Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Hobie Landrith was an undersized catcher with big desire.

At 5-foot-8, according to the Associated Press and his Topps baseball card, Landrith stood “about as tall as the bat boy,” the Baltimore Sun noted, but he played in the majors for 14 seasons, including two with the Cardinals.

A left-handed batter, he had many good games at St. Louis, both for and against the Cardinals. Landrith had more career hits (78) in St. Louis than he did in any other big-league city.

Though best known for being the first player the Mets took in the National League expansion draft, Landrith didn’t last a full season with them. He was 93 when he died on April 6, 2023.

Catching up

Hobart Landrith was born in Decatur, Ill., and moved with his family to metropolitan Detroit when he was 7. At 15, he served as a bating practice catcher for the Tigers.

In 1948, according to the Detroit Free Press, Landrith was one of two top high school catchers in Detroit. The other was Harry Chiti. Both became big-leaguers. (Landrith and Chiti were teammates on the 1956 Cubs and 1962 Mets).

After attending Michigan State for a year, Landrith signed with the Reds in 1949. Sent to their Tulsa farm club in 1950, Landrith broke a leg sliding into home plate in the season opener at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Tulsa World reported.

When he recovered, the Reds, needing a bullpen catcher, brought Landrith, 20, to Cincinnati. He impressed manager Luke Sewell, who put him on the roster. Landrith started four games for the Reds that summer.

After spending most of 1951 and 1952 in the minors, Landrith stuck with the Reds through 1955 as backup to Andy Seminick and then Smoky Burgess.

Flair for dramatic

For a player who hit .198 in 1954, Landrith had his share of standout performances. In May, his three-run home run against the Cardinals’ Gerry Staley sparked the Reds to victory. Boxscore Two months later, Landrith hit a walkoff home run in a 1-0 triumph over the Giants. Boxscore

Reds broadcaster and former pitcher Waite Hoyt referred to Landrith “with unabashed affection as Little Hobie because he’s been the sort of guy it’s always easy to root for,” the Dayton Journal Herald reported.

On Sept. 1, 1954, Landrith impressed with his glove _ and his courage _ when he took part in a promotional stunt and caught a baseball dropped 575 feet from a helicopter at Crosley Field. “It knocked me to the ground, ” Landrith told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “but I held on.”

Landrith received $500 for catching the ball.

(The record was set in 1938 when Indians catchers Hank Helf and Frank Pytlak each caught a ball dropped from atop the 708-foot Terminal Tower in Cleveland, the Associated Press reported.)

Second string in St. Louis

In November 1955, Landrith was traded to the Cubs and he made 90 starts for them in 1956. After the season, the Cubs dealt Landrith, pitchers Sam Jones and Jim Davis, and utilityman Eddie Miksis to the Cardinals for pitchers Tom Poholsky and Jackie Collum, catcher Ray Katt, and an infield prospect, Wally Lammers.

Cardinals general manager Frank Lane then tried to flip Landrith to the Reds for Smoky Burgess, but was turned down, the Associated Press reported.

Used primarily as a backup to Hal Smith, Landrith made 56 starts for the 1957 Cardinals. He hit .243 and nailed 14 of 30 runners attempting to steal.

Seeking a catcher with more pop, Bing Devine, Lane’s successor as Cardinals general manager, tried to swap Landrith to the Reds for Burgess after the 1957 season, but he was turned down, too, according to the Associated Press.

Landrith was the Cardinals’ Opening Day catcher in 1958, but most of the playing time that season went to Hal Smith (61 starts) and Gene Green (48). Landrith, who started 34 games, batted .215.

A highlight came on July 13, 1958, when Landrith had four hits and two RBI against the Pirates at St. Louis. (A lifetime .233 hitter in the majors, Landrith batted .313 versus the Pirates in his career.) Boxscore

A month later, Landrith walloped a game-winning home run in the eighth inning against the Phillies’ Turk Farrell at St. Louis. Boxscore

On Oct. 7, 1958, Landrith, pitcher Billy Muffett and third baseman Benny Valenzuela were traded to the Giants for pitchers Ernie Broglio and Marv Grissom.

Tall among Giants

Landrith twice had four-hit games for the Giants at St. Louis. The first was July 4, 1959. Boxscore The other came on Aug. 16, 1960, when Landrith had three doubles and a single against Bob Gibson and caught the four-hitter of rookie Juan Marichal, who was facing the Cardinals for the first time. Boxscore (Landrith also was the catcher when Marichal pitched a one-hit shutout versus the Phillies in his Giants debut. Boxscore)

“Hobie has helped me a lot, especially on gripping the ball so the batters can’t see if it’s going to be a fastball or a curve,” Marchial told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On Aug. 17, 1961, a spectacular catch by Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood robbed Landrith of an extra-base hit at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

With the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, in the eighth, the Giants had a runner on second when Landrith batted against Larry Jackson. “At least three Cardinals (in the dugout) grabbed towels and signaled Flood to shade farther to the right,” the San Francisco Examiner reported. “He took five steps and needed every one.”

Landrith drove a pitch to right-center. “I hit that ball as hard as I’ve ever hit any,” he said to the Post-Dispatch.

Flood told the newspaper, “I thought for sure the ball was going out.”

“Flood took off with his back to the infield all the way,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “About one step from the fence he timed his high leap perfectly and speared the ball.” Boxscore

An original

After being drafted by the expansion Mets, Landrith went to spring training with them in 1962. Crouched behind the plate in a game, he was struck on top of the head by the backlash of a batter’s big swing. After a few days on the sideline, Landrith returned and was knocked on the noggin by another batter’s backlash. “I’m three inches shorter than when I reported to camp,” he told Dick Young of the New York Daily News.

In the Mets’ first regular-season game, against the Cardinals, Landrith started, went hitless and made an errant throw to second on Julian Javier’s stolen base. Boxscore

Landrith’s Mets highlight came on May 12, 1962, when he hit a two-run walkoff home run at the Polo Grounds against the Braves’ Warren Spahn. The high fly down the line in right “just did make the railing of the upper deck as it fell almost straight down,” the New York Daily News reported. Boxscore

A month later, Landrith was traded to the Orioles as the player to be named in a deal for first baseman Marv Throneberry

In his second week with the Orioles, Landrith slugged a two-run walkoff home run against Dick Radatz of the Red Sox at Baltimore, earning a win for starter Robin Roberts. Landrith, Radatz and Roberts all attended Michigan State.

“Roberts leaped out of the Orioles dugout, jumped up and down, and gave Landrith a big bear hug as Hobie battled his way through congratulating teammates.” the Baltimore Sun reported. Boxscore

Read Full Post »

As a teen, Alan Foster was a pitching prospect being compared with Sandy Koufax. At 26, he was a pitching project hoping to get another chance to stick in the majors.

In 1973, the Cardinals threw a lifeline to Foster, inviting him to spring training as a non-roster pitcher. He made the most of the opportunity, earning a spot on the Opening Day pitching staff and working his way into the starting rotation.

A right-hander who made his big-league debut in 1967, Foster had his first winning season in the majors with the 1973 Cardinals. He achieved career highs that year in wins (13), innings pitched (203.2) and strikeouts (106).

By design

When Foster was a senior at Los Altos High School in Hacienda Heights, Calif., near Los Angeles, he struck out 188 batters in 99 innings and posted an ERA of 0.39, according to The Sporting News.

“What attracted the scouts was that, besides being able to throw very hard, I was accomplished in other aspects of pitching,” Foster told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I had good control. I could hit the corners. I knew how to pitch, in and out. I was able to make a lot of hitters look ridiculous.”

Foster’s father, a physician, told the scouts his son wanted to study architecture at UCLA and would opt for college unless offered a substantial contract, the Los Angeles Times reported.

On the recommendation of scout Ben Wade, the Dodgers selected Foster, 18, in the second round of the 1965 June amateur draft (ahead of catcher Johnny Bench). Foster signed after his father negotiated a $97,000 contract for him, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Orient express

In 1966, playing for manager Bob Kennedy at Albuquerque, Foster was 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA. The Dodgers, 1966 National League champions, brought Foster on their tour of Japan after the World Series. Pitching against Japanese all-star teams, Foster, 19, impressed, earning three wins and posting a 2.53 ERA in 32 innings pitched.

In a story headlined “Rookie Pitcher Steals Show on Dodgers Tour,” the Los Angeles Times described Foster’s pitching as “dazzling.”

“He has an easy motion like Sandy Koufax,” umpire Doug Harvey told the newspaper.

The Sporting News rated Foster’s pitches “as impressive as (a young) Koufax.”

(While in Japan, Foster met Cristina Rodriguez. Born and raised there, she was the daughter of a film distributor, according to the Post-Dispatch. Alan and Cristina married three years later.)

High expectations

Foster, 20, opened the 1967 season with the Dodgers. making his debut in relief against the Braves, The first batter he faced: Hank Aaron.

“I was going to try to show him I was not just another wild kid,” Foster said to Sports Illustrated. “Well, the first pitch went right over his head and the second one wasn’t much better. Now I’m two balls behind to Henry Aaron.”

Foster made another bad pitch, but Aaron swung and bounced out to shortstop Gene Michael. Foster pitched two scoreless innings. “I wasn’t nervous,” he told the Los Angeles Times, “but I sure was excited.” Boxscore

(For his career, Aaron batted .366 with 15 hits, including two home runs, against Foster.)

After another relief appearance, Foster was sent to Spokane to get starts. He pitched two no-hitters against the Angels’ Seattle farm team, winning both by 1-0 scores, and a two-hitter, striking out 15, versus the Cardinals’ Tulsa affiliate.

At Dodgers spring training in 1968, Foster was a center of attention. Under the headline, “Best Rookies of 1968,” Foster appeared on the cover of the March 11 Sports Illustrated, along with the Reds’ Johnny Bench, the Cardinals’ Mike Torrez, the Tigers’ Don Pepper (father of golf pro Dottie Pepper) and Cisco Carlos of the White Sox.

“Alan Foster is the man (Dodgers owner) Walter O’Malley hopes can help his team back into contention,” Sports Illustrated exclaimed. “When the Dodgers get high on a pitcher, the National League had best look out.”

At the annual Dodgers spring training party hosted by O’Malley and his wife Kay, pitcher Mudcat Grant sang to the accompaniment of teammates Foster and Tommy Hutton on guitars, The Sporting News noted.

It was a surprise when the Dodgers sent Foster back to Spokane.

Coming up short

Foster stuck with the Dodgers in 1969 but finished 3-9 with a 4.38 ERA.

One of his best performances that season came in a losing effort against the Cardinals. Foster held them to a run and three hits in eight innings, but Steve Carlton pitched a five-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory. Boxscore

“I guess I’m not very lucky,” Foster said to the Los Angeles Times. “That’s the best I’ve ever pitched in the major leagues … I can’t pitch any better than that.”

Three months later, the Pirates’ Willie Stargell launched a Foster curve more than 500 feet over the roof of the right field pavilion and into the parking lot, becoming the first batter to hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium. Describing the blast in the Los Angeles Times, Ross Newhan wrote, “It appeared to be Apollo 12.” Boxscore

After a 10-13 record and 4.26 ERA for the 1970 Dodgers, Foster was traded to the Cleveland Indians.

Humbling tumble

Before joining the Indians, Foster said he hurt his arm playing winter baseball in Mexico, the Post-Dispatch reported. Then, on the first road trip of the 1971 season, he damaged his right elbow lugging his luggage. “I had to nurse that along without telling anybody,” he said to the newspaper.

Traded to the Angels after finishing 8-12 for the 1971 Indians, Foster spent most of 1972 in the minors. “It humbled me,” Foster told The Sporting News. “It taught me not to take anything for granted. I matured then.”

Called up to the Angels in September 1972, Foster made three relief appearances. Cardinals player personnel director Bob Kennedy, who’d managed Foster at Albuquerque six years earlier, scouted him and liked what he saw. “He has a lot of desire now,” Kennedy told the Post-Dispatch.

Kennedy and Cardinals player development director Fred Koenig recommended Foster to general manager Bing Devine. The Cardinals purchased Foster’s contract in February 1973 and put him on a minor-league roster.

On the rise

At Cardinals spring training, Foster, 26, emerged as a force, posting a 1.61 ERA in 28 innings. “I couldn’t have done any better,” Foster told The Sporting News, “and if I had done a little worse, I probably wouldn’t have stayed with this club.”

After six relief appearances to start the 1973 season, Foster joined a starting rotation with Bob Gibson, Rick Wise and Reggie Cleveland.

In Foster’s first Cardinals start, at Dodger Stadium, Al Downing beat him, pitching a two-hit shutout. Foster got one of the hits. Boxscore

In his next start, Foster shut out the Expos on a four-hitter. He also singled twice, scored twice and had a sacrifice bunt. Boxscore

Foster finished 13-9 overall (13-7 as a starter) for the 1973 Cardinals. He had six complete games and two shutouts.

“This year, I finally began to have full command of my pitches,” Foster told The Sporting News. “I’ve cut down on the number of pitches and I’ve been ahead of most of the hitters. That’s the only way to pitch. When you get behind, a .300 hitter becomes a .600 hitter.”

Winding down

Foster had an inconsistent 1974 season for the Cardinals. He shut out the Giants and pitched a three-hitter against the Mets. Boxscore and Boxscore

He also twice produced three hits in a game. Boxscore and Boxscore

However, Foster lost five of his first six decisions. In June 1974, the Cardinals offered Foster, Mike Garman and Mike Tyson to the Cubs for shortstop Don Kessinger, but were turned down, The Sporting News reported. (The Cardinals acquired Kessinger for Garman in October 1975.)

Foster got his record to 7-7, then lost three in a row and was removed from the rotation in September 1974. Two months later, he was traded to the Padres.

In 10 seasons in the majors, Foster was 48-63 overall, 20-19 with the Cardinals.

Read Full Post »

Bob Uecker’s speed, whatever there was of it, was no match for the arm of Jesus Alou.

A perfect throw by Alou in a game against the Cardinals nailed Uecker at the plate, aiding a win for the Giants that moved them into sole possession of first place in the 1964 National League pennant race.

Alou, youngest of three brothers to play in the majors, was an outfielder and contact hitter who excelled against premier pitchers. St. Louis University students formed a fan club in his honor. He was 80 when he died on March 10, 2023.

Oh, brother

Jesus Alou was a right-handed pitcher when he joined the Giants’ Class D farm team at Hastings, Neb., in 1959. Alou, 17, “developed a sore arm and was sure he was about to be released,” the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported. Instead, he became an outfielder, the same position played by his brothers Felipe and Matty.

“I always thought that maybe they just kept me because Felipe and Matty were moving up and they didn’t want them to feel bad,” Alou told the newspaper.

All three Alou brothers were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. In his autobiography, “Alou: My Baseball Journey,” Felipe said, “Our home was the size of an average bedroom in the United States _ 15 by 15 feet _ some of it with an uneven cement floor, and the rest, particularly our kitchen floor, was dirt.”

Felipe recalled Jesus would take meat “right out of the pot when it was still cooking over an open fire. He loved meat and always seemed to have a ravenous appetite … Jesus was the one who grew the tallest and filled out the most.”

Felipe entered the Giants’ system in 1956 and Matty joined him a year later. Felipe reached the majors with the Giants in 1958 and Matty got there in 1960.

Jesus Alou hit .324 or better in four consecutive seasons in the minors before he was brought up to the Giants in September 1963.

In Jesus Alou’s debut against the Mets, he, Matty and Felipe batted consecutively in the eighth inning (Jesus and Matty as pinch-hitters) and became the first trio of brothers to appear in the same big-league game. Boxscore

Five days later, Felipe (in center), Matty (in left) and Jesus (in right) were the Giants outfielders for two innings in a game against the Pirates. Boxscore

In his book, Felipe said, “People have asked me what I felt. Pride, to some degree, but mostly what I felt was an overwhelming sense of responsibility to look out for my younger brothers. I was more concerned for them than anything.”

After seeing Jesus Alou play, Giants manager Al Dark told the San Francisco Examiner, “He’ll be something special one of these days, perhaps next year.”

The three Alou brothers appeared in a game together eight times, but never started a game together.

After the season, Felipe was traded to the Braves and Dark said Jesus would get first crack at Felipe’s right field job. “In Dark’s expert opinion, (Jesus) is destined to become a better all-around ballplayer than Felipe, a development which would qualify him to rub shoulders with the best in the business,” the Examiner noted.

Forgive me, Father

A son of a carpenter _ naturally _ Alou was the first player in the majors to be named Jesus. Some of the less enlightened had a devil of a time accepting this.

“In the Dominican Republic, as well as elsewhere in Latin America, the name Jesus is a common one, but in this country … the name is sacred to the Savior and a jarring note is struck when the name is not so honored,” Examiner columnist Prescott Sullivan wrote in March 1964.

“It’s a grand name, a wonderful name, and Jesus Alou wears it proudly,” Sullivan wrote, but “we’ve been thinking that what Jesus Alou needs is a nickname.”

Sullivan suggested Alou should be called “Jay or Jess or even Chi Chi.”

(Sullivan provided playwright Neil Simon with the inspiration for the Oscar Madison character in “The Odd Couple,” according to the Associated Press.)

Sullivan contacted several San Francisco holy men, who told him that, by God, they agreed with the notion that Alou should not be called by his given name.

Monsignor Eugene Gallagher, director of the Catholic Youth Organization, confessed, “A nickname for Alou would eliminate the danger of disrespect for a name sacred to our Savior.” A spokesman for Episcopal Bishop James Pike of Grace Cathedral said, “It would be simpler all around to call him by a name other than the one given to our Lord.” Rabbi Alvin Fine of Temple Emanuel offered, “For baseball purposes, I’d rather call him Butch.”

The advice was taken as gospel. Some broadcasters and reporters referred to the player as Jay Alou instead of Jesus.

Good impressions

On May 28, 1964, Alou was the left fielder for the Giants at St. Louis. In the seventh inning, the Cardinals led, 1-0, and had Bob Uecker on second when Carl Warwick lined a single to left. “With two out, we had to try for the run and send Uecker in,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We had to hope for a wide throw, or a bounce that got past the catcher.”

Instead, Alou charged the ball, scooped it on one hop and fired a strike on the fly to catcher Del Crandall, who was waiting when Uecker slid into the tag. “That ball passed Uecker like a roadrunner,” coach Vern Benson said to the Post-Dispatch.

In the next inning, Willie Mays hit a Curt Simmons pitch off a girder in right-center for a two-run home run. The Giants won, 2-1, and moved into first place. Boxscore

(Mays “used to play cards with us all the time,” Jesus Alou told the Fort Launderdale Sun-Sentinel. “Every time he won, he gave us our money back.”)

Two months later, Alou had six hits (five singles and a home run) in a game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

The Giants stayed in contention but finished three games behind the champion Cardinals.

The next year, Alou had 22 hits, including five doubles and two home runs, in 18 games against the 1965 Cardinals.

When the Giants played at St. Louis on June 28, 1966, a fan club of 48 graduate students from St. Louis University came to Busch Memorial Stadium and supported Alou with banners and cheers, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Alou had three hits in the game, scored twice and stole a base, then posed for pictures with the students. He hit .333 versus the Cardinals in 1966. Boxscore

Close call

After the 1968 season, Alou was chosen in the National League expansion draft by the Expos, who flipped him to the Astros for Rusty Staub.

In a June 1969 game against the Pirates, Alou fractured his jaw in a collision with shortstop Hector Torres while chasing a pop fly. On the ground, Alou “looked like he was dead,” Astros player Denis Menke told the Associated Press.

Alou swallowed his tongue and struggled to breathe before Pirates trainer Tony Bartirome “pulled Alou’s tongue up, inserted an inflationary tube in his throat and blew into it to open the passage,” Astros trainer Jim Ewell told the wire service.

Alou recovered and in 1970 he hit .306 for the Astros and .460 (17-for-37) against the Cardinals. In a May 1 game at St. Louis, he had three hits, three RBI and two runs scored. Boxscore

In 1971, the Cardinals acquired Matty Alou from the Pirates. In a game at Houston that year, Matty had two hits for the Cardinals and Jesus had three for the Astros. Boxscore

Bruce Bochy, who went on to manage the Giants to three World Series championships, began his professional playing career in the Astros’ system. In Felipe Alou’s book, Bochy said, “When I was a player, Jesus Alou was a guy who took me under his wing _ something I will never forget. I would sit next to Jesus in the dugout whenever I had the chance, soaking in his sage wisdom.”

In his book “I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally,” Jim Bouton said Astros teammate Jesus Alou “is one of the most delicate, sensitive, nicest men I have ever met. He’d walk a mile out of his way to drop a coin in some beggar’s cup.”

Playing to win

In 1973 and 1974, Jesus Alou got to play in two World Series for the champion Athletics. The manager of the 1974 team was Al Dark. Jesus was joined on the A’s by an Angel, fellow reserve outfielder Angel Mangual.

Jesus Alou played 15 seasons in the majors and had 1,216 hits. He was at his best against some future Hall of Famers, batting .436 (24-for-55) against Steve Carlton, .370 (17-for-46) against Don Sutton, .353 (12-for-34) against Sandy Koufax and .333 (14-for-42) against Tom Seaver.

After his playing days, Jesus Alou was a scout for the Expos, and then director of Dominican Republic operations for the Marlins and later the Red Sox.

Read Full Post »

For a guy who hit .154 in the 1964 World Series, Yankees first baseman Joe Pepitone was at the center of several significant plays against the Cardinals.

Pepitone got hit by a Bob Gibson pitch at a key moment in Game 2, lined a ball that struck Gibson in Game 5, and belted a grand slam in Game 6.

The Cardinals prevailed in seven games, but Pepitone wasn’t done with them. After he joined the Cubs in 1970, Pepitone thrived against the Cardinals. A career .258 hitter in the majors, Pepitone batted .331 in 36 regular-season games versus the Cardinals.

Pepitone also played for, and had conflicts with, former Cardinals managers Johnny Keane and Harry Walker.

A power hitter and Gold Glove fielder who had a well-earned reputation as a carouser, Pepitone played for the Yankees, Astros, Cubs and Braves. He was 82 when he died on March 13, 2023.

Survival skills

In spring 1958, Pepitone, 17, was approached at his Brooklyn high school by an acquaintance who displayed a .38 Colt revolver and simulated a hold-up. The gun discharged and a slug ripped through Pepitone and came out his back. A priest administered last rites before Pepitone was rushed into surgery.

In his book, “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud,” Pepitone said, “I was in surgery for nine hours. The bullet had struck a rib and caromed out my lower back, missing three vital organs by inches.”

He spent 12 days in the hospital. Soon after, Pepitone’s father, Willie, 39, died from complications following a heart attack.

In August 1958, the Yankees signed Pepitone for $25,000. He said in his book he splurged on a Thunderbird, a speedboat and several silk suits.

Four years later, in April 1962, Pepitone reached the majors. His first hit, a single, came against a future Hall of Famer, Jim Bunning. After the season, the Yankees traded first baseman Bill Skowron, opening the door for Pepitone to replace him in 1963. On Opening Day, he smacked two home runs. Boxscore

Pepitone, 22, had 27 home runs for the 1963 Yankees and led the club in RBI (89) and total bases (260). He followed that with 28 home runs and 100 RBI for the 1964 Yankees.

The Yankees won their fifth consecutive American League pennant in 1964 and faced the Cardinals in the World Series.

Bad actor

The Cardinals won Game 1 and part of the reason was Pepitone’s inability to deliver on scoring chances. In the fifth and seven innings, he batted with two runners on base and made the final outs both times. Boxscore

In Game 2, with the score tied at 1-1 and Mickey Mantle on first, Bob Gibson threw a pitch low and inside to Pepitone. “I was going to swing at the ball, but then it started coming in on me and I checked my swing,” Pepitone told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Plate umpire Bill McKinley said the ball struck Pepitone in the right thigh and awarded him first base, with Mantle moving to second. The Cardinals argued the ball hit Pepitone’s bat first. “That play was the turning point of this game,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane told the Associated Press.

The next batter, Tom Tresh, singled, scoring Mantle and giving the Yankees the lead. They went on to win. Boxscore and Video at 12:22 mark

During batting practice before Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, Pepitone spotted Cardinals first baseman Bill White near third base. Pepitone had a photo of he and White together before Game 1, and wanted White to autograph it.

“So Pepitone, emerging from the first base dugoout, limped pitiably all the way to third base,” the New York Times reported. “The Cardinals whooped and sneered. Pepitone limped harder. The Cardinals couldn’t avoid laughing.”

“If that ball hit you,” Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver yelled out, “you’ve got a wooden leg.”

White autographed the photo and Pepitone headed back to the dugout, but forgot to limp. When the Cardinals called him on it, Pepitone began “limping worse than ever,” the Times noted.

Then, according to the New York Daily News, White hollered, “Hey, you’re limping on the wrong leg,”

“Oops,” said Pepitone, who switched his limp.

On his first trip to the plate in Game 3, Pepitone was decked by Curt Simmons’ first pitch. He also had to spin away from two other Simmons pitches, the Daily News noted.

Throughout the game, “Cardinals bench jockeys gave Pepitone a solid riding every time he came to bat,” The Sporting News reported.

Crucial out

The Cardinals, with Gibson pitching, led, 2-0, in the ninth inning of Game 5. With Mantle on first and one out, Pepitone hit a hard liner that struck Gibson in the right hip. As the ball darted toward the third base line, Gibson “was off the mound in a flash, grabbed the ball and fired off balance” to White at first base, The Sporting News reported.

When umpire Al Smith called Pepitone out, the Yankees argued. (Film clips “show Smith was correct in calling him out,” the Daily News reported.)

The next batter, Tom Tresh, hit a home run, tying the score. If not for Gibson’s play, Pepitone would have joined Mantle on the bases and Tresh’s homer would have won the game for the Yankees. Instead, the Cardinals prevailed on Tim McCarver’s home run in the 10th. Boxscore and Video

Rare feat

In Game 6 at St. Louis, the Yankees led, 4-1, when Pepitone faced Gordon Richardson with the bases loaded in the eighth. Twice, with the count 2-and-2, Pepitone fouled off balls “that just skipped off McCarver’s glove,” according to the Post-Dispatch. Then he hit a grand slam onto the roof in right. Boxscore and Video at 2:45 mark

Pepitone became the 10th player to hit a World Series grand slam, The Sporting News noted. Ken Boyer did it for the Cardinals in Game 4. The 1964 World Series was the second to have two grand slams. In 1956, Bill Skowron and Yogi Berra did it for the Yankees versus the Dodgers.

Authority issues

After the Cardinals clinched the championship in Game 7, Johnny Keane resigned and became Yankees manager. In his autobiography, Pepitone said, “Keane and I didn’t hit it off from the beginning.”

Pepitone said Keane fined him multiple times. Keane also benched him indefinitely for reporting late to the ballpark and failing to take batting practice, the Associated Press reported.

“There was a moment in 1965 when I came close to punching Johnny Keane,” Pepitone said in his book.

Pepitone was deep in debt in 1965, he said in his book, and trying to hide from bill collectors. Near the end of the season, he said, Yankees general manager Ralph Houk convinced him to enter a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

“For me, the 1965 baseball season was one long agonizing scream,” Pepitone said in his book. “I tried to muffle it with endless partying and rebelling against authority. Before the season was over, I was feeling my mind snap, crack, pop at any minute.”

Keane was fired in May 1966. Pepitone led the Yankees that season in home runs (31), RBI (83), runs scored (85) and total bases (271).

Pepitone also got attention for what was considered a bold step in a macho culture _ using a hairdryer in the clubhouse. A prankster teammate slipped “some baby powder in the thing,” he told the Associated Press in 1968. “You should have seen the mess when I turned it on.”

After hitting 27 home runs in 1969, Pepitone was traded to the Astros for Curt Blefary. The trade reunited Pepitone with former Yankees teammate Jim Bouton. In his book, “Ball Four,” Bouton wrote about how Pepitone wore two hairpieces, one for ballgames and another for going out on the town. Pepitone opened a men’s hair styling boutique in New York and was looking to franchise the business, the New York Daily News reported.

The Astros’ manager, Harry Walker, had been a Cardinals manager (1955) and coach on Keane’s staff (1961-62). Walker and Pepitone didn’t get along either.

Pepitone hit 14 home runs in 279 at-bats for the 1970 Astros, but in July he was told by Walker he no longer could room alone on road trips. Fed up with what he considered petty rules, Pepitone walked out on the team and asked to be put on the voluntary retirement list. In his book, Pepitone said, “I couldn’t stand Harry Walker and all his rules and regulations.”

Placed on waivers, Pepitone was claimed by the Cubs.

Moving on

Leo Durocher, the Cubs manager, put Pepitone in center field and he did well. He produced 12 home runs and 44 RBI in 213 at-bats for the 1970 Cubs and made one error in 459 innings in center.

The next year, primarily playing first base, Pepitone hit .307 for the Cubs and .411 (23-for-56) against the Cardinals. In three home games versus the Cardinals from June 18-20, Pepitone was 8-for-9 with three walks, a hit by pitch, and seven runs scored. June 18 Boxscore June 19 Boxscore June 20 Boxscore

His success versus the Cardinals extended to 1972, when he hit .438 (7-for-16) against them. During that season, Durocher left and replaced Harry Walker as Astros manager.

One of Pepitone’s last big games came against the Cardinals on April 15, 1973, when he had five RBI and scored three runs. “Pepitone can play well,” Cubs manager Whitey Lockman told the Post-Dispatch. “It depends whether he wants to.” Boxscore

A month later, Pepitone, 33, was dealt to the Braves. He played in three games for them, the last against the Cardinals, and quit. “I’d had it with major league baseball,” Pepitone said in his book. “I just didn’t have any feeling for the game.”

The next year, he went to Japan, didn’t like it, hurt his ankle and played in 14 games before seeking his release.

Read Full Post »

Getting dealt by a World Series champion put Dave Duncan and George Hendrick on a course toward helping the Cardinals win three World Series titles.

On March 24, 1973, the Athletics traded Duncan and Hendrick to the Indians for Ray Fosse and Jack Heidemann.

Duncan, a catcher, and Hendrick, an outfielder, played in the 1972 World Series for the Athletics, who prevailed in seven games against the Reds. Each wanted to be traded, but for a different reason. Duncan felt unappreciated and feuded with Athletics owner Charlie Finley. Hendrick wanted a chance to play every day.

The trade to Cleveland gave Duncan and Hendrick the opportunities they sought and positioned them for success with World Series champions in St. Louis _ Duncan as a coach for the 2006 and 2011 Cardinals and Hendrick as a player for the 1982 club.

Fed up

Duncan was the Athletics’ Opening Day catcher in 1972, slugging a home run against Bert Blyleven, but Gene Tenace replaced him in the last five weeks of the season. Though Duncan hit for power (19 home runs) and ranked second among American League catchers in fielding percentage (.993) in 1972, he batted .218.

Tenace was the starting catcher in the first six games of the 1972 World Series and hit four home runs, but manager Dick Williams shifted him to first base for Game 7 and put his best catcher, Duncan, behind the plate. Duncan threw out Joe Morgan attempting to steal second, Tenace drove in two runs, and the Athletics won, 3-2. Boxscore

Duncan, who was paid $30,000 in 1972, wanted $50,000 in 1973, $10,000 more than what Finley offered, The Sporting News reported. When Duncan remained unsigned during 1973 spring training, the Athletics looked to trade him, an action Duncan welcomed.

“I didn’t have a very good relationship with Finley,” Duncan said to The Sporting News. “We didn’t share the same philosophy. One of the things I’ve learned from Finley is how I don’t want to live my life. I consider myself a human being with an identity of my own, and I think he tries to strip this away from everyone surrounding him.

“Part of our bad relationship is that he never took the time to listen to me like a human being, and that’s all I ever wanted him to do _ listen to me.”

Unlimited potential

Hendrick made his big-league debut with the Athletics in June 1971 and primarily was a backup to Reggie Jackson. When Jackson was injured during the decisive Game 5 of the 1972 American League Championship Series, Hendrick replaced him and scored the winning run in the pennant-clinching victory versus the Tigers. Boxscore

With Jackson sidelined, Hendrick started in center in each of the first five games of the 1972 World Series. The Athletics won three of those.

“He’s on the threshold of being a star in this game,” Athletics manager Dick Williams told the Associated Press. “He can run, throw and hit with power to all fields. I’m not afraid to put him anywhere in my outfield. Whenever anyone talks trade with us, they mention Hendrick. We won’t even talk about him.”

Let’s make a deal

The Athletics changed their minds about not trading Hendrick when the Indians expressed a willingness to deal catcher Ray Fosse, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner. Though there were some who thought Fosse’s left shoulder never fully recovered from a 1970 All-Star Game collision with Pete Rose, the Athletics liked the idea of having him behind the plate and moving Tenace to first base.

“I’ve long had an eye on Fosse,” Finley told the San Francisco Examiner. “I consider him second only to Johnny Bench as an all-around outstanding catcher.”

To obtain Fosse, the Indians insisted on Hendrick being part of the deal. “They wouldn’t have gone for the trade, not one bit, if we offered Duncan even up,” Finley said to the Examiner. “Putting Hendrick in the pot was what did it.”

Comparing Hendrick to a young Hank Aaron, Indians manager Ken Aspromonte told The Sporting News, “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, George can’t do if he puts his mind to it.”

Hendrick said he wanted to be traded after Finley told him he’d open the 1973 season in the minors, The Sporting News reported. Duncan told the Examiner, “The A’s soured on Hendrick because they believed him to be lazy, but I don’t feel he is. What’s more, he has marvelous all-around talent.”

Five days after the trade, in a spring training game at Mesa, Ariz., in which orange baseballs were used as an experiment, Hendrick hit three home runs versus the Athletics. Two of the homers came against Catfish Hunter. Fosse also hit a home run in the game against his friend, Gaylord Perry.

Opportunity knocks

With Fosse as their catcher, the Athletics won two more World Series championships in 1973 and 1974. The trade helped Duncan and Hendrick, too. Duncan got to be a leader on the field, and Hendrick got to prove he could be a productive player.

“Being traded was the only answer to my problems,” Duncan told The Sporting News. “I had lost my taste for the game, but now I expect it to be fun again.”

Displaying leadership qualities that would make him a successful coach, Duncan earned the respect of his Indians teammates and manager Ken Aspromonte.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Aspromonte told the Sacramento Bee. “So I let him run things for me on the field. He moves the players around on defense and he always lets me know how the pitchers are doing _ whether to lift them or keep them in. I listen to him because I trust his judgment very much. I admire the fact that he tells the truth. He knows this game, and he doesn’t hesitate to tell me what he sees.”

Hendrick told The Sporting News, “We’re especially better because of Duncan.”

Hendrick was a big contributor, too. On April 17, 1973, he lined a pitch from the Brewers’ Billy Champion that carried 455 feet into the center field bleachers at Cleveland Stadium. Indians pitching coach Warren Spahn told The Sporting News, “We retrieved the ball and, so help me, it was flat where George hit it.” Boxscore

Two months later, Hendrick hit home runs in three consecutive at-bats against the Tigers’ Woodie Fryman, then drove in the winning run in the ninth with a single. Boxscore

Unfortunately, both Duncan and Hendrick fractured their right wrists when hit by pitches. Duncan, struck by Don Newhauser of the Red Sox, was sidelined from June 29 through Aug. 17. Hendrick missed the rest of the 1973 season after being struck by the Royals’ Steve Busby on Aug. 14.

Winning touch

Duncan played two seasons with the Indians, then was traded to the Orioles for Boog Powell in February 1975. (Eleven months later, the Indians reacquired Fosse from the Athletics.)

Hendrick spent four seasons with the Indians, topping 20 home runs in three of those, before being dealt to the Padres.

The Cardinals acquired Hendrick in 1978 and four years later he helped them win a World Series title. Hendrick hit .321 in the 1982 World Series against the Brewers and drove in the winning run in Game 7. Boxscore (Gene Tenace also was a member of that Cardinals championship team.)

Duncan became a prominent pitching coach on teams managed by Tony La Russa. With Duncan as their pitching coach, the Athletics won three American League pennants (1988-90) and a World Series title (1989).

In 1996, La Russa’s first season as Cardinals manager, Duncan was pitching coach and Hendrick was hitting coach. The Cardinals won a division title that year for the first time since 1987.

Hendrick joined the Angels’ coaching staff in 1998. He went on to coach for 14 seasons in the majors, primarily with the Rays.

With Duncan as their pitching coach, the Cardinals won three National League pennants (2004, 2006, 2011) and two World Series championships (2006 and 2011). He spent 34 years in the majors as a coach.

Read Full Post »

Dan McGinn didn’t sign with the Cardinals when they drafted him, but they got to know one another quite well.

A left-handed pitcher, McGinn did some of his best work against the Cardinals during his first full season in the majors with the 1969 Expos, a National League expansion team.

McGinn was 2-1 with a save and a 1.29 ERA in six relief appearances versus the 1969 Cardinals. In both wins, he delivered hits that were pivotal to the outcomes.

In five seasons in the majors, McGinn pitched with the Reds, Expos and Cubs. He was the first Expos player to hit a home run in the regular season, and he was the winning pitcher in their first home game. He finished his playing career in the Cardinals’ system. McGinn was 79 when he died on March 1, 2023.

A touch of blarney

McGinn earned varsity letters in baseball, basketball and football at Cathedral High School in Omaha. A quarterback, he signed a letter-of-intent to accept a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

When McGinn changed his mind and took a scholarship offer from Notre Dame head coach Joe Kuharich instead, Nebraska head coach Bob Devaney said the quarterback was making a mistake. “We play his type of football and Notre Dame does not,” Devaney told United Press International.

In 1963, McGinn’s sophomore year and his first varsity season, junior John Huarte was Notre Dame’s quarterback. Hugh Devore, who replaced Kuharich as head coach, made McGinn the punter. The left-handed passer was a right-footed kicker. After the football season, McGinn pitched for Notre Dame’s baseball team and was 5-2 as a sophomore.

Ara Parseghian, Notre Dame’s third head coach in three years, took over in 1964 and immediately revived the football program. Parseghian built an offense around two seniors, Huarte and receiver Jack Snow. He also gave Snow the punting duties. Huarte won the Heisman Trophy and Snow was an all-America. McGinn was a backup to Snow.

McGinn’s chance to shine came on the baseball field. He was 8-3 his junior season. The Cardinals chose him in the 21st round of the June 1965 amateur draft. “The Cards wanted me to sign right away, but I felt I had to get my degree,” McGinn told the Dayton Daily News.

He said no to the Cardinals, and returned to Notre Dame for his senior year. With Jack Snow gone to the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, Parseghian made McGinn the punter for the 1965 team. “It was a great privilege to play for Ara Parseghian,” McGinn told the Tampa Times. “He’ll do anything to help any of his players.”

In January 1966, a month after the football season ended, the Reds selected McGinn in the first round of the secondary phase of the amateur draft. When the Reds agreed to let McGinn remain at Notre Dame to complete the work for his degree before reporting to the minors, he signed with them.

Signing the contract meant he had to give up his senior baseball season at Notre Dame, but he did graduate in June with a degree in communication arts.

Rude welcome

Assigned to Class AA Knoxville, McGinn was put in the starting rotation and had a 5.23 ERA in 1966 and a 6-13 record in 1967. “Frankly, we’d given up on McGinn as a major-league prospect,” Reds general manager Bob Howsam told the Dayton Daily News.

The Reds sent McGinn to the Class AA Asheville (N.C.) Tourists in 1968 and it changed the course of his career. Asheville manager Sparky Anderson and pitching coach Bunky Warren converted McGinn into a reliever and he flourished.

McGinn posted a 2.29 ERA in 74 appearances for Asheville, winner of the Southern League championship. Bunky Warren “helped Dan McGinn more than anyone knows,” Sparky Anderson told The Sporting News.

On Sept, 3, 1968, McGinn was called up to the Reds. He arrived at Crosley Field in Cincinnati just as that night’s game against the Cardinals was starting, and slipped into a uniform with no time for introductions to his new teammates.

In the 10th inning, manager Dave Bristol sent McGinn to run the bases for first baseman Don Pavletich. In the 11th, McGinn, who never had played in a pro game outside the Southern League, was on the mound, facing the Cardinals.

He walked the first batter, Ed Spiezio, on five pitches, “and then, as the nervous lefty worked the count to 2-and-0 on Lou Brock, Bristol replaced him with Billy McCool,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. McCool completed a walk to Brock (charged to McGinn), and the Cardinals went on to score twice in the inning.

McGinn was the losing pitcher in his initiation to the majors. Asked why he chose to use McGinn with the game on the line, Bristol told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “He has to be baptized in the big league sometime.” Boxscore

Tres bien

A month later, the Expos selected McGinn in the National League expansion draft.

In their first regular-season game, on April 8, 1969, against the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York, McGinn relieved starter Mudcat Grant in the second inning. In the fourth, facing Tom Seaver, McGinn broke a 3-3 tie with his first big-league hit, a home run at the 371-foot mark in right. Video

“It was a one-in-a-million shot,” McGinn told the Montreal Star. “I just guessed fastball on the first pitch and let ‘er rip.” Boxscore

A week later, the Cardinals were the opponent for the Expos’ first home game. McGinn relieved the starter, ex-Cardinal Larry Jaster, in the fourth and pitched 5.1 scoreless innings for the win, his first in the majors. The feat was extra sweet, coming against the team that beat him in his debut. “I’ve waited for this chance to get even and it sure feels good,” McGinn told the Montreal Star.

McGinn’s single in the seventh against Gary Waslewski scored ex-Cardinals prospect Coco Laboy and broke a 7-7 tie. Boxscore

The King and I

When the Expos came to St. Louis for the first time a week later, McGinn was involved in a game-deciding controversy.

With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals had the bases loaded, two outs, when McGinn was brought in to face Tim McCarver. After McGinn made five warmup tosses, McCarver asked plate umpire Shag Crawford to examine the ball. Crawford tossed the ball away and gave McGinn another “that was slicker than Yul Brynner’s scalp,” McGinn told the Montreal Star.

McGinn asked for a different ball but the request was denied. McGinn then purposely heaved his final warmup pitch over the head of catcher John Bateman and into the screen, hoping to have it removed from the game, the Star reported.

Crawford kept the ball in play. “Next, Bateman rubbed it against his shoe to get black polish on it and force Crawford to change the ball,” the Star reported.

Crawford tossed out the ball but gave McGinn another shiny one.

McGinn worked the count to 3-and-2 on McCarver, then walked him on a pitch high and inside, forcing in the winning run. McGinn blamed himself, not the ball. “I just couldn’t get the ball over (the plate),” McGinn said to the Star. Boxscore

That sinking feeling

McGinn’s second win against the Cardinals in 1969 was a lot like his first. On June 26 at Montreal, McGinn pitched 6.2 innings in relief, allowing one unearned run, and sparked a two-run rally in the sixth with a single against Ray Washburn.

Of the 20 outs McGinn recorded, only one was on a fly ball to an outfielder. The rest were strikeouts or “dime store ground balls,” the Montreal Gazette noted.

“When McGinn’s sinker is right, you’ll see 9,000 ground balls and some strikeouts,” Expos catcher Ron Brand told the Post-Dispatch. “There was no way anyone could have hit some of McGinn’s sinkers in the air.” Boxscore

After pitching in 88 games in 1968 (74 for Asheville and 14 for the Reds), McGinn pitched in 74 for the 1969 Expos _ a total of 162 appearances over two seasons.

Lamb to lion

McGinn had a dreadful beginning to the 1970 season. His ERA after 11 relief appearances was 11.77.

On May 11, Expos rookie Carl Morton (3-0, 2.64 ERA) was scheduled to start against Tom Seaver (6-0, 2.10) and the Mets. Seaver had won 16 consecutive regular-season decisions dating to August 1969.

Expos manager Gene Mauch preferred saving Morton for an easier matchup, so he picked McGinn to start against Seaver.

“He was the lamb being led to slaughter,” Red Foley wrote in the New York Daily News, “but apparently neither the Mets nor Tom Seaver were informed of the scheduled sacrifice. As far as they’re concerned, the lamb turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

McGinn pitched a three-hit shutout for the win. Mauch told The Sporting News, “He’s the most enigmatic young man I’ve ever met.” Boxscore

Two months later, McGinn was matched against Bob Gibson in a start at St. Louis. Like McGinn, Gibson was born and raised in Omaha. McGinn played against Gibson in an Omaha industrial basketball league, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In the third inning, with the score tied at 1-1, the Cardinals had the bases loaded, two outs and Mike Shannon at the plate. McGinn threw a wild pitch, resulting in a run. It turned out to be the decisive run in the Cardinals’ 2-1 triumph. Boxscore

In April 1972, McGinn was traded to the Cubs, and a year later he was sent to the minors. The Cardinals acquired him on May 26, 1973, and McGinn, 29, spent the rest of that season, his last, with their farm club in Tulsa.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »