Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

After following in the footsteps of Bob Gibson on the basketball court at Creighton University, Paul Silas launched his NBA career in the city where Gibson was pitching the Cardinals to championships.

A 6-foot-7 power forward and relentless rebounder, Silas debuted in the NBA with the St. Louis Hawks in 1964. His first regular-season appearance with them came two days after Gibson pitched the Cardinals to victory in Game 7 of the 1964 World Series.

During the time Silas played for the St. Louis Hawks (1964-68), Gibson pitched the Cardinals to two more National League pennants (1967-68) and another World Series title (1967).

Silas went on to play in the NBA until 1980, including for three championship teams, and was a head coach in the league for 12 seasons after that. He died on Dec. 11, 2022, at 79.

On the rebound

When Silas was 8, he moved with his family from Arkansas to Oakland, where he grew up watching Bill Russell play basketball on the playgrounds and for McClymonds High School. Silas later attended the same school and paced the varsity basketball team to a 68-0 record in three seasons, according to the New York Times.

Residing in Oakland connected Silas with his first cousins, who formed the popular singing group, The Pointer Sisters.

Silas accepted a basketball scholarship to Creighton, the Omaha school where Bob Gibson averaged 20.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in three varsity seasons (1954-57).

Gibson, who began his pro baseball career in the Cardinals’ farm system in 1957, was an established Cardinals pitcher when Silas was a varsity player at Creighton (1961-64). In the winters, Gibson, 6 feet 1, would join the Creighton team in some intra-squad games.

“Gibson was tremendous,” Silas told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’d come right over to campus after a baseball season, step in to scrimmage with us, and he’d tear us up.”

Silas was pretty good, too. He averaged 20.5 points (topping Gibson’s 20.2 mark) and 21.6 rebounds per game in his three varsity seasons.

In 1964, UCLA coach John Wooden told The Sporting News, “Silas is truly one of the best players in the country. He’s both an outstanding rebounder and scorer.”

Creighton coach Red McManus said to the Omaha World-Herald, “You sort of feel that such a player comes along once in a lifetime.”

Wes Unseld, who was built similar to Silas and who would go on to have his own distinguished NBA career, was a high school player in Louisville when Silas was at Creighton. “I read a magazine article about him called ‘Chairman of the Board’ because he was such a great rebounder,” Unseld recalled to The Sporting News. “I’ve always wanted to be chairman of the board.”

Good Humor man

Being a top college player didn’t assure success in the pros. After the Hawks took Duke shooting guard Jeff Mullins in the first round of the 1964 NBA draft, the selection of Silas in the next round “was the gamble,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“Paul weighed 250 pounds, blubber all over, and he was a horrendous shooter,” Hawks general manager Marty Blake told The Sporting News, “but, despite his weight, he was a good rebounder, got the ball out quickly and ran pretty good.”

Silas said to the Post-Dispatch, “I weighed 251 when I reported for the Hawks’ rookie camp. I had been close to that ever since I spent the summer of 1962 working in an ice cream factory. They didn’t mind us taking ice cream breaks, or carrying a quart or two home with us. I gained 40 pounds in three months.”

Below a headline “Silas To Be Corner Man If He’s Not Too Round,” the Post-Dispatch reported the rookie was the Hawks’ “chief hope of strengthening a front line that is sorely in need of strong, young replacements.”

“He’s one of the best defensive big men coming out of school,” Hawks coach Harry Gallatin told the newspaper.

In his first game, against the Cincinnati Royals, Silas totaled nine points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes. Boxscore

For the season, playing as a backup to front-line starters Bill Bridges, Zelmo Beaty and Bob Pettit, Silas averaged 4.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. “Pro ball is quite a change from the college game,” Silas told the Post-Dispatch. “To me, the biggest difference is the way you must always be advancing toward the basket _ no standing around while the play develops as in college.”

Shaping up

After his rookie season, Silas went to Fort Jackson in South Carolina to serve a six-month military stint. On Aug. 14, 1965, Silas was a bystander when another soldier got into an argument with a gas station operator about a faulty repair of a car clutch, the Post-Dispatch reported. The gas station man said he felt threatened by the soldier and fired a shotgun toward the ground, according to the sheriff’s office at Columbia, S.C. Pellets struck Silas in the left foot and he required a skin graft, delaying the start to his second NBA season.

Silas primarily played a reserve role with the Hawks his first three years. Urged to lose weight, he dropped 30 pounds, reporting to training camp at 220 in 1967, and worked to develop an outside shot.

“Paul got himself ready to play first-class basketball, not only weight-wise, but mentally,” Hawks coach Richie Guerin said to the Post-Dispatch. “He’s one of the best all-round corner men in the league now.”

Pairing with Bill Bridges as the Hawks’ starting forwards, Silas had a breakthrough season in 1967-68, averaging 13.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.

The Hawks moved to Atlanta after the season. Silas also went on to play for the Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Seattle SuperSonics, totaling 16 seasons as a NBA player. He played for three NBA champions _ 1974 Celtics, 1976 Celtics and 1979 SuperSonics. The latter was coached by his former Hawks teammate, Lenny Wilkens.

Silas averaged more than 11 rebounds per game for seven straight seasons (1970-76). To position himself for rebounds, Silas “studied the arc and spin of his teammates’ shots to compensate for his lack of vertical skills,” the New York Times reported.

“Once he was in position, you just couldn’t move him,” Wilkens told the newspaper.

In describing his approach to rebounding, Silas said to the Post-Dispatch, “Position and timing are important. You’ve got to really want the ball. It’s attitude, desire.”

Coaching career

In 1981, Silas turned down an offer to become Creighton’s head coach, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Instead, another former standout NBA rebounder, Willis Reed, formerly of the New York Knicks, replaced Tom Apke at Creighton.

Silas preferred coaching in the NBA. He was a head coach for 12 seasons in San Diego, Charlotte, New Orleans and Cleveland. He was the first NBA head coach of 18-year-old LeBron James of the Cavaliers. “I loved Paul Silas a lot,” James told the New York Times. “He gave me a chance to showcase my talent early.”

Silas’ top season as a head coach was in 1999-2000 when he led the Charlotte Hornets to a 49-33 mark. In 2020, Silas’ son, Stephen Silas, became head coach of the NBA Houston Rockets.


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Looking to cut costs during the Great Depression and open a spot at first base for the aptly named Rip Collins, the Cardinals decided the time was right to peddle a player who was popular and productive.

On Dec. 17, 1932, the Cardinals traded their future Hall of Fame first baseman, Jim Bottomley, to the Reds for pitcher Ownie Carroll and outfielder Estel Crabtree.

Nicknamed Sunny Jim for “his friendly disposition,” as the Associated Press described it, Bottomley had been a consistent run producer in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, and though there had been indications he was being shopped, it was thought he’d bring more than what St. Louis got for him.

Style and substance

Bottomley was born in Oglesby, Ill., and settled with his family in Nokomis, Ill., a farming and mining town. Bottomley’s father and brother worked in the mines. Bottomley’s brother was killed in a cave-in, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

When Bottomley was 16, he quit high school and clerked in a grocery store, the Associated Press reported. According to the Post-Dispatch, he also worked on a farm and as a blacksmith’s helper.

In his spare time, Bottomley played semipro baseball for $5 a game, walking eight miles each way to the home ballpark, the Associated Press reported. A St. Louis policeman saw him hit two home runs and three triples in a game and told Cardinals executive Branch Rickey he should give Bottomley a look. Invited to a Cardinals tryout camp in 1920, Bottomley excelled and was awarded a contract.

During 1922, his third season in their farm system, Bottomley got called up to the Cardinals and became their first baseman. He made an immediate impression with the fans because of his strut and the way he wore his cap.

“He was the only man I ever knew who could strut while he was crouched in the batter’s box,” Rickey told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

As for the cap, it “was never pulled down to shade the eyes like most ballplayers wore it,” the Globe-Democrat observed. “Sunny Jim’s was always cocked at a rakish angle.”

Before long, nearly everyone who followed the Cardinals knew Bottomley simply as Sunny Jim. He “smiled and swaggered his way into the hearts of baseball fans,” J. Roy Stockton noted in the Post-Dispatch.

According to the Associated Press, “Sunny Jim was one of those rare ballplayers who combined genuine color with honest-to-goodness ability.”

Playing to win

A left-handed batter, Bottomley hit for power, using a choked grip on a heavy bat.

On Sept. 16, 1924, Bottomley drove in 12 runs in a game against the Dodgers. Boxscore Since then, the only player to match that feat has been another Cardinal, Mark Whiten, versus the Reds on Sept. 7, 1993. Boxscore

Bottomley helped the Cardinals to four National League pennants (1926, 1928, 1930 and 1931) and two World Series titles (1926 and 1931). He won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1928 when he led the league in triples (20), home runs (31), RBI (136) and total bases (362).

Bottomley hit better than .300 in nine of his 11 seasons with the Cardinals. (In the other two years, he hit .299 and .296.) He ranks fourth in career RBI as a Cardinal (1,105). Only Stan Musial (1,951), Albert Pujols (1,397) and Enos Slaughter (1,148) produced more RBI for the franchise.

As for his fielding, “It doesn’t make any difference how wide or how high they are thrown to Sunny Jim. He always manages to get them,” the Dayton Daily News reported.

Time to go

Bottomley’s best friend on the Cardinals, another future Hall of Famer, left fielder Chick Hafey, was traded to the Reds on the eve of the 1932 season opener. Rip Collins, a natural first baseman, replaced Hafey in left field on Opening Day.

After Bottomley started slowly, hitting .158 with no home runs in April, manager Gabby Street benched him and moved Collins to first base.

Collins, 28, went on to lead the 1932 Cardinals in hits (153), home runs (21), RBI (91), runs scored (82) and total bases (260). Bottomley, 32, hit .296 with 11 homers.

With Collins making a convincing claim for the first base job, the Cardinals began making plans to move Bottomley. In September 1932, the last-place Reds revealed that manager Dan Howley would depart after the season. Reds owner Sidney Weil was an admirer of Bottomley and sought permission from the Cardinals to interview him for the job.

At the urging of Branch Rickey and Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, Bottomley went to Cincinnati on Sept. 23, 1932, while the season still was being played, and interviewed with Weil for the role of player-manager, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Donie Bush, a veteran manager, eventually got the job, but Weil was determined to acquire Bottomley to play for the Reds.

After Cardinals shortstop Charlie Gelbert was shot in a hunting accident in November 1932, the Cardinals offered Bottomley to the Reds for shortstop Leo Durocher and starting pitcher Si Johnson, a 13-game winner, the Enquirer reported.

When the Reds deemed the price too high, the Cardinals settled for Ownie Carroll (10-19 in 1932) and Estel Crabtree (.274, two home runs, in 1932). It was suspected the Reds sent the Cardinals a stack of cash as well.

Asked whether the Cardinals got cash in the deal, Breadon told Red Smith of the St. Louis Star-Times, “I wouldn’t want to say anything on that.”

According to The Sporting News, the trade garnered the Cardinals “a sizeable sum of money.” The Post-Dispatch informed its readers, “Close followers of baseball did not have to be told that it was a cash transaction.”

In addition to reaping the cash, the Cardinals also rid themselves of Bottomley’s $13,000 salary, about double what most players were making in 1932.

Worth the price

The Reds proposed to Bottomley a salary of $8,000, a $5,000 cut, for 1933, The Sporting News reported. After a negotiation, Bottomley, who wed St. Louis beauty shop owner Betty Brawner in February 1933, eventually signed for $10,000.

In May 1933, the Cardinals got the Reds to trade them Leo Durocher. (Three years later, the Cardinals also got Si Johnson from the Reds.)

Bottomley delivered what the Reds hoped from him. He led the 1933 Reds in triples (nine), home runs (13) and RBI (83). He had 16 RBI in 22 games versus the Cardinals. The following year, with the 1934 Reds, Bottomley was their leader in doubles (31), triples (11) and RBI (78). He hit .313 versus the Cardinals.

After a third season with Cincinnati, Bottomley was traded to the St. Louis Browns, finishing his career with them, including a stint as manager in 1937.

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Brett Tomko was a sketch artist who made his living painting corners as a pitcher.

On Dec. 15, 2002, the Cardinals got Tomko from the Padres for reliever Luther Hackman and a player to be named (pitcher Mike Wodnicki).

A right-hander, Tomko was a durable, but hittable, member of the Cardinals’ 2003 starting rotation, earning 13 wins despite some rough outings.

Arts and crafts

In 1970, three years before Brett was born, his father Jerry entered a contest to name the new Cleveland NBA franchise. His suggestion, Cavaliers, was selected from more than 11,000 entries submitted, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. His prize for naming the team was a pair of season tickets for the club’s first year.

When Brett was 3, he moved with the family from Euclid, Ohio, to Placentia, Calif., near Anaheim, and developed skills in baseball and in art. 

An art communications major at Florida Southern College, Tomko had a 15-2 record for the baseball team in 1995 and was named NCAA Division II player of the year, pitching a shutout in the national championship game.

When not playing baseball, he’d sometimes spend his nights at the campus art studio. “I’d stay until 4 in the morning, drawing and painting,” he recalled to the Dayton Daily News. “It relaxes me totally.”

He said to the Tampa Tribune, “I’ve always taken art courses. It’s come easy to me, like majoring in baseball.”

The Reds chose Tomko in the second round of the 1995 June amateur draft. After he reached the majors with them in May 1997, art remained a part of his life. “Tomko always carries with him a sketch pad and charcoals,” The Cincinnati Post reported. On road trips, he visited art museums. “I am the biggest nerd in major league baseball,” Tomko told Peter Gammons of the Boston Globe.

Before long, Tomko “dazzled teammates with his charcoal drawings,” Jeff Horrigan of The Cincinnati Post reported. Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News wrote, “Tomko drew beautifully in charcoal.”

(On April 15, 2007, the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson integrating the big leagues, each fan attending the Dodgers game that day received a copy of Tomko’s drawing of Robinson, the Los Angeles Times reported.)

Traveling man

Tomko had 11 wins for the Reds his rookie season and 13 the next year. In April 1999, the Dayton Daily News reported, the Reds could have acquired Jim Edmonds from the Angels for Tomko but refused to part with him. (The next year, Edmonds was traded to the Cardinals.)

In February 2000, the Mariners made the Reds an offer they couldn’t refuse, sending them Ken Griffey Jr. for a package of players, including Tomko. The Mariners used him primarily as a reliever before shipping him to the Padres in December 2001.

Tomko was 10-10 with a 4.49 ERA in 32 starts for the 2002 Padres, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan noticed he was developing an effective sinkerball. “When he was in Cincinnati, he would just rear back and fire,” La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We saw that he has really started to move the ball around and pitch.”

Shopping for pitching at the baseball winter meetings in December 2002, the Cardinals talked to the Giants about a trade of second baseman Fernando Vina for either starting pitchers Russ Ortiz or Livan Hernandez, the Post-Dispatch reported, but the Giants instead opted to sign free-agent second baseman Ray Durham.

Turning to the Padres, the Cardinals discussed swapping Vina for Tomko and another pitcher, Kevin Jarvis, before scaling back the framework of the deal, according to the Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals projected Tomko, 29, to join a starting rotation with Matt Morris, Woody Williams, Garrett Stephenson and Jason Simontacchi.

“He’s a guy who we’re getting in the prime of his career,” La Russa said to the Post-Dispatch.

Skeptics noted that Tomko was joining his fourth team in five years and only once posted an ERA below 4.44, but Dave Duncan told the newspaper, “He’s a low-ball pitcher, gets a lot of ground balls, and we have a good defense. I think he has pitched in some other places where the defense wasn’t so good and he had to suffer through that and paid a penalty for it.”

After seeing Tomko pitch in spring training with the Cardinals, Duncan said to the Post-Dispatch, “I feel good about everything about him. I like the way he’s throwing. I like the way he goes about his business, his willingness to work, his drive to win. All the ingredients are there.”

Like he had elsewhere, Tomko continued his art work while with the Cardinals. Among his projects was a portrait of teammate Woody Williams.

“The moments when Tomko has a charcoal pencil in his hand are among the most relaxing he can imagine,” Stu Durando wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Good, bad, ugly

Tomko’s 2003 season with the Cardinals was a mix of gems and duds. He pitched complete games in wins against the Marlins (Boxscore) and Rockies (Boxscore). He also gave up nine runs in a game three times _ versus the Rockies (Boxscore), Red Sox (Boxscore) and Yankees (Boxscore).

Tomko finished the season with a 13-9 record and ranked second on the club in wins, but he gave up more hits (252) and more earned runs (119) than any pitcher in the National League. He allowed 35 home runs and batters hit .305 against him, helping account for a 5.28 ERA. Video

At times, Tomko impressed as much with his bat as he did with his arm. He hit .286 with nine RBI for the Cardinals. 

Granted free agency after the season, Tomko signed with the Giants _ the fifth of 10 clubs he pitched for in 14 seasons. The others: Dodgers, Royals, Yankees, Athletics and Rangers.

Tomko finished with a career mark of 100-103. His 13 wins for the Cardinals tied his single-season career high.

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Toward the end of his Hall of Fame career, Fred McGriff gave the Cardinals something to remember him by.

A left-handed power hitter, McGriff slugged 22 regular-season home runs against the Cardinals and two more in the playoffs. The very last two came on June 21, 2002, in a Cardinals-Cubs classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The Friday afternoon game matched right-handers Woody Williams, 35, of the Cardinals and Jon Lieber, 32, of the Cubs. Both pitched with precision and smarts.

J.D. Drew, the second batter of the game, slammed a home run, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the first, before Lieber settled into a groove.

Williams retired the first 12 Cubs batters.

McGriff, who struck out his first time at the plate against Williams, led off the bottom of the fifth.

Traded by the Rays to the Cubs the year before (he made his Cubs debut against the Cardinals), McGriff, a first baseman, had led both the American League and National League in home runs (1989 with the Blue Jays and 1992 with the Padres), and had helped the Braves win two pennants and a World Series title. Video

At 38, he still was a force. (McGriff would produce 30 home runs and 103 RBI for the 2002 Cubs, giving him 10 seasons with 30 homers and eight seasons with 100 RBI.)

After McGriff worked the count to 3-and-1 in his at-bat in the fifth, Williams challenged him with a fastball. McGriff drove it out of the park for a home run, tying the score at 1-1.

When he came to bat again in the seventh, Williams jammed him with a fastball, but McGriff got around on it and belted another home run, which turned out to be the game-winner.

The Cubs won, 2-1. Williams pitched seven innings, walked none and allowed three hits _ the two McGriff home runs and a single by Lieber.

Lieber pitched a three-hit complete game and also walked none.

The game was played in a snappy one hour, 49 minutes _ the fastest involving the Cardinals since a May 1981 game against Steve Carlton and the Phillies that was completed in one hour, 45 minutes, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

“Several times, Williams and Lieber used more pitches while warming between innings than in securing their next three outs,” Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch observed.

Williams told the newspaper, “It’s the way the game is supposed to be played … The way baseball is today, it’s set up for a three-hour game, which is a crock.”

Asked about his decision to throw a fastball to McGriff with the score tied in the seventh, Williams told Strauss, “I threw exactly the type of pitch that I wanted to throw when it was a 1-1 game. I got beat.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wanted Williams to work around McGriff and take his chances with other batters. Referring to the fastballs McGriff hit for home runs, La Russa told the Post-Dispatch, “We made a couple of pitching mistakes.”

Williams saw it differently: “I go right at him … I’m not pitching around him.” Boxscore

McGriff hit .389 versus Williams in his career. Four of his seven hits against him were home runs.

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Gaylord Perry had a career record of 14-14 versus the Cardinals, but there was nothing mundane about the night-and-day seasons he experienced against them in consecutive years during the 1960s.

In four starts against the Cardinals in 1966, Perry was 4-0 and didn’t walk a batter.

The next year, Perry was 0-5 in five starts versus the Cardinals.

Perry pitched well against the Cardinals in both seasons (1.06 ERA in 1966) and (2.23 ERA in 1967), but one of the big differences between the two years was the blistering bat wielded by his ex-teammate, St. Louis slugger Orlando Cepeda.

On-the-job training

Relying on a fastball and curve, Perry reached the majors with the Giants in 1962. After four seasons with them his record was 24-30. His breakthrough came in 1966 when he mastered the spitball taught two years earlier by Bob Shaw.

Acquired by the Giants from the Braves in January 1964, Shaw was throwing at spring training when Perry observed how his pitches dipped sharply. Asked how he did it, Shaw showed Perry how to throw a spitball, a pitch banned in the majors.

In his book “Me and the Spitter,” Perry said Shaw told him, “It takes a lot of work. You got to know how much to apply, where, how to hold the ball and control it, and, most important, how to load it up without anybody seeing you.”

From then on, “Shaw and I were inseparable, spitball buddies, so to speak,” Perry said in his book.

According to Perry, “Most pitchers experiment with a spitter but soon give it up. If you don’t throw it correctly, it is just a hanging curveball, a gopher pitch. It took me the rest of that (1964) season and the next (1965) to master it in every way.”

At the same time, Perry also worked on developing a slider, and on learning to control his emotions on the mound.

Big winner

“By Opening Day, 1966, I had my spitter, my slider and my temper in good shape,” Perry said in his book.

The results were spectacular: Perry won 20 of his first 22 decisions and finished with 21 wins for the 1966 Giants.

His four wins against the Cardinals were by scores of 2-0, 4-2, 3-2 and 3-1.

Perry was 2-0 for the season when he entered a May 1, 1966, start against Bob Gibson and the Cardinals at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Limiting the Cardinals to four singles, including two infield hits, in the 2-0 shutout, Perry credited the slider. Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the San Francisco Examiner, “Slider? I didn’t see anything but fastballs.” Boxscore

Five days later, at St. Louis, Perry again beat Gibson and the Cardinals. Gibson pitched a three-hitter, struck out 14 but lost, 4-2. Boxscore

On July 4 at San Francisco, Perry got the game-winning hit, a single versus Nelson Briles, in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals. Boxscore

A week later, in the All-Star Game at steamy St. Louis, Perry was the winning pitcher for the National League with two scoreless innings of relief. Boxscore

Facing the Cardinals for the final time in 1966, Perry ran his season record to 19-2 with a 3-1 win at San Francisco on Aug. 16. A key moment came in the sixth inning when, with one out and the Giants ahead, 2-1, the Cardinals put runners on first and third. Perry struck out Orlando Cepeda and got Mike Shannon to end the inning with a grounder. Boxscore

The four wins over the Cardinals in 1966 gave Perry a career record of 6-0 against them.

Give and take

Cepeda was the Giants first baseman the first time Perry threw a spitter in a game, May 31, 1964, in an epic 23-inning marathon with the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York. Perry pitched 10 scoreless innings of relief.

One of the first batters he threw the spitter to was Mets pitcher Galen Cisco, who, with two on and one out in the 15th, grounded into a double play. After snaring the relay throw, Cepeda “rolled the ball along the grass, tumble-drying it by the time it reached the mound,” Perry recalled in his book. “Everybody protects a spitball pitcher.” Boxscore

Two years later, in May 1966, Cepeda was traded to the Cardinals. In his first full season with them, he won the 1967 National League Most Valuable Player Award and the Cardinals won a World Series title. He also beat up on Perry and the Giants that year.

Perry’s five losses to the 1967 Cardinals were by scores of 2-1, 4-1, 3-1, 2-1 and 2-0. Cepeda had the game-winning hit in three of those.

The first came on April 18 at San Francisco. After Roger Maris reached second on an error with two outs in the 11th, Cepeda got jammed by a Perry pitch but muscled it into right-center for a RBI-single, breaking a 1-1 tie. Boxscore

Two months later, on June 18 at San Francisco, Cepeda’s two-run home run against Perry snapped a 1-1 tie in the eighth and carried the Cardinals to victory. Boxscore

“Cepeda especially enjoyed beating Perry because Gaylord and Orlando weren’t always the best of friends when they were Giants teammates,” The Sporting News reported.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cepeda said Perry charged him with not putting out 100 percent when they were teammates.

On June 26, 1967, the Cardinals beat Perry and the Giants at St. Louis. Boxscore When the Giants returned two months later, Cepeda slammed another two-run home versus Perry in a 2-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

For the 1967 season, Cepeda hit .471 versus Perry and .419 with 11 RBI versus the Giants.

In his book “Baby Bull,” Cepeda said of the 1967 season, “I saved some of my best hitting exploits for the Giants … Roger Maris said he had never seen any one player so single-handedly beat another team like I beat the Giants that year.”

Spit and polish

In Perry’s fifth loss to the 1967 Cardinals, on Aug. 24 at San Francisco, Dick Hughes pitched a four-hit shutout and delivered a run-scoring single in the 2-0 triumph. (“Hughes, by the way, threw a pretty good spitter,” Perry said in his book.) Cepeda had a single and two walks, and was almost flattened by a Perry pitch, The Sporting News reported.

After the game, Cepeda said in mocking fashion to the Post-Dispatch, “Poor Gaylord Perry. He pitched a good game again.” Boxscore

Cepeda’s success against Perry in 1967 didn’t last. He hit .217 against him for his career.

Other career batting marks versus Perry among 1967 Cardinals regulars: Lou Brock (.212), Curt Flood (.171), Julian Javier (.169), Roger Maris (.273), Dal Maxvill (.111), Tim McCarver (.186) and Mike Shannon (.190).

Perry was tough on the Cardinals when they repeated as National League champions in 1968. He pitched a no-hitter against them and was 3-1 with an 0.82 ERA.

In Perry’s last career appearance against the Cardinals, at Atlanta in 1981, he faced the likes of Keith Hernandez, Tommy Herr and Garry Templeton. Perry, 42, started for the Braves and Jim Kaat, 42, relieved for the Cardinals. Boxscore

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Rescued from the Reds farm system, where he languished as a reliever, Kurt Kepshire developed into a starter for a Cardinals contender.

On Dec. 6, 1982, Kepshire was chosen by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft after being left off the Reds’ big-league winter roster.

The Cardinals might have kept Kepshire in a relief role as well if not for a fluke incident involving an Army tank.

Smashing success

A right-hander, Kepshire was a standout pitcher his senior season at Bridgeport Central Catholic High School in Connecticut. Five days before he was to start in a state quarterfinal playoff game, a careless classmate accidently pounded Kepshire’s pitching hand with a sledgehammer, breaking his index and middle fingers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“My coach said, ‘You can’t pitch,’ ” Kepshire recalled to The Sporting News. “I said, ‘Watch me warm up.’ “

Given the start, Kepshire struck out 17 and got the win. A few days later, he started and won the state championship game. “I pitched in pain, I’ll tell you that,” Kepshire said to The Sporting News. “It was pride. I love to pitch and I love a challenge.”

Kepshire enrolled at the University of New Haven and signed with the Reds after being selected in the 25th round of the 1979 amateur draft.

Used primarily as a reliever, Kepshire pitched four seasons in the Reds organization before he was drafted by the Cardinals on the recommendation of their Louisville farm club manager, Joe Frazier, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Ready, aim, fire

Assigned to the Cardinals’ Class AA Arkansas team in 1983, Kepshire made 19 relief appearances before being promoted to Class AAA Louisville.

Soon after Kepshire arrived in Louisville, Jim Fregosi, who had replaced Frazier as manager, approached him an hour before a game versus Omaha and asked if he could start. “I was shocked,” Kepshire told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Fregosi made the request because Louisville’s scheduled starting pitcher, Todd Worrell, sprained his back “when he slipped off a tank that he was inspecting” while visiting a military museum at Fort Knox earlier that day, the Louisville newspaper reported.

Under the headline “Tanks A Lot,” the Courier-Journal reported that Kepshire pitched six scoreless innings in his surprise start and got the win in Louisville’s 2-0 triumph over Omaha.

“He threw great,” catcher Tom Nieto told the Louisville newspaper. “His fastball was just taking off and he was spotting pitches and keeping the ball down, going right at them.”

In 21 appearances, including 10 starts, for Louisville in 1983, Kepshire was 6-2.

Big-league stuff

Sent back to Louisville to begin the 1984 season, Kepshire was in the starting rotation from the first day. Relying on a fastball and slider, he was 7-5 in 16 starts when the Cardinals called him to the big leagues in July to replace John Stuper in the starting rotation.

“Kepshire wasn’t ready (for the majors) at the beginning of the season, but he’s come into his own,” Fregosi told the Post-Dispatch. “He has a better idea of how to pitch.”

Making his debut in a start against the Giants the day after his 25th birthday, Kepshire allowed one run in 8.1 innings and got the win. “He challenges those guys,” Herzog told The Sporting News. “He’s got guts. I love it.” Boxscore

A month later, Kepshire prevailed in a start against Nolan Ryan and the Astros. Boxscore

Praising Kepshire for his willingness to pitch inside to batters, Herzog told The Sporting News, “He’s got nerve. Of all the kid pitchers, he’s going to be the best.”

The rookie capped his season with shutouts of the Cubs and Expos, finishing 6-5 with a 3.30 ERA. Boxscore and Boxscore

Cardinals pitching coach Mike Roarke said Kepshire “made tremendous progress” since spring training and adjusted to a change in his delivery that enabled him “to throw downhill,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Falling out

Kepshire went to spring training in 1985 assured of a spot in a Cardinals starting rotation with Joaquin Andujar, John Tudor and Danny Cox. “He goes after hitters and he doesn’t rattle easily,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch in March 1985. “Right now, I’m looking at him as a good No. 3 starter.”

After beating the Pirates on Aug. 15, Kepshire had a season record of 9-6, but then staggered down the stretch, winning one of his next six starts.

In his last start, Sept. 14 versus the Cubs, Kepshire threw 14 pitches and 13 were out of the strike zone. After walking the bases loaded, he was lifted with the count 1-and-0 count on the next batter. Boxscore

Kepshire finished the season 10-9. His wins were important for a division champion that finished just three games ahead of the Mets, but he walked more (71) than he struck out (67) and gave up more hits (155) than innings pitched (153.1). The Cardinals left him off their playoff roster.

“I still think he can be a hell of a pitcher,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch. “He needs an off-speed pitch, and he’s got a good one in the bullpen, but he can’t get it over in a game.”

Kepshire said to the newspaper, “I stunk it up the second half of (the) season. That’s my fault. It was a mental thing. I was in a rut.”

Different direction

The Cardinals tried to trade Kepshire after the season but didn’t get any takers, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“The Cardinals are dead wrong on me,” Kepshire said to the Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register. “I can throw strikes.”

He opened the 1986 season with them, made two appearances, including a start, and was demoted to Louisville.

“I don’t ever see myself coming back here,” Kepshire said to the Post-Dispatch as he left St. Louis.

Herzog responded, “If he has that attitude, he’ll never come back.”

Kepshire spent what he described to United Press International as “a miserable year” in the Cardinals farm system in 1986, signed with the Cleveland Indians after the season, got released in spring training, pitched in Mexico and in the minors for Expos and Twins affiliates, but never got back to the majors.

His career record with the Cardinals was 16-15, including marks of 4-1 against the Cubs and 3-0 versus the Giants.

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