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Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

A rift between manager Solly Hemus and most of his coaches was a major factor in the Cardinals’ decision to fire him.

Sixty years ago, on July 6, 1961, Hemus was ousted and replaced by coach Johnny Keane.

Distrust between Hemus and the coaching staff, combined with a losing record, a disgruntled fan base and low team morale, all contributed to the decision to change managers.

Uneasy relationship

Hemus entered the Cardinals’ farm system as an infielder in 1946. As the second baseman for the Houston Buffaloes in 1947 and 1948, his manager was Johnny Keane. Hemus got to the majors with the Cardinals in 1949 and played for them until he was traded to the Phillies in May 1956.

In September 1958, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch decided to fire manager Fred Hutchinson and replace him with Hemus, who was the Phillies’ second baseman. Busch ignored the recommendation of general manager Bing Devine, who wanted Hutchinson to remain manager.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Hemus asked for Keane, who was managing in the Cardinals’ farm system, to be on his coaching staff and also approved the choices of coaches Howie Pollet and Harry Walker.

Keane, who was a finalist for the Cardinals’ managing job in November 1950 before Marty Marion was selected, twice had rejected offers to become a Cardinals coach because, “I wanted to go up as a manager,” he told The Sporting News.

On the advice of his friend Bing Devine, who told Keane his lack of big-league experience was preventing him from managing in the majors, Keane reconsidered his stance and accepted the offer to join Hemus’ staff.

In Hemus’ first year as manager, the Cardinals were 71-83 and finished seventh in the eight-team National League. Hemus made racist remarks and lost the respect of players such as Bob Gibson. In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “His treatment of black players was the result of one of the following: Either he disliked us deeply or he genuinely believed the way to motivate us was with insults.”

Hemus arranged for catcher Darrell Johnson to join the staff as player-coach in 1960 and the Cardinals improved to 86-68 and third place. According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Hemus credited Johnson with the development of pitchers Ernie Broglio, a 21-game winner, and rookie Ray Sadecki.

As Hemus gained confidence in Johnson, the relationship with the other coaches ruptured.

“Hemus questioned both the competence and loyalty of the veteran organization men” on the coaching staff, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Only Johnson “passed Solly’s own naive loyalty test,” columnist Bob Broeg wrote.

Hemus wanted to fire Keane after the 1960 season, but Devine blocked the attempt, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Clubhouse turmoil

Expected to contend in 1961, the Cardinals flopped, posting losing records in each of the first three months of the season.

Tension created by the defeats intensified because of the fractured leadership. With Hemus relying on Johnson for advice, “Keane and the other coaches resented the decreased responsibility,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Keane said Hemus “had not taken advantage of his baseball experience and had bypassed him.”

“I did the only thing I could do then _ my job and no more,” Keane said.

Describing Hemus and Keane as “two fast friends who had become cool associates,” the Post-Dispatch reported Devine sought to bring them together, but couldn’t.

After a 13-1 loss to the Cubs on July 1 dropped the Cardinals’ record to 31-39, Gussie Busch declared he was “terribly discouraged and unhappy” with the team, but said Hemus would finish the season as manager, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Busch told the Globe-Democrat, “I’m a great admirer of Solly,” and added, “I’m quite sure he’ll finish the season.”

Regarding the players, Busch said, “Our boys are not playing hard enough. Something’s going on.”

The next day, July 2, the Cardinals again lost to the Cubs, 10-9. After a day off, they played at home and split a July 4 doubleheader with the last-place Phillies. After winning the opener, the Cardinals blew a 6-0 lead in the second game and lost, 10-6. Boxscore

In what had become a common occurrence, Hemus was booed throughout the doubleheader. Hemus “probably drew more boos than any pilot in the history of the Cardinals,” the Globe-Democrat noted.

Decision time

After the doubleheader, Devine informed Hemus a change might be necessary, the Globe-Democrat reported.

As the team departed for Los Angeles and a series against the Dodgers, Devine stayed behind in St. Louis. He went to Busch and said a change in managers was needed immediately.

“I took the initiative in this thing,” Devine told the Globe-Democrat.

Concerned about the discontent of Cardinals fans, Busch “relented reluctantly” to Devine’s recommendation, according to the Post-Dispatch.

On July 5, while the Cardinals were beating the Dodgers, 9-1, “Devine slipped into town and registered at another hotel,” the Post-Dispatch reported. He met with Hemus and Keane and told them of the change.

At 9 a.m. on July 6, Devine, flanked by Keane and Hemus, held a press conference and made the official announcement.

Keane was signed to manage for the remainder of the 1961 season and for 1962.

Devine also announced that Red Schoendienst and Vern Benson would join Howie Pollet and Harry Walker as coaches on Keane’s staff. Benson had been manager of the Cardinals’ Portland farm team. Schoendienst would be a player-coach.

Darrell Johnson was removed from the coaching staff. He rejected the Cardinals’ offer to be a coach at Portland and instead joined the Phillies as a reserve catcher. “I know I have no future with the Cards,” Johnson told the Globe-Democrat.

Hostile takeover

The Cardinals were 33-41 and in sixth place when Hemus was fired. His overall record with them was 190-192. “We feel a change is called for before an extended losing pattern becomes fixed and established,” Devine said.

Hemus displayed “an obvious coolness” toward Keane at the press conference, the Post-Dispatch noted.

Bob Broeg wrote, “At first, Solly declined to discuss at all his relations with Keane. Then, asked specifically if his silence meant he felt Keane had undermined him, he said, ‘No comment.’ “

Keane had been a player, manager, scout and coach in the Cardinals’ organization since 1930. Regarding the 1961 Cardinals, Keane said, “The important thing is to boost morale. The morale isn’t apparent in the mechanical effort, but some players are down.”

Pointing to his heart, Keane told the Post-Dispatch he believed some players weren’t “feeling the game here.”

Bob Burnes of the Globe-Democrat lauded Keane as “a sound baseball man” and added, “Many of us have thought for years that Keane deserved a shot at the job he now has acquired.”

Under Keane, the 1961 Cardinals were 47-33 and finished fifth at 80-74.

In his book “From Ghetto to Glory,” Gibson said, “If there is any individual who gave me the confidence in my ability to be a major-league pitcher, it was Johnny Keane.”

Keane led the Cardinals to 84 wins in 1962, 93 in 1963 and 93 again in 1964.

The 1964 Cardinals won the National League pennant on the last day of the season and prevailed against the Yankees in a seven-game World Series.

Feeling betrayed by Gussie Busch, who fired Bing Devine during the 1964 season and plotted to have Leo Durocher become manager, Keane quit a day after the World Series clincher and joined the Yankees.

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The Cardinals decided nights in red satin weren’t for them.

Seventy-five years ago, in 1946, the Cardinals planned to take a bold departure from their traditional look. They bought red satin uniforms to wear during night road games.

When it came time to don the shiny red fabric in a game, however, the Cardinals backed out and stuck with their flannels.

Pajama game

Satin baseball uniforms made a sensation at the American Association All-Star Game at Toledo in 1938. The minor-league all-stars, including Ted Williams, wore red, white and blue satin uniforms for the night game, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In the 1940s, with night games becoming more commonplace, a few National League teams decided to try satin uniforms because the material reflected the ballpark lights.

Satin is a fabric weave that produces a smooth, soft, glossy material with a luxurious look. It is made of silk, polyester or nylon.

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Dodgers, Braves and Reds experimented with satin uniforms in the 1940s.

Innovative executive Branch Rickey chose to have the Dodgers wear satin uniforms in 1944. The former Cardinals administrator got the idea from watching All-American Girls Professional Softball League teams play in satin uniforms under the lights in 1943, Newspaper Enterprise Association reported.

Rickey planned for the 1944 Dodgers to wear white satin uniforms with blue piping for night home games, and blue satin uniforms with white piping for night road games.

“Rickey decided to make Them Beautiful Bums even more colorful,” Newspaper Enterprise Association declared.

United Press described the Dodgers’ outfits as “satin pajamas” and “Little Lord Fauntleroy uniforms.” 

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called the uniforms “satin nightgowns” and rated the home whites as looking better than the road blues. “The flashy white undies with the blue stripes stood out particularly well,” the Brooklyn newspaper noted.

According to Brooklyn Daily Eagle columnist Tommy Holmes, “The players were expecting a lot of razzing from the wisecrackers, but witticisms from the cash customers were conspicuous by their absence.”

Newspaper Enterprise Association concluded, “The next thing you know they’ll be playing baseball without spikes and with chewing tobacco checked in the clubhouse.”

Fashion faux pas

Two years later, in 1946, the Cardinals purchased bright red satin uniforms for road night games, The Sporting News reported, but the duds never got worn by the big-leaguers.

The St. Louis Star-Times reported Cardinals players “refused to wear” the satins. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat claimed the Cardinals “considered the new satin suits too effeminate.” According to The Sporting News, manager Eddie Dyer determined “the uniforms were too fancy for the Cardinals.”

The Cardinals sold the red satins to Fred C. Steffens, a St. Louis sportsman, who donated the brand-new uniforms to the North Side Teen Town baseball team of St. Louis, the Star-Times reported.

On June 12, 1946, Cardinals pitcher Ken Burkhart presented the uniforms to the youth team at St. Louis’ Sherman Park.

Comfortable in their own skin, as well as in their familiar uniforms, the Cardinals went on to win the 1946 National League pennant and beat the Red Sox for the World Series championship.

Sharp-dressed men

While the 1946 Cardinals balked at wearing satin, the 1946 Braves embraced the idea.

On May 11, 1946, the Braves debuted their satin uniforms in a Saturday night home game against the Giants. It was the first time a big-league night game was played in Boston. Boxscore

The Boston Globe described the Braves’ outfits as “a slithery uniform of white satin with scarlet piping, which shine like lingerie in a department store window.”

Among the Braves swathed in satin were a group of former Cardinals, including manager Billy Southworth, center fielder Johnny Hopp and first baseman Ray Sanders. “A sight to behold,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch declared.

The Reds wore satin uniforms in 1948. After playing the Cardinals on a steamy Friday night in St. Louis on July 9, the Reds switched to gray flannels the following night.

According to The Sporting News, Reds players “complained the satins were too uncomfortable during the sweltering heat.”

After Reds general manager Warren Giles, acting on the recommendation of manager Johnny Neun, approved the scrapping of satin for flannel for the Saturday, July 10 game, “the fancy monkey suits went out.” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Soon after, satin uniforms, like top hats and knickers, faded out of style.

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Popeye the Sailor had his spinach. The Cardinals had Vitamin B1 tablets.

Eighty years ago, in 1941, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon became convinced Vitamin B1 would enhance the performance of his players.

According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Breadon bought 5,000 Vitamin B1 capsules to distribute to his players during spring training and the regular season.

In a popular comic strip at the time. Popeye boasted, “I’m strong to the finish because I eats me spinach.”

Spinach contains many nutrients, including Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, but rather than load up on the greens, Breadon opted for the pills.

Getting a boost

Vitamin B1 was produced in tablet form starting in 1936. According to specialists at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, “the tablets have been used frequently in England to quiet war nerves,” The Sporting News explained. “Furthermore, the pills are said to be effective in aiding eyesight.”

The Cardinals wanted their players to take B1 “because this vitamin has shown great effectiveness in aiding the relief of nervousness, indigestion and the lack of energy,” the Globe-Democrat reported, “and therefore should help build up the players’ health, poise and staying qualities.”

Breadon, 65, was described as “a vitamin enthusiast” who “believes Vitamin B1 is just the thing for the athletes to help build up their appetites, health and the resistance they need for the physical effort they put forth,” according to the Globe-Democrat.

According to United Press, Breadon called B1 the “morale vitamin.”

Pep talk

When Cardinals players arrived for 1941 spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., each player was given a bottle of the Vitamin B1 pills, the Chicago Daily News reported. The recommended dosage was three a day for 10 days, two a day for the next 10, and one a day thereafter.

The Sporting News hailed it as “a revolutionary step in training camp methods,” but also cautioned that “until the time when it is definitely established that capsules will provide all the energy needed after a hard workout, Cardinals players probably will pin their faith on Kansas City steak with French fries and a double order of pie.”

Cardinals vice-president Bill Walsingham Jr., a nephew of Breadon, said every player on the club would receive the Vitamin B1 capsules and would be encouraged to digest the medicine.

“We can’t force the players to swallow the capsules,” Walsingham said to the Globe-Democrat, “but, naturally, the club would like to have the players in line regularly for the B1 issue.”

According to United Press, “Bottles of the things were lying around the clubhouse in such profusion that baseball writers wondered whether they were in a spring training camp, or had blundered into the biennial convention of the American Pharmaceutical Association.”

In an editorial, the St. Louis Star-Times declared, “Breadon’s experiment of feeding his young stalwarts vast quantities of Vitamin B1 tablets, to give them vitality and pep, was the most courageous exhibition of crawling out on a limb since Babe Ruth bragged in the World Series of 1932 that he would hit a home run in the center field bleachers.”

Vitamin B1 didn’t hurt the Cardinals, but how much it helped is inconclusive. The Cardinals got off to a strong start, winning 31 of their first 42 games, and finished the season in second place at 97-56. The Dodgers won the pennant with a record of 100-54.

Years later, Webmd.com noted that naturally ingested “Vitamin B1 plays an important role in the body. It is needed to maintain the health of the nerves and the heart,” but added, “Most people who eat a normal diet do not need extra Vitamin B1.”

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Babe Dahlgren, known best as the player who replaced Lou Gehrig in the Yankees’ lineup, pioneered the use of film to instruct Cardinals batters.

In 1965, the Cardinals hired Dahlgren, 52, to be director of filming. He took 16-millimeter movie film of the Cardinals at spring training and during regular-season games and then worked with manager Red Schoendienst and coaches to analyze swings of the batters.

At the time, everyday use of film to study and instruct players was considered innovative in baseball.

Journeyman career

Ellsworth Dahlgren was born in San Francisco and got the nickname Babe from his stepfather, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Dahlgren debuted in the majors as the Opening Day first baseman for the Red Sox in 1935. In February 1937, he was dealt to the Yankees, but with Lou Gehrig at first base, Dahlgren appeared destined for a backup role.

Dahlgren’s fate changed on May 2, 1939, when Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games ended and Dahlgren replaced him. Boxscore

A right-handed batter, Dahlgren produced 89 RBI for the 1939 Yankees and hit a home run versus the Reds’ Bucky Walters in Game 2 of the World Series. Boxscore

Traded to the Braves after the 1940 season, Dahlgren also went on to play for the Cubs, Browns, Dodgers, Phillies and Pirates.

In 1943, when he was a National League all-star with the Phillies, Dahlgren had five hits in a game against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

The next year, Dahlgren hit .289 with 101 RBI for the 1944 Pirates.

His last season in the majors was 1946 and he finished with 1,056 hits.

Dahlgren said the person who helped him most with hitting was Jimmie Wilson, the former Cardinals catcher who was his manager with the Cubs. “Jim taught me more about hitting in 10 minutes at Chicago in 1941 than I had learned the 10 previous years as a player,” Dahlgren told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Baseball filmmaker

After leaving baseball, Dahlgren sold insurance, but his passion was filming batters. He invested in film equipment and taught himself how to use it.

“I bought my first camera in 1959,” Dahlgren told The Sporting News. “I shelled out $6,000. It was money I saved as a player.”

Dahlgren eventually spent much more on film equipment, including a slow-motion device.

“Babe spent four years perfecting his techniques, all without pay,” The Sporting News reported. “He even worked in a West Coast TV station for two years, minus salary, just so he could learn more about cameras and angles and the art of interviewing.”

Dahlgren went to spring training camps, shot film of batters and interviewed players such as Willie Mays and Ted Williams on camera about their approaches to hitting, according to The Sporting News.

He produced a film on hitting and titled it “Half a Second,” because “that’s how long it takes for a weak hitter to become a good one, that last half-second as the pitch comes to him,” Dahlgren said.

Dahlgren contacted owners of big-league clubs and tried to get them interested in his project. “Some listened and said no,” The Sporting News reported. “Most didn’t even listen.”

Sales job

After the 1963 season, Athletics owner Charlie Finley expressed interest in changing the dimensions of Municipal Stadium in Kansas City. Finley wanted to shorten the foul lines to help pull hitters slug home runs.

In a letter to Finley, Dahlgren wrote, “It is amazing that, in your short tenure in baseball, you have discovered the secret of the game _ hitting down the line.

“When a player hits straightaway, he has the pitcher, shortstop, second baseman and three bunched outfielders in line with a batted ball. When a player hits down the line, he has only the third baseman on the left field line and the first baseman on the right field line. If you design your park for pull hitting, you must have the batters with the know-how to take advantage of the short fences.”

About a month later, at the 1963 baseball winter meetings at Los Angeles, Dahlgren approached Finley, who was scheduled to leave for the airport in 40 minutes.

“We started talking and looking at my film,” Dahlgren said. “He called the airport and canceled his reservation. We spent almost six hours together.”

One and done

Finley hired Dahlgren to be the Athletics’ hitting coach and use film to analyze the swings of batters. According to The Sporting News, Dahlgren and the Athletics became the first in the majors to use film instruction on a full-time basis.

“This is what I’m interested in,” Dahlgren said. “It’s what I like to do. I feel this is my life’s work. I think I can help any hitter who is willing to work.”

Among the players on the Athletics’ 1964 big-league roster at spring training were Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan and Charlie Lau, who later became a hitting coach who relied on the use of video.

In his role with the 1964 Athletics, Dahlgren “started taking pictures in spring training and shot almost every game played during the regular season,” The Sporting News reported. “He had special showings every day for players who wanted to check their batting and pitching forms. Dahlgren also had a large backlog of film he used to demonstrate his theories on hitting.”

Dahlgren’s efforts were exemplary but the results were not. The 1964 Athletics finished in last place in the 10-team American League. They hit .239 and were eighth in the league in runs (621) and hits (1,321).

After the season, Dahlgren wasn’t retained and scout Whitey Herzog was added to the coaching staff.

Cardinals come calling

Dahlgren’s techniques with film intrigued Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam. On March 15, 1965, he hired Dahlgren and named him director of filming.

“I believe I helped some of the boys at Kansas City last year,” Dahlgren said to the Post-Dispatch, “but the expense, they felt, was too great.”

Howsam said, “I wanted Babe because I felt he could help established players to improve and young ones to learn.”

Dahlgren was hired to film Cardinals players and opponents and share the information with manager Red Schoendienst, hitting coach Mickey Vernon and pitching coach Joe Becker.

“One reason they may have been persuaded that this is a useful procedure is that Bill White was in a slump for many weeks last summer,” The Sporting News noted. “No one had a solution to his problems until White found his own answer with the help of home movies in his own basement.”

Unlike the cellar-dwelling Athletics, the Cardinals went to spring training in 1965 as the reigning World Series champions.

“I do believe if use of films of our players and of the opposition will help us win three or four games in a season,” Howsam told the Post-Dispatch, “the expenditure of $20,000 or so will be worthwhile.

“Use of films, on a limited basis, is not new,” Howsam said, “but not until last year has any ballclub made a day to day study of its hitters and pitchers.”

Howsam, who was involved with pro football’s Denver Broncos before joining the Cardinals, said, “Baseball, I’m convinced, has been far behind football in making realistic use of game and individual movies.”

Dahlgren lasted one season with the Cardinals. After hitting .272 in the 1964 championship season, the Cardinals hit .254 in 1965 and didn’t contend. First in the National League in hits (1,531) in 1964, the Cardinals ranked fourth (1,415) in 1965.

Howsam said the Cardinals did not get as much use out of the films as they had hoped.

After leaving the Cardinals, Dahlgren continued to help amateur players. Unfortunately, his films were destroyed in a house fire in 1980.

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In February 2021, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak answered questions submitted to him from members of the United Cardinal Bloggers. Through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of the group, Mozeliak has been accessible to bloggers for many years.

In remembrance of the late Lou Brock and Bob Gibson, I asked Mozeliak if he would share anecdotes about them. Here is his response:

“When I think back to my time with both those individuals _ and, really, you have to throw Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst into that group _ it was so unique for those of us that have been with the organization over the years to be able to say hello or sit down and talk baseball with them.

“The one thing I will say about Lou and Bob was that anytime you talked baseball with them, I would always leave there going, ‘Wow, I just picked up some wisdom about this game.’

“Their baseball IQ was off the charts and they understood the game. And, even though they weren’t necessarily attending our games, they were still watching. If you asked them a question, they were always willing to answer.

“That’s what I admired most about both of them. They genuinely cared about this organization. They understood their place in history and for all of us that were fortunate enough to be around them we should consider ourselves very lucky.”

Here is a link to answers Mozeliak gave to questions from blogger colleague Eugene Tierney: More from Mozeliak.

Here are links to other insights Mozeliak offered in response to questions I got to ask him over the years:

_ On what it is like to be a Cardinals front-office executive.

_ On how he rates the success of player acquisitions.

_ On the Cardinals’ global strategy and international approach.

_ On the special challenges of the 2020 season just before it was learned the Cardinals had an outbreak of CoVid.

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After he was fired from his job as Cardinals manager, Ken Boyer stayed with the organization and worked for his successor, Whitey Herzog.

Forty years ago, in February 1981, Boyer was at Cardinals spring training camp as an instructor, working with players who a year earlier he had managed.

It was one of multiple roles Boyer would fill for the Cardinals in 1981.

Helping hand

Cardinals general manager John Claiborne asked Boyer to stay with the franchise after Herzog replaced Boyer as manager in June 1980.

Boyer, an all-star and Gold Glove Award winner when he was Cardinals third baseman in the 1950s and 1960s, accepted the invitation and was assigned to visit the farm clubs, instructing and evaluating prospects.

In August 1980, Claiborne was fired and Herzog took on the additional role of general manager.

Boyer and Herzog became friends in 1966 when both were with the Mets. Boyer, the third baseman, and Herzog, a coach, shared an apartment in New York with Yankees players Roger Maris and Clete Boyer, Ken’s brother.

After he took over the baseball operations of the Cardinals in 1980, Herzog assigned Boyer to be an advance scout for the 1981 season.

“Whitey told me I’ve got the job that, in the back of his mind, he always thought he’d like to have,” Boyer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Boyer’s job was to watch opposing National League teams and file reports on strengths and weaknesses before the Cardinals played them. He also was tasked with watching six American League clubs to rate players the Cardinals might want to acquire.

In addition to the scouting job, Boyer was asked by Herzog to come to training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1981 and help out in early drills.

Boyer agreed and was on the field daily with the Cardinals players in preparation for the Grapefruit League exhibition season.

Staying informed

When he was done helping on the field at training camp, Boyer took on the scouting assignment with gusto. He told the Post-Dispatch two other organizations had made offers to him to be a minor-league manager, but he rejected both in order to stay with the Cardinals.

“I’m really excited about it,” Boyer said of the scouting role. “It really keeps you in touch with all the right people … and it keeps you in touch with the players. You can ask a ballplayer two questions and he might tell you what’s going on with his club and around the whole league.”

In June 1981, while the major-league players were on strike and scouting was curtailed, Boyer stepped in when the Cardinals needed an interim manager at their farm team in Gastonia, N.C., after Joe Rigoli was suspended for bumping an umpire during an argument.

Boyer was back scouting when the players ended their strike in August.

Ol’ Kentucky home

After the 1981 season, the Cardinals’ top farm team relocated from Springfield, Ill., to Louisville. The owner of the Louisville Redbirds, A. Ray Smith, asked the Cardinals for Boyer to be the manager. They’d been together before. When the Cardinals’ Class AAA farm team was at Tulsa, Smith was the owner and Boyer was manager from 1974-76. 

Boyer never had been to Louisville and wasn’t keen on giving up a job scouting major-league teams to return to riding buses in the minors, but he agreed to visit before making up his mind.

Dan Ulmer, co-chairman of a committee to raise funds to refurbish a football stadium into a ballpark for the Redbirds, told the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Boyer didn’t think too much about the idea at first. Before he came here, he probably gave Louisville about a rating of 3 on a scale of 10. When he saw the stadium and the enthusiasm, we quickly moved up to about an 8 in his estimation.”

On Nov. 13, 1981, Boyer was introduced as Redbirds manager at a news conference in Louisville.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Boyer told the Courier-Journal. “I welcome this challenge to get back into managing.”

Noting the widespread support for the return of a Class AAA ballclub to Louisville for the first time since 1972, Boyer said to the Associated Press, “It’s more like moving into a big-league market than a minor-league one.”

Attending the news conference as an observer was resident Pee Wee Reese, the former shortstop of the Dodgers. Reese had been team captain of the Dodgers, just like Boyer had been team captain of the Cardinals.

When Boyer spotted Reese, he said to him, “We’re going to make this Cardinals country, Captain. The Dodger Blue has gone as far as it can go. What do you think of that?”

“Reese shrugged,” Billy Reed of the Courier-Journal noted. “As a lifelong Louisvillan, he’s happy to see Class AAA baseball come back to town.”

Terrible time

Shortly after he was named Louisville manager, Boyer, 50, had a routine physical examination. The doctor ordered a biopsy, which revealed Boyer, a smoker, had inoperable cancer in both lungs and the esophagus, according to the book “Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain.”

Boyer, divorced, initially told only his children about the diagnosis, according to the biography. He began receiving treatment in St. Louis after Thanksgiving Day. Boyer eventually informed Cardinals management, according to the book, but requested no announcement about his condition.

In January 1982, Boyer went to Mexico to receive treatments of the drug laetrile. Extracted from apricot pits, laetrile was not approved in the United States as an effective treatment for cancer.

After Boyer failed to show for a promotional event in Louisville on Jan. 21, 1982, the Courier-Journal reported he was “seriously ill.”

A. Ray Smith confirmed to the newspaper that Boyer had lung cancer, but said, “In my judgment, I think he’ll manage here.”

Joe McDonald, assistant to Whitey Herzog, said, “We expect Ken Boyer to be our manager in Louisville this season.”

A month later, on Feb. 22, 1982, with spring training approaching, Smith said Boyer wouldn’t be able to manage the Louisville club. Boyer’s health problems “are very serious,” Smith told the Associated Press.

Smith wanted former Angels manager Jim Fregosi to replace Boyer, but Fregosi declined, the Courier-Journal reported.

Cardinals scout Joe Frazier, former manager of the Mets, was chosen to manage Louisville in 1982. Frazier and Boyer were Cardinals teammates in 1955 and 1956.

Seven months later, on Sept. 7, 1982, a month before the Cardinals became World Series champions, Boyer, 51, died in St. Louis. 

 

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