Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

A week before the Cardinals played in the World Series, they participated with the neighboring Browns in an event to help people in need during the growing economic crisis.

Ninety years ago, on Sept. 24, 1931, the National League Cardinals and American League Browns played an exhibition game in St. Louis to raise funds for the unemployed.

More than $30,000 was raised for the relief fund of the St. Louis Citizens Committee on Relief and Employment at a time when the Great Depression was gripping the nation.

Desperate times

The stock market crash of October 1929 launched the United States into its worst economic downturn. By 1930, the country’s industrial production dropped in half, leading to severe job loss, and the ensuing panic caused many banks to close.

Adding to the misery were the climate conditions that created the Dust Bowl. A devastating drought hit the Midwest and Great Plains in 1930 and was followed by massive dust storms in 1931.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the nation was at 15.9 percent in December 1931. It was above 20 percent each year from 1932 to 1935, peaking at 24.9 percent in December 1933.

In St. Louis in September 1931, the Citizens Committee on Relief and Employment arranged for the baseball exhibition game for the benefit of the unemployed.

Similar charity games had been played elsewhere that month. On Sept. 9 in New York, an exhibition between the Giants and Yankees netted $60,000 for unemployment relief and another in Chicago between the Cubs and White Sox netted $44,489, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

Organizers of the St. Louis game said they didn’t expect to raise as much as the bigger metropolises, but they did hope to top the $22,168 netted for a Sept. 23 exhibition in Boston between the Braves and Red Sox.

Financial support

Team owners Sam Breadon of the Cardinals and Phil Ball of the Browns agreed to cover all expenses, so “every nickel of the receipts will be used to aid the needy and unemployed of St. Louis,” Red Smith reported in the St. Louis Star-Times.

“Relief and unemployment bodies are going to need every penny that can be raised,” the Star-Times noted. “Here is a chance to help swell the fund and at the same time get one’s money’s worth of sport.”

A special appeal was made to persons of prominence. An entire box of seats in the first or second row could be bought for $100. A whole box consisted of four or five seats.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, $100 in September 1931 is the equivalent of $1,820 in 2021.

On the eve of the game, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported 61 boxes were sold at $100 each.

The game was played at 3 p.m. on a cool, overcast Thursday afternoon. “It felt more like football weather,” the Star-Times observed.

A crowd of 20,237 showed up at Sportsman’s Park. All except 13 were paid admission. The 13 who got in for free were telegraph operators assigned to work the press box, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

Citizens Committee chairman Tom K. Smith estimated the threatening skies kept another 5,000 spectators from attending.

The mood was festive. “They came with cowbells and paper horns and lusty throats,” the Globe-Democrat reported. “Hundreds of women fans arranged in fall finery turned the stands into a bright mosaic.”

Sid Keener of the Star-Times noted, “The patrons were keyed up to a high pitch.” The underdog Browns “received as much applause and genuine rooting” as the Cardinals.

City champs

St. Louis mayor Victor Miller was tasked with tossing the ceremonial first pitch and “threw two bad ones; Jimmie Wilson, Cardinals catcher, reaching into the dirt to get one. The mayor also missed Wilson’s return throw,” the Globe-Democrat dutifully reported.

The Cardinals were designated the home team by a flip of a coin.

A week earlier, the Cardinals clinched the National League pennant. On the day of the exhibition game, their season record was 98-53, with three games remaining before the World Series began on Oct. 1 versus the Athletics. The Browns were 60-90, with four left to play, and were headed for a fifth-place finish, 45 games behind the Athletics.

The starting pitchers were spitball specialist Burleigh Grimes, 38, for the Cardinals and Dick Coffman, 24, for the Browns.

As Red Smith noted in the Star-Times, “There was little charity in the Cardinals’ hearts or bats for Dick Coffman.”

With the help of two errors by Browns first baseman Jack Burns, the Cardinals scored four runs in the first against Coffman, who was relieved by Lefty Stewart before the inning ended.

Stewart, who led the 1931 Browns in wins (14), shut out the Cardinals for 8.2 innings, limiting them to four hits.

Grimes held the Browns scoreless until they rallied for six runs against him in the fifth. The Browns scored another run in the seventh against Flint Rhem and won, 7-4. Goose Goslin had three hits, two RBI and two runs scored for the Browns.

The game, played in a snappy 1:56, ended with redemption for Jack Burns, who “made a spectacular diving catch” of Frankie Frisch’s bid for a double down the first-base line, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Daunting task

“The Browns gained the city baseball title for 1931 and the poor of St. Louis gained thousands of dollars,” Red Smith wrote in the Star-Times.

A total of $30,250 from ticket sales went into the relief fund of the Citizens Committee. That amount is the equivalent of $550,556 in 2021. Another $290 was donated by Browns and Cardinals players, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Citizens Committee chairman Tom K. Smith said, “The community responded much more nobly than any of us expected at the start and the committee is deeply grateful. It is a magnificent showing.

“Large as the sum is, it is but a pittance to what the burden of caring for the needy and unemployed will call for during the ensuing winter,” Tom Smith added. “The sum realized here today will meet the relief demands on the Citizens Committee for about 10 days. This will give the public some idea of the magnitude of the task before us.”

The unemployment rate didn’t drop below 10 percent until December 1941, the month the nation entered World War II, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By December 1944, the unemployment rate was at 1.2 percent.

As for the 1931 Cardinals, they went on to win the World Series championship. After getting stung by the Browns in the charity game, Burleigh Grimes excelled in the World Series, winning the third and seventh games.


Read Full Post »

After pitcher Jackie Collum made an impressive debut in the majors, the Cardinals literally couldn’t wait for the encore.

Seventy years ago, on Sept. 21, 1951, Collum pitched a two-hit shutout and got the win against the Cubs in his first game in the big leagues.

The next night, Collum pitched two innings in relief and got the loss against the Cubs.

A diminutive left-hander, Collum craved heavy duty, and the Cardinals obliged.

Big talent

An Iowa native, Collum was born in Victor and grew up in Newburg, near Grinnell.

The middle finger of his left hand became disfigured when he was a boy.

“I got that when I was 4 years old,” Collum told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “My hand was caught in a pulley while we were making hay on our farm.”

The damaged digit didn’t prevent him from succeeding in athletics, nor did his size. As Bob Husted of the Cincinnati Enquirer put it, “Jackie was born in Iowa where the corn grows tall, but he didn’t.”

Collum reached a height of “almost 5 feet 7,” the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle noted.

He served in the Army during World War II for two years, including 19 months in the Pacific. After his discharge, Collum got a tryout with the Cardinals, who gave him a contract and told him to report to their minor-league spring training camp at Albany, Ga., in 1947.

Bob Stanton, manager of the Cardinals’ Class C affiliate at St. Joseph, Mo., liked Collum and recruited him for his team.

Forming a battery with catcher Vern Rapp, a future Cardinals manager, Collum was 15-11 for St. Joseph in 1947. A left-handed batter, Collum played outfield on some days he didn’t pitch. He produced 47 hits and a .388 batting average.

Right stuff

Back with St. Joseph in 1948, Collum won his first 16 decisions and finished the regular season with a 24-2 record and 2.47 ERA. He also batted .280 with 40 hits.

His reward from the Cardinals was an invitation to pitch batting practice at their big-league spring training camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1949 before reporting to the minor-league training site.

Collum accepted and became a protege of Cardinals pitcher Harry Brecheen, who taught him how to throw a screwball.

Before Collum departed the big-league camp, Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer gave him a chance to pitch in an exhibition game against the Yankees on March 13. Collum struck out Joe DiMaggio with the bases loaded, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Two years later, in 1951, Collum, in his fifth season in the minors, pitched for manager Johnny Keane at Class AAA Rochester and was 15-8 with a 2.80 ERA.

“I can think of 25 pitchers in the majors who aren’t as good as he is today,” Keane told the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle. “He’s one of the finest competitors among pitchers I’ve ever seen. He’s got it inside.”

On Sept. 17, 1951, the Cardinals called up Collum, 24, to the majors.

Overtime duty

Four days later, on Sept. 21, Cardinals manager Marty Marion made a last-minute decision to give Gerry Staley a rest and start Collum in that night’s game against the Cubs at St. Louis.

The only hits Collum surrendered were an infield single by Bob Ramazzotti in the third and a soft single to center by Eddie Miksis in the sixth.

Collum walked three in the first four innings and two in the ninth, but was aided by a defense that turned four double plays.

“I was in a bit of a daze,” Collum told the Post-Dispatch. “I usually have pretty good control.”

Collum also singled twice and scored twice against Cubs starter Frank Hiller. Boxscore

The following night, Sept. 22, the score was tied 5-5 when Marion brought in Collum to pitch the ninth. He retired the side in order, but the Cubs scored against him in the 10th, handing Collum the loss 24 hours after his shutout. Boxscore

Compared to today’s standards of pitch counts and cautious care, using Collum in relief the night after he pitched a shutout seems outrageous. It’s possible, though, Collum wanted the work.

Cardinals broadcaster and former catcher Gus Mancuso told Si Burick of the Dayton Daily News, “He looks like a high school pitcher, but he’s got twice as much heart as the average big man.”

Birdie Tebbetts, who later managed Collum with the 1954-55 Reds, said to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “I’ve never seen a ballplayer with more desire than Collum. He isn’t much larger than a short beer, but he’s got the guts of a burglar. Nothing scares him. He keeps himself in wonderful condition. He loves to pitch and would be in there every day if such a thing were possible.”

After his back-to-back appearances, Collum pitched in one other game for the 1951 Cardinals. On Sept. 29, he started against the Cubs at Chicago, pitched six innings and got the win. Boxscore

He pitched a career-high 239 innings in 1951 _ 222 for Rochester and 17 for the Cardinals.

Traveling man

After his busy 1951 season, Collum went directly to Cuba to play winter baseball. From Cuba, he reported to Cardinals spring training camp in 1952 and showed up “about 30 pounds underweight, tipping the scales at 136 pounds,” the St. Joseph News-Press reported.

Collum opened the regular season with the Cardinals, but was returned to the minors after two relief appearances.

The Cardinals brought back Collum to open the 1953 season, but traded him to the Reds in May for pitcher Eddie Erautt. When Collum arrived in the Reds’ clubhouse, they didn’t have a uniform that fit him, so he borrowed a bat boy’s baseball pants, The Sporting News reported.

On July 11, 1954, in a 6-5 Reds victory over the Braves, the shortest pitcher in the league, Collum, got the win, and the tallest pitcher in the league, 6-foot-8 Gene Conley, took the loss. Boxscore

In three seasons (1953-55) as a spot starter and reliever with the Reds, Collum was 23-22 with four saves.

In January 1956, Frank Lane made his first trade as Cardinals general manager, sending pitchers Brooks Lawrence and Sonny Senerchia to the Reds for Collum.

Lane described Collum to United Press as “a courageous little guy and all-around good performer.”

Collum was 6-2 with seven saves for the 1956 Cardinals. After the season, they traded him to the Cubs. He pitched briefly for the Cubs, Dodgers, Twins and Indians, but spent most of the remainder of his baseball career in the minors.

In nine seasons in the majors, Collum was 32-28 with 12 saves. He hit .246 with a home run, a three-run shot for the Reds at the Polo Grounds against the Giants’ Ruben Gomez. Boxscore

Against the Cardinals, Collum was 5-5 with a save and hit .250.

Read Full Post »

In a bid to win an extra $30 in a baseball version of a track and field meet, Cardinals third baseman Sparky Adams paid a high price, costing himself playing time in the World Series.

Ninety years ago, on Sept. 20, 1931, Adams injured an ankle in a base-circling contest before a game against the Dodgers at St. Louis.

Adams, who led the 1931 Cardinals in hits, runs and doubles, sat out the final six games of the regular season and also was sidelined for five of the seven games of the World Series.

Small and fast

Born in Zerbe, Pa., a coal mining region, Earl John Adams was an undersized, but athletic, youth.

“My size, or lack of it, has been a tremendous handicap since boyhood,” Adams told The Sporting News. “Ever since I can remember, it has been, ‘You’re too small for this and you’re not big enough for that.’ Naturally, I resented it, and my resentment made me more determined to do the things I wanted to do.”

Nicknamed “Rabbit” because he was small and fast, Adams developed into a prospect and was signed by Cardinals scout Pop Kelchner. 

A half-inch under 5 feet 5, Adams, 25, reported to Danville, Va., for his first full season in the minors in 1920.

“The manager was disappointed when he saw me,” Adams told The Sporting News. “He asked if I’d brought my nursing bottle. One of the regulars said he would show me to my room and bed. He took me to a linen closet in the hotel and opened a drawer for me.”

Adams opened some narrow minds with his performance on the field. Playing shortstop, he produced 157 hits, including 33 doubles, in 119 games for Danville. He batted .326 with 98 RBI and 20 stolen bases.

Kid stuff

According to The Sporting News, Cardinals manager Branch Rickey was watching a group of rookies at spring training camp at Orange, Texas, in 1921 when he spotted a person he thought was a boy playing shortstop.

“Tell that bat boy to get out of the infield,” Rickey said to starting shortstop Doc Lavan.

Lavan replied, “That’s not a bat boy, Mr. Rickey. That’s Earl Adams.”

Adams came over to Rickey, who said, “Do you think you’re a shortstop?”

“Yes, sir,” Adams replied.

Rickey said, “I’m afraid you’re too small. Not enough weight. You’d never stand up under a season of play. You’d be skin and bones.”

“Try me,” Adams said.

Adams remained in camp and was put through a series of rigorous daily drills. His weight dropped from 158 pounds to 137, The Sporting News reported.

“Young fellow, I knew you were too small for the majors leagues,” Rickey told him.

Adams played in the minors for Syracuse in 1921 and for Wichita Falls (Texas) in 1922. In June 1922, he was acquired by the Cubs.

Name game

Adams was 28 when he made his big-league debut with the Cubs on Sept. 18, 1922, against the Dodgers at Brooklyn. Starting at second base, he singled twice versus future Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance. Boxscore

Three years later, when Rabbit Maranville became Cubs manager in July 1925, he met with Adams and, according to The Sporting News, said to him, “Say, Rabbit, we can’t have two Rabbits on this club … You’re a regular little sparkplug. So, from now on, you’re Sparky.”

The name stuck.

In November 1927, the Cubs sent Adams to the Pirates in a swap involving another future Hall of Famer, Kiki Cuyler. Two years later, the Cardinals purchased Adams’ contract from the Pirates.

In 1930, Adams, starting at third base, hit .314 with 36 doubles for the National League champions.

“He’s a darned pest at the plate,” Reds pitcher Red Adams told The Sporting News. “I’d rather pitch to Hack Wilson or Rogers Hornsby any time.”

Down and out

After losing four of six games to the Athletics in the 1930 World Series, the Cardinals came back and won the pennant again in 1931, clinching on Sept. 16.

Four days later, before a Sunday home game against the Dodgers, the teams staged a track and field meet. The promotional event featured a couple of 75-yard dashes, a bunt-and-run contest, a base-circling competition and a throwing contest, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

The players were competing for prizes totaling $240 cash, three radios and an automobile tire.

Adams, 37, won the bunt-and-run contest. After bunting a pitch, he scooted from the batter’s box to first base in 3.4 seconds, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

Trying to win $30 more in the base-circling competition, Adams was rounding first when he pulled up lame with a severely sprained left ankle.

Rookie Ray Cunningham started at third in place of Adams that day. The Cardinals’ catcher was their manager, Gabby Street, 10 days away from turning 49 and playing in a big-league game for the first time in 19 years. Boxscore

Andy High, a veteran utility player, started at third for the Cardinals in the final five games of the regular season.

Reserve strength

Adams, the smallest Cardinal, led the 1931 club in hits (178), runs (97) and doubles (a league-best 48). He also had the best fielding percentage among National League third basemen.

The Cardinals hoped his ankle would heal in time for him to play in the World Series, a rematch against the Athletics, but Andy High started at third in Game 1 on Oct. 1.

Another veteran backup, Jake Flowers, was the starter at third in Game 2.

With Lefty Grove pitching for the Athletics in Game 3, Adams, who hit .337 against left-handers during the season, returned to the lineup.

In the fifth, Adams fielded Bing Miller’s sharp grounder, but “limped painfully” after making the force play at second and was replaced the next inning by Flowers. Boxscore

Flowers started at third in Game 4 and Adams was back for Game 5. He led off the game with a single versus Waite Hoyt but couldn’t continue. Boxscore

Adams was done for the Series. After Flowers started Game 6, High was in the lineup for Game 7. High had three hits and scored twice, helping the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory and the championship. Boxscore

Adams was slowed by a knee injury in 1932. In May 1933, he was traded to the Reds in a deal that brought shortstop Leo Durocher to the Cardinals.

In 13 seasons in the majors, Adams batted .286 with 1,588 hits. For the Cardinals, Adams had 397 hits in 319 games and batted .297.


Read Full Post »

On the verge of giving up hope of reaching the major leagues, Ron Allen persevered and was given a chance by the Cardinals.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 15, 1971, in a swap of minor-leaguers, the Cardinals acquired Allen from the Mets for third baseman Bobby Etheridge.

A switch-hitting first baseman, Ron Allen was the younger brother of big-leaguers Dick Allen and Hank Allen.

Dick Allen was a prominent slugger who hit 34 home runs when he played for the Cardinals in 1970.

Ron Allen also had power, but hadn’t advanced out of the minor leagues since he signed with the Phillies in 1964.

In August 1972, nearly a year after the Cardinals dealt for him, Allen was 28 and in his ninth season in the minors when he got the call he had waited for so long.

All in the family

Four Allen brothers, Coy, Hank, Dick (also known as Rich or Richie) and Ron, were all-state high school basketball players in their hometown of Wampum, Pa., according to The Sporting News. All also were baseball standouts.

The oldest brother, Coy, went to work in the steel mills, Ron Allen told the Philadelphia Daily News. Hank, Dick and Ron got other opportunities.

Dick Allen was a 16-year-old amateur shortstop in 1958 when Phillies scout Johnny Ogden first saw him. “I knew this boy could be one of the great hitters,” Ogden told The Sporting News.

Determined to keep Dick Allen from getting away, the Phillies signed Hank Allen, 19, to a $4,000 contract in April 1960. Soon after, Dick Allen, 18, signed with the Phillies for $70,000. Both were right-handed batters.

Ron Allen, 21 months younger than Dick, tried to keep pace with him. A natural left-hander, Ron learned to hit from both sides of the plate in high school.

“We’ve always been as close as two brothers can be, both on and off the field,” Ron Allen told Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News. “In baseball, I played third and he played short the first two years we played. I hit third and he hit fourth. The year he signed with the Phillies, I hit cleanup and he hit third. I had a better average, around .500, but he hit about seven more homers than me.”

While Hank and Dick pursued professional baseball careers, Ron enrolled at Youngstown State in Ohio.

“Mom was determined there was going to be one Allen who went to college,” Ron told the Philadelphia Daily News. “Mom was pretty set on it.”

A history major, Ron Allen excelled in basketball and baseball at Youngstown State. After his junior year, he signed with the Phillies. At 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds, Ron was a prospect “with good power,” the Philadelphia Inquirer noted.

That same year, Dick Allen became the first of the Allen brothers to reach the majors, and he made an impact. Dick led the National League in extra-base hits and total bases in 1964 and won the Rookie of the Year Award.

Two years later, Hank Allen got to the big leagues with the Senators.

Down on the farm

Ron Allen spent his first three seasons (1964-66) in the Phillies’ system at the Class A level. At spring training in 1967, the Philadelphia Daily News reported, “No man in the Phillies camp can propel a baseball further than” Ron Allen, but “the rap on his hitting is he swings at too many bad balls and strikes out too much.”

“All I want to do is get to the big leagues,” Ron said. “I’ll shine shoes to get there if I have to.”

While Dick Allen thrived as a big-league slugger, Ron remained stuck in the minors. His sixth and best season in the Phillies’ system came in 1969 when he hit .300 with 25 home runs and 97 RBI for Class AA Reading.

After the season, Dick Allen, who had run-ins with Phillies management, was traded to the Cardinals.

Ron Allen, who spent winters working as a draftsman for the city engineering department in Youngstown, reported to Phillies spring training in 1970, but didn’t impress. “I don’t think he’s going to hit good pitching,” farm director Paul Owens told Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News.

On April 10, 1970, the Phillies traded Ron Allen to the Mets.

“I knew the Phillies wouldn’t give me a chance,” Ron told United Press International. “They said one Allen is enough. I was really happy to be traded.”

The Mets assigned him to the minor leagues. He hit 21 home runs in the Mets’ farm system in 1970 and 20 the next year before the Cardinals acquired him after the completion of the 1971 minor-league season.

The wait ends

Assigned to the Cardinals’ Class AAA Tulsa team in 1972, Ron hit .267 with 16 home runs and 51 RBI in 103 games.

On Aug, 7, 1972, the Cardinals released backup first baseman Donn Clendenon and opted to call up Ron to replace him.

Cardinals director of player development Bob Kennedy said Ron told him he had been considering quitting baseball, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Elated by the promotion, Ron said to Kennedy, “I don’t want four or five years in the major leagues. I just want one swing.”

Four nights later, on Aug. 11 against the Pirates, Ron made his major-league debut. Batting for pitcher Lowell Palmer, he struck out versus ex-Cardinal Nelson Briles. Boxscore

On Aug. 13, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Pirates, Ron started for the first time in the majors. Playing first base in place of Matty Alou, he was hitless in four at-bats versus Steve Blass. Boxscore

Ron’s highlight came on Aug. 17 at San Diego against the Padres. He entered the game in the eighth inning after Joe Torre, playing first base for an injured Alou, was ejected.

Leading off the ninth, Ron got his first big-league hit, a home run to right against reliever Mike Corkins.

“Allen hit a good pitch, low and away,” Corkins told the Post-Dispatch. “He used to hurt me in the minors, too.” Boxscore

Life after baseball

The home run was Allen’s only hit in the majors. In 14 plate appearances for the Cardinals, Ron had three walks and one hit, batting .091. The Cardinals released him to Tulsa on Sept. 5, 1972. Having achieved his goal of reaching the majors, Ron retired from baseball.

Ron told United Press International he was “grateful for what I got. It’s been a constant struggle just to make it to the top.”

That same year, Dick Allen, playing for the White Sox, led the American League in home runs and RBI, and won the Most Valuable Player Award. Hank Allen also played for the White Sox that season.

Hank finished his big-league career in 1973 and Dick’s last season was 1977.

Hank became a thoroughbred horse trainer and Ron was his stable foreman, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1989, Northern Wolf, a horse trained by Hank, raced in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Ron was inducted into the Youngstown State athletic hall of fame in 1990.

In 2010, when he was 66, Ron fulfilled a promise made to his mother and completed his college education, earning a bachelor’s degree in general studies from Youngstown State.


Read Full Post »

Relegated to long relief and mop-up roles with the Reds, Doug Bair got a chance to revive his career with the Cardinals.

Forty years ago, on Sept. 10, 1981, the Cardinals acquired Bair from the Reds for infielder Neil Fiala and pitcher Joe Edelen.

Durable and effective, Bair gained the confidence of manager Whitey Herzog and was a key contributor to the Cardinals’ World Series championship year in 1982.

Traveling man

A right-hander who pitched college baseball at Bowling Green, Bair was picked by the Pirates in the second round of the 1971 amateur draft.

In five seasons as a starting pitcher in the Pirates’ farm system, Bair “spent so much time in buses, he qualified for a Greyhound pension,” Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News noted.

In 1976, his sixth season in the minors, Bair became a reliever and pitched well enough to earn a promotion to the Pirates in September.

After the season, he was traded to Oakland. Bair got into 45 games for the 1977 Athletics and led them in saves (eight), but the team was out of contention by mid-July and finished in last place.

“Things got completely out of hand there,” Bair told the Dayton Daily News. “Some veterans were showing up 10 or 15 minutes before game time.”

The Athletics traded their ace, Vida Blue, to the Reds after the season, but commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the deal. So the Reds settled for Bair instead.

Bair impressed manager Sparky Anderson, who made him the Reds’ closer in 1978.

“He’s so smooth and easy,” Anderson told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Just like Don Gullett was. Smooth, easy, then flip. Pfffft. Boom. The fastball is right on top of you. You can’t sit on it or he’ll eat you alive with his breaking pitch.”

Bair was 7-6 with 28 saves and a 1.97 ERA for the 1978 Reds. He remained their closer at the beginning of the 1979 season, but manager John McNamara, who had replaced Anderson, switched to Tom Hume later in the year.

Change of scenery

In December 1980, Whitey Herzog, who had the dual role of Cardinals manager and general manager, was “talking in earnest” to the Reds about a proposed trade, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The Reds offered a package of pitchers, Bair, Mike LaCoss and Paul Moskau, for catcher Terry Kennedy, but Herzog opted to deal Kennedy to the Padres for reliever Rollie Fingers and others.

With Hume and Joe Price getting most of the meaningful relief work, Bair was moved to the back of the Reds’ bullpen in 1981.

Though Bair had a 5.77 ERA in 24 appearances for the 1981 Reds, Cardinals scout Mo Mozzali highly recommended him, Joe McDonald, executive assistant to Herzog, told the Post-Dispatch.

Seeking a reliable reliever to set up closer Bruce Sutter, the Cardinals took a chance on Bair.

“I know I can perform,” Bair said to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s really a new life for me.”

Back in step

After Bair, 32, reported to the Cardinals, pitching coach Hub Kittle detected a flaw in his delivery and made a fix.

“When I stepped back to get my left leg into rocking position, I was stepping toward first base entirely too much,” Bair told The Sporting News. “Now I step more straight back toward second. I’m lifting my leg more than swinging it. It keeps me more in balance.”

In his first appearance for the Cardinals, Bair pitched a scoreless inning against the Mets and got the win. Boxscore

Bair didn’t allow a run in his first six innings as a Cardinal. In 11 games for them in 1981, he was 2-0 with a save and a 3.45 ERA.

In April 1982, the Cardinals acquired another Reds reliever, Jeff Lahti. He joined, Sutter, Bair and Jim Kaat in giving the Cardinals a dependable bullpen.

Bair got off to a strong start (1-0, 1.04 ERA in April and 2-1, one save, 2.21 ERA in May) and was splendid in the stretch run (1-0, two saves, 1.65 ERA in September).

“He’s just as important to the team as I am,” Sutter said to The Sporting News.

Bair made 63 regular-season appearances for the 1982 Cardinals, and allowed only nine of 38 inherited runners to score. He yielded 69 hits in 91.2 innings.

“He’s worked very, very hard,” Kittle told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Lots of dedication. Doug Bair is as tough a son of a buck as you’ll ever find. A good man.”

Bair was 5-3 with eight saves and a 2.55 ERA in the regular season in 1982. He was the losing pitcher in Game 4 of the World Series against the Brewers.

Second title

In 1983, Bair was 1-1 with a save and a 3.03 ERA in 26 games for the Cardinals when they traded him in June to the Tigers, where he was reunited with manager Sparky Anderson.

Bair helped the Tigers to a World Series championship in 1984.

The Cardinals reacquired him in September 1985 to help in their pennant push. He pitched a total of two scoreless innings. After the season, Bair, 36, became a free agent and signed with the Athletics.

In 15 years in the majors with seven teams, Bair was 55-43 with 81 saves. He was 8-4 with 10 saves and a 2.72 ERA for the Cardinals, and 0-0 with six saves and a 3.86 ERA against the Cardinals.

Read Full Post »

Feeling ridiculed by the needling he got from former Cardinals teammates, Tim McCarver lashed out at a friend, Lou Brock, and started a fistfight with him.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 6, 1971, during a game between the Cardinals and Phillies at Philadelphia, McCarver punched Brock in the face on the field at Veterans Stadium. Brock fought back, swinging at McCarver and landing a couple of shots, before they wrestled to the ground and were separated.

The sight of influencers from Cardinals glory days tearing into one another was, as broadcaster Jack Buck put it, “a bit sickening,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bob Broeg noted.

A week later, McCarver and Brock got physical again _ not in a fight, but in a jarring collision at home plate. 

Sticks and stones

Brock and McCarver were integral players on Cardinals clubs that won three National League pennants and two World Series titles in the 1960s. After the 1969 season, McCarver was traded to the Phillies.

On Sept. 6, 1971, the Cardinals and Phillies had a Monday night doubleheader in the City of Brotherly Love. The opener matched pitchers Bob Gibson of the Cardinals against Rick Wise. Brock, the Cardinals’ left fielder, was in his customary leadoff spot. McCarver was the Phillies’ catcher and batted second.

The game was scoreless in the third when Brock led off with a single and stole second. After Ted Sizemore coaxed a walk, Matty Alou hit a pop fly in foul territory near the Cardinals’ dugout. McCarver dropped it for an error.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch, “McCarver was mad because of missing that pop-up.”

From the dugout and from the basepaths, Cardinals players heckled McCarver about botching the play.

“To say there was a little noise drifting out of the Cardinals’ dugout whenever McCarver was in earshot thereafter is to put it mildly,” the Philadelphia Daily News noted.

Cardinals first-base coach George Kissell said, “They were getting on Tim pretty good.”

Given the chance to continue his plate appearance, Alou drew a walk, loading the bases.

The next batter, Joe Torre, singled, scoring Brock and Sizemore. In his book, “Oh, Baby, I Love It,” McCarver said, “I was still burning from my error.”

When Brock got to the dugout, he continued to taunt McCarver, who had allowed more steals than any other National League catcher in 1971.

“Brock kept trying to show me up,” McCarver told the Post-Dispatch. “When Torre was on first base, Brock was yelling, ‘There he goes! There he goes!’ “

As The Sporting News noted, “The inference was McCarver’s arm was so bad that he couldn’t even throw out a slow runner like Torre.”

In his book, McCarver said, “I really snapped … I took my catching and throwing seriously.”

Unsympathetic, Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch, “It’s not anyone else’s fault that McCarver can’t throw anybody out.”

Brock said to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Frank Dolson, “Yelling, ‘There he goes!’ shouldn’t be enough to upset McCarver, who is one of the biggest agitators in the game.”

According to George Kissell, McCarver yelled to Brock, “We’re going to stick one in your ear.”

While McCarver stewed, Wise unraveled. He gave up a RBI-double to Ted Simmons and a three-run home run to Joe Hague before being replaced by rookie Manny Muniz.

McCarver’s miscue had opened the gates to a 6-0 Cardinals lead. Adding to the embarrassment, his former teammates laughed at him, he told the Post-Dispatch.

“Guys beating you 6-0 know better than to laugh at you,” McCarver said to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Regarding Brock, McCarver told Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News, “We played together long enough and he knows my boiling point … I just don’t like to be shown up.”

Macho man

Brock was the first batter for the Cardinals in the fourth. In his book, McCarver said, “I encouraged my pitcher, Manny Muniz, to intimidate Lou.”

“The first pitch crowded Brock back from the plate,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “The second pitch, another inside serve, also made him give ground.”

Brock took two or three steps in the direction of the mound. McCarver followed and heard Brock shout something to Muniz.

“I just asked Muniz, ‘What’s going on?,’ ” Brock said to the Post-Dispatch. “The kid was making me a dartboard.”

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, McCarver said Brock warned Muniz he’d come after him if another pitch came close.

“No, you’re not,” McCarver replied to Brock.

Brock turned and headed to the plate, his arms at his sides, when McCarver punched him.

“A sucker punch,” George Kissell told the Post-Dispatch.

“It was a sucker punch,” Bob Gibson agreed, “and I didn’t think much of it.”

Brock retaliated, landing a couple of punches, and then grabbed McCarver. They fell to the ground before being pulled apart by teammates.

“I’ve known McCarver since he was a kid, but I lost a lot of respect for him tonight,” Kissell said to the Post-Dispatch. “He shouldn’t let his emotions take over like that.”

What are friends for?

McCarver was ejected by plate umpire Al Barlick.

“I’m sorry the thing happened, but I felt I was right when I did it,” McCarver said to the Philadelphia Daily News. 

In his book, McCarver added, “I can’t say I’m proud of what I did, but I do have to say that put in the same situation I’m sure I would react the same way.

“In moments like that, however irrationally, your instincts simply take over.”

Brock told the Philadelphia Daily News, “I was surprised Tim punched at me, but sometimes these things just explode. Tim’s too much of a pro to do what he did, but when there’s a feeling of frustration you do strange things. I have no hard feelings against him.”

McCarver said, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s all over. He’s a good friend of mine.”

Long may you run

After McCarver’s ejection, Brock continued his plate appearance versus Muniz, drew a walk and swiped second against McCarver’s replacement, Mike Ryan.

Leadng off the bottom of the fourth, Ryan was the first batter Bob Gibson faced after the fight. Gibson’s first pitch to Ryan sailed over his head.

In the sixth, Brock reached on an error, stole second and was thrown out by Ryan attempting to steal third.

An inning later, the Phillies brought in their third-string catcher, rookie Pete Koegel, after Ryan was injured. Brock swiped second _ his fourth steal of the game _ against Koegel in the eighth. Boxscore

Encore performances

The next night, Sept. 7, the Cardinals and Phillies played the series finale, and emotions remained raw.

In the first inning, Brock walked, tried to steal second and was thrown out by McCarver.

Brock noted to the Post-Dispatch, “He threw me out trying to steal, and I didn’t go punching him.”

McCarver countered to the Philadelphia Daily News, “I threw him out, and I didn’t go prancing over to the dugout like King Kong.” Boxscore

Six days later, on Sept. 13, the Phillies were in St. Louis for a two-game series.

Before the opener, Bob Broeg asked McCarver whether he regretted punching Brock. McCarver replied, “From practically the very minute I threw the punch. It was, I’m afraid, a sucker punch and I’m not proud of it.”

McCarver added, “I was agitated and apparently misunderstood something Lou had said … I like to think that out of this unfortunate flare-up we’re better friends than before. I hope so.”

In that night’s game at Busch Memorial Stadium, McCarver “was lustily booed by a crowd that used to adore him,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

McCarver produced three hits, scored twice and threw out Dal Maxvill attempting to steal. Boxscore

Storybook stuff

Hollywood would have a tough time coming up with a better script for what happened in the Sept. 14 series finale.

In the first inning, Brock was awarded first base on catcher’s interference when McCarver accidentally tipped his bat. Brock stole second and advanced to third on McCarver’s errant throw. Matty Alou’s infield out scored Brock.

In the ninth, the Phillies led, 5-4, but the Cardinals had Brock on third with one out and their top run producer, Joe Torre, at the plate.

Facing Chris Short, Torre hit a fly ball to medium right. Willie Montanez, a former Cardinals prospect, caught it for the second out. Brock tagged and sped for the plate, trying to score the tying run.

The throw reached McCarver on a hop. McCarver snared it and spun around to tag Brock, who was barreling toward him.

“Brock went into McCarver like a NFL bomb-squader goes into a punt returner,” Bill Conlin wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News. “The collision was tremendous, McCarver getting flipped over backwards, Brock landing in a heap on the first-base side of the plate.”

McCarver held onto the ball and Brock was called out by umpire John McSherry, ending the game. Boxscore

As Phillies players congratulated McCarver, he “broke away from them and went for Brock, grabbed his hand and shook it,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“I told Lou to have a nice winter,” McCarver said.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »