Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Gene Oliver didn’t deliver as many home runs as the Cardinals hoped he would, but he did hit one for them that made him popular in San Francisco.

Sixty years ago, in 1962, Oliver was the Cardinals’ starting catcher. He got the job because the Cardinals thought he could hit with consistent power and drive in runs. Instead, he finished fourth on the club in home runs (14) and sixth in RBI (45).

Oliver’s shining moment came in the Cardinals’ last game of the season when his game-winning home run against the Dodgers kept them from clinching the National League pennant and gave the Giants a chance to enter a playoff.

Big bopper

Oliver was born in Moline, Ill., one of the Quad Cities along the Mississippi River. He was a standout high school athlete in neighboring Rock Island, Ill. Oliver was considered a professional baseball prospect until, as a prep football player, he suffered a shoulder separation that hindered his ability to throw a baseball.

He went to Northwestern on a football scholarship for one year, returned to Moline, got a job with IBM and married, according to The Sporting News.

“I was ready to forget about pro baseball,” Oliver said, “but my wife insisted I try again because she didn’t want me to go through life wondering whether I might have made it.”

Oliver worked out daily at the YMCA and rebuilt his arm strength. Acting on a tip, the Cardinals monitored him and liked what they saw. Oliver was 21 when Cardinals scout Joe Monahan signed him to a contract in 1956.

Playing mostly outfield and first base, Oliver hit 39 home runs for Class D Ardmore (Okla.) in 1956 and 30 home runs for Class B Winston-Salem in 1957. He advanced to Class AAA Rochester in 1958 and, with his arm strength improving, he also did some catching.

The Cardinals called up Oliver in June 1959, but he spent the next season in the minors.

Because of his power potential and ability to play three positions, Oliver was a candidate for a utility spot with the Cardinals in 1961, but he reported to spring training at 238 pounds.

Describing his physique as “balloon-like,” The Sporting News reported the Cardinals were close to giving up on Oliver until he made amends by focusing on conditioning. He was 210 pounds when the Cardinals opened the 1961 season with him on the roster as a reserve.

In May 1961, the Cardinals sent Oliver to their Portland farm club in Oregon. A month later, the Cardinals’ catcher, Hal Smith, had to quit playing because of a heart ailment. Oliver, playing first base, was hitting with power for Portland. With Bill White having a lock on the Cardinals’ first base job, the club sent Smith to Portland to tutor Oliver in becoming a catcher.

“His throwing has improved and, yes, I think he has a good chance to stick in the majors,” Smith told The Sporting News.

Oliver hit .302 with 36 home runs and 100 RBI for Portland. His on-base percentage was .422. He returned to the Cardinals in September 1961, started 12 games at catcher and “showed 100 percent improvement behind the plate,” The Sporting News reported.

Getting his chance

The top three home run hitters for the 1961 Cardinals _ Ken Boyer (24), Bill White (20) and Stan Musial (15) _ totaled fewer home runs than Roger Maris had (61) for the 1961 Yankees. The Cardinals “desperately needed a power hitter,” The Sporting News reported. “They may have the answer in Gene Oliver.”

Oliver, 27, reported to spring training in 1962 at a fit 210 pounds and won the starting catcher job. His backups when the season opened were left-handed batter Carl Sawatski, 34, and defensive specialist Jimmie Schaffer, 26. Catching prospect Tim McCarver, 20, was deemed not ready and sent to the minors.

To the disappointment of the Cardinals, Oliver failed to provide power production early in the 1962 season. He hit one home run in April and one in May.

On April 22 at St. Louis, the Cardinals, trailing the Cubs, 5-1, loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Curt Flood, hitting .519 on the young season, was due to bat. Flood had two singles and a walk in the game, but manager Johnny Keane sent Oliver to bat for him.

“We needed the knockout blow,” Keane told The Sporting News. “We knew we could count on Flood for a hit, but we needed more than that.”

Oliver struck out looking against Cal Koonce, ending the game. Boxscore

In June, Oliver switched from a 33-ounce bat to a 35-ounce model, but it didn’t help increase his home run totals much.

Decking the Dodgers

Through August, Oliver had seven home runs for the season. He told The Sporting News that Keane said to him, “We’ve got a lot of singles hitters on this club, and we need punch from you.”

Keane determined Oliver had become defensive in his swing because he was reluctant to strike out. He advised Oliver to take “a good cut because we don’t care how many times you strike out.”

Oliver hit seven home runs in September. The big blow was the last.

On Sept. 30, 1962, the last scheduled day of the regular season, the first-place Dodgers were one game ahead of the Giants in the National League standings. If the Dodgers beat the Cardinals that afternoon in Los Angeles, they’d clinch the pennant and advance to the World Series.

At San Francisco, the Giants beat the Colt .45s, 2-1, on a tie-breaking home run by Willie Mays against Turk Farrell in the eighth inning. Boxscore

At Los Angeles, the Cardinals and Dodgers were locked in a scoreless duel. About the time the Giants’ win was posted on the scoreboard, Oliver batted against Johnny Podres with one out in the eighth.

“I went up to the plate looking for a curve, looking for the long ball,” Oliver told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s all Podres throws me, breaking stuff.”

Podres, pitching on his 30th birthday, threw two fastballs to Oliver for strikes. Oliver turned to catcher Johnny Roseboro and said, “You’ve really fooled me.”

The next pitch was a curve that missed, making the count 1-and-2. Podres came back with another curve, and Oliver lined it over the fence in left for a home run.

Oliver’s home run, combined with the five-hit shutout pitched by Curt Simmons, gave the Cardinals a 1-0 victory and dropped the Dodgers into a first-place tie with the Giants. Boxscore

“I pitched the best game of my life,” Podres said to the Los Angeles Times. “Even the pitch to Oliver was a good one, a curve in tight.”

Yes, Podres said, his performance against the Cardinals was better than the shutout he pitched to win Game 7 of the 1955 World Series for the Dodgers versus the Yankees. Boxscore

In the ensuing best-of-three playoff to determine the 1962 National League champion, the Giants prevailed.

Toast of the town

Restaurant owners Leo Giorgetti and Sam Marconi invited Oliver and his wife to San Francisco on an all-expenses paid trip for the first two games of the 1962 World Series.

Giorgetti and Marconi owned The Iron Horse restaurant and the Gold Street saloon. The Iron Horse was popular with athletes and entertainers. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had their wedding reception there.

Dubbing Oliver’s appearance as “San Francisco Appreciation Day,” the restauranteurs took out an advertisement in the San Francisco Examiner, informing fans that, after the Thursday afternoon Game 1 of the World Series, an autograph party with the Cardinals catcher would be held at the Gold Street saloon from 7 pm to 9 pm, followed by dinner at The Iron Horse.

Oliver also was “the key figure in an impromptu parade” on the first day of the World Series, Bob Burnes of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

According to Burnes, Oliver “has become the most lionized visitor in recent San Francisco history.”

Moving on

The fanfare in San Francisco was heady stuff for a player who hit .258 overall for the 1962 Cardinals and .190 with runners in scoring position.

Back in Moline, Ill., for the winter, Oliver worked for a clothing store, Mosenfelder’s, selling suits.

Entering spring training in 1963, Stan Musial told The Sporting News, “We can look for more long ball from Gene Oliver. He seems to have found himself.”

It became apparent, though, that Tim McCarver was the Cardinals’ best catcher in 1963. In the book “We Played the Game,” McCarver said Oliver “was a good hitter but had a weak throwing arm.”

On June 15, 1963, the Cardinals traded Oliver and pitcher Bob Sadowski to the Braves for pitcher Lew Burdette. To make room for Oliver on their roster, the Braves sent catcher Bob Uecker to the minors.

Oliver had his best season with the 1965 Braves, hitting 21 home runs. In June 1967, the Braves traded him to the Phillies _ for Bob Uecker.

As a big-leaguer, Oliver hit 93 home runs, including four versus Sandy Koufax. Oliver had a career batting average of .392 against Koufax (20 for 51).

Read Full Post »

Every time Steve Carlton pitched against the Cardinals in 1972, it was a vivid reminder of the overbearing bungling of Gussie Busch.

Fifty years ago, Busch, the Cardinals’ owner, had a temper tantrum because Carlton wouldn’t agree to the club’s contract terms. Ordered by Busch to trade Carlton, general manager Bing Devine dealt him to the Phillies for another pitcher, Rick Wise, in February 1972.

Carlton made Busch pay for his heavy-handiness in ways greater than any salary amount he sought. In four starts against the 1972 Cardinals, Carlton was 4-0 with an 0.50 ERA. Two of those wins were shutouts. In 36 innings pitched versus the 1972 Cardinals, Carlton allowed no home runs and two runs total.

First test

On April 15, 1972, Carlton made his Phillies debut and beat the Cubs at Chicago. Boxscore

His next start, his first in Philadelphia for the Phillies, was April 19 against the Cardinals. Not only would Carlton face his former team for the first time, he also would oppose their ace, Bob Gibson.

On the eve of the showdown, Carlton told Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News, “Pitching against old teammates, that’s a new challenge. They know what you throw and how you set up hitters. You go out there with them knowing that, and you have to handle it.”

Asked what it was like having been Gibson’s teammate, Carlton replied, “I learned things, but not the mechanics of pitching. What I learned involved ideas, competitive spirit, the intense concentration he brings to the job. I admire him. I enjoyed watching him pitch.”

Told Gibson wouldn’t discuss the matchup, Carlton said, “The way he feels is that he’s pitching against the other club, not against some other pitcher.”

Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock said, “Carlton is one of the few guys who really cares. Some guys get taken out of games in late innings, even though they’ve pitched well, and they’re satisfied. Not Carlton. He feels like it’s his game. He’s got a lot of killer instinct.”

Speed game

Carlton, 27, and Gibson, 36, delivered a classic. Relying on the slider he learned on a trip to Japan with the Cardinals in 1968, Carlton pitched a three-hit shutout and the Phillies won, 1-0, in a game played in one hour, 33 minutes.

Phillies catcher Tim McCarver, another former Cardinal, told the Philadelphia Daily News that Carlton “was working quicker than he usually does. A couple of times he was winding up to pitch before I gave him the sign.”

The Cardinals’ hits were singles by Ted Sizemore, Matty Alou and Ed Crosby, who filled in at third base when Joe Torre was sidelined because of a bad back.

The Phillies scored in the sixth when former Cardinals prospect Willie Montanez hit a triple into the right field corner and Deron Johnson followed with a sharply grounded single to center.

With two outs and none on in the ninth, Ted Sizemore represented the Cardinals’ last hope.

“Tim called for a fastball and I shook him off,” Carlton told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I was thinking slider. I wanted to run it down and in on him.”

Instead, Carlton got the pitch up and in, and Sizemore drove it deep. “The ball fled Sizemore’s bat as though it had important business in a distant city,” Bruce Keidan wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Center fielder Willie Montanez turned and gave chase. He leaped near the wall and caught the ball in the web of his glove. As he came down, his glove hit the wall, the ball popped out and Montanez snared it again near his knees.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst and his coaches said the ball touched the wall after it came out of Montanez’s glove and should have been ruled a hit, but umpire Andy Olsen, who had run into the outfield from his post near second base, called it a catch and Sizemore was out, ending the game.

“Body and glove made contact with the wall,” Olsen explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but the ball did not hit the wall.”

The loss was Gibson’s first versus the Phillies since April 1969. He’d won seven in a row against them. Boxscore

Home on the road

On Aug. 5, 1972, Carlton, playing in St. Louis for the first time since the trade, pitched a five-hit shutout in a 5-0 Phillies victory against the Cardinals. The game was completed in one hour, 48 minutes.

Carlton was “received warmly by a crowd of 25,505 in the city where he still makes his home,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Asked about what it was like pitching in St. Louis as the opponent, Carlton told the Post-Dispatch, “There was a little tightness and feeling of anxiety.”

Bill Robinson and Greg Luzinski each hit a two-run home run against Cardinals starter Reggie Cleveland.

The win was Carlton’s 12th in a row. His catcher for the last 10 wins in the streak was John Bateman, who was acquired in June from the Expos for McCarver. Boxscore

On a roll

On Sept. 7, 1972, in his third appearance against the Cardinals, Carlton again made quick work of them, getting his 23rd win of the season in a 2-1 Phillies victory at Philadelphia. The game was played in one hour, 49 minutes.

Carlton displayed a moustache, a symbol of personal grooming independence that must have made Busch choke on his braunschweiger sandwich. Five months earlier, Busch demanded the trade of another talent, starting pitcher Jerry Reuss, because he dared to grow a moustache.

Carlton got his 100th career win against a Cardinals lineup that featured six rookies _ Bill Stein, Mike Tyson, Skip Jutze, Ken Reitz, Jorge Roque and Mick Kelleher.

“I had no idea how to pitch to most of those hitters,” Carlton told the Philadelphia Daily News.

The Phillies scored their runs against Cardinals starter Al Santorini. Larry Bowa and Tommy Hutton hit consecutive triples in the fifth, and Luzinski got a home run in the sixth. Boxscore

Traded foes

On Sept. 20, 1972, at St. Louis, Carlton and Rick Wise were matched against one another for the first time since the trade. The Phillies prevailed, 2-1, and Carlton got his 25th win of the season.

“So many of his former comrades have been shuffled away, Carlton feels no extra surge of adrenaline when he faces the Cardinals,” Bill Conlin wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News. “Only the sight of Gussie Busch and Bing Devine at the plate could turn him on.”

The game was played in two hours, 20 minutes before a mere 5,569, the second smallest crowd to attend a Cardinals game at Busch Memorial Stadium since it opened in May 1966.

“St. Louis fans are resigned that the trade was a blunder conceived in spite,” Conlin noted.

Asked by the Associated Press to pose for a picture before the game with Carlton, who agreed, Wise said, “Absolutely not.”

The loss gave Wise a season record of 15-16. Twelve of his losses were by one run _ six by scores of 3-2, three by 2-1, two by 4-3 and one by 1-0.

“Everybody says things even out,” Wise told the Post-Dispatch. “It will take a couple of years to even that out.” Boxscore

Special talent

Wise finished the season 16-16 with a 3.11 ERA. Carlton was 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA and received the first of his four National League Cy Young awards. Carlton had 27 wins for a team that won 59. Video

Carlton went on to have other spectacular seasons against the Cardinals, including 1980 (6-0, 1.38 ERA) and 1982 (5-1, 2.37 ERA). From May 1979 to May 1981, he had 10 consecutive wins versus the Cardinals.

Carlton’s career record against the Cardinals: 38-14, 2.98 ERA, five shutouts.

Read Full Post »

When push came to shove during a game at Cincinnati, both the Cardinals and the plate umpire behaved badly.

On April 22, 1952, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky confronted umpire Scotty Robb, who responded with a shove.

Two weeks later, Robb submitted his resignation to National League president Warren Giles, then accepted a surprise offer to continue umpiring in the American League.

Law and order

A Baltimore native, Douglas Walker Robb, known as Scotty, played semipro baseball until an arm injury prompted him to move into umpiring. He umpired college and minor-league games before serving two years (1944-45) in the Navy.

Robb was 38 when he became a National League umpire in August 1947. In his debut game, Cardinals versus Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York, he umpired at third base. Johnny Mize drove in four runs against his former club, powering the Giants to a 6-5 victory. Boxscore

Three years later, on July 2, 1950, Robb had a confrontation with Stanky in a game between the Braves and Giants at the Polo Grounds.

With the score tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning, the Giants had a runner on first, none out, when Stanky came to the plate with “visions of a game-winning rally,” the New York Daily News reported.

Nicknamed “The Brat,” Stanky got upset when Robb, working the plate, called Bob Chipman’s first pitch to him a strike. Stanky took an angry swing at the next delivery and missed badly. Strike two. After watching a pitch go outside, Stanky grounded into a rally-killing double play.

“Angrier than ever when he reached the bench, Stanky threw a couple of water buckets onto the grass,” the Daily News reported, and Robb ejected him.

Giants manager Leo Durocher came out of the dugout to argue and Robb tossed him, too.

As Stanky and Durocher made the long walk across the outfield to the clubhouse behind the bleachers in center, Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson threw a towel in the direction of Robb and he also was ejected.

In a flash, the Giants had lost their second baseman, center fielder and manager.

“It was a senseless rhubarb and strictly the Giants’ fault,” declared the Boston Globe.

Robb took “a wicked booing” from Giants fans the remainder of the game, the Globe noted, especially after the Braves struck for four runs in the ninth and won, 6-3. Boxscore

Boiling point

The Giants traded Stanky, 36, to the Cardinals in December 1951 and he became their player-manager, replacing Marty Marion.

After the Cardinals split their first six games in 1952, Stanky selected rookie pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell, 21, to make his big-league debut in a start against the Reds at Crosley Field.

Mizell, who allowed the Reds two runs in the first and none for the rest of the game, showed more poise than Stanky and some of his veteran players.

In the third inning, Robb, the plate umpire, called out the Cardinals’ Solly Hemus on strikes for the second time in the game. Hemus barked at Robb before heaving his bat toward the grandstand on the first-base side near the visitors’ dugout.

Robb ejected Hemus, prompting Stanky to rush out of the dugout. Robb ordered Stanky to leave the field, but instead he got as close as he could to the umpire. Stanky stood toe to toe with Robb, gestured excitedly, waved his index finger in his face and berated him, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“I wanted to know why Hemus was put out of the game,” Stanky told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

According to the Dayton Journal Herald, Stanky and Robb “were jostling each other in a startling fashion.”

During what the Globe-Democrat described as a “tornadic argument,” Robb thought Stanky touched or bumped him.

According to Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “As far as press box observers could tell, it was a phantom touch, as light-fingered and as unobtrusive as a pickpocket.”

Stanky said to the Globe-Democrat, “I told Robb that I never touched him. If I did, it was not intentional, and probably was caused by the fact that his momentum as he was walking toward our dugout carried him into me.”

Enraged, Robb threw down his mask, put both hands on Stanky’s chest and vigorously shoved him back a few steps. “The umpire squared off and Stanky, obviously stunned, then started toward Robb,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“It appeared as if the two might start swinging at each other,” the Globe-Democrat noted. 

Umpires joined Cardinals players and coaches in getting between the two and preventing further damage.

Stanky told the Post-Dispatch, “Getting shoved that way and not being able to strike back was the most embarrassing, the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me on a ball field.”

Robb ejected Stanky and the game continued. Gene Mauch replaced Hemus at shortstop.

Stan the Mad

More trouble happened in the seventh. With the Cardinals trailing, 2-1, Stan Musial batted with two outs and a runner on first. Musial hit a grounder sharply down the line at first. Umpire Lon Warneke, Musial’s former Cardinals teammate, ruled it a foul ball. “From the press box, the ball appeared to be foul by at least two feet,” the Cincinnati Enquirer noted.

Musial thought otherwise.

“Stan, who seldom protests a decision, kicked the dirt viciously several times,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Musial was “drop-kicking dirt with the skill of a football field goal specialist.”

Perhaps to prevent Musial from getting ejected for the only time in his career, Cardinals reliever Al Brazle ran from the bullpen onto the field to argue on Musial’s behalf. Warneke ejected Brazle. Boxscore

Tough job

National League president Warren Giles was at the game and witnessed the shenanigans. The next day, Giles met for 45 minutes with Stanky, Hemus and the four umpires _ Robb, Warneke, Babe Pinelli and Dusty Boggess _ to get their versions of what happened.

As the meeting ended, Robb and Stanky shook hands. “It’s all over now,” Stanky told The Sporting News. “We’ll forget it and start anew.”

A few hours later, Giles, a former Cardinals minor-league executive, announced he was fining Hemus $25 and Stanky $50 for their roles in the incident. Giles publicly reprimanded Robb and said he fined the umpire an amount greater than the combined fines of Hemus and Stanky. Years later, The Sporting News reported Robb was fined $200.

Robb “seemed to feel he had been humiliated by Giles’ reprimand and fine,” The Sporting News reported.

The next game Robb worked was on April 26 when the Cardinals played the Cubs at St. Louis. In the seventh inning, Warneke ejected Stanky for arguing a call at third base. Boxscore

Unable to overcome the feeling that Giles hadn’t supported him, Robb resigned on May 5 and said he would operate a printing business in New Jersey.

Two days later, Robb was stunned when American League president Will Harrirdge offered him an umpiring job.

“When Mr. Harridge approached me with an offer, I was so choked up I couldn’t talk for a minute or two,” Robb told The Sporting News.

Harridge said, “I signed what I believed to be a good umpire and the kind of gentleman we would like to have on our staff.”

Robb umpired in the American League through June 1953, then retired from baseball at age 44.

“It’s a lonesome, difficult life,” Robb told The Sporting News. “An umpire must live like a hermit, avoiding casual acquaintances and not associating with players, managers or coaches. The travel is bad … and the pay wasn’t too good either.”

Read Full Post »

In the last regular-season game he played in the NFL, running back Jim Brown was ejected for fighting with a St. Louis Cardinals defensive lineman.

The incident occurred on Dec. 19, 1965, in the regular-season finale between the Cardinals and Cleveland Browns at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Just before halftime, Brown and Cardinals defensive end Joe Robb hit and kicked one another. The referee tossed both from the game. Brown still finished as the NFL rushing leader for the eighth time in nine seasons.

Despite a stellar performance by Cardinals safety Larry Wilson, who intercepted three passes and returned one 96 yards for a touchdown, the Browns won, 27-24, and advanced to the NFL championship game against the Green Bay Packers. Video

Brown, 29, played in the title game, won by the Packers, and then retired from football, launching an acting career with a role in the film “The Dirty Dozen.”

Tough guy

Joe Robb was born and raised in the east Texas town of Lufkin, near the Davy Crockett National Forest. His father was a professional wrestler.

Described by the Waco News-Tribune as “a carefree sort unused to a tight harness,” Robb played on the defensive line at Texas Christian University with future Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle Bob Lilly.

A rangy 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds, Robb was chosen by the Chicago Bears in the 14th round of the 1959 NFL draft. He was cut from the roster near the end of training camp and claimed by the Philadelphia Eagles.

A year later, Robb, who bulked up to about 240 pounds, was a starting defensive end for the Eagles when they won the 1960 NFL championship. In the title game against the Packers, Robb was matched against the future Hall of Fame offensive tackle, Forrest Gregg.

“Robb is a tough, hard-nosed kid,” Gregg told the Philadelphia Daily News. “He was charging the same on the last play as he was the first.”

When it came time to discuss a contract for the 1961 season, Robb said, “I went in and asked for $13,000. (General manager) Vince McNally said I was asking for a quarterback’s salary.”

The Eagles traded Robb to the Cardinals for defensive end Leo Sugar and linebacker John Tracey.

Trench battles

In joining the 1961 Cardinals, Robb and Jim Brown nearly became teammates. The Cardinals claimed they turned down a trade offer of Brown for running back John David Crow.

Wally Lemm became the Cardinals’ head coach in 1962 and Robb thrived in the system designed by defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis. Robb had 8.5 sacks in 14 games in 1963. “I really learned something about football at St. Louis,” Robb told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Chuck Drulis taught me everything I know.”

The Eagles’ Bob Brown, the future Hall of Fame offensive tackle, said Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles Rams, the Packers’ Willie Davis and Robb were the toughest defensive linemen to block. Regarding Robb, Bob Brown told The Sporting News, “There’s bad blood between us. We just don’t like each other.”

Before the December 1965 game against the Cardinals, Cleveland’s Jim Brown had been ejected once since entering the NFL in 1957. It happened on Oct. 27, 1963, when he tried to block blitzing New York Giants linebacker Tom Scott on a play in the closing minute of the game. Brown and Scott traded punches and were ejected for fighting.

In an interview with author Alex Haley for Playboy magazine, Brown said he had been gouged in the eye “seven or eight times until I was half blinded” in an earlier game against the Giants.

“I made up my mind that if anybody ever again came deliberately close to my eyes, I would retaliate in spades,” Brown said. “So when I felt Scott’s fingers grabbing for me, I just swung on him and we had that little scuffle.”

Rough stuff

Jim Brown seemed headed toward a stellar performance against the Cardinals in the 1965 regular-season finale. He ran for a touchdown early in the second quarter and was averaging better than five yards per carry in the game.

Just before halftime, with Cleveland ahead, 17-7, Brown took a handoff from Frank Ryan and was hit by Robb.

“Robb hit me with a clothesline blow,” Brown told the Mansfield News-Journal.

The clothesline hit usually is defined as a strike to the head or neck with an extended stiff arm.

Robb told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “I tried to clothesline him. I missed.”

Brown said Robb hit him a second time _ in the back of the head with an elbow when Brown was returning to the huddle.

“He hit me twice,” Brown told Alex Haley. “I didn’t mind being hit _ that’s part of the game _ but he hit me for no reason, no reason at all, and that I did mind.”

Come and get it

On the next play, a deep pass, with Brown assigned to stay in the backfield to block, he motioned for the offensive linemen to let Robb advance unimpeded.

“When they came out of the huddle, he pointed his finger and said he was going to get me,” Robb told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

As Robb rushed into the backfield, Brown met him and raised his forearm. “It hit Joe like a machete,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Robb struck back and hit Brown.

“Brown swung again at Robb and landed,” the Fort Worth newspaper reported.

Robb said, “I grabbed his face mask with my left hand and busted his lip with the other.”

“He hit me on the jaw,” Brown told the Associated Press.

Brown knocked down Robb and kicked him. “I’ve got two cleat marks on the inside of my thigh,” Robb said to the Fort Worth newspaper.

“It was boom, boom, boom,” Brown said to the Mansfield News-Journal.

The two were kicking one another on the ground when the officials intervened and ejected them.

Robb said, “I told Brown, ‘Well, it’s over now, let’s shake hands.’ He didn’t want to, but he did.”

Brown said, “There’s no bad blood between us. We shook hands.”

Brown told the Mansfield newspaper he shouldn’t have let Robb anger him.

“I’m very disappointed when anything like this occurs,” Brown said. “An offensive man should not be looking for trouble. Every man is a cog in the team. I eliminated myself. It was a failure on my part. An offensive player should school himself to take such things.”

Career change

The Browns played the second half without Jim Brown and their top receiver, Gary Collins, who suffered a rib injury in the second quarter, but rallied to win after the Cardinals took a 24-17 lead.

Jim Brown finished the game with 12 carries for 74 yards, giving him 1,544 rushing yards for the season. The touchdown he scored was his career-high 21st of the season. Game stats

The Browns advanced to face the Packers in the NFL championship game on Jan. 2, 1966. Led by Paul Hornung, who had 105 yards rushing and a touchdown, the Packers won, 23-12. In what turned out to be his last game, Jim Brown had 50 yards rushing and 44 yards receiving but didn’t score.

The next summer, while acting in “The Dirty Dozen” in London with Lee Marvin, Brown announced his retirement from football. He followed “The Dirty Dozen” with another classic action film, “Dark of the Sun” with Rod Taylor.

Moving on

In June 1968, after he was traded to the Detroit Lions for linebacker Ernie Clark, Robb told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I think there is a mutual lack of respect between players and management” on the Cardinals.

Asked about dissension that plagued the 1967 Cardinals under head coach Charley Winner, Robb said to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “It was just a bad situation. In fact, you could call it terrible. Most of the players were simply demoralized … A head coach’s job is to get his team psychologically prepared to play and Winner was incapable of that.”

Robb played for the Lions from 1968-71. He and former baseball Cardinals outfielder Carl Warwick went into the real estate business together in Texas.

In 1974, when he made a comeback at age 37 with the Houston Texans of the World Football League, Robb told the Philadelphia Daily News he had broken his nose 15 times while playing football and had undergone three knee operations. He was 50 when he died of cancer in 1987.

Read Full Post »

During a stretch in the 1960s, Jim Maloney was as overpowering as National League contemporaries Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax, but by the early 1970s, when the Cardinals took a chance on him, Maloney’s pitching skill no longer was the same.

Fifty years ago, on Jan. 4, 1972, the Cardinals signed Maloney, hoping he could join a starting rotation with Gibson, Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss.

Three months later, Maloney was gone, and so, too, were Carlton and Reuss.

Fresno fireballer

Maloney was born and raised in Fresno, Calif. For most of his youth, the Cardinals had a farm club in Fresno and Maloney attended the games. He got to see Cardinals pitching prospects such as Larry Jackson (28-4 for Fresno in 1952) and Tom Hughes (20-6 in 1955).

At Fresno High School, Maloney was the shortstop on a team that included a couple of other future big-leaguers: catcher Pat Corrales and pitcher Dick Ellsworth. (Tom Seaver, four years younger, went to Fresno High School after Maloney did.)

On the recommendation of Reds scout Bobby Mattick, Maloney converted from shortstop to pitcher at Fresno City College. The Reds signed him in April 1959 and he got to the majors with them the next year.

A right-hander, Maloney had exceptional velocity.

In his 1968 book “From Ghetto to Glory,” Gibson said, “I don’t throw as hard as Jim Maloney. Nobody throws as hard as Maloney. He’s the only guy who can simply overpower you. You know he’s going to throw the fastball, you set for it, but you still can’t catch up with it.”

Maloney had 15 wins or more for the Reds each season from 1963-68. He remains the Reds’ franchise leader in career strikeouts (1,592).

In 1963, when he turned 23, Maloney was 23-7 with a 2.77 ERA and 265 strikeouts. On May 21 against the Braves, Maloney struck out 16 batters, including eight in a row, in 8.1 innings. “He was faster than anyone else I’ve seen this season,” Hank Aaron told The Cincinnati Post. “Yes, he was faster than Sandy Koufax.” Boxscore

Three months later, after Maloney pitched a two-hit shutout against the Giants, their manager, Al Dark, called him a “right-handed Sandy Koufax,” according to the Dayton Daily News. Boxscore

In the book “We Played the Game,” Reds pitcher Jim O’Toole said, “Maloney had such a great fastball and curve that he was unhittable if he got them both over. He was as good as Koufax.”

In the 1963 season finale, Maloney gave up a pair of singles to Stan Musial, who was playing his last career game with the Cardinals. Afterward, Maloney went to the Cardinals clubhouse to congratulate Musial. When Musial saw him, he said aloud, “Here’s a real tough guy. He had me worried.” Said Maloney to reporters: “I was glad to see him go out hitting.” Boxscore

Hard to hit

In 1965, Maloney finished 20-9 with a 2.54 ERA and 244 strikeouts.

On June 14, he held the Mets hitless for 10 innings before a former Cardinal, Johnny Lewis, led off the 11th with a home run. Maloney struck out 18, but the Mets won, 1-0. Boxscore

Two months later, on Aug. 19 against the Cubs, Maloney got the first of his two no-hitters. He walked 10, hit a batter and struck out 12 in a 1-0 victory in 10 innings. The losing pitcher was Larry Jackson, the former Cardinal who Maloney used to watch pitch for minor-league Fresno. Boxscore and Video

“Basically, every time I went out I told myself I was going to throw a perfect game,” Maloney said to The Cincinnati Post.

Maloney pitched his second no-hitter in 1969 against the Astros, striking out 13. Boxscore (The next Reds pitcher to achieve a no-hitter was Tom Seaver, Maloney’s fellow Fresno High School alumnus, in 1978 against the Cardinals.)

Maloney also pitched five one-hitters in the majors.

Johnny Edwards, the Reds’ catcher before joining the Cardinals in 1968, told The Cincinnati Post, “Jim had what you’d call a light fastball, really easy to catch, because it was a rising fastball, but you’d look at your hand after the game and you’d have a bone bruise.”

Though the Cardinals won three National League pennants during Maloney’s prime years, he was 14-5 against them in his career. In 1968, Maloney was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA versus the National League champions.

Rough time

An injury on April 16, 1970, sent Maloney’s career into a spiral. In trying to beat the throw of the Dodgers’ Maury Wills on a grounder to deep short, Maloney lunged toward first base and felt intense pain in his left foot. He’d ruptured the Achilles tendon that connects the muscles in the calf to the heel bone.

Fans at Crosley Field booed Maloney as he was carried off the field. “A sad night for Cincinnati baseball,” Bob Hertzel wrote in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Boxscore

Maloney didn’t pitch again for the Reds until September. In seven total appearances for them in 1970, he was 0-1 with an 11.34 ERA. He told The Sporting News, “When I started throwing again in September, I was within a fraction of being my old self. I’m sure I can be just as good as I was before.”

The Reds didn’t want to wait to find out. They offered Maloney to the Cardinals, who were interested “but didn’t feel they could afford what the Reds were after then _ a couple of young prospects,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

In December 1970, the Reds traded Maloney to the Angels for pitcher Greg Garrett. Angels manager Lefty Phillips was a friend and mentor to Reds manager Sparky Anderson. “I told Lefty that Maloney is capable of winning the division for them,” Anderson informed the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Instead, the 1971 Angels finished 76-86. Maloney, sidelined by a groin pull, pitched in 13 games and was 0-3 with a 5.04 ERA. Lefty Phillips and general manager Dick Walsh were fired, and Maloney was released.

Tumultuous time

Maloney, 31, contacted the Cardinals and asked for a chance. Fred Koenig, hired by the Cardinals to manage in their farm system after being an Angels coach in 1971, vouched for Maloney. In his last four appearances for the Angels, covering a total of seven innings, Maloney allowed one run. “Koenig said Maloney threw as well as he ever threw,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said to The Sporting News.

Admitting it was “a kind of shaking the dice,” Devine signed Maloney and projected him to compete in spring training with Al Santorini, Santiago Guzman and Jim Bibby for the fifth spot in the Cardinals’ starting rotation. The Cardinals’ top four starting spots appeared set with Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Jerry Reuss and Reggie Cleveland.

“I have more velocity on my pitches than three-fourths of the pitchers in the majors leagues,” Maloney told The Sporting News.

He reported two weeks early to Cardinals camp and made an effort to be in top shape, walking two to five miles daily and jogging on the beach.

The spring of 1972 turned into a time of upheaval for the Cardinals. In February, Steve Carlton was traded to the Phillies for Rick Wise after club owner Gussie Busch became upset with Carlton’s salary demands. In April, Jerry Reuss was traded to the Astros for Scipio Spinks after Busch became upset with Reuss for growing a moustache.

In four spring training games totaling 13.2 innings, Maloney was 0-3 with a 7.07 ERA and was released by the Cardinals on April 9.

Maloney signed with the Giants, who sent him to their Phoenix farm club. He was 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA in seven appearances for Phoenix, but when no team showed interest in bringing him to the big leagues, he retired in June 1972, soon after turning 32.

After leaving baseball, Maloney said he started drinking too much. “I sort of had a hard time sliding back into society,” he told The Cincinnati Post.

The Giants hired him to manage their Fresno farm team in 1982, but the club finished 50-90 and Maloney was out of baseball again. In 1985, he underwent treatment for alcoholism. He completed the program and went on to become director of Fresno’s Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council.

Read Full Post »

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst had the self-confidence to make a bold decision when he thought it would give his team its best chance to win.

A prime example of how Schoendienst put team ahead of individual occurred on July 22, 1968, when the Cardinals trailed the Phillies by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

With two on and none out, Orlando Cepeda was due to bat for the Cardinals. Cepeda was the cleanup hitter and the most recent winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award, but he hadn’t been producing lately with runners in scoring position.

Schoendienst chose to let Lou Brock bat for Cepeda. The move stunned Cepeda, who never had been removed for a pinch-hitter, but the decision to let one future Hall of Famer bat for another turned out well.

Setting the table

Sparked by a three-run home run from Don Lock against Steve Carlton, the Phillies led the Cardinals, 4-2, entering the last of the ninth at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

The Cardinals’ first batter was Julian Javier. Using a bat borrowed from Curt Flood, he fought off an inside fastball from Phillies left-hander Woodie Fryman and blooped a single into shallow right, breaking the bat.

“It was my sweet stroker,” Flood told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when asked about the bat. “I had used it a couple of weeks.”

John Boozer, a right-hander with a 1-0 record and five saves, relieved Fryman. The first batter he faced, Flood, noticed that third baseman Tony Taylor was playing back on the infield and guarding the line against an extra-base hit. Flood made the decision to try for a bunt single.

“Flood laid down a gorgeous drag bunt,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

Taylor charged in, grabbed the ball and threw high to first. Flood easily beat the throw for a single, and Javier advanced to second.

Phillies manager Bob Skinner, a former Cardinals teammate of Flood, said, “Give the guy credit for making the play. It’s a do or die play.”

Rare opportunity

With runners on first and second, none out, the situation seemed ideal for Cepeda, who had 111 RBI for the Cardinals the previous year, but Schoendienst had other ideas.

Cepeda had produced a mere two RBI for the month and none since July 13. (He ended up with five RBI for July.) Cardinals fans booed him the day before when he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts versus Mets left-hander Jerry Koosman.

Though Cepeda hit well against Boozer in his career (.375 with two home runs), it was a different story in 1968. Cepeda would go hitless in four at-bats versus Boozer for the year.

Schoendienst liked the notion of having Brock, a left-handed batter, face Boozer. (Brock would hit .391 versus Boozer in his career and go 3-for-5 against him in 1968. Also, left-handed batters would hit .352 versus Boozer for the season.) Plus, Schoendienst figured Brock was less likely to hit into a double play. (Cepeda grounded into a team-high 13 double plays in 1968 compared with four by Brock.)

With the Phillies starting a left-hander (Fryman), Schoendienst had intended to give Brock, who complained of leg muscle soreness, a day off, but with the game on the line and Boozer on the mound, the manager couldn’t resist making a move.

“You don’t always have a Brock sitting on your bench in such a situation,” Schoendienst said to the Post-Dispatch. “If there was no Brock, I wouldn’t have used anyone to pinch-hit.”

Right stuff

Cepeda told the Post-Dispatch he never had been lifted for a pinch-hitter at any level of amateur or professional baseball. When Schoendienst sent Brock to bat for him, Cepeda flung his helmet and stormed into the clubhouse.

“Anyone who knows this proud Puerto Rican must realize what a severe blow it was to his pride,” The Sporting News noted.

Brock was seeking his first hit versus the Phillies in 1968. He had gone hitless in 17 at-bats against them.

Using a bat borrowed from Javier, Brock grounded a 2-and-1 pitch from Boozer into right field for a single, scoring Javier and narrowing the Phillies’ lead to 4-3. Flood advanced to third on the play.

It was Brock’s only hit in three appearances as a pinch-batter in 1968. (For his career, Brock batted .258 with 33 hits as a pinch-batter.)

Mike Shannon followed and belted a 2-and-0 pitch from Boozer over Lock’s head in right. The ball bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double. The hit drove in Flood, tying the score at 4-4, and moved Brock to third.

Left-hander Grant Jackson replaced Boozer. Tim McCarver, a left-handed batter, smacked Jackson’s first pitch to deep center, a sacrifice fly that scored Brock with the winning run. Boxscore

Learning experience

Soon afterward, Schoendienst went to the clubhouse and met with Cepeda.

“Cepeda was mad, and it’s good that he was mad because it shows he wants to play,” Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch.

Cepeda said, “This is a new experience for me. I wanted to bat. I was mad at first, but you never stop learning in this game. The manager made the right move. I haven’t been hitting. You know Brock is not going to hit into many double plays. He’s been hitting well.”

The next night, Cepeda had two hits and scored three runs in a Cardinals rout of the Phillies.

After hitting .325 with 25 home runs and 111 RBI in 1967, Cepeda finished at .248 with 16 homers and 73 RBI in 1968. For the season, he hit .217 with runners in scoring position, but the Cardinals still won their second consecutive National League pennant.

In March 1969, the Cardinals traded Cepeda to the Braves for Joe Torre.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »