When Don Baylor became Cardinals hitting coach, he emphasized the importance of preparation and focus as much as he did mechanics.

Working with a core group of 25- to 27-year-olds on the cusp of their prime _ Bernard Gilkey, Brian Jordan, Felix Jose, Ray Lankford and Todd Zeile _ Baylor urged taking a professional approach to each at-bat.

In his one season with the Cardinals, 1992, Baylor had several successes. Lankford and Gilkey blossomed, Andres Galarraga, 31, regained his stroke and the team increased its batting average and hits total from the previous season.

There were setbacks, too. Under Baylor, the Cardinals’ run production decreased and they drew fewer walks while striking out more often.

Still, the Cardinals benefitted from Baylor’s coaching and he benefitted from being on the staff of manager Joe Torre.

Torre shared with Baylor insights on being a manager. That mentoring helped prepare Baylor to become the first manager of the Rockies.

Baylor, 68, died on Aug. 7, 2017. Though his obituaries naturally focused on his achievements as a player and as a manager, his season as a Cardinals coach was an important part of his career.

Mutual respect

An outfielder and designated hitter, Baylor played 19 years with six American League clubs: Orioles, Athletics, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Twins. He produced 2,135 hits, including 338 home runs, and 1,276 RBI.

From 1986 to 1988, Baylor played in three consecutive World Series. He batted .385 for the Twins against the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series and hit a key home run off John Tudor in Game 6.

In 1990, when Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog resigned in mid-season, Baylor, the Brewers’ hitting coach, was one of the candidates to replace him.

After Baylor interviewed with Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill, Fred Kuhlmann, president and chief executive officer, and Mark Sauer, executive vice president and chief operating officer, went to Milwaukee and met with Baylor.

“That’s how much we thought of him,” Maxvill said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Torre, the leading candidate, got the job, but Baylor and the Cardinals made a connection.

“The Cardinals were up front with me from Day One and I’ve always appreciated that,” Baylor said. “Dal Maxvill couldn’t have been better. The whole process was that way. They weren’t just going through the motions.”

Nothing to fear

After the 1991 season, the Cardinals were seeking a hitting coach and Baylor was seeking a job. Torre and bench coach Red Schoendienst had tutored the hitters in 1991. Meanwhile, the Brewers had changed managers _ firing Tom Trebelhorn, bypassing Baylor and hiring Phil Garner.

Torre approached Baylor and asked him to be the St. Louis hitting coach in 1992.

“I was interested right away,” Baylor said. “It renewed my admiration for (Torre) that he would ask that when, not long ago, we were both interviewing for the manager’s job. He had no fear of me.”

The Cardinals announced Baylor’s hiring on Nov. 15, 1991. The move drew praise. “Great news, the Cardinals hiring Don Baylor as batting coach,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz. “He’ll have a major impact, assisting manager Joe Torre in a clubhouse that still needs leadership.”

Maxvill said of Baylor, “He’s just a fine man. A good, quality person and a tremendous role model for our young players.”

Have a plan

In February 1992, Baylor arrived at Cardinals spring training camp with a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish.

“What I try to do is get guys mentally prepared, get them to have a toughness, get them to not give away at-bats,” Baylor said.

“One thing I don’t like is hitters giving away at-bats. When you’re down 8-0, or when you’re leading 8-0, you just can’t give away at-bats. You have to be aggressive.”

Baylor shared with the Post-Dispatch his assessment of the Cardinals’ top batters at camp:

_ On Gilkey: “I like him. He hits the ball up the middle a lot, uses the middle of the field.”

_ On Jose: “He has to be ready to hit on the first pitch … If he just realizes and understands what he’s trying to do, he’s going to be that much more of an effective hitter.”

_ On Lankford: “Lankford has untapped abilities … You have to eliminate some of the strikeouts by getting some walks.”

_ On Zeile: “He doesn’t trust his hands enough. He has quick hands.”

Hitting for average

Players, for the most part, took well to Baylor’s instruction.

“He’s got me driving the ball by having me finish up my swing,” Lankford said. “I was cutting my swing short.”

Baylor worked with Galarraga on hand placement. When Galarraga lowered his hands below face level, he tended to hit under the ball and loft pop-ups rather than hit drives.

Gilkey and Lankford responded best during the season.

Gilkey, who batted .216 in 1991, hit .302 in 1992. Lankford, who batted .251 in 1991, batted .293 in 1992. Galarraga, who was injured early in the 1992 season, slumped when he returned but had a strong second half, batting .300 in July and .333 in September.

Zeile appeared to regress. After batting .280 in 1991, he hit .257 in 1992. His on-base percentage, though, remained a strength: .352 in 1992 after .353 in 1991.

As a team, the Cardinals increased their hits total (from 1,366 in 1991 to 1,464 in 1992) and batting average (from .255 in 1991 to .262 in 1992). However, they scored 20 fewer runs (631) in 1992 than they did in 1991 (651) and they struck out more (996 in 1992 compared with 857 in 1991) and walked less (495 in 1992 after 532 in 1991).

After the season, Baylor became manager of the expansion Rockies. “Joe Torre gave me an opportunity all year to talk to him about his approach,” Baylor said. “That’s why I appreciate him so much.”

Previously: Don Baylor played key role in Ray Lankford’s career

Previously: Ted Simmons helped put pal Joe Torre on path to Hall

Capping a Cardinals comeback, Roger Freed burned the team he cheered for as a boy.

Freed, a Los Angeles native reared in suburban Baldwin Park, Calif., hit a walkoff three-run home run 40 years ago, enabling the Cardinals to overcome a five-run deficit in the ninth inning and defeat the Dodgers.

Freed was batting for pitcher Al Hrabosky when he hit his game-winning home run against knuckleball specialist Charlie Hough.

At a time before cable television and the Internet, the game was showcased nationally as ABC’s “Monday Night Baseball” telecast.

“I knew my mother was watching (in Baldwin Park),” Freed said to the Los Angeles Times. “I kept telling myself I was going to hit one for Mom. She never gives up until the game is over. She’s been a baseball rooter ever since I was in Little League.”

No surrender

The Dodgers were comfortably in first place in the National League West, 9.5 games ahead of the Reds, entering their Aug. 22, 1977, game against the Cardinals at St. Louis.

Sparked by a Steve Yeager grand slam against John Denny, the Dodgers took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth versus the Cardinals.

Jerry Mumphrey opened the Cardinals’ ninth with a single and scored on Garry Templeton’s triple, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 6-2. Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda lifted starter Burt Hooton and replaced him with a rookie, Lance Rautzhan.

Ted Simmons singled, scoring Templeton and getting the Cardinals within three at 6-3. Keith Hernandez ripped a double just inside the first-base line. When the throw from right fielder Reggie Smith eluded cutoff man Bill Russell, Simmons continued home, making the score 6-4, and Hernandez went to third.

Hough, the Dodgers’ closer, relieved Rautzhan.

Dodgers dandy

With Mike Anderson at the plate, Hough unleashed a knuckler that got past Yeager. Hernandez scored and the Cardinals were within a run, 6-5.

After Anderson struck out for the first out of the inning, Ken Reitz singled and Rick Bosetti ran for him. Mike Tyson singled _ the Cardinals’ sixth hit of the inning _ and Bosetti moved to second.

With Hrabosky due up next, Cardinals manager Vern Rapp called on Freed to bat for the pitcher. Freed, who had been acquired by the Cardinals from the Expos’ organization in the December minor-league draft, was batting .345 overall and .438 as a pinch hitter for St. Louis.

Hough went to work against him with his signature knuckler and got ahead on the count 1-and-2.

“The knuckler was dancing all over the place,” Freed said. “Hough has a dandy.”

Low liner

Hough threw Freed a knuckler that was at the bottom of the strike zone.

“It was what I consider a good knuckler,” Hough said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Bing Devine, the Cardinals’ general manager: “It was amazing to see on the TV replay where the ball was. It was low and away.”

Freed took a big swing and connected.

“I knew I hit it hard, but the pitch had been so low that I thought it might be right at the shortstop,” Freed said.

The line drive rose and carried over the left-field wall for a home run, giving the Cardinals an 8-6 victory. “I didn’t know it was gone until I looked up,” Freed said. Boxscore

Freed, a reserve first baseman and right fielder, finished the 1977 season with a .398 batting average (33-for-83). He hit .545 (6-for-11) with two outs and a runner in scoring position.

Freed batted .239 for the 1978 Cardinals and .258 for the 1979 Cardinals. He was released in April 1980.

Previously: Carl Taylor, Roger Freed experienced the ultimate

In the last game the Cardinals played against the Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York, Stan Musial delivered a performance worthy of Broadway.

Sixty years ago, on Aug. 21, 1957, Musial bid a dramatic farewell to the Giants at one of his favorite ballparks, hitting a home run in the first inning against former teammate Stu Miller at the Polo Grounds.

In two subsequent plate appearances that Wednesday afternoon, Musial also produced an infield single and a sacrifice fly before being removed from the game by Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson.

Though Musial and the Cardinals never would play the Giants again at the Polo Grounds, they would return to the ballpark five years later, in 1962, when the Mets joined the National League as an expansion club.

Musial and the Cardinals would face the Mets at the Polo Grounds in 1962 and 1963. After the 1963 season, Musial retired, the Mets moved to Shea Stadium and the Polo Grounds was demolished.

In August 1957, however, there was no inkling that major-league baseball would be played at the Polo Grounds after that season.

Go west

In May 1957, National League club owners gave permission to the Giants to move from New York to San Francisco and for the Dodgers to transfer from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

Three months later, on Aug. 19, the Giants’ board of directors, by an 8-to-1 vote, approved the proposal to relocate the franchise to San Francisco for the 1958 season. The Giants had been in New York for 74 years.

On Aug. 20, the day after the board made its decision, the Cardinals played a doubleheader against the Giants at the Polo Grounds. The Cardinals won both games before a crowd of 13,198.

The next day, Aug. 21, the Cardinals and Giants played for the final time at the Polo Grounds. The game drew 5,296 spectators to the ballpark along Eighth Avenue and West 159th Street between Coogan’s Bluff and the Harlem River in upper Manhattan.

NL’s best

The starting pitchers were Lindy McDaniel for St. Louis and Stu Miller, a former Cardinal, for the Giants.

Batting third in the orders were two of the all-time best _ Musial for the Cardinals and Willie Mays for the Giants.

The Polo Grounds had unusual dimensions. The distance from home plate to the deepest part of center field was about 480 feet. Down the lines, it was 258 feet from the plate to the right field foul pole and 279 feet from the plate to the left field foul pole.

In the first inning, Musial hit a home run into the upper deck in right.

In the Giants’ half of the first, Mays hit a home run over the left-field roof.

Facing 18-year-old rookie reliever Mike McCormick, Musial got an infield single in the third and a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

With the Giants ahead, 11-3, Hutchinson opted to give Musial a rest and removed him from the game in the sixth.

Musial, 36, was leading the National League in batting average (.342) and RBI (97) and had 29 home runs.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s the most valuable player in the National League this year and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy,” Cardinals general manager Frank Lane said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Big Apple fan

In 11 games at the Polo Grounds in 1957, Musial batted .439 (18-for-41) with six home runs and 14 RBI.

Asked by New York writers whether he would miss the Polo Grounds, Musial replied, “Yes. The Polo Grounds makes a hero or a bum out of you. It can throw you into a terrible batting slump if you try to pull too much. It can give you the toughest out on the longest drives anywhere and the cheapest home runs. I’ve had my good years here and others not so good, but overall I’ve been fortunate. I’ll miss the park and the fans and the city’s legitimate theater, too.”

Musial and the Cardinals returned to the Polo Grounds to play the Mets on April 18, 1962. Musial had two hits and two RBI.

Three months later, on July 8, 1962, Musial, 41, hit three home runs against the Mets at the Polo Grounds. He’s the oldest player to hit three home runs in a big-league game.

Musial, 42, appeared at the Polo Grounds for the final time on Aug. 8, 1963, against the Mets. Pinch-hitting in the ninth, he drew a walk.

In 171 games at the Polo Grounds against the Giants and Mets, Musial batted .343 with 216 hits, including 49 home runs. He hit more home runs at the Polo Grounds than he did at any other ballpark outside St. Louis.

Previously: How Stan Musial made me a Cardinals fan

Previously: Stan Musial still oldest to belt 3 home runs in game

Lee May, one of the National League’s most consistent sluggers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, hit for both average and power against the Cardinals.

May, a first baseman known as the “Big Bopper,” played for the Reds (1965-71) and Astros (1972-74) in the National League before going to the American League with the Orioles and Royals.

In 103 games versus the Cardinals, May had 128 hits, with 26 doubles, 16 home runs and 63 RBI. His career .327 batting average against the Cardinals is 60 points higher than his career major-league mark of .267.

May died July 29, 2017, at 74.

A standout high school athlete in Birmingham, Ala., May was offered a football scholarship to play fullback at the University of Nebraska, but he elected to sign a baseball contract with the Reds. He modeled his swing after his boyhood idol, American League slugger Harmon Killebrew.

“May was a husky bear of a man with the disposition of a newborn cub, a guy with a wondrous sense of humor, a guy loved by everybody who came into contact with him,” wrote Hal McCoy in the Dayton Daily News.

From 1969-74, May ranked among the top 10 in the NL in home runs each year. In 1970, when he hit 34 home runs for the pennant-winning Reds, May delivered one of his most memorable long balls _ a grand slam against the Cardinals.

Keep swinging

On July 20, 1970, the Reds and Cardinals had a Monday twi-night doubleheader at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

May was in a slump. He had batted .304 in May but .220 in June. Hitless in his three previous games, he entered the doubleheader with a .246 batting average.

“I’ve been pressing a little,” May said to the Associated Press. “It’s always natural for a guy in a slump to press. When you’re in a slump, you look at it like the other team has about 20 infielders and 20 outfielders. So it really doesn’t make any difference who is pitching.”

In the opener, May was 1-for-4. His two-out double in the eighth against Jerry Reuss drove in Tony Perez from second base. When left fielder Lou Brock bobbled the ball, Johnny Bench raced from first to home, tying the score at 3-3. A run-scoring single by Bobby Tolan in the ninth lifted the Reds to a 4-3 victory. Boxscore

Reds manager Sparky Anderson intended to rest May in the second game. “He’s been in a little slump,” Anderson said. “I was going to get him away from the field and give him a chance to relax. Then he said, ‘I don’t need mental help. I just need my swings.’ ”

Winning wallop

May started Game 2 and was in his usual fifth spot in the batting order.

The starting pitchers, Tony Cloninger of the Reds and Chuck Taylor of the Cardinals, engaged in a scoreless duel. Cloninger shut out the Cardinals for eight innings before being relieved by Wayne Granger. Taylor shut out the Reds through nine.

Taylor faced the minimum 27 batters before he was lifted for a pinch hitter. He yielded three singles, but two of the runners were erased on double play grounders and the other was caught by catcher Joe Torre attempting to steal second.

With the score at 0-0, a rookie, Bob Chlupsa, was chosen by Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst to pitch the 10th.

The Reds loaded the bases with one out on singles by Pete Rose and Bernie Carbo and a walk to Perez.

May stepped to plate and drove a pitch 400 feet over the wall in left-center for a grand slam.

“It was a fat pitch _ fastball, high _ and that’s what he gets paid to hit,” Chlupsa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said May: “I feel a little confidence coming back. I feel like I’m going to shake this thing.”

Granger retired the Cardinals in order in the bottom half of the 10th, giving the Reds a 4-0 victory and a sweep of the doubleheader. Boxscore

The Reds set a NL record in the game by playing 10 innings without leaving a runner on base.

Fast learner

Three months later, May hit .389 (7-for-18) with two doubles and two home runs against the Orioles in the 1970 World Series.

“He might get fooled on a pitch, but on that same pitch, the next time he sees it, he’ll knock it out of the park,” said Reds hitting coach Ted Kluszewski.

After the 1971 season, May was sent to the Astros in the trade that brought future Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan to the Reds.

May played 18 seasons in the big leagues and produced 354 home runs and 1,244 RBI.

His brother, Carlos May, played 10 seasons (1968-77) in the big leagues as an outfielder for the White Sox, Yankees and Angels.

Previously: Johnny Bench was nemesis of Steve Carlton

Expected to supply power and run production, Mark McGwire was a dud in his first 10 games with the Cardinals.

Slow to adjust to National League pitching, McGwire batted .088 in 10 games after being acquired by the Cardinals from the Athletics on July 31, 1997.

McGwire had three hits and one RBI in his first 34 at-bats for the Cardinals. He produced two singles in seven games before hitting a home run in his eighth. He was hitless in the next two.

The Cardinals lost eight of those 10 games.

After that, McGwire recovered from his slump and delivered the offense most expected. In light of subsequent revelations, the question of whether performance-enhancing drugs aided his breakout cannot be dismissed.

In 2010, McGwire told the Associated Press he used steroids on and off for nearly a decade, beginning after the 1989 season.

“I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989-1990 offseason and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again,” McGwire said. “I used them on occasion throughout the 1990s, including during the 1998 season.”

McGwire told Bob Costas of MLB Network that studying pitchers and making his swing shorter _ not performance-enhancing drugs _ led to his increase in home runs, but skeptics weren’t convinced.

“I think that’s a lot of horse muffins,” Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller said. “If it didn’t help him any, what the hell was he taking them for? Of course it helped him.”

Singles hitter

McGwire, acquired for pitchers T.J. Mathews, Eric Ludwick and Blake Stein, went hitless with a walk in his first Cardinals game on Aug. 1, 1997, at Philadelphia.

The next day, Aug. 2, he got his first Cardinals hit, an infield single against the Phillies’ Matt Beech.

McGwire was hitless over the next three games _ one at Philadelphia and two at New York versus the Mets.

On Aug. 6, he got his second Cardinals hit, a bloop single to center against the Braves’ Greg Maddux.

McGwire was hitless the next night, Aug. 7, versus the Braves. His batting average after seven road games versus the Phillies, Mets and Braves was .080.

“I’m big into visualization,” McGwire told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You have to visualize how the pitch is going to come and what kind of pitch he has. When I’m facing a guy for the first time … they’re getting me out before I really see what they have.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa noted that Ray Lankford had been sidelined because of a hamstring injury since McGwire joined the team. La Russa had planned to bat Lankford third in the order. Without Lankford, McGwire, in the cleanup spot, batted behind a rotation of No. 3 hitters _ Phil Plantier, John Mabry, Willie McGee and Ron Gant.

Still, it was surprising, if not concerning, that McGwire, acquired to provide instant offense, was without an extra-base hit after seven games.

“All I can say is this is very humbling,” McGwire said.

Welcome home

McGwire’s eighth Cardinals game, on Aug. 8, was his first home game. He hadn’t been in St. Louis since playing there in an exhibition game for Team USA in 1983.

Lankford returned to the lineup for that night’s game against the Phillies at Busch Stadium. La Russa batted Lankford third and McGwire fourth in the order.

When McGwire came to the plate in the first inning, with runners on first and second, one out, most among the crowd of 38,300 gave him a standing ovation. McGwire popped out to the second baseman.

In the third, with the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, Lankford hit a solo home run against Mark Leiter. Two pitches later, McGwire followed with his first Cardinals home run. The ball, which barely avoided hooking into foul territory, traveled 441 feet before slamming into the glass exterior of the Stadium Club dining area above the left field bleachers.

The crowd roared its approval. After returning to the dugout, McGwire emerged onto the top step and waved to the fans. Video

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a crowd so loud in a regular-season game,” McGwire said.

In his last two at-bats of the game, McGwire flied out to right and walked. The Cardinals won, 6-1. Boxscore

Many homers, no pennants

After the feel-good home debut, McGwire went hitless against the Phillies in the remaining two games of the series. The Cardinals lost both.

In the Aug. 10 game, the Busch Stadium scoreboard, at La Russa’s request, displayed McGwire’s combined 1997 batting average with the Athletics and Cardinals (.267) rather than just his St. Louis mark.

After 10 games with the Cardinals, McGwire had an .088 batting average, two singles, one home run, one RBI and 12 strikeouts in 34 at-bats. It also didn’t go unnoticed that Mathews had three wins for the Athletics since being dealt for McGwire.

On Aug. 12, McGwire hit a double and a home run against the Mets’ Dave Mlicki. From then on, he improved his production.

In 25 games in August, McGwire hit nine home runs with 18 RBI and had an on-base percentage of .408.

In 26 games in September, McGwire hit 15 home runs with 24 RBI and had an on-base percentage of .413.

Overall for the 1997 Cardinals, McGwire hit 24 home runs with 42 RBI in 51 games. The Cardinals finished 73-89.

He had two epic seasons for the Cardinals in 1998 and 1999. McGwire hit 70 home runs with 147 RBI in 1998 and 65 home runs with 147 RBI in 1999, but the Cardinals failed to qualify for the postseason both years.

Previously: How Cardinals were able to acquire Mark McGwire

Early in the 2007 season, the Cardinals had a plan to call up Rick Ankiel from the minor leagues in September to see what he could do. By mid-summer, when Ankiel continued to clout home runs at a consistent clip for Memphis, the plan changed and the Cardinals moved up their timetable.

Ten years ago, on Aug. 9, 2007, Ankiel returned to the big leagues with the Cardinals after a three-year absence.

When he had left, he was a pitcher.

He came back as an outfielder.

Arriving in St. Louis from Memphis late that Thursday afternoon, Ankiel was inserted in the starting lineup for that night’s game against the Padres.

It was a memorable return. Ankiel hit a three-run home run, signaling that his transformation from pitcher to slugger was no stunt.

Something to consider

In 2000, his first full season with the Cardinals, Ankiel was a starting pitcher. The left-hander earned 11 wins and struck out 194 in 175 innings. His career quickly unraveled, however, during the 2000 postseason when he suddenly lost the ability to pitch in the strike zone.

Frustrated by injuries and unhappy with his career path, Ankiel decided during spring training in 2005 to give up pitching and become an outfielder.

Assigned to the minor leagues, Ankiel played for two Cardinals farm clubs _ Quad Cities and Springfield, Mo., _ in 2005. His combined statistics that season included 21 home runs and a .275 batting average.

Injured, Ankiel sat out the 2006 season.

In 2007, the Cardinals assigned him to their top farm team, Memphis. He produced 104 hits in 102 games, with 32 home runs and 89 RBI.

Lineup upgrade

On Aug. 8, when asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Ankiel, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, “We’re talking about when is the right time” for a call-up.

The next day, Aug. 9, the Cardinals acted. A roster spot opened when Scott Spiezio went on leave to address a substance abuse problem.

Ankiel arrived at Busch Stadium at 4 p.m. La Russa put Ankiel in the lineup as the right fielder and batted him second in the order, behind David Eckstein and ahead of Albert Pujols.

“It’s very overwhelming,” Ankiel admitted.

Ankiel, 28, hadn’t appeared in a major-league game since Oct. 1, 2004.

“If I didn’t think having him in the lineup gives us a better chance to win, he wouldn’t be here,” La Russa said.

Home sweet home

Ankiel received a standing ovation when he stepped to the plate in the first inning. Facing Chris Young, the Padres’ 6-foot-10 pitcher, Ankiel popped out to shortstop.

Young struck out Ankiel in the second and again in the fifth.

In the seventh, the Cardinals led, 2-0, and had runners on second and third, two outs, when Ankiel came to bat against Doug Brocail.

“I just hope people have patience and realize he’s still not a polished major-league hitter,” Cardinals television broadcaster Al Hrabosky said to viewers.

Broadcast partner Dan McLaughlin replied, “Chance here to make an impression, though.”

On a 2-and-1 breaking pitch, Ankiel swung and pulled the ball over the right-field wall, thrilling the crowd and his teammates.

“Remarkable,” said McLaughlin.

In the dugout, La Russa beamed and applauded. As Ankiel reached first base, he raised his right fist in triumph. Video

“You make a mistake (pitch), he has that raw power,” Hrabosky said.

Ankiel got a curtain call from the crowd of 42,848. Boxscore

“I’m happy to be home,” Ankiel said.

Power supply

Declaring Ankiel’s home run the “best single moment in St. Louis sports in 2007,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz also wrote, “It was great theater and it moved anyone who witnessed it. Most of all, the homer gave us another indication of Ankiel’s strong, competitive character. He didn’t give up on himself after a barrage of misfortune that would have ruined many athletes. Ankiel deserved the joy and happiness that came his way.”

Jim Riggleman, the Cardinals’ minor-league field coordinator, said, “The moment he stopped pitching is the same moment he became the No. 1 power bat in the system.”

Ankiel had hit two home runs as a Cardinals pitcher in 2000. He became the first big-league player since Clint Hartung to hit his first big-league home run as a pitcher, return to the majors as a position player and hit a home run again. Hartung pitched for the Giants from 1947-50 and he was an outfielder for them in 1951 and 1952.

Before Hartung, the last major-league player to hit his first home run as a pitcher, change positions and hit a home run again was Babe Ruth.

On Aug. 11, two days after his dramatic return to the big leagues, Ankiel again dazzled. He hit two home runs _ a two-run shot off starter Derek Lowe and a solo blast off Roberto Hernandez _ in a 6-1 Cardinals triumph over the Dodgers at St. Louis.

In 47 games for the 2007 Cardinals, Ankiel produced 49 hits, with 11 home runs and 39 RBI.

The next year, Ankiel had his best season as a hitter, with 25 home runs and 71 RBI in 120 games for the 2008 Cardinals.

Previously: Pitching or hitting, Rick Ankiel was marvel and mystery