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Clearly a believer in the Mark Twain adage of “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story,” Bob Gibson told a terrific tale about the indignity of having Cardinals teammate Dal Maxvill pinch-hit for him. Problem is, it never happened.

Toward the end of an interview published in the March 11, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gibson was asked by Rick Hummel, “Worst experience in baseball?”

The Hall of Fame pitcher responded by spinning a story about the time manager Red Schoendienst called upon Maxvill, the light-hitting shortstop, to bat for Gibson.

“My worst experience in baseball was when Red had Maxvill pinch-hit for me,” Gibson said. “I was so mad. I sat on the bench and Maxie swung and missed a couple of pitches and then he popped up. I walked past Red and said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ I took a shower and went home.”

Either Gibson, a noted prankster, was playing a gag on Hummel, or the passage of time clouded the memory of the 81-year-old Cardinals legend.

Don’t blame Dal

The facts: Maxvill was not a successful pinch-hitter, but he never batted for Gibson in either a regular-season or postseason game.

Maxvill made 12 plate appearances as a big-league pinch-hitter, according to the reliable Web site retrosheet.org. He was 0-for-11, with a walk.

Gibson didn’t pitch in any of the 12 games Maxvill appeared as a pinch-hitter.

Maxvill made six pinch-hit appearances _ three in 1962 and three in 1963 _ when Johnny Keane was Cardinals manager. He made two pinch-hit appearances with the 1972 Athletics under manager Dick Williams.

Only four of his 12 pinch-hit appearances took place for the Cardinals when Schoendienst was manager. He had one in 1965, two in 1971 and one with the 1972 Cardinals before he was traded to the Athletics.

No Gibson sub

The four times Schoendienst sent Maxvill to pinch-hit resulted in:

_ Reached on an error as pinch-hitter for pitcher Ray Washburn on June 16, 1965. Boxscore

_ Grounded out to shortstop as pinch-hitter for pitcher Bob Chlupsa on June 4, 1971. Boxscore

_ Walked intentionally as pinch-hitter for pitcher Moe Drabowsky on June 8, 1971. Boxscore

_ Struck out as pinch-hitter for injured shortstop Dwain Anderson on Aug. 15, 1972. Boxscore

Only once did Maxvill pop out as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. That took place in his major-league debut on June 10, 1962, when Maxvill, batting for pitcher Bobby Shantz, hit a pop-up to Giants pitcher Billy O’Dell. Boxscore

This scenario fits

Perhaps Gibson was confusing Maxvill with Dick Schofield.

In 1968, Schofield was Maxvill’s backup at shortstop. Schofield, a .227 career hitter, batted .220 for the 1968 Cardinals.

On April 20, 1968, Schoendienst sent Schofield to bat for Gibson in the ninth inning.

Schofield popped out to third.

Gibson couldn’t have been happy. The Cubs won, 5-1, making Gibson winless in three starts. The Cardinals scored a total of seven runs in those three games.

Though he made 11 pinch-hit appearances for the 1968 Cardinals, Schofield never would bat for Gibson again.

Gibson would go on to have his most magnificent season in 1968, producing a 1.12 ERA and 28 complete games in 34 starts for the National League champions.

Gibson in a pinch

Maxvill has a career .217 batting average; Gibson, .206.

Gibson was more successful than Maxvill as a pinch-hitter.

In 14 career pinch-hit appearances for the Cardinals, Gibson produced three hits, two walks and a sacrifice bunt.

In 13 of those pinch-hit appearances, Gibson batted for a pitcher.

The exception was on May 27, 1966, when Gibson was Schoendienst’s choice to be a pinch-hitter for left fielder Bobby Tolan. Batting with a runner on third, one out and the Cardinals trailing by a run against the Reds, Gibson struck out against reliever Billy McCool. Boxscore

Previously: Relax, Jon Jay; you’re no Dal Maxvill as Series hitter

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Bill Hands, whose effective starting pitching helped transform the Cubs from losers to contenders under manager Leo Durocher, was a familiar opponent of the Cardinals in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His best performance against St. Louis came on a day when the Cardinals also had their hands full with a group of Wrigley Field Bleacher Bums whose behavior had gotten out of hand.

Hands, who died March 9, 2017, at 76, pitched 11 seasons (1965-75) in the major leagues. He had a career record of 111-110 with a 3.35 ERA.

A right-hander, Hands was best in a three-year stretch for the Cubs when he was 16-10 in 1968, 20-14 in 1969 and 18-15 in 1970.

Against the Cardinals, Hands was 14-12 with a 2.58 ERA in his career. He had more wins (14), innings pitched (205.2) and appearances (38) against the Cardinals than he did versus any other opponent.

After posting losing records in 13 of 14 seasons from 1953-66, the Cubs had 87 wins in 1967 and 84 in 1968. By 1969, they were a threat to the reign of the Cardinals, who had won consecutive National League pennants in 1967 and 1968.

Fired up

On June 28, 1969, the Cubs were in first place in the NL East at 46-26 entering a Saturday afternoon game with the Cardinals at Chicago. St. Louis was 35-37, 11 games behind the Cubs.

Looking to put a dagger into the St. Louis title hopes, the Cubs started Hands against Dave Giusti of the Cardinals.

The left field stands at Wrigley Field filled quickly that day with Cubs fans. Known as Bleacher Bums, the group was whipped into a frenzy by the early-season success of their hometown team and by the sight of the archrival Cardinals.

As Cardinals players appeared in the outfield to shag flies and play catch before the game, “bleacher fans showered the Redbirds players with flashlight batteries, quarters, paper cups, dry ice and other debris in pregame practice,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Cage match

Curt Flood, Cardinals center fielder, told the Chicago Tribune, “They were throwing steel ball bearings at me. If I turn and catch one in the eye, it’s bye-bye career. I can start carrying a lunch pail to work.”

Cardinals pitcher Mudcat Grant said he was hit in the mouth by a hard rubber ball thrown from the left-field bleachers. Someone also flung a hard hat at him. Teammate Bob Gibson picked up the hard hat and “played the conductor’s role in leading the Bleacher Bums as they jeered the Cardinals with chants,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Bleacher fans told the Tribune that Grant retaliated by hitting three of them with baseballs he threw into the stands.

“I just lobbed the ball,” Grant said to the Post-Dispatch. “They weren’t lobbing those nails and flashlight batteries and that helmet at me.”

Grant said he “scared” the fans by throwing two baseballs hard against the ivy-covered wall.

“You ought to put a cage over them,” Grant said of his tormenters.

The Bleacher Bums also taunted left fielder Lou Brock, a former Cub, with calls of “bush leaguer.”

“The thing that really bothers me about it is that they are showing you people (reporters) up,” Brock said to the Tribune. “You have glorified them and they show their gratitude by behaving like that. It’s not right.”

Bearing down

Once the game began, Hands became the story. He held the Cardinals to one hit _ a Tim McCarver single _ through five innings.

In the sixth, with the Cubs ahead, 1-0, Flood led off with a single to left. Brock stretched his hitting streak to 13 games with a double into the left-field corner, scoring Flood.

“Both the pitches they hit in that inning were mistakes,” Hands said. “Brock hit a fastball down the middle and Flood got a hanging slider.”

Reminding himself to bear down, Hands struck out Vada Pinson and Joe Torre _ “I got Pinson on a fastball on the corner and Torre missed a slider,” Hands said _ before McCarver flied out.

The Cubs went ahead, 2-1, when Willie Smith hit a home run off Giusti in the bottom half of the inning and they added a run in the seventh.

Hands retired the Cardinals in order in the last three innings, sealing the win and finishing with a three-hitter. Boxscore

Koufax impressed

It was the third consecutive complete game pitched by Hands.

“I knew Hands was a good pitcher, but I didn’t know he was that good,” said Sandy Koufax, the retired Dodgers ace who was broadcasting the game for NBC. “He really showed me something today.”

Said Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst: “He threw a good slider about 85 percent of the time to our right-handed batters. He had marvelous control of it _ low and away.”

The loss dropped the Cardinals 12 games behind the Cubs. “They’re far enough behind us that they’ve got to win almost every one of the (13) games left between us,” said Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger.

Though the Cardinals didn’t catch them, the Cubs couldn’t hold onto the division lead. The Mets would finish in first place at 100-62. The Cubs (92-70) placed second and the Cardinals (87-75) were fourth.

Previously: How Mike Shannon put brakes on Cubs title hopes

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In his spring training stint with the Cardinals, Mike Caldwell appeared to be a pitcher whose career was in decline. Shelled early and often, Caldwell showed no signs of developing into what he would become: a 20-game winner who would torment the Cardinals in the World Series.

Caldwell’s five-month stint as a Cardinal is a tale of a late bloomer who was in the wrong organization at the wrong time.

Forty years ago, in March 1977, Caldwell, 28, a veteran of six big-league seasons, was considered a leading candidate to fill a role in the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Instead, Caldwell was traded before he got a chance to appear in a regular-season game for St. Louis.

Giant troubles

Caldwell, a left-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1971 Padres. He had a 13-25 record in three seasons with them, then was traded to the Giants for slugger Willie McCovey.

In 1974, his first year with the Giants, Caldwell had a breakout season, posting a 14-5 record and 2.95 ERA.

After the season, Caldwell had surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow. When he returned, he struggled. “I lost some movement on my best pitch, the sinker, and I tightened up some and came sidearm at times,” Caldwell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

By 1976, Caldwell was having troubles in the Giants clubhouse as well as on the mound. “I didn’t get along with a couple of the coaches and they took it personally,” Caldwell said.

The Giants’ pitching coach was the former catcher, Buck Rodgers.

Caldwell reached a low point on April 28, 1976, when Doug Clarey hit a home run, the lone hit of his big-league career, against him in the 16th inning, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory.

Caldwell finished 1-7 with a 4.86 ERA for the 1976 Giants. “I lost my confidence, tried too hard _ overthrew, I guess you’d say _ and I didn’t do very well,” Caldwell said.

Hope rekindled

On Oct. 26, 1976, the Giants traded Caldwell, pitcher John D’Acquisto and catcher Dave Rader to the Cardinals for pitcher John Curtis, outfielder Willie Crawford and utility player Vic Harris.

“I’m just glad to get away from a bad situation,” Caldwell said of leaving the Giants.

The Cardinals slotted Caldwell for the bullpen. “It’s common knowledge that the problem with the Cardinals last year was that middle relief and late relief, except for Al Hrabosky, couldn’t get the other clubs out,” said St. Louis manager Vern Rapp.

Said Caldwell: “I have no illusions. I’ve got to prove I’m good enough to make the staff.”

Bad audition

On March 12, in the Cardinals’ 1977 spring training opener against the Mets, Caldwell pitched two innings and gave up four runs.

Three days later, Caldwell pitched an inning against the Dodgers and yielded three runs.

The Cardinals didn’t pitch him much after that.

On March 29, the Cardinals traded Caldwell to the Reds for pitcher Pat Darcy. In eight spring training innings, Caldwell yielded nine earned runs.

“Rapp called me in and told me, ‘Don’t get mad. You’re going to a contender,’ ” Caldwell said. “I wasn’t mad about that. I just thought he should’ve had some respect for me as a pitcher. That’s all I wanted: Throw me out there to see what I can do.”

Right fit

The Reds weren’t much more impressed with Caldwell than the Cardinals had been. Three months after they’d acquired him, the Reds dealt Caldwell to the Brewers.

In 1978, Caldwell got a break when the Brewers named George Bamberger their manager. Under Bamberger, who had been a pitching coach for the Orioles, Caldwell fulfilled his potential. He was 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA and 23 complete games for the 1978 Brewers.

“Lots of people had given up on me,” Caldwell said to The Sporting News, noting he was traded by four clubs, including the Cardinals. “Maybe the people who gave up on me were responsible in an indirect way for my coming back. I knew I could pitch and I hope those who gave up on me will say now, ‘Well, he had the guts to battle back and win.’ ”

The third-base coach for Bamberger’s Brewers was Buck Rodgers, with whom Caldwell had feuded in his last season with the Giants. In 1980, Rodgers replaced Bamberger as Brewers manager.

Old wounds

Early in the 1982 season, Caldwell had a run-in with Rodgers aboard a plane, The Sporting News reported. In June that year, Rodgers was fired and replaced by hitting coach Harvey Kuenn. Rodgers said disgruntled players had “tried to stab me in the back.”

Kuenn led the Brewers to the 1982 American League pennant and a matchup against St. Louis in the World Series.

Five years after he’d been dealt by the Cardinals, Caldwell would be facing them on baseball’s biggest stage.

Series drama

Caldwell, nicknamed “Mr. Warmth” by teammate Gorman Thomas because of his sometimes grumpy nature, was Kuenn’s choice to start Game 1.

Caldwell responded with a three-hit shutout in a 10-0 Brewers victory. Boxscore

Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez said he thought Caldwell was throwing a spitter, an illegal pitch. “He might have been throwing me screwballs, but I never saw a screwball drop like that,” Hernandez said.

Caldwell said he threw “natural sinkers.” Regarding the spitball accusation, Caldwell replied, “I look at it as a compliment. If the ball drops so much that they’re accusing me of throwing a spitter, I’ve got pretty good stuff.”

With the Series deadlocked at 2-2, Caldwell started Game 5 and again was the winning pitcher. He yielded 14 hits and two walks in 8.1 innings, but the Cardinals stranded 12 and the Brewers won, 6-4. Boxscore

The Cardinals won Game 6, setting up a deciding Game 7.

Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the eighth, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, two outs, when Kuenn lifted Moose Haas and replaced him with Caldwell.

Darrell Porter and Steve Braun responded with RBI-singles, stretching the St. Louis lead to 6-3, before Caldwell got Willie McGee to ground out.

Bruce Sutter set down the Brewers in order in the ninth, clinching the championship for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Previously: How Doug Clarey became Cinderella Man of Cardinals

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Though relief pitcher Clay Carroll was successful in his lone season with St. Louis, his most significant Cardinals connection came as an opponent.

clay_carrollCarroll, who played 15 seasons in the major leagues, had a career batting average of .130.

On May 30, 1969, in what The Sporting News aptly described as a storybook feat, Carroll hit the only home run of his big-league career. The improbable shot was struck against Bob Gibson in the 10th inning and it carried the Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis.

Eight years later, Carroll was traded to the Cardinals and excelled for them as a consistently reliable reliever.

Bench’s blast

Carroll, a right-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1964 Braves. He was traded to the Reds in June 1968.

His home run against Gibson occurred in the opener of a series between the Reds and Cardinals. The Reds were riding a seven-game winning streak. The Cardinals, two-time defending National League champions, were 21-23 and looking to get on track.

The Cardinals scored twice off Reds ace Jim Maloney in the first inning and added a run in the sixth against former teammate Wayne Granger for a 3-0 lead.

In the seventh, in a showdown of future Hall of Famers, Reds catcher Johnny Bench tied the score with a three-run home run. It was Bench’s first career hit against Gibson.

Carroll relieved Granger in the eighth and the game became a duel between Carroll and Gibson.

Neither team scored in the eighth and ninth.

Heavy lumber

Gibson retired the first two batters in the 10th. With Carroll pitching well, Reds manager Dave Bristol decided to let the reliever bat against Gibson, who had won five consecutive decisions.

Usually, Carroll used pitcher Tony Cloninger’s bat. This time, he borrowed the bat of outfielder Alex Johnson, a former Cardinal.

Johnson’s bats, Carroll explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “have a lot more wood in them than the one I had been using.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that Johnson’s bats “normally are about as heavy as any in baseball _ some weighing as much as 40 ounces.”

Big swat

With the count 3-and-2, Gibson delivered a high fastball. Carroll swung and lifted a towering fly ball to left field.

“I don’t want to brag, but when I hit the ball I knew it was gone,” Carroll said to United Press International. “Did you see it take off?”

The ball hit the top of the fence at Busch Stadium and bounced over the wall, giving the Reds a 4-3 lead.

“I was just swinging, trying to get on,” said Carroll. “Usually when I face Gibson, I just chop at the ball. That’s about all you can do against him.”

Said Bristol: “You should have seen the smile on Carroll’s face when he returned to the dugout. It looked like a cut watermelon.”

Bristol sent Carroll back out to pitch the bottom half of the 10th. He got Joe Hague to fly out, then walked Lou Brock. Curt Flood grounded out, moving Brock into scoring position at second. Vada Pinson, Carroll’s former Reds teammate, lined out to shortstop, ending the game.

Carroll pitched three hitless innings to earn the win. Boxscore

Championship caliber

Carroll was an important contributor to Reds teams that won NL pennants in 1970, 1972 and 1975.

In 14 World Series appearances for the Reds, Carroll was 2-1 with a save and a 1.33 ERA over 20.1 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, shutting out the Red Sox for two innings.

Dealt to the White Sox in December 1975, Carroll produced a 4-4 record, six saves and a 2.56 ERA for them in 1976.

Forty years ago, on March 23, 1977, the Cardinals acquired Carroll from the White Sox for pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.

Experience matters

The 1977 Cardinals were seeking an experienced reliever to set up closer Al Hrabosky. Carroll, 35, filled the need.

“This is obviously what we’ve been after _ consistency and experience from a right-handed reliever, a guy who’s been under fire in championship play,” said manager Vern Rapp. “We had nobody on our staff who fit those qualifications.”

Said Carroll: “I want to work as often as possible because the more I work the more consistent I am. I like the Cardinals, especially because they’re an aggressive team at bat and on the bases.”

Carroll reported to camp at 215 pounds, according to the Post-Dispatch. Rapp wanted him to be at 200 pounds when the season began. He instructed Carroll to run extra laps each day during spring training.

A master at locating his pitches, Carroll delivered for the 1977 Cardinals.

In its Aug. 20 edition, The Sporting News wrote, “When Carroll wasn’t saving games, he at least was dousing huge blazes to keep the Cardinals in the games. The tighter the situation, the more (Carroll) seemed to enjoy it.”

Noting how Carroll got batters to swing at pitches out of the zone, Dave Bristol, manager of the 1977 Braves, said, “Carroll would rather eat a green fly at home plate than throw a strike.”

One batter who did feast on Carroll’s pitches in 1977 was the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey, who hit two grand slams off him.

Still, Carroll produced a 4-2 record with four saves and a 2.50 ERA in 51 appearances for the 1977 Cardinals.

Then, on Aug. 31, they traded him back to the White Sox.

3-for-1

The trade created “a lot of eyebrow raising” because Carroll had been the Cardinals’ most consistent reliever, The Sporting News wrote.

The Cardinals were 10 games out of first place with about a month remaining in the season when the deal was made. The White Sox wanted Carroll because they were in contention for a division title, two games behind the first-place Royals.

St. Louis got three players in the deal: pitchers Silvio Martinez and Dave Hamilton and outfielder Nyls Nyman.

Carroll was disappointed to leave the Cardinals. “I thought I did a good job,” he said. “I guess they’re planning to go with a younger pitching staff next year.”

Previously: Like Shelby Miller, Silvio Martinez was special for Cards

 

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Two years after he made his big-league debut against St. Louis as a winner in a game that ended Bob Gibson’s career, Buddy Schultz surprised the Cardinals by becoming one of their most effective relievers.

buddy_schultzForty years ago, on Feb. 28, 1977, Schultz was traded by the Cubs to the Cardinals for minor-league pitcher Mark Covert.

A left-hander, Schultz, 26, was acquired to pitch for the Cardinals’ top farm club.

When given a chance to fill in for an injured pitcher early in the Cardinals’ season, Schultz capitalized on the opportunity and gained the confidence of manager Vern Rapp.

On a staff with established talent such as Bob Forsch, John Denny and Al Hrabosky, it was Schultz who emerged as the Cardinals’ leader in earned run average that season.

Name game

Charles Budd Schultz was born Sept. 19, 1950, in Cleveland. “The middle name was for my Uncle Bud and they fancied it up by adding the extra ‘d,’ ” Schultz told Dick Kaegel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Schultz received a baseball scholarship from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts.

In a game for Miami against Wright State, Schultz struck out 26, establishing a NCAA record.

The Cubs selected Schultz in the sixth round of the June 1972 amateur free-agent draft.

Win vs. Gibson

Schultz made his big-league debut for Chicago on Sept. 3, 1975, at St. Louis. In the sixth inning, with the score tied at 6-6, Schultz relieved Tom Dettore and got Bake McBride to ground out to second, ending the inning.

In the seventh, the Cubs struck for five runs off Gibson, who had relieved Ron Reed. Pete LaCock, batting for Schultz, hit a grand slam off Gibson, giving the Cubs an 11-6 lead. Paul Reuschel shut out the Cardinals over the last three innings, preserving the win for Schultz. Boxscore

Gibson, 39, never pitched in a big-league game again, putting a sour ending to a Hall of Fame career as the Cardinals’ all-time best pitcher.

A week later, on Sept. 10, 1975, Schultz pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in relief of Steve Stone and got his second win in the Cubs’ 7-5 triumph over the Cardinals at Chicago. Boxscore

In two seasons (1975-76) with the Cubs, Schultz was 3-1 with a 6.14 ERA in 35 games.

Getting a break

On the eve of spring training in 1977, Schultz got into a contract squabble, prompting the Cubs to make him available. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine took a chance on Schultz, signed him to a minor-league contract and instructed him to report to the Class AAA New Orleans Pelicans.

“Devine asked me what I wanted and I told him and I signed in one minute,” Schultz said. “Maybe I should have asked for more.”

On March 31, 1977, Schultz worked a scoreless eighth inning in a 2-1 Cardinals spring training victory over the Mets. He caught Rapp’s attention by retiring all three batters he faced, striking out two. “You had to like what Schultz did,” said the Cardinals manager.

Still, when the 1977 big-league season opened, the Cardinals kept rookie relievers John Urrea and Johnny Sutton on the roster. Schultz stayed behind at the minor-league camp in Florida.

On April 9, two days after the Cardinals’ season opener, pitcher John D’Acquisto injured his right calf and was placed on the disabled list. Schultz was called up to replace him.

Good stuff

Mixing a slider with a fastball and palmball, Schultz pitched consistently well in long relief for the Cardinals.

On May 12, 1977, he combined with D’Acquisto and Hrabosky on a one-hitter against the Reds at St. Louis. Relieving D’Acquisto, who started and pitched four hitless innings, Schultz held the Reds hitless until Ken Griffey doubled with two outs in the eighth.

“The fastball Griffey hit was up in his eyes,” Schultz said.

Hrabosky pitched a hitless ninth, preserving the win for Schultz, who was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Boxscore

A month later, the Cardinals made a series of moves that blindsided Schultz.

Strikeout artist

On June 15, 1977, the Cardinals acquired a starter, Tom Underwood, from the Phillies and a reliever, Rawly Eastwick, from the Reds.

Eastwick joined three other high-profile veterans _ Hrabosky, Clay Carroll and Butch Metzger _ in the St. Louis bullpen. Needing to open a roster spot for the newcomers, the Cardinals demoted Schultz (3-1, 1.41 ERA) to New Orleans, with instructions to use him as a starter.

Stunned, Schultz took out his frustration on American Association batters.

In his first start for New Orleans, on June 18, 1977, Schultz struck out 15 in a 9-3 victory over Denver. Schultz also contributed a double, single and RBI. “Maybe they sent me down here to work on my hitting,” he said to The Sporting News.

In his second start, Schultz struck out 10 before a blister developed on a left finger, causing him to depart in the sixth.

Over two starts for New Orleans, Schultz had struck out 25 in 14.2 innings.

When John Denny pulled a hamstring and was placed on the disabled list, the Cardinals recalled Schultz to replace him.

Triumphant return

On June 28, 1977, the Cardinals gave Schultz his first big-league start in the opener of a doubleheader against the Pirates at St. Louis. Schultz, who held the Pirates to a run over 7.1 innings in a 6-1 Cardinals victory, departed to a standing ovation.

“With that, he suddenly produced a two-arm victory thrust and yelled, ‘I’m back,’ ” Neal Russo of the Post-Dispatch reported.

Before he could make a second start for St. Louis, Schultz pulled a leg muscle and was placed on the disabled list. When he returned, the Cardinals utilized him primarily as a reliever.

“He’s much too valuable to take out of the bullpen,” said Cardinals pitching coach Claude Osteen.

Schultz finished the 1977 season with a 6-1 record and a team-leading 2.32 ERA.

Previously: Bob Gibson and his final days with Cardinals

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Looking to rebuild his reputation, Dave LaPoint returned to the organization where he felt the most comfortable and had enjoyed his greatest success.

dave_lapointThirty years ago, on Jan. 19, 1987, LaPoint, a free agent, signed with the Cardinals, who expected him to compete for a spot in their starting rotation.

At 27, his career was at a crossroads.

Five years earlier, LaPoint, a left-hander, had helped the Cardinals win the 1982 National League pennant and World Series championship.

After the Cardinals traded him in February 1985, LaPoint’s career spiraled. He pitched for three teams in two years, posting losing records at each stop, got traded twice and released once.

Out of shape and labeled a clubhouse jester, LaPoint said he was committed to rededicating himself to becoming a winner and was seeking a nurturing environment in which to attempt that comeback.

The 1987 Cardinals and manager Whitey Herzog provided the setting LaPoint sought.

Cards contributor

LaPoint’s tenure with the Cardinals began in December 1980 when he was acquired from the Brewers in a deal engineered by Herzog. The Cardinals traded Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich for Sixto Lezcano, David Green, Lary Sorensen and LaPoint.

LaPoint’s breakthrough year was 1982. He began the season as a reliever and joined the starting rotation in May. LaPoint appeared in 42 games, including 21 as a starter, for the 1982 Cardinals and had a 9-3 record and 3.42 ERA. He started Game 4 of the 1982 World Series against the Brewers, yielded one earned run in 6.1 innings and got no decision in a 7-5 Milwaukee victory.

LaPoint earned 12 wins for the Cardinals in both 1983 and 1984.

When the Cardinals, seeking a run producer to replace George Hendrick, had a chance to get Jack Clark before the start of the 1985 season, they sent LaPoint, Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich to the Giants.

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later reported the Cardinals parted with LaPoint because they “thought he might be influencing young players unduly.”

Hummel described LaPoint as a “leader in clubhouse revelry” and “a top consumer of the owner’s (Anheuser-Busch’s) product.”

Prodigal son

LaPoint had a 7-17 record for the 1985 Giants, who traded him to the Tigers after the season.

LaPoint and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson were a bad match. “I couldn’t get along with Sparky,” LaPoint told Hummel. After posting a 3-6 record and 5.72 ERA for the Tigers, LaPoint was traded to the Padres in July 1986. He was 1-4 for the Padres, who released him after the season.

It was then LaPoint decided to make changes. Weighing between 230 and 240 pounds, he dropped to 220.

The Expos and Giants wanted to sign LaPoint, but he chose the Cardinals, whose offer of a base salary of $125,000 was a cut from his $550,000 contract in 1986.

“It feels finally that I’m back where I belong,” LaPoint said. “… In talking to Whitey, he said he would use me like he did in ’82. That’s fine with me. It got me a World Series ring.”

Asked his reaction to LaPoint rejoining the Cardinals, center fielder Willie McGee said, “I like him … He’s kind of a clown, but that’s Dave LaPoint.”

It’s a reputation LaPoint said he was determined to change.

“I used to mess around during drills and I don’t do that anymore,” LaPoint said after reporting to Cardinals camp. “… It was time to put a stop to it.”

Redbird reliever

LaPoint had a successful spring training. He was 2-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched in Grapefruit League exhibition games.

The Cardinals opened the 1987 regular season with five left-handers: starters John Tudor and Greg Mathews and relievers Ricky Horton, Pat Perry and LaPoint. (Ken Dayley, another left-handed reliever, was on the disabled list.)

In his first appearance for the 1987 Cardinals, on April 10 against the Pirates at Pittsburgh, LaPoint took the loss when he yielded a two-out, RBI-double to Sid Bream in the bottom of the ninth. Boxscore

LaPoint was scheduled to make a start April 25 versus the Mets at New York, but that plan was scratched when the Cardinals called up Joe Magrane from the minors and put the rookie left-hander into the rotation.

LaPoint remained in the bullpen and largely was ineffective.

He got a win on April 18 against the Mets at St. Louis, but even then he didn’t perform well. In the 10th, LaPoint threw a wild pitch, enabling Al Pedrique to score from third with the go-ahead run. LaPoint was rescued when the Cardinals scored five times off Jesse Orosco in the bottom half of the inning. Tom Pagnozzi’s RBI-single tied the score at 8-8 and Tommy Herr’s grand slam made LaPoint the winner. Boxscore

On the road again

With his ERA at 6.75 after four relief appearances, LaPoint was demoted to Louisville on April 27. LaPoint had the option of declaring himself a free agent, but agreed to return to the minor leagues for the first time since 1981.

Placed in the starting rotation by Louisville manager Dave Bialas, LaPoint lost his first three decisions, but then found his groove. He completed four of his last five starts for Louisville and had a 5-5 record when he was recalled by the Cardinals on July 8.

“It was the best thing in the world for me,” LaPoint said of his stint in the minors. “… I’ve learned to pitch a little different style.”

LaPoint made two July starts for the Cardinals and got no decision in either.

On July 30, the Cardinals traded LaPoint to the White Sox for minor-league pitcher Bryce Hulstrom.

“LaPoint’s main problem has been control,” wrote John Sonderegger of the Post-Dispatch. “If he gets the ball up, he gets hammered. It usually takes him a couple of innings to find the strike zone and by then the game usually is out of control.”

After posting a 1-1 record and 6.75 ERA for the 1987 Cardinals, LaPoint was 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA for the 1987 White Sox.

The Cardinals, helped by a combined 30 wins from left-handed starters Mathews, Tudor and Magrane, finished 95-67 and won the NL pennant.

Previously: Trade for Jack Clark shook Cards from their slumber

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