Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

During the 1940s, no baseball rivalry was more intense than the one between the Dodgers and Cardinals. The player who perhaps best exemplified that fervor was Joe Medwick.

From 1941-49, seven of nine National League pennants were won by either the Cardinals or Dodgers. Medwick, a power hitter and left fielder, had been a force for the Gashouse Gang Cardinals of the 1930s. After he was traded to the Dodgers in 1940, he helped them win the pennant in 1941.

In 1942, the Dodgers appeared headed to a successful defense of their title. They were 4.5 games ahead of the second-place Cardinals entering a five-game series against St. Louis at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.

In the series opener, 75 years ago, on June 18, 1942, Medwick set the tone by targeting one of the Cardinals’ most popular players, shortstop Marty Marion, for a skewering.

Medwick’s roughhouse antics sparked a melee between the teams.

Vicious slide

A pair of effective left-handers, Max Lanier of the Cardinals and Larry French of the Dodgers, were the starting pitchers in Game 1.

With the Cardinals ahead, 2-1, Medwick led off the Dodgers’ half of the sixth inning and drew a walk.

Lanier threw a pitch to the next batter, Dolph Camilli, that eluded catcher Walker Cooper. The ball rolled about five feet from the plate, but Cooper got to it quickly. Medwick broke for second and Cooper threw a laser to Marion, who was covering the bag.

The ball got to Marion well before Medwick reached the base. As Marion prepared to apply a tag, Medwick slid with spikes high and crashed hard into the shortstop.

Medwick “tried to carve his initials on Marion’s Adam’s apple,” said John Kieran of the New York Times.

Medwick’s spikes ripped a gash into Marion’s arm.

As Medwick attempted to rise, Marion pushed down Medwick’s spikes with his glove and said something to him.

Medwick came up swinging and motioned for Marion to fight.

Wild fury

As Medwick squared off with Marion, Cardinals second baseman Frank “Creepy” Crespi tackled Medwick from behind and knocked him to the ground.

With Medwick on his back, Cardinals players piled on top of him.

Camilli and Dixie Walker were the first Dodgers to come to Medwick’s rescue.

Camilli grabbed Crespi and put a strangehold on him.

Walker threw a flying block at Cardinals third baseman Whitey Kurowski “that would have delighted the heart of the late Knute Rockne,” The Sporting News reported.

Ump’s delight

The fighting lasted for about two minutes. Though brief, the brawl was “as exciting as has been seen in the National League this season,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Walker injured his ankle in the melee, limped off the field and was removed from the game.

Medwick and Crespi were ejected by umpire Babe Pinelli.

Though Pinelli later blamed Medwick for instigating the incident by sliding with spikes high, the old-school arbiter added, “I like to umpire games like that … There is too little of that in baseball today.”

When play resumed, Camilli walked and the next batter, Johnny Rizzo, was sent sprawling by a brushback pitch from Lanier.

No other incidents occurred, but the free-for-all appeared to benefit the inspired Dodgers. They rallied and beat the Cardinals, 5-2. Boxscore

Afterward, Medwick said Dodgers manager Leo Durocher had told him not to discuss the incident, according to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

“I can’t talk,” Medwick said. “That’s my orders … Some time, I’ll tell you my side of that rumpus at second base, but meanwhile Leo is the skipper.”

The Dodgers won four of the five games in the series, extending their lead over the Cardinals to 7.5 games. The Cardinals, however, would finish strong and win the pennant with a 106-48 record. The Dodgers ended two back at 104-50.

Previously: How Joe Medwick got traded by Cardinals to Dodgers

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The spirit of St. Louis was on full display when Charles Lindbergh, a month after his historic flight, came to Sportsman’s Park and helped the Cardinals celebrate their first World Series title.

Ninety years ago, on June 18, 1927, Lindbergh raised the championship banner at the Cardinals’ ballpark and presented the team with World Series rings.

Lindbergh received thunderous ovations from the overflow crowd of nearly 40,000 before a Saturday afternoon game between the Giants and Cardinals. Lindbergh was making his first visit to St. Louis since piloting his single-engine airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, from New York to Paris on the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight May 20-21, 1927.

A Detroit native, Lindbergh had been working in St. Louis as a pilot and flight instructor when he began his historic adventure. The plane, custom-built in San Diego, was named in honor of St. Louis residents who provided financial backing for Lindbergh.

Honoring Hornsby

Lindbergh’s appearance was a highlight to an emotion-packed Giants-Cardinals series.

Rogers Hornsby, who as player-manager had led the Cardinals to the 1926 National League pennant and World Series championship, was making his first appearance in St. Louis since being traded to the Giants during the winter. Hornsby, who was dealt after clashing with Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, remained highly popular in St. Louis.

The opener of the four-game series was on Wednesday afternoon, June 15, and attracted about 15,000 spectators, the Cardinals’ largest weekday crowd of the season.

During batting practice, Hornsby was given a “great greeting” by the crowd, the St. Louis Star-Times reported. In a ceremony at home plate before the game, players from both teams gathered around Hornsby as St. Louis mayor Victor Miller presented him a watch engraved, “From the fans of St. Louis.”

The next day, Thursday, June 16, Hornsby was guest of honor of the St. Louis Exchange Club at a noon luncheon at the Chase Hotel. At the game that afternoon, Hornsby was given a large floral horseshoe arrangement by civic leaders.

“Everything is going great with me,” Hornsby said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A look at Lindy

The Cardinals and Giants split the first two games of the series. No game was scheduled for Friday, June 17. The series was scheduled to resume with games on Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, Father’s Day, June 19.

With Hornsby in town, the Cardinals had arranged to raise the World Series championship banner before the Saturday, June 18, game. When it was learned Lindbergh would be in St. Louis then, he was invited to take part in the ceremony.

Lindbergh arrived at the ballpark shortly before 3 p.m. Escorted by a cordon of police, Lindbergh was greeted by Breadon and baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and taken to a seat near the Cardinals’ dugout.

Wearing a dark suit and gray hat, Lindbergh, who had been in constant demand since his aviation achievement, “looked haggard and worn,” according to the Star-Times. “He appeared as though all he wanted to do was to get away some place and rest.”

John Heydler, National League president, gave Lindbergh a gold pass that provided him free entrance to any NL game for life.

Then, Lindbergh was taken onto the field. As he led a group of dignitaries to a flagpole located in center field, “uncurbed cheering threatened to shake the concrete stadium to its very foundation,” the Star-Times reported.

Winning combination

At the flagpole, Lindbergh pulled the ropes, hand over hand, that raised three flags: the American flag, the World Series championship flag and the National League pennant.

Lindbergh and the group then paraded around the field and toward the plate. There, the teams gathered. Lindbergh was introduced to Hornsby.

“You’re a great fellow and you did a great thing,” Hornsby said to Lindbergh. “I congratulate you.”

Lindbergh shook the hands of each World Series champion team member as he handed them their rings.

Lindbergh returned to his seat and the game began. His mother sat in the seat to his right and the mayor of St. Louis sat to his left.

When Hornsby stepped to the plate in the second inning, he received a tremendous ovation.

After the third inning, Lindbergh departed.

The Cardinals, behind the pitching of Grover Cleveland Alxander, won, 6-4. The next day, the Giants prevailed, splitting the series.

Previously: Bob O’Farrell went from NL MVP to Cards manager

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Johnny Rizzo, once a top hitting prospect in the St. Louis system, had his best big-league game against the Cardinals, setting a record that lasted more than 75 years.

Playing for the Pirates, Rizzo produced nine RBI versus the Cardinals in the second game of a Memorial Day doubleheader on May 30, 1939. That was the single-game record by a Cardinals opponent until Scooter Gennett of the Reds had 10 RBI against St. Louis on June 6, 2017.

Rizzo, a left fielder, achieved his feat with two home runs, two doubles and a single at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. He had gone hitless in four at-bats in the opener.

No vacancy

Rizzo, a right-handed batter, played five seasons (1933-37) in the Cardinals organization. He batted better than .300 each year, but never got called up to St. Louis.

In 1937, the Columbus (Ohio) Red Birds, a Cardinals farm club in the American Association, had two outstanding outfielders: Rizzo and Enos Slaughter.

Rizzo batted .358 with 209 hits in 150 games for Columbus. He had 38 doubles, 18 triples and 21 home runs.

Slaughter batted a league-leading .382 with 245 hits in 154 games for Columbus. He had 42 doubles, 13 triples and 26 home runs.

Both clearly were ready to play in the big leagues in 1938.

The Cardinals had two outfield mainstays: Joe Medwick in left and Terry Moore in center. That left one spot, right field, for either Slaughter or Rizzo. Cardinals executive Branch Rickey opted for Slaughter, rating him a better all-around player than Rizzo.

In October 1937, the Cardinals traded Rizzo to the Pirates for catcher Tom Padden, outfielder Bud Hafey and minor-league first baseman Bernard Cobb. Rizzo “was sought by several other clubs, notably the Cubs, but Rickey saw something in the Pittsburgh (offer) that appealed to him,” The Sporting News reported.

Rizzo had a better rookie season than Slaughter in 1938. Rizzo batted .301 with 23 home runs and 111 RBI for the Pirates. Slaughter batted .276 with eight home runs and 58 RBI for the Cardinals.

Pirates power

A year later, Rizzo was in a slump and his batting average was at .239 heading into the second game of the Memorial Day doubleheader against the Cardinals. A day earlier, Rizzo had hit into a triple play.

Still, manager Pie Traynor kept him in the No. 3 spot in the batting order.

Facing starter Clyde Shoun, Rizzo had a RBI-single in the first, popped out to shortstop in the third and hit a three-run home run in the fifth. Rizzo added a single off Mort Cooper in the fifth.

With the score tied at 7-7 in the eighth, the Pirates had runners on second and third, none out, and Arky Vaughan at the plate. The Cardinals opted to give an intentional walk to Vaughan, loading the bases, and pitch to Rizzo.

Rizzo ripped a double off Curt Davis, clearing the bases and giving the Pirates a 10-7 lead. “The ball was hit with such force that it bounded off the wall, away from Joe Medwick and Pepper Martin,” The Pittsburgh Press reported.

In the ninth, Rizzo hit a two-run home run off Bob Bowman, capping a 5-for-6 performance in a 14-8 Pirates victory. Boxscore

Rizzo finished the 1939 season with a .261 batting average, six home runs and 55 RBI. He spent three more seasons (1940-42) in the big leagues with four teams: Pirates, Reds, Phillies and Dodgers.

Previously: Cards rookie Enos Slaughter set torrid extra-hit pace

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For Fernando Valenzuela, a baseball odyssey that began brilliantly with the Dodgers ended sadly in a short, unsatisfying stint with the Cardinals.

Seeking a veteran to temporarily plug an opening in their starting rotation, the Cardinals took a chance on Valenzuela, 36, and acquired him in a six-player trade with the Padres.

The deal, made 20 years ago on June 13, 1997, was a surprise. The Cardinals had approached the Padres about a utility infielder. In talks with his counterpart, Kevin Towers of the Padres, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty learned Valenzuela was available.

The trade was Valenzuela, infielder Scott Livingstone and outfielder Phil Plantier to the Cardinals for pitchers Danny Jackson and Rich Batchelor and outfielder Mark Sweeney.

The player the Padres wanted most was pitcher Mark Petkovsek, but when Jocketty insisted on pitcher Tim Worrell in return the Padres backed off, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“None of the exchanged players are at the top of their game right now,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote.

Valenzuela was the most prominent _ and intriguing _ of the group.

Traveling man

After debuting in the big leagues in 1980 with the Dodgers, Valenzuela made a splash in 1981, winning the National League Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards and creating energy and interest in a strike-marred season.

In 1990, his final year with the Dodgers, Valenzuela pitched a no-hitter against the Cardinals.

After that, he was more journeyman than ace. From 1991-97, Valenzuela pitched for the Angels, Orioles, Phillies and Padres.

His record for the 1997 Padres was 2-8 with a 4.75 ERA.

When Jocketty and Towers began trade discussions, Livingstone and Jackson were the players involved. The Cardinals wanted a backup infielder who batted left-handed. Livingstone, who led the NL in pinch-hits in 1996, fit that need.

The Cardinals needed a starting pitcher to fill in for Donovan Osborne, who was on the disabled list because of a torn groin muscle. When the Padres offered Valenzuela, the Cardinals expanded the deal.

“Fernando was an important part of this,” Jocketty said. “(He) gives us some flexibility. When Donovan gets back, Fernando will go to the bullpen. We feel he’ll be better there than Danny (Jackson) would have been.”

Valenzuela was informed by Padres manager Bruce Bochy of the trade while warming up in the bullpen for a start against the Angels.

“It wasn’t easy to look him in the face,” Bochy said to the Los Angeles Times. “He was shocked.”

Tough stretch

Valenzuela joined the Cardinals in Milwaukee on June 16 and was given a start against the Brewers the next night.

He held the Brewers to two hits _ a Jeff Cirillo single and a Mike Matheny double _ and no runs through five innings.

In the sixth, Valenzuela allowed the first four batters to reach base. All scored. Cirillo led off the inning with a home run. Television replays indicated it was a foul ball. A throwing error by Valenzuela after he fielded a bunt by Jeromy Burnitz aided the Brewers’ comeback. The Brewers won, 4-3, and Valenzuela was the losing pitcher. Boxscore

Valenzuela lost his second Cardinals start _ 3-0 to the Cubs on June 23. Boxscore

In his next start, June 28 versus the Reds, the Cardinals won, 12-6, but Valenzuela didn’t get a decision. He was lifted in the fifth inning with the Cardinals ahead, 10-5. “Sometimes it’s better to give the ball to somebody else who can have better stuff,” Valenzuela said. Boxscore

In his fourth start, July 3 against the Pirates, Valenzuela suffered his third loss with the Cardinals. Boxscore

Tony La Russa, Cardinals manager, decided to give Valenzuela extra rest. Eleven days later, Valenzuela got his fifth Cardinals start. It would be his last.

Time to go

On July 14, against the Reds, Valenzuela yielded three runs, issued six walks and hit a batter before being relieved with two outs in the third. The Reds won, 4-2. Boxscore

“Today was a step backward,” La Russa said.

Said Valenzuela: “It’s hard to pitch when you’re not even close to the plate.”

After five starts for the Cardinals, Valenzuela had an 0-4 record and 5.56 ERA.

Valenzuela was released the next day.

La Russa had asked Valenzuela if he wanted to go on the disabled list, but the pitcher said his arm didn’t hurt.

“He said, ‘I can’t be dishonest,’ ” La Russa told the Post-Dispatch.

Said Jocketty: “Commendable. He’s such a nice man and he’s had such a distinguished career. It’s tough.”

The release brought an end to Valenzuela’s big-league career. In 17 seasons, Valenzuela had a 173-153 record and 3.54 ERA. He pitched more than 200 innings in a season seven times.

Previously: Fernando Valenzuela and his gem vs. Cardinals

Previously: Losing became habit for Danny Jackson with Cards

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When Jimmy Piersall made his Mets debut in St. Louis, the league and the opponent were new to him, but the ballpark was quite familiar.

On May 24, 1963, a day after he was acquired by the Mets from the Senators in a deal that paired one of the game’s most mercurial characters with baseball’s most inept team, Piersall played against the Cardinals in his first National League game.

Piersall, batting leadoff and playing center field, was 1-for-4 with a walk against Bob Gibson at Busch Stadium. Piersall’s single drove in a run, but the Cardinals prevailed, 10-4.

Ten years earlier, while in the American League with the Red Sox, Piersall had his most productive game. He had six hits in six at-bats against the Browns in the opener of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium. Boxscore

Piersall, whose struggles with mental illness were detailed in the book and movie, “Fear Strikes Out,” died June 3, 2017, at 87. He was known as much for on-field antics and feuds with umpires as he was for his sterling outfield play.

When he joined the Mets and their rougish manager, Casey Stengel, in St. Louis, it was a match that attracted attention.

That’s entertainment

The Mets had released first baseman Gil Hodges so that he could become manager of the Senators. Piersall was sent to the Mets in return.

The Mets had opened the 1963 season with Duke Snider, 36, in center field. Snider soon was moved to a corner outfield spot and Jim Hickman, 26, took over in center. Hickman, too, was better at playing right or left. Piersall, 33, was a defensive upgrade.

“Piersall can play center field beautifully, which I hate to say has not been done for us,” Stengel said to The Sporting News.

The Mets were terrible. They had finished 40-120 in their inaugural season, 1962, and they were 16-25 when they got Piersall. Some suspected the move was made to keep fans and media interested in a team that couldn’t compete.

“I know he will be an attraction with the club and with the fans,” Stengel said.

Piersall understood that.

When he arrived at Busch Stadium and met with reporters, Piersall said, “Baseball is like show business. If I don’t hurt the club, I might do anything to entertain the fans. What’s wrong with that?”

Regarding his relationship with Stengel, Piersall told the Associated Press, “I only hope New York is ready for both Casey and me. Casey is one of my biggest boosters, but he baffles me. Case is beautiful, but I don’t always know what he’s talking about.”

As for his new team, Piersall said, “The Mets and their fans are helping to save baseball and they are keeping the writers in business and it is better than being in Russia.”

When photographers gathered to take photos of Piersall and Stengel together in the dugout, Piersall said to his manager, “I better not pose with you, Case, because I’m prettier than you are.”

Making an impression

In the Friday night opener at St. Louis, Piersall went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first four plate appearances against Gibson. In the eighth, with the Cardinals ahead, 8-3, Piersall singled, scoring Choo Choo Coleman. Boxscore

Asked his impressions of Gibson, Piersall said, “Gibson put one pitch right on the very edge of the plate for a strike. I turned to the catcher (Gene Oliver) and remarked, ‘If they keep on doing that in this league, I’ll starve to death.’ ”

Piersall started in center again the next day, May 25, and was 0-for-4 against Ray Sadecki and Harry Fanok.

On Sunday, May 26, Piersall started in the opener of a doubleheader and had three hits _ two singles and a double _ off Cardinals starter Curt Simmons. Piersall also successfully disputed an umpire’s call.

Ed Sudol ruled a ball hit to right by George Altman was trapped, not caught, by Hickman.

Piersall “sprinted from his center field post all the way to first base to exchange a few not too pleasantries with Sudol,” the Associated Press reported.

Crew chief Stan Landes overruled Sudol and called Altman out. Boxscore

Piersall didn’t start the second game. The Mets, suspecting the Cardinals were stealing signs, sent Piersall to the bullpen to watch the Cardinals’ first-base coach. “I couldn’t spot anything,” Piersall said.

In a letter to The Sporting News, a Cardinals fan, John T. Copeland of Piedmont, Mo., wrote, “Piersall hardly saw enough of the game to know the score, much less to discover any sign stealing. He was in arguments with fans during the entire game. I hope the Cards never have to hire a Piersall-type clown to draw crowds.”

Fun while it lasted

Two weeks later, on June 9, the Cardinals were in New York for a Sunday doubleheader with the Mets.

In the opener, the Mets led, 3-2, in the sixth when Piersall hit a two-run double off Simmons. Boxscore

Piersall didn’t start the second game, but he again made his presence known.

Between innings, while Mets catcher Norm Sherry was putting on his gear, Piersall went out to warm up the pitcher. Piersall piled dirt onto the plate before returning to the dugout. As umpire Ed Vargo dusted the dish, Piersall mocked him, making dusting motions with his cap and a towel, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

Piersall appeared in 40 games for the Mets and batted .194. On June 23, he hit a home run, the 100th of his big-league career, off the Phillies’ Dallas Green and backpedaled around the bases. Released in late July, Piersall returned to the American League with the Angels.

Previously: Cards were victims of historic homers by Gil Hodges

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The first home run hit by Roger Maris in St. Louis for the Cardinals was worth the wait.

On June 10, 1967, two months into his first Cardinals season, Maris hit a walkoff three-run home run in the 11th inning at Busch Stadium, giving St. Louis a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers.

The home run was Maris’ third for the Cardinals _ the first two occurred at New York and at Pittsburgh _ but was his first in his home ballpark since being acquired by St. Louis from the Yankees in December 1966.

Maris, who six years earlier had established a major-league single-season record with 61 home runs for the Yankees, no longer was a consistent power hitter, but he was a key member of a Cardinals club that would win the World Series championship 50 years ago.

His first Busch Stadium home run enabled the Cardinals to continue a hot streak that one week later would propel them into first place in the National League.

Stormy night

The Cardinals were 3.5 games behind the front-running Reds entering their Saturday night game against the defending NL champion Dodgers. Maris, batting .291, was held out of the starting lineup by manager Red Schoendienst. The Dodgers were starting a left-hander, Jim Brewer, and Maris did much better against right-handers.

Tornado warnings were issued in the St. Louis area that evening and a severe thunderstorm struck downtown St. Louis, delaying the start of the game 64 minutes and creating treacherous conditions in the outfield.

The Dodgers scored twice in the first inning off their nemesis, Larry Jaster, who had pitched five shutouts against them the previous year.

Brewer, primarily a reliever, held the Cardinals scoreless for six innings. “He told me he was tiring a little going into the seventh,” Dodgers manager Walt Alston said to the Pasadena Independent Star-News, “but you couldn’t take him out the way he was going.”

Curt Flood led off the Cardinals’ half of the seventh with a walk and Bobby Tolan, a Los Angeles native, lined a home run over the right-field wall, tying the score at 2-2.

Maris entered the game in the ninth as a pinch-hitter for Jaster and popped out to second baseman Ron Hunt. Maris stayed in the game, replacing Alex Johnson in right field, and Joe Hoerner relieved Jaster.

Extra innings

Phil Regan, who came in for Brewer in the eighth, held the Cardinals scoreless for three innings.

In the 11th, Alston brought in Bob Miller to pitch. Miller, a St. Louis native, had made his major-league debut in 1957 with the Cardinals and pitched for them in four seasons.

Tim McCarver led off the 11th against Miller with a double. Dal Maxvill attempted to advance McCarver with a bunt, but Miller fielded the ball and threw out McCarver at third.

With Maxvill at first and one out, Tolan singled.

That brought Maris to the plate against the right-hander.

Easy swing

Maris swung at a 2-and-2 pitch.

“I was just trying to avoid making an out,” Maris said. “I didn’t swing hard. I just wanted to meet the ball.”

Said Dodgers catcher John Roseboro: “That’s the way it looked when he swung. He just dropped his bat in front of the ball.”

Joe Hendrickson of the Pasadena newspaper wrote, “The ball sailed like a rocket over the fence and into the seats.”

Said Maris: “That was my most satisfying hit since coming to St. Louis.” Boxscore

The victory was part of a stretch in which the Cardinals won 15 of 17 and surged to the top of the NL standings.

“This Cardinals team reminds me of my Yankees days,” Maris told United Press International. “The Yankees at one time played for the big hit. The atmosphere is also something like we had in New York. In those days, we’d get some runs behind, but we knew we were going to win it.”

Previously: With last homer, Roger Maris helped Cards clinch title

Previously: Phil Regan talks Roger Maris, Lou Brock, Al Hrabosky

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