(Updated Feb. 18, 2017)
Over the last 50 years, the Cardinals have developed three top-caliber shortstops.
Dal Maxvill, Garry Templeton and Aledmys Diaz are the trio who came up through the Cardinals’ organization and became first-rate shortstops.
All of the other St. Louis shortstops of that quality in the last half-century (Dick Groat, Ozzie Smith, Royce Clayton, Edgar Renteria, David Eckstein and Jhonny Peralta) were acquired by the Cardinals after being developed by other organizations.
(Julio Gotay, Mike Tyson, Tripp Cromer and Brendan Ryan were starting shortstops for St. Louis since 1962 who were developed in the Cardinals’ system, but none rates with Maxvill, Templeton and Diaz. Gotay and Cromer became utility players. Tyson was a better second baseman than he was a shortstop. Ryan has a terrific arm and range but is lacking in many other areas.)
Maxvill wasn’t nearly as well-regarded a prospect as Templeton and Diaz. He debuted with St. Louis in 1962 and filled in admirably at second base for the injured Julian Javier in the 1964 World Series. But after hitting .135 in 68 games for the 1965 Cardinals, Maxvill was surpassed by Jerry Buchek as the Cardinals’ top shortstop.
It was a testament to Maxvill’s stellar skills and perseverance that he replaced Buchek in June 1966, embarking on a seven-year stretch as St. Louis’ everyday shortstop. In that period, he helped the Cardinals win two pennants and a World Series title, received a Gold Glove Award (1968) and led National League shortstops in fielding percentage (1970).
Before the start of spring training in 1966, Maxvill had considered quitting baseball and focusing fulltime on his off-season job as an electrical engineer for a St. Louis company, The Sporting News reported.
After Maxvill reconsidered and did report to camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., Buchek hit well, Maxvill didn’t and Buchek was named the 1966 Opening Day shortstop. “Buchek certainly won the job,” Maxvill said to The Sporting News.
Maxvill didn’t get many chances to play early in the ’66 season. When he did get a start at shortstop on April 24 against the Pirates, Maxvill made three errors and was caught off first base after rounding the bag too far on a single. Boxscore
Two months into the season, though, the Cardinals became disenchanted with Buchek’s inconsistent hitting and shortcomings on defense. On June 8, manager Red Schoendienst installed Maxvill as the starting shortstop.
The Cardinals won 14 of the first 24 games with Maxvill at shortstop. He solidified the defense, making St. Louis pitchers much happier. On June 29, the Cardinals beat the Giants and Juan Marichal, 2-1. The Cardinals turned five double plays, three involving Maxvill, who contributed nine assists. Boxscore
In their next game, July 1, the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax, 2-0, turning three double plays, including one involving Maxvill. Boxscore
Reported The Sporting News: In some phases of play, fellows like Marty Marion and Dick Groat have rated Maxie No. 1 in the league.
Maxvill also was contributing with his bat. He hit safely in 11 of 13 games soon after becoming the everyday shortstop. During that stretch, he struck out only four times in 40 plate appearances and grounded into only one double play.
On June 23, in a game at Houston, Maxvill even drew an intentional walk from starter Dave Giusti. When he reached first, coach Dick Sisler said to Maxvill, “You get a couple of hits and now they’re afraid of you.” Boxscore
Schoendienst said of Maxvill, “He’s been avoiding the strikeouts and making contact. He’s been moving the runners around and avoiding the double play. In other words, we’ve been able to play baseball with Maxie _ hit-and-run and all that. We can’t afford to leave those men on third base, even second base.”
Said Maxvill: “I hope that in October I can finally say I just had my first fully satisfying year in the major leagues.”
On July 14, Maxvill had his first four-RBI game in the big leagues, a 9-7 Cardinals victory over the Reds in the second game of a doubleheader. Boxscore
By September, the Cardinals had faded from the pennant race but Maxvill firmly had secured his role as the everyday shortstop. Schoendienst said Maxvill and catcher Tim McCarver “have been our most consistent men.”