Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Cookie Rojas was supposed to be a 1970s version of Jose Oquendo for the Cardinals, but it didn’t work out.

Fifty years ago, on June 13, 1970, the Cardinals traded Rojas to the Royals for a minor-league outfielder, Fred Rico. The deal brought an unsatisfactory end to an unexpectedly short stint with the Cardinals for Rojas.

After acquiring Rojas from the Phillies in the October 1969 trade involving Richie Allen, Curt Flood and Tim McCarver, the Cardinals envisioned him as a valuable role player in 1970.

Like Oquendo did with the Cardinals in the 1980s and 1990s, Rojas played all nine positions for the Phillies in the 1960s. The Cardinals projected Rojas to back up second baseman Julian Javier and shortstop Dal Maxvill, and to help out at third base after Mike Shannon was sidelined because of a kidney ailment.

Instead of being a Secret Weapon, as Oquendo was nicknamed, Rojas was more like a lost secret, who didn’t play much for the Cardinals and who rarely reached base when he did.

Cuban cutie

Octavio Victor Rojas was born in Havana, Cuba. His father was a pharmacist at the University of Havana hospital, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

When Octavio was a boy, his mother called him Cuqui, which means cute, and the nickname morphed into Cookie when he came to the United States at 17 to begin his baseball career with a Reds farm club, the West Palm Beach Sun Chiefs.

After six years (1956-61) in the minors, Rojas debuted in the majors with the Reds in 1962 as the backup to second baseman Don Blasingame, the former Cardinal. Rojas’ first big-league RBI came against the Cardinals’ Curt Simmons. Boxscore

To make room for their rookie second baseman, Pete Rose, in 1963, the Reds traded Rojas to the Phillies.

Rojas spent seven seasons (1963-69) with the Phillies. His first two years were as a utility player before he became their second baseman in 1965.

“Cookie Rojas is a remarkable individual, indefatigable, willing and able to play any position on the field,” syndicated columnist Red Smith wrote.

Rojas told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I’m not a great ballplayer. I don’t have the ability some players have, but I can help my team win ballgames. Give me a chance, I’ll do it.”

Multiple skills

On June 30, 1967, Rojas pitched an inning against the Giants. With two on and two outs, Willie Mays came to the plate. “The only thing I could think of was I didn’t care how far Willie hit the ball as long as it didn’t come back through the middle,” Rojas said to the Philadelphia Daily News.

After Mays was retired on a soft fly to right, Rojas said, “I think Willie was more afraid of me than I was of Willie. He was probably worried I’d throw one wild and bean him.”

Said Mays: “He pitches good for a second baseman.”

Rojas was a good second baseman. He was a National League all-star in 1965, when he led the Phillies in hitting (.303), and he was tops among the league’s second basemen in fielding percentage in 1968. When the Phillies had a keystone combination of Rojas at second and Bobby Wine at shortstop, the plays of Wine and Rojas became a fan favorite.

Regarding his relationship with Philies fans, Rojas said, “They only boo if you’re not giving 100 percent. If you do give 100 percent, the Philadelphia fans will repay you with great ovations and admiration.”

Tough times

With rookie Denny Doyle projected to take over at second base in 1970, the Phillies deemed Rojas expendable. The Padres, managed by Rojas’ friend and winter-league manager, Preston Gomez, made offers for Rojas, The Sporting News reported, but the Phillies sent him to the Cardinals.

Though Rojas preferred to be a starter, he welcomed the trade to the Cardinals. “This club can win and, even more than playing regularly, I want to play on a championship team,” Rojas told the Post-Dispatch.

The union got off to an awkward start. On Feb. 23, Rojas phoned manager Red Schoendienst at the club’s spring training site in St. Petersburg, Fla., and said, “I think I’ve got chicken pox. What should I do?” Schoendienst replied, “Stay home until you’re sure you’re not contagious.”

Rojas didn’t report to camp until the day before the first exhibition game.

When the regular season began, Rojas, 31, struggled to hit. One of his few Cardinals highlights came on April 14, 1970, when he drove in the winning run with a scratch hit against the Expos. Batting for pitcher Sal Campisi in the bottom of the 10th with the bases loaded, one out and the score tied at 5-5. Rojas hit a squibber off the end of his bat down the third-base line.

“The ball was foul, but hit something and bounced over third baseman Angel Hermoso’s glove and over the bag,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Said Cardinals third-base coach George Kissell: “It looked like the ball hit a cleat mark.”

Julian Javier scored from third on the single for a 6-5 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Rojas played in 23 games for the Cardinals and hit .106. He made eight starts at second base and three in left field.

Reflecting on his short St. Louis stay, Rojas told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I sat and I sat. I gained 10 pounds. Everybody said, ‘Rojas is done. Rojas is too slow.’ ”

Revival with Royals

When the Cardinals informed Rojas he was traded to the Royals, an American League team in its second season of existence, “I was going to quit,” Rojas said. “I thought, ‘I’m 31. What does an expansion ball club want with me?’ ”

Before declaring his intentions, Rojas consulted with Preston Gomez, whose Padres, like the Royals, were in their second season as a big-league franchise. Gomez told Rojas, “I think you’re wrong,” and urged him to play for the Royals.

When Rojas reported to the Royals, manager Bob Lemon put him in the starting lineup at second base, replacing Luis Alcaraz.

Out of shape from his limited playing time with the Cardinals, Rojas said, “I couldn’t run. My range was terrible. I got by on experience.”

Rojas played in 98 games for the 1970 Royals and hit .260. He had two four-hit games and a pair of four-RBI games, and stabilized the Royals’ infield. “I knew Rojas would help us defensively,” Lemon told the Kansas City Star. “He makes the right moves all the time.”

Rojas went on to play eight seasons (1970-77) with the Royals and was named to the American League all-star team four times. In the 1972 All-Star Game in Atlanta, Rojas batted for Rod Carew and hit a two-run home run versus Bill Stoneman. Boxscore

In 16 big-league seasons, Rojas produced 1,660 hits. He was especially tough versus quality pitchers such as Ray Sadecki (25 hits against), Gaylord Perry (23 hits), Juan Marichal (21 hits) and Ferguson Jenkins (20 hits).

Besides Red Schoendienst in 1970, Rojas’ first (Fred Hutchinson) and last (Whtey Herzog) managers in the big leagues had Cardinals connections.

Rojas went on to manage the Angels in 1988. He also was a coach for the Cubs (1978-81), Marlins (1993-96), Mets (1997-2000) and Blue Jays (2001-2002) before becoming a broadcaster on Marlins Spanish radio broadcasts.

Read Full Post »

With two swings in one game, Biff Pocoroba created quite a bit of damage against the Cardinals.

A switch-hitting catcher who played 10 years in the major leagues, all with the Braves, Pocoroba died May 24, 2020, at 66.

Born in Burbank, Calif., “Biff” was Pocoroba’s given name, not a nickname.

Selected by the Braves in the 17th round of the 1971 amateur baseball draft, Pocoroba reached the majors in 1975. He became the Braves’ starting catcher in 1977 and hit .290 with 24 doubles and an on-base percentage of .394. The Braves rewarded him with a six-year, $1 million contract.

In 1978, Ted Simmons of the Cardinals was voted starting catcher for the National League all-star team and his backups were the Reds’ Johnny Bench and the Phillies’ Bob Boone. When an injury made Bench unavailable for the All-Star-Game in San Diego, Pocoroba was chosen to replace him and caught an inning. Boxscore

A month later, Pocoroba injured his right shoulder and was out for the rest of the season. During rotator cuff surgery in September 1978, Dr. Frank Jobe transferred muscle from Pocoroba’s lower bicep to his shoulder, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

When Pocoroba returned to the Braves in June 1979, Bruce Benedict had taken over as the starting catcher.

Danger zone

On May 14, 1982, Pocoroba was in the lineup against the Cardinals in Atlanta. The Cardinals were in first place in the East Division and the Braves led the West. The pitching matchup was Joaquin Andujar for the Cardinals and Phil Niekro for the Braves. During Niekro’s Hall of Fame career, Benedict and Pocoroba caught more of his games than any other catchers.

While batting in the second inning, Pocoroba’s foul tip broke the right index finger of Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter. After the inning, Porter was replaced by Orlando Sanchez. The injury sidelined Porter for three weeks.

Pocoroba helped Niekro hold the Cardinals scoreless for eight innings. He threw out two base runners, Keith Hernandez and Mike Ramsey, attempting to steal.

Trailing 1-0, the Cardinals rallied for a run in the top of ninth versus Braves closer Gene Garber. Lonnie Smith singled, swiped second, moved to third on Ozzie Smith’s bunt hit and scored on Hernandez’s sacrifice fly.

Biff bops

In the bottom half of the ninth, Cardinals reliever Doug Bair retired the first two batters before Pocoroba came to the plate.

“I was looking for a fastball because Bair had been getting ahead of batters with the pitch,” Pocoroba told the Atlanta Constitution.

Bair told the Post-Dispatch, “I tried to throw the ball low and away. He’s a first-ball, fastball hitter. I threw it right in his wheelhouse.”

Pocoroba hit Bair’s first pitch over the fence in right for a walkoff home run and a 2-1 Braves victory. Boxscore

It was Pocoroba’s first home run since August 1980 versus the Cardinals’ Bob Forsch. It also was the first home run Bair allowed in 22 innings in 1982.

The Cardinals and Braves went on to win division titles and met in the 1982 National League Championship Series. The Cardinals won the pennant, sweeping the Braves in three games. Pocoroba had one at-bat in the postseason. Porter was named most valuable player in both the NL Championship Series and in the World Series versus the Brewers.

Read Full Post »

In his short stay with the Cardinals, Bobby Locke pitched a total of two innings in one game and faced four future Hall of Famers.

A right-handed pitcher, Locke played in nine seasons in the majors leagues, primarily with the Indians, Phillies and Angels. He died June 4, 2020, at 86.

His time with the Cardinals consisted of three weeks in April 1962 when he made one appearance for them. It came against the Cubs, the team that traded him to the Cardinals. Locke pitched two scoreless innings in relief and faced nine batters, including the four who would make it to Cooperstown, Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams.

Though Locke had a good outing, he and the Cardinals weren’t a good fit.

Unused and unhappy, Locke wanted to pitch more and the Cardinals responded by dealing him to the Phillies.

Pitching prospect

After excelling as a high school athlete in Republic, Pa., about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, Locke briefly attended Arizona State on a football scholarship, returned home and signed a baseball contract with the Indians in 1953.

After four seasons (1953-56) in the Indians’ farm system, Locke spent two years in military service. He returned to baseball in 1959 with the Indians’ farm club at San Diego, posted a 1.63 ERA and was promoted to the majors in June.

Used as a reliever and spot starter, Locke was 3-2 for the Indians in 1959, 3-5 in 1960 and 4-4 in 1961. He also had a total of six saves.

Coveted by the Cubs

Locke threw a sinking fastball and it caught the attention of the Cubs, who traded second baseman Jerry Kindall for him in November 1961.

“I was surprised by the Kindall deal,” Locke told the Philadelphia Daily News. “Hell, I thought I could hit better than Kindall and I’m a pitcher.”

Before trading for Locke, the Cubs rejected a Braves offer of starting pitcher Bob Buhl for reliever Don Elston and Kindall, The Sporting News reported. Braves general manager John McHale said, “It’s kind of hard to understand. Buhl can win 15 games a year for just about anybody and Locke is pretty much an unknown.”

In its assessment of Locke, The Sporting News declared, “There are times when he appears to be the world’s greatest. At other times, you wonder if he isn’t traveling incognito.”

The Cubs projected Locke, 27, to join a 1962 starting rotation with Don Cardwell, Glen Hobbie and Dick Ellsworth. Locke “was virtually handed the No. 4 starting berth on a platter,” The Sporting News noted.

Elvin Tappe, designated as Cubs head coach in a system featuring multiple coaches as field leaders instead of a manager, said, “Locke is exactly the type of pitcher who is most successful at Wrigley Field. He’s a hard thrower with a good, sinking fastball.”

Regarding his fastball, Locke said, “I’ll match it against anyone’s.”

Conform or else

The relationship between Locke and Cubs management began to deteriorate soon after he arrived at spring training camp in Arizona. The Cubs gave him a manual on fundamentals and Locke disregarded it, saying he knew how to play. They also gave him a jump rope. “Everybody got a rope to skip with in their spare time, but I didn’t see much sense in it,” Locke told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Regarding Locke’s relationship with the coaches, his “clubhouse conversation and independence disenchanted them quickly,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Locke also disliked the Cubs’ system of a board of coaches, who took turns being head coach, in place of a manager. The issue flared into a controversy on March 6, 1962, during an intrasquad scrimmage. Locke walked off the mound and headed to the training room without consulting any of the coaches. The head coach, Elvin Tappe, wasn’t at the game because he was attending a civic luncheon in Phoenix.

“My arm was tight and I didn’t think I should pitch any more,” Locke told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but the pitching coach wasn’t around and the others were involved in some kind of argument on the field and weren’t in the dugout when I came in. So I just went into the clubhouse.”

Locke added, “With this all-coach system, I just didn’t know who to talk to.”

One of the coaches, Vedie Himsl, said, “Bobby just has to get used to doing things our way.”

According to Himsl, “Bobby apologized for the public defection,” but Locke stayed deep in the Cubs’ doghouse.

“After that,” wrote Philadelphia Daily News columnist Larry Merchant, “a leper would have become more at home with the Cubbies than Locke.”

Locke said, “Nobody talked to me for two weeks after that incident, honest. Even the players shied away from me. Maybe they could feel I was an outcast with the front office.”

Odd man out

On April 7, 1962, before he had a chance to pitch in a regular-season game for the Cubs, Locke was traded to the Cardinals for a minor-league outfielder, Allen Herring, and cash.

Locke’s arrival gave the Cardinals five right-handed relievers. Getting enough work for Locke, John Anderson, Ed Bauta, Lindy McDaniel and Paul Toth was a challenge for manager Johnny Keane.

Locke was a Cardinal for two weeks before he got into the game against the Cubs. He entered in a mop-up role in the seventh inning with the Cubs ahead, 11-5.

After retiring the first two batters, Locke gave up a single to pitcher Dick Ellsworth before getting Lou Brock to ground to second for a forceout. In the eighth after retiring the leadoff batter, Locked walked Ron Santo, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Ernie Banks grounded out, Billy Williams walked, but Locke escaped unscathed when he got Bob Will to fly out to center. Boxscore

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Locke told the Cardinals he’d just as soon move on if they weren’t going to pitch him more often.

“They had a lot of big stars over there and I knew I wouldn’t get much of a chance,” Locke said. “I want to pitch.”

On the move

On April 28, 1962, the Cardinals traded Locke to the Phillies for Don Ferrarese, a left-handed reliever who had been in the majors since 1955 and was Locke’s teammate with the Indians in 1959.

Ferrarese finished his big-league career with the 1962 Cardinals and was 1-4 with one save and a 2.70 ERA in 38 appearances for them.

In his first appearance for the Phillies, on April 29, 1962, Locke held the Mets to one hit in 4.2 innings of relief and got the win. He also contributed a run-scoring single. Boxscore

A happy Locke said, “With the Cardinals, everyone went separate ways. Here, everyone is on the same level.”

The good vibes faded quickly. Locke yielded runs in each of his next four appearances and was sent to minor-league Buffalo, his fifth club since October.

After pitching in parts of three seasons (1962-64) for the Phillies, Locke pitched for the Reds (1965) and Angels (1967-68).

Read Full Post »

Walt Moryn was a big blonde slugger who hailed from Paul Bunyan country and was nicknamed Moose.

Sixty years ago, on June 15, 1960, the Cardinals acquired Moryn from the Cubs for utility player Jim McKnight and $25,000.

An outfielder and left-handed pull hitter, Moryn’s swing seemed tailored for the original Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the shortest distance for a home run was to right.

Though no longer in his prime when he joined the Cardinals, Moryn, 34, had enough pop remaining in his bat to elicit calls of “M-o-o-o-s-e” from the fans in St. Louis when he got hold of a pitch.

Cubs clouter

Moryn was born and raised in St. Paul, Minn. His paternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Russia and his maternal grandparents came from Poland. Moryn entered the Navy when he was 18 and served on an ammunition ship in the Pacific for two years during World War II.

When he returned home, Moryn played baseball in an industrial league. In August 1947, the Dodgers held a tryout camp in St. Paul. Moryn attended and was signed on the recommendation of scout Andy High, a former Cardinals infielder.

Moryn was 28 when he debuted in the majors with the Dodgers in June 1954. He also spent part of 1955 with them and was traded to the Cubs after the season.

For a stretch of three seasons, 1956-58, Moryn hit with consistent power and became a favorite of Cubs fans. He had 23 home runs in 1956, 33 doubles in 1957 and 26 home runs in 1958.

After his production declined to 14 home runs in 1959, Moryn was platooned in left field with Frank Thomas in 1960.

The signature play of Moryn’s career occurred on May 15, 1960, when he made a shoestring catch of a line drive by the Cardinals’ Joe Cunningham with two outs in the ninth to preserve a no-hitter by Don Cardwell. Video

Though Moryn was batting .294 and had an on-base percentage of .366 in 38 games for the 1960 Cubs, his home run total was a mere two when the Cubs shipped him to the Cardinals. Moryn told the Chicago Tribune he was on the outs with Cubs general manager John Holland. “He’s been trying to get rid of me for three years,” Moryn said.

Popular player

To make room for Moryn on their roster, the Cardinals sent Leon Wagner, their Opening Day left fielder, to the minors. The Cardinals were loaded with outfielders. Cunningham, Moryn and Stan Musial batted from the left side, and Curt Flood, Bob Nieman and John Glenn batted from the right. Moryn figured to platoon with Nieman in left.

“At Busch Stadium, I think Moryn still will be dangerous,” Cardinals coach Johnny Keane told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

Though listed at 6 feet 2 and 205 pounds, Moryn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he weighed 225. St. Louis writers had fun with his alliterative name and his size, referring to him as “Mighty Moose Moryn” and “a mass of muscle from Minnesota.”

Moryn was popular with teammates and helped rookies.

Second baseman Jerry Kindall, another St. Paul native who entered the majors with the Cubs in 1956, told the Chicago Tribune, “He gave the appearance of a very gruff guy, but if you were a teammate, you saw through that in a hurry. He was really a tender-hearted guy.”

In the book “We Played the Game,” Tim McCarver said when he was with the Cardinals as an 18-year-old in 1960, “Guys like Walt ‘Moose’ Moryn and Kenny Boyer couldn’t have been friendlier.”

Hot in August

In his Cardinals debut, on June 17, 1960, against the Braves, Moryn was 0-for-5 and struck out four times. Boxscore

Moryn hit .100 for the Cardinals in June and .194 in July, but sizzled in August, hitting .433 with 19 RBI in 23 games for the month.

“Cardinals crowds raise the “M-o-o-o-s-e’ call whenever the big blonde comes to the plate,” The Sporting News noted.

Moryn’s August performances at home included:

_ Aug. 6 vs. the Reds: 3-for-4, including a triple and a home run, and two RBI. Boxscore

_ Aug. 7 vs. the Reds: 2-for-2, including a home run and a walk, and two RBI. Boxscore

_ Aug. 17 vs. the Giants: 3-for-5, including a home run, and three RBI. Boxscore

_ Aug, 26 vs. the Pirates: 4-for-4, all singles, against Bob Friend. Boxscore

Moryn ended August with a .314 batting average since he joined the Cardinals.

Role player

Though he hit a three-run home run off Robin Roberts to carry the Cardinals to a 4-1 triumph at Philadelphia on Sept. 9, Moryn fell back into a slump and hit .154 for September.

In 75 games for the 1960 Cardinals, Moryn hit .245 with 11 home runs. He batted .301 at Busch Stadium and .196 on the road. Moryn also hit .266 versus right-handers and .111 against left-handers. He was a terror against the Reds, hitting .440 with five home runs and 11 RBI in 11 games for the 1960 Cardinals.

Moryn made 49 starts in the outfield _ 30 in right and 19 in left _ for the 1960 Cardinals.

At spring training in 1961, Moryn surprised the Cardinals by reporting at 198 pounds. “I’ve never been this light before,” he told the Globe-Democrat.

Regarding his playing weight in 1960, Moryn told the Post-Dispatch, “I realized I had let myself get too heavy.”

Cardinals trainer Bob Bauman predicted a slender Moose would slug more home runs at Busch Stadium. “I can see Moryn hitting a lot out on Grand Avenue this year,” Bauman said.

Used exclusively against right-handers and mostly as a pinch-hitter, Moryn, 35, never got untracked with the 1961 Cardinals. He hit .125 in 17 games and was traded to the defending World Series champion Pirates on June 15, 1961, for minor-league catcher Roberto Herrera and cash.

Three days later, on June 18, 1961, in his third game with the Pirates, Moryn, naturally, hit a three-run home run versus the Cardinals’ Larry Jackson. Boxscore

It was one of the last highlights for Moryn in the majors. He hit .200 in 40 games for the Pirates in 1961, his last season in the big leagues.

Read Full Post »

For the second time in five years, the Cardinals in June got a future Hall of Fame pitcher who helped them become champions.

Ninety years ago, on June 16, 1930, the Cardinals acquired Burleigh Grimes from the Braves for pitchers Bill Sherdel and Fred Frankhouse.

A spitball specialist whose dark stubble gave him a menacing look on the mound, Grimes, 36, had a reputation as an intimidating competitor and consistent winner.

With the Cardinals, he was 13-6 in 1930 and 17-9 in 1931, and they won National League pennants both years. In the 1931 World Series, Grimes, pitching in pain caused by an inflamed appendix, started and won the deciding Game 7.

Like Grimes, Grover Cleveland Alexander, a right-hander destined for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was acquired by the Cardinals in a June transaction. The Cardinals claimed Alexander, 39, on waivers from the Cubs in 1926 and he helped them win pennants in 1926 and 1928. His strikeout of the Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in Game 7 was the iconic moment in the Cardinals’ first World Series championship.

Winning formula

Grimes, 23, made his debut in the majors with the Pirates in 1916. After posting a 3-16 record in 1917, Grimes was sent to the Dodgers in a trade involving outfielder Casey Stengel and it revived his career. Grimes was 19-9 in 1918, the first of 14 consecutive seasons of double-digit wins.

In February 1920, baseball outlawed the spitball, but exempted pitchers who threw the pitch in the majors before then. Grimes was one of those exempted and was permitted to throw the spitball the remainder of his career. He chewed slippery elm bark for the substance used for the pitch.

Grimes four times had 21 or more wins in a season for the Dodgers, including 1920 when he was 23-11 for the National League champions.

“No pitcher in baseball history was a more determined fighter,” The Sporting News reported.

Off the field, Grimes was talkative and thoughtful. He studied and analyzed pitching techniques and willingly shared his views. On the field, he was intense.

“There was only one man standing between me and more money, and that was the guy with the bat,” Grimes said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, “When pitching, he is a snarling hard-to-get-along-with personality. He glares at an infielder who makes an error behind him and sneers at umpires who fail to meet his approval in their decisions.”

Bust with Braves

In 1928, Grimes was with the Pirates and was 25-14. The next year, he was 16-2 and on pace for 30 wins when he was struck on the right thumb by a ball off the bat of the Giants’ Bill Terry in July. Boxscore

Sidelined a month, Grimes won once the rest of the 1929 season and finished at 17-7.

A holdout in spring training in 1930, Grimes was traded to the Braves in April when the Pirates rejected his demand for a two-year contract. Rushed into the season without any spring training, Grimes struggled to a 3-5 record and 7.35 ERA for the 1930 Braves, who sought to unload his contract.

When the Cardinals offered Sherdel (3-2, 4.64 ERA) and Frankhouse (2-3, 7.32) for Grimes, the Braves agreed. The year before, Frankhouse was 7-2 for the Cardinals. Sherdel had been with them since 1918 and eight times had seasons of double-digit wins. His best year was 1928 when he was 21-10 for the National League champions.

Sherdel told the Post-Dispatch, “I’ll be pulling for the Cardinals except when I pitch against them.”

Said Frankhouse, “I was hoping we’d land Grimes, but I didn’t even think I might be sent away.”

The Boston Globe concluded, “The Braves cannot be any worse off with Sherdel and Frankhouse. In fact, they should benefit for all the good the high-priced Burleigh Grimes was to them.”

Braves manager Bill McKechnie, who managed the Cardinals to the 1928 pennant, had a different viewpoint, telling the Globe there was no doubt Grimes would win a lot of games for St. Louis.

Making a difference

Grimes joined a Cardinals rotation of Bill Hallahan, Syl Johnson, Jesse Haines and Flint Rhem.

“We have made a deal that will make us a more dangerous pennant contender,” said Cardinals manager Gabby Street. “Grimes is a great pitcher.”

According to the Post-Dispatch, Grimes told club owner Sam Breadon, “You didn’t make any mistake when you got me. There’s nothing the matter with my arm.”

On the day the Cardinals got Grimes, they lost to the Dodgers and their record dropped to 26-28.

The addition of Grimes, along with the return to the lineup of two ailing future Hall of Famers, second baseman Frankie Frisch (spike wound) and left fielder Chick Hafey (sinuses), eventually helped propel the Cardinals higher in the standings.

After posting losing records in June and July, the 1930 Cardinals surged to 23-9 in August and 21-4 in September. Grimes had a significant role. He was 5-2 in August and 4-1 in September.

When Grimes shut out the Pirates on Sept. 25, 1930, it enabled the Cardinals to keep a three-game lead over the Cubs with three to play, assuring at least a share of the pennant. Boxscore

The Cardinals clinched the next day and faced the Athletics in the World Series.

Grimes was 12-4 with a 3.13 ERA as a starter for the 1930 Cardinals and 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA as a reliever. He pitched a pair of five-hitters in the 1930 World Series, but was the loser in both. The Athletics won four of six versus the Cardinals.

In the 1931 World Series rematch, Grimes was 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA. He beat Lefty Grove in Game 3 and George Earnshaw in Game 7.

Field manager

Two months after his World Series success, Grimes, 38, was traded by the Cardinals to the Cubs for outfielder Hack Wilson and pitcher Bud Teachout.

The Cardinals reacquired Grimes in July 1933 after he was released by the Cubs. He pitched in four games for the Cardinals in 1933 and four more in 1934. Grimes also pitched for the Yankees and Pirates in 1934, his last season as a big-league pitcher, and finished with a career record of 270-212.

In 1935, he became manager of a Cardinals farm club in Bloomington, Ill.

In 1937, 20 years after he was traded for Casey Stengel, Grimes replaced Stengel as Dodgers manager. Grimes managed the Dodgers for two seasons before Leo Durocher took over the role.

Grimes managed for several more seasons in the minors, including 1945 and part of 1946 with the Cardinals’ Rochester farm team.

Read Full Post »

The Cardinals intended for Chris Sabo to replace Todd Zeile as their first baseman, but the plan fizzled when Sabo’s back gave out.

Twenty-five years ago, on June 8, 1995, the Cardinals signed Sabo after he was released by the White Sox. A third baseman, Sabo was sent to the Cardinals’ Louisville farm club to learn to play first base so he could be brought back to the majors and fill multiple roles.

About a week later, on June 16, 1995, Sabo was called up to the Cardinals amid a massive shakeup. On the day he arrived, manager Joe Torre was fired and Zeile was traded to the Cubs.

Interim manager Mike Jorgensen put Sabo into the lineup at first base, but his time with the Cardinals lasted only a few games.

Cincinnati kid

Sabo won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1988 when he produced 40 doubles and 46 stolen bases as third baseman for the Reds.

A son of a plumber from Detroit, Sabo became a Cincinnati favorite. Nicknamed “Spuds” for a resemblance to the dog Spuds McKenzie in beer commercials, Sabo wore goggles, a buzz cut and a K-mart wardrobe, and drove a well-used 1982 Ford Escort.

In 1990, Sabo had 38 doubles, 25 home runs and 25 steals for the champion Reds. In the Reds’ World Series sweep of manager Tony La Russa’s favored Athletics, Sabo hit .563 with two home runs and fielded flawlessly at third.

After the 1993 season, Sabo became a free agent, rejected an offer from the Mets and signed a one-year contract for $2 million with the Orioles because he viewed them as a contender.

The Orioles opened the 1994 season with a left side of the infield featuring Cal Ripken Jr. at shortstop and Sabo at third, but it didn’t last. Sabo hit .228 in April and went on the disabled list in May because of a bad back. His replacement, Leo Gomez, hit .325 in May and held the job.

Used primarily in the outfield and as designated hitter, Sabo played in 68 games for the Orioles, hit .256 and departed for free agency after the season.

New role

The Cardinals considered signing Sabo to be their third baseman, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but traded for Scott Cooper of the Red Sox instead. When no other teams showed interest, Sabo, 33, thought about returning to the University of Michigan to finish the work he started on a degree 14 years earlier, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Sabo’s plans changed on April 10, 1995, when the White Sox gave him a one-year contract at $550,000 to be their designated hitter. John Kruk was the first choice of White Sox general manager Ron Schueler to be designated hitter, the Tribune reported, but when Kruk, a free agent, opted to retire, Schueler selected Sabo.

Sabo plays with “intensity and has fire in his eyes,” Schueler said.

Said Sabo: “I’ve never been very level-headed. I have quite a temper. It’s the only way I’ve been able to get where I have. I get fiery. I don’t have a world of talent. So I fire up to help myself.”

Sabo preferred to play third base, but the White Sox had a Gold Glove winner, Robin Ventura, there.

What a Kruk

The White Sox opened the 1995 season with Sabo batting in the cleanup spot between slugger Frank Thomas and Ventura. In May, Kruk changed his mind about retirement and signed with the White Sox, who intended to make him the designated hitter.

Miffed, Sabo told The Cincinnati Post he’d return to the Reds “for a song.”

“I plan on being with the Reds again before I’m done, one way or the other,” Sabo told The Post.

Kruk, 34, joined the White Sox on May 24, 1995. The Tribune’s Paul Sullivan described him as having “the physique of Babe Ruth, the batting eye of Tony Gwynn and the sarcastic wit of David Letterman. He chain-smoked cigarettes, didn’t watch his weight and proudly wore the same T-shirt day after day.”

The White Sox released Sabo on June 5. In 20 games for them, he hit .254 with one home run.

Team in turmoil

Three days later, on June 8, 1995, the Cardinals signed Sabo and indicated he would be used as a utility player for them after he went to Louisville and learned to play first base.

“We know he can play third and the outfield,” said Cardinals manager Joe Torre. “If he can play first, it will add to his versatility. If he’s healthy, he’s a threat with the bat. He can hit the homer and he pulls the ball. He plays well defensively.”

Sabo hit .393 in nine games as Louisville’s first baseman.

Promoted to the Cardinals, he never got to play for Torre. With the Cardinals’ record at 20-27, general manager Walt Jocketty fired Torre on the morning of June 16 before trading Zeile. Though Zeile hit .291 with 22 RBI in 34 games, he was dealt after accusing management of reneging on a contract agreement.

With Zeile gone, Sabo became the first baseman and was assigned uniform No. 18, the same previously worn by Mike Shannon and Andy Van Slyke. In his Cardinals debut on June 16 against the Giants at St. Louis, Sabo batted fifth in the order between Ray Lankford and Scott Cooper. He made a fielding error in the second inning, leading to a run, but had a run-scoring single in the fifth. Boxscore

Sabo played in four more games for the Cardinals, making another start at first, one at third and two pinch-hit appearances. He had a two-run double versus Dodgers rookie Hideo Nomo on June 19. Boxscore

During batting practice one day, Sabo developed back spasms. He went on the disabled list on June 29, 1995, and remained sidelined for six weeks. “I don’t think there’s a lot of fuel left in the tank,” Cardinals coach Gaylen Pitts told Larry Harnly of The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill.

In August 1995, the Cardinals sent Sabo to their St. Petersburg farm club in the Florida State League to get in condition for a possible return to the majors in September. Instead, after Sabo hit .231 in 14 games for St. Petersburg, the Cardinals released him because “he didn’t dominate that league like you’d think he would,” Jocketty said.

In 13 at-bats for St. Louis, Sabo had two hits and three RBI.

As he predicted, Sabo returned to the Reds and played his final major-league season with them in 1996.

In 2018, Sabo was named head baseball coach at the University of Akron.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »