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Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

In the early days of baseball on television, Cardinals owner Fred Saigh was one of the first to go dialing for dollars.

Seventy years ago, in November 1952, Saigh tried to get a form of revenue sharing started among National League franchises regarding broadcast rights fees.

To Saigh, baseball’s television audience was an extension of the ballpark audience, and he wanted a split of the television money that home teams were getting for broadcasting Cardinals road games.

If Saigh was denied a share of those television revenues, he threatened to unplug the broadcasts.

On the air

The first televised major-league game was Aug. 26, 1939, when New York’s NBC station aired the Reds versus the Dodgers from Brooklyn, but it wasn’t until after World War II ended that TV sets became widely available and more affordable to mass markets.

The first television station in St. Louis, and the 13th in the United States, was KSD-TV, Channel 5. A NBC affiliate, the station was owned by Pulitzer Publishing, also the owners of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pulitzer became the first to own both a newspaper and a television station.

(In 1979, when Pulitzer sold the station, its call letters were changed to KSDK.)

KSD-TV began broadcasting on Feb. 8, 1947, with a 90-minute local information afternoon program. In one of the program’s segments that day, Post-Dispatch sports editor J. Roy Stockton interviewed Cardinals catcher and future broadcaster Joe Garagiola.

The KSD-TV studio was located with the Post-Dispatch building on Olive Street in St. Louis. According to the station, the newspaper’s press operators also handled the studio lights. Sometimes, when needed to put out the latest edition of the afternoon paper, they’d leave the studio, delaying the start of a local program.

Show time

KSD-TV management recognized immediately the potential audience and advertising value of baseball programming, and entered into agreements with the Browns of the American League and the Cardinals of the National League to televise some of their games.

The first televised games in St. Louis were KSD-TV broadcasts of two Browns versus Cardinals exhibitions at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on April 12-13, 1947, just before the start of the regular season.

KSD-TV also broadcast the Browns’ season opener against the Tigers on April 15 in St. Louis, and the Cardinals’ home opener against the Cubs on April 18.

From then on, Browns and Cardinals games in 1947 were a programming staple on KSD-TV.

Rights and wrongs

Sam Breadon, who made the deal with KSD-TV for the Cardinals, sold the club to Robert Hannegan and Fred Saigh in November 1947. Hannegan died in 1949, leaving Saigh as majority owner.

Saigh had no options in negotiating a local TV deal for the Cardinals. By 1952, St. Louis had 372,000 TV sets but still only one television station, KSD-TV. According to The Sporting News, the franchises reaping the most in broadcast rights fees then were all in New York _ the Yankees ($500,000), Giants ($375,000) and Dodgers ($300,000).

Baseball had no unified television policy then. “Each team signs private agreements with the others, giving the home club permission to televise the games,” Saigh explained to The Sporting News.

In the summer of 1952, a Cardinals versus Giants series became a flashpoint for a broadcasting battle.

“We signed an agreement permitting the Giants to televise our games at the Polo Grounds in New York,” Saigh told The Sporting News, “but were turned down by the Giants when we asked to televise our games in New York back to St. Louis. Our reaction was to prohibit the Giants from televising our two remaining games in New York. The Giants said they would televise anyway. So we threatened to keep our team off the field. The commissioner (Ford Frick) stepped in and warned us that these games would be forfeited if our team failed to take the field.”

Saigh stewed about what he viewed as bullying by the Giants to control broadcast revenue, and was determined to fight back.

Show me the money

In November 1952, Saigh said he would seek compensation from the Giants for the two home games they televised without the Cardinals’ permission.

Saigh also said he would refuse to allow any team to televise a Cardinals road game in 1953 unless the home club agreed to share its broadcast revenue with the Cardinals. At that time, a home club received all revenue from its telecasts.

“Saigh proposed to the National League that television and radio revenues be regarded as part of the gate receipts and that visiting clubs be cut in on these funds as they had been on the box-office takes,” The Sporting News reported.

Predictably, most team owners called Saigh’s idea “socialism,” The Sporting News noted.

One exception was maverick Browns owner Bill Veeck, who usually was in conflict with Saigh in competing for a chunk of the St. Louis baseball market. Veeck supported Saigh’s suggestion that visiting teams share in the broadcast revenue. “It is odd to find Veeck and Saigh on the same side of any campaign, but they are fighting for a split of the TV and radio money,” The Sporting News reported.

Saigh suggested a visiting team get 30 percent of a home team’s broadcast revenue, or 50 percent when the home team was the Giants or Dodgers.

Meet the new boss

Saigh succeeded in changing some minds. The Cubs and Reds agreed to share broadcast revenues with the Cardinals. The Phillies were close to joining in, too, the Associated Press reported.

Owners of the Giants and Dodgers “were aghast” and showed “no intention of backing down on their determination not to pay Saigh a dime for permitting the telecasts of Cardinals games at their parks,” The Sporting News reported.

Saigh had a bigger problem than broadcast revenue rights. On Jan. 28, 1953, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $15,000 for federal income tax evasion. Unable to keep the team, he apparently considered an offer from buyers who wanted to move the franchise to Milwaukee, but sold the Cardinals to St. Louis brewery Anheuser-Busch, which was run by Gussie Busch

Eager to ingratiate himself into the old boys network of club owners, Busch reversed the revenue sharing stance of Saigh. Busch said he would not demand a share of TV revenue for any Cardinals road game televised by a home club. “Anything we can do to bring the game to more and more people, we hope to be able to do,” Busch told The Sporting News.

Busch had a business reason for his decision. He viewed televised baseball games as an outlet for pitching Anheuser-Busch products to a broad audience. “Under the new ownership, Cardinals television will become a vital asset,” Dan Daniel wrote in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

Learning to share

In 1966, Major League Baseball sold its first national television package, netting $300,000 per team.

Soon after the players’ strike in 1994, the capitalists who own Major League Baseball and its franchises entered into a comprehensive revenue sharing arrangement. It eventually included the evenly split sharing of revenue from sources such as broadcasts, merchandising and Internet.

Baseball socialism wasn’t so bad, management discovered. In 2022, each team got $110 million from revenue sharing.

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Given a chance to become a division rival of the Cardinals, the Kansas City Royals balked. 

Twenty-five years ago, in November 1997, the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the American League to the National League, joining the Cardinals, Astros, Cubs, Pirates and Reds in the Central Division.

The Brewers went because the Royals said no.

Musical chairs

After deciding to expand by adding the Tampa Bay Rays for the 1998 season, the American League had a geography problem. The Rays, naturally, belonged in the East Division, but five teams already were situated there. Same with the Central. The West had four teams, but putting the Rays there wasn’t practical.

Major League Baseball officials, of course, devised a convoluted solution.

To open a spot for the Rays in the East, the plan was to shift the Detroit Tigers to the Central. To create a spot for the Tigers, it was decided to move a franchise from the American League Central to the National League Central.

Because the Royals were strong proponents of realignment, the American League invited them to be the franchise that moved to the National League.

What appealed to the Royals was the possibility of an in-state division rivalry with the Cardinals, a scenario that had Royals chief executive officer David Glass “picturing a happy life in the National League,” the Kansas City Star reported.

In 1997, baseball had interleague play for the first time, and “our three best gates were when the Cardinals were here Labor Day weekend,” Glass told the Kansas City newspaper.

The Royals “agonized over their decision,” but opted to remain in the American League for two reasons:

_ Public sentiment, including among season ticket-holders, was for the Royals to stay put, general manager Herk Robinson told the Kansas City Star.

_ The Royals, run by a five-person limited partnership since the death of owner Ewing Kauffman in 1993, were for sale and the “timing wasn’t right” to switch leagues, Glass told the Kansas City newspaper. “It would be most helpful if we had an owner in place that could help in this decision,” Glass said.

When the Royals, who had played in the American League since 1969, opted to stay, the Brewers volunteered to be the franchise that switched leagues.

Turn back the clock

On Nov. 5, 1997, Major League Baseball’s executive council voted unanimously to move the Brewers to the National League.

Milwaukee had experienced many changes as a major-league franchise. In 1901, the Milwaukee Brewers were an original American League member. After one season, they became the St. Louis Browns.

In 1953, after unsuccessfully trying to lure the Cardinals from St. Louis, Milwaukee became a National League city when the Braves moved there from Boston. The Milwaukee Braves won two National League pennants and a World Series title before the franchise moved again to Atlanta for the 1966 season.

Big-league baseball returned to Milwaukee in 1970 when the Seattle Pilots of the American League relocated there and were renamed the Brewers. In 1982, the Brewers won their only American League pennant, but the Cardinals prevailed in the World Series.

Having the Brewers become a National League team was a hit with those who appreciated Milwaukee’s years as a Braves franchise.

Brewers owner Bud Selig, who also was the acting baseball commissioner, told the Associated Press, “Those of us old enough to remember the glory days of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Logan, and Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, we view this as coming home.”

Aaron called it “a great day for Milwaukee.”

The Brewers became the first major-league team to switch leagues in the 1900s.

Polling found that 75 percent of fans in Milwaukee favored realignment, the Associated Press reported, and Selig said such overwhelming public support was an important factor in the Brewers volunteering to move to the National League.

Roots of a rivalry

Asked about the Brewers transferring rather than the Royals, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Either one would have been a good choice. They’re cities which have good baseball histories and which are good Midwestern markets. Both would have fit into the Central Division.”

Five months earlier, the Brewers and Cardinals played a regular-season interleague game against one another for the first time.

Played at County Stadium in Milwaukee on a Monday night before 23,503, the Brewers arranged for four players from the 1982 World Series (Cecil Cooper and Gorman Thomas of the Brewers, and Bob Forsch and Darrell Porter of the Cardinals) to sign autographs before the game. Porter caught the ceremonial first pitch from Selig, no small feat because Selig threw the ball in the dirt, five feet from the plate.

The Brewers won the game, 1-0, with Mike Matheny catching the combined shutout of Ben McDonald and Bob Wickman. Boxscore

The next night, 38,634 came to watch, with the teams wearing replicas of their 1982 World Series uniforms (Brewers in pinstripes and Cardinals in robin-egg blue). The Cardinals’ left fielder was Willie McGee, 38. As a rookie, he had hit two home runs and made a leaping catch against the wall in Game 3 of the 1982 World Series at Milwaukee. McGee had two hits in the regular-season interleague game, but the Brewers won, 4-3, beating Fernando Valenzuela. Boxscore

In the series finale, after franchise icon Robin Yount made the ceremonial first pitch, the Brewers completed the sweep, winning 8-4. Boxscore

Win some, lose some

The first time the Brewers faced the Cardinals as National League rivals was at St. Louis in May 1998. Spectators received pins recognizing the Brewers’ first season in the league. Todd Stottlemyre and Jeff Brantley pitched a combined shutout, and Ron Gant, Brian Jordan and Ray Lankford hit home runs in a 7-0 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

The Cardinals were 8-3 versus the Brewers in 1998, the most wins they had against any opponent that season, but the Astros won the Central Division title. (The Astros switched to the American League starting with the 2013 season, reducing the National League Central to five teams.)

Since joining the National League Central, the Brewers have won three division titles. The first was in 2011. The Cardinals, who placed second in the division, were allowed into the playoffs anyway and prevailed against the Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

The 2018 division champion Brewers had the best regular-season record in the National League (96 wins) but lost four of seven to the Dodgers in the playoffs. After winning a division title in 2021, the Brewers were ousted by the Braves in the playoffs.

The Royals have won just one division title since deciding to remain in the American League. That came in 2015 when the Royals (95 wins) had the best regular-season record in the league, won the pennant and prevailed against the Mets in the World Series.

In 2014, the Royals placed second to the Tigers in the division, but were deemed a playoff qualifier nonetheless. They won all eight of their American League playoff games, securing the pennant, but the Giants prevailed in the World Series.

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A power struggle within the front office nearly cost the Cardinals a chance to get the shortstop they needed to win a championship.

Sixty years ago, on Nov. 19, 1962, the Cardinals acquired shortstop Dick Groat and reliever Diomedes Olivo from the Pirates for pitcher Don Cardwell and shortstop Julio Gotay.

With his exceptional hitting and base running, Groat helped the Cardinals become World Series champions in 1964.

At the urging of manager Johnny Keane, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine made the trade over the objections of consultant Branch Rickey.

From a baseball perspective, Devine and Keane made the right move _ Groat was a key contributor to the Cardinals becoming contenders _ but it cost them. The trade widened a rift between Devine and Rickey, and Keane and Groat eventually had a falling out.

Terrific talent

Born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Groat went to Duke University and became an all-America in baseball and basketball. A 5-foot-10 guard, he averaged 26 points and 7.6 assists per game as a senior for the basketball team.

Branch Rickey was the Pirates’ general manager when Groat signed with them in June 1952 and went directly from the Duke campus to the major leagues. Picked by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the first round of the NBA draft, Groat played in 26 games for them in the 1952-53 season, averaging 11.9 points.

After two years of military service, Groat chose to focus on baseball and resumed his big-league career with the Pirates in 1955.

The Pirates nearly traded Groat to the Athletics for Roger Maris in December 1959, but called off the deal at the last minute. The Athletics then swapped Maris to the Yankees. Groat won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1960, Maris was named the American League MVP, and the Pirates prevailed in the World Series against the Yankees.

Your move

On Oct. 7, 1962, Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the story that the Cardinals offered starting pitcher Larry Jackson to the Pirates for Groat.

Jackson led the 1962 Cardinals in wins (16) and innings pitched (252.1). Groat produced 199 hits, including 34 doubles, and batted .294 for the 1962 Pirates.

According to The Pittsburgh Press, the Pirates countered, offering backup shortstop Dick Schofield, a former Cardinal, but Devine and Keane were interested only in Groat.

When the Pirates dawdled, the Cardinals on Oct. 17 dealt Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer to the Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker.

Pirates general manager Joe Brown admitted the swap of Jackson to the Cubs “surprised him” and he “didn’t know the trade was in the making,” The Sporting News reported, but he liked Cardwell as much as he did Jackson.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Brown called Devine and said he thought there was still basis on which the clubs could make a trade.”

Power plays

While Devine was trying to acquire Groat, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch was on a business trip to Los Angeles and met with a friend, Bob Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant. Cobb suggested to Busch that he should hire Branch Rickey, 80, as a consultant, the Post-Dispatch reported. “He’ll help you win a pennant more than any other person could,” Cobb said to Busch.

The Cardinals hadn’t won a pennant since Busch bought the franchise in 1953 and he was tired of waiting. Acting on the advice of the restaurateur, Busch hired Rickey, who had built the Cardinals into a powerhouse before departing for the Dodgers in October 1942. In the consultant role, Rickey would advise Devine on player personnel matters and report to Busch.

In his autobiography, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said, “To be honest, I rather resented that Rickey was back … I was still in charge, but Rickey still had Busch’s ear.”

The relationship was rocky from the start. Rickey acted like he was Devine’s boss, and they disagreed on personnel matters.

Devine had gotten the Pirates to agree to trade Groat, 32, but Rickey thought the Cardinals would be better keeping Julio Gotay, 23, as their shortstop.

“Rickey hated giving up young players for veteran players,” Devine said in his book. “I had to set it up so that Rickey would approve the Groat deal and take it to Mr. Busch.”

At the Florida Instructional League in St. Petersburg, director of player development Eddie Stanky, coach Harry Walker and others joined Devine in approaching Rickey and making a case for Groat.

In his book, Devine recalled that Rickey said to him, “You’ve kind of loaded this meeting for me, haven’t you?”

Devine replied, “I know it looks like that way, but we need Groat to make this team go.”

After a long discussion, Rickey said, “I’ll talk to the boss … I’ll tell him you feel strongly about it and that he should do what he wants to do.”

Busch approved the trade for Groat, but Rickey wasn’t happy. “The Groat trade started cooling the relationship between Rickey and me,” Devine said in his book.

Getting it done

Though, as The Sporting News noted, “Groat still has the reputation of being the best hit-and-run man in the league,” he led National League shortstops in errors five times with the Pirates. Devine and Keane were hoping Groat’s knowledge of playing the hitters would compensate for the errors and a lack of range.

Pittsburgh Press sports editor Chester L. Smith wrote of Groat after the trade, “Maybe he has slowed up a half stride or so, perhaps his hands aren’t quite as sure as they once were, but he plays the hitters so well that he minimizes any loss of speed. He reminds you a great deal of Lou Boudreau when the artful codger was on the downside of the hill and was using his head to get the results his legs had produced in his youth.”

As it turned out, Groat was everything Devine and Keane hoped he’d be for the 1963 Cardinals, who placed second with 93 wins, their most since 1949.

In the book “We Played the Game,” Groat said, “I went to St. Louis with the intention of showing Joe Brown that he made a very bad mistake trading me. In 1963, I had the best year of my career, a better year than in 1960. I hit the ball with more authority.”

Groat produced career highs in hits (201), doubles (43), triples (11), RBI (73) and on-base percentage (.377) for the 1963 Cardinals. He and teammates Bill White, Julian Javier and Ken Boyer were the starting infielders for the National League in the All-Star Game. “We were really proud of that because we were chosen by our peers, not the fans,” Groat told author Danny Peary.

In his autobiography “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said, “I’d learned to respect Dick playing against him, but not until I played with him my last year did I realize fully how smart and thorough he is … Groat and Bill White are the best players the Cardinals obtained by trade in my many years with the club.”

In his book “Few and Chosen,” Tim McCarver said of Groat, “I learned more about base running from him than from anybody else … I never saw anybody as good as Groat going from first to third. He did everything instinctively on the bases.”

Plots and schemes

The underachieving Cardinals had a losing record at the all-star break in 1964 and a rift developed between Groat and Keane. Because of how well Groat could handle a pitch, Keane allowed him to call a hit-and-run play when he wanted to while batting. Eventually, Keane decided Groat abused the privilege and took it away. That angered Groat and he sulked. In his book “October 1964,” author David Halberstam wrote that Keane “saw Groat as a challenge to his control.”

At a team meeting in the clubhouse, Keane confronted Groat, accusing him of undermining the manager. Groat apologized, and the the matter appeared settled.

A month later, Gussie Busch learned of the incident from his daughter, who heard about it from the player she was dating, Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews. Petty and paranoid, Busch accused Devine of hiding the matter from him. Meanwhile, Rickey, on the outs with Devine, was advising Busch to get another general manager.

On Aug. 17, 1964, Busch fired Devine and replaced him with Rickey’s choice, Bob Howsam. Busch schemed to replace Keane with Leo Durocher after the season.

“That Groat situation was an issue,” Devine said in his autobiography, “but I don’t think that’s why Busch fired me. I really think it had more to do with us being so far back in August.”

Helped by Groat, who hit .282 in September and .417 in October, the Cardinals surged and won the National League pennant on the last day of the season. After prevailing in the World Series against the Yankees, Keane quit and became Yankees manager.

Groat hit .292 with 35 doubles and 70 RBI for the 1964 Cardinals but he also made a career-high 40 errors.

After the 1965 season, he was traded by Howsam to the Phillies.

Groat had 2,138 hits in 14 seasons in the majors and batted .302 against the Cardinals.

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(Updated Sept. 21, 2022)

After a playing career as an outfielder and first baseman in the majors during the 1960s, Lee Thomas was willing to do whatever it took to remain in the game. The Cardinals gave him a chance and he made the most of it.

Thomas served several roles with the Cardinals before becoming a top baseball executive. Having earned the respect and trust of Whitey Herzog, Thomas was responsible for developing the pipeline that supplied much talent for the Cardinals’ championship clubs in the 1980s.

Impressed by what he accomplished, the Phillies hired Thomas and he was their general manager when they won a National League title in 1993.

Settled in St. Louis

Born in Peoria, Thomas moved with his mother and stepfather, an auto mechanic, to Jacksonville, Ill., and Waco, Texas, before settling in St. Louis when he was 8, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

A standout athlete at Beaumont High School in St. Louis, Thomas, 18, hit .580 his senior baseball season and was signed by the Yankees in June 1954.

Another Yankees outfield prospect at the time was Whitey Herzog.

A left-handed batter who hit for power and average, Thomas spent seven seasons in the Yankees’ farm system before reaching the majors with them in 1961.

A special opportunity occurred for Thomas when the Yankees played the Cardinals at St. Louis in a pair of exhibition games on the eve of the 1961 season opener. Substituting for right fielder Roger Maris late in both games, Thomas got to play before friends and family, and singled in an at-bat against Mickey McDermott.

Two weeks later, making his big-league debut as a pinch-hitter at Baltimore, Thomas singled to center against future Hall of Famer and former Cardinal Hoyt Wilhelm. Playing right field for the Orioles was Whitey Herzog. Boxscore

Fitted for a halo

In May 1961, the Yankees dealt Thomas to the Angels, a first-year expansion club. He became the first Angels player to hit a grand slam (against the Orioles’ Milt Pappas), the first to hit three home runs in a game and the first to go 5-for-5.

On Sept. 5, 1961, Thomas had 9 hits in 11 at-bats in a doubleheader against the Athletics at Kansas City. Boxscore and Boxscore

The next year, Thomas hit .290 with 26 home runs and 104 RBI for the 1962 Angels and was named an American League all-star.

Those early Angels teams were stocked with colorful characters such as veterans Steve Bilko, Rocky Bridges, Art Fowler and Ted Kluszewski, and newcomers the likes of Bo Belinsky, Dean Chance, Jim Fregosi, Bob “Buck” Rodgers and Thomas.

“We were a group of guys no one wanted and were out to prove we could play,” Thomas told the Los Angeles Times.

Rodgers, who went on to manage the Brewers, Expos and Angels, was Thomas’ road roommate with the Angels. He gave Thomas the nickname “Mad Dog” for hurling a 3-wood into a tree during a celebrity golf outing at the Rio Hondo Club.

“I can’t say anything bad about him, except I had to order the pizza all the time when we were roomies,” Rodgers said to the Los Angeles Times.

After the 1962 season, Thomas had surgery on a knee he damaged during his prep football days. He wasn’t the same after that. In his last five big-league seasons (1964-68), he played for five teams (Angels, Red Sox, Braves, Cubs, Astros).

(On the morning of May 28, 1966, the Braves dealt Thomas to the Cubs for reliever Ted Abernathy. That afternoon, Thomas made his Cubs debut and drove in the tying run with a single against Abernathy. Boxscore)

Multiple skills

Thomas made his last big-league playing appearance on Sept. 27, 1968, as a pinch-hitter for the Astros against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

After playing for the Nankai Hawks in Japan in 1969 (a teammate was former Cardinals second baseman Don Blasingame), Thomas finished his playing career with the Cardinals’ Tulsa affiliate managed by Warren Spahn.

“I knew I wanted to stay in the game,” Thomas said to the Los Angeles Times.

Back home in St. Louis, he got hired by the Cardinals. According to the team media guide, Thomas filled the following roles:

_ 1971-72: Cardinals batting practice pitcher and bullpen coach.

_ 1973: Manager of a Cardinals team in the rookie Gulf Coast League in Sarasota, Fla.

_ 1974: Manager of the Cardinals’ Modesto farm club in the California League.

_ 1975: Cardinals administrative assistant to Joe Cunningham in sales and promotions.

“I sold season tickets,” Thomas told author Tom Wheatley. “It wasn’t easy. You had to wine and dine people to sell them … and we were horsefeathers for a while there.”

_ 1976-80: Cardinals traveling secretary.

In his autobiography, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, who brought Thomas into the organization, said, “He did more than just make travel arrangements for the ballclub. When I had a question on player development, I always valued him as a sounding board. I liked to check with him when I wanted an opinion from someone not so close to me in the baseball office.”

_ 1981-88: Cardinals director of player development.

Whitey Herzog, who had the dual role of Cardinals manager and general manager, chose Thomas to be director of player development after the 1980 season.

“Lee is a lot like me,” Herzog told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Lee has enough confidence in his ability to make a decision and go ahead and do it.”

During Thomas’ time as director of player development, the Cardinals developed players such as Vince Coleman, Danny Cox, Ricky Horton, Terry Pendleton, Joe Magrane, Greg Mathews, John Stuper, Andy Van Slyke and Todd Worrell. Thomas suggested the successful shifting of Pendleton from second base to third. Thomas and scout Hal Smith also initiated the conversion of Worrell from starter to closer.

In 1983, Thomas brought in his close friend and former Angels teammate, Jim Fregosi, to manage the Cardinals’ top farm team at Louisville. With Thomas and Fregosi in synch, the talent pipeline flowed.

“We respect each other’s abilities, and we have no problem about communication,” Fregosi told the Los Angeles Times.

Winning touch

The Cardinals won three National League pennants and a World Series championship during Thomas’ time as director of player development.

Herzog, who as director of player development for the Mets helped build the team that won the 1969 World Series title, said to the Los Angeles Times, “The guy in charge of player development manages six or seven clubs at the same time. He has to have a feel for every player at every level.”

As for Thomas, Herzog said,  “He gave me the right answer every time I called to ask if a certain player or pitcher was ready. That’s what you want from a guy in that position.”

When Cardinals general manager Joe McDonald was ousted in January 1985, “I wanted Lee Thomas” to replace him, Herzog told the Los Angeles Times, but the Cardinals hired Dal Maxvill.

In June 1988, Thomas left the Cardinals to be general manager of the last-place Phillies. He hired Fregosi to be Phillies manager in 1991. Two years later, with Thomas and Fregosi in charge, the Phillies became National League champions.

“Big-league front offices are well-stocked with executives who have a hard time pulling the trigger,” wrote Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Frank Dolson. “They hem. They haw. They hedge. Thomas does none of the above. He shoots from the hip. In that way, he is much like his old boss, Whitey Herzog.”

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The Cardinals traded the National League batting champion, who also had the best outfield arm in the game, because they didn’t want to pay him.

On April 11, 1932, six months after they became World Series champions, the Cardinals dealt left fielder Chick Hafey to the Reds for pitcher Benny Frey, first baseman Harvey Hendrick and cash.

The trade was made by Cardinals executive Branch Rickey, with approval from club owner Sam Breadon, because for the second consecutive year Hafey was prepared to sit out the start of the season in a contract dispute.

At a time when players had little leverage to negotiate other than holding out, Hafey was fed up with being underpaid by the Cardinals and was determined to get what he considered fair compensation for performance that eventually earned him election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Special talent

Born and raised in Berkeley, Calif., Hafey was a 20-year-old pitching prospect when the Cardinals signed him in 1923 on the recommendation of Charles Chapman, a University of California professor and friend of Rickey, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Impressed by Hafey’s hitting at Cardinals training camp that spring, Rickey, the club’s manager, made him an outfielder.

Hafey went into the farm system, hit .360 for Houston in 1924, and was called up to the Cardinals in August that year. He took over as the Cardinals’ left fielder in 1927 and went on a torrid five-year run, even though he suffered from severe sinus problems that weakened his vision.

J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Hafey as “a man who hit line drives against the fences, one of the most powerful hitters ever to wear a Cardinals uniform.”

One of the first players to use eyeglasses, Hafey hit .329 or better each year from 1927 to 1931.

“He was, next to Rogers Hornsby, the best right-handed hitter I ever saw, even though he really couldn’t see well,” Cardinals infielder Andy High told Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch.

In the book “The Gashouse Gang,” Spud Davis, a National League catcher for 16 seasons, said in rating the best right-handed hitters, “The greatest I ever saw was Chick Hafey. He was one of the greatest all-around players, too. He could do everything. He had that arm! He could stand against the fence in left in St. Louis and throw strikes to the plate all day long. The ball came in light as a feather. If his eyes had been good, there’s no telling what he could have done.”

Broeg wrote, “His throwing arm might have been the most powerful ever.”

Moneyball

After hitting .336 with 107 RBI for the 1930 Cardinals and helping them reach the World Series for the third time in five years, Hafey sought an increase in his $9,000 salary.

Unimpressed by what Breadon and Rickey offered, Hafey sat out spring training in 1931 before signing for $12,500 after the regular season started. Because he didn’t play his first game until May 16, the Cardinals docked him $2,000, cutting his salary to $10,500, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In his book, “Memories of a Hall of Fame Sportswriter,” Broeg said, “Hafey was most unfortunately underpaid, a victim, in part, of the Great Depression, and the Cardinals’ tendency to play Scrooge.”

Hafey treated the club better than management treated him. He won the 1931 National League batting title, hitting .349 in 122 games, and helped the Cardinals win the pennant. Hafey also contributed 95 RBI and a .404 on-base percentage.

Hafey figured his performance merited a raise. According to the Post-Dispatch, he wanted a $17,000 salary in 1932 _ $15,000 as a base and $2,000 extra for the amount the Cardinals cut him the year before.

The Cardinals offered $13,000 and “labeled him privately as an ingrate who should have been thankful he’d played on four pennant winners in a six-year period, blithely ignoring his contributions,” Broeg noted.

Take a hike

When it became clear to Breadon and Rickey that Hafey wasn’t going to sign before the start of the 1932 season, they decided to trade him against the wishes of manager Gabby Street, the Dayton Daily News reported.

At 8 p.m. on April 10, 1932, Rickey called Reds owner Sidney Weil, who had been trying to acquire Hafey for almost two years, The Sporting News reported. They talked into the wee hours of the morning and came to an agreement.

What the Cardinals wanted most was cash. In addition to offering pitcher Benny Frey and first baseman Harvey Hendrick, Weil agreed to give the Cardinals “a tremendous amount of cash,” The Sporting News reported.

According to the book “The Spirit of St. Louis,” the amount was $50,000.

On April 11, 1932, the eve of the season opener, the crowd “cheered wildly” when Weil announced the trade in Cincinnati at a joint luncheon of the chamber of commerce and Kiwanis Club, according to The Sporting News.

There was no such cheering in St. Louis, just bad vibes.

In the book “The Pilot Light and the Gashouse Gang,” Broeg described the Cardinals’ treatment of Hafey as “pathetic.”

Post-Dispatch columnist John Wray, siding with management, called Hafey “a chronic conscientious objector” who “sulked himself out of a job with a championship outfit.”

Rickey shamelessly portrayed himself the victim.

“I am not saying Hafey owed anything to this club,” Rickey said to Sid Keener of the St. Louis Star-Times. “He made the hits at the plate and I realize I didn’t swing the bat for him. Nevertheless, it’s kind of tough in this business when a ballplayer loses all traces of loyalty. That’s what hurts me in trading Hafey.”

Hafey signed a $15,000 contract with the 1932 Reds and said to the Associated Press, “I’m ready to go back and bear down.”

Coming and going

A first baseman, Rip Collins, opened the season in left field for the Cardinals. Eventually, 10 players started in left for them in 1932.

On April 24, 1932, the Cardinals stumbled into Cincinnati with a 3-7 record. Hafey had asked manager Dan Howley to let him make his Reds debut in the series opener, according to The Sporting News.

Batting cleanup, Hafey had three singles in four at-bats against his former team and snared Pepper Martin’s deep drive to left. Boxscore

Hafey went on to hit .303 against the Cardinals in his career.

In September 1932, the Cardinals called up slugger Joe Medwick, who took over in left. Like Hafey, Medwick would have a Hall of Fame career. He also would run afoul of Breadon and Rickey regarding pay _ and was traded to the Dodgers primarily for cash, of course.

(Rickey had a personal incentive to trade players for cash because his contract called for him to get a percentage of the sale as remuneration in addition to his salary.)

Neither Frey nor Hendrick lasted long with the Cardinals. Within two months of acquiring them, the Cardinals returned both to the Reds for _ you guessed it _ more cash.

Hafey hit .344 for the 1932 Reds but a bout with influenza limited him to 83 games.

In 13 seasons with the Cardinals and Reds, Hafey hit .317. He hit more home runs from the No. 5 spot in the batting order than any player in Cardinals history, according to researcher Tom Orf.

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When push came to shove during a game at Cincinnati, both the Cardinals and the plate umpire behaved badly.

On April 22, 1952, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky confronted umpire Scotty Robb, who responded with a shove.

Two weeks later, Robb submitted his resignation to National League president Warren Giles, then accepted a surprise offer to continue umpiring in the American League.

Law and order

A Baltimore native, Douglas Walker Robb, known as Scotty, played semipro baseball until an arm injury prompted him to move into umpiring. He umpired college and minor-league games before serving two years (1944-45) in the Navy.

Robb was 38 when he became a National League umpire in August 1947. In his debut game, Cardinals versus Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York, he umpired at third base. Johnny Mize drove in four runs against his former club, powering the Giants to a 6-5 victory. Boxscore

Three years later, on July 2, 1950, Robb had a confrontation with Stanky in a game between the Braves and Giants at the Polo Grounds.

With the score tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning, the Giants had a runner on first, none out, when Stanky came to the plate with “visions of a game-winning rally,” the New York Daily News reported.

Nicknamed “The Brat,” Stanky got upset when Robb, working the plate, called Bob Chipman’s first pitch to him a strike. Stanky took an angry swing at the next delivery and missed badly. Strike two. After watching a pitch go outside, Stanky grounded into a rally-killing double play.

“Angrier than ever when he reached the bench, Stanky threw a couple of water buckets onto the grass,” the Daily News reported, and Robb ejected him.

Giants manager Leo Durocher came out of the dugout to argue and Robb tossed him, too.

As Stanky and Durocher made the long walk across the outfield to the clubhouse behind the bleachers in center, Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson threw a towel in the direction of Robb and he also was ejected.

In a flash, the Giants had lost their second baseman, center fielder and manager.

“It was a senseless rhubarb and strictly the Giants’ fault,” declared the Boston Globe.

Robb took “a wicked booing” from Giants fans the remainder of the game, the Globe noted, especially after the Braves struck for four runs in the ninth and won, 6-3. Boxscore

Boiling point

The Giants traded Stanky, 36, to the Cardinals in December 1951 and he became their player-manager, replacing Marty Marion.

After the Cardinals split their first six games in 1952, Stanky selected rookie pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell, 21, to make his big-league debut in a start against the Reds at Crosley Field.

Mizell, who allowed the Reds two runs in the first and none for the rest of the game, showed more poise than Stanky and some of his veteran players.

In the third inning, Robb, the plate umpire, called out the Cardinals’ Solly Hemus on strikes for the second time in the game. Hemus barked at Robb before heaving his bat toward the grandstand on the first-base side near the visitors’ dugout.

Robb ejected Hemus, prompting Stanky to rush out of the dugout. Robb ordered Stanky to leave the field, but instead he got as close as he could to the umpire. Stanky stood toe to toe with Robb, gestured excitedly, waved his index finger in his face and berated him, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“I wanted to know why Hemus was put out of the game,” Stanky told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

According to the Dayton Journal Herald, Stanky and Robb “were jostling each other in a startling fashion.”

During what the Globe-Democrat described as a “tornadic argument,” Robb thought Stanky touched or bumped him.

According to Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “As far as press box observers could tell, it was a phantom touch, as light-fingered and as unobtrusive as a pickpocket.”

Stanky said to the Globe-Democrat, “I told Robb that I never touched him. If I did, it was not intentional, and probably was caused by the fact that his momentum as he was walking toward our dugout carried him into me.”

Enraged, Robb threw down his mask, put both hands on Stanky’s chest and vigorously shoved him back a few steps. “The umpire squared off and Stanky, obviously stunned, then started toward Robb,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“It appeared as if the two might start swinging at each other,” the Globe-Democrat noted. 

Umpires joined Cardinals players and coaches in getting between the two and preventing further damage.

Stanky told the Post-Dispatch, “Getting shoved that way and not being able to strike back was the most embarrassing, the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me on a ball field.”

Robb ejected Stanky and the game continued. Gene Mauch replaced Hemus at shortstop.

Stan the Mad

More trouble happened in the seventh. With the Cardinals trailing, 2-1, Stan Musial batted with two outs and a runner on first. Musial hit a grounder sharply down the line at first. Umpire Lon Warneke, Musial’s former Cardinals teammate, ruled it a foul ball. “From the press box, the ball appeared to be foul by at least two feet,” the Cincinnati Enquirer noted.

Musial thought otherwise.

“Stan, who seldom protests a decision, kicked the dirt viciously several times,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Musial was “drop-kicking dirt with the skill of a football field goal specialist.”

Perhaps to prevent Musial from getting ejected for the only time in his career, Cardinals reliever Al Brazle ran from the bullpen onto the field to argue on Musial’s behalf. Warneke ejected Brazle. Boxscore

Tough job

National League president Warren Giles was at the game and witnessed the shenanigans. The next day, Giles met for 45 minutes with Stanky, Hemus and the four umpires _ Robb, Warneke, Babe Pinelli and Dusty Boggess _ to get their versions of what happened.

As the meeting ended, Robb and Stanky shook hands. “It’s all over now,” Stanky told The Sporting News. “We’ll forget it and start anew.”

A few hours later, Giles, a former Cardinals minor-league executive, announced he was fining Hemus $25 and Stanky $50 for their roles in the incident. Giles publicly reprimanded Robb and said he fined the umpire an amount greater than the combined fines of Hemus and Stanky. Years later, The Sporting News reported Robb was fined $200.

Robb “seemed to feel he had been humiliated by Giles’ reprimand and fine,” The Sporting News reported.

The next game Robb worked was on April 26 when the Cardinals played the Cubs at St. Louis. In the seventh inning, Warneke ejected Stanky for arguing a call at third base. Boxscore

Unable to overcome the feeling that Giles hadn’t supported him, Robb resigned on May 5 and said he would operate a printing business in New Jersey.

Two days later, Robb was stunned when American League president Will Harrirdge offered him an umpiring job.

“When Mr. Harridge approached me with an offer, I was so choked up I couldn’t talk for a minute or two,” Robb told The Sporting News.

Harridge said, “I signed what I believed to be a good umpire and the kind of gentleman we would like to have on our staff.”

Robb umpired in the American League through June 1953, then retired from baseball at age 44.

“It’s a lonesome, difficult life,” Robb told The Sporting News. “An umpire must live like a hermit, avoiding casual acquaintances and not associating with players, managers or coaches. The travel is bad … and the pay wasn’t too good either.”

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