Roy Sievers, a St. Louis native who began his major-league career with the American League Browns, nearly ended it with the National League Cardinals.
Sievers, a premier slugger in the 1950s with the Browns and Senators, was 38 years old and primarily relegated to pinch-hitting when the Cardinals invited him to spring training in 1965.
Tempted by the offer because of his friendship with Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst, Sievers instead chose to return to the Senators because of their proven faith in him.
Tabbed for power
Sievers, 90, died April 3, 2017. As a youth, he lived in a house three blocks from Sportsman’s Park, home of the Cardinals and Browns. Both clubs scouted him when he played for the Beaumont High School team.
After he graduated, Sievers signed with the Browns because he thought he had a better chance of playing for them than the Cardinals, he told a biographer for the Society for American Baseball Research.
A right-handed batter who played first base and outfield, Sievers won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with the Browns in 1949. He hit .306 with 16 home runs and 91 RBI for the seventh-place team.
After five seasons (1949-53) with the Browns, Sievers was traded to the Senators. Sievers four times produced 100 RBI or more for the Senators. His best season was 1957 when he batted .301 and led the AL in home runs (42) and RBI (114) for the last-place club.
While with the Senators, Sievers was selected by Warner Brothers to be the double for actor Tab Hunter in the 1958 movie “Damn Yankees.” Hunter portrayed slugger Joe Hardy, who, like Sievers, wore uniform No. 2.
“Because Hunter took his close-up cuts from the left side of the plate,” the New York Times reported, “Sievers is shown as a left-handed batter, thanks to mirror-image technology.”
Though he never played for the Cardinals, Sievers played against them when he was acquired by the Phillies. As the Phillies’ everyday first baseman, Sievers had three home runs and nine RBI versus the Cardinals in 1962 and one home run and 10 RBI versus them in 1963.
Sievers was the Phillies’ Opening Day first baseman in 1964, but a month later John Herrnstein took over and Sievers was benched.
Hobbled by a calf injury, Sievers was batting .183 with four home runs when the Phillies sold his contract to the Senators on July 16, 1964. Sievers was grateful to Senators general manger George Selkirk for taking a chance on him and returning him to Washington.
Used primarily as a pinch hitter, Sievers batted .172 with four home runs for the 1964 Senators. He was released after the season.
Sorry, St. Louis
The Cardinals, who overtook the Phillies to clinch the 1964 NL pennant and then defeated the Yankees in the World Series, were seeking a right-handed pinch hitter for 1965.
Sievers, a free agent, was interested in filling the role, according to The Sporting News, but he wanted a contract and a spot on the roster.
Bob Howsam, Cardinals general manager, declined to offer Sievers a contract but he did invite him to go to spring training and try to earn a roster spot. When the Senators made Sievers the same offer, he accepted, turning down a chance to play for the reigning World Series champions in his hometown.
“I felt I owed it to George Selkirk to go to Florida with the Senators,” Sievers said. “They picked me up when the Phillies let me go last year. They knew I had a bad leg at the time, but still paid $25,000 to get me.”
Sievers told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he would have gone to the Cardinals if they had signed him to a contract before spring training.
“The Cardinals have the best-balanced team in the National League,” Sievers said. “They just need some right-handed punch on the bench.”
End of the line
Sievers played well enough in spring training to earn a contract and a spot as a backup to first baseman Bob Chance on the Opening Day roster of the 1965 Senators. Sievers got into 12 games, batted .190 and was released in May 1965.
Returning home to St. Louis, Sievers worked out with the Cardinals on June 8, but he was just trying “to keep in trim,” the Post-Dispatch reported. About a week later, Sievers got a tryout with the White Sox but wasn’t signed.
In 17 big-league seasons, Sievers produced 1,703 hits, 318 home runs and 1,147 RBI.
In November 1965, Sievers was hired by the Reds to be a coach on the staff of manager Don Heffner. Like Sievers, Heffner had played for the Browns. Bill DeWitt Sr., Reds president, had been owner and general manager of the Browns.
Rob Sievers, Roy’s son, played baseball for Hazelwood High School in Florissant, Mo., and was selected by the Cardinals in the sixth round of the 1970 amateur draft. Rob Sievers played two years in the Cardinals’ system, primarily as a third baseman and first baseman. He was a teammate of future Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Forsch with the 1970 Lewiston (Idaho) Broncs and the 1971 Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Cardinals.
Previously: Tito Francona and his Cardinals connections