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After endangering his life and his baseball career, reliever Will McEnaney sought to make a comeback with the Cardinals.

Forty years ago, on Feb. 19, 1979, McEnaney signed a minor-league contract with the Cardinals and was invited to their spring training camp.

His fall from World Series hero with the Reds to major-league castoff was both rapid and stunning.

Reds manager Sparky Anderson twice entrusted McEnaney with clinching a World Series championship and both times he delivered. McEnaney got the save in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series against the Red Sox and did it again in Game 4 of the 1976 World Series sweep of the Yankees.

From those dizzying heights, McEnaney’s partying lifestyle spun out of control until he crashed his car into a house on a winter night in Ohio.

Championship performances

McEnaney was born and raised in Springfield, Ohio, near Dayton, and caught the attention of a Reds scout while pitching in an amateur summer league.

A left-handed pitcher, he was chosen by the Reds in the eighth round of the 1970 draft and made his major-league debut with them in 1974.

In 1975, McEnaney, 23, had his best season, posting a 5-2 record with 15 saves and a 2.47 ERA for the National League champion Reds. In the seven-game World Series, he made five appearances totaling 6.2 innings and had a 2.70 ERA.

In Game 7, with the Reds ahead, 4-3, in the ninth, McEnaney came in and retired three consecutive batters _ Juan Beniquez, Bob Montgomery and Carl Yastrzemski _ to seal the win and clinch the Reds’ first World Series title since 1940. Boxscore

McEnaney was 2-6 with seven saves and 4.85 ERA in 1976, but the Reds returned to the World Series and he again was stellar on the big stage. He pitched 4.2 scoreless innings over two appearances against the Yankees and earned saves in Game 3 and the decisive Game 4. Boxscore

After playing a prominent role in the success of the Big Red Machine, McEnaney was surprised and disheartened when two months later, on Dec. 16, 1976, he and slugger Tony Perez were traded to the Expos for pitchers Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray.

One reason the Reds dealt McEnaney is “they didn’t care for his lifestyle,” Si Burick of the Dayton Daily News reported.

Troubled times

Facing an array of personal problems and demons, McEnaney was 3-5 with three saves and a 3.95 ERA for the 1977 Expos.

In March 1978, he was traded to the Pirates and was demoted to the minors two months later. When the Pirates told him they didn’t intend to put him on their major-league roster in 1979, McEnaney requested and received his release, forfeiting the last year of a guaranteed $90,000 contract.

“Will carried the weight of the world on his shoulders and seemed about to crack up,” Burick wrote in his Dayton Daily News column.

In the predawn hours of Dec. 7, 1978, two months after the Pirates released him, McEnaney was injured in a one-car crash in Springfield, Ohio. The Ohio Highway Patrol said McEnaney’s Mercedes went out of control on a curve and slammed into a house, the Dayton Daily News reported. McEnaney was cited for reckless driving.

He sliced a tear duct gland in the accident and underwent eye surgery.

“I almost lost my sight, or my life,” McEnaney said to Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News. “I was going 50 mph when I slid into that house. Right then I had a direct conversation with God and He said He would give me one more chance. It was time to straighten up my act, quit fooling around and take baseball seriously.”

Regarding a carousing lifestyle, McEnaney said, “I had a problem … a deep problem.”

Feeling groovy

Cardinals general manager John Claiborne was willing to give McEnaney, 27, a chance to rebuild his career.

When he reported to spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1979, McEnaney told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was committed to changing his ways. “I haven’t been a disciplined person,” McEnaney said. “It’s a heck of a thing to admit to yourself you’ve got a problem.”

McEnaney pitched well in spring training but the Cardinals sent him to their farm club in Springfield, Ill. He had a 2.08 ERA in seven appearances for Springfield when he was called up to the Cardinals in May 1979.

Rejuvenated, McEnaney posted an 0.90 ERA in 11 appearances in June 1979. “I’m in a groove,” he said. “I’d forgotten what it felt like to be in that kind of groove.”

In late June, a man on trial on aggravated murder charges in Hamilton, Ohio, testified in court he sold cocaine to McEnaney, the Dayton Daily News reported. McEnaney told the Post-Dispatch the allegation was “totally false” and Claiborne said, “After talking to Will, I am satisfied he was not involved.”

McEnaney had a 6.60 ERA in 12 appearances in July 1979 and gave up a grand slam to Ray Knight of the Reds on July 19.

A highlight of McEnaney’s season was his performance against the Pirates. He had an 0.93 ERA in five appearances against the 1979 National League champions.

His best outing was on Sept. 6, 1979, when he pitched four scoreless innings to earn a save in an 8-6 Cardinals victory over the Pirates at St. Louis. Eight of the 12 outs McEnaney recorded were groundouts. Boxscore

“I felt confident nobody was going to hit one out of the ballpark because I had excellent location on my pitches,” McEnaney said.

After Willie Stargell made the last out, Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons went to the mound and embraced McEnaney, who also got congratulations from infielders Ken Reitz, Garry Templeton, Ken Oberkfell and Keith Hernandez. Reitz said to McEnaney, “Way to pick us up.”

McEnaney finished with an 0-3 record, two saves and a 2.95 ERA in 45 appearances for the Cardinals in 1979.

In February 1980, McEnaney filed for salary arbitration. After being paid $40,000 in 1979, he wanted $125,000 in 1980. The Cardinals offered $65,000 and an arbitrator ruled in their favor.

A month later, on March 31, 1980, the Cardinals released McEnaney. Hernandez called it “the surprise of the spring.” Outfielder Dane Iorg said, “I thought he had the club made.”

By cutting McEnaney before April 1, the Cardinals had to pay him one-sixth of his salary, about $11,000, rather than the full amount.

“I don’t think I was cut for a lack of ability,” McEnaney said to United Press International. “I think it was guaranteed contracts that sent me on my way.”

McEnaney pitched in the farm systems of the Yankees and Rangers, and in Mexico, but never got back to the big leagues.

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In 1960, while pursuing a pennant with the Pirates, pitcher Bob Friend twice surrendered game-winning home runs to Stan Musial in a two-week span in the heat of the National League title chase.

Friend, who died Feb. 3, 2019, at 88, was a durable, dependable right-hander for 16 major-league seasons, including 15 with the Pirates.

Friend led the National League in ERA (2.83) in 1955, tied for the league lead in wins (22) in 1958 and twice pitched the most innings (314.1 in 1956 and 277 in 1957).

When the Pirates won their first pennant in 33 years in 1960, Friend was 18-12 with a 3.00 ERA and led the staff in starts (37), shutouts (four), innings pitched (275.2) and strikeouts (183).

He might have won 20 if not for the home run heroics of Musial.

Power stroke

On Aug. 11, 1960, the Cardinals opened a five-game series against the Pirates at Pittsburgh. The second-place Cardinals, who were five games behind the Pirates, started Ernie Broglio against Friend in Game 1.

The Pirates scored a run in the fifth, the Cardinals tied the score at 1-1 in the eighth and both starting pitchers still were in the game as it entered the 12th.

Bill White opened the inning with a single. After Ken Boyer flied out, Musial, who had doubled twice in the game, came to the plate.

Friend’s first pitch to him was a fastball and Musial hit it into the upper deck in right for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.

The Pirates scored a run in the bottom half of the 12th, but Broglio struck out Dick Stuart with the potential tying run at second, securing a 3-2 victory and moving the Cardinals within four games of the Pirates. Boxscore

When Friend got into the clubhouse, he “disgustedly tossed his glove toward his locker,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“I can’t pitch any better,” Friend said to The Pittsburgh Press. “I tried to get Musial to hit to center field and pitched him over the outside of the plate, but he went right with me. The fastball was on the outside of the plate and yet he pulled it into the seats.”

Friend told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I thought I had as much stuff as I ever had and threw as hard as I did any time this season.”

Musial, typically modest, said, “Bob is a good pitcher, real fast and cagey. I guess I was kind of lucky to tag him the way I did.”

Told the home run was the 424th of his major-league career, Musial replied, “That’s quite a few for a singles hitter.”

Musial visited his hometown of Donora, Pa., during the series and took heat for beating the Pirates. He told the Post-Dispatch, “My old friends kept asking me, ‘What did you have to do that for?’ ”

Behind the pitching of Bob Gibson, the Cardinals won the second game of the series, getting within three of first place, but the Pirates won the last three, pushing their lead to six.

Oldie but goodie

Two weeks later, the first-place Pirates came to St. Louis for a three-game series. The Cardinals were in third place, 8.5 games behind the leaders.

In the series opener, on Aug. 26, 1960, Friend again was matched against Broglio.

In the seventh inning, with the scored tied at 1-1, Musial, hitless in three at-bats, came up with a runner on first and one out.

Friend got ahead on the count, 1-and-2, and tried to jam Musial on the fists with a fastball. The pitch was inside, but low, and Musial hit it to the pavilion roof in right for a two-run home run.

“It was the only ball I hit good during the game,” Musial said.

Said Friend: “Pretty soon I’ll be talking to myself.”

Broglio retired the Pirates in order over the last two innings and Musial’s home run proved the difference in a 3-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

“Like I always say, there’s room in this game for old men who can hit,” said Musial, 39.

For his career, Musial hit .277 with five home runs against Friend.

The Cardinals went on to sweep the series and get within 5.5 games of first place, but the Pirates didn’t falter. Friend played a prominent role down the stretch, winning four of his last five decisions.

Friend, who pitched for the Yankees and Mets in his final season in 1966, finished with a career record of 197-230. Against the Cardinals, he was 19-28 with seven shutouts.

On Aug. 15, 1951, in his rookie season, Friend, 20, pitched his first big-league shutout with a two-hitter against the Cardinals at Pittsburgh. The Cardinals’ two hits came in the second inning on singles by Nippy Jones and Bob Scheffing. Boxscore

Using a sinker and curve, Friend recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts in a win versus the Cardinals on Aug. 20, 1959, at Pittsburgh. Boxscore

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Over a span of five seasons, the Cardinals twice demoted Eduardo Perez to the minor leagues and once sent him to Japan, but he maintained a positive attitude and earned his way back each time.

Twenty years ago, on Feb. 16, 1999, the Cardinals signed Perez, a free agent, with the hope he’d contribute as a utility player and pinch-hitter.

Eduardo was the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez and, though not as skilled as his dad, he hit with power and provided “thunder off the bench,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Raised right

Eduardo Perez, who was born in Cincinnati and played college baseball at Florida State, was a first-round choice of the Angels in the 1991 amateur draft.

“When I was a kid, my mom (Pituka) really was the main person in my life,” Perez said. “My dad was gone a lot playing. My dad had a beautiful career. I’ve always been proud to be his son, but my mom was pretty much my father and mother figure. I am so grateful for all she did.”

Perez reached the big leagues with the Angels in 1993 and played for them in parts of 1994 and 1995. In 1996, he was traded to the Reds, the team for whom his father played for 16 seasons. Eduardo hit 16 home runs for the Reds in 1997 and was their Opening Day first baseman in 1998, but Sean Casey took over the position after being acquired from the Indians.

Keeping faith

The Reds released Perez after the 1998 season and he joined the Cardinals, who invited him to their major-league spring training camp in 1999. The Cardinals projected Perez, 29, for a reserve role on the Opening Day roster, but he hit .214 in spring training and was sent to the minors.

Perez batted .320 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI for Class AAA Memphis in 1999 and was called up to the Cardinals in September.

“I believed all year that I should be in the big leagues,” Perez said. “I never did stop believing.”

The Cardinals put Perez in the lineup and he produced three consecutive two-hit games against the Brewers.

On Sept. 27, 1999, against the Reds at Cincinnati, Perez hit a three-run home run off Brett Tomko. Perez said hitting a home run as an opposing player in his hometown was special. “I’m not going to say it wasn’t,” he said. Boxscore

Perez hit .344 in 21 games for the 1999 Cardinals, became a free agent and signed with St. Louis again in February 2000.

Grand slam

Perez hit well in spring training in 2000, but was the last player cut from the roster before Opening Day. He returned to Memphis, hit .289 with 19 home runs in three months and was promoted to the Cardinals.

On June 24, 2000, the day after his call-up, Perez started at third base, hit a double against Orel Hershiser and strained a hamstring running the bases. He was removed from the game and placed on the disabled list.

A month later, on July 14, 2000, a day after he was activated, Perez started at first base and hit the first grand slam of his major-league career 420 feet to center against Bob Howry of the White Sox at Chicago. Boxscore

“He’s a very intelligent hitter and he’s the kind of first-class person you want to have around,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

A week later, Perez got permission to leave the club to attend his father’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 23, 2000.

Perez hit .297 in 35 games for the 2000 Cardinals, but in December they sold his contract to the Hanshin Tigers of the Japan Central League.

Home and healthy

The Japan experience was a bust for Perez. He injured a knee and hit .222 with three home runs. After the 2001 season, Perez had knee surgery and Lasik eye surgery to treat a severe astigmatism.

On Feb. 8, 2002, the Cardinals purchased Perez’s contract from the Japanese team. At spring training, Perez credited his improved vision for his strong hitting. “It’s like night and day,” he said. “It makes a big difference when you’re not worried about something getting in your eye, which used to happen a lot with me.”

Perez earned a reserve role on the Cardinals’ 2002 Opening Day roster. On April 10, a week into the season, his walkoff home run in the 11th inning against Luis Vizcaino carried the Cardinals to victory over the Brewers. Explaining to the Associated Press his approach with the count at 2-and-2, Perez said, “I choked up and was just trying to put it in play.” Boxscore

In 96 regular-season games for the 2002 Cardinals, Perez hit .201 with 10 home runs. He also hit a home run against Jason Schmidt of the Giants in Game 2 of the 2002 National League Championship Series. Boxscore

Moving on

Perez, 33, spent the 2003 season with the Cardinals and hit .285 with 11 home runs. The right-handed batter was especially effective versus left-handed pitching, hitting .353.

He was granted free agency after the 2003 season and, unlike his other departures, left on his terms, signing with the Rays.

In four seasons with St. Louis, Perez hit .266 with 25 home runs.

After two years with the Rays, Perez concluded his big-league playing career with the Indians and Mariners in 2006.

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Shawon Dunston, who spent his prime as a shortstop with the Cubs, contributed to the Cardinals for two seasons as a utility player.

Twenty years ago, on Feb. 16, 1999, the Cardinals and Dunston, a free agent, agreed to a one-year contract with a base salary of $500,000.

Dunston, who would turn 36 a month later, went on to play every position except pitcher, catcher and second base for the Cardinals over the next two seasons.

Multiple skills

As a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, Dunston batted .790 and had 37 stolen bases in 37 attempts. The Cubs chose him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1982 amateur draft.

Displaying a strong arm and wide fielding range at shortstop, Dunston made his major-league debut with the Cubs in 1985 and played for them through 1995 before becoming a free agent.

After a season with the Giants in 1996, Dunston split 1997 with the Cubs and Pirates. In 1998, no longer a premier shortstop, he adjusted to a utility role with the Indians and Giants.

A free agent again, Dunston had an attractive offer to stay with the Giants in 1999, but St. Louis manager Tony La Russa convinced him to join the Cardinals.

“Tony called me all the time, asking, ‘Are you motivated?’ He’d ask me over and over and over,” Dunston said to Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Seeing red

After the Cardinals announced the signing, Dunston told the Post-Dispatch, “I’m still a Cub at heart.”

Columnist Dan O’Neill responded, “It’s OK for Shawon Dunston to still feel like a Cub, as long as he doesn’t field like one.”

The Cardinals had a quality shortstop, Edgar Renteria, so La Russa envisioned Dunston would fill in at all three outfield positions as well as first base, third base and shortstop.

“Dunston isn’t getting older; he’s getting busier,” Miklasz observed.

In the Cardinals’ season opener on April 5, 1999, against the Brewers at St. Louis, Dunston started in left field, produced a double and two singles and scored twice. Boxscore

In May 1999, Dunston batted .370 and had 16 RBI in 22 games. His hot month was highlighted by a pair of performances against the Pirates at St. Louis.

On May 7, 1999, Dunston hit a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth against Rich Loiselle, carrying the Cardinals to a 4-2 walkoff victory. Boxscore

Two days later, on May 9, 1999, Dunston hit a grand slam off Jose Silva in the first inning and a RBI-triple against Silva in the fifth. Boxscore

“He delivers big hits, matches manager Tony La Russa’s blowtorch intensity and hustles as if his pension depended on it,” Miklasz wrote.

Encore effort

On July 31, 1999, the Cardinals, who were out of contention, thought they were doing Dunston a favor when they traded him to the Mets for utility player Craig Paquette. The Mets were on their way to 97 wins and a berth in the postseason and Dunston would be going back to his roots near Brooklyn.

However, Dunston didn’t want to leave the Cardinals and was stunned by the deal. “I thought I found a home here,” he said.

In 62 games for the 1999 Cardinals, Dunston hit .307 overall and .412 with runners in scoring position.

After the 1999 postseason, when Dunston became a free agent again, he returned to the Cardinals, agreeing to a $500,000 contract. “I’ll do anything to help this team win,” he said.

On May 30, 2000, at Phoenix, Dunston hit a grand slam against Omar Daal of the Diamondbacks in the sixth. Facing Mike Morgan in the eighth, Dunston tripled and was waved home by third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who thought Dunston could achieve an inside-the-park home run. Umpire Greg Gibson ruled Tony Womack’s relay throw was in time to nail Dunston, “even though television replays indicated Dunston might have been safe,” according to the Post-Dispatch. Dunston argued the call and was ejected. Boxscore

Dunston hit two home runs and a double for six RBI against the Giants on June 22, 2000, at St. Louis. After a two-run double off Shawn Estes in the fifth and a solo home run against Aaron Fultz in the seventh, Dunston hit a three-run homer versus Felix Rodriguez in the eighth.

“The ball traveled only 330 feet to left field and probably wouldn’t have made it over the fence if not for leaping Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, who knocked it over with his glove,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Said Bonds: “Shawon should send me a thank-you letter, at least.” Boxscore

Dunston finished the 2000 season with 12 home runs and a .250 batting mark and played in the postseason for the Cardinals against the Braves and Mets.

Though a free agent again, Dunston, 37, wanted to stay with St. Louis and the Cardinals were interested, but the Giants made a better offer.

The Giants gave Dunton a one-year, $1 million deal for 2001 with an option for 2002. The Cardinals came up with one year at less than $1 million.

“I love Shawon,” said Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty. “I wish we could have kept him.”

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Byron Browne, who had thunder in his bat and holes in his swing, intrigued the Cardinals as a power-hitting prospect.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 12, 1969, the Cardinals purchased the contract of Browne from the Astros and assigned him to their farm club at Tulsa.

Browne battered baseballs with his right-handed slugging stroke, but he struck out a lot. The Cardinals wanted to see him make more contact before giving him a chance to return to the big leagues.

Working with instructors Joe Medwick and Tom Burgess, Browne hit consistently well for Tulsa and earned a promotion to the Cardinals.

Big chance

Browne was born and raised in St. Joseph, Mo., a town known as the starting point for the Pony Express and the place where outlaw Jesse James was killed.

In September 1962, Browne, 19, signed as an amateur free agent with the Pirates, played in their farm system and was chosen by the Cubs in the minor-league draft in December 1963.

On Sept. 9, 1965, Browne made his major-league debut for the Cubs, starting in left field, on the night Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game at Dodger Stadium. Browne lined out to center, grounded out to short and struck out. It also was the debut game for Cubs center fielder Don Young. Boxscore.

At spring training in 1966, Browne impressed Cubs manager Leo Durocher, who told the Chicago Tribune, “I’m going to give this boy a good, long look in center field.”

On April 21, 1966, the Cubs acquired Adolfo Phillips from the Phillies. Scouts told Durocher the only center fielders better than Phillips were Willie Mays of the Giants and Curt Flood of the Cardinals.

Durocher put Phillips in center, moved Browne to left and kept Billy Williams in right. “I possibly may have the fastest outfield in the league,” Durocher said.

Tough on Cards

Three of Browne’s best games in 1966 were against the Cardinals.

On May 26, 1966, Browne hit a two-run home run against Bob Gibson “well up into the bleachers beneath Gussie Busch’s dancing beer sign” at the new Busch Stadium, the Tribune reported. Boxscore

Two months later, on July 18, 1966, Browne hit two home runs off Larry Jaster at St. Louis. His two-run home run in the second struck the yellow foul pole in left and his three-run homer in the eighth went into the seats in left-center. Boxscore

On Sept. 18, 1966, at Chicago, Browne had three hits, including a bloop double down the right-field line against Ron Piche to drive in the winning run and end the Cardinals’ seven-game winning streak. Boxscore

Browne batted .308 in 13 games against the Cardinals in 1966, but overall his season wasn’t nearly so good. He hit 16 home runs but batted .243 and struck out a league-high 143 times.

“He’s going to be a good one someday, but he’s going to have to work … and I mean work very hard,” Durocher said.

Lord Byron

Browne spent most of the 1967 season in the minors and on May 4, 1968, the Cubs traded him to the Astros for outfielder Aaron Pointer.

Browne hit .231 in 10 games for the Astros before being sent to the minors by manager Harry Walker, who wanted him to alter his hitting approach. “I’m just not a punch-and-judy hitter,” Browne said.

The Cardinals were set in the outfield for 1969 with Lou Brock in left, Flood in center and Vada Pinson in right, so when they acquired Browne from the Astros it was with the intent he open the season at Tulsa and position himself for a promotion if needed.

Browne responded to the instruction given by Medwick, who was a Hall of Fame slugger for the Gashouse Gang Cardinals of the 1930s. Medwick told him, “Get up to the plate. You’re standing too far back in the box.”

The results were immediate. Browne had two home runs, a double and five RBI in Tulsa’s season opener.

After 14 games, Browne was batting .416 with six home runs and 25 RBI.

“Browne is a big, strong guy and he can take those short, quick strokes and hit the ball out of the country,” said Tulsa manager Warren Spahn.

Browne batted .340 with 106 hits and 79 RBI in 84 games for Tulsa.

On July 12, 1969, the Cardinals traded utility player Bob Johnson to the Athletics and called up Browne, 26, to take his spot.

Clemente’s catch

Browne played his first game for the Cardinals on July 15, 1969, against the Phillies. Starting in left field in place of Brock, who had leg cramps, Browne had a hit, a run, a RBI and three walks. Boxscore

On Sept. 11, 1969, Browne was in the starting lineup for the Cardinals in a game at Pittsburgh. The Pirates started pitcher Bob Veale, who dated Browne’s sister when Veale attended Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., across the Missouri River from Browne’s home in St. Joseph, Mo.

In his first three at-bats versus Veale, Browne struck out looking each time. According to The Pittsburgh Press, Veale set him up with fastballs and slipped sliders past him for the third strikes.

In the ninth, Veale was protecting a 3-2 lead when Browne came up with one out and a runner on first. “I tried to get cute,” Veale said. He changed his pattern, throwing a slider on the first pitch, and Browne lined it to deep right-center.

Right fielder Roberto Clemente raced toward the wall and caught the ball a step or two in front of an iron gate 435 feet from home plate.

“It would have been an inside-the-park home run because the ball would have hit the bottom of the iron gate if Clemente hadn’t made that great catch,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Clemente: “I did not look at the ball at all. All I do is run to the spot where I think it will be because I know it is over my head from the sound. If I do not do that, I never catch it.” Boxscore

Big deal

Browne finished the 1969 season with a couple of highlights against the Expos. On Sept. 27, 1969, he hit a home run against Jerry Robertson, helping Jerry Reuss win his major-league debut. Boxscore. A day later, in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, Browne tripled against Bill Stoneman, scoring Gibson from second, and scored on Joe Torre’s single. Boxscore

In 22 games for the 1969 Cardinals, Browne batted .226 with 12 hits and 14 strikeouts.

On Oct. 7, 1969, the Cardinals traded Browne, Flood, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Phillies for Richie Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. When Flood refused to report, the Cardinals sent Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to complete the deal.

Browne had the only four-hit game of his major-league career for the Phillies against the Cardinals on June 27, 1970, at St. Louis. Boxscore

On Dec. 18, 1972, the Phillies traded Browne back to the Cardinals for outfielder Keith Lampard. Browne spent the 1973 season at Tulsa, batting .259, and played in Mexico in 1974 and 1975.

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The Cardinals took a chance on Carlos Baerga, hoping the second baseman could revive his career, but the experiment didn’t last long because they couldn’t wait for him to lose weight.

Twenty years ago, on Jan. 27, 1999, Baerga, a free agent, signed a one-year contract for $1.25 million with the Cardinals, who needed a second baseman to replace departed free agent Delino DeShields.

Before choosing Baerga, the Cardinals also considered Pat Meares, a Twins shortstop who played second base early in his professional career, but the free agent wanted more than the club was willing to provide, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

With the Mets in 1998, Baerga, 30, had gotten out of shape, limiting his fielding range, but he assured Cardinals manager Tony La Russa he’d come to spring training camp at Jupiter, Fla., ready to play.

The Cardinals, who were grooming prospect Adam Kennedy in the minors, hoped Baerga would be a short-term solution at second base in 1999 until Kennedy was prepared to take over, most likely in 2000.

Ready or not

Baerga, a switch-hitter, made his major league debut with the Indians in 1990 and developed into an elite player.

He batted .312 with 205 hits and 105 RBI for the Indians in 1992 and followed up by batting .321 with 200 hits and 114 RBI in 1993. Baerga also did well in 1994 and 1995, batting .314 each season, but on July 29, 1996, the Indians traded him and utility player Alvaro Espinoza to the Mets for infielders Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino.

Baerga didn’t have the kind of success with the Mets he had with the Indians. He batted .266 with 53 RBI for the 1998 Mets before becoming a free agent.

The Reds and Angels wanted Baerga but he chose the Cardinals after La Russa called him multiple times during the winter and encouraged him to sign.

“He’s a premier guy who went in the opposite direction and he’s determined to get back the respect he had,” La Russa said to the Post-Dispatch.

La Russa conceded Baerga “gave the appearance of being a little listless mentally and physically” with the Mets, but “we’ve had it confirmed that he’s really working hard. I think he’s anxious to reassert himself.”

Said Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty: “We understand he still makes the double play very well. He always has. It’s just a question of whether he has enough range to make the plays.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon was skeptical, asking, “Has there been any thought given to sending Baerga out to play second base on skates?” and colleague Bernie Miklasz concluded, “This is the end of the line for Baerga. If he doesn’t turn his career around in St. Louis, it’s over. So he should be motivated.”

Weight watchers

When Baerga reported to Cardinals training camp, he was listed as carrying 215 pounds on a 5-foot-11 frame.

In exhibition games, Baerga produced two hits in 15 at-bats, twisted an ankle and, according to the Post-Dispatch, “impressed no one.”

On March 17, 1999, Baerga was released by the Cardinals because “he was too heavy and too slow,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“He just wasn’t in shape,” said Jocketty. “He was overweight. I was disappointed with that weight. He just wasn’t able to move as well as you need to (as) a middle infielder.”

Said Baerga: “This has been my body all of my life, but when spring training is over I’m always down to where I want to be. I don’t think I hurt my defense. I didn’t miss any balls. I still make all the plays.”

La Russa met with Baerga and told him “if he could just pick up that step or two, he could have plenty of career ahead of him, but at this point, it’s not there.”

Six days later, on March 23, 1999, Baerga signed a minor-league contract with the Reds.

Baseball journeyman

Placido Polanco was the 1999 Opening Day second baseman for the Cardinals. Joe McEwing eventually got most of the starts before Kennedy was called up in late August and given a look.

Baerga played in 52 games for the Reds’ farm club at Indianapolis before he requested his release. He signed with the Padres, played 21 games for their Las Vegas farm club and was called up to the big leagues in late June 1999.

On Aug. 2, 1999, Baerga started at second base for the Padres against the Cardinals at St. Louis, produced a single in four at-bats and fielded cleanly. It was his only start in the four-game series. Boxscore.

Baerga batted .250 in 33 games for the Padres before his contract was sold to the Indians on Aug. 16, 1999.

Baerga sat out the 2000 season, played in Korea and with the Long Island Ducks in 2001, and returned to the big leagues with the Red Sox in 2002. He went on to play for the Diamondbacks in 2003 and 2004 and with the Nationals in 2005.

In 14 major-league seasons, Baerga batted .291 with 1,583 hits.

After the 1999 season, the Cardinals acquired Fernando Vina from the Brewers to play second base in 2000.

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