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Johnny Bench could have ended his playing career as a member of the Cardinals, but turned down the chance.

In June 1983, the Cardinals contacted the Reds with a trade offer for Bench. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cardinals were willing to send first baseman Keith Hernandez to the Reds for Bench and starting pitcher Frank Pastore.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog envisioned playing Bench at first base and third base against left-handed pitching. “We inquired about Bench,” Herzog confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Good try

Bench, 35, was the Opening Day third baseman for the Reds in 1983 and Alex Trevino was the catcher. Bench was destined for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a catcher, but hadn’t played the position regularly since 1980. Bench was a Reds first baseman in 1981 and their third baseman in 1982.

On June 10, 1983, Bench said he would retire from playing after the season. When Bench informed Reds management of his decision, “he was asked if he would consider going to another club,” the Dayton Daily News reported.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “They offered him the chance to continue his career with the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Reds general manager Dick Wagner explained to Bench that the Cardinals had called with the trade offer. The Cardinals were the defending World Series champions and were contending again in 1983, leading the East Division on June 10. The Reds were in last place in the West.

Joining the Cardinals would enable Bench to be involved in a pennant chase in his final season, but he “politely declined,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“I wouldn’t sacrifice my association with Cincinnati to go to St. Louis for two or three months,” said Bench, who played his entire career with the Reds.

Later that season, when Bench and Herzog exchanged lineup cards before a game, Herzog said Bench asked, “Just where did you plan to use me if you got me?” Herzog replied, “We’d been vulnerable to left-handed pitching. I’d have used you against them.”

Bench strength

Herzog was looking to trade Keith Hernandez because the relationship between the two had deteriorated. Herzog said Hernandez was loafing during games.

Bench appealed to Herzog because of his ability to play multiple positions and he could hit. A right-handed batter with power, Bench hit .282 in April and .298 in May for the 1983 Reds.

“He has given me everything he has,” Reds manager Russ Nixon told The Sporting News. “He’s one veteran who has run out every ground ball.”

If the Cardinals had obtained Bench, Herzog could play him at first base against left-handers, and shift Dane Iorg or Andy Van Slyke from the outfield to first base versus right-handers. Bench also could play third base against left-handers, substituting for Ken Oberkfell, a left-handed batter. in 1983, Bench batted .284 versus left-handers.

The Cardinals wanted Frank Pastore in the deal to add to a starting rotation with Joaquin Andujar, Bob Forsch, John Stuper and Dave LaPoint. “We’ve been talking about him since spring training,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch.

Pastore was 5-0 versus the Cardinals in his career.

Keith Hernandez would have provided a significant upgrade to the Reds in the field and at the plate. Dan Driessen (.277) ended up leading the 1983 Reds in batting and Ron Oester had the most RBI (58).

When Bench turned down the Cardinals, they traded Hernandez to the Mets for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. Herzog moved George Hendrick from right field to first base for the remainder of the season.

Delivering drama

Three months after the trade talk, the Reds were in St. Louis for the final time that season. Before the series finale on Sept. 4, Cardinals players presented Bench with a gold-plated golf putter as a retirement gift. Cardinals management gave him a plaque featuring an illustration by Post-Dispatch artist Amadee.

In the eighth inning, the Cardinals led, 4-1, when the Reds got two runners on base with one out against Joaquin Andujar. Bruce Sutter relieved and fanned Gary Redus for the second out. Rookie right fielder Dallas Williams was up next, but Bench was sent to bat for him.

Bench swung at Sutter’s first pitch, a split-fingered fastball, and pulled it into foul territory along the line in left.

As left fielder Lonnie Smith gave a futile chase, Cardinals catcher Glenn Brummer yelled, “Catch the ball, catch the ball,” Bench said to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“(Brummer) told me, ‘You’ll hit that pitch out if you get it again,’ ” Bench recalled.

Sutter’s next delivery was another split-fingered pitch and Bench slammed it over the wall in left for a three-run home run, tying the score at 4-4.

“When I crossed the plate,” Bench said, “I told (Brummer), ‘You were right.’ “

The Cardinals came back with a run in the ninth and won, 5-4, but the story of the game was Bench’s home run in his final Busch Memorial Stadium plate appearance.  Boxscore

The home run was the 388th of his career. It was Bench’s only hit versus the Cardinals in 10 at-bats against them that year. For his career, Bench hit .247 versus the Cardinals with 24 home runs and 85 RBI. Those were the fewest home run and RBI totals he had versus any team.

On Sept. 17, when the Reds held Johnny Bench Night at Riverfront Stadium, Bench started at catcher in a game for the final time. In the third inning, he hit his last home run, a two-run shot against the Astros’ Mike Madden. Boxscore and Video

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Earl Morrall thought he was going to be a quarterback for the St. Louis football Cardinals.

It might have happened if the team he was with, the New York Giants, had been less cautious.

Rather than replacing, or substituting for, the Cardinals’ Jim Hart, Morrall went on to play for the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins, filling in for Johnny Unitas and Bob Griese with astounding success.

As the Los Angeles Times noted, “Morrall was the NFL’s answer to a brilliant Broadway understudy.”

Passed around

Born in Muskegon, Mich., Morrall excelled in athletics at Michigan State. A shortstop and third baseman in baseball, he played in the College World Series. In football, he was a consensus all-America at quarterback and led Michigan State to victory in the Rose Bowl.

The San Francisco 49ers selected Morrall in the first round of the 1956 NFL draft. In his rookie season, Morrall backed up Y.A. Tittle. After the 49ers took Stanford quarterback John Brodie in the 1957 draft, they traded Morrall to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At Pittsburgh, Morrall was the starting quarterback in 1957 and his backups were Len Dawson and Jack Kemp. Harry Gilmer was the Steelers’ backfield coach and Buddy Parker was head coach.

Parker, a former Cardinals player, had been head coach of the Detroit Lions and led them to two NFL championships before joining the Steelers. His quarterback in Detroit was Bobby Layne and Parker wanted him in Pittsburgh.

During the third week of the 1958 season, the Steelers traded Morrall to the Lions for Layne.

Returning to his home state wasn’t a treat for Morrall. He mostly was a backup to the likes of Tobin Rote, Jim Ninowski and Milt Plum. “I was at my lowest ebb,” Morrall told The Sporting News. “I thought about giving up the game.”

An exception was in 1963 when Morrall made 10 starts and threw 24 touchdown passes, but the next year he hurt his shoulder and the Lions reinstated Plum as the starter.

A positive from Morrall’s time with Detroit is he made a connection with Don Shula, a Lions assistant coach for three seasons (1960-62). Shula joined the Lions as a defensive backs coach and became defensive coordinator. “When I was in Detroit, I always had a lot of respect for the way Earl could come in off the bench and win games for you,” Shula told The Sporting News.

Help wanted

In August 1965, the Giants, seeking an experienced quarterback to replace Y.A. Tittle, acquired Morrall from the Lions.

Morrall, 31, threw 22 touchdown passes as the Giants’ starter in 1965, but the next year he broke his wrist and was limited to seven starts. After the season, the Giants got Fran Tarkenton from the Minnesota Vikings and declared him the starter for 1967.

The Cardinals’ quarterback for 1967 was supposed to be Charley Johnson, who’d been their starter since 1962. His backup was Jim Hart, who spent his rookie season in 1966 on the sidelines until getting into the final game as a substitute.

In August 1967, the Cardinals’ plans got scrambled when Johnson, a reserve Army officer, received orders to report for military service.

With Johnson unavailable, the Cardinals were looking at Hart as their starter unless they could acquire a veteran quarterback before the Sept. 17 start of the season.

“If there’s anyone I’d like to have, it would be the Rams’ Bill Munson,” Cardinals head coach Charley Winner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals contacted the Rams, who decided to keep Munson as their backup to Roman Gabriel.

“Earl Morrall might be available,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

A matter of timing

The Giants needed a defensive lineman. With second-year pro Tom Kennedy groomed as a potential backup to Tarkenton, published reports indicated Morrall was available in exchange for a defensive tackle or end.

Harry Gilmer, the Steelers’ backfield coach when Morrall was their quarterback, was in his first year as Cardinals quarterback coach in 1967 and was thought to be advocating for Morrall.

“I thought they would try to trade for an experienced quarterback because I didn’t think they thought I was ready,” Hart told Sports Illustrated.

In the 1977 book, “The Jim Hart Story,” Hart said, “You can’t tell me the Cardinals didn’t try to go after another veteran quarterback. I’ve since learned they were willing to beg, borrow or steal somebody with experience.”

When the Giants didn’t play Morrall in exhibition games, speculation suggested he was being kept out to prevent the chance of an injury while trade talks were held.

One proposed deal was for the Cardinals to send defensive lineman Don Brumm to the Giants for Morrall, the New York Daily News reported.

“The way I understand it, I would have been sent to St. Louis earlier (in the exhibition season),” Morrall told The Sporting News, “but the Giants were reluctant doing it too soon because we were going to open the (regular) season against the Cardinals and they didn’t want me revealing too much information.”

The Giants’ stalling worked in their favor. In the Giants’ final exhibition game, against the Green Bay Packers, Kennedy fractured a collarbone and separated a shoulder. With Kennedy out for the season, the Giants needed to keep Morrall as backup to Tarkenton.

“Morrall believed he was pegged for a trade to St. Louis,” The Sporting News reported. “He says he heard the deal was practically made, but was called off when Kennedy (was) injured.”

In “The Jim Hart Story,” Cardinals defensive tackle Bob Rowe said the subject of who would start at quarterback dominated discussion among the players.

“One guy wanted to know if anybody had heard who they were going to get to replace Charley (Johnson),” Rowe recalled. “Somebody else said he was pretty sure they were going to go with Hart. Then everybody in the group said, ‘Oh my God!’ “

In the 1967 regular-season opener, the Giants beat the Cardinals, 37-20, at St. Louis. Tarkenton threw three touchdown passes and wasn’t intercepted. Hart had one scoring throw and was intercepted four times.

(In retirement, Morrall and Hart both resided in Naples, Fla., and became friends. In 2014, the Naples Daily News shed a different light on the 1967 trade talk. “According to Hart, the quarterbacks nearly were traded for one another,” the newspaper reported.)

Center stage

Morrall spent the 1967 season as Tarkenton’s backup. In August 1968, the Colts’ No. 2 quarterback, Jim Ward, got hurt in an exhibition game. At the urging of Don Shula, who had become their head coach, the Colts acquired Morrall from the Giants to back up Johnny Unitas.

The minor transaction turned out to be a big deal for the Colts.

Two weeks later, on Sept. 7, 1968, Unitas severely injured his right elbow in the Colts’ final exhibition game. Morrall, 34, became the Colts’ starter and led them to a 13-1 record in the regular season. Morrall’s 26 touchdown passes were the most in the league and he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

The Colts advanced through the playoffs before losing to the New York Jets and their flashy quarterback, Joe Namath, in the Super Bowl.

Two years later, the Colts returned to the Super Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys. Unitas left the game after injuring his ribs. Morrall replaced him, helping the Colts to victory.

Don McCafferty was the Colts’ head coach then. Don Shula left after the 1969 season to become Miami Dolphins head coach.

The Colts placed Morrall on waivers before the 1972 season and the Dolphins signed him to back up Bob Griese.

Just like with the Colts in 1968, the timing was superb.

After winning their first four games, the 1972 Dolphins were playing the San Diego Chargers when Griese suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle. Morrall, 38, could feel the tension from his teammates as he entered the huddle. According to lineman Bob Kuechenberg, Morrall took a look at the worried faces staring back at him and said, “All right, anyone know any dirty jokes?”

The relaxed confidence of the unfazed old pro calmed the Dolphins. With Morrall the starter, they completed the regular season with a 14-0 record. He led them to a win in the first playoff game and started the second before Griese replaced him. Griese was the starter when the Dolphins capped their perfect season with a Super Bowl victory against the Washington Redskins.

Morrall played for the Dolphins until he was 42. At the invitation of University of Miami head coach Howard Schnellenberger, Morrall later mentored Hurricanes quarterbacks Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde.

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Jerry Johnson had the right stuff, but the wrong timing, in his short, strange stay with the Cardinals.

A right-handed pitcher who grew up rooting for the Cardinals, Johnson was acquired from the Phillies in the trade that brought slugger Dick Allen to St. Louis.

The Cardinals needed quality relief pitching and Johnson provided it, but, after making a mere seven appearances, was dealt to the Giants.

Johnson developed into the Giants’ closer and helped them win a division title. He died Nov. 15, 2021, at 77.

Position change

A son of an oil rigger, Johnson was born in Miami, lived briefly in Illinois and was raised in Odessa, Texas.

In addition to playing baseball and football in Odessa, Johnson was a Golden Gloves boxer and won 14 of 15 fights, according to the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal.

After he graduated from high school in 1962, Johnson signed with the Mets and was a third baseman in their farm system. As a hitter, he lacked power and failed to make consistent contact. “I couldn’t hit the curveball,” Johnson told The Sporting News.

According to Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Mets were prepared to release Johnson in 1963 until his teammate on the Salinas, Calif., farm team, pitcher Dick Selma, spoke up to management.

“How can you release a guy, no matter how poor he looks at the plate, when he can throw harder from third base than I can from the mound?” Selma asked.

The Mets reconsidered and converted Johnson to a pitcher. but, because of subsequent military service and a shoulder injury, it was 1967 before he had a full season of pitching.

With the Class AA Williamsport, Pa., team in April 1967, Johnson, 23, got national attention when he was matched in a start against future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, 40, who was attempting a comeback with the Phillies’ Reading, Pa., affiliate after 19 seasons in the majors. Johnson won the duel, pitching a shutout in a 1-0 Williamsport win.

Though Johnson had a 2.78 ERA in 26 starts for Williamsport, he was left off the Mets’ 40-man winter roster and picked by the Phillies in the November 1967 minor-league draft.

Living dangerously

During the baseball off-seasons, Johnson was employed as an iron worker on bridges and high rises. “I’ve worked as high as 300 feet above the ground,” he told The Sporting News.

The heavy lifting built muscle, but made it difficult for Johnson to loosen his pitching arm. When he reported to training camp “looking like he should be on muscle beach, rubbing his pectorals with baby oil,” the Phillies told him to find a different off-season job, the Philadelphia Daily News noted.

Johnson began the 1968 season at Class AAA San Diego, posted a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts and was called up to the Phillies in July.

Relying on a fastball and slider, Johnson had early success against the Cardinals. On Sept. 24, 1968, he pitched a complete game in a 2-1 Phillies victory at St. Louis. The hard-luck losing pitcher was Ray Washburn. Boxscore

In 1969, Johnson beat the Cardinals twice in six days. On April 27, he pitched a shutout in a 1-0 Phillies win at Philadelphia. Boxscore He followed with another win on May 2 in a start at St. Louis. Boxscore Washburn was the losing pitcher in each game.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst harrumphed to the Post-Dispatch, “A third baseman beat us. From where I watched, he looked nice to hit.”

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, who was a Mets executive when Johnson was transforming into a pitcher in their system, was more impressed than Schoendienst. After the 1969 season, he acquired Johnson, Dick Allen and Cookie Rojas from the Phillies for Curt Flood, Tim McCarver Joe Hoerner and Byron Browne.

Family team

Johnson’s mother was from Flora, Ill., about 100 miles east of St. Louis, and Johnson lived there as an infant. When he’d return with his mom for family visits, “they indoctrinated me” with stories about the Cardinals, Johnson told The Sporting News.

“All I heard from the time I could remember was the Cardinals and Stan Musial,” Johnson said to the Post-Dispatch. “The Cardinals have been my ballclub since I was old enough to know about baseball. Later on, I became attached to Mickey Mantle, too, but the Cardinals still were the family ballclub.”

The Cardinals projected Johnson to be a spot starter and reliever, but at spring training in 1970 he was sidetracked by a “recurrence of an elbow ailment and a pulled side muscle. The latter injury occurred when he reached too abruptly for a telephone,” The Sporting News reported.

Johnson opened the 1970 season in the minors and was called up to the Cardinals on May 1. In his first game with them, he pitched three scoreless innings and earned a save against the Astros. Boxscore

Johnson followed that with a pair of wins _ one against the Braves Boxscore and the other versus the Pirates. Boxscore

In seven appearances, Johnson was 2-0 with a save and 3.18 ERA.

Sent packing

The Cardinals were in Houston on May 19 when Johnson went to a movie theater to see a western, “Barquero,” starring Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates. When he returned to the hotel that night, coach Dick Sisler approached Johnson in the lobby and informed him he’d been traded to the Giants for reliever Frank Linzy.

“I’m shocked,” Johnson said. “I can’t believe it.”

The Cardinals wanted an experienced late-inning reliever and liked Linzy, a sinkerball specialist, for the AstroTurf at Busch Memorial Stadium. Linzy was 9-3 with 20 saves and a 1.43 ERA for the Giants in 1965 and had 17 saves and a 1.51 ERA in 1967. His ERA for the 1970 Giants was 7.01, but the Cardinals were convinced Linzy, 29, could return to form.

The next year, with Johnson as their closer, the Giants won the National League West Division title. He led the team in saves (18) and games pitched (67), and was third in wins (12).

“Jerry always had smoke on his fastball. Now he has the poise to go with it,” The Sporting News observed.

Linzy was 4-3 with six saves and a 2.12 ERA for the 1971 Cardinals.

The 1971 season was Johnson’s career highlight. In 10 years in the majors with the Phillies, Cardinals, Giants, Indians, Astros, Padres and Blue Jays, Johnson was 48-51 with 41 saves and a 4.31 ERA.

In 1975, when Johnson pitched for minor-league Hawaii, a bullpen teammate was Frank Linzy.

When the Blue Jays entered the American League as an expansion team, they selected Hawaii manager Roy Hartsfield to be their manager. Hartsfield gave Johnson a spot on the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster. Johnson was the winning pitcher in their first regular-season game on April 7, 1977. Boxscore

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Led by middle linebacker Sam Huff, the 1961 New York Giants unleashed the full force of their top-ranked defense on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sixty years ago, on Oct. 8, 1961, Huff recovered a fumble and returned the ball 12 yards for a touchdown, sparking the Giants to a 24-9 victory in the Cardinals’ home opener at Busch Stadium.

Performing with ferocious flair, Huff epitomized the punishing power of the Giants’ defense and helped define the role of middle linebacker.

In his book, “The Best Game Ever,” author Mark Bowden wrote, “Huff was an outsized character, with enough ambition on and off the field to frighten the faint of heart. He was outspoken, brash and unapologetic … He played football with unmatched ferocity, reveling in the game’s violence.”

Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Huff played in the NFL for 13 seasons _ eight with the Giants and five with the Washington Redskins. The Giants got to the NFL championship game in six of Huff’s eight seasons with them. He died on Nov. 13, 2021, at 87.

Right fit

Huff was born in a coal mining camp in West Virginia. He became a baseball catcher and football lineman at West Virginia University. According to the Washington Post, the Cleveland Indians signed Huff to a baseball contract, but he chose professional football when the Giants selected him in the third round of the 1956 NFL draft.

As a rookie at Giants training camp, Huff was tried as a lineman on offense and defense, but was overmatched and became a target of criticism from head coach Jim Lee Howell.

In “The Best Game Ever” book, Huff said he regretted his decision to try football instead of baseball and told himself, “I think I’m in the wrong game.”

Huff and another unhappy rookie, kicker Don Chandler, decided to quit. As they were leaving camp, assistant coach Ed Kolman stopped them. According to author Mark Bowden, Kolman told Huff, “Sam, if you leave here, it will be the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life. I played this game, and I really believe you can be a star in this league.”

Huff stayed and convinced Chandler to do the same.

Giants defensive coordinator Tom Landry was experimenting with a concept that featured four linemen instead of the standard five. The key was to have a middle linebacker who, as author Mark Bowden described, was “a kind of super-athlete, a man as big as a lineman, quick enough and fast enough to play pass defense, and smart enough to recognize which role to play with every snap of the ball.”

The player Landry wanted for the role was Sam Huff. It turned out to be the perfect choice. Video

We meet again

Five years later, in 1961, Huff was enjoying the star status Ed Kolman had predicted for him. Landry had left to become head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Allie Sherman, 38, replaced Howell as Giants head coach.

Sherman and the Giants got shocked in their season opener, losing 21-10 to the Cardinals at Yankee Stadium. Both teams were 2-1 when the rematch was held at St. Louis.

The Cardinals’ first three games were on the road and, though they played well, it took a toll. Several players were injured, including running backs John David Crow and Joe Childress, defensive end Joe Robb and defensive back Pat Fischer, and were unavailable for the home opener.

Head coach Pop Ivy started Prentice Gautt at halfback against the Giants, shifted tight end Taz Anderson to fullback and moved flanker Bobby Joe Conrad to tight end, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The makeshift offense faced a Giants defense with a fantastic front four of ends Jim Katcavage and Andy Robustelli, and tackles Dick Modzelewski and Rosey Grier. The linebackers: Huff, Cliff Livingston and Tom Scott. The backfield: cornerbacks Erich Barnes and Dick Lynch, and safeties Jimmy Patton and Dick Nolan.

Under pressure

In the first half, the Cardinals produced no first downs, according to the Associated Press. The Giants led, 7-2, at halftime. The Cardinals’ points came when Larry Wilson blocked a Don Chandler punt and the ball bounced through the end zone for a safety.

The outcome was determined by the Giants’ defense within 100 seconds of the second half.

On the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Robustelli forced a fumble by quarterback Sam Etcheverry. Livingston recovered and ran five yards to the Cardinals’ 11-yard line. From there, Alex Webster carried on four consecutive plays, the last a one-yard touchdown plunge, and the Giants led, 14-2.

Three plays after the kickoff, Modzelewski knocked the ball loose from Etcheverry. Huff recovered and ran for the touchdown. Just like that, the Giants were ahead, 21-2.

In the book “Giants In Their Own Words,” Huff said, “I got myself up for every game, not just the big ones. It was just a natural competitive spirit. I think we all had it on the Giants’ defense … All of us on defense were close: Robustelli, Grier, Modzelewski, Katcavage. It’s like a platoon in the army. You depend on each other.”

Katcavage told author Richard Whittingham, “We used to tell (Huff) that we did all the work for him to set him up so he could make all those tackles and look good to the press and the fans. We loved to kid him, but Sam was a hell of a ballplayer. He could really diagnose plays, and he was a big factor in why our defense was as good as it was in those days.”

Special unit

Desperate to try anything against the Giants’ defense, Pop Ivy replaced Etcheverry with Ralph Guglielmi, making his first Cardinals appearance since being acquired from the Washington Redskins, but the Giants intercepted him three times.

The Cardinals committed seven turnovers (four interceptions and three fumbles), a total the Post-Dispatch simply called “amazing.” Dick Lynch picked off three passes and Cliff Livingston intercepted the other.

In addition to forcing the Cardinals to make mistakes, the Giants’ defense held them to a total of five first downs and 28 yards rushing.

“Our best defensive performance of the year,” Allie Sherman told the Post-Dispatch. Game stats

The Giants finished the 1961 season ranked No. 1 in team defense. They led the league in takeaways with 54 (the league average was 40) and their 220 points allowed were the fewest of any defense (the league average was 301). The Giants yielded a mere six rushing touchdowns in 14 regular-season games.

 

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Baltimore Colts halfback Tom Matte made the longest run of his NFL career the first time he faced the St. Louis Cardinals.

On Oct. 12, 1964, Matte took a handoff from Johnny Unitas and rushed 80 yards for a touchdown, helping the Colts to a 47-27 victory over the Cardinals at Baltimore.

A versatile runner and reliable receiver who could fill in at quarterback, Matte played for the Colts from 1961-72. In 1969, he led the NFL in touchdowns scored, with 13. Eleven of those came on runs and two on receptions. Matte died on Nov. 2, 2021, at 82.

From Woody to Weeb to Shula

Born in Pittsburgh, Tom Matte was the son of Joe Matte, who played hockey for the minor-league St. Louis Flyers before reaching the NHL with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Playing for head coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Tom Matte was a running back as a sophomore and a quarterback his junior and senior seasons.

The Colts chose him in the first round of the 1961 NFL draft, one pick ahead of the Cardinals, who selected Auburn offensive tackle Ken Rice.

In Matte’s first two seasons with the Colts, Weeb Ewbank was the head coach. After Ewbank left to join the New York Jets, Don Shula took over. Matte was the Colts’ leading rusher in 1963, Shula’s inaugural season. Video

Both the Cardinals and Colts got off to strong starts in 1964. The Cardinals had a 3-0-1 record and the Colts were 3-1 heading into their Monday night showdown.

The game had been scheduled for Busch Stadium in St. Louis, but was moved to Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium because the baseball Cardinals were in the World Series against the Yankees and had first priority for use of the ballpark they shared with the NFL team.

On the afternoon of Oct. 12, a few hours before the kickoff to the football game in Baltimore, Tim McCarver hit a three-run home run in the 10th inning at Yankee Stadium, giving the Cardinals a 5-2 victory in Game 5. Needing one more win for the championship, the Cardinals returned to a hero’s welcome in St. Louis, where the World Series would conclude at Busch Stadium.

At Baltimore, the football Cardinals, facing a Colts lineup with the likes of Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore, were hoping to fare as well as the baseball Cardinals did against a Yankees lineup with the likes of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard.

Swiss cheese defense

A capacity crowd of 60,213 filled Memorial Stadium for the Colts’ bonus home game.

Behind the exceptional blocking of center Dick Szymanski, guards Jim Parker and Alex Sandusky, and tackles George Preas and Bob Vogel, Colts rushers romped for 266 yards and four touchdowns against a shell-shocked Cardinals defense.

Unitas and running backs Lenny Moore and Tony Lorick scored rushing touchdowns for the Colts, but the most spectacular was Matte’s.

In the first minute of the fourth quarter, the Colts were on their 20-yard line and leading, 37-13, when Unitas called a simple draw play.

Facing the Cardinals for the first time, Matte took the handoff and “galloped like a scared rabbit” through the middle of the defense, the Baltimore Evening Sun noted. Matte credited receiver Raymond Berry with making a key block on defensive back Jimmy Hill.

“We caught them in a blitz with their outside linebacker coming in,” Matte told the Baltimore Evening Sun. “Raymond knocked off the halfback (Hill). Then I just had to outrun them. It was a good feeling to do so.”

The 80-yard run was the longest by a Colts player since 1958.

“I didn’t realize the Baltimore ground game would be as strong as it is,” Cardinals head coach Wally Lemm told the Baltimore Evening Sun.

Winning combination

The Colts’ 47 points were the most scored against the Cardinals since they moved to St. Louis from Chicago in 1960.

The Cardinals played most of the game without left defensive end Joe Robb, who pulled an abdominal muscle when he knocked down a Unitas screen pass in the early minutes. When Robb departed, “Unitas exploited that side of the defense with his stable of runners,” Lemm said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals linebacker Bill Koman, a former Colt, had no alibis. “We were not ready, and you have to be when you play the Colts,” Koman said to the Baltimore Evening Sun.

With the robust rushing attack, Unitas didn’t need to pass much. He completed eight throws, including one for a touchdown to Raymond Berry, who wrestled the ball away from Jimmy Hill.

“He’s in a class by himself,” Hill told the Baltimore Sun. “Raymond has the best moves of any end in the business. I almost have to concede him the short pass or he’ll put a good move on me for a quick six. Berry never does the same thing twice. I’ve seen him fake guys down to their knees.”

Rough and ready

The Cardinals’ offense wasn’t much better than their defense. Two of the Cardinals’ touchdowns came late in the fourth quarter after the Colts sent in substitutes.

The Colts’ defensive coordinator was Charley Winner, who two years later would replace Lemm as Cardinals head coach.

“Standing out above all the things that made the Colts a very fine football team last night was the viciousness and consistency of their tackling and charging,” the Baltimore Evening Sun observed. “It was magnificent.”

The Baltimore Sun concurred: “No Colts team, including the two championship ones, ever looked as devastating. It was a brutal game, with the Colts slamming the Cardinals all over the field.”

The Colts were so dominant that they won by 20 points even though the Cardinals were not called for a penalty.

Asked by the Baltimore Sun to describe the turning point, Lemm replied, “When we kicked off to start the game.” Game stats

The Cardinals went on to a 9-3-2 record, finishing in second place to the Cleveland Browns (10-3-1) in the East Division. The Colts (12-2) were champions of the West Division. In the NFL championship game, the Browns beat the Colts, 27-0. The Browns haven’t won a NFL championship since.

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In a move that was important to their bid for a 1982 World Series championship, the Cardinals kept the pitcher they wanted at the price they wanted.

Forty years ago, on Nov. 13, 1981, Joaquin Andujar became a free agent after finishing the 1981 season with the Cardinals.

Though he preferred to stay with the Cardinals and they wanted him to return, a contract agreement was not a given.

The determining factor was salary, and, for a while, neither side was willing to compromise.

Good fit

Acquired from the Astros in June 1981 for outfielder Tony Scott, Andujar was 6-1 with a 3.74 ERA for the Cardinals that season.

Andujar liked playing for manager Whitey Herzog and for pitching coach Hub Kittle, who mentored him in the Dominican Republic winter league, but he also wanted to test his worth on the open market.

Represented by brothers Alan and David Hendricks, Andujar sought a contract of $2 million for three years. The Cardinals offered $1 million for the same time frame, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Andujar figured he had leverage because the Cardinals needed another starter to bolster a rotation led by Bob Forsch and including the likes of John Martin and Andy Rincon.

Agent Alan Hendricks told the Post-Dispatch he “wanted to see Joaquin wind up with the Cardinals because Whitey Herzog and the club are good for him.”

Herzog’s assistant, Joe McDonald, said, “We’re still very keen on Andujar. We like the guy and he likes it here.”

Price isn’t right

The good vibes began to fade when neither Andujar nor the Cardinals budged on their salary number. The Sporting News reported Andujar “is likely to be gone” from the Cardinals.

Herzog told the Post-Dispatch he had a financial figure he was sticking with and “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”

Agent David Hendricks said six teams were interested in Andujar. It soon became evident to Herzog that the interest was tepid _ at least at the salary Andujar was seeking.

The Philadelphia Daily News accused Andujar of “harboring delusions of grandeur.”

According to the Oakland Tribune, Giants second baseman Joe Morgan, who was Andujar’s teammate with the 1980 Astros, lobbied for the Giants to sign Andujar, but it didn’t work out.

Bargaining power

David Hendricks said the Cardinals remained Andujar’s first choice and “the ingredients are still right” for a signing with them.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals could get a deal done with Andujar for $1.5 million, splitting the difference between what Andujar was asking and what the club was offering, but Herzog stuck to a lower number.

Herzog, who had the dual role of manager and general manager, sized up the soft competition for Andujar and said, “I’m not going up on my offer. Nobody is higher than us. If he doesn’t like it, he can sit in the Dominican for a year.”

A couple of days later, Herzog turned up the heat again. “His agents keep asking me to raise my offer,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “Why should I outbid myself? I’ve got the best offer out there.”

With his options dwindling, Andujar and his agents lowered their asking price.

On Dec. 30, 1981, Andujar signed with the Cardinals for $1.2 million over three years. According to the Post-Dispatch, the $1.2 million figure was the amount Herzog and the Cardinals were prepared to settle for all along.

The signing took place at Andujar’s home in the Dominican Republic. Attending for the Cardinals was assistant general manager Joe McDonald and scout Willie Calvino. In 1969, when he worked for the Reds, Calvino was the scout who signed Andujar to his first professional contract.

Andujar rewarded the Cardinals with 15 wins, including five shutouts, during the 1982 season. He was the winning pitcher in their pennant-clinching game against the Braves in the National League Championship Series. Then he earned two wins versus the Brewers in the World Series, including the title clincher in Game 7. Boxscore and Video

Though a 20-game winner in both 1984 and 1985, Andujar was traded to the Athletics after he had a confrontation with umpire Don Denkinger during Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

 

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