Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

During a season in which the Cardinals won a National League pennant and World Series championship, Don Lock found the key to success against their formidable pitching.

In 1967, Lock, in his first NL season as a center fielder for the Phillies, batted .382 (13-for-34) with 12 RBI in 11 games against the Cardinals.

A right-handed batter, Lock was especially effective against Cardinals left-handers. He hit four home runs against them in 1967.

Lock, a Kansas native who as an amateur had attracted the attention of the Cardinals, died Oct. 8, 2017, at 81.

Hit or miss

As a teen, Lock was a standout athlete in multiple sports. “The Cardinals were interested in signing Lock when he was playing American Legion baseball back home in Kingman, Kan.,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Instead, Lock attended Wichita State on a basketball scholarship and played for coach Ralph Miller, who would be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Lock earned varsity letters in baseball, basketball and track.

By then, other big-league organizations, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics and Dodgers, had joined the Cardinals in pursuit of Lock. According to his obituary, Lock accepted a $22,500 bonus to sign with the Yankees in 1958.

The Yankees’ deal “was $2,500 more than the next best, the one Boston offered. So I took it,” Lock told the Post-Dispatch. “I was just a kid out of college who had a wife and a kid and car payments to meet. I needed money.”

Lock played in the Yankees’ minor league system from 1958-62. He had 35 home runs in 1960 for the Class A Binghamton (N.Y.) Triplets and 29 home runs in 1961 for the Class AAA Richmond Virginians. Though he had established himself as a power prospect, Lock couldn’t find a spot on a Yankees roster that included sluggers such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Bill Skowron.

In July 1962, the Yankees traded Lock to the Senators. He became one of the American League’s premier power hitters, ranking among the top 10 in home runs in 1963 (27) and 1964 (28), but he also had more strikeouts than hits each year he played for Washington. He was second in the league in strikeouts in both 1963 (151) and 1964 (137).

Second chance

After the 1966 season, the Senators dealt Lock to the Phillies for pitcher Darold Knowles and cash. “Lock came to the Phillies with a reputation as one of baseball’s most inconsistent hitters,” wrote Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News. “His pattern was a short rash of homers followed by a long rash of strikeouts.”

Phillies manager Gene Mauch decided to utilize Lock and Johnny Briggs in a center field platoon in 1967.

On May 26 at Philadelphia, Lock hit a home run that beat the Cardinals.

In the eighth inning, with the score tied at 4-4, the Phillies had runners on second and third, two outs, with Lock at the plate against left-handed reliever Joe Hoerner. Cookie Rojas was on deck.

“The strategy with the score tied and the winning run on base would normally be to intentionally walk Lock and pitch to Rojas,” Conlin wrote.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst thought otherwise. He remembered that 10 days earlier, at St. Louis, Rojas had hit a home run against the Cardinals and Hoerner had struck out Lock.

Schoendienst wanted Hoerner to pitch to Lock rather than to Rojas.

If not for a misplay, it would have been the right decision.

Hoerner got Lock to hit a pop fly into foul territory, just beyond first base. Second baseman Phil Gagliano, who had the best angle for a catch, called off first baseman Orlando Cepeda, but misjudged the ball and it fell to the ground.

Given another chance, Lock swung at a low fastball and sent a laser over the left-field wall. “The ball was still rising when it ticked the front slope of the roof and bounced off a sign,” Conlin wrote.

Said Lock: “That’s as good as I can hit a ball, I guess.”

The three-run home run was the difference in a 7-4 Phillies victory. Boxscore

Special day

A month later, on June 25, the Phillies were in St. Louis for a doubleheader against the Cardinals.

Lock had what he called his best day in the major leagues. He produced six hits in eight at-bats and drove in six runs, leading the Phillies to a sweep.

Lock was 4-for-5 with three RBI in the first game and 2-for-3 with three RBI in the second game.

In the opener, Lock had a two-run home run and two singles in three at-bats against the Cardinals’ starter, left-hander Larry Jaster, helping the Phillies to a 6-4 victory. Boxscore

(A month earlier, Lock also was 3-for-3 _ two doubles and a single _ against Jaster. So, in two games against Jaster, Lock was 6-for-6.)

In the doubleheader nightcap, Lock hit a two-run home run against left-hander Al Jackson, propelling the Phillies to a 10-4 triumph. Boxscore

“I’ve shortened my stroke a little,” Lock said. “I’m not taking the bat back as far and I’m choking up about an inch-and-a-half.”

Lock also hit two home runs _ one in 1967 and the other in 1968 _ against Cardinals left-hander Steve Carlton.

Lock finished the 1967 season with 14 home runs in 112 games.

He was with the Phillies again in 1968 and ended his big-league career playing for both the Phillies and Red Sox in 1969.

Lock’s overall batting mark in eight major-league seasons is .238. His career batting average versus the Cardinals is .359 (23-for-64) with five home runs and 17 RBI in 22 games.

Previously: Epic showdowns: Jim Bunning vs. Bob Gibson

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A month into his first season as Cardinals manager, Solly Hemus behaved in a way that damaged his reputation and diminished his stature among some players.

Desperate and disgusted when the Cardinals lost 15 of their first 20 games in 1959, Hemus resorted to insults and intimidation in an effort to rattle the opposition and motivate his team.

Using racist remarks, Hemus lost respect and created resentment.

Two years later, he was fired during the 1961 season and never managed in the major leagues again.

A successful oil businessman in Houston, Hemus, 94, died Oct. 3, 2017. In his obituary, he was remembered as a caring man and a philanthropist.

Managing up

Hemus, an infielder, played for the Cardinals from 1949 until he was traded to the Phillies in May 1956. Skilled at reaching base, Hemus scored 105 runs in 1952 and 110 in 1953.

After he was traded, Hemus, a prolific letter writer, wrote to Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, expressing gratitude for his playing career in St. Louis and indicating a desire to return to the organization.

Busch and Hemus continued to correspond. When the Cardinals fired Fred Hutchinson in September 1958, Hemus was Busch’s choice _ not general manager Bing Devine’s _ to become player-manager.

The 1959 Cardinals started sluggishly under Hemus. After losing the first game of a doubleheader to the Pirates on May 3 at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals’ record was 5-15. The Pirates won in the 10th when a fly ball by Bill Mazeroski was misjudged by right fielder Gino Cimoli and sailed over his head for a RBI-single.

An instigator

Furious and determined to shake the Cardinals from their slumber, Hemus put himself into the starting lineup at second base for Game 2.

In the first inning, Hemus faced Bennie Daniels, making his first start of the season for the Pirates.

A pitch from Daniels to Hemus “nicked him on the right pants leg,” according to The Pittsburgh Press.

“Hemus just stuck his leg out to be hit on purpose as usual,” Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Daniels’ pitch “wasn’t a brushback pitch, but Hemus tried to make a federal case out of it,” said Pittsburgh writer Les Biederman.

As Hemus went to first base, he “tossed a few choice phrases in Daniels’ direction,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In his book “The Long Season,” Cardinals reliever Jim Brosnan said, “(Hemus) yelled at Daniels, ‘You black bastard.’ ”

Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, in his book “Stranger to the Game,” said, “I can understand that Hemus wanted to light a fire under us, but that was no excuse for calling Daniels a black bastard.”

As Daniels and Hemus exchanged words, Pirates first baseman Dick Stuart “blocked Solly’s path in case he might be thinking of pursuing Daniels,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Players poured onto the field, but there was no fighting.

In his book, “Uppity,” Cardinals first baseman Bill White said, “After that, Daniels always called Hemus ‘Little Faubus,’ a reference to Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, who tried to block school desegregation in Little Rock in 1957.”

Tempers flare

In the third inning, Hemus blooped a run-scoring double to left against Daniels, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

When Hemus batted again in the sixth, Daniels’ first pitch “just missed” Hemus’ chin, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“I didn’t think that pitch was too close,” Daniels told the Post-Gazette. “I guess Hemus did.”

On the next delivery, Hemus moved up in the batter’s box and “threw his bat toward Daniels before the pitch reached the plate,” The Pittsburgh Press said.

“What was I supposed to do, turn the other cheek?” Hemus told the Post-Dispatch. “The bat slipped out of my hand just like the ball slipped out of Daniels’ hand.”

The bat landed several feet from Daniels. Again, players rushed onto the field. This time, there were scuffles.

Murtaugh “got a short punch at Hemus during the fighting and drew a little blood,” according to The Pittsburgh Press.

Hemus, who told The Sporting News he “was clipped a few times,” grappled with Pirates coach Len Levy.

“I told Solly it was silly to be throwing a bat because somebody could be killed,” Levy said. “Hemus challenged me, so I had to protect myself.”

Fans booed and threw beer cans onto the field.

After order was restored, play resumed with no ejections. “They didn’t have anything to throw me out for,” Hemus said.

Daniels retired Hemus on a groundout to short. After the Cardinals completed their half of the inning, Hemus removed himself from the game.

(Because of a curfew, the game was suspended in the seventh and resumed on the Cardinals’ next trip to Pittsburgh in June. The Cardinals won, 3-1.) Boxscore

Bad example

Noting that Hemus claimed he had tried to put a spark into the Cardinals, Brosnan said, “If that truly was his intention, he did it as awkwardly as he could. All he proved to me was that little men _ or boys _ shouldn’t play with sparks, as well as with matches.”

Wrote the Post-Gazette: “Hemus’ behavior seemed something less than expected from a major league manager.”

The Pittsburgh Press concluded Hemus “went to great lengths to set what turned out to be a bad example.”

After the second game was suspended, Hemus held a closed-door meeting with his team.

During the session, Gibson said, “Hemus referred to Daniels as a nigger … It was hard to believe our manager could be so thickheaded and it was even harder to play for a guy who unapologetically regarded black players as niggers.”

In his book “The Way It Is,” Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood said Hemus told the team, “I want you to be the first to know what I said to Daniels. I called him a black son of a bitch.”

Flood said he and teammates “sat with our jaws open, eyeing each other” as Hemus spoke.

“We had been wondering how the manager really felt about us,” Flood said. “Now we knew. Black sons of bitches.”

Said Gibson: “Hemus’ treatment of black players was the result of one of the following: Either he disliked us deeply or he genuinely believed that the way to motivate us was with insults.”

White said of Hemus, “I never had a problem with him, but some of the other players, especially Curt Flood and Bob Gibson, absolutely despised him, partly because he didn’t play them as much as they would have liked but also because they thought he was a racist.”

In 1992, Gibson recalled, Hemus approached him at a Cardinals reunion and said he wasn’t a racist. Gibson reminded Hemus of the incident with Daniels. According to Gibson, Hemus defended himself as “a master motivator doing what he could to fire up the ball club.”

Said Gibson: “My response was ‘Bullshit.’ ”

In his book “October 1964,” author David Halberstam said Hemus “was saddened that years later Gibson and Flood still thought of him as a racist. He accepted the blame for what had happened. The world had been changing, but he had not, he later decided.”

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By any definition, Jose Oquendo was a giant killer.

In his first four years in the major leagues, Oquendo hit three home runs. All came against the Giants. The first two occurred in the regular season. The third happened 30 years ago, on Oct. 14, 1987, and carried the Cardinals to a National League pennant.

In the decisive Game 7 of the 1987 NL Championship Series at St. Louis, Oquendo hit a three-run home run in the second inning, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead. The blast stunned the Giants and inspired the Cardinals, who went on to a 6-0 victory and a berth in the World Series against the Twins.

“You’ve heard of a home run giving somebody a lift,” Cardinals slugger Jack Clark said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “This one lifted us right out of the stadium.”

Asking for trouble

Oquendo was 20 years old and a rookie with the Mets when he hit his first big-league home run. It occurred on Aug. 21, 1983, against Giants left-hander Gary Lavelle at San Francisco.

In 1987, Oquendo was a Cardinals utility player. He produced 71 hits _ 61 for singles. On July 25 that season, Oquendo hit his second big-league home run. It came against Giants left-hander Craig Lefferts at San Francisco.

With another Giants left-hander, Atlee Hammaker, starting Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog sought to stack his lineup with players who batted from the right side. Needing a first baseman to replace Clark, who was injured, Herzog moved right fielder Jim Lindeman to first and chose Oquendo, a switch hitter, to start in right.

In the second inning, the Cardinals led, 1-0, and had Willie McGee on second, Tony Pena on third and one out. Oquendo, the eighth-place batter, was at the plate and pitcher Danny Cox was on deck.

With first base open, Giants manager Roger Craig had the option of walking Oquendo intentionally, setting up a potential force out at every base with Cox at the plate.

Instead, the Giants decided to take their chances with Oquendo.

“I didn’t think Roger Craig would want to pitch to me,” Oquendo said.

Countered Craig: “Hammaker has got out a lot better hitters than Oquendo. With one out, I wouldn’t put Oquendo on … You can second-guess me. I don’t care.”

It’s a gift

With the count even at 2-and-2, Hammaker threw Oquendo a slider that barely missed the strike zone. “Real close,” Oquendo admitted.

The full-count payoff pitch was a cut fastball over the plate. “It hung about as high as the bird on Oquendo’s uniform,” wrote San Francisco columnist Ray Ratto.

“Hung it big as day,” said Giants third baseman Kevin Mitchell.

“I thought they’d try to throw me breaking balls outside,” Oquendo said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was surprised he came in.”

“Even then,” said Hammaker to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Oquendo needs luck.”

Taking a confident cut, Oquendo connected with the pitch and drove the ball over the left-field wall at Busch Stadium. Video

“If you’re talking improbable, implausible and almost impossible, how about Jose Oquendo hitting a home run?” wrote Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

“Was I stunned?” asked Cardinals third baseman Terry Pendleton. “Weren’t you?”

Said Herzog: “It was a goddamn Christmas present.” Boxscore

Hard work pays

Oquendo’s home run occurred on the birthday of his daughter, 3-year-old Adianez. “I feel proud,” Oquendo said.

During the series with the Giants, Doug DiCences, an infielder acquired by the Cardinals from the Angels, had suggested to Oquendo that he watch an instructional hitting video by future Hall of Famer Rod Carew. Oquendo, who admired Carew, studied the video before Game 7, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“He’s probably the hardest worker we have on the ball club,” Cardinals hitting coach Johnny Lewis said of Oquendo. “He was out here today (before Game 7) at 2:30 taking batting practice … He was ready.”

Oquendo would finish his 12-year career in the major leagues with 15 home runs _ 14 in the regular season and one in the postseason.

Only one was hit against a right-hander, Doug Bair of the Pirates.

Previously: How Ozzie Smith motivated Cards to get Jose Oquendo

Previously: Tom Lawless and his role in Cardinals World Series lore

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For overall excellence with bat and glove, Julian Javier earned a place alongside future Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock as a standout for the Cardinals in the 1967 World Series.

The trio capped their consistently strong postseason with clutch performances in the decisive Game 7 against the Red Sox at Boston 50 years ago on Oct. 12, 1967.

After the Cardinals and Red Sox split the first six games, St. Louis prevailed in the finale, 7-2, at Fenway Park. In that game:

_ Gibson pitched a three-hitter, struck out 10 and contributed a home run. He won all three of his starts against the Red Sox and was named recipient of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.

_ Brock produced two hits, a walk, three stolen bases and scored a run. For the Series, he hit .414 (12-for-29) with seven steals and eight runs scored.

_ Javier delivered the key hit _ a three-run home run. For the Series, he hit .360 (9-for-25) and fielded splendidly. Javier made 12 putouts, helped turn four double plays and made 20 assists. His lone error occurred on a hurried relay throw in the finale.

Brock told United Press International he believed the World Series MVP trophy “has to go to Javier. He made some of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen in addition to his nine hits.”

Strategy session

Through five innings of Game 7, the Cardinals led, 4-1. With Gibson at peak form, the Red Sox realized they likely would need to keep the Cardinals from scoring again in order to have a chance to rally.

In the sixth, Tim McCarver, hitless in his previous 10 at-bats, led off for the Cardinals and stroked a low liner to right against Red Sox ace Jim Lonborg. Ken Harrelson charged in and attempted a diving catch, but the ball glanced off his glove. McCarver hustled to second base with a double.

Mike Shannon followed with a one-hop smash that clanked off third baseman Joe Foy. With McCarver holding at second, Shannon reached first base safely and Foy was charged with an error.

Red Sox manager Dick Williams visited Lonborg on the mound. “I went out there to take him out,” Williams told The Sporting News.

Lonborg asked to stay in. He explained to Williams that the next batter, Javier, likely would try to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt. Williams agreed.

After Javier, the Cardinals’ eighth- and ninth-place batters, Dal Maxvill and Gibson, were due to bat. If Javier sacrificed, Lonborg figured, he liked his chances of escaping the inning unscathed.

“Jim said he still felt good,” Williams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “and we thought Javier would be bunting.”

Instead, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst, sensing a chance to drive a dagger into Boston’s hopes, allowed Javier to swing away.

Game changer

Looking to make contact, “I wasn’t trying to hit the ball hard,” Javier said to the Associated Press.

Relying on breaking pitches, Lonborg got ahead in the count, 1-and-2.

The next pitch, a slider, lacked a sharp break and hung in the strike zone.

Javier connected _ “It went up there,” he said of the ball_ and the high drive carried over the Green Monster wall in left field for a home run, giving St. Louis a 7-1 lead.

“This one is a crusher,” Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray said. Video

As McCarver, Shannon and Javier rounded the bases and reached home plate _ “A joyous parade,” Caray crowed _ many in the Boston crowd fell silent.

The Red Sox managed to score a run in the eighth before Gibson sealed the win in the ninth. Boxscore

Noting that two of the Cardinals’ top hitters had struggled throughout the World Series _ Orlando Cepeda batted .103 and McCarver hit .125 _ Javier said “we could have beat them in five games” if the middle-of-the-order duo had produced better.

A few days after the championship celebration, Javier returned to his home in the Dominican Republic. Arriving at the airport in Santo Domingo, Javier was “given a hero’s welcome,” according to the Post-Dispatch. In a public ceremony, President Joaquin Balaguer presented Javier with the Order of the Fathers of the Country, the Dominican Republic’s highest decoration.

Previously: George Scott: Bob Gibson ‘won’t survive 5’ in Game 7

Previously: World Series duels: Norm Siebern vs. Bob Gibson

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Only once has a Cardinals player hit a ninth-inning home run that provided the winning run in the deciding game of a World Series.

Whitey Kurowski, a rookie third baseman, accomplished the feat for the Cardinals 75 years ago.

On Oct. 5, 1942, in Game 5 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, Kurowski hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning, breaking a 2-2 tie and carrying the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory. The win was the fourth in a row for the Cardinals over the Yankees in the best-of-seven World Series.

Kurowski’s home run rates with those by players such as Ken Boyer (1964), Tim McCarver (1964), Willie McGee (1982), Tom Lawless (1987), Albert Pujols (2011) and David Freese (2011) as being among the most prominent and most important in Cardinals World Series lore.

Beating the odds

George “Whitey” Kurowski, a Reading, Pa., native, debuted with the Cardinals on Sept. 23, 1941 _ six days after another Polish-American from Pennsylvania, Stan Musial, played his first game for St. Louis.

“Kurowski’s right arm, which flaps in the breeze like a seal’s flipper, is the result of a bone operation, in which a large piece was removed from the forearm,” wrote Tom Meany, a New York-based syndicated columnist. “As a kid, he fell off a fence and landed on some broken glass. Osteomyelitis was the result and osteomyelitis is no fun for an 8-year-old who can’t even pronounce it.”

Determined to earn a spot with the 1942 Cardinals, Kurowski was at spring training when he learned his father had died of a heart attack. Kurowski also had lost a brother who died in a coal mining accident.

Jimmy Brown opened the 1942 season as the Cardinals’ starting third baseman, with Kurowski in reserve. In late May, manager Billy Southworth shifted Brown to second base, replacing Creepy Crespi, and made Kurowski the starter at third.

Kurowski, 24, batted .254 with nine home runs and 42 RBI in 115 games for the 1942 National League champions.

Decision time

In Game 1 of the 1942 World Series, Kurowski struck out three times against Yankees starter and future Hall of Famer Red Ruffing.

Kurowski produced a hit in each of the next three games, all Cardinals victories. In the seventh inning of Game 4, with runners on second and third, one out, Kurowski was issued an intentional walk by the Yankees.

Needing one more win to clinch the championship, the Cardinals started rookie Johnny Beazley, winner of Game 2, against Ruffing in Game 5. Ruffing, 37, had seven World Series wins in his career.

In the ninth, with the score tied at 2-2, Walker Cooper led off for the Cardinals with a single to center. Johnny Hopp’s sacrifice bunt moved Cooper to second.

Kurowski batted next. With first base open, Ruffing looked to the dugout to see whether Yankees manager Joe McCarthy wanted him to give an intentional walk to Kurowski . On deck was the eighth-place batter, Marty Marion, who had no home runs during the regular season and who would bat .111 in the World Series. After Marion came the pitcher, Beazley.

McCarthy ordered Ruffing to pitch to Kurowski.

Dramatic ninth

Kurowski connected on a high, inside pitch and drove the ball through a fog toward the left-field corner. “Not one-tenth of the spectators saw the ball,” wrote Tom Meany.

The ball _ fair by about five feet _ cleared the fence for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 4-2 lead.

Cooper and Kurowski “received a few pats on the back when they arrived at the bench,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported. “The Cards were not going to celebrate before the final verdict had been sealed.”

(Contrast that with the showboating antics of today’s players who flip bats, gesture to the dugouts and to the stands, pump their fists while rounding the bases and cross the plate with all the graceless theatrics of circus clowns.)

The Yankees threatened in their half of the ninth. Joe Gordon led off with a single. Bill Dickey rolled a grounder to second, but Jimmy Brown booted the ball for an error.

With runners on first and second, no outs, Jerry Priddy bluffed a bunt. The Cardinals’ catcher, Walker Cooper, fired the ball _ “a lightning peg,” The Sporting News called it _ to Marion, who was covering second. Gordon, caught off guard, was tagged out.

The pickoff took the steam out of the Yankees’ comeback hopes. Priddy popped out (Brown made a sprawling catch on the play) and George Selkirk, batting for Ruffing, grounded out, ending the game and clinching the championship for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Team player

In the victorious clubhouse, Cardinals players “hugged and pounded Kurowski on the back and then hoisted him on their shoulders,” the Associated Press reported. Teammates tore pieces off the back of Kurowski’s uniform pants and kept the shreds as souvenirs.

“I hope my brother, Ray, was listening to the radio,” Kurowski said. “He’s a Marine down in Parris Island, S.C. I got a letter from him congratulating me on getting into the World Series, but telling me I made him look silly by fanning my first three times at-bat. I got even with him today.”

Each member of the Cardinals earned a World Series championship share of $6,192.50.

Upon arriving in St. Louis by train from New York, the Cardinals were greeted by a crowd so thick on the station platform “it was hard to see who was coming out of the train,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Soon after, 13 of the Cardinals, including Kurowski, went to the Red Cross headquarters in St. Louis and donated blood for use in treating U.S. military members.

Wrote the Star-Times, “The team spirit that carried the Cardinals to the top of the heap can be best illustrated by Kurowski, the blonde-haired Polish boy from the hills of Pennsylvania who sidesteps all personal glory _ even after that epic smash.”

Previously: From Les Bell to David Freese: Cards 3rd base champs

Previously: Tom Lawless and his role in Cards World Series lore

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Leo Durocher, combative shortstop of the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang teams of the mid-1930s, fell out of favor with manager Frankie Frisch.

Their relationship deteriorated so badly that Frisch issued an ultimatum to Cardinals executive Branch Rickey: Either Durocher goes or I go.

Eighty years ago, on Oct. 5, 1937, the Cardinals dealt Durocher to the Dodgers for third baseman Joe Stripp, second baseman Jim Bucher, outfielder Johnny Cooney and pitcher Roy Henshaw.

The trade, it turned out, created a career-boosting opportunity for Durocher. After a season as the Dodgers’ starting shortstop, he became their player-manager in 1939. Durocher went on to a successful, sometimes stormy, managerial career that earned him election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, none of the players acquired by the Cardinals for Durocher contributed much. Frisch, who had been player-manager since 1933, was fired in September 1938 near the end of the Cardinals’ first losing season in six years.

Battle of wills

Durocher had come to the Cardinals from the Reds in a May 1933 trade. As their starting shortstop, Durocher helped the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1934. He led National League shortstops in fielding percentage in 1936.

Complaining of a kidney ailment and bad back, Durocher had a poor start to the 1937 season. After going hitless in a May 4 game at Boston against the Braves, Durocher’s batting average was at .132.

After the game, Durocher asked Frisch for permission to stay out of the hotel past the manager-mandated midnight curfew. The request upset Frisch, who accused Durocher, the team captain, of being focused more on fun than on performance.

The next day, May 5, Frisch benched Durocher and started Jimmy Brown at shortstop against the Braves.

After an off day on May 6, the Cardinals opened a series against the Giants at New York. Brown started at shortstop in the May 7 game.

When Frisch posted a lineup with Brown at shortstop again on May 8 against the Giants, Durocher declined to take batting or fielding practice at the Polo Grounds.

Durocher’s defiance was intolerable to Frisch.

“Nobody on my team _ even you _ can show such a lack of spirit,” Frisch said to Durocher.

When Durocher spoke up for himself, saying he had played earlier despite being ill and in pain, Frisch barked, “Get a train and go back to St. Louis. Get out of here.”

Durocher didn’t depart, but he didn’t get back into the starting lineup until May 12 against the Phillies at Philadelphia.

Big deal

Durocher, 32, played out the rest of the season as the Cardinals’ primary shortstop. He batted .203 in 135 games and grounded into a team-high 17 double plays.

In summarizing Durocher’s season, the St. Louis Star-Times wrote, “He was off stride at the very start, complained of illness and injuries, and was anything but the brilliant defensive player he had been. Durocher gained weight and was unable to handle the important shortstop position with his old-time finesse. Batted balls to his left and to his right became base hits.”

On Oct. 5, two days after the completion of the Cardinals’ season, Rickey was in New York to attend the World Series between the Giants and Yankees when he made the trade with the Dodgers.

Dick Farrington, in a column for The Sporting News, declared, “Leo Durocher’s passing from the Cards to the Dodgers was a case of ‘It’s Durocher or me’ with Frankie Frisch.”

A headline in The Sporting News blared, “Frisch Responsible For Durocher Going.”

The key players in the deal for the Cardinals were Stripp and Bucher. Stripp _ “Generally regarded as one of the best third sackers in the major leagues,” according to the Post-Dispatch _ long had been coveted by Frisch. Rickey liked Bucher, who had started his career in the Cardinals’ system before being drafted by the Dodgers.

“Bucher, alone, is a better ballplayer than Durocher,” Giants manager Bill Terry told International News Service in rating the deal a steal for St. Louis.

According to The Sporting News, “The first impulse of Brooklyn fans was heavily against the switch” because they thought four players were too high a price for Durocher.

However, Pie Traynor, Pirates manager, said, “The Dodgers got a great shortstop and they didn’t give up anybody who could help them.”

Dodgers benefit

The 1938 season was a failure for Frisch and the Cardinals.

Stripp squabbled with management over his contract and got a late start to the season. He batted .286 in 54 games but was sent to the Braves on Aug. 1.

Bucher, who spent most of the year in the minors, hit .228 in 17 Cardinals games.

Henshaw had a 5-11 record and 4.02 ERA for the Cardinals.

Cooney was released on the eve of the season opener.

On Sept. 11, with the Cardinals’ record at 63-72, Frisch was fired and replaced by a coach, Mike Gonzalez, for the rest of the season.

Durocher in 1938 led National League shortstops in fielding percentage and was named to the all-star team.

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cards to oust Frankie Frisch

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