Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

Heading into the 1985 winter meetings, the Cardinals were willing to trade ace Joaquin Andujar for either a left-handed starting pitcher or a first-string catcher. Imagine their delight when they found a club willing to give them both.

joaquin_andujar8Thirty years ago, on Dec. 10, 1985, the defending National League champion Cardinals dealt Andujar to the Athletics for catcher Mike Heath and pitcher Tim Conroy.

Heath, 30, was acquired to replace Darrell Porter, who had been released. Conroy, 25, was expected to compete for a spot in the Cardinals’ 1986 rotation alongside John Tudor, Danny Cox, Bob Forsch and Kurt Kepshire.

Neither Heath nor Conroy worked out the way the Cardinals had hoped and Andujar never achieved with the Athletics the success he had with St. Louis.

Behind the numbers

Though Andujar, 32, had an impressive regular season for the 1985 Cardinals _ 21-12 record with 10 complete games and 269.2 innings pitched _ his performance in the second half and in the postseason triggered concern.

For example:

_ Andujar was 1-3 with a 5.30 ERA in six September starts in 1985 and 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in two regular-season October starts.

_ In the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers, Andujar was 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in two starts. In the World Series versus the Royals, he made two appearances and was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA.

_ He had a meltdown in Game 7 of the World Series, getting into a confrontation with home plate umpire Don Denkinger and being ejected. Peter Ueberroth, commissioner of baseball, suspended Andujar for the first 10 games of the 1986 season. Video at the 1:38 mark

Look the other way

At home in the Dominican Republic, Andujar told Braves shortstop Rafael Ramirez that people from Anheuser-Busch, the brewery that owned the Cardinals, called him and said he’d never pitch for the club again, columnist Peter Gammons reported in The Sporting News.

Dal Maxvill, Cardinals general manager, denied being told to trade Andujar. “There has not been interference from above,” Maxvill said to The Sporting News.

In comments abut Andujar to St. Louis reporter Rick Hummel, Maxvill added, “I know he’s kind of crazy and I know he’s unusual, but you have to look the other way when the performance is there.”

In his 1987 book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog admitted, “It’s been reported that Maxvill and I were ordered to trade Joaquin and I won’t deny that. I will say, though, that he might well have been traded anyway. The other players were tired of his griping and his bitching. It had gotten to the point where he was dividing the clubhouse.”

No deal

The White Sox approached the Cardinals and proposed a deal of left-handed starter Britt Burns for Andujar and pitcher Ricky Horton. Burns was 18-11 for the 1985 White Sox. The Cardinals, however, “backed off because they were concerned about a hip injury of which Burns complains,” Hummel reported.

The Cardinals approached the Red Sox and offered Andujar, Horton, Kepshire and reliever Jeff Lahti for left-handed starter Bruce Hurst, who was 11-13 for Boston in 1985.

The Red Sox rejected the offer because they were given “an immediate take-it-or-leave-it deadline” by the Cardinals and they “were afraid of taking on Andujar” and his problems, Gammons reported.

Headcases OK

The Athletics were seeking a proven winner for their rotation. They offered their starting catcher, Heath, and one selection from a pool of pitchers. The Cardinals chose Conroy.

To the Athletics, Andujar’s pitching trumped his image.

“There’s nothing wrong with a headcase or two _ as long as you don’t have eight,” Sandy Alderson, Athletics general manager, told the Sacramento Bee. “This was not a multi-headcase deal.”

To the San Jose Mercury News, Alderson said, “Flamboyance is not criminal.”

Herzog had advice for Athletics pitching coach Wes Stock, who had been Herzog’s teammate with the Orioles. “Whitey told me Joaquin still needs to be coddled,” Stock said. “He told me not to forget that.”

Asked his reaction to the trade, Andujar told St. Louis radio station KMOX, “I feel surprised. Like I always said, I wanted to die in St. Louis … I leave my heart in St. Louis.”

Unhappy Heath

Heath, a right-handed batter, hit .250 with 13 home runs and 55 RBI for the 1985 Athletics. He hit .285 versus left-handers. He caught 38 percent of runners attempting to steal.

According to The Sporting News, Heath had asked to be traded. He had feuded with Oakland management after being told he’d play only versus left-handed pitching in 1986.

“I felt I was an everyday player and I felt I would not be happy,” Heath said.

In a parting shot at the Athletics, Heath added, “When Mike Heath steps on the field, his No. 1 objective is to win. No. 2 is to win and No. 3 is to win. With the A’s, No. 1 was being compatible and No. 2 was winning.”

Change for Conroy

Conroy was 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 16 games for the 1985 Athletics. At Class AAA Tacoma that season, Conroy was 11-3 in 22 starts.

A first-round selection of the Athletics in the 1978 draft, Conroy, 18, debuted with Oakland that year. In five seasons with the Athletics, Conroy was 10-19 with a 4.37 ERA.

“We probably pushed him too quickly,” Alderson said.

Conroy “had to get out of our organization … The mental strain had become too great,” Stock told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Said Herzog: “We’ve liked Conroy for a long time … We feel he was rushed in Oakland and was under too much pressure to succeed.”

The results

Heath hit .205 with four home runs and 25 RBI for the 1986 Cardinals. He caught 33 percent of runners attempting to steal.

On Aug. 10, 1986, the Cardinals traded Heath to the Tigers for pitcher Ken Hill and first baseman Mike Laga.

Conroy was 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 25 appearances (21 starts) for the 1986 Cardinals. He was 3-2 with a 5.53 ERA for St. Louis in 1987, his last big-league season. In two years with the Cardinals, Conroy was 8-13 with a 5.31 ERA.

Andujar was 12-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 28 appearances (26 starts) for the 1986 Athletics. He was 3-5 with a 6.08 ERA for Oakland in 1987. In two seasons with the Athletics, Andujar was 15-12 with a 4.46 ERA.

Previously: How Hub Kittle got Joaquin Andujar to Cardinals

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Branch Rickey, who built a baseball legacy by taking risks and defying convention, was true to self in the last major decision of his life.

branch_rickeyFaced with the choice of staying in a hospital bed or spending an evening with admirers, Rickey opted to travel from St. Louis to Columbia for his induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

“He preferred to be among the living that night than lying dying in a hospital,” Rickey’s daughter, Mary, told her father’s biographer, Murray Polner.

Fifty years ago, Dec. 9, 1965, Rickey, 83, died in a Columbia hospital, 26 days after he had collapsed and lost consciousness while delivering his induction speech at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame banquet.

Farm builder

After serving as manager and executive with the Browns, Rickey moved to the crosstown Cardinals as team president in 1917, beginning a long and successful career with the National League club.

In August 1918, with World War I raging, Rickey joined the U.S. Army chemical corps, was commissioned a major and was assigned to France, where he instructed American soldiers about mustard gas. After the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice, Rickey returned to the Cardinals.

With the franchise experiencing financial hardships, Rickey took on the additional role of manager in order to keep down the payroll.

Realizing the Cardinals needed better players and knowing the club was reluctant to get into bidding wars for prospects, Rickey developed the first farm system, stocking the Cardinals with a steady supply of prime talent.

“In 1919, no one had heard of a farm system _ except Rickey,” The Sporting News wrote. “He devised it as a way for the then impoverished Cardinals to combat richer rivals for talent.”

Said Rickey: “Starting the Cardinals farm system was no sudden stroke of genius. It was a case of necessity being the mother of invention. We lived a precarious existence. Other clubs would outbid us.”

Front-office focus

Rickey was both manager and top baseball executive of the Cardinals from 1919 until May 1925 when team owner Sam Breadon took away the manager role from him and appointed second baseman Rogers Hornsby as player-manager.

Though being ousted as manager “hurt him deeply,” according to biographer Polner, Rickey and the Cardinals excelled when he was focused fulltime on the front office. With Rickey’s administrative leadership and baseball acumen, the Cardinals became a premier franchise, winning six NL pennants and four World Series titles from 1926-42.

“Considering the little money Rickey had to work with in his early years in St. Louis, he was the game’s most successful team builder,” wrote Frederick G. Lieb in The Sporting News.

After the 1942 season, Rickey left the Cardinals to take over as chief baseball executive of the Dodgers. Five years later, he integrated the major leagues by bringing Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers and successfully guiding him to a Hall of Fame playing career.

Rickey ended his baseball career in 1964 after an ill-fated two-year stint as a senior consultant with the Cardinals. He retired and resided in a suburb of St. Louis.

Fateful day

In his 1982 book “Branch Rickey: A Biography,” Polner said Rickey suffered a sixth heart attack in November 1965 and was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Rickey spent two weeks in the hospital and was suffering from a high fever, The Sporting News reported. He had been running a temperature of up to 105 degrees, according to the Associated Press.

Nonetheless, Rickey went against his doctor’s orders and his family’s wishes and insisted on attending the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Nov. 13, 1965.

On the morning of the ceremony, Rickey was driven the 125 miles from St. Louis to Columbia, site of the University of Missouri.

He attended a luncheon and then a football game between Oklahoma and Missouri, The Sporting News reported.

It was a “bleak and cold” afternoon and Rickey watched the game from the stands with his wife, Jane, while “huddled under a blanket, uncomfortable and in apparent distress,” according to Polner.

Afterward, Rickey went to his room at the Mark Twain Hotel and rested. That evening, he and Jane were driven to the Daniel Boone Hotel for the induction banquet. Also being inducted were George Sisler, who had played first base for Rickey at the University of Michigan and with the Browns, and the late J.G. Taylor Spink, formerly publisher of The Sporting News.

Final words

Asked to speak, Rickey talked for about 15 minutes at the dais. He was about to launch into an anecdote when he paused and said, “I don’t believe I can continue.”

Those were his last words. He collapsed into a chair and slipped to the floor. A physician rushed to his aid. Rickey was unconscious.

He was carried to a fire department across the street and taken from there by ambulance to Boone County Memorial Hospital, according to Polner.

Rickey remained in a coma until he died at the hospital nearly a month later and 11 days before his 84th birthday.

In the lead to his obituary, the Associated Press called Rickey “a front-office genius who remade baseball over a span of 50 years.”

Wrote The Sporting News: “His achievements as an empire builder who invented the farm system and broke baseball’s color line rank him with the most important figures in the history of the game.”

Previously: Why Cardinals dealt ace Dizzy Dean to Cubs

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cards to oust Frankie Frisch

Previously: Why Branch Rickey was unable to save Ray Blades

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Like a prince learning from kings, John Mozeliak was mentored by Cardinals royalty. He worked with two of the franchise’s most successful executives, Bing Devine and Walt Jocketty. Because of Devine, Mozeliak can trace a line in his apprenticeship directly to the man who built the prototype of a Cardinals general manager, renowned innovator Branch Rickey.

As general manager of the Cardinals since October 2007, Mozeliak has followed in the tradition of his best-known predecessors, building championship clubs and keeping the Cardinals among the elite franchises in the big leagues.

Mozeliak is keenly aware of the lineage of Cardinals general managers. He says it is his desire to pay back those who taught him by helping others position themselves to carry on that tradition.

E-mail from Mozeliak

In November 2015, Mozeliak answered questions from Cardinals bloggers by e-mail. The opportunity to ask questions of Mozeliak came about through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of United Cardinal Bloggers, and Cardinals communication coordinator Lindsey Weber.

In citing the tradition of prominent figures who have been Cardinals general managers _ men such as Stan Musial, Whitey Herzog, Bob Howsam, Frank Lane, Devine and Jocketty _ I asked Mozeliak whether he ever reflected on that and his role in that legacy.

“I have,” Mozeliak replied. “I have not thought about my legacy, but I have thought a lot about the people that have come before me.”

Jocketty brought Mozeliak to the Cardinals and helped grow his career. Devine provided added value as a sage.

Protégé of Jocketty

Mozeliak, a left-handed pitcher and first baseman in high school at Boulder, Colo., says he grew up a fan of Johnny Bench _ “I tried to be a left-handed catcher, but that didn’t work very well,” he wrote in his e-mail _ as well as George Brett, Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee.

After graduating from the University of Colorado, Mozeliak joined the Rockies as a batting practice pitcher. He worked his way through the organization, earning various roles in baseball operations, and made a favorable impression on Jocketty, the Rockies’ assistant general manager.

Jocketty replaced Dal Maxvill as Cardinals general manager in October 1994. Mozeliak joined the Cardinals after the 1995 season as an assistant in scouting operations.

Mozeliak became Cardinals scouting director in 1999. Jocketty brought Devine back to the Cardinals that fall as a special assignment scout.

Devine intervention

Devine served two stints as Cardinals general manager: 1957-64 and 1968-78. His trades during his first term brought Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Bill White, Julian Javier and Dick Groat to the Cardinals. The farm system under Devine’s management developed players such as Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Tim McCarver, Mike Shannon and, during his second term, Ted Simmons, Bob Forsch and Keith Hernandez.

In 1939, when he joined the Cardinals as a 23-year-old office assistant, Devine ran errands for Rickey. (Though Rickey formally had the title of Cardinals business manager, his role was that of general manager and included player personnel.)

Sixty years later, when Devine, 83, rejoined the Cardinals as a scout, he bonded with the scouting director, Mozielak, sharing decades of Cardinals knowledge and experience with the 30-year-old protégé.

‘He taught me a lot’

“I had a unique opportunity to work with Bing and did get to know him and actually traveled to some minor-league cities with him,” Mozeliak said in his e-mail. “He taught me a lot. He was someone who had a unique perspective on the business …

“The economics have changed drastically; how you think about development and creating assets within an organization is different, yet there (are) a lot of truisms that you still have to play the game and play the game right,” Mozeliak wrote. “I remember Bing would always reflect on that with me.”

In his 2004 book, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said of his 1999 return to the Cardinals, “I owe a debt of gratitude to the present Cardinals ownership. They believed I was not too old or too far removed to make a contribution from a player evaluation standpoint.”

Devine praised Jocketty as “a talented and aggressive general manager” and, in a nod to executives such as Mozeliak, he added, “The surrounding personnel are dedicated as well.”

In his e-mail, Mozeliak said of Devine, “I think about my opportunity to spend time with him as just very lucky and as I move forward I hope I can someday help the next generation.”

Efficient and effective

Jocketty promoted Mozeliak to the role of Cardinals director of baseball operations in 2001 and then assistant general manager in 2003. After Jocketty departed because of philosophical differences with ownership, Mozeliak succeeded him as general manager in October 2007, 10 months after Devine had died at age 90.

With Mozeliak as general manager, the Cardinals have won two National League pennants and a World Series title and have qualified for the postseason in six of his eight years in the club’s top baseball leadership role.

I asked Mozeliak in what ways does he anticipate the role of general manager will evolve and how, in 10 to 20 years, it will it be different than how it is today.

“The game has changed in the sense of total revenues … so just understanding this game from a more business perspective is required,” Mozeliak replied in his e-mail. “The demands on the different departments _ whether it’s international, amateur, scouting, or player development _ there are big costs to that, and running efficient and effective departments are critical.

“Most of my time, as boring as it may sound, is not necessarily focused just on the 25-man roster,” Mozeliak wrote. “It’s really making sure that we’re optimizing all those different areas that we touched on. So, I think as general managers’ roles change, it’s more about becoming a more efficient business.”

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: How Dal Maxvill became general manager of Cardinals

Previously: Frank Lane and his tumultuous stint as Cardinals GM

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Among Walt Jocketty’s many successful acquisitions as Cardinals general manager, including players such as Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Chris Carpenter, the most significant was the manager he hired, Tony La Russa.

tony_larussa14On Oct. 23, 1995, La Russa left the Athletics and joined the Cardinals, signing a two-year contract, with an option for a third year, at $1.5 million a year.

In replacing Mike Jorgensen, who had been interim manager after Joe Torre was fired in June 1995, La Russa was seen by Jocketty and team president Mark Lamping as the on-field leader needed to transform the Cardinals from disgruntled underachievers to classy contenders.

“The hiring of Tony La Russa to manage the Cardinals is a huge step in the rebuilding process of this organization,” said Jocketty, who had replaced Dal Maxvill as general manager a year earlier.

Said La Russa to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I believe in high goals and I believe in big dreams. My dream real quickly for this franchise is to draw 3 million fans. And, as early as possible, to get to Sept. 1 with a chance to win.

“When you look at me, you’re going to find a very simple perspective. Everything from this moment on will be geared to win the next game that the Cardinals play.”

Winning ways

At Oakland, La Russa took over an Athletics team that posted a losing record in 1986 and led them to three consecutive American League pennants (1988-90) and a World Series crown (1989). Before that, at Chicago, he led the White Sox to their first division title (1983).

La Russa, 51, inherited a Cardinals club that had experienced consecutive losing seasons (1994-95) and hadn’t been to the postseason since 1987 under manager Whitey Herzog.

Observers such as Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz said too many Cardinals players had developed poor attitudes and “disgraced the uniform and sacred tradition of St. Louis baseball with their selfish, lax play.”

Said La Russa: “My statement to all Cardinals fans is that we’re going to have a hustling, aggressive ballclub that plays the game right.

“If somebody loafs, they will embarrass our franchise and everybody else. The first time they do that, you pull them aside. The second time they do it, you take their money. The third time they do it, you take them out of the lineup.”

In endorsing the hiring of La Russa, Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi said, “He’s kind of like bringing Whitey Herzog back.”

Cards make a pitch

According to a report in the Oct. 6 Post-Dispatch, Jocketty and La Russa met informally in San Francisco to discuss the Cardinals job. Eleven days later, Rick Hummel reported that Jocketty and Lamping had met with La Russa in St. Louis.

“We had a good meeting, but I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Jocketty told an Oakland reporter.

Jeff Gordon, a Post-Dispatch columnist, wrote: “Somebody has to remake the attitude of this ballclub and the culture of the organization.”

On Oct. 19, the Cardinals made La Russa an offer. He asked for time to consider it. Davey Johnson, former manager of the Mets and Reds, was a backup candidate if La Russa balked at the opportunity, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In his book “One Last Strike,” La Russa revealed he indeed was considering other offers.

“I had a few opportunities to consider, including returning to Chicago and the White Sox,” La Russa said. “I’d hoped to sign on with Baltimore; something about that legendary franchise and the great tradition of Earl Weaver really appealed to me. But when I’d interviewed with them, I’d thought the position was already vacant.

“As it turned out, it wasn’t, so when I found that out I immediately called back and said thanks but no thanks.”

Providing the tools

Jocketty, who had worked in the Oakland front office, was a big reason La Russa eventually felt comfortable going to St. Louis. La Russa also was able to bring with him coaches Dave Duncan, Dave McKay and Tommie Reynolds from Oakland to St. Louis.

Miklasz, noting the Athletics finished in last place under La Russa in 1995, opined, “La Russa will only be as effective as the players he manages … Now that Cardinals president Mark Lamping and general manager Walt Jocketty have persuaded La Russa to join the home team, they owe it to La Genius to give him a competitive roster.”

Jocketty delivered, acquiring impact players such as third baseman Gary Gaetti, shortstop Royce Clayton, outfielders Ron Gant and Willie McGee and pitchers Andy Benes, Todd Stottlemyre, Dennis Eckersley and Rick Honeycutt for La Russa’s first Cardinals team.

After a rocky start, including a public feud with shortstop and franchise icon Ozzie Smith, La Russa led the 1996 Cardinals to a National League Central Division championship.

La Russa would manage the Cardinals for 16 seasons, achieving a franchise-record 1,408 wins and joining Billy Southworth as the only managers to win two World Series titles with the Cardinals.

On July 27, 2014, La Russa and Torre (who went on to achieve spectacular success with the Yankees after leaving the Cardinals) were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.

Previously: The day Cardinals fired Joe Torre, traded Todd Zeile

Previously: The story of how Tony La Russa got 1st Cardinals win

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From a public relations perspective, the trade of Ken Boyer from the Cardinals to the Mets was a disaster. From a baseball perspective, it was a marquee deal that produced mixed results.

ken_boyer11On Oct. 20, 1965, the Cardinals traded Boyer, their third baseman and cleanup batter, to the Mets for pitcher Al Jackson and third baseman Charlie Smith.

Bob Howsam, Cardinals general manager, made the trade because he believed Boyer, 34, was in decline and the club needed pitching and speed to adapt to their spacious new downtown stadium in 1966.

Howsam believed Jackson, 29, bolstered the rotation and gave the Cardinals a left-hander in case Ray Sadecki was unable to rebound from a poor 1965 season. Howsam saw Smith, 28, as a more agile third baseman than Boyer with more power potential.

Bing Devine, former Cardinals general manager who was special assistant to Mets president George Weiss, advocated for New York to acquire Boyer as much for his leadership and professionalism as for his ability to produce runs and stabilize the third base position.

In their first four seasons after entering the National League as an expansion team in 1962, the Mets had developed a reputation as a clownish club. Devine envisioned Boyer as a player who could help change that perception.

Ham-handed Howsam

The trade, though, largely was unpopular with Cardinals fans. Boyer was Cardinals royalty. In handling the trade callously, Howsam appeared to treat Boyer disrespectfully.

Boyer, who had signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1949, played 11 seasons for St. Louis (1955-65) and was named an all-star seven times.

He also won the Gold Glove Award five times and earned the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1964, when he produced 24 home runs, 119 RBI and 100 runs in leading the Cardinals to a pennant and World Series title. Overall, Boyer had 1,855 hits in 1,667 career games with the Cardinals, including 255 home runs and 1,001 RBI.

Yet, Howsam didn’t do Boyer the courtesy of informing him of the trade. Boyer learned of the deal in a phone call with reporter Jack Herman of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

“You’re kidding,” Boyer said when told of the trade. “That’s really something.

“Seventeen years is a long time (with one organization). I don’t know what to think right now. I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say I was sorry to be leaving.”

The Sporting News reported that “various Cardinals officials tried to contact” Boyer to tell him about the trade. Cardinals fans concluded that management, especially Howsam, didn’t try hard enough.

“As soon as the Boyer deal became public property, Cardinals fans touched off a storm,” The Sporting News wrote. “They swamped all the news media and even tried to get through to Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam to register protests and threats to cancel tickets.”

The furor was comparable to the uproar that ensued when the Cardinals had traded popular standouts such as Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter and Red Schoendienst.

Support from Stan

Schoendienst, who had completed his first season as Cardinals manager in 1965, endorsed the trade of Boyer.

“We’re sorry to see Kenny go, but good left-handed pitchers are few and far between,” Schoendienst told the Associated Press, referring to Jackson. “Smith can drive in the runs and is an improved fielder.”

The most venerable Cardinals icon, Stan Musial, a team vice president in 1965, told United Press International that the trade was a “good deal” for St. Louis.

Musial was impressed especially by Jackson. “Al is a good competitor,” Musial said. “That guy can beat the tough clubs.”

Said Howsam: “We hate to see a player of Ken’s caliber go, but we had a chance to get a man in Smith who is a power hitter and good fielder, and a fine starting pitcher in Jackson. We felt we couldn’t pass it up.”

Developing a deal

Initially, the Cardinals had talked with the Astros about a deal that would have featured Boyer for third baseman Bob Aspromonte. The Mets had been discussing with the Angels a trade of Jackson and Smith for outfielder Jose Cardenal.

When those talks stalled, The Sporting News reported, the Cardinals and Mets struck their deal.

Jackson had earned a franchise-leading 40 wins in his four seasons with the Mets. In 1965, Jackson was 8-20 with a 4.34 ERA.

Smith, who had played for the Dodgers, Phillies and White Sox before joining the Mets, hit .244 in 1965. His power numbers that season (20 doubles, 16 home runs, .393 slugging percentage) were better than those produced in 1965 by Boyer (18 doubles, 13 home runs, .374 slugging percentage).

“I think I’ll be able to help the Mets,” Boyer told United Press International. “The sentiment is gone for the Cardinals … It will strictly be on a business basis now.”

Boyer led the 1966 Mets in RBI (61) and doubles (28) and was second on the club in home runs (14). In July 1967, the Mets traded Boyer to the White Sox.

Jackson was second to Bob Gibson in wins (13), complete games (11) and innings pitched (232.2) for the 1966 Cardinals. He also had nine wins for the 1967 World Series champion Cardinals. After that season, he was dealt back to the Mets.

Smith had 104 hits and struck out 81 times in 116 games for the 1966 Cardinals. He produced 10 home runs and 43 RBI. After the season, Smith was traded to the Yankees for Roger Maris and was replaced at third base by Mike Shannon.

Previously: Cards initially sought Bob Aspromonte for Ken Boyer

Previously: An interview with former Cards pitcher Al Jackson

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Seeking a general manager who could turn the Cardinals from flops into champions, team owner Gussie Busch sought the advice of the leader of the publication considered the authority on baseball.

frank_laneAs the 1955 season neared its end, Busch asked J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News, to recommend the best general manager to hire. Spink suggested Frank Lane of the White Sox.

In September 1955, Lane resigned from the White Sox. He sent a telegram to Busch. The wire read: “Have tux, will travel.”

A short time later, on Oct. 6, 1955, Busch hired Lane to be general manager of the Cardinals.

In his St. Louis-based weekly, Spink wrote of Lane’s hire, “Probably the most exciting chapter in the history of St. Louis baseball is about to be enacted … The Cardinals will have a team that will win more games _ or the players who lose won’t be around long.”

Taking a trader

Busch had bought the Cardinals in 1953 and had appointed one of his Anheuser-Busch executives, Dick Meyer, as general manager. Meyer was better suited to run the business side of the franchise rather than the baseball operations side.

As the Cardinals headed to a 68-86 record and next-to-last finish in the National League in 1955, Busch wanted a general manager with a proven record of producing a winner.

Busch turned for advice to Spink, who, according to St. Louis journalist Bob Broeg, recommended Lane as the best general manager available.

Lane, a longtime baseball executive, had become general manager of the White Sox after they finished the 1948 season in last place in the American League at 51-101.

Lane turned around the White Six through trades. The White Sox produced a winning season at 81-73 in 1951. Then they became contenders. The White Sox had 89 wins in 1953, 94 in 1954 and 91 in 1955.

In seven seasons (1949-55) with the White Sox, Lane made 241 trades involving 353 players. He earned the nickname “Trader.”

Rich resources

Busch sent Meyer to New York to begin negotiations with Lane during the 1955 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees. That led to a follow-up meeting involving Busch, Lane and Meyer in St. Louis.

The Cardinals signed Lane, 59, to a three-year contract. Meyer was promoted to executive vice president. Bill Walsingham Jr., a Cardinals vice president for nine years, resigned, acknowledging the club didn’t need two vice presidents.

Busch gave Lane “full authority” to make all baseball decisions.

“I had three offers but only considered one of them _ the job with the St. Louis club,” Lane said. “Why? Because the Cardinals have the potential for a great club and I know the management has the wherewithal to get what it needs if it doesn’t have what it takes to win.

“I don’t think I’m going too far when I say we should be a first division club and quite possibly a contender if we made the deals needed to augment an already fine nucleus of talent.”

Asked if any Cardinals players were untouchables for trading, Lane replied, “Yes. We’ll start with Stan Musial, then add Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon, Wally Moon, Ken Boyer, Harvey Haddix and a few others.”

Lane identified the Cardinals’ top needs as a first baseman, catcher and pitching.

His first major move was to replace manager Harry Walker with Fred Hutchinson, the former Tigers manager.

Bad deals

According to Broeg, Lane would watch Cardinals home games from the roof outside the press box, “squinting like a sunworshipper who didn’t see well and listening to the radio.”

“Lane lived for baseball, traveling always with a radio at his ear and a stack of newspaper sports sections under his arm,” Broeg wrote in the book, “Redbirds: A Century of Cardinals Baseball.”

Expecting magic, the Cardinals instead saw blunders in the trades Lane made in 1956. Among his worst deals that season:

_ Pitchers Harvey Haddix and Stu Miller to the Phillies for pitchers Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier.

_ Center fielder Bill Virdon to the Pirates for outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield.

_ Second baseman Red Schoendienst and others to the Giants for shortstop Al Dark and others.

When Busch got wind of Lane’s plans to trade Musial to the Phillies for pitcher Robin Roberts, he blocked the deal, then told Lane that any future trade proposals would have to be approved by Busch and Meyer before being enacted.

(Lane reportedly also wanted to deal Boyer to the Phillies for outfielder Richie Ashburn.)

The 1956 Cardinals finished in fourth place at 76-78.

Win or else

Before the 1957 season, Busch told a Knights of Columbus banquet audience, “If the Cardinals don’t win this year or next, Frank Lane will be out on his ass.”

Lane was miffed. Wanting assurances he had the owner’s support, Lane asked Busch to extend his contract beyond 1958. Busch refused.

Lane did make a couple of good trades before the 1957 season, acquiring pitcher Sam Jones from the Cubs and slugging outfielder Del Ennis from the Phillies. The Cardinals placed second in the NL in 1957 at 87-67.

Still upset by Busch’s win-or-else ultimatum before the season and offended that he had to get approval before making deals, Lane resigned on November 1957, with a year remaining on his Cardinals contract, and became general manager of the Indians.

Busch replaced Lane with Bing Devine.

Previously: How Al Dark won respect of Cardinals fans

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine

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