Garry Templeton to Cardinals: Trade me or pay me

Feeling disrespected by management at the bargaining table and on the field, shortstop Garry Templeton lashed out at the Cardinals.

On March 27, 1979, Templeton asked to be traded and threatened to play at less than his best if his request wasn’t granted.

Templeton, 23, was upset because general manager John Claiborne wanted him to take a pay cut and because manager Ken Boyer and coach Dal Maxvill wanted him to change the way he played shortstop.

A day after expressing his unhappiness, Templeton apologized and remained the St. Louis shortstop.

Hurt feelings

In 1978, his third season with St. Louis, Templeton hit .280 with 31 doubles, 13 triples and 34 stolen bases, but he committed 40 errors.

After the season, the Cardinals hired Maxvill, their former Gold Glove shortstop, as a coach and assigned him to work with Templeton in 1979.

When Claiborne made a contract offer to Templeton for 1979, it called for a 10 percent cut in the $100,000 salary he received in 1978, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Claiborne proposed the cut because of Templeton’s high number of errors. Templeton was insulted because he led the 1978 Cardinals in hits (181) as well as triples and stolen bases and believed his production should be rewarded.

“There are guys in this league making more than I am who can’t even hold my shoestrings, or tie my shoestrings,” Templeton told The Sporting News in February 1979.

The sides resolved the matter, with Templeton getting a 1979 salary of $130,000, but the increase didn’t erase the sting of his bruised feelings.

“That really hurt him,” Templeton’s friend and teammate, outfielder Jerry Mumphrey, said. “He hasn’t gotten over it.”

At spring training, Maxvill worked with Templeton on fielding fundamentals, but Templeton resisted the instruction because he believed he was being constrained.

Playing chicken

When Templeton’s frustration reached a breaking point, he went to the media to express his views.

“I’m not going to play hard,” Templeton said to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch. “I’m not going to do my best here. Hopefully I’ll be traded if the Cardinals aren’t too chicken to trade me.

“Either get me traded or get me more money. They can take the Cardinals uniform and shove it.”

Templeton said he twice asked the Cardinals to trade him. “They’d rather mess with you instead of sending you to someplace where you’ll be happy,” Templeton said.

In an interview with Mike Shannon of KMOX, Templeton said, “I don’t want to play with the Cardinals. I think they’re giving me too much trouble and I’m not happy here. I don’t want to play here and I’m not trying to play hard.”

After the outburst, Templeton met with his agent, Richie Bry, the Post-Dispatch reported. Bry met with Claiborne. After that, Templeton and Bry met with Claiborne and Boyer.

On second thought

The next day, Templeton attempted to control the damage he caused. He apologized for his words, claimed he no longer wanted to be traded and said “my contract is not and has never been the problem.”

In a prepared statement, Templeton said, “I regret the statements I made yesterday in the heat of anger for they do not accurately reflect my feelings for the Cardinals team, the city of St. Louis or the fans.

“The crux of my problem with management has always been my style of playing shortstop. Since I was 7 years old, I have developed certain habits and routines which have now become second nature to me. I believe that they give me more mobility, speed and range.”

Templeton contended his error total was high because he covered more ground than most shortstops. “Cardinals management and I disagreed on this and thus my anger and frustration,” he said.

Hummel noted, “Templeton’s style has on occasion been one of seeming nonchalance. He emphasizes catching balls with one hand, something Boyer and infield coach Dal Maxvill have suggested he alter.”

Said Boyer: “We haven’t tried to drive anything down his throat.”

To err is human

Reaction from Cardinals players and media generally was supportive of Templeton.

“All I know is that before long this guy is going to be the greatest shortstop I ever saw,” said Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons. “I just wish that when that happens he’ll be in St. Louis.”

Said first baseman Keith Hernandez: “I hope they can resolve the problem because we need him.”

Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg declared no Cardinals shortstop “has had anywhere near the basic all-round talent” of Templeton. “If Templeton is miffed most because Boyer had Maxvill trying to tell the kid how to do it at shortstop … tell Maxie to learn a few jokes to keep the kid loose and let him alone,” Broeg wrote.

Post-Dispatch columnist Doug Grow offered, “There is no greater insult to any working person than a reduction in pay. My guess is that management never will recover from that offer. An effort to save a few thousand a few months ago eventually could cost the Cardinals a shortstop worth millions.”

Templeton hit .314 with 32 doubles, 19 triples and 26 stolen bases for the Cardinals in 1979. He produced 211 hits and made 34 errors.

Two years later, in August 1981, Templeton created another controversy when he made obscene gestures to fans who booed him for lack of hustle in a game at St. Louis. He was traded after the season to the Padres for shortstop Ozzie Smith.