Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Two swings in one inning assured third baseman Fernando Tatis a place in Cardinals lore.

Twenty years ago, on April 23, 1999, Tatis became the only major-league player to hit two grand slams in one inning. The Cardinals’ cleanup hitter achieved the feat against Chan Ho Park in the third inning of a Friday night game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

With his clouts, Tatis, 24, also established a major-league mark for most RBI in an inning, with eight.

Tatis is the only Cardinals player to hit two home runs in an inning.

If not for a last-minute batting order change, Tatis might not have gotten the chance.

Power vs. power

Tatis was supposed to bat fifth in manager Tony La Russa’s lineup, but when Eric Davis was a late scratch because of a bruised left hand, La Russa moved Tatis into the cleanup spot.

The Dodgers scored a run in the first and another in the second against starter Jose Jimenez and led 2-0.

In the third for the Cardinals, Darren Bragg singled, Edgar Renteria was hit by a pitch and Mark McGwire singled, loading the bases for Tatis.

With the count 2-and-0, Mike Shannon, broadcasting the game on television, predicted to viewers Tatis would be looking for a fastball.

“You’re going to see power against power here,” Shannon said.

Park threw a fastball and Tatis hit it deep over the left-field wall and into the Dodgers’ bullpen for his first grand slam in the big leagues.

“There wasn’t any doubt about that one,” Shannon said.

Said broadcast partner Joe Buck: “That was McGwire distance right there.”

Beating the odds

The Cardinals scored three more runs in the inning before reloading the bases with one out for McGwire. Park retired McGwire on a fly out to right and the runners held, bringing up Tatis again with the bases packed.

With the count 3-and-1, Park threw a hanging slider and Tatis hit it over the wall in left-center.

“Swing and a long one. There it is folks! Baseball history,” Shannon told his audience. “Wow! Get those record books out, folks.” Video

“I didn’t think the second ball would go out,” Tatis said to the Los Angeles Times. “I still can’t believe I did it.”

McGwire told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “You’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery.”

Park, 25, became the first pitcher to give up two grand slams in one inning since rookie Bill Phillips of the 1890 Pirates against the Cubs.

“This can happen to the best of us,” Park said. “It was just a bad day.”

Said Dodgers manager Davey Johnson: “Chan Ho pitched … defensive. He wasn’t really going after guys.”

After the second grand slam, Park was relieved by Carlos Perez and the Cardinals went on to a 12-5 victory. Boxscore

Exclusive club

Tatis became the second National League player to hit two grand slams in a game. The first was Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger against the Giants in 1966. Since then, one other National League player, Josh Willingham of the Nationals versus the Brewers in 2009, hit two grand slams in a game.

In the American League, 10 players have hit two grand slams in a game. They are: Tony Lazzeri (1936 Yankees), Jim Tabor (1939 Red Sox), Rudy York (1946 Red Sox), Jim Gentile (1961 Orioles), Jim Northrup (1968 Tigers), Frank Robinson (1970 Orioles), Robin Ventura (1995 White Sox), Chris Hoiles (1998 Orioles), Nomar Garciaparra (1999 Red Sox) and Bill Mueller (2003 Red Sox).

Tatis batted .438 against Park in his career, with seven hits in 16 at-bats. The grand slams were Tatis’ only home runs against him.

Park, who had 124 wins in 17 years in the majors, gave up seven career grand slams. In addition to the two by Tatis, the others were hit by Travis Lee of the Diamondbacks, Matt Walbeck of the Angels, Jim Edmonds of the 2001 Cardinals, Jacque Jones of the Twins and A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox.

Tatis, who played 11 years in the majors, hit 113 career home runs and eight were grand slams. In addition to the two he hit versus Park, the others came against Billy Brewer of the Phillies, Russ Springer of the Diamondbacks, Daniel Garibay of the Cubs, Damian Moss of the Braves, Buddy Carlyle of the Braves and Franklin Morales of the Rockies.

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Though the Cardinals were two-time defending National League champions, the American League Browns became the darlings of the St. Louis sports scene early in the 1944 season.

Seventy-five years ago, in April 1944, the Browns set an American League record by winning their first nine games.

Picked by national baseball scribes to finish fifth in the eight-team league, the Browns’ season-opening hot streak caught most people by surprise. The year before, the 1943 Browns finished 72-80 and 25 games out of first place.

On the eve of the 1944 season opener, Browns manager Luke Sewell told the Associated Press, “I can’t tell you what the Browns will do this year, but I know darned well we won’t be last. A lot depends on our pitching.”

The Browns held foes to two runs or less in six of the nine wins in the streak.

Jack Kramer, a Navy veteran who spent most of the 1943 season with the minor-league Toledo Mud Hens, was 3-0 with an 0.68 ERA during the streak. Nelson Potter and Steve Sundra each got two wins. George Caster and Sig Jakucki got one win apiece.

Vern Stephens, the Browns’ 23-year-old shortstop and cleanup hitter, batted .344 during the streak and first baseman George McQuinn hit .333.

The Browns’ stock price rose from $2.25 a share on Opening Day to $3.75 a share at the height of the streak.

The nine consecutive wins by the Browns shattered the American League record of seven consecutive wins to start a season set by the 1933 Yankees. The Browns tied the major-league mark held by two National League clubs, the 1918 Giants and 1940 Dodgers. Since then, the 1982 Braves and the 1987 Brewers each achieved the major-league record of 13 consecutive wins to start a season.

Here is a look at each of the Browns’ nine wins in the streak:

Win No. 1

The Browns opened the season on April 18 with a 2-1 victory at Detroit against the Tigers. The Browns scored in the first inning against Dizzy Trout and added another in the ninth on a home run by Stephens.

In the bottom of the ninth, Kramer struck out the first two batters before yielding a home run to Pinky Higgins. After Jimmy Outlaw singled, Caster, the Browns’ bullpen ace, relieved. Caster walked Don Ross before getting Bob Swift to ground out, ending the game. Boxscore

Win No. 2

Sundra, who five years earlier posted an 11-1 record for the 1939 Yankees, pitched a three-hitter for the Browns in their 3-1 triumph against the Tigers. Boxscore

Win No. 3

The Browns completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers with an 8-5 victory. Stephens had a RBI-single and a two-run double against Tigers ace Hal Newhouser. Boxscore

Win No. 4

The Browns beat the White Sox, 5-3, in the April 21 home opener before 2,021 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Mike Kreevich, a 5-foot-7 right fielder who had no home runs in 60 games for the 1943 Browns, hit a two-run home run in the first inning against Thornton Lee and a solo homer off Lee in the sixth. Boxscore

Win No. 5

In the first game of a Sunday doubleheader against the White Sox before 7,709 at St. Louis, the Browns won, 5-2. Kramer pitched a complete game and hit a two-run home run off Bill Dietrich in the second inning. Boxscore

Win No. 6

The Browns completed the doubleheader sweep with a 4-3 win. With the White Sox ahead, 3-1, the Browns rallied for a run in the seventh and two in the eighth. Al Zarilla drove in the winning run with a single. Boxscore

The Post-Dispatch reported, “Those are strange expressions you see on the faces of followers of the Browns today as they stagger around in a daze thinking of the club’s six-game winning streak.”

In The Sporting News, Frederick G. Lieb wrote, “St. Louis is holding its breath to see how long it lasts.”

Win No. 7

In the first of a two-game series versus the Indians, the Browns won, 5-2, before 960 spectators at St. Louis. “Leaden skies and weather too chilly for grandstand comfort held down the attendance,” according to the Post-Dispatch.

The Browns broke a scoreless tie with four runs in the sixth against Allie Reynolds. The big hit was a two-run double by Stephens. Boxscore

Win No. 8

The Browns established an American League record for most wins to start a season with a 5-1 triumph over the Indians before 1,106 witnesses at St. Louis. Stephens had a two-run single in the first and Hal Epps, a light-hitting outfielder, had his first RBI of the season with a two-run single in the second. Boxscore

Asked about setting the record, Sewell replied to The Sporting News, “I still get hungry at meal time and still get sleepy at bed time. Maybe I’m pleased, but otherwise I don’t feel any different from the days before the season started.”

Win No. 9

In the opener of a series against the White Sox at Chicago, Kramer pitched a four-hitter and the Browns won, 3-1. Boxscore

The rest of the story

The streak ended on April 29 with a 4-3 loss to the White Sox at Chicago. The Browns had a 3-0 lead, but the White Sox scored two in the seventh, one in the eighth and the winning run in the ninth. Boxscore

The Browns and Tigers went into the last game of the regular season tied atop the American League standings. When the Browns beat the Yankees, 5-2, at St. Louis and the Tigers were defeated, 4-1, by the Senators at Detroit, the Browns finished 89-65, one win better than the Tigers at 88-66. The Browns were 13-9 versus the Tigers in 1944.

In the World Series, the Cardinals, National League pennant winners for the third consecutive year, won four of six against the Browns for the championship.

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Bob Gibson and Jim Baxes, two rookies whose careers went in opposite directions, are connected by one swing of the bat.

Sixty years ago, on April 15, 1959, Gibson made his major-league debut for the Cardinals against the Dodgers at Los Angeles and the first batter he faced, Baxes, hit a home run.

Gibson went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Baxes played one year in the major leagues.

Who are you?

After posting a 2.84 ERA in 190 innings pitched for Cardinals farm teams in 1958, Gibson was a candidate to earn a spot on the big-league club’s 1959 Opening Day roster.

Early in spring training at the Cardinals’ camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., first-year manager Solly Hemus approached a player and asked, “Are you Olivares?”

The player replied, “No, I’m Bob Gibson.”

According to The Sporting News, Gibson turned to a teammate and said, “I must have made a hell of an impression on the manager. After a week, he doesn’t even know who I am.”

Gibson’s fastball got him the attention he desired and the 23-year-old rookie won a spot on the 1959 Cardinals’ pitching staff as a reliever.

Though the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expressed concern Gibson “needs either a better curve or a changeup to go with his blazer and his slider,” Cardinals pitching coach Howie Pollet said, “He’s fast enough to throw one quick one by them a lot of times, even when they’re looking for it. Within a few weeks, we might have him getting his breaking ball over better.”

In a column for the Post-Dispatch on the eve of the 1959 season opener, Bob Broeg, rating the Cardinals’ pitchers, said, “If there’s one who does stir the imagination a bit, though he’s green, it’s Bob Gibson.”

Waiting his turn

Meanwhile, at Dodgers spring training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., Baxes, a 30-year-old rookie, was manager Walter Alston’s surprise choice to open the regular season as the third baseman.

Baxes’ father immigrated to the United States from Greece in 1900, went to work in a San Francisco rope factory, married and started a family. His son, Dimitrios Speros Baxes, became known in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco as Jim.

Jim Baxes and his younger brother, Mike, developed into professional ballplayers. Mike made it to the majors with the Athletics in 1956, but Jim, who started his career in the Dodgers’ farm system in 1947, waited 12 years until getting his shot in the big leagues in 1959.

Baxes was a right-handed power hitter who slugged 30 home runs for Fort Worth in 1953 and 28 home runs for Spokane in 1958, but, according to the Los Angeles Times, he was a “ferocious flailer” who swung and missed too often.

“I’m confident I can cut it,” Baxes said to The Sporting News. “I’ve improved the last couple of seasons and I don’t think my age will prove any handicap.”

Temper tantrum

After losing three of their first four games of the 1959 season, the Cardinals faced Dodgers right-hander Don Drysdale at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In the sixth inning, Stan Musial of the Cardinals tried to score from second on Joe Cunningham’s line single to center, but he was called out by umpire Dusty Boggess.

“I almost fell off the bench when Musial was called out,” Hemus told the Post-Dispatch.

Convinced he slid into the plate before catcher John Roseboro applied a high tag after fielding a throw from Don Demeter, Musial argued with Boggess, “but he was Casper Milquetoast compared to his boss,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Hemus ran onto the field, charged at Boggess, “threw his cap to the ground and repeatedly kicked the dirt” before he was ejected, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“He took the ballgame away from us,” Hemus said. “That was the worst so-called exhibition of baseball umpiring I ever saw.”

Rude greeting

In the seventh inning, with the Dodgers ahead, 3-0, Gibson, wearing uniform No. 58, relieved starter Larry Jackson. Baxes led off and hit Gibson’s third big-league pitch into the left-center field seats for his first big-league home run.

Gibson “received a rough welcome into major-league warfare,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Baxes gave Gibson “quite an initiation,” the Los Angeles Times wrote.

Gibson retired the next three batters in order, getting Drysdale to line out to second, Ron Fairly to fly out and Wally Moon to ground out.

In the eighth, Roseboro singled, moved to second on Demeter’s sacrifice bunt, stole third and scored on Charlie Neal’s sacrifice bunt. Gil Hodges, the last batter Gibson faced in the game, popped out to the catcher. Boxscore

Gibson made two more relief appearances for the Cardinals before he was sent back to the minor leagues on April 28, 1959.

In his book, “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “Hemus had me convinced that I wasn’t any damn good and consequently I wasn’t.”

Different paths

On May 9, three weeks after his home run against Gibson, Baxes was assigned to the minors because the Dodgers decided to go with Jim Gilliam at third base. The demotion was devastating to Baxes, who batted .303 for the Dodgers. “I think that entitled me to a better chance than I received,” Baxes said to the Associated Press.

Baxes refused to report to the minors, went home to Long Beach, Calif., and got a job at a sheet metal company. The Indians, seeking a backup infielder, contacted the Dodgers and on May 22, 1959, Baxes was dealt to Cleveland.

In his first at-bat for the Indians, on May 23, 1959, Baxes slugged a pinch-hit home run against Jim Bunning of the Tigers. Boxscore

Baxes played in 77 games for the 1959 Indians and hit 15 home runs, but he wasn’t brought back. He played two more seasons in the minors, finishing in 1961 with a Cardinals farm club, the Portland Beavers.

Gibson, meanwhile, was called up to the Cardinals on July 29, 1959, and put in the starting rotation.

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Stepping foot on foreign soil for the first time in the regular season, the Cardinals felt the ground shift beneath them.

Fifty years ago, on April 14, 1969, the Cardinals opposed the Expos at Montreal in the first regular-season major-league game played outside the United States.

Led by the slugging of Mack Jones, the Expos, a National League expansion team, overcame a seven-run inning by the Cardinals and won, 8-7, before 29,184 at sold-out Jarry Park.

It was a joyous day for the baseball fans of Montreal, who naturally were proud to have a team and were thrilled to win a home opener against the two-time defending National League champion Cardinals, but there were glitches.

Though the weather was sunny, the playing field was a mess, despite the efforts of the grounds crew.

“When the frost began to thaw underground, the mound and area behind the plate sank a few inches,” according to The Sporting News, and the field became soft and lumpy.

“It was like running on a hunk of Gouda cheese,” wrote the Montreal Gazette’s Ted Blackman.

Oh, Canada

The National League awarded Montreal a franchise, even though it didn’t have a suitable ballpark. The Expos had a few months to renovate 3,000-seat Jarry Park and get it up to major-league standards before the start of the 1969 season.

The Expos opened their inaugural season with six road games, three at New York against the Mets and three at Chicago against the Cubs, and won two.

Four days before the home opener, Expos management “feared the game might never happen” because Jarry Park wasn’t ready, The Sporting News reported, but workers “toiled around the clock.”

About 3,000 temporary folding chairs still were being installed in sections of the ballpark on game day, delaying the opening of the gates. Expos general manager Jim Fanning pitched in, putting up chairs in the section behind home plate, the Gazette reported.

“Stadium workers were still bolting in seats and shoveling snow as the first fans arrived,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.

Sinking feeling

Players were disappointed to find the field “rough” and “rubbery,” according to The Sporting News.

Cardinals third baseman Mike Shannon teasingly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his burly teammate, Joe Torre, will “sink six inches into that infield.”

Torre good-naturedly replied, “This soft infield ought to bring everyone else down to my speed.”

The infield was “extremely spongy and seemed to have foam rubber under it,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Cardinals shortstop Dal Maxvill said, “You step here and ground sinks a yard away.”

Indeed, the ground literally was shifting. “As the earth settled, the mound dropped five inches below the official 10-inch height, which was already five inches lower than last year’s regulation elevation,” the Gazette observed. “Pitchers had the feeling they were throwing uphill.”

“To further complicate the situation,” the Gazette added, “home plate was off kilter and pointing slightly toward left field.”

The ground was so soft “plate umpire Mel Steiner was standing ankle deep in the turf behind home by the end of the game,” according to the Associated Press.

“I’ve played on some bad diamonds, but this is the worst,” said Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood. “I pray I don’t get killed out there.”

Flood continued, “It was unbelievable. The infield was soft and it was tough to go from first to third. A stolen base is going to be unheard of here until something is done about it. You just can’t get the proper footing …. The outfield is rough and it’s tough to figure out which way the ball is going to bounce.”

Flood’s remarks offended Expos manager Gene Mauch, who wanted him fined. “The commissioner should turn Flood upside down and shake a little money out of his pocket,” Mauch said to The Sporting News. “It’s not in the best interest of baseball to say what he did.”

Recalling his days as Phillies manager, Mauch said, “The infield at Jarry Park was better than the infield when we played at Busch Stadum for the first time” after the downtown ballpark opened in St. Louis in 1966.

Hits and errors

For the first game at Montreal, the batting orders were:

_ Cardinals: Lou Brock, left field; Curt Flood, center field; Vada Pinson, right field; Joe Torre, first base; Mike Shannon, third base; Tim McCarver, catcher; Julian Javier, second base; Dal Maxvill, shortstop; Nelson Briles, pitcher.

_ Expos: Don Bosch, center field; Maury Wills, shortstop; Rusty Staub, right field; Mack Jones, left field; Bob Bailey, first base; John Bateman, catcher; Coco Laboy, third base; Gary Sutherland, second base; Larry Jaster, pitcher.

Jaster was a former Cardinal and Laboy was developed in their farm system.

Jones, nicknamed “Mack the Knife,” looked sharp. In the first inning, he hit a three-run home run, and in the second he produced a two-run triple.

“I hit a pretty good breaking ball for the homer and the triple was a fastball,” Jones said.

The Expos added a run in the third on Jaster’s single and led, 6-0, but in the fourth they committed five errors and a balk, helping the Cardinals score seven times. Maxvill’s grand slam, the only one of his big-league career, and Torre’s two-run homer were the big hits.

Referring to the Expos’ miscues, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said, “They tried to give us the game, but we didn’t want it.”

The Expos tied the score, 7-7, in the bottom of the fourth and produced the winning run in the seventh when pitcher Dan McGinn drove in Laboy from second with a single against Gary Waslewski. McGinn, a former punter for Notre Dame’s football team, got the win with 5.1 scoreless innings and avenged the loss he suffered seven months earlier in his major-league debut for the Reds against the Cardinals.

Said Cardinals general manager Bing Devine: “It was a badly played game on both sides, but we’re not supposed to be playing as badly as the Expos.” Boxscore

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A friendship with general manager Bing Devine enabled first baseman Bill White to finish his playing career with the Cardinals.

Fifty years ago, on April 2, 1969, the Cardinals reacquired White from the Phillies for infielder Jerry Buchek and utility player Jim Hutto.

The trade gave White, 35, the opportunity to return to the team for whom he’d achieved the most success.

White no longer was an everyday player and he was preparing to transition into a television career in Philadelphia, but Devine wanted him to fill a bench role and White was willing to do so as a favor to his friend and to bring closure to his playing days.

Ties that bind

In White’s first stint with the Cardinals, from 1959-65, he topped 100 RBI three times, hit 20 or more home runs five years in a row and won the Gold Glove Award six times as a first baseman. He also was a National League all-star in five of his seasons with the Cardinals and helped them become 1964 World Series champions.

In October 1965, Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam traded White to the Phillies. He had 22 home runs and 103 RBI for them in 1966, but he injured an Achilles tendon in 1967 and his production declined considerably.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, White decided in August 1968 he would retire after the season, but Phillies general manager John Quinn convinced him to play another year.

At spring training in 1969, when the Phillies shifted Richie Allen from third base to first base, White asked Quinn what the club planned to do with him. Quinn said the Phillies wouldn’t cut White from the roster but might trade him to the Cardinals.

“Bing Devine has expressed an interest in you,” Quinn told White.

Devine was Cardinals general manager in March 1959 when the club acquired White from the Giants. Devine and White developed a mutual respect and their bond remained strong, even after Devine was fired by Cardinals owner Gussie Busch in August 1964.

In 1967, when White was with the Phillies and Devine was with the Mets, Devine visited White at his home to offer support and encouragement while White was attempting to recover from the Achilles tendon injury. “I think a lot of him,” White said to the Inquirer.

Welcome back

In his 2011 autobiography, “Uppity,” White said, “At first I said no to the proposed trade, but Bing was persuasive.”

White told Quinn he agreed to the trade because of Devine, who returned to the Cardinals after the 1967 season. “I wouldn’t have gone to any other team,” White said to the Inquirer. “I wouldn’t even have gone to St. Louis if it were not for Bing Devine.”

The Philadelphia Daily News described the two-time defending National League champion Cardinals as “a dynasty.” Joe Torre, acquired from the Braves for Orlando Cepeda, was the first baseman for the 1969 Cardinals and Devine saw White as being an ideal backup as well as a left-handed pinch-hitter.

“Bill fits the bill,” Devine said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In a 2011 interview, White told me another reason Devine wanted him back with the Cardinals is he hoped to groom him to become a manager when White was done playing, but White wasn’t interested.

“Bing brought me back because he wanted me to manage at (Class AAA) Tulsa and eventually manage the Cardinals,” White said. “I didn’t want to manage. I didn’t want to try to tell 25 other guys how to play the game. I’d rather do something where the success depends on me, not on other people.”

Open and shut

White wore No. 12 for most of his first seven seasons with St. Louis, but backup outfielder Joe Hague had that number with the 1969 Cardinals. White asked for and received No. 7 because he liked low numbers, he said to the Post-Dispatch.

“I’m ready to do anything they want me to _ even pitch batting practice,” White said to the Post-Dispatch.

“This isn’t a knock at the Phillies’ organization _ they’ve been good to me _ but the difference between playing in St. Louis and Philadelphia is night and day,” White said to the Inquirer. “It’s depressing playing in that Philadelphia ballpark. Heck, my locker was over a sewer … And it’s depressing to hear your teammates booed.”

On April 8, 1969, the Cardinals opened the season against the Pirates at St. Louis. In the 12th inning, with the score tied at 2-2, two outs and Mike Shannon on first base, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst sent White to bat for second baseman Julian Javier.

White was “cheered loudly” as he stepped to the plate, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Facing right-hander Ron Kline, White lined a pitch to left-center.

“What appeared to be a sure double turned out to be a mere out because the ball hooked toward” left fielder Willie Stargell, who made a one-handed catch while on the run, according to the Post-Dispatch.

If the ball had eluded Stargell, Shannon likely would have circled the bases and scored the game-winning run.

“That could have been a great way to open up,” hitting coach Dick Sisler said to White.

White replied, “Yeah, that would have carried me all year.”

Instead, the Pirates scored four runs in the 14th against Mel Nelson and won, 6-2. Boxscore

The 1969 season turned out to be disappointing for the Cardinals, who finished in fourth place in a six-team division, and for White. He suffered sore ribs and cuts to his left elbow in a car accident in St. Louis on May 3. For the season, White hit .211 with no home runs and four RBI in 57 at-bats. As a pinch-hitter, he batted .167 (5-for-30).

White retired as a player after the 1969 season and launched a broadcasting career before becoming president of the National League.

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Five months after he suffered multiple injuries when struck by a car, Harry Caray returned with a flourish to broadcast the season opener for the Cardinals.

Fifty years ago, on April 8, 1969, when the two-time defending National League champion Cardinals opened the season against the Pirates at St. Louis, Caray called the game from the Busch Stadium broadcast booth.

Caray’s appearance was a testament to his determination to recover from compound fractures of both legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken nose and facial cuts and he made certain his comeback was noticed. Given center stage as emcee for pre-game ceremonies on the field, he put on a performance for the audience.

Road to recovery

At about 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 3, 1968, Caray, 51, was hit by a car while he attempted to the cross the street outside the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

Caray’s injuries were disabling and he spent several weeks in a St. Louis hospital. After his release just before Christmas in 1968, Caray went to Florida and continued his recuperation near St. Petersburg at the beach house of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch.

In his 1989 book “Holy Cow!,” Caray said he was under the care of a male nurse at Busch’s residence and dutifully did isometric exercises daily. According to The Sporting News, he also did a daily radio show from the beach house for St. Louis station KMOX.

Though both legs were in casts, Caray said in his book, “I managed to keep myself entertained. I had a lot of friends there and they were always coming by the house or taking me out to restaurants. I could get around in a collapsible wheelchair.”

In early February 1969, Caray went to St. Louis to be evaluated by his doctors. He convinced them to remove the casts from his legs and returned to Florida as the Cardinals were arriving in St. Petersburg for spring training.

“I was determined to get myself in shape right along with the players,” Caray said.

Caray reported daily to Cardinals trainer Bob Bauman at the club’s spring training facility. “Caray has spent more time in the rubbing room than the adhesive tape,” The Sporting News noted.

Said Caray: “I worked hard, kept on the leg exercises and by the end of spring training I had advanced from crutches to canes to the point where I didn’t really need anything to help me walk.”

Ribbed at roast

On April 7, 1969, on the eve of the Cardinals’ opener, Caray was the guest of honor at the annual Knights of the Cauliflower Ear banquet at the Stouffer’s Inn in downtown St. Louis. The event was similar to the famous Friars Club roasts where the guest of honor was expected to be skewered, or “roasted,” by colleagues.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Caray used a cane to maneuver his way around the banquet hall.

Jack Buck, Caray’s Cardinals broadcast partner, was master of ceremonies for the event and delivered several zingers at the guest of honor.

“What nice things can I say about Harry that you haven’t heard from the man himself?” Buck said in his opening remarks.

Referring to Caray getting hit by a car, Buck said to the audience, “What can I say to make you believe I didn’t do it?”

As the event ended, Buck told the crowd, “Please drive carefully. Harry’s walking again.”

St. Louis showman

The Cardinals opened the 1969 season on a Tuesday night.

When Caray emerged from the dugout to begin the pre-game ceremonies at home plate, he used two canes to walk onto the field. He received polite applause while “hobbling along rather pathetically,” he said in his book.

As Caray approached the first-base line, “I whirled one cane over my head and flung it as far as I could,” he said.

With the crowd cheering and urging him on, Caray started toward home plate with the help of the remaining cane. Just before he got to his spot, Caray stopped and tossed the cane into the air as spectators roared in approval.

After the ceremony, Caray made his way to the dugout and was approached by pitcher Bob Gibson. According to Caray, they had the following exchange:

Gibson: “Harry, what the hell was that all about?”

Caray: “Hey, Gibby, it’s like I’ve always told you, pal. This isn’t just baseball. It’s show biz.”

During the broadcast of the game, won by the Pirates in 14 innings, Caray interviewed baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn and let him do some play-by-play. Boxscore

The 1969 season turned out to be Caray’s last with the club. On Oct. 9, 1969, he was fired after serving as the voice of the Cardinals for 25 years.

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