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Herman Franks was a player, coach and manager in the major leagues for five decades and it all began with the Cardinals.

A catcher who batted left-handed, Franks made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in 1939 as a backup to Mickey Owen.

With Owen as the starter and prospect Walker Cooper waiting in the minors, Franks was unlikely to get much playing time.

Eighty years ago, on Feb. 6, 1940, the Cardinals sold Franks’ contract to the Dodgers, who were managed by Leo Durocher, the former Cardinals shortstop. Durocher would play a pivotal role in Franks’ career.

Divine intervention

Franks was born in Price, Utah, where his father, an Italian immigrant, and mother settled.

In high school, Franks excelled at multiple sports. He opted to pursue a baseball career. At 18, Franks signed with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League and played a few games for them in 1932 and 1933. Overmatched, Franks was advised by manager Ossie Vitt to go home.

“He didn’t think I’d ever be a good ballplayer,” Franks told The Sporting News.

Franks enrolled at the University of Utah and played amateur baseball for a Catholic Youth Organization team. The Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City recommended Franks to Cardinals scout Charley Barrett.

In the spring of 1935, Barrett invited Franks to a Cardinals tryout camp in Houston. Franks impressed Barrett and was signed. The Cardinals sent him to a farm team in Jacksonville, Texas, tomato capital of the world, in the West Dixie League and paid him $100 a month.

“I was just glad to make the club and be back in baseball,” Franks said.

Looking the part

Franks worked his way up the Cardinals’ system. At Sacramento in 1937 and 1938, Franks played for manager Bill Killefer, a former big-league catcher who managed the Cubs from 1921-25 and was a coach for the 1926 World Series champion Cardinals.

“Men in the Cardinals organization have a high regard for Killefer’s judgment,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

At spring training in 1939, Franks, 25, fulfilled expectations.

“Franks is built for catching, looks like he has been behind the plate all his life, throws accurately and easily and has the reputation of being a smart receiver,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals opened the 1939 season with Franks and Don Padgett as backups to Owen.

“Pitchers like to throw to Herman Franks.” the Post-Dispatch reported. “He chatters incessantly behind the plate, makes a fine target, isn’t afraid to assume responsibility and is said to be a good thrower.”

Twist of fate

Franks started for the first time in the majors on May 2, 1939, against the Braves at Boston. It was a bittersweet experience.

In the second inning, Franks drove in Johnny Mize from second base with his first big-league hit, a looping single to left against Danny MacFayden.

Moments later, Franks wrenched his left leg when he caught his spikes in the bag sliding back to first while eluding a pickoff throw, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. Franks departed and was replaced by Owen. Boxscore

Sidelined for three weeks, Franks seldom played when he returned.

Sad times

On July 4, 1939, Franks was saddened to learn Charley Barrett, the scout who gave him his big break, died of heart disease at 68.

After the Cardinals played a night game at Cincinnati on July 6, manager Ray Blades and four players, Franks, Owen, Don Gutteridge and Pepper Martin, returned to St. Louis for Barrett’s funeral service the next morning while the rest of the team went to Pittsburgh for a series against the Pirates.

Among the pallbearers were Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, executive Branch Rickey and Martin. According to the Globe-Democrat, “Martin was always considered by Barrett as the greatest player he ever discovered.”

The day after Barrett’s funeral, Franks was sent to a farm club in Columbus, Ohio, after the Cardinals tried to trade him.

“Wonder how much truth there is to the report that the Cardinals offered catcher Herman Franks and $30,000 to Kansas City (a Yankees farm club) for Joe DiMaggio’s brother, Vince,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Franks batted .297 for Columbus and was called up to the Cardinals in September. For the season, Franks had one hit in 17 at-bats for the Cardinals.

Dodgers days

Killefer, a coach on Durocher’s staff with the 1939 Dodgers, recommended the club acquire Franks.

The Dodgers opened the 1940 season with Babe Phelps as their starting catcher and a pair of former Cardinals, Franks and Gus Mancuso, as backups. In 1941, Owen, acquired from the Cardinals, was the Dodgers’ starting catcher, with Franks and Phelps in reserve.

The Dodgers won the 1941 National League pennant.

In Game 1 of the 1941 World Series at Yankee Stadium, Durocher lifted Owen for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. In the ninth, with the Yankees ahead, 3-2, the Dodgers had Joe Medwick on second, Pee Wee Reese on first and one out, with Franks due up. Durocher would have preferred to send a pinch-hitter, Augie Galan, but he couldn’t because Franks was their only available catcher.

On the first pitch from Red Ruffing, Franks grounded to second baseman Joe Gordon, who fielded the ball and flipped to shortstop Phil Rizzuto.

Rizzuto tagged the bag just before Reese arrived. Reese slid hard into Rizzuto, hurling him into the air, but not before Rizzuto made a throw to first to nab Franks and complete a game-ending double play. Boxscore

Career choices

Franks enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and served for four years. After his discharge in 1946, Franks, 32, played for the Dodgers’ Montreal farm club.

Rickey, who left the Cardinals for the Dodgers, made Franks the manager of the St. Paul farm team in 1947. In August, the Athletics, desperate for catching help, inquired about Franks.

“Mr. Rickey gave me my choice of staying on as a manager in St. Paul or going back to the big leagues again as a catcher,” Franks said.

Franks joined the Athletics for the last month of the 1947 season and was with them in 1948, too.

In 1949, Durocher, who became Giants manager, hired Franks to be a coach. Franks was a Giants coach for Durocher from 1949-55.

In his book, “The Echoing Green,” author Joshua Prager revealed Durocher’s Giants stole signs of opposing catchers. Franks used a telescope from a perch above the center field wall at the Polo Grounds to view the signs and relay them via a buzzer system, according to the book.

When the Giants fired manager Al Dark after the 1964 season, Franks replaced him. He managed the Giants for four seasons (1965-68) and finished in second place each year, including 1967 and 1968 when the Cardinals prevailed.

Franks also managed the Cubs from 1977-79.

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In the first major-league game he played, Dusty Baker was teammates with the fathers of two of the managers he will compete against in 2020.

Baker, who will turn 71 in June 2020 during his first season as Astros manager, was 19 when he debuted in the majors with the Braves against the Astros in 1968.

Two of the teammates who appeared with Baker in the game were Felipe Alou and Tito Francona.

Alou’s son, Luis Rojas, will manage the Mets in 2020 and will face Baker when the Astros play them in April and June this regular season.

Francona’s son, Terry Francona, will manage the Indians in 2020 and will face Baker when the Astros play them in June and July this regular season.

Music man

Johnnie B. Baker was born in Riverside, Calif. When he was a boy, his mother called him Dusty because he often got dust all over himself while playing, according to The New Yorker magazine.

Baker was a gifted athlete with a passion for music. He played the piano as a youth.

“Deep down inside, I don’t think of myself so much as a baseball man as I see myself as a music man, a blues man and much more than that,” Baker said in his 2015 book “Kiss The Sky.”

When he was 10, Baker wanted to stop playing baseball. “I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was playing ball,” Baker recalled to The Sporting News, “but, thankfully, my father wouldn’t let me quit. He kept me going, kept up my interest in playing.”

After he moved with his parents to the Sacramento area, Baker was the lead singer and only black member of a garage band. “I was going to be Hootie and the Blowfish before Hootie,” Baker said.

He excelled in multiple prep sports, including baseball, and was selected by the Braves in the 26th round of the amateur draft in June 1967, a week before he turned 18. The scout who recommended him to the Braves was Bob Zuk, who signed Willie Stargell for the Pirates and Reggie Jackson for the Athletics.

As an 18th birthday present, Baker’s mother bought tickets for him and a friend to the three-day June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, featuring performances by Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding, among others.

Turning pro

After signing with the Braves in August 1967, Baker reported to their Austin, Texas, farm club. Austin was managed by Hub Kittle, who would become the pitching coach for the 1982 World Series champion Cardinals.

Two of Austin’s most prominent players were Cito Gaston and Walt Hriniak. Like Baker, Gaston would become a Braves outfielder and a big-league manager, leading the Blue Jays to World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. Hriniak would become an influential hitting coach who mentored Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Frank Thomas, among others.

Baker joined Austin too late in the season to do much, but it was a different story the next year. He hit .342 for the farm club at Greenwood, S.C., in 1968 and was called up to the Braves in September.

Big time

On Sept. 7, 1968, the Astros led the Braves, 2-0, at Atlanta when Baker appeared in a big-league game for the first time, batting for a future Hall of Famer, pitcher Phil Niekro, with one out and the bases empty. Facing Denny Lemaster, Baker grounded out to short.

In addition to Felipe Alou and Tito Francona, Baker’s teammates in the game included four future Hall of Famers: players Hank Aaron, Joe Torre and Niekro, plus coach Satchel Paige.

The game had four players who would become big-league managers: Alou, Baker, Torre and the Astros’ Doug Rader. Boxscore

Baker made the most of his stint with the 1968 Braves. “You see the way he’s hitting the ball in batting practice?” Braves manager Lum Harris said to the Atlanta Constitution.

Baker’s first big-league hit was a single against the Astros’ Mike Cuellar, a former Cardinal. Boxscore His second hit was a single versus future Hall of Famer Juan Marichal of the Giants. Boxscore

“Baker will be a big-league star,” Lum Harris said. “I’d bet on that.”

After the season, Baker returned to California. In his book, he said he was on a street in San Francisco when he had a chance encounter with Jimi Hendrix and smoked a joint with him.

Distinguished career

In 1972, Baker’s first full season with the Braves, Hank Aaron said, “He does everything now but hit with consistent power. He’ll do that. I think he’ll hit between 25 and 30 homers a year in the future.”

Baker hit 20 or more home runs in a season six times, including a career high of 30 with the 1977 Dodgers.

In 19 seasons as a big-league player with the Braves, Dodgers, Giants and Athletics, Baker had 1,981 hits and 1,013 RBI.

The 2020 season will be his 23rd in the majors as a manager. Before accepting the Astros job in January 2020, Baker managed the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals.

Baker played for 11 managers in the big leagues: Lum Harris, Eddie Mathews, Clyde King and Connie Ryan with the Braves; Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda with the Dodgers; Frank Robinson and Danny Ozark with the Giants; and Jackie Moore, Jeff Newman and Tony La Russa with the Athletics.

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After Jesse Haines transformed into a knuckleball pitcher, the Cardinals transformed into a National League powerhouse.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 1, 1970, Haines, 76, was rewarded for his achievements when he got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Haines pitched 18 seasons (1920-37) for the Cardinals. When he joined them after pitching one game for the Reds, the Cardinals were perennial losers. He helped them become perennial contenders.

Haines pitched for five pennant-winning Cardinals clubs and three World Series champions. The right-hander remains the Cardinals’ all-time leader in games pitched (554) and ranks second in wins (210), complete games (209) and innings pitched (3,203.2).

Down on the farm

Haines was born and raised in Ohio farm country near Dayton. He excelled at baseball as a youth and became a professional at age 20 when he joined an independent minor-league team in Saginaw, Mich.

In July 1918, Haines was pitching for another minor-league club in Hutchinson, Kan., when his contract was purchased by the Reds. On July 20, 1918, two days before his 25th birthday, Haines made his major-league debut, allowing one run in five innings of relief versus the Braves at Cincinnati. Boxscore

The Reds, managed by Christy Mathewson, released Haines soon after his debut, but he revived his career by posting a 21-5 record for a minor-league team in Kansas City in 1919.

Multiple major-league teams, including the Cardinals, were interested in Haines. The cash-strapped Cardinals finished 54-83 in 1919 and 51-78 the year before. Manager Branch Rickey, whose farm system wasn’t in place yet, was desperate for talent and was determined not to let Haines get away. Rickey borrowed $10,000 from banks in order to purchase Haines’ contract from the Kansas City club.

Perfect pitch

Haines turned 27 in his first season with the Cardinals. Relying primarily on a fastball, he earned 13 wins in 1920 and 18 in 1921. With Haines leading the pitching staff and Rogers Hornsby producing runs, the 1921 Cardinals were 87-66.

At spring training in 1922, Haines, looking to add a pitch, approached Athletics knuckleballer Eddie Rommel before an exhibition game and asked for a lesson.

“Eddie would dig his fingernails into the cover of the ball and just use the front knuckles,” Haines told the Dayton Daily News. “I tried it, but couldn’t control the ball that way.”

Haines worked throughout the 1922 season to find a comfortable grip for throwing the knuckler. Haines said he settled on “using the first and middle fingers and pressing the two knuckles down between the seams. I put my thumb down under and it worked fine.”

Haines unveiled his knuckleball in 1923 and earned 20 wins for the Cardinals. The knuckler became his signature pitch.

“When I threw sidearm, it broke down and away,” Haines said. “When I threw overhand, it broke straight down. I knew exactly what the pitch would do.”

Haines threw his pitch much harder than other knuckleballers.

“He must have had exceptionally strong fingers, which he used like talons,” syndicated columnist Red Smith observed. “He gripped the ball with the very tips, went up high on his toes in the middle of his delivery and came over the top with a furious motion.

“Because of the way he gripped a baseball and the way he threw it,” Smith wrote, “it was a common occurrence for him to finish a game with his fingertips bleeding.”

Determined to win

Haines was a fierce competitor who flashed a temper when he lost.

“He could be kind, gentlemanly, considerate and philosophical, except when he pitched,” Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted. “He was the darndest hard loser.”

In 1935, when Haines was 42 and called “Pops” by his teammates, he surprised rookie outfielder Terry Moore by tearing up the clubhouse in Cincinnati after a loss to the Reds.

“I never forgot how much Haines expected of himself and of others,” Moore said.

Among Haines’ top performances for the Cardinals:

_ On July 17, 1924, Haines pitched a no-hitter against the Braves at St. Louis. Casey Stengel made the last out on a grounder to Hornsby at second. Boxscore

_ On Oct, 5, 1926, Haines pitched a shutout and hit a home run in Game 3 of the World Series versus the Yankees. It was the first World Series game played at St. Louis. Boxscore

_ Exactly four years later, on Oct. 5, 1930, Haines pitched a four-hitter and outdueled Lefty Grove to win Game 4 of the World Series against the Athletics at St. Louis. Haines also drove in a run with a single. Boxscore

Game 7 winner

Haines was overshadowed in the biggest win of his career.

On Oct. 10, 1926, Haines got the start in Game 7 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Throwing mostly hard knuckleballs, Haines was effective but the effort took a toll on his fingers.

In the seventh inning, with the Cardinals ahead, 3-2, a big blister developed on a finger Haines used to grip the knuckler. Struggling to control the pitch, Haines yielded a single and two walks. With the bases full of Yankees and two outs, Hornsby, the Cardinals’ player-manager, made a mound visit.

“When I showed the blister to Hornsby, he decided to take me out,” Haines told United Press International.

Grover Cleveland Alexander, who started and won Game 6, relieved Haines, struck out Tony Lazzeri to escape the bases-loaded jam and shut out the Yankees over the last two innings, clinching the Cardinals’ first World Series championship.

“I went straight to the clubhouse and didn’t see Alex strike out Lazzeri,” Haines said.

Haines was the winning pitcher but Alexander became the legend. Boxscore

Magic moment

Haines was 44 when he pitched his last game for the Cardinals in 1937. He was 210-158 for them in his career. He also was 3-1 in four World Series.

After his baseball career, Haines was a county auditor in Ohio.

When informed of his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Haines said, “I’d hoped that if I ever was going to get into the Hall it would come before I passed on. Now it’s happened. I’m kind of broke up about it.”

The Veterans Committee considered candidates who had been out of the game for 20 years or more. Among the committee members were Haines’ Cardinals teammate, Frankie Frisch, and retired Post-Dispatch journalist J. Roy Stockton.

“Haines is a worthy, worthy man,” Frisch told the Associated Press. “He was a great competitor, a fine fellow on and off the field. Any club would want a fellow like him.”

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Larry Walker, who completed his career with the Cardinals, had one of his greatest games as their opponent.

On April 28, 1999, Walker hit three home runs for the Rockies in their 9-7 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

Walker was the first opposing player to hit three homers in a game at St. Louis since the Expos’ Larry Parrish did it 22 years earlier in 1977.

It was the second of three times Walker hit three home runs in a game for the Rockies. He also did it against his former club, the Expos, at Montreal in April 1997 and against the Indians at Cleveland in June 2004, two months before he was traded to the Cardinals.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Walker was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

An outfielder who batted left-handed, Walker began his career with the Expos and spent his prime seasons with the Rockies before finishing with the Cardinals.

In 144 regular-season games for the Cardinals, Walker batted .286 with 26 home runs and 79 RBI. He also hit six home runs in 15 postseason games for the 2004 Cardinals. In 150 regular-season games against the Cardinals, Walker hit .300 with 28 home runs and 110 RBI.

Canadian club

Born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Walker wanted to be a professional hockey player. When a junior-level hockey team coach told him he’d be their third-string goalie, Walker, 17, switched to baseball, according to the Associated Press.

Signed by the Expos in 1984, Walker became a prized prospect in their farm system when he hit 33 home runs in 1986 and 26 in 1987.

On Jan. 16, 1988, while playing winter baseball in Mexico, Walker tore ligaments in a knee when he slipped while crossing home plate. He sat out the 1988 season and “there were times I didn’t think I’d make it” to the majors, Walker told the Montreal Gazette.

“I wondered, ‘What am I going to do now? Be a garbageman?’ ” Walker said.

Walker was with Class AAA Indianapolis when he got called up to the Expos in August 1989. He became the fifth Canadian to play for the Expos, following Claude Raymond, Larry Landreth, Bill Atkinson and Doug Frobel.

Though he grew up 2,300 miles from Montreal, Walker said, “This is one big country. We’re one big family.”

In his debut game against the Giants at Montreal, Walker had a single and three walks in four plate appearances. Boxscore

“What I liked about him is he had an idea about what he wanted to do every time he went to the plate,” Expos manager Buck Rodgers said.

According to the Montreal Gazette, when Walker reached base for the fourth time in the game, Giants first baseman Will Clark turned to him and said, “Geez, three walks. Not bad. They’re pitching you like a 10-year veteran.”

At spring training in 1990, Walker impressed the Expos with his dedication. In a four-day stretch, he took 500 swings per day in the batting cage. “I can’t believe how hard he works,” said Expos hitting coach Hal McRae.

Walker won the Expos’ right field job and never looked back. He hit .281 in six seasons (1989-1994) with the Expos before becoming a free agent and signing with the Rockies.

Powering up

Walker won the first of his three National League batting titles in 1998, but a rib injury sidelined him for the Rockies’ first seven games of the 1999 season.

When he returned to the lineup, he went homerless in his first eight games before he busted out against the Cardinals on a Wednesday night in St. Louis.

Walker had four hits, including the three home runs, and a career-best eight RBI in the game. Boxscore

The performance drew comparisons to Mark McGwire, the Cardinals’ first baseman, who witnessed it, but Walker dismissed such talk.

“My name is Larry, not Mark,” Walker told the Associated Press. “I don’t have Popeye arms. I’ve just got little tiny ones.”

In the opening inning, after the first two Rockies batters singled, Walker hit a three-run homer on a 1-and-2 pitch from right-hander Jose Jimenez.

With the Rockies ahead, 4-3, in the second, Walker batted with runners on first and third, two outs, and hit the first pitch from Jimenez for another three-run home run.

Walker had three hits, all home runs, in four career at-bats versus Jimenez. The last also was in a three-homer game for Walker in 2004 when Jimenez was with the Indians. Walker and Jimenez were Rockies teammates from 2000-2003.

Walker’s third home run of the game at St. Louis came in the seventh. Facing Scott Radinsky with a runner on first and one out, Walker hit a 1-and-2 pitch from the left-hander for a two-run homer, giving the Rockies a 9-6 lead.

All three home runs were hit over the right-field wall.

In 17 seasons in the majors, Walker batted .313 with 2,160 hits, 383 home runs, 1,311 RBI and a .400 on-base percentage. He won the Gold Glove Award for his outfield play seven times.

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The Cardinals gave Ed Sprague a chance to become a professional ballplayer and make a connection with Sparky Anderson.

Sprague died Jan. 10, 2020, at 74. A right-hander, he pitched for eight seasons in the major leagues with the Athletics, Reds, Cardinals and Brewers.

It took a series of career turns before Sprague pitched in a big-league game for the Cardinals in his second stint with them.

Good advice

Sprague was born in Boston and went to high school in Hayward, Calif., about 15 miles south of Oakland. He didn’t play prep sports because he had a job after school at a furniture store.

In March 1964, Sprague, 18, enlisted in the Army. While stationed in Mainz, Germany, as a paratrooper, he joined the military base fast-pitch softball team as a catcher. Sprague had a strong arm and an Army colleague, former minor-leaguer Dick Holland, encouraged him to pursue a baseball career, The Sporting News reported.

After his discharge from the Army in March 1966, Sprague, 20, enrolled at a baseball school in West Palm Beach, Fla., run by big-league infielder Dick Howser.

Four days later, the school held a tryout camp attended by big-league scouts. “About 100 kids tried out that day,” Spague told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals scout Tommy Thomas made an offer and Sprague signed. “I didn’t get a bonus,” he told The Sporting News.

Fast learner

Relyng exclusively on a fastball, Sprague pitched in 13 games for two farm clubs in 1966 and posted a 2.66 ERA.

In 1967, Sprague, 21, was assigned to Modesto, a California League team managed by Sparky Anderson.

“He was so raw and inexperienced then that he didn’t even know how to stand correctly on the pitching rubber,” Anderson told The Sporting News. “You almost had to lead him to the mound.”

Throwing with a sidearm delivery, Sprague learned quickly and had an 11-7 record and 3.12 ERA for league champion Modesto.

After the season, Anderson joined the Reds as a minor-league manager and Sprague reported to the Cardinals’ 1967 fall Florida Instructional League team. Playing for manager George Kissell, Sprague had a 1.74 ERA in 11 starts.

Left off the Cardinals’ 40-man winter roster, Sprague was selected by the Athletics with the first pick in the Nov. 28, 1967, minor-league draft. Athletics executive vice president Joe DiMaggio made the announcement at the baseball winter meetings in Mexico City.

Finding his footing

Sprague pitched well at spring training in 1968 and earned a spot on the Athletics’ Opening Day roster. The Athletics moved from Kansas City to Oakland after the 1967 season, meaning Sprague would begin his big-league career with a team located a 15-minute drive from where he went to high school.

“He throws a sidearm pitch with considerable speed,” The Sporting News noted. “It sinks.”

On April 16, 1968, in his second major-league appearance, Sprague got the win with three scoreless innings in relief of starter Catfish Hunter at Yankee Stadium.

The outing started ominously when Sprague lost his balance on the second pitch he threw and fell off the mound.

“I don’t know what happened,” Sprague told The Sporting News. “All of a sudden, there I was flat on my face and everyone was laughing at me.”

Sprague regained his composure and finished the inning by getting Mickey Mantle to fly out to left.

In the ninth, the Yankees had a runner at second with two outs when Sprague sealed the win by getting his baseball school operator, Dick Howser, to ground out. Boxscore

Come and go

Sprague pitched for the Athletics in 1968 and 1969, but spent the 1970 season in the minors. The Reds, who won the National League pennant in 1970 in Sparky Anderson’s first season as manager, acquired him after the World Series.

In 1971, Sprague was assigned to the Reds’ top farm club at Indianapolis. The manager, Vern Rapp, had been in the Cardinals’ system when Sprague was there. Rapp taught Sprague how to throw a changeup and the pitch helped him achieve nine wins and five saves for Indianapolis.

The Reds called up Sprague for the last month of the 1971 season and he allowed no earned runs in 11 innings. “It’s pretty well known there are some among the Reds brass who think highly of Ed Sprague,” The Sporting News reported.

In 1972, when the Reds won the pennant, Sprague was 3-3 in 33 games. The Reds played the Athletics in the World Series, but Sprague didn’t pitch.

The next year, he was 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA when the Reds traded him to the Cardinals on July 27, 1973, for infielder Ed Crosby and catcher Gene Dusan. The Cardinals also got a player to be named, first baseman Roe Skidmore.

“My arm is fine,” Sprague told the Post-Dispatch. “My trouble has been lack of work.”

In his first appearance for the Cardinals, on July 29, 1973, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at Chicago, Sprague relieved starter Rich Folkers with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh.

Jose Cardenal hit Sprague’s first pitch on the ground. “It looked like an easy out,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The ball took a high hop and bounced over the head of third baseman Ken Reitz for a fluke single, tying the score at 4-4. The Cubs won, 5-4. Boxscore

“I did what I set out to do, make him hit the ball on the ground,” Sprague said.

Sprague made eight appearances for the Cardinals and was 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA when they sent him to the minor leagues, preferring to go with a left-hander, John Andrews, as a reliever.

In the genes

After three appearances with Class AAA Tulsa, Sprague’s contract was sold by the Cardinals to the Brewers on Sept. 4, 1973.

Sprague had his best big-league season in 1974 with the Brewers. He was 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 starts and 0-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 relief appearances.

Sprague pitched eight seasons in the majors and was 17-23 with nine saves and a 3.84 ERA.

His son Ed Sprague Jr., was a big-league third baseman for 11 seasons, mostly with the Blue Jays, and played in two World Series with Toronto.

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Larry Walker hit two home runs in a game five times for the Cardinals, including once in the postseason.

A three-time National League batting champion who spent most of his career with the Expos and Rockies, Walker was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Jan. 21, 2020, by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

A left-handed batter and outfielder, Walker played his last two seasons for the Cardinals after being acquired from the Rockies on Aug. 6, 2004.

In 17 seasons (1989-2005) in the majors, Walker hit for average (.313) and power (383 homers).

With the Cardinals, Walker hit 26 home runs in the regular season and six in the postseason.

Here are Walker’s two-homer games with St. Louis:

Solving Nomo

On Sept. 12, 2004, at Los Angeles, Walker was 4-for-5 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored in the Cardinals’ 7-6 win over the Dodgers. Boxscore

Walker produced two homers and a double against Dodgers starter Hideo Nomo.

“I never think about hitting home runs,” Walker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I only think about hitting the ball hard.”

In the sixth inning, with the score tied at 6-6, Walker’s single against Edwin Jackson moved Tony Womack from first to third with none out. Womack scored the winning run when Albert Pujols grounded into a double play.

Mr. October

In the first game of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers at St. Louis on Oct. 5, 2004, Walker had two solo home runs in an 8-3 Cardinals victory.

Walker’s first home run, against starter Odalis Perez, sparked the Cardinals to a five-run third inning. His other was against Giovanni Carrara in the seventh. Boxscore and Video

“My heart was pounding the whole game,” Walker said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Walker became the third Cardinals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game, joining Willie McGee (Game 3, 1982 World Series) and Ron Gant (Game 3, 1996 NL Championship Series).

Walker was playing in the postseason for the second time in his career. The first time was nine years earlier for the Rockies in the 1995 NL Division Series versus the Braves.

“Normally, I’m up in my cabin in British Columbia with my brother and some fishing buddies for some salmon that are running up the rivers,” Walker said. “I’d much rather be here.”

Native son

A Canadian, Walker took pride in hitting two home runs at Toronto in a 7-0 Cardinals triumph over the Blue Jays on June 14, 2005.

Walker’s pair of two-run homers against Chad Gaudin provided support for Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, a former Blue Jay, who pitched a one-hitterBoxscore

The home runs were Walker’s first in Canada since he hit one for the Rockies against the Expos’ Carl Pavano at Montreal on May 8, 2002. Boxscore

Walker was hitless in 10 career at-bats in Toronto before hitting the home runs.

“I feel good about it,” Walker told the Canadian Press. “I’ve had two-homer games before, but this one felt a lot better.”

Walker said he worked with hitting coach Hal McRae before the game and made “a couple of tweaks” in his stance.

“I moved my front foot to try and get a different wave on the bat, a different plant on my foot,” Walker said.

Pain in the neck

On June 29, 2005, Walker hit a pair of two-run homers against Reds starter Ramon Ortiz in an 11-3 Cardinals victory at St. Louis. Boxscore

“Don’t expect this every day,” Walker said.

Walker, 38, said he got a cortisone shot before the game to relieve discomfort from a herniated disc in his neck.

Hit man

The last two-homer game of Walker’s career came on Oct. 1, 2005, in a 9-6 Cardinals win against the Reds at St. Louis. Ortiz again was the pitcher. The home runs were the last of Walker’s career. Boxscore and Video

Walker was 6-for-13 versus Ortiz in his career. All six hits were for extra bases (four home runs and two doubles).

In two seasons with St. Louis, Walker batted .286 and had an on-base percentage of .387.

For his big-league career, Walker had 2,160 hits in 1,988 regular-season games and an on-base percentage of .400.

He won NL batting titles in 1998 (.363), 1999 (.379) and 2001 (.350). In 1997, he was the recipient of the NL Most Valuable Player Award. He had 208 hits, 143 runs scored, 130 RBI, 49 home runs and 33 stolen bases for the 1997 Rockies.

Walker also was the recipient of seven Gold Glove awards for his outfield play.

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