Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

In their two matchups against one another, Randy Johnson, as expected, pitched like a Hall of Famer, but Jose Jimenez unexpectedly was better.

Twenty years ago, on June 25, 1999, Jimenez pitched a no-hitter for the Cardinals, beating Johnson and the Diamondbacks, 1-0, at Phoenix.

Two weeks later, on July 5, 1999, Jimenez pitched a two-hitter, beating Johnson and the Diamondbacks, 1-0, at St. Louis.

The outcomes were surprising because the Diamondbacks led the National League in runs scored in 1999 and Jimenez was battered by nearly every other opponent.

Prized prospect

Jimenez, a right-hander from the Dominican Republic, signed as an amateur free agent with the Cardinals in October 1991 when he was 18. He spent his first three seasons as a professional in the Dominican Summer League before the Cardinals brought him to the United States in 1995 to pitch in their minor-league system.

His breakout season in the minors occurred with Class AA Arkansas in 1998 when he was 15-6 in 26 starts. Jimenez credited Arkansas pitching coach Rich Folkers, a former Cardinals reliever, with helping him develop an effective sinker, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals rewarded Jimenez by bringing him to the big leagues in September 1998. After making his major-league debut in relief against the Reds, Jimenez made three starts and was the winning pitcher in each, beating the Pirates and Brewers on the road and the Expos at home.

With his 3-0 record and 2.95 ERA in four appearances for the 1998 Cardinals, Jimenez was regarded a special prospect. When the Cardinals tried to acquire second baseman Fernando Vina from the Brewers after the 1998 season, they were told they’d have to give up Jimenez and pitcher Manny Aybar, according to the Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals declined.

Mix and match

Jimenez, 25, opened the 1999 season as a Cardinals starter, but the success he experienced in 1998 didn’t carry over.

He entered his June start at Phoenix with a 3-7 record and 6.69 ERA. Matched against Johnson, the left-hander who was at the peak of his Hall of Fame career, the game figured to be lopsided in favor of the Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks led the National League in hitting at .287 coming into the game.

Relying on a mix of pitches, Jimenez was in command from the start.

“I was throwing very well,” he said to the Arizona Republic. “I was hitting my spots. I’ve been working on my mechanics, my sinker.”

Said Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez: “His fastball was moving really well. His changeup was effective. He was nasty.”

Jimenez yielded a one-out walk to Steve Finley in the second, but the next batter grounded into a double play. In the third, Jimenez hit Andy Fox with a pitch, but retired the next two batters to end the inning.

“All his pitches were working to all parts of the plate,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

Dueling shutouts

In the sixth, Fox hit a drive to right-center, but right fielder Eric Davis reached down, snared the sinking liner and held onto the ball as he rolled onto the ground.

The Diamondbacks got their last baserunner in the seventh when Gonzalez drew a one-out walk, but Jimenez coaxed the next batter to ground into a double play.

“His ball was moving all over the place,” Johnson said. “He was in control. He made a lot of our hitters frustrated.”

Johnson was tough on the Cardinals as well. He retired the first nine batters in a row before Joe McEwing led off the fourth with a double. The Cardinals got doubles from Edgar Renteria in the fifth and David Howard in the sixth, but couldn’t score.

In the ninth, with the game scoreless, Johnson issued one-out walks to Darren Bragg and Mark McGwire. After Davis struck out, Thomas Howard hit a broken-bat single to left, scoring Bragg.

Flying high

In the bottom of the ninth, Fox led off and struck out. David Dellucci, a left-handed batter, stepped in for Johnson and looped a liner toward right-center.

“I thought it would drop in,” Dellucci said.

Davis darted toward the ball, caught it near his shoe tops, tumbled and held on for the out.

“I know he’s a good outfielder,” said Dellucci, a teammate of Davis in 1997 with the Orioles. “Anybody else, it might have been in there.”

Jimenez completed the no-hitter by getting Tony Womack to ground out to second. [Boxscore and video of last out]

“This is something special,” Jimenez said. “I feel great. I feel like I want to fly.”

The no-hitter was the first by a Cardinal since Bob Forsch accomplished the feat against the Expos on Sept. 26, 1983.

Jimenez struck out eight. Johnson, who yielded five hits and two walks, struck out 14. Video of entire game

Snake bit

Jimenez got one more win for the Cardinals. When the Diamondbacks came to St. Louis, he retired the first 13 batters in order before Finley doubled with one out in the fifth. The only other hit Jimenez allowed was a single by Fox leading off the sixth.

Once again, Thomas Howard drove in the lone run. His single against Johnson scored McGwire from second with two outs in the fourth.

Jimenez walked one and struck out nine. Johnson gave up four hits and four walks, striking out 12. Boxscore

Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said Jimenez “was relaxed and let it all flow. When he has pitched good, that’s the way he has looked.”

Jimenez never found the groove again with the Cardinals. He finished the 1999 season with a 5-14 record and 5.85 ERA. He was 2-0 versus the Diamondbacks and 3-14 against everyone else.

On Nov. 16, 1999, the Cardinals traded three pitchers _ Jimenez, Aybar and Rich Croushore _ and infielder Brent Butler to the Rockies for pitchers Darryl Kile, Dave Veres and Luther Hackman.

The Rockies made Jimenez a reliever and in four seasons with them he was 15-23 with 102 saves and a 4.13 ERA. He had 41 saves for the 2002 Rockies.

Jimenez became a free agent after the 2003 season, signed with the Indians and finished his big-league career with them in 2004.

In seven big-league seasons, Jimenez was 24-44 with 110 saves and a 4.92 ERA.

Read Full Post »

Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi staged a sit-in at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis to protest an umpire’s call favorable to the Cardinals.

Lucchesi, who managed the Phillies (1970-72), Rangers (1975-77) and Cubs (1987), died on June 8, 2019, at 92.

After managing in the minor leagues for 19 years, Lucchesi (pronounced Lou-Kay-See) got his first chance in the majors with the 1970 Phillies, a team in a rebuilding phase.

Lucchesi was promoted from the minors “for one reason: Win back the hearts and minds of fans who abandoned the Phillies in droves,” Philadelphia columnist Bill Conlin wrote.

After a 10-9 record in April, the 1970 Phillies were 10-18 in May.

In seeking help for his team from a higher power, “I even lit a candle in church in Pittsburgh, and it blew out,” Lucchesi said to Sports Illustrated.

Dividing line

On June 27, 1970, the Phillies entered their Saturday afternoon game at St. Louis with a 31-37 record and were in fifth place in the six-team National League East.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the score tied at 8-8, Jim Beauchamp, starting in center field in place of injured Jose Cardenal, led off and lined a drive to deep right-center against Joe Hoerner, a former Cardinal.

As the ball reached the wall at the 386-foot mark, “two fans reached out and one of them touched the ball, which fell to the ground,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Phillies thought Beauchamp’s hit should be declared a ground-rule double because of fan interference, but second-base umpire Tony Venzon signaled a home run, giving the Cardinals a 9-8 lead.

Luchessi ran out of the dugout to argue with Venzon and was joined by six other Phillies, who circled the umpire near second base. Venzon explained to them the ball hit above the yellow line at the top of the wall and therefore was a home run.

The Phillies disagreed, saying the fan touched the ball as it hit the wall below the yellow line.

Call stands

According to the Inquirer, a television replay supported the Phillies’ argument, and Cardinals broadcasters “said they thought the ball hit the arm of a fan reaching downward from the first row of the bleachers,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“He reached below the yellow line,” said Phillies right fielder Byron Browne, a former Cardinal.

Said Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa: “There was no way that could be a home run.”

The Phillies claimed Venzon hadn’t run into the outfield to get a close look at the play. Lucchesi asked him to consult with the other umpires.

“Tony, getting it right is the most important thing,” Lucchesi said to him.

Venzon replied, “No, that’s it.”

“What got me so hot at Venzon was him refusing to ask the umpires for help,” Lucchesi said.

Temper tantrum

Outraged, Lucchesi “kicked clouds of dirt and gestured wildly,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported. According to the Inquirer, “a wild argument continued for several minutes,” and Lucchesi was ejected.

Lucchesi said he wanted to run out to the outfield wall and ask the fan to show Venzon where he touched the ball, “but I got so hot at jawing with Venzon I forgot what I really was going to do.”

Instead, Lucchesi plopped down on the second-base bag. Venzon ordered him to leave the field, but Lucchesi refused to budge.

“When I sat down on the base, I told him I was staying put until he asked his buddies,” Lucchesi said.

“He knew he was wrong and he didn’t hustle on the play.”

Magic word

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, “Park police were ready to remove Frank off the base.”

Phillies coach George Myatt arrived, looked Lucchesi in the eye and said, “Luke.”

The word got Lucchesi’s attention and he got up and left the field.

Myatt rescued Lucchesi with a pre-arranged code.

“I know myself well enough to know that when I get that hot, I’m not responsible,” Lucchesi said to the Philadelphia Daily News. “I reach a point where I don’t realize what I’m doing. Before the season, I gave the coaches a code word to holler at me in case I blew my top.”

The code word was “Luke,” a shortened variation of Lucchesi.

“”When I hear that, I know I’m going to get myself in trouble,” Lucchesi said.

The Cardinals held on for a 9-8 victory. Boxscore

The next day Lucchesi learned what kind of trouble he’d gotten into. He was fined $150 by National League president Chub Feeney, who said in a telegram, “Any repetition of this type of action will merit a suspension.”

Read Full Post »

Eddie Waitkus fought in combat in World War II, returned home to resume a major-league baseball career and found himself in another life-and-death struggle against a determined foe.

Seventy years ago, on June 14, 1949, Waitkus, 29, was shot in the chest by a deranged admirer, 19-year-old Ruth Steinhagen, in a Chicago hotel room.

Waitkus, a Phillies first baseman, was seriously wounded, underwent six operations, survived and came back the following season to be a key contributor for the National League champions.

His story inspired the Bernard Malamud novel, “The Natural,” in 1952, a fictionalized account featuring a protagonist, Roy Hobbs, who is shot by a mysterious woman. The 1984 film, “The Natural,” starring Robert Redford as Hobbs, was based on the novel, but, unlike the book, featured a happy ending.

Real life wasn’t so kind to Waitkus.

Athlete and soldier

Eddie Waitkus was the son of Lithuanian immigrants who settled in Cambridge, Mass. He was an honor student and standout athlete who excelled at baseball.

Waitkus was mentored by Jack Burns, a Cambridge native who played first base in the American League for the Browns and Tigers. Like Burns, Waitkus was a left-handed batter who developed into a consistent hitter and sure-handed fielder.

In 1938, while playing semipro baseball, Waitkus was named to an all-America team, prompting a Boston sports writer to hail him as a “natural,” according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

The Cubs signed Waitkus after giving him a tryout in September 1938. After two years in the minors, Waitkus, 21, made his big-league debut as the starting first baseman for the Cubs on Opening Day in 1941.

After returning to the minors in 1942, Waitkus began a three-year hitch in the Army in 1943. An amphibious engineer, he experienced extensive combat in the Pacific, including New Guinea and the Philippines, narrowly escaped being taken prisoner by the Japanese and earned four bronze stars.

Waitkus returned to the Cubs after the war and was their first baseman from 1946-48. He hit .304 in 1946, .292 in 1947 and .295 in 1948, when he was selected to the National League all-star team.

Dangerous obsession

Ruth Ann Steinhagen was born in Cicero, Ill., and grew up in a Chicago household with her parents, who were German immigrants, and a sister. As a teen-ager, Steinhagen became infatuated with actor Alan Ladd and Cubs outfielder Peanuts Lowrey. In 1947, when she was 17, she turned her attention to Waitkus.

Steinhagen built a shrine to Waitkus in her bedroom, talked about him constantly and regularly bought tickets for seats near first base at Wrigley Field. “I used to go to all the ballgames just to watch him,” Steinhagen informed a court-appointed psychiatrist.

Steinhagen would wait outside the Cubs’ clubhouse after games to get a glimpse of Waitkus, but they never met and never had any contact.

“She has been crazy about Eddie for about three years and she had hundreds of pictures of him,” Steinhagen’s mother, Edith, told the Associated Press. “She used to spread them out on the table and even on the floor and look at them for hours.”

Steinhagen told International News Service, “I liked Eddie because he was clean-cut and I liked the way he played baseball. I was in love with him.”

Steinhagen’s mother urged her “to seek the help of a psychiatrist,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Steinhagen consulted with two, but her behavior didn’t change. Her father, Walter, a die setter, “tried to persuade her to forget Waitkus,” according to the Tribune, but his suggestions upset her.

Steinhagen received a jolt on Dec. 14, 1948, when the Cubs traded Waitkus to the Phillies. A month later, in January 1949, she left her parents’ house, moved into an apartment, which she filled with mementoes of Waitkus, and worked as a typist for an insurance company.

In early May 1949, Steinhagen said, she decided to kill Waitkus. She told her mother and a friend of her intentions, according to United Press, but they didn’t believe her.

“I guess I got the idea to shoot him because he reminded me of my father,” Steinhagen said.

According to the New York Times, Steinhagen also said, “I was building in my mind the idea of killing him. As time went on, I just became nuttier and nuttier about the guy. I knew I would never get to know him in a normal way, so I kept thinking, I will never get him, and if I can’t have him, nobody else can. Then I decided I would kill him.”

Intent to kill

Aware the Phillies were headed to Chicago to play the Cubs, Steinhagen went to a pawn shop and paid $21 for a .22-caliber rifle. She told the pawnbroker she needed the gun for protection. He showed her how to disassemble the weapon and put it back together.

Steinhagen reserved a room at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, where the Phillies stayed, and registered as Ruth Anne Burns of Boston.

Steinhagen told police she got the rifle into the hotel by separating it into two parts. “I wrapped the parts in newspaper and put them in my traveling bag and brought it into the hotel,” she said.

She also brought with her a paring knife featuring a 3.5-inch blade.

“I was planning to stab him,” Steinhagen said. She intended to use the gun to commit suicide.

In her hotel room, Steinhagen reassembled the rifle, loaded it with one cartridge and placed it in a closet.

Fateful day

On June 14, 1949, the Phillies played the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Waitkus had a single, a walk and scored twice in the Phillies’ 9-2 triumph. The Tuesday afternoon game drew 7,815 spectators, including Steinhagen. Boxscore

After the game, she went to the hotel room. Waitkus went to a restaurant to have dinner with friends. While he was out, Steinhagen tipped a bellhop $5 and asked him to deliver a note to Waitkus.

Her plotting completed, Steinhagen ordered two whiskey sours and a daiquiri from room service, settled in with her drinks and waited for Waitkus to respond.

When Waitkus returned to the hotel, the bellhop informed him a woman left a note for him at the front desk. The unsigned note asked Waitkus to come to Room 1297-A. “It’s extremely important that I see you as soon as possible … I have something of importance to speak to you about,” Steinhagen wrote. “I think it would be to your advantage to let me explain it to you.”

“It was cleverly written to attract interest without arousing suspicion,” Dr. O. Spurgeon English, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Temple University, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Waitkus asked a desk clerk to tell him who was registered in Room 1297-A. When informed it was Ruth Anne Burns of Boston, Waitkus wondered whether it might be a relative of his hometown baseball mentor, Jack Burns.

Waitkus joined teammates Bill Nicholson and Russ Meyer for a drink at the hotel bar, showed them the note and decided to act “out of curiosity.”

Violent meeting

Waitkus called Steinhagen’s room at about 11 p.m.

“I had started to fall asleep when the phone rang and a voice said, ‘What’s this all about?’ It was Eddie,” Steinhagen said to International News Service. “I told him it was important I see him but could I see him tomorrow. He said he couldn’t make it and I said, ‘How about tonight?’ ”

Waitkus agreed to come to the room in 30 minutes. When he arrived about 11:30, he knocked on the door. Steinhagen opened and asked him to enter. She was holding a purse containing the knife.

Waitkus entered the room briskly, startling Steinhagen and giving her no time to reach for the knife. He walked toward a far corner and sat down in an armchair.

“I might not have shot him if he had come in differently without so much confidence,” Steinhagen said to United Press. “He swaggered in.”

As Waitkus settled into the chair, Steinhagen reached into the closet for the rifle, pointed it at him and told him to stand near the window, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“I thought at first it was a practical joke,” Waitkus said. “I thought the players had planned it.”

Steinhagen wasn’t fooling.

“She had the coldest-looking face I ever saw,” Waitkus said. “Absolutely no expression.”

“I have a surprise for you,” Steinhagen told Waitkus. “You are not going to bother me anymore.”

“What have I done?” he pleaded.

Steinhagen shot him in the right side of the chest at a range of 5 feet. The bullet pierced a lung, ripped into thick muscles in his back and lodged near his spine.

Waitkus slumped to the floor and rolled onto his back. “Oh, baby, why did you do that?” he said.

Steinhagen told police she lacked the courage to commit suicide as planned. She called the hotel operator and said she shot a man, then knelt next to Waitkus and held his hand, the New York Times reported.

A hotel house detective arrived and found Steinhagen sitting on a bench near an elevator on the 12th floor, The Sporting News reported. Waitkus was rushed to a hospital and Steinhagen was arrested.

Mentally ill

Steinhagen told police she “just had to shoot somebody.”

“Only in that way could I relieve the nervous tension I’ve been under the last two years,” she said. “The shooting has relieved that tension.”

In subsequent interviews, she said, “Since I shot Eddie, I have felt that I have a little control of myself for the first time.

“I know just why I did it. First, for revenge for everything that ever happened to me. Second, I liked him so much, I didn’t want anybody else to have him. Third, I know I couldn’t have him forever, so I wanted him for those few minutes.”

Steinhagen “is suffering from schizophrenia,” or split personality, Dr. William Haines of the Cook County Behavior Clinic in Chicago said. Dr. Edward Kelleher, director of the Municipal Court Psychiatric Institute, agreed, saying Steinhagen “is either schizophrenic or deep in the influence of a major hysteria.”

On June 30, 1949, two weeks after the shooting, Steinhagen was arraigned on a charge of assault with intent to commit murder, indicted on the charge by a grand jury and found insane by the jury. Chief Justice James McDermott of Criminal Court in Chicago committed Steinhagen to a state mental health hospital.

Dr. Haines spoke at the hearing and said Steinhagen was insane the night of the shooting and “for some years heretofore.”

At the mental health hospital, Steinhagen “underwent electroconvulsive therapy to alter the chemical balance in her brain, as well as hydrotherapy and occupational therapy,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Remarkable recovery

Waitkus spent a month in a Chicago hospital before returning to Philadelphia on July 17, 1949.

Living alone in a Philadelphia apartment, unsure of his baseball future, and physically weak and emotionally scarred, Waitkus told J.G. Taylor Spink of The Sporting News, “If I thought I had to go through the same thing again, the many operations, the fears, the uncertainty, the mental torture, I think I would rather die. It was really rugged.”

In November 1949, Waitkus went with Phillies trainer Frank Wiechec to Clearwater Beach, Fla., and underwent a grueling three-month program to get physically fit to play baseball.

“There were many times when I wondered and feared whether I would get back that confidence, that coordination of muscle and eye that baseball demands,” Waitkus told The Sporting News.

By the time the Phillies reported for spring training in Florida in February 1950, Waitkus was ready to join them.

“If it had not been for Frank Wiechec, our trainer, I don’t think I could have done it,” Waitkus said. “He was a combination of a father confessor and a Simon Legree. It was he who felt the wrath of all my worries, my pent up fears, who listened sympathetically when my nerves were jagged.”

While at Clearwater Beach, Waitkus met 20-year-old Carol Webel, who was vacationing there with her family from Albany, N.Y. The couple were married a year later on Nov. 17, 1951.

Waitkus earned back his job at spring training in 1950. Dick Sisler, the former Cardinal who replaced Waitkus at first base after the shooting, went to left field.

Waitkus batted .284, had 182 hits and scored 102 runs for the 1950 Phillies, who won the National League pennant. Though the Phillies were swept by the Yankees in the World Series, Waitkus had four hits and two walks in the four games.

Rough times

Soon after the start of the 1952 baseball season, Steinhagen was released from the psychiatric hospital where she had spent three years. She moved back into the Chicago house with her parents and sister and “disappeared into near obscurity,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Waitkus continued to hit for average _ .289 in 1952 and .291 in 1953 _ but the Phillies sold his contract to the Orioles in March 1954. At 34, he no longer was considered an everyday player. The Orioles released Waitkus in July 1955, the Phillies signed him and released him again after the season. He finished his playing career with a .285 batting average and 1,214 hits.

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Waitkus began drinking heavily. He went to work for a trucking company but battled alcoholism and depression. His marriage suffered and he and Carol, the parents of two children, separated in 1960.

In 1961, Waitkus, suffering from anxiety, was admitted to a hospital for treatment.

His son, Eddie Waitkus Jr., known as Ted, told the Denver Post the shooting was “an emotional part” of his father’s life.

“His nerves were shattered for a while,” the son said to the New York Times.

Regarding the shooting, the son said, “He survived three years in the jungles of the Philippines with barely a scratch and he comes back here and this crazy honey with a gun, as he used to say, takes him out.”

In 1963, Waitkus moved back to his hometown of Cambridge and rented a room in a house. He lived alone and spent summers as a coach at the Ted Williams baseball camp in Lakeville, Mass.

A longtime smoker, Waitkus, 53, died at a Veterans Administration Hospital in Boston on Sept. 16, 1972, a victim of esophageal cancer.

Forty years later, Steinhagen, 83, died on Dec. 29, 2012, after an accidental fall in her house. There were no survivors. A recluse who never spoke of the shooting, her death went unnoticed until the Chicago Tribune reported it three months later, on March 15, 2013, while reviewing public records for another story.

Read Full Post »

In his major-league debut for the Cardinals, a batter named Paris faced a pitcher from Paris and sparked a winning rally.

On Sept. 1, 1982, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog sent Kelly Paris to bat for pitcher Doug Bair to lead off the 13th inning of a game against the Dodgers at Los Angeles.

Paris, appearing in the big leagues for the first time after eight seasons in the minors, stepped into the right side of the batter’s box, peered out to the mound and prepared to face Dodgers reliever Ricky Wright, a rookie left-hander who was born and raised in Paris, Texas.

Not exactly a French connection, but a neat bit of serendipity nonetheless.

Paris, 61, died on May 27, 2019. He played four seasons in the big leagues as an infielder with the Cardinals, Reds, Orioles and White Sox.

His debut game, when he got a hit in his first at-bat and scored the winning run for the Cardinals, stands out as an enduring highlight.

Traveling man

Paris was a high school baseball teammate of future Hall of Famer Robin Yount in Woodland Hills, Calif. In 1975, Paris, 17, was chosen by the Cardinals in the second round of the June amateur draft.

Projected to play shortstop, Paris developed a circulatory problem in his right arm and it slowed his development.

He found his stride in 1979 when he hit .284 with 53 RBI for Class A St. Petersburg. He followed up by batting .301 in 1980 for Class AA Arkansas and, after breaking an ankle in 1981, rebounded to hit .328 with 83 RBI for Class AAA Louisville in 1982.

“I definitely have seen a lot of small towns,” Paris said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “A lot of them more than once.”

Paris was rewarded when the Cardinals brought him to the big leagues for the final month of the 1982 regular season.

Rally starter

The Cardinals were in first place in the National League East Division, 2.5 games ahead of the Phillies, entering September.

In the finale of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium, the Cardinals rallied with a run in the ninth inning, tying the score at 5-5.

When Paris led off the 13th in his major-league debut, he bounced a grounder up the middle and beat the throw from shortstop Alex Taveras for an infield single.

“I’ll take them any way I can,” Paris said to the Post-Dispatch.

After Paris advanced to second on Tommy Herr’s sacrifice bunt, Mike Ramsey struck out and George Hendrick was walked intentionally, bringing Ozzie Smith to the plate.

When the count got to 3-and-2, Smith looked for a fastball from Wright, got it and drove a hard grounder up the middle. Second baseman Steve Sax attempted a backhand play, got his glove on the ball but couldn’t secure it.

“The only play was to backhand the ball and get rid of it as quickly as he could,” Smith said. “It was going to be a tough play for him and I think he rushed it.”

Paris, running hard, rounded third and headed for the plate. Taveras yelled for Sax to throw home, but Sax held onto the ball and Paris scored, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead.

The Dodgers got a single and a double in the bottom half of the inning but failed to score and the Cardinals had a valuable win on their way to their first postseason berth in 14 years. Boxscore

Parting ways

The Cardinals won the 1982 National League pennant and World Series championship. Paris wasn’t on the postseason roster but he did receive a World Series ring for his help in September.

At spring training in 1983, Paris and Rafael Santana competed for a reserve infielder spot on the Opening Day roster and Paris felt the stress to impress.

“I feel as if I’m on stage all the time,” Paris said. “I find myself trying to do too much. This is the first chance I’ve had at making the major leagues. I guess I’m trying too hard at-bat. It’s stupid and I’m not a dumb person.”

Said Herzog: “I thought he’d be a pretty good right-handed pinch-hitter … but he hasn’t shown it.”

Santana won the job and Paris no longer was in the Cardinals’ plans.

On March 31, 1983, the Cardinals traded Paris to the Reds for pitcher Jim Strichek and the rights to retain pitcher Kurt Kepshire, whom they’d drafted from the Cincinnati system three months earlier.

Wakeup call

On Dec. 26, 1986, Paris nearly was killed when he “lost control of his sports car, driving it over the side of the road and into a ravine near his home in Gastonia, N.C.,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the newspaper, Paris suffered a broken back, broken sternum and broken ribs. He needed extensive plastic surgery to repair cuts around his left eye. “Only his spirit remained intact,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Paris admitted he was driving under the influence of alcohol and vowed to quit.

“I thank God for it, really,” Paris said of the accident. “It was a valuable lesson to learn.

“After the accident, I quit drinking … Your priorities change immensely when you’re that close to death.”

Read Full Post »

After saying adios to the Cardinals, pitchers Max Lanier and Fred Martin and infielder Lou Klein returned from exile three years later and helped the club challenge the Dodgers in a down-to-the-wire National League pennant race.

Seventy years ago, on June 5, 1949, baseball commissioner Happy Chandler granted amnesty to 18 major-league players and six minor-leaguers who defected to the Mexican League, lifting their five-year bans and allowing them to apply for reinstatement to professional baseball in the United States.

The trio of Cardinals who defected _ Lanier, Martin and Klein _ all asked to come back and the Cardinals agreed.

“They’ve been punished enough and we’ll be glad to give them a chance to prove they’re still major leaguers,” Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Crossing the border

In 1946, Lanier, Martin and Klein broke their contracts with the Cardinals and jumped to the rival Mexican League in pursuit of more lucrative salaries. Chandler banned them all from returning to professional baseball in the U.S. for five years.

In addition to the three Cardinals, the most prominent defectors were Giants pitcher Sal Maglie and Dodgers catcher and former Cardinal Mickey Owen.

Lanier, Martin and another defector, Giants outfielder Danny Gardella, filed lawsuits against Major League Baseball, challenging the legality of the reserve clause that bound a player to the team holding his contract.

In explaining why he lifted the bans on the defectors, Chandler said he decided “to temper justice with mercy,” United Press reported.

Roster revamp

On the day Chandler granted amnesty, the Cardinals beat the Braves, improving their record to 23-19 and putting them 1.5 games behind the first-place Giants. The Cardinals figured to get a boost from the three Mexican League refugees.

Lanier, 33, was a left-handed pitcher who debuted with the Cardinals in 1938 and developed into a consistent winner. He posted records of 15-7 in 1943 and 17-12 in 1944 for pennant-winning Cardinals clubs. His ERA of 1.90 in 1943 was best in the National League. Lanier also was the winning pitcher for the Cardinals against the Browns in the Game 6 championship clincher of the 1944 World Series.

In 1946, Lanier was 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA for the Cardinals when he joined Martin and Klein in bolting to the Mexican League in May.

Martin, 33, was a right-handed pitcher who was 2-1 with a 4.08 ERA as a Cardinals rookie in 1946.

Klein, 30, was a second baseman who debuted with the Cardinals in 1943 and had a big rookie season, batting .287 with 180 hits. In 1946, he was the Cardinals’ Opening Day second baseman before he slumped and was replaced by Red Schoendienst.

Dyer envisioned Lanier as a starting pitcher for the 1949 Cardinals, with Martin in the bullpen and Klein backing up Schoendienst at second and Marty Marion at shortstop.

“I don’t know of any player on the club who holds anything against them and won’t be happy to see them come back,” Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial said to the St. Louis Star-Times.

Helping hands

All three prodigal Cardinals helped the club in 1949. Lanier won five consecutive decisions between Aug. 28 and Sept. 21. Martin, who moved into the starting rotation, was 3-0 in August and 2-0 in September. Klein batted .323 with runners in scoring position.

In August 1949, Lanier and Martin dropped their antitrust suit against Organized Baseball. Two months later, Gardella also discontinued his lawsuit and signed with the Cardinals as a free agent.

On Sept. 20, 1949, after Martin improved his record to 6-0 with a win against the Phillies, the Cardinals were in first place, 1.5 games ahead of the Dodgers. Boxscore

The next day, Sept. 21, 1949, the Dodgers and Cardinals played a doubleheader at St. Louis. Lanier pitched a five-hit shutout in the opener and the Cardinals won, 1-0. Boxscore

The Dodgers won the second game, 5-0, behind the pitching of Preacher Roe, a former Cardinal, and a two-run triple by Luis Olmo, one of the defectors to the Mexican League who was allowed back. Boxscore.

After losing five of their next seven, the Cardinals went into the last day of the regular season a game behind the first-place Dodgers.

The Cardinals won their finale, 13-5 versus the Cubs at Chicago, but the Dodgers also won, beating the Phillies, 9-7, at Philadelphia on 10th-inning RBI-singles by Olmo and Duke Snider, and clinched the pennant. Boxscore

As for the trio who came back to the Cardinals from Mexico:

_ Lanier had a son, Hal Lanier, who became a major-league infielder for the Giants and Yankees, a coach with the Cardinals from 1981-85 and manager of the Astros from 1986-88.

_ Martin became a Cubs pitching instructor and taught the split-fingered pitch to prospect Bruce Sutter, who went on to a Hall of Fame career highlighted by his stint with the 1982 World Series champion Cardinals.

_ Klein managed the Cubs for parts of 1961-62 and 1965.

Read Full Post »

Mudcat Grant began the 1969 season as the top starting pitcher for the Expos and ended it as the top right-handed relief pitcher for the Cardinals.

Fifty years ago, on June 3, 1969, the Expos traded Grant to the Cardinals for pitcher Gary Waslewski.

Grant, 33, preferred to start but the Cardinals needed bullpen help.

As a reliever, Grant appeared in 27 games for the 1969 Cardinals and was 6-3 with seven saves and a 3.22 ERA. He also made three starts and was 1-2 with a 7.62 ERA. Overall, in 30 appearances for the 1969 Cardinals, Grant was 7-5 with a 4.12 ERA.

“Our bullpen did OK once we got Mudcat Grant,” Cardinals pitching coach Billy Muffett said to The Sporting News.

Pointing to his forehead, Muffett added, “He has it up here.”

Name game

James Timothy Grant was at a Cleveland Indians minor-league camp in Daytona Beach when a colleague, mistakenly assuming the Florida native was from Mississippi, began calling him Mudcat, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

The nickname stuck like Mississippi mud on a catfish’s whiskers.

Grant made his major-league debut with the Indians in 1958 and got traded to the Twins in 1964. He had his best season in 1965, posting a 21-7 record, and made three starts in the World Series against the Dodgers. Grant won Games 1 and 6 and lost Game 4.

In November 1967, the Twins traded Grant to the Dodgers and they converted him from a starter to a reliever. Grant did well in the role, posting ERAs of 0.98 in August and 0.77 in September. As a reliever, Grant appeared in 33 games for the 1968 Dodgers and was 5-2 with three saves and a 1.80 ERA. He also made four starts. Overall, in 37 appearances for the 1968 Dodgers, Grant was 6-4 with a 2.08 ERA.

Playing our song

The Expos selected Grant in the National League expansion draft and wanted him to be a starter. “Mudcat will win more games than any pitcher ever on a first-year expansion team,” Expos manager Gene Mauch predicted to the Montreal Gazette.

Grant impressed by yielding one earned run in spring training and was chosen to start the Expos’ first regular-season game on April 8, 1969, against the Mets at New York. Matched against Tom Seaver, Grant lasted 1.1 innings, surrendering three runs, but the Expos won, 11-10. Boxscore

Grant, a professional singer who toured with the group, “Mudcat and the Kittens,” said he planned to open a discotheque in downtown Montreal. “I’ve been in a lot of countries and a lot of states, but I’ve never felt as free as I feel right here in Montreal,” he said.

Though his record for the Expos was 1-6 with a 4.80 ERA, Grant “made a big impression” with Cardinals scout Bob Kennedy, who recommended the club acquire him to bolster the bullpen, The Sporting News reported.

Initially, Grant was displeased with the trade. “I’ll have to go back to the bullpen and I don’t dig that,” he said to the Montreal Gazette.

Grant told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “All pitchers prefer to start. Man, that’s where the action is.”

Action man

Grant got decisions in his first three relief appearances for the Cardinals.

In his Cardinals debut, on June 7, 1969, at Houston, Grant relieved Ray Washburn in the seventh inning with the score tied at 2-2, yielded a two-run single to former Cardinal Johnny Edwards and was the losing pitcher in a 4-2 Astros victory. Boxscore

On June 11, 1969, Grant pitched seven innings in relief of starter Mike Torrez and was the winning pitcher in the Cardinals’ 10-5 triumph over the Reds at Cincinnati. Boxscore

Grant’s third Cardinals appearance was June 19, 1969, versus the Expos at St. Louis and he got the win with 5.1 scoreless innings in relief of Washburn again in a 5-3 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Six days later, Grant started the second game of a doubleheader against the Expos at Montreal, pitched a complete game and got the win in an 8-3 Cardinals triumph.

Grant was “loudly booed” by the crowd of 28,819 at Jarry Park, the Post-Dispatch reported. After the game, as Grant walked near the stands, a spectator threw a cup of beer in his face and Grant retaliated

“I let him have a Joe Frazier right cross right on the back of the ear,” Grant said. “I buckled him.” Boxscore

After losing each of his next two starts, to the Cubs and Mets, Grant returned to a relief role.

That’s entertainment

Grant made as big a splash in St. Louis with his singing as he did his pitching. On July 12, 1969, Grant performed at an event sponsored by the St. Louis Pinch-Hitters, wives and friends of Cardinals players, before more than 1,200 people at the Stouffer’s Riverfront Inn.

Under the headline, “Mudcat Grant Steals Show At Ball-B-Que,” the Post-Dispatch reported Grant performed solo and did numbers such as “I’m Going To Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter,” and “If I Had A Hammer.”

Four nights later, on Teen Night at Busch Stadium, Grant sang with the Bob Kuban band before a July 16 game.

Grant’s best month with the 1969 Cardinals was August when he was 2-1 with a save and a 2.19 ERA. In September, he had five saves.

“Mudcat is sneaky out there,” said Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver. “He showed me he knows the hitters and he showed me he likes to pitch.”

On Dec. 5, 1969, the Cardinals sold Grant’s contract to the Athletics for what The Sporting News described as “considerably in excess of” the $25,000 waiver price.

Grant played 14 seasons in the big leagues for the Indians, Twins, Dodgers, Expos, Cardinals, Athletics and Pirates, producing a 145-119 record and 3.63 ERA.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »