Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Joe Medwick was at home in suburban St. Louis on a Sunday morning when he got an unexpected phone call from Sam Breadon, Cardinals owner. Breadon wanted to know whether Medwick would be interested in playing again for the Cardinals.

When he recovered from his surprise, Medwick said yes.

Breadon told Medwick to get to Sportsman’s Park right away. The Cardinals wanted him available to play that afternoon.

Seventy years ago, on May 25, 1947, Medwick, who thought he was finished as a big-league player, rejoined the Cardinals, providing them with a much-needed run producer and giving him a chance to bring his career full circle.

Seven years earlier, the Cardinals had traded the moody slugger to the Dodgers.

Squire of Sappington

Medwick hit better than .300 in each of his first nine seasons (1932-40) with the Cardinals. Nicknamed “Ducky” because of how he swayed when he walked, Medwick also was known as “Muscles” because of his powerful and consistent hitting.

As the left fielder for the 1934 Gas House Gang Cardinals, Medwick batted .319 with 40 doubles, 18 triples, 18 home runs and 106 RBI. He hit .379 (11-for-29) in the 1934 World Series, helping the Cardinals win four of seven against the Tigers.

Three years later, Medwick was named winner of the 1937 National League Most Valuable Player Award. Known for taking savage swings with a 35-ounce hickory bat, Medwick achieved baseball’s Triple Crown by leading the league that season in batting average (.374), home runs (31) and RBI (154). He remains the last NL player to earn a Triple Crown.

Medwick was traded to the Dodgers in June 1940 and played for them until July 1943. Over the next three years, Medwick was with the Giants and Braves and had a return stint with the Dodgers.

In December 1946, Medwick, released by the Dodgers, signed with the Yankees. He opened the 1947 season with the Yankees, but never appeared in a game for them. On April 29, when the Yankees arrived in St. Louis for a series with the Browns, they gave Medwick his release.

When no other team showed interest, Medwick went to his home in Sappington, Mo. “Medwick says he’s through with baseball,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Ready or not

After winning the 1946 World Series championship, the Cardinals had a poor start to the 1947 season. On the morning of Sunday, May 25, they were in last place at 11-19. Left-handed pitchers were being especially tough on Cardinals batters. Eddie Dyer, Cardinals manager, suggested to Breadon that Medwick would provide a reliable right-handed bat.

The Cardinals were scheduled to play a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park that Sunday afternoon. Breadon phoned Medwick that morning and made his offer.

“It was mounting concern over Cardinals futility against left-handed pitching … that prompted Sam Breadon to summon Medwick from his country life of leisure and daily 18 holes of golf,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported.

Medwick, 35, rushed to the ballpark, met with Breadon and signed a contract. In the clubhouse, he was issued uniform No. 21 instead of the No. 7 he had worn during most of his first stint with the Cardinals.

“We needed somebody who can get us a fly ball or a hit once in a while in the pinch,” Dyer said.

Arriving too late to take batting practice, Medwick watched from the dugout as the Cardinals won the opener, 10-5.

In the second game, the Pirates started Fritz Ostermueller, 39, a left-hander, against Jim Hearn of the Cardinals.

In the fifth inning, with the Pirates ahead, 2-0, the Cardinals had a runner, Del Rice, on first base with Hearn due to bat. Dyer decided to send up a pinch-hitter for the pitcher.

Welcome back

“A husky Redbird, bearing the numeral 21 on his back, waddled to the plate, swinging a couple of bats,” The Sporting News reported. “The number was not listed on the scorecard, but to many in the crowd the newcomer’s distinctive gait stirred memories. Then, the announcement, ‘Medwick batting for Hearn,’ brought a tremendous cheer from the throng.”

Medwick, who hadn’t had a bat in his hand since he was cut by the Yankees four weeks earlier, dug into the batter’s box and awaited a pitch to his liking.

With a familiar snap of his wrists, Medwick swung at an Ostermueller offering and drilled it off the right-field wall for a run-scoring double, missing a home run by a foot.

“Spectator reaction was close to hysteria” as Medwick, replaced by pinch-runner Jeff Cross, “trotted head down to the dugout,” wrote the Post-Dispatch.

After the inning, Ostermueller walked by Dyer and said, “That’s the last run you’ll get off me today.”

Good to his word, Ostermueller pitched a three-hitter and the Pirates won, 2-1. Boxscore

Older and wiser

Still, the Cardinals had found the hitter they needed.

Utilized as a pinch-hitter and part-time outfielder, Medwick batted .307 in 75 games for the 1947 Cardinals. His on-base percentage was .373.

“There was a time when I went up to bat that I didn’t give a whoop in Glocamorra who was pitching,” Medwick said to The Sporting News. “Half the time, I didn’t bother to learn who was out there on the mound and I didn’t care what they were throwing. A fellow can’t be young forever, but he can be smart. I study ’em now, watch what they are throwing me and where they are throwing it.”

The Cardinals surged after June 1 and finished in second place at 89-65, five games behind the Dodgers.

Medwick “was credited with contributing considerably to the dash that brought the Birds from last place into a pennant contender,” The Sporting News wrote.

Medwick returned to the Cardinals in 1948, but the skills had eroded. He batted .211 in 20 games, all as a pinch-hitter, and made his last Cardinals appearance of a Hall of Fame career on July 25.

Medwick remains the Cardinals’ all-time single-season leader in doubles (64) and RBI (154).

Previously: How Joe Medwick got traded by Cardinals to Dodgers

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Don Young began his professional baseball career in the Cardinals system, played for George Kissell, departed and was brought back by Stan Musial.

Though he had two stints in the Cardinals organization, Young never played for St. Louis.

Instead, he played for their rival, the Cubs; made his debut in a legendary game; and became a central character in one of their most notorious defeats.

Teen hopeful

Young was 17 when he signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent out of Aurora (Colo.) High School in June 1963.

An outfielder, he was assigned to the Brunswick (Ga.) Cardinals, a Class A club managed by Kissell, the respected instructor. Young batted .280 in 16 games and was sent to another Cardinals Class A team, the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs. He hit .257 in 58 games.

After spring training in 1963, Young was placed on waivers, claimed by the Cubs and began to re-establish himself. In 1965, Young batted .273 with 25 doubles and 16 home runs for the Class AA Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs.

At 19, he was rewarded with a promotion to the Cubs in September 1965.

Big-league welcome

Young made his major-league debut as the starting center fielder and leadoff batter for the Cubs in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Sept. 9.

The Dodgers pitcher that night: Sandy Koufax.

The result: a perfect game.

Koufax retired all 27 batters in a row and struck out 14. Young popped out twice and struck out. The Dodgers, held to one hit by Cubs starter Bob Hendley, won, 1-0. Boxscore

The next night, in San Francisco, Young, described by the Chicago Tribune as “perhaps the Cubs’ top outfield farm prospect,” got his first big-league hit, a solo home run off the Giants’ Ron Herbel. Boxscore

Lou Klein, Cubs manager and former Cardinals infielder, started Young in five games versus the Dodgers and Giants, drawing criticism from Braves manager Bobby Bragan for using a rookie in the pennant stretch against contenders.

Overmatched, Young batted .057 (2-for-35) in his September stint with the Cubs.

Musial maneuvers

Young was back in the minor leagues in 1966 and 1967.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals were trying to figure out what to do with Ted Savage.

Savage, who had hit .266 with 16 stolen bases as a rookie outfielder with the 1962 Phillies, was acquired by the Cardinals after the 1964 season and spent most of the next two years in their minor-league system.

After Musial became Cardinals general manager in January 1967, he promised Savage he would try to keep him in the major leagues.

Savage earned a spot as a utility player on the Opening Day roster of the 1967 Cardinals, but seldom played. In May, Savage was ticketed for a return to the minors. Upset, he indicated he wouldn’t report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote.

Determined to fulfill his vow, Musial looked for a big-league team that would take Savage.

Brief return

Fifty years ago, on May 13, 1967, the Cardinals traded Savage and minor-league outfielder John Kindl to the Cubs for Young and minor-league catcher Jim Procopio.

The Chicago Tribune noted that Young was “once rated a potential Cubs center fielder” but “still was struggling in the minors.”

The Cardinals assigned Young to their Class AAA Tulsa Oilers team. Young played in 12 games for manager Warren Spahn, batted .147 (5-for-34) and was sent back to the Cubs on Aug. 1. The Cubs told Young to report to their Arizona Instructional League team.

Young’s career appeared to be on the brink. He spent the 1968 season with the Lodi (Calif.) Crushers, a Class A club.

Though he wasn’t on their 40-man roster, the Cubs did invite Young, 23, to attend their 1969 spring training camp. It was there that he received an unexpected opportunity.

Rebuilding project

Adolfo Phillips, projected to be the starting center fielder for the 1969 Cubs, broke his hand at spring training. Cubs manager Leo Durocher considered giving the job to a prospect, Oscar Gamble, but the 19-year-old had only a year of minor-league experience.

With his options limited, Durocher turned to Young.

Young “conceivably could be ready for the big time,” Jerome Holtzman of The Sporting News wrote.

“He hasn’t been a strong hitter,” Holtzman opined. “He is, however, a beautiful center fielder … and could very well become a Gold Glove winner _ if he can hit enough to stay.”

Young worked with Klein, his former manager who had become a batting instructor, and Cubs coach Pete Reiser on his hitting. Durocher also wanted Young to become more aggressive.

“He could have a great future, but it’s up to him,” Durocher said. “I can’t do it for him. I don’t care what he hits. I want to see more enthusiasm from him.”

Blame game

With Phillips on the mend, Young was the Opening Day center fielder for the 1969 Cubs.

The Cubs won 11 of their first 12 games and Durocher stayed with Young. In June, Phillips, who clashed with Durocher, was traded to the Expos, solidifying Young’s hold on the job.

On July 8, the Cubs opened a key series with the Mets at New York. The second-place Mets were five games behind the Cubs and Chicago was looking to push them further back.

The Cubs led, 3-1, in the ninth, but the Mets rallied for a 4-3 victory when Young was unable to catch two fly balls that fell for doubles. Cubs third baseman Ron Santo blamed the loss on Young. Boxscore

“He was just thinking of himself,” Santo said. “He had a bad day at the bat, so he’s got his head down. He is worrying about his batting average and not the team … He can keep his head down and he can keep right on going, out of sight, for all I care.”

The next day, Santo apologized: “What I said about Donnie, I didn’t mean. I said it because I was upset.”

The damage, though, had been done. When the Cubs returned to Chicago, Santo was booed at Wrigley Field. The Mets surged ahead of the crumbling Cubs, clinched the division title and went on to win the National League pennant and World Series crown.

Young finished the 1969 season, his last in the big leagues, with a .239 batting average in 101 games.

Previously: 2nd career as Cardinal was long, fruitful for Ted Savage

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A passed ball was the key to enabling the Cardinals to achieve one of their most amazing comebacks.

Trailing by nine runs, the Cardinals rallied to beat the defending National League champion Braves 25 years ago on May 9, 1992, at St. Louis.

The comeback represented the largest deficit overcome by the Cardinals since they rallied from being down 11-0 and beat the Giants, 14-12, on June 15, 1952, at New York.

The Cardinals totaled 15 hits and five walks against Braves pitchers John Smoltz, Juan Berenguer and Marvin Freeman, but still may have come up short if not for a mistake by catcher Damon Berryhill.

Makings of a blowout

Smoltz was matched against Cardinals starter Rheal Cormier in the Saturday night game at Busch Stadium.

It quickly became a mismatch.

Smoltz held the Cardinals hitless the first three innings.

The Braves scored eight runs off Cormier and another run off Juan Agosto and led 9-0 entering the bottom half of the fourth.

“You’d think with a 9-0 lead and a no-hitter going that we’re going to win,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi: “When we were down 9-0, I turned to (umpire Bruce) Froemming and said, ‘This is ugly.’ ”

Staying alive

The Cardinals scored three times in the fourth, but the Braves came back with two runs in the fifth off Bob McClure for an 11-3 lead.

With that kind of support, Smoltz, one of the Braves’ best pitchers, usually would take control of a game. However, he gave up two more runs to the Cardinals in the fifth, making the score 11-5.

“When it was 11-5, I thought there still was time,” Pagnozzi said.

Felix Jose led off the St. Louis half of the seventh with a double off Smoltz. After Pedro Guerrero grounded out and Brian Jordan popped out, Todd Zeile singled, driving in Jose and cutting the Braves’ lead to 11-6.

Cox replaced Smoltz with Berenguer.

Big break

An intimidating, hard thrower, Berenguer had pitched for two World Series championship clubs _ 1984 Tigers and 1987 Twins _ and had earned 17 saves for the 1991 NL champion Braves.

He struck out the first batter he faced, Pagnozzi, but the third strike eluded Berryhill for a passed ball, allowing Pagnozzi to reach first and Zeile to move to second.

Instead of being out of the inning and heading to the eighth with an 11-6 lead, the Braves still needed a third out.

“I just blew it,” said Berryhill. “It’s something that should never happen. I kept it alive for them.”

The next batter, Luis Alicea, walked, loading the bases.

Cardinals manager Joe Torre sent Gerald Perry to pinch-hit for pitcher Cris Carpenter. Perry, a former Brave, ripped a bases-clearing double, making the score 11-9.

Ray Lankford popped out, ending the inning, but momentum had swung toward the Cardinals.

“When we got those three runs, we thought we had a chance,” Perry said.

Awesome Alicea

In the eighth, Berenguer walked Ozzie Smith. Jose followed with a home run, tying the score at 11-11.

Cox replaced Berenguer with Freeman.

Guerrero grounded out, Jordan doubled and Zeile struck out.

With two outs and Jordan at second, the Braves opted to intentionally walk Pagnozzi and pitch to Alicea, the St. Louis second baseman who was batting .115. Since the season began, Alicea was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Alicea thwarted the strategy with a single to left. Jordan, racing for the plate, stepped on Berryhill’s foot and fell to the ground. Froemming called him safe, giving the Cardinals a 12-11 lead.

Some thought Jordan’s foot never touched the plate, but Berryhill said, “I don’t know if I tagged him.”

Jordan told the Associated Press, “I was looking to run over him, but he stepped back. He had his foot on the plate, but I kicked it or stepped on it. I scored.”

Defying the odds

Cardinals closer Lee Smith retired the Braves in order in the ninth, sealing the win.

The Braves scored all of their runs against left-handers: Cormier, Agosto and McClure. They were held scoreless by right-handers Carpenter, Mike Perez and Smith.

“This is the best (comeback) I’ve ever witnessed,” Perry said.

Said Cox: “You’re disappointed in every loss, but the odds on you losing a nine-run lead are about 500-to-1.” Boxscore

Previously: How Braves rallied from 9 down to beat Cardinals

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Though his stint with the Cardinals was fleeting, Skeeter Barnes made a lasting impression.

In his first Cardinals at-bat, Barnes, 30, a journeyman utility player, hit a three-run home run, helping St. Louis win a goofy game against the Padres.

The shot, which occurred 30 years ago on May 7, 1987, was Barnes’ only hit as a Cardinal. He got three more at-bats before he was returned to the minor leagues.

Though his stay with the Cardinals lasted less than a month, Barnes had the satisfaction of contributing to a team that would become National League champions.

Traveling man

William Henry Barnes was born in Cincinnati. He told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he didn’t know how he got to be called Skeeter.

“If somebody called me William, I wouldn’t turn around,” Barnes said. “It’s been pretty much Skeeter all my life.”

Barnes played baseball at the University of Cincinnati and broke into the major leagues with the 1983 Reds. He also played briefly for the Reds in 1984 and for the Expos in 1985.

After spending the 1986 season in the minor leagues, Barnes became a free agent and went to Puerto Rico to play for Ponce in a winter league. St. Louis coach Nick Leyva, managing Mayaguez that winter, was impressed by Barnes, who could play all of the infield and outfield positions, and suggested the Cardinals sign him.

In January 1987, the Cardinals gave Barnes a minor-league contract and invited him to attend their big-league training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla.

“If I can just get my foot in the door, show them what I can do, things will be all right,” Barnes said. “I do know how to play the game.”

Ready or not

Though Tom Lawless won the competition that spring for a utility job, the Cardinals liked what they saw from Barnes and assigned him to their Class AAA club at Louisville.

On May 2, when Cardinals outfielder Tito Landrum went on the disabled list because of a broken left foot, Barnes, batting .294 for Louisville, was promoted to St. Louis.

The Louisville team was in Oklahoma City when Barnes learned he was being called up to the Cardinals.

“They called Skeeter at 1:15 and wanted to know if he could get on a 2:30 flight” to St. Louis, Louisville coach Joe Pettini told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Said Barnes: “I hope I can come in here and make an impact.”

Five days later, Barnes got to make his Cardinals debut.

Opportunity knocks

Playing on a Thursday afternoon at San Diego, the Cardinals had a 14-0 lead over the Padres in the seventh inning when manager Whitey Herzog began to substitute several of his starters. Barnes was sent in to replace third baseman Terry Pendleton.

The Padres cut the lead to 14-5 in the bottom half of the seventh when starter Bob Forsch yielded a two-run home run to Stan Jefferson and a three-run home run to Bruce Bochy.

In the eighth, St. Louis had runners on first and third, two outs, when Barnes came to bat for the first time as a Cardinal. He drilled a Greg Booker pitch for a three-run home run, extending the St. Louis lead to 17-5.

Barnes’ blast made the Cardinals’ mood a little less irritable in the ninth when the Padres scored five times for a 17-10 final.

“What’s the record for having the biggest lead in the ninth inning and blowing it?” asked Herzog. “I just wondered. That had all the earmarks.”

Said Barnes: “Nobody wants to play in games like that, but I want to get into any game I can.” Boxscore

On the road again

Barnes never got a start for the Cardinals. Herzog used him three times as a pinch-hitter.

On May 20, when pitcher Ken Dayley came off the disabled list, the Cardinals opened a roster spot for him by sending Barnes to Louisville.

Though Barnes played well for the Class AAA club, batting .282, he wasn’t in the Cardinals’ plans.

On July 16, Barnes hit a two-run triple in his final Louisville game, a 5-4 victory at Nashville. After the game, the Cardinals sold his contract for $100 to the Brewers, who assigned him to their minor-league affiliate at Denver.

Barnes returned to the big leagues with the Reds in 1989 and had his best success as a Tigers utility player from 1991-94.

Previously: Tom Lawless and his role in Cardinals World Series lore

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Predictably, a brawl involving two of the most temperamental characters in the major leagues, “The Mad Hungarian” and “One Tough Dominican,” was both intense and cartoonish.

Forty years ago, on May 6, 1977, a melee among the Astros and Cardinals occurred in the ninth inning of a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Astros batter Cesar Cedeno took issue with being drilled by a pitch from Cardinals reliever Al Hrabosky, the self-psyching showman known as “The Mad Hungarian.”

When Cedeno charged the mound, both dugouts emptied and fights erupted across the field, lasting 10 minutes before the game could resume.

Besides Hrabosky and Cedeno, the most prominent combatants included:

_ Joaquin Andujar, the Astros pitcher and self-proclaimed “One Tough Dominican,” who, like Cedeno, would play for the Cardinals in the 1980s.

_ Ted Simmons, the strong-willed Cardinals catcher and on-field leader.

_ Roger Freed, the burly and popular Cardinals pinch-hitter.

_ Dave Rader, a Cardinals backup catcher and former all-league high school football linebacker.

_ Cliff Johnson, a strapping 6-foot-4 Astros power hitter.

Asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to summarize the histrionics, Astros player Enos Cabell aptly declared: “It was a goodie.”

Slap happy

Tensions began to build in the seventh inning. With the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, Johnson was grazed by a pitch from starter Pete Falcone.

Simmons, crouched behind the plate, and Johnson exchanged words.

“He didn’t think I got hit,” Johnson told the Post-Dispatch.

In what he said was a playful gesture, Johnson slapped Simmons in the head.

“I told him, ‘Clifford, relax,’ ” Simmons said. “He told me, ‘Take it easy.’ ”

Said Johnson: “I was just trying to get his attention.”

In the eighth, Hrabosky relieved Falcone and retired the Astros in order. The Cardinals scored twice in the bottom half of the inning and took a 4-0 lead into the ninth.

Mind games

As Cedeno approached the plate to lead off the ninth, Hrabosky went behind the mound, turned his back on the batter and went into his self-motivating meditation act.

Miffed, Cedeno left the batter’s box, went to the on-deck circle, used a rag to apply pine tar to his bat handle and waited for Hrabosky to get onto the mound.

Bob Engel, home plate umpire, “waved in disgust” for Hrabosky to pitch, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Hrabosky “threw up his hands in seeming protest,” wrote Rick Hummel.

The first pitch, a fastball, plunked Cedeno in the left arm.

Cedeno dropped his bat and advanced toward the mound. Hrabosky dropped his glove and waited.

As they neared, Cedeno threw a punch. Hrabosky ducked, avoiding the blow.

“If I get knocked down, I’m in a world of trouble,” Hrabosky said.

Simmons stormed toward Cedeno and jumped on his back.

Bedlam reigns

Battles broke out all over.

Andujar, at the center of a fight near the third-base line, swung wildly in every direction. One of his swipes nearly clipped umpire Bill Williams in the jaw.

After Williams ejected Andujar, the pitcher desperately tried to get at the umpire and had to be restrained by coach Deacon Jones and teammate Bob Watson. Colleague John McSherry prevented Williams from going after Andujar, according to United Press International.

Cedeno was involved in multiple skirmishes, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Simmons, after rescuing Hrabosky, dived “into a pileup in an attempt at peacemaking” and then shed “his catching equipment, with the exception of one shin guard, and motioned the Astros to come after him if they wished,” Hummel reported.

Though some Astros moved toward him, none dared take on Simmons.

“They were doing a lot of woofing,” Simmons said.

Johnson, the Astros outfielder, tried to lighten the mood by shadow boxing some of the Cardinals, comically tugging at an umpire’s jacket and pretending to kick another umpire in the rear.

As the field began to clear, Cedeno and Freed got into a fight near the first-base line. While the two threw punches, Rader bolted toward Cedeno, tackled him around the midsection and drove him back 15 yards, Hummel wrote. Video

Show goes on

Andujar and Freed were the only players ejected.

When the game resumed, Hrabosky and Simmons still were the St. Louis battery and Cedeno was the base runner at first.

Cedeno swiped second and Watson drew a walk.

Hrabosky got Joe Ferguson to hit into a third-to-first double play, with Watson advancing to second. Johnson doubled, driving in Watson and making the score 4-1.

Art Howe walked, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. Hrabosky finally ended the drama by getting Cabell to line out to shortstop Garry Templeton. Boxscore

Lighten up

Hrabosky claimed the pitch that struck Cedeno wasn’t intentional. “I just thought it was an inside pitch,” he told the Associated Press. “I’ve been told there are certain people I’m supposed to pitch up and in. I know there’s a certain way I have to pitch him and I’m going to do it.”

Said Simmons: “I didn’t call for it (a brushback pitch). I think you have to assume it was an accident.”

The Astros weren’t buying that explanation. “There should have been more punches thrown,” said Watson. “You don’t hit a man and get away with it. It was flagrant. The umpire should have kicked Hrabosky out.”

In the clubhouse, after tempers cooled, Johnson, the prankster, waited for Cedeno to head to the showers, then placed an autographed photo of Hrabosky on his teammate’s chair. The picture was inscribed, “Next time, it’ll be two.”

When Cedeno returned to his locker and saw the photo, he looked around the clubhouse, yelled, “Damn you, Johnson,” and laughed.

Previously: Cesar Cedeno and his amazing month with Cardinals

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Seeking a power bat for a lineup struggling to score, the Cardinals got the slugger they wanted but paid a hefty price, dealing a player who would win the National League batting title.

When the Cardinals traded outfielder Harry Walker, 28, and pitcher Freddy Schmidt, 31, to the Phillies for outfielder Ron Northey 70 years ago on May 3, 1947, the swap appeared to favor them.

Northey, 27, was an established left-handed pull hitter whose swing appeared tailored to take advantage of the short distance (310 feet) down the line from home plate to the right field wall at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

Walker, also a left-handed batter, lacked Northey’s power.

“Walker, a great fielder and fast man, wasn’t hitting far enough or long enough to suit” the Cardinals, The Sporting News reported.

The Cardinals, though, didn’t know Walker was close to mastering a revamped swing that would lead to a breakthrough.

Seeking a groove

After winning the 1946 World Series championship, the Cardinals had a dreadful start to the 1947 season. The Cardinals lost 10 of their first 12 games, including the last eight in a row. They scored two runs or less in five of those 10 losses.

St. Louis began the season with a starting outfield of Dick Sisler in left, Walker in center and Enos Slaughter in right, with Stan Musial at first base.

Walker had debuted in the big leagues with the 1940 Cardinals. He had his best year for St. Louis in 1943, batting .294 with 166 hits.

After that season, Walker joined the Army, serving with General George Patton’s unit in Europe, and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

When Walker returned to the Cardinals in 1946, he platooned with Terry Moore in center field. Trying to hit for power, Walker became a pull hitter but was unsuccessful. He batted .237 with 27 RBI.

During that season, Walker sought the advice of his brother, Dodgers outfielder Dixie Walker, who urged his sibling to close his batting stance and spray the ball to all fields.

During the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox, Walker began to see positive results from the change. He batted .412 (7-for-17) with six RBI, including the double that drove in Slaughter from first base with the winning run in Game 7.

However, when Walker started slowly in 1947, batting .200 with no RBI in 10 games, the Cardinals stepped up efforts to acquire Northey.

Rough on righties

Northey had debuted in the big leagues with the 1942 Phillies. The stocky outfielder had a strong throwing arm and a power stroke.

He also had an ear problem. In his freshman year at Duke University, Northey was beaned by a pitch and experienced a buzzing in his ears ever since, according to The Sporting News.

“It is so annoying that Northey often is forced to rattle papers to keep his mind off the buzz,” The Sporting News reported. “When he goes to bed, he falls asleep with his radio on.”

Northey had his best year with the Phillies in 1944 when he batted .288 with 35 doubles, 22 home runs and 104 RBI.

He pounded right-handed pitchers and was vulnerable against left-handers. In 1946, Northey batted .266 with 16 home runs versus right-handers and .159 with no home runs against left-handers.

In 1947, Northey reported late to spring training after unsuccessfully holding out for more pay. He also clashed with Phillies manager Ben Chapman.

Walker was in New York with the Cardinals and about to board a train for their trip to Boston when he was informed he and Schmidt had been dealt to the Phillies for Northey.

Schmidt, a right-hander, had experienced a breakout season with the 1944 Cardinals, posting a 7-3 record and 3.15 ERA in 37 appearances. He was 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in 1946.

Let ‘er rip

In reporting the trade, The Sporting News described Northey as a “robust Pennsylvanian who swings from his heels.”

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon told the St. Louis Star-Times, “Harry Walker is a fine defensive outfielder, but what we need right now is punch and I think Northey has it.”

Northey joined the Cardinals in Boston for their series with the Braves and was placed in the lineup for a Sunday doubleheader on May 4. He singled and scored in the opener, a 4-3 Braves victory that extended the St. Louis losing streak to nine.

In the second game, Northey went 3-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored, sparking St. Louis to a 9-0 triumph. He produced a two-run home run off starter Mort Cooper, the former Cardinal ace, in the fourth, a solo home run against Glenn Elliott in the sixth and a RBI-single off Dick Mulligan in the seventh. Boxscore

Hot hitting

Walker went on a tear as soon as he joined the Phillies, getting 10 hits in his first 24 at-bats. He had perfected the batting style his brother had suggested.

In 130 games for the 1947 Phillies, Walker batted .371 with 181 hits, including 28 doubles and a league-leading 16 triples.

Even with his 5-for-25 effort for the Cardinals added to his season total, Walker easily won the NL batting crown at .363. The runner-up, Bob Elliott of the Braves, hit .317.

Walker also placed second in the NL in on-base percentage at .436. Only the Reds’ Augie Galan (.449) did better.

Northey batted .293 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI in 110 games for the 1947 Cardinals. True to form, he hit .313 versus right-handers and .154 against left-handers.

The Cardinals ended the 1947 season in second place at 89-65, five behind the Dodgers.

Northey played two more seasons for St. Louis, batting .321 with 13 home runs in 1948 and .260 with seven home runs in 1949.

Walker batted .292 for the 1948 Phillies, was traded to the Cubs and then shipped to the Reds.

After the 1949 season, in a classic example of what goes around comes around, the Cardinals sent Northey and infielder Lou Klein to the Reds to reacquire Walker.

Previously: Tribute to Freddy Schmidt, star rookie for 1944 Cards

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