Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Bobby Bonds, expected to bring power and balance to the lineup, symbolized the dysfunction of the 1980 Cardinals.

Forty years ago, on Dec. 7, 1979, the Cardinals acquired Bonds from the Indians for pitcher John Denny and outfielder Jerry Mumphrey.

An outfielder, Bonds figured to join George Hendrick to give the Cardinals two right-handed sluggers to balance a lineup with switch-hitters Ted Simmons and Garry Templeton and batting champion Keith Hernandez, who hit left-handed.

Bonds, who had 25 home runs and 34 stolen bases for the 1979 Indians, was projected to play left field and replace Lou Brock, who retired.

The deal was a dud. Bonds, 34, injured his right wrist early in the season and couldn’t hit for average or power. The 1980 Cardinals, who fired their manager and general manager during the season, finished 74-88.

All in the family

Bobby Lee Bonds was born in Riverside, Calif. His father was a plasterer. Bonds had three siblings. An older brother, Robert Vernon Bonds Jr., was a receiver and defensive back at San Jose State, got selected by the St. Louis football Cardinals in the fifth round of the 1965 NFL draft and played in Canada. A sister, Rosie, was a hurdler for the U.S. in the 1964 Olympics.

Bonds excelled in baseball, football and track in high school and became a state long jump champion. He married at 17 and became a father at 18 when his son, future home run champion Barry Bonds, was born in July 1964. A month later, with a wife and child to support, Bonds signed an $8,000 contract with the Giants.

The Giants sent Bonds to their farm club in Lexington, N.C., in 1965. Disheartened by the racism he encountered, Bonds wanted to quit, but Lexington manager Max Lanier, the former Cardinals pitcher, became his trusted mentor and advisor. Bonds stayed and began his rise through the Giants’ system.

On June 25, 1968, Bonds made his major-league debut against the Dodgers at Candlestick Park and hit a grand slam. Boxscore He formed a friendship with the Giants’ shortstop, Hal Lanier, Max’s son.

Mixed reviews

Bonds had special skills. He and Willie Mays were the first players to achieve 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases in their careers. Bonds won three Gold Glove awards and three times was an all-star.

He also struck out a lot and drank a lot. Bonds twice was arrested for drunk driving and had another arrest for an altercation with a police officer. Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote, “When the poor guy did drink too much, as one sympathetic soul put it, he must have gone looking for a policeman.” After his playing days, Bonds joined Alcoholics Anonymous, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Bonds played for six teams (Giants, Yankees, Angels, White Sox, Rangers and Indians) in six years (1974-79). In July 1979, he told the Indians he wanted to be traded unless they increased his yearly salary from $440,000 to $672,000. Indians fans responded with a barrage of boos. In September 1979, Bonds made an obscene gesture to a fan and was fined.

Asked about Bonds’ controversies, Cardinals general manager John Claiborne told The Sporting News, “I don’t know about his history and I don’t care. He has produced and that’s all I’m concerned about.”

Cardinals manager Ken Boyer said Bonds will “make a big difference in our offense” and “with Bonds’ arm, you’re going to see things defensively you haven’t seen in a while.”

Indians outfielder Rick Manning viewed Bonds differently, saying, “Bobby wouldn’t hit the cutoff man if he were King Kong.”

Bonds predicted, “If I just do what’s average, it should be enough to win the pennant and get in the World Series.” He also cautioned, “If it doesn’t go the way they expect it to go with the Cardinals, I’ll be the first one gone.”

A season unravels

Bonds preferred uniform No. 25, but in St. Louis it belonged to Hendrick, so Bonds became the first Cardinal to wear No. 00.

Boyer began the 1980 season with Bonds batting fifth in the order between Simmons and Hendrick.

On April 17, 1980, in Bonds’ seventh game with the Cardinals, he was hit on the right wrist by a pitch from the Pirates’ Eddie Solomon. Boxscore

Bonds continued to play, but the damaged wrist hampered his swing and he was committing too soon on breaking balls. On May 18, 1980, after striking out three times in a game against the Giants, Bonds asked Boyer to send someone to bat for him when his turn came again in the ninth. Boxscore

“Bonds swung a bat that resembled a fly swatter,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Tom Barnidge.

With the Cardinals’ record at 18-33, Boyer was fired in June 1980 and replaced by Whitey Herzog, who benched Bonds against right-handed pitching.

Bonds said he was experiencing “the most frustrating season of my life. I want to contribute and I haven’t been. I have no criticism of Whitey.”

On July 21, 1980, Bonds went on the 15-day disabled list. When he returned, he cut a finger on his right hand trying to get an item off a room service tray.

Claiborne was fired in August 1980 and one reason cited was the trade for Bonds.

Bonds hit no home runs after July 13 and had no hits after Aug. 18. He finished his Cardinals season with a .203 batting average, five home runs and 15 stolen bases. He batted .145 against right-handers.

On Dec. 22, 1980, after failing to trade Bonds, the Cardinals released him.

He played for the Cubs in 1981, his final big-league season, and twice in a span of three days, Sept. 7 Boxscore and Sept. 9 Boxscore, hit two home runs in a game against the Cardinals at St. Louis.

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A grand start to his Cardinals career culminated with a grand slam for pitcher Brad Penny before an injury described as minor became something major.

Ten years ago, on Dec. 7, 2009, the Cardinals signed Penny, a free agent, and projected him to join a 2010 starting rotation with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia.

The move initially seemed to be a masterstroke by the Cardinals. Penny was 3-0 with an 0.94 ERA after four starts for them.

On May 21, 2010, three days before he turned 32, Penny hit a grand slam against ex-Cardinal Joel Pineiro of the Angels, but couldn’t continue pitching because of pain near his right shoulder. Originally described as a muscle strain, the injury turned out to be a muscle tear and Penny never played in another game for the Cardinals.

Hard thrower

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Penny followed the Cardinals as a boy.

“I grew up a Cardinals fan,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I grew up an Ozzie Smith fan.”

A pitcher at Broken Arrow High School, Penny was selected by the Diamondbacks in the fifth round of the 1996 amateur draft. He spent four seasons in the Diamondbacks’ farm system before he was traded to the Marlins.

In 2003, Penny was 14-10 for the Marlins and also won both his starts against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Marlins traded Penny to the Dodgers for outfielder Juan Encarnacion and others in July 2004.

A right-handed power pitcher, Penny thrived with the Dodgers and became part of the Hollywood scene. He dated actress Alyssa Milano and bought thoroughbred horses to race at Hollywood Park. One of his winners was named Excess Temptations.

Penny had back-to-back 16-win seasons for the Dodgers in 2006 and 2007, but his right shoulder ached in 2008 and he finished 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA. Dodgers coach Larry Bowa said Penny was out of shape, but Penny said, “I was hurt all year. I didn’t have one game where my shoulder didn’t hurt.”

Granted free agency, Penny rejected surgery, signed with the Red Sox and started a shoulder strengthening program. Penny made 24 starts for the 2009 Red Sox, consistently fell behind in counts and was 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA.

Released by the Red Sox in August 2009, Penny signed with the Giants and experienced a turnaround. He was 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in six starts for the Giants and entered free agency.

Learning new tricks

With three starting pitchers, Pineiro, Todd Wellemeyer and John Smoltz, becoming free agents, the Cardinals went shopping for a veteran to add to the rotation.

The Giants made a bid to keep Penny, but their one-year offer was tied to incentives. When the Cardinals proposed a one-year contract with a base salary of $7.5 million, plus a hotel suite on all road trips, Penny accepted.

“We’ve liked him ever since he was with Florida,” said Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Penny’s reputation was he threw as hard as he could and built high pitch counts. “There would be games where he would throw 18 or 20 straights fastballs,” Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told the Boston Globe. “You just can’t overpower everybody.”

Duncan and catcher Yadier Molina worked to get Penny to throw fewer pitches and use a sinker, or split-fingered pitch, to get groundball outs rather than strikeouts.

When Penny fell behind in the count, Molina urged him to trust the sinker instead of throwing the predictable pitch, a fastball.

The results were encouraging. After Penny beat the Giants on April 25, Duncan said, “He won the game without throwing a single pitch as hard as he could. He thought his way through that game. He’s pitching. He threw strikes, but he rarely gave them what they wanted.”

Penny was 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA in April and the Post-Dispatch declared he “may be the most impressive starter thus far.”

Penny said Duncan “gives me things that I’ve never even been talked to about as far as groundball outs to flyball outs, hits to runs.”

Regarding Molina, Penny said, “What makes it real easy on you is having a guy like Yadi behind the plate. He’s a real important part of it.”

Hit or miss

Penny lost his first three decisions in May, but pitched poorly in only one of those games and had a 2.73 ERA entering his start against the Angels at St. Louis.

In the third inning, with the score tied at 4-4, the Cardinals had runners on second and third, two outs, when Pineiro issued an intentional walk to Skip Schumaker, bringing Penny to the plate.

Penny swung at the first pitch and hit it over the wall in left for a grand slam, his first big-league home run in seven years. Video

When Penny went out to toss his warmup pitches in the fourth, Duncan noticed something was wrong and stopped him from continuing. Boxscore

Penny told the Post-Dispatch he wasn’t injured on the home run swing. He said he felt soreness since his previous start versus the Reds and didn’t tell anyone.

The Cardinals placed Penny on the 15-day disabled list and expected him to be ready for the second half of the season.

On July 7, Penny was pitching a simulated game in Denver when he complained of renewed pain in the right shoulder. A week later, Penny revealed tissue was torn from the bone.

Unable to pitch the remainder of the season, he finished his short Cardinals stint at 3-4 with a 3.23 ERA.

After the season, Penny was granted free agency and signed with the Tigers, joining a rotation with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Penny was 11-11 with a 5.30 ERA in 31 starts for the 2011 Tigers.

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Outfielder Bob Nieman, who made an unprecedented debut with the Browns, returned to St. Louis as an accomplished hitter with the Cardinals.

Sixty years ago, on Dec. 2, 1959, the Cardinals acquired Nieman from the Orioles for outfielder-catcher Gene Green, plus minor-league catcher Chuck Staniland.

Eight years earlier, Nieman became the first player to hit home runs in his first two major-league at-bats. Since then, the only other player to do it is the Cardinals’ Keith McDonald.

A right-handed batter, Nieman appealed to the Cardinals because he hit left-handers well and “southpaws have been a constant plague” to them, The Sporting News reported.

Marty Marion, the former Cardinals shortstop who was Nieman’s teammate with the Browns, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “He’s only a mediocre outfielder and he’s a hypochondriac, but, man, he can whale that ball.”

Overcoming hurdles

Nieman was born in Cincinnati and began going to Reds games when he was 3 with his father, a semi-pro catcher.

Nieman developed into a baseball catcher and football fullback in high school. After graduation, he joined the Army, was stationed in France and got pneumonia. The drugs used to treat him damaged his kidneys and he developed nephritis. Given a medical discharge, Nieman returned home, recovered, married his high school sweetheart and tried out with the Reds.

After Nieman signed a minor-league contract with the Reds, a tumor was discovered in his right arm and he underwent surgery. When he healed, the Reds converted him from catcher to outfielder. In 1948, his first minor-league season, Nieman hit .367.

During his off-seasons in the minors, Nieman pursued a college education at Kent State. Nieman was studying journalism in the hope of being a sports reporter and his wife, Patricia, was majoring in advertising.

“Next to actual participation, I can think of no life more enjoyable than watching games and being paid to do so,” Nieman said.

In June 1951, the Reds determined they had a surplus of outfielders in the minors and placed Neiman on waivers. He was claimed by Oklahoma City, an unaffiliated team in the Texas League. Nieman led the league in hitting (.324) and his contract was purchased by the Browns.

Boston fireworks

Nieman, 24, joined the Browns in Boston. Manager Zack Taylor didn’t plan to play him, but changed his mind when the Red Sox started a left-hander, Mickey McDermott. Nieman played left field and batted fifth in the Friday afternoon game on Sept. 14, 1951, at Fenway Park.

When he came to bat for the first time as a big-leaguer in the second inning, Nieman hit a solo home run. In his second at-bat in the third, he hit a two-run home run. According to the Post-Dispatch, those were the only pitches he swung at in those at-bats.

“This is really the day of my life,” Nieman said.

He almost got upstaged in the eighth when Satchel Paige, 45, relieved for the Browns and faced Ted Williams. With the count 0-and-2, Williams moved up in the batter’s box, expecting an off-speed pitch. Paige fired a fastball and Williams swung and missed, striking out.

When Williams got to the dugout, he “smashed his bat into pieces,” the Boston Globe reported. “He first whacked it against the railing leading to the dressing room. When that didn’t suffice, Williams flung the bat toward the rack. He still wasn’t satisfied, so he smashed it on the floor of the dugout. That ended the bat’s worth for good.”

Watching from the mound, Paige “was laughing his head off,” the Globe noted.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in the big leagues,” Paige said. “He was sore because I crossed him up.”

Asked about Nieman’s performance, Paige said the burly rookie “is just a lot of boy. Leans into that ball pretty good and hits the pitch where it is.” Boxscore

Designated hitter

Nieman hit .372 in 12 games for the 1951 Browns. The next year, he led the 1952 Browns in batting average (.289), home runs (18) and RBI (74), but they traded him to the Tigers after the season. Nieman played for the Tigers (1953-54), White Sox (1955-56) and Orioles (1956-59). He batted .322 for the Orioles in 1956 and .325 in 1958.

In 1959, when Nieman hit .292 with 21 home runs for the Orioles, The Sporting News described him as “a terror at the bat but sometimes frightful in the field.” Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch suggested Nieman “thought defense was the time to rest.”

The Cardinals got Nieman for his hitting, not his fielding. He batted .287 in 81 games in 1960 and had an on-base percentage of .372.

Among his highlights:

_ A home run against Sandy Koufax in a 2-0 triumph over the Dodgers on Aug. 21. Boxscore

_ A double, triple and home run for four RBI against Dick Ellsworth in a 4-3 victory versus the Cubs on Sept. 4. Boxscore

_ A ninth-inning home run against Johnny Podres to force extra innings against the Dodgers on Sept. 21. Boxscore

In 1961, Nieman, 34, was hitting .471 (8-for-17) when the Cardinals traded him to the Indians on May 10. The Cardinals made the deal because they wanted to give more playing time to Charlie James, 23, who they were grooming to replace Stan Musial in left.

“At least Nieman has the consolation of being one of the few .471 hitters ever traded,” the Post-Dispatch concluded.

Nieman said, “I certainly hate to leave this club. I mean it when I say this is the finest outfit I’ve ever been associated with.”

As he departed, Nieman wrote a message on the blackboard in the Cardinals’ clubhouse: “Good luck, boys, see you in the World Series.”

The Cardinals didn’t reach the World Series in 1961, but Nieman did a year later. After hitting .354 in 39 games for the Indians in 1961, they traded him to the Giants the next year and Nieman appeared in the 1962 World Series.

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The franchise of Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson gave Bryn Smith the most lucrative contract of any Cardinals pitcher.

Thirty years ago, on Nov. 28, 1989, Smith, a free agent, signed a three-year $6 million contract with the Cardinals.

“It’s more money than I ever dreamed of,” Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Smith’s contract was the second-highest in Cardinals history, behind only shortstop Ozzie Smith, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Looking for a proven winner to join Joe Magrane (18-9 in 1989) and Jose DeLeon (16-12) in their starting rotation, the Cardinals chose Smith, 34, who produced six consecutive seasons of double-digit wins with the Expos but who also lost eight of his last nine decisions in 1989 and finished with a losing record (10-11).

Show time

Smith grew up in Santa Maria, Calif. His mother and father were introduced to one another by actress Jane Russell while working at RKO Pictures in Hollywood. Smith’s mother dated actor Cary Grant before she married.

Smith’s unusual first name was derived from the initials of his maternal grandfather, Baxter Robert Young Nisbet.

When Smith was 15, his mother took him to a Dodgers game and he decided he wanted to play baseball. He tried out for the high school team and discovered he could play.

Smith, 17, was selected by the Cardinals in the 49th round of the 1973 amateur draft but chose to enroll in junior college. A year later, he signed with the Orioles.

“I got $1,000 to sign and I spent half of it on an engagement ring and I went out and blew the rest,” Smith said.

He spent three seasons in the Orioles’ farm system, got traded to the Expos and made his major-league debut with them in 1981. His best season was in 1985 when he was 18-5 with a 2.91 ERA.

A fan of the rock group Rush, Smith joined them on tour for a week and credited the lead singer with teaching him how to deal with crowds.

A right-hander, Smith pitched to contact, issued few walks and relied on changing speeds. The palmball was a favorite pitch. “I’m not a power pitcher,” he said. “I have to be a control pitcher and make use of the park.”

Money ball

After finishing seven games behind the first-place Cubs in the National League East in 1989, the Cardinals decided to find a starting pitcher in the free agent market and focused on two Expos defectors, Smith and left-hander Mark Langston.

The Giants and Braves also were interested in Smith and the Angels wanted Langston. When the Yankees signed another Expos defector, free-agent pitcher Pascual Perez, to a three-year, $5.7 million contract in November 1989, it established the market value and prompted the Cardinals to make their offer to Smith.

“It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Smith.

Soon after, Langston signed with the Angels for five years and $16 million.

Stung by the departures of Perez, Smith and Langston from their starting rotation, Expos owner Charles Bronfman told the Associated Press, “People are being financially irresponsible. I mean, you can have bidding for players, but you don’t have to be a damned fool about it. Right now, some people are.”

Noting Smith’s career record of 81-71, Expos president Claude Brochu said, “Bryn is a good, average pitcher. That’s what he is _ a .500 pitcher. If you triple his salary, it’s not suddenly going to make him a 20-game winner.”

Unfazed, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said Smith “probably has the best control of any pitcher in the National League. Whitey (Herzog) and I both think that with Bryn pitching in Busch Stadium, with an outstanding defense behind him, he can be a big winner.”

Injury issues

Smith made his Cardinals debut on April 10, 1990, against the Expos at St. Louis, got the win and drove in a run. Boxscore

A shoulder ailment prevented Smith from pitching from late July to early September and he finished the 1990 season at 9-8 with a 4.27 ERA.

In 1991, Smith got the start on Opening Day, earned a win against the Cubs in Chicago and went on to finish 12-9 with a 3.85 ERA. He led the 1991 Cardinals in wins (12), starts (31) and innings pitched (198.2).

The 1992 season was a bust for Smith. He made one start in April, had elbow surgery and was used as a reliever when he returned in September. Smith was 4-2 with a 4.64 ERA for the 1992 Cardinals, became a free agent after the season and signed with the Rockies.

In three seasons with St. Louis, Smith was 25-19 with a 4.06 ERA.

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With one swing of his exceptionally hot bat, Irv Noren struck back at the team that cast him aside and kept the Cardinals in the thick of the 1957 National League pennant race.

Noren died Nov. 15, 2019, at 94. He was an outfielder for 11 seasons in the major leagues, including five (1952-56) with the Yankees and three (1957-59) with the Cardinals.

A left-handed batter, Noren, 32, was claimed by the Cardinals on Aug. 31, 1957, when he was placed on waivers by the Athletics.

Thought by some to be washed up after undergoing surgeries on both knees and hitting .213 for the 1957 Athletics, Noren went on a tear with the Cardinals and helped them make a run at the first-place Braves in the final month of the season.

American Leaguer

After serving in the Army during World War II, Noren signed with the Dodgers in 1946 and excelled in their farm system for four years.

In 1949, playing for manager Fred Haney with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, Noren batted .330 with 29 home runs and 130 RBI, but the Dodgers sold his contract to the Washington Senators after the season.

As a rookie with the 1950 Senators, Noren hit .295 with 98 RBI. The Yankees acquired him in May 1952 and Noren was valuable, playing all three outfield spots as well as first base. In 1954, he led the Yankees in batting (.319).

Noren played for the Yankees in three World Series, all against the team that rejected him, the Dodgers.

Hunger to win

The Cardinals were 7.5 games behind the front-running Braves when they acquired Noren. “As long as we’ve got an outside chance to win the pennant, or for that matter, increase our chances of finishing second, we are going to do all we can,” Cardinals general manager Frank Lane told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Braves were managed by Fred Haney, who eight years earlier had managed Noren with the Hollywood Stars.

After being swept by the Reds in a Labor Day doubleheader on Sept. 2, 1957, the Cardinals fell 8.5 games out of first. Then they won 11 of their next 13. Noren helped, getting seven hits in his first 15 at-bats as a Cardinal.

On Sept. 17, 1957, the Dodgers, who had made public their plans to abandon Brooklyn after the season and relocate to Los Angeles, came to St. Louis to open a two-game series against the Cardinals.

For Noren, it would be his first chance to face his original franchise in a regular-season game.

In the seventh inning, the Cardinals led, 6-5, and had the bases loaded with one out. Ken Boyer was due to bat against right-hander Ed Roebuck.

Seeking a hit to break open the game, Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson sent Noren to the plate for Boyer, preferring to have a batter from the left side face Roebuck.

Noren swung at Roebuck’s first pitch and lined it into left-center, clearing the bases with a three-run triple and giving the Cardinals a 9-5 lead.

The Cardinals went on to a 12-5 victory and were three games behind the Braves with 10 play. Boxscore

The triple gave Noren, the Dodgers’ castoff, a .529 batting average as a Cardinal.

“We are a hungry team,” Lane said to the Associated Press.

Helping hand

The Cardinals split their next four games, dropping five behind the Braves. The Braves then won two of three against them in Milwaukee and the deflated Cardinals lost their last three to the Cubs, finishing in second place.

Noren batted .367 (11-for-30) for the 1957 Cardinals and had an on-base percentage of .429. He had 10 RBI in 17 games.

After the season, Noren opened a bowling alley in Pasadena, Calif. When the Cardinals played the Dodgers in their first season in Los Angeles in 1958, Noren had several of his teammates as his guests at the bowling lanes.

Noren hit .264 in 117 games for the 1958 Cardinals. He was traded to the Cubs in May 1959.

Noren was the third-base coach for the Athletics when they won three consecutive World Series championships (1972-74).

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Mark Petkovsek, barely clinging to the fringes of the major leagues, revived his pitching career with the Cardinals.

Twenty-five years ago, on Nov. 18, 1994, Petkovsek signed a minor-league contract with the Cardinals on his 29th birthday. Projected to spend the 1995 season with the Louisville farm club, Petkovsek was called up to the Cardinals when injuries depleted their pitching staff.

Given the opportunity, Petkovsek became a valuable, versatile Cardinals pitcher.

Long, hard road

Born and raised in Beaumont, Texas, Petkovsek was the youngest of eight children. He excelled at multiple sports, went to the University of Texas and became a top pitcher. A right-hander, he had a 29-3 record in three seasons and his 15 wins in 1987 tied for the most in the nation among college pitchers.

Petkovsek was selected by the Rangers in the first round of the 1987 amateur draft. Four years later, he made his debut with them in a start against the Yankees and was tagged for seven runs in 4.2 innings. He pitched in four games for the Rangers before being returned to the minors.

Granted free agency after the 1991 season, Petkovsek signed with the Pirates. In 1993, his lone season with them, Petkovsek was 3-0 with a 6.96 ERA in 26 relief appearances. He joined the Astros’ organization in 1994, spent the season with their Tucson farm club and pitched a no-hitter versus Colorado Springs.

Cardinals director of player development Mike Jorgensen decided to take a chance on Petkovsek and signed the free agent. “He’s not a dominating pitcher … He’s a control guy, kind of like Bob Tewksbury,” Jorgensen said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Dependable pitcher

Major-league players went on strike in August 1994 and remained out of work when spring training camps opened in February 1995. As a player signed to a minor-league contract and not on the 40-man Cardinals roster, Petkovsek was required to report. He was one of 55 pitchers, many of them replacement players, in Cardinals camp at St. Petersburg, Fla.

When the Grapefruit League exhibition schedule began, Petkovsek was one of about 10 Cardinals minor-leaguers who declined to participate in games with replacement players.

After the strike was settled in April 1995, Petkovsek was assigned to Louisville. He was 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA in eight starts when the call came to join the Cardinals in May 1995.

Relying on a sinkerball and changeup, Petkovsek said, “I try to get ahead and get them out with as few pitches as possible.”

Put into the starting rotation, Petkovsek won three of his first four decisions, including a shutout of the Dodgers at St. Louis. Boxscore

“I never stopped believing,” Petkovsek said.

He led the 1995 Cardinals pitching staff in starts (21) and innings pitched (137.1), posting a 6-6 record and 4.00 ERA.

The next season, Petkovsek became what the Post-Dispatch called the Cardinals’ “good luck charm.” Used as a starter and reliever in 1996, Petkovsek was 11-2 with a 3.55 ERA for the Cardinals, who reached the postseason for the first time in nine years.

Petkovsek deflected credit for his role in the club’s success. “I’m not into this for the glamour,” he said. “I’m not sure I’d know what to do with the limelight if I got it.”

Petkovsek pitched four seasons (1995-98) for St. Louis and was 28-19 with two saves before he was traded to the Angels for catcher Matt Garrick.

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