadon, who made the deal with KSD-TV for the Cardinals, sold the club to Robert Hannegan and Fred Saigh in November 1947. Hannegan died in 1949, leaving Saigh as majority owner.

Saigh had no options in negotiating a local TV deal for the Cardinals. By 1952, St. Louis had 372,000 TV sets but still only one television station, KSD-TV. According to The Sporting News, the franchises reaping the most in broadcast rights fees then were all in New York _ the Yankees ($500,000), Giants ($375,000) and Dodgers ($300,000).

Baseball had no unified television policy then. “Each team signs private agreements with the others, giving the home club permission to televise the games,” Saigh explained to The Sporting News.

In the summer of 1952, a Cardinals versus Giants series became a flashpoint for a broadcasting battle.

“We signed an agreement permitting the Giants to televise our games at the Polo Grounds in New York,” Saigh told The Sporting News, “but were turned down by the Giants when we asked to televise our games in New York back to St. Louis. Our reaction was to prohibit the Giants from televising our two remaining games in New York. The Giants said they would televise anyway. So we threatened to keep our team off the field. The commissioner (Ford Frick) stepped in and warned us that these games would be forfeited if our team failed to take the field.”

Saigh stewed about what he viewed as bullying by the Giants to control broadcast revenue, and was determined to fight back.

Show me the money

In November 1952, Saigh said he would seek compensation from the Giants for the two home games they televised without the Cardinals’ permission.

Saigh also said he would refuse to allow any team to televise a Cardinals road game in 1953 unless the home club agreed to share its broadcast revenue with the Cardinals. At that time, a home club received all revenue from its telecasts.

“Saigh proposed to the National League that television and radio revenues be regarded as part of the gate receipts and that visiting clubs be cut in on these funds as they had been on the box-office takes,” The Sporting News reported.

Predictably, most team owners called Saigh’s idea “socialism,” The Sporting News noted.

One exception was maverick Browns owner Bill Veeck, who usually was in conflict with Saigh in competing for a chunk of the St. Louis baseball market. Veeck supported Saigh’s suggestion that visiting teams share in the broadcast revenue. “It is odd to find Veeck and Saigh on the same side of any campaign, but they are fighting for a split of the TV and radio money,” The Sporting News reported.

Saigh suggested a visiting team get 30 percent of a home team’s broadcast revenue, or 50 percent when the home team was the Giants or Dodgers.

Meet the new boss

Saigh succeeded in changing some minds. The Cubs and Reds agreed to share broadcast revenues with the Cardinals. The Phillies were close to joining in, too, the Associated Press reported.

Owners of the Giants and Dodgers “were aghast” and showed “no intention of backing down on their determination not to pay Saigh a dime for permitting the telecasts of Cardinals games at their parks,” The Sporting News reported.

Saigh had a bigger problem than broadcast revenue rights. On Jan. 28, 1953, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $15,000 for federal income tax evasion. Unable to keep the team, he apparently considered an offer from buyers who wanted to move the franchise to Milwaukee, but sold the Cardinals to St. Louis brewery Anheuser-Busch, which was run by Gussie Busch

Eager to ingratiate himself into the old boys network of club owners, Busch reversed the revenue sharing stance of Saigh. Busch said he would not demand a share of TV revenue for any Cardinals road game televised by a home club. “Anything we can do to bring the game to more and more people, we hope to be able to do,” Busch told The Sporting News.

Busch had a business reason for his decision. He viewed televised baseball games as an outlet for pitching Anheuser-Busch products to a broad audience. “Under the new ownership, Cardinals television will become a vital asset,” Dan Daniel wrote in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

Learning to share

In 1966, Major League Baseball sold its first national television package, netting $300,000 per team.

Soon after the players’ strike in 1994, the capitalists who own Major League Baseball and its franchises entered into a comprehensive revenue sharing arrangement. It eventually included the evenly split sharing of revenue from sources such as broadcasts, merchandising and Internet.

Baseball socialism wasn’t so bad, management discovered. In 2022, each team got $110 million from revenue sharing.

Given a chance to become a division rival of the Cardinals, the Kansas City Royals balked. 

Twenty-five years ago, in November 1997, the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the American League to the National League, joining the Cardinals, Astros, Cubs, Pirates and Reds in the Central Division.

The Brewers went because the Royals said no.

Musical chairs

After deciding to expand by adding the Tampa Bay Rays for the 1998 season, the American League had a geography problem. The Rays, naturally, belonged in the East Division, but five teams already were situated there. Same with the Central. The West had four teams, but putting the Rays there wasn’t practical.

Major League Baseball officials, of course, devised a convoluted solution.

To open a spot for the Rays in the East, the plan was to shift the Detroit Tigers to the Central. To create a spot for the Tigers, it was decided to move a franchise from the American League Central to the National League Central.

Because the Royals were strong proponents of realignment, the American League invited them to be the franchise that moved to the National League.

What appealed to the Royals was the possibility of an in-state division rivalry with the Cardinals, a scenario that had Royals chief executive officer David Glass “picturing a happy life in the National League,” the Kansas City Star reported.

In 1997, baseball had interleague play for the first time, and “our three best gates were when the Cardinals were here Labor Day weekend,” Glass told the Kansas City newspaper.

The Royals “agonized over their decision,” but opted to remain in the American League for two reasons:

_ Public sentiment, including among season ticket-holders, was for the Royals to stay put, general manager Herk Robinson told the Kansas City Star.

_ The Royals, run by a five-person limited partnership since the death of owner Ewing Kauffman in 1993, were for sale and the “timing wasn’t right” to switch leagues, Glass told the Kansas City newspaper. “It would be most helpful if we had an owner in place that could help in this decision,” Glass said.

When the Royals, who had played in the American League since 1969, opted to stay, the Brewers volunteered to be the franchise that switched leagues.

Turn back the clock

On Nov. 5, 1997, Major League Baseball’s executive council voted unanimously to move the Brewers to the National League.

Milwaukee had experienced many changes as a major-league franchise. In 1901, the Milwaukee Brewers were an original American League member. After one season, they became the St. Louis Browns.

In 1953, after unsuccessfully trying to lure the Cardinals from St. Louis, Milwaukee became a National League city when the Braves moved there from Boston. The Milwaukee Braves won two National League pennants and a World Series title before the franchise moved again to Atlanta for the 1966 season.

Big-league baseball returned to Milwaukee in 1970 when the Seattle Pilots of the American League relocated there and were renamed the Brewers. In 1982, the Brewers won their only American League pennant, but the Cardinals prevailed in the World Series.

Having the Brewers become a National League team was a hit with those who appreciated Milwaukee’s years as a Braves franchise.

Brewers owner Bud Selig, who also was the acting baseball commissioner, told the Associated Press, “Those of us old enough to remember the glory days of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Logan, and Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, we view this as coming home.”

Aaron called it “a great day for Milwaukee.”

The Brewers became the first major-league team to switch leagues in the 1900s.

Polling found that 75 percent of fans in Milwaukee favored realignment, the Associated Press reported, and Selig said such overwhelming public support was an important factor in the Brewers volunteering to move to the National League.

Roots of a rivalry

Asked about the Brewers transferring rather than the Royals, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Either one would have been a good choice. They’re cities which have good baseball histories and which are good Midwestern markets. Both would have fit into the Central Division.”

Five months earlier, the Brewers and Cardinals played a regular-season interleague game against one another for the first time.

Played at County Stadium in Milwaukee on a Monday night before 23,503, the Brewers arranged for four players from the 1982 World Series (Cecil Cooper and Gorman Thomas of the Brewers, and Bob Forsch and Darrell Porter of the Cardinals) to sign autographs before the game. Porter caught the ceremonial first pitch from Selig, no small feat because Selig threw the ball in the dirt, five feet from the plate.

The Brewers won the game, 1-0, with Mike Matheny catching the combined shutout of Ben McDonald and Bob Wickman. Boxscore

The next night, 38,634 came to watch, with the teams wearing replicas of their 1982 World Series uniforms (Brewers in pinstripes and Cardinals in robin-egg blue). The Cardinals’ left fielder was Willie McGee, 38. As a rookie, he had hit two home runs and made a leaping catch against the wall in Game 3 of the 1982 World Series at Milwaukee. McGee had two hits in the regular-season interleague game, but the Brewers won, 4-3, beating Fernando Valenzuela. Boxscore

In the series finale, after franchise icon Robin Yount made the ceremonial first pitch, the Brewers completed the sweep, winning 8-4. Boxscore

Win some, lose some

The first time the Brewers faced the Cardinals as National League rivals was at St. Louis in May 1998. Spectators received pins recognizing the Brewers’ first season in the league. Todd Stottlemyre and Jeff Brantley pitched a combined shutout, and Ron Gant, Brian Jordan and Ray Lankford hit home runs in a 7-0 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

The Cardinals were 8-3 versus the Brewers in 1998, the most wins they had against any opponent that season, but the Astros won the Central Division title. (The Astros switched to the American League starting with the 2013 season, reducing the National League Central to five teams.)

Since joining the National League Central, the Brewers have won three division titles. The first was in 2011. The Cardinals, who placed second in the division, were allowed into the playoffs anyway and prevailed against the Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

The 2018 division champion Brewers had the best regular-season record in the National League (96 wins) but lost four of seven to the Dodgers in the playoffs. After winning a division title in 2021, the Brewers were ousted by the Braves in the playoffs.

The Royals have won just one division title since deciding to remain in the American League. That came in 2015 when the Royals (95 wins) had the best regular-season record in the league, won the pennant and prevailed against the Mets in the World Series.

In 2014, the Royals placed second to the Tigers in the division, but were deemed a playoff qualifier nonetheless. They won all eight of their American League playoff games, securing the pennant, but the Giants prevailed in the World Series.

At a time when St. Louis had two of baseball’s most exceptional hitters, Rogers Hornsby of the Cardinals and George Sisler of the Browns, another appeared on the verge of joining their ranks.

Cardinals left fielder Austin McHenry was a ballplayer with special gifts. He hit steadily and with authority, got on base often, generated bundles of runs and fielded with an athletic grace. He also had an easygoing likeability. The kids in the Knothole Gang program adored him and so did his teammates.

A right-handed batter with a knack for getting extra-base hits, McHenry was in his fourth year with the Cardinals when he had a season that elevated him into the top tier of his profession. He batted .350 for the 1921 Cardinals, with 201 hits, 102 RBI and an on-base percentage of .393.

He was headed for another big season in 1922 before he began experiencing intense headaches and blurred vision. He was only 27, a player entering his prime and showing signs of brilliance. How could he feel so out of sorts, he wondered?

On the rise

McHenry was born and raised in rural Adams County in southern Ohio. When he was 18, he attended a baseball camp in Portsmouth, Ohio, operated by a scout, Billy Doyle. Converted from second baseman to outfielder, McHenry blossomed and turned pro the next year, signing with a minor-league team in Portsmouth. One of his teammate on the 1915 Portsmouth club was catcher Pickles Dillhoefer.

From Portsmouth, McHenry and Dillhoefer advanced to the American Association minor-league club at Milwaukee in 1916. The Cubs acquired Dillhoefer after the season and he reached the majors with them in 1917.

A year later, it was McHenry’s turn to get a shot at the big time. Acting on the recommendation of their scout, Billy Doyle, who had been tracking him since the Portsmouth baseball camp, the Reds signed McHenry and brought him to spring training in 1918, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

In late March, McHenry’s nose got split when he was struck by a baseball bat, according to The Cincinnati Post, and Reds manager Christy Mathewson sent him back to minor-league Milwaukee.

The last-place Cardinals acquired McHenry from Milwaukee in June 1918 and made him their left fielder. Cardinals president Branch Rickey, who made the deal, told the St. Louis Star-Times, “McHenry may prove a sensation.”

A year later, McHenry was reunited with his former minor-league teammate, Pickles Dillhoefer, who was acquired by the Cardinals in January 1919.

Among the best

From 1918 to 1920, McHenry improved his hits and RBI totals each year with the Cardinals, then had his breakout season in 1921. The Giants tried to acquire him, and so did the Reds, without success, the New York Times reported.

“McHenry is without question one of the game’s greatest outfielders, and he is one of the game’s greatest hitters,” The Sporting News declared in January 1922.

According to the Star-Times, McHenry was “fast and an accurate judge of a driven ball. He was flashy on defense. At the bat, he was one of the most efficient hitters … Next to Hornsby, probably one of the hardest hitters in the league.”

Teammates called McHenry “The Airedale,” like the breed of terrier, “because of his fleetness of foot, his tenacity, courage and spirit,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

To the Knothole Gang youngsters, admitted without charge to the left field bleachers in St. Louis, McHenry “could do no wrong,” the Star-Times reported.

According to the Post-Dispatch, “Their favorite chant was, ‘Oooooh, Mack!’ ‘Oooooh, Mack!,’ with the Mack snapped out.”

As the Star-Times noted, “He was a great big boy himself _ unspoiled, unselfish and gifted with the finest of natures.”

Troubled times

On Feb. 23, 1922, McHenry and the Cardinals were jolted by the death of teammate Pickles Dillhoefer, 28, from typhoid fever.

If Dillhoefer’s death foreshadowed more dark days, it wasn’t evident two months later when the Cardinals opened the season, with Hornsby and McHenry each driving in two runs in a 10-1 drubbing of the Pirates. Boxscore

McHenry streaked on. On April 28, he had four hits and two RBI versus the Cubs. Boxscore A month later, he had another four-hit game and three RBI against the Phillies. Boxscore

On June 12, his batting average for the season reached .326.

Mysteriously, soon after, McHenry “gradually lost strength and couldn’t see a ball while he was running,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “When he stood still, he could trace the flight of a ball very easily, but the moment he ran after it, his vision immediately became blurred.”

According to his hometown Portsmouth Daily Times, during a game against the Reds on June 26, McHenry went to Rickey and said, “Branch, I can’t see the balls as they hit out my way.”

Rickey told McHenry to return to his village home in Blue Creek, Ohio, to seek treatment and rest.

A month later, McHenry informed Rickey he was ready to return to the Cardinals. He appeared in two games, but it was clear McHenry was suffering. His head ached violently and he still had eyesight problems, The Cincinnati Post reported.

Rickey advised McHenry to go home and consult with physicians. That’s when it was discovered McHenry had a brain tumor.

Final days

The scout, Billy Doyle, said he believed the brain tumor could be attributed to a pitch that struck McHenry in the temple during a minor-league game in 1916. “Doyle was in the grandstand when (McHenry) was felled in his tracks by the pitched ball,” the Portsmouth Daily Times reported. “Six years later, McHenry began to feel a sore spot over his left temple, where he was hit by the ball. It gradually became more acute and finally began to affect his eyesight.”

McHenry was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati and doctors determined an operation was necessary. On Oct. 19, 1922, Dr. George Heur, who performed the surgery, said part of the tumor was removed  but because of its location it was impossible to remove all of it, the Portsmouth newspaper reported.

A month later, McHenry, still in the Cincinnati hospital, took a turn for the worse. When doctors informed him his condition was terminal, he was taken home to Blue Creek at his request, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

McHenry, 27, lapsed into unconsciousness on Nov. 26 and died the next morning, according to the Portsmouth newspaper. He was survived by his parents, his wife and their two children, ages 5 and 3.

At the funeral two days later, pallbearers included three members of the Cardinals _ pitcher Jesse Haines, outfielder Burt Shotton and secretary-treasurer Hi Mason. Branch Rickey couldn’t attend because of an illness in his family.

“The sorrow of the loss of a great ballplayer is overshadowed by the loss of a dear friend,” Rickey said to the Post-Dispatch.

As the Portsmouth Daily Times concluded, “It seems a queer twist of fate that so young a man and who had so much to live for must be cut down when he really was coming into the best days of his short but brilliant career.”

A power struggle within the front office nearly cost the Cardinals a chance to get the shortstop they needed to win a championship.

Sixty years ago, on Nov. 19, 1962, the Cardinals acquired shortstop Dick Groat and reliever Diomedes Olivo from the Pirates for pitcher Don Cardwell and shortstop Julio Gotay.

With his exceptional hitting and base running, Groat helped the Cardinals become World Series champions in 1964.

At the urging of manager Johnny Keane, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine made the trade over the objections of consultant Branch Rickey.

From a baseball perspective, Devine and Keane made the right move _ Groat was a key contributor to the Cardinals becoming contenders _ but it cost them. The trade widened a rift between Devine and Rickey, and Keane and Groat eventually had a falling out.

Terrific talent

Born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Groat went to Duke University and became an all-America in baseball and basketball. A 5-foot-10 guard, he averaged 26 points and 7.6 assists per game as a senior for the basketball team.

Branch Rickey was the Pirates’ general manager when Groat signed with them in June 1952 and went directly from the Duke campus to the major leagues. Picked by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the first round of the NBA draft, Groat played in 26 games for them in the 1952-53 season, averaging 11.9 points.

After two years of military service, Groat chose to focus on baseball and resumed his big-league career with the Pirates in 1955.

The Pirates nearly traded Groat to the Athletics for Roger Maris in December 1959, but called off the deal at the last minute. The Athletics then swapped Maris to the Yankees. Groat won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1960, Maris was named the American League MVP, and the Pirates prevailed in the World Series against the Yankees.

Your move

On Oct. 7, 1962, Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the story that the Cardinals offered starting pitcher Larry Jackson to the Pirates for Groat.

Jackson led the 1962 Cardinals in wins (16) and innings pitched (252.1). Groat produced 199 hits, including 34 doubles, and batted .294 for the 1962 Pirates.

According to The Pittsburgh Press, the Pirates countered, offering backup shortstop Dick Schofield, a former Cardinal, but Devine and Keane were interested only in Groat.

When the Pirates dawdled, the Cardinals on Oct. 17 dealt Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer to the Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker.

Pirates general manager Joe Brown admitted the swap of Jackson to the Cubs “surprised him” and he “didn’t know the trade was in the making,” The Sporting News reported, but he liked Cardwell as much as he did Jackson.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Brown called Devine and said he thought there was still basis on which the clubs could make a trade.”

Power plays

While Devine was trying to acquire Groat, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch was on a business trip to Los Angeles and met with a friend, Bob Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant. Cobb suggested to Busch that he should hire Branch Rickey, 80, as a consultant, the Post-Dispatch reported. “He’ll help you win a pennant more than any other person could,” Cobb said to Busch.

The Cardinals hadn’t won a pennant since Busch bought the franchise in 1953 and he was tired of waiting. Acting on the advice of the restaurateur, Busch hired Rickey, who had built the Cardinals into a powerhouse before departing for the Dodgers in October 1942. In the consultant role, Rickey would advise Devine on player personnel matters and report to Busch.

In his autobiography, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said, “To be honest, I rather resented that Rickey was back … I was still in charge, but Rickey still had Busch’s ear.”

The relationship was rocky from the start. Rickey acted like he was Devine’s boss, and they disagreed on personnel matters.

Devine had gotten the Pirates to agree to trade Groat, 32, but Rickey thought the Cardinals would be better keeping Julio Gotay, 23, as their shortstop.

“Rickey hated giving up young players for veteran players,” Devine said in his book. “I had to set it up so that Rickey would approve the Groat deal and take it to Mr. Busch.”

At the Florida Instructional League in St. Petersburg, director of player development Eddie Stanky, coach Harry Walker and others joined Devine in approaching Rickey and making a case for Groat.

In his book, Devine recalled that Rickey said to him, “You’ve kind of loaded this meeting for me, haven’t you?”

Devine replied, “I know it looks like that way, but we need Groat to make this team go.”

After a long discussion, Rickey said, “I’ll talk to the boss … I’ll tell him you feel strongly about it and that he should do what he wants to do.”

Busch approved the trade for Groat, but Rickey wasn’t happy. “The Groat trade started cooling the relationship between Rickey and me,” Devine said in his book.

Getting it done

Though, as The Sporting News noted, “Groat still has the reputation of being the best hit-and-run man in the league,” he led National League shortstops in errors five times with the Pirates. Devine and Keane were hoping Groat’s knowledge of playing the hitters would compensate for the errors and a lack of range.

Pittsburgh Press sports editor Chester L. Smith wrote of Groat after the trade, “Maybe he has slowed up a half stride or so, perhaps his hands aren’t quite as sure as they once were, but he plays the hitters so well that he minimizes any loss of speed. He reminds you a great deal of Lou Boudreau when the artful codger was on the downside of the hill and was using his head to get the results his legs had produced in his youth.”

As it turned out, Groat was everything Devine and Keane hoped he’d be for the 1963 Cardinals, who placed second with 93 wins, their most since 1949.

In the book “We Played the Game,” Groat said, “I went to St. Louis with the intention of showing Joe Brown that he made a very bad mistake trading me. In 1963, I had the best year of my career, a better year than in 1960. I hit the ball with more authority.”

Groat produced career highs in hits (201), doubles (43), triples (11), RBI (73) and on-base percentage (.377) for the 1963 Cardinals. He and teammates Bill White, Julian Javier and Ken Boyer were the starting infielders for the National League in the All-Star Game. “We were really proud of that because we were chosen by our peers, not the fans,” Groat told author Danny Peary.

In his autobiography “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said, “I’d learned to respect Dick playing against him, but not until I played with him my last year did I realize fully how smart and thorough he is … Groat and Bill White are the best players the Cardinals obtained by trade in my many years with the club.”

In his book “Few and Chosen,” Tim McCarver said of Groat, “I learned more about base running from him than from anybody else … I never saw anybody as good as Groat going from first to third. He did everything instinctively on the bases.”

Plots and schemes

The underachieving Cardinals had a losing record at the all-star break in 1964 and a rift developed between Groat and Keane. Because of how well Groat could handle a pitch, Keane allowed him to call a hit-and-run play when he wanted to while batting. Eventually, Keane decided Groat abused the privilege and took it away. That angered Groat and he sulked. In his book “October 1964,” author David Halberstam wrote that Keane “saw Groat as a challenge to his control.”

At a team meeting in the clubhouse, Keane confronted Groat, accusing him of undermining the manager. Groat apologized, and the the matter appeared settled.

A month later, Gussie Busch learned of the incident from his daughter, who heard about it from the player she was dating, Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews. Petty and paranoid, Busch accused Devine of hiding the matter from him. Meanwhile, Rickey, on the outs with Devine, was advising Busch to get another general manager.

On Aug. 17, 1964, Busch fired Devine and replaced him with Rickey’s choice, Bob Howsam. Busch schemed to replace Keane with Leo Durocher after the season.

“That Groat situation was an issue,” Devine said in his autobiography, “but I don’t think that’s why Busch fired me. I really think it had more to do with us being so far back in August.”

Helped by Groat, who hit .282 in September and .417 in October, the Cardinals surged and won the National League pennant on the last day of the season. After prevailing in the World Series against the Yankees, Keane quit and became Yankees manager.

Groat hit .292 with 35 doubles and 70 RBI for the 1964 Cardinals but he also made a career-high 40 errors.

After the 1965 season, he was traded by Howsam to the Phillies.

Groat had 2,138 hits in 14 seasons in the majors and batted .302 against the Cardinals.