Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Three impact players who defined the style of the National League in the 1960s were Maury Wills of the Dodgers and Lou Brock and Bob Gibson of the Cardinals. Wills and Brock brought speed with their base stealing, Gibson brought power with his pitching, and all three brought savvy and smarts to a championship brand of baseball.

In the 10-year period from 1959 to 1968, the Cardinals and Dodgers combined to win seven league pennants and five World Series titles.

Wills (1962) and Gibson (1968) each earned a National League Most Valuable Player Award.

From 1960 to 1969, the only players to lead the National League in steals were Wills and Brock. Wills led each year from 1960 to 1965. Brock was the leader each year from 1966 to 1969.

In 1962, Wills established the major-league record for stolen bases in a season (104). Twelve years later, Brock broke the mark (with 118).

A switch-hitting shortstop who totaled 2,134 hits and 586 stolen bases in 14 seasons in the majors with the Dodgers, Pirates and Expos, Wills died on Sept. 19, 2022, at 89, two weeks before his 90th birthday.

Record in St. Louis

On Sept. 23, 1962, at St. Louis, Wills, 29, had two stolen bases against the Cardinals, giving him 97 for the season and breaking the major-league record (96) established by Ty Cobb of the 1915 Tigers.

“Mercurial Maury Wills, a preacher’s son with the heart of a burglar, became the greatest base stealer in modern times,” Frank Finch wrote in the lead to his game story in the Los Angeles Times.

Wills twice stole second in the game against the battery of pitcher Larry Jackson and catcher Carl Sawatski. Boxscore

For the season, Wills finished with 104 steals in 117 tries. He was successful on 11 of 12 stolen base attempts versus the 1962 Cardinals.

In his book “Oh, Baby, I Love It,” Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver said of Wills, “He opened up baseball’s eyes to what speed can do for a team.”

“Maury Wills is the greatest slider and the quickest starter in the history of the game,” Phillies manager Gene Mauch told Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray in 1965. “He gets the base stolen the first five feet. He’s the most unafraid runner I’ve ever seen.”

In the book “We Played the Game,” McCarver said, “Maury Wills was smart. No one was better at sliding into a base. He had a sixth sense that told him how to be safe. If he knew it would be a close play, he’d slide into the glove and kick the ball out, or he’d avoid the tag and reach the corner of a base with his hand.”

One reason the Cardinals acquired catcher Bob Uecker from the Braves on the eve of the 1964 season opener was to try to slow down the base stealing of Wills.

Walks will haunt

Wills could field (two Gold Glove awards) and hit (five times in the top 10 in the National League in hits) as well as steal bases. Video

With the Dodgers in 1965, he had five hits in a game against the Cardinals. Boxscore

In the 1966 All-Star Game at St. Louis, Wills’ single in the 10th inning drove in Tim McCarver with the winning run for the National League.

With the Pirates in 1967, Wills slugged a three-run home run against the Cardinals’ Steve Carlton in Pittsburgh. “That’s the first one I’ve ever hit over the left field wall at Forbes Field,” Wills told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was the most surprised person in the ballpark when the ball cleared the wall.” Boxscore

Wills had 15 hits versus Carlton in his career, but the home run was the only one that wasn’t a single.

Against another future Hall of Famer, Bob Gibson, Wills batted .211 and had a paltry on-base percentage of .261. Of Wills’ 26 hits in 123 at-bats versus Gibson, 22 were singles and four were doubles.

In his book “On the Run,” Wills said, “Bob Gibson was the toughest pitcher for me to hit. He had a little slider he’d throw in on my fists. It was small but hard, and I just couldn’t get around on it.”

In the book “From Ghetto to Glory,” Gibson said, “I don’t have any trouble with Maury. I try to throw him high fastballs and let him hit it in the air. He’s not strong enough to hit the ball out. When he’s batting left-handed, he’ll hit a lot of fly balls to left field if you get it up and away.”

Wills drew nine career walks from Gibson, but only one from 1963 to 1971.

In the book “Sixty Feet, Six Inches,” Gibson explained, “If you’re pitching to Maury Wills, for heaven’s sake don’t walk him. I learned to not be too fancy with the little guys who couldn’t hit home runs. Make them take their cuts.”

When Wills did reach base against Gibson, the Cardinals’ ace would try to keep him from stealing by going into the stretch position and then pausing for as long as possible. In the book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “After I’d been in the league a few years, I stopped wasting my time and energy by throwing to first to hold runners on. I eventually learned that I didn’t have to throw the ball to keep the runner close. I just held it a little longer. That drove Maury Wills crazy.”

In a typical Gibson wisecrack, he also said in the “Sixty Feet, Six Inches” book, “Honestly, though, when Wills was on base it didn’t bother me as much as you might think because I was resigned to the fact that Tim McCarver, my good buddy and catcher, wasn’t going to throw him out. I loved pitching to McCarver, but we both know that he wasn’t about to throw out Maury Wills.”

(McCarver, no doubt, would like to have it noted that on July 16, 1964, at St. Louis, he twice threw out Wills attempting to steal second. The first time was with Ray Sadecki pitching and the other was with Mike Cuellar on the mound. Boxscore)

Running a stop sign

In 1974, Lou Brock was 35 when he made his bid to break Wills’ record for stolen bases in a season. Though he’d led the National League in steals seven times before 1974, Brock never had achieved 100. His highest total was 74 in 1966.

In Brock’s autobiography, “Stealing is my Game,” Hall of Famer Stan Musial said, “I don’t think Lou or anybody else believed Maury Wills’ mark would topple after only 12 years. It looked like one of those eternal records. What Maury did was magnificent. Lou had to have everything going for him in 1974 to do even better.”

In his book “On the Run,” Wills recalled, “As the season went on and Lou Brock got closer to my record, I found myself watching the games on TV and rooting for the pitchers. Nothing worked.”

According to Wills, Brock called him for advice during the season.

“My legs are hurting, Maury,” Brock said. “What should I do?”

Wills said he jokingly replied, “Ice them down, Lou. Take a couple weeks off. Then quit.”

In his book, Wills said, “The record was my identity. I was the stolen base king. I didn’t want to see my record broken. It meant a lot to me. Records were made to be broken, but not mine.”

On Sept. 10, 1974, Brock got his 105th stolen base of the season, breaking Wills’ record, in a game against the Phillies at St. Louis,

“I wasn’t at the game when Brock stole his 105th base,” Wills said in his book. “I was at the NBC studio waiting to comment on it.”

Asked how he felt about seeing the record surpassed, Wills said he replied, “I don’t like it at all. I wasn’t pulling for him. I wasn’t wishing him any bad experiences or any harm, but I wasn’t pulling for him.”

In Brock’s autobiography, his collaborator, Franz Schulze, wrote of Wills, “The way he responded to it warms my heart. He took an attitude which to me is as rational as Brock’s. He grieved over the winnowing away of the single accomplishment in which he had taken the greatest pride. He didn’t like to give up what was precious and hard-earned. So far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfectly healthy outlook. Lou, just as smart, just as honest, thought so, too.”

Hall of Famer Ernie Banks said in the Brock autobiography, “People like to contrast Lou and Maury. You know, Lou has the short slide. Maury had the great, broad hook slide.

“Well, I think they’re much more alike than different because the best thing about both of them is their brains. I’ve seen Lou and Maury both psyche out a pitcher as if they were inside the man’s head, just reading the meter. After the smarts, it’s their motivation. Both wanted tremendously to get where they are.”



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On the day he secured his sixth National League batting title, Stan Musial learned he should stick to hitting instead of pitching.

Musial pitched for the only time in a big-league game on Sept. 28, 1952, in the Cardinals’ season finale against the Cubs at St. Louis.

He threw one pitch to one batter, his closest pursuer for the batting title, Cubs outfielder Frankie Baumholtz, then returned to the outfield.

Musial’s pitching appearance was prearranged by the Cardinals, who hoped it would generate interest in a game with nothing at stake in the standings.

Instead, the stunt was an embarrassment to Musial.

Show time

The Cardinals (88-65) entered the final day of the 1952 season in third place in the National League and the Cubs (76-77) were in fifth. Regardless of the outcome in the season finale, both teams were assured of finishing in those spots in the standings.

On the morning of the final game, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Musial would pitch that Sunday afternoon, but only to Baumholtz. Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky told the newspaper Musial would pitch at least once to Baumholtz.

According to The Sporting News, the Cardinals received permission from National League president Warren Giles for Musial to pitch against Baumholtz.

In his book, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said he “was persuaded” to pitch to Baumholtz “as a box office promotion.”

Musial entered the game with a league-leading .336 batting average. Baumholtz was second at .326. According to the Post-Dispatch, it remained mathematically possible for Baumholtz to surpass Musial for the batting title. For that to happen, Baumholtz would have to go 5-for-5 in the finale and Musial would need to go hitless in at least four at-bats.

If Baumholtz went 5-for-5, he’d finish with a batting average of .334. If Musial went 0-for-4 or 0-for-5, he’d finish at .333.

Though the odds were stacked against Baumholtz overtaking Musial, the Cardinals thought having Musial pitch to him would make it more intriguing.

On the mound

Musial began his professional career as a left-handed pitcher in the Cardinals’ system. After pitching two seasons (1938-39) for Williamson (W.Va.), Musial pitched for another Class D farm, the Daytona Beach (Fla.) Islanders, in 1940.

Musial was 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA for Daytona Beach. On days he didn’t pitch, he often played the outfield. In August 1940, he was playing center field against Orlando when he damaged his left shoulder trying to catch a sinking line drive.

The injury ended Musial’s pitching career. Moved fulltime to the outfield in 1941, Musial, 20, rose through the farm system, impressing with his hitting, and reached the majors with the Cardinals in September that year.

Eleven years later, he was asked to give pitching another try in order to end Frankie Baumholtz’s last-gasp bid to snatch the batting crown from him.

Having regrets

A crowd of 17,422 gathered at Sportsman’s Park for the 1952 season finale. Rookie left-hander Harvey Haddix was the Cardinals’ starting pitcher. Musial began the game in center field.

Haddix walked the Cubs’ leadoff batter, Tommy Brown. Then, with Baumholtz coming up, Musial went to pitch, Haddix moved to right field, and Hal Rice shifted from right to center.

“Musial took only a couple of pitches for warmup,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

In his autobiography, Musial said, “I didn’t relish the contrived show. I didn’t like it particularly because the one batter I’d face would be Baumholtz. I didn’t want to give any impression I might be trying to show him up.”

As Musial warmed up, Cubs manager Phil Cavarretta said to Baumholtz, “They’re trying to make a fool of you, Frank,” Baumholtz told author Danny Peary for the book “We Played the Game.”

Baumholtz said he replied, “I don’t think so. I think it’s just a gimmick to get a lot of people in the stands to watch two also-rans on the last day of the season.”

Send in the clowns

Baumholtz was strictly a left-handed batter, but he stood in from the right side to face Musial. Baumholtz never had batted right-handed. According to The Sporting News, Baumholtz made the switch as a gesture of sportsmanship because he “refused to try for a cheap hit” against the National League batting leader posing as a pitcher.

Or, as the St. Louis Globe-Democrat put it, “Baumholtz didn’t want to get something for nothing.”

Musial threw Baumholtz a fastball, the Post-Dispatch reported. In describing the pitch in his book, Musial said, “I flipped the ball.”

Baumholtz “met the ball squarely and it bounced on a big hop” to third baseman Solly Hemus, the Post-Dispatch reported. “Figuring on a double play, Hemus fumbled the ball. He then threw late and wide to first, and Brown took third.”

As United Press noted, “Baumholtz was safe on an error on what should have been a double play ball.”

Reaching on an error made Baumholtz 0-for-1 for the game and virtually eliminated his chance of overtaking Musial for the batting crown.

“I’m not proud of that circus,” Musial said in his autobiography.

After the Baumholtz at-bat, Musial, Haddix and Rice returned to their original positions. Haddix got the next batter, Bill Serena, to ground into a double play, but Brown scored from third for a 1-0 Cubs lead.

When Musial batted in the third inning, Cubs starter Paul Minner “tried to tease him with a slow underhand toss but it was wide of the plate,” the Globe-Democrat reported. On a curve, Musial fouled out to the catcher.

In the ninth, Musial lined a 3-and-2 pitch from Minner to left for a single. In going 1-for-3 in the game, Musial finished the season with a .336 batting average.

Baumholtz went 1-for-4 _ his hit was a bunt single in the sixth _ and placed second in the batting race at .325.

Haddix pitched eight innings and allowed three runs. Minner pitched a shutout in a 3-0 Cubs victory. Boxscore

Higher standards

In the seven seasons in which he won batting titles, Musial’s .336 mark in 1952 was his lowest. It also was the lowest figure by a NL batting leader since Ernie Lombardi of the Reds hit .330 in 1942.

“I had a bad year,” Musial said to the Globe-Democrat. “I wish I could have done better. My timing was off during the season.”

Yep, it was terrible. In addition to winning the batting crown, Musial, 31, led the National League in slugging percentage (.538), hits (194), total bases (311) and doubles (42) in 1952.

In his autobiography, Musial said he was “most disappointed” in his RBI total of 91 in 1952. It was the only time in a 10-year stretch from 1948-57 that Musial didn’t drive in 100 runs in a season.


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(Updated Sept. 21, 2022)

After a playing career as an outfielder and first baseman in the majors during the 1960s, Lee Thomas was willing to do whatever it took to remain in the game. The Cardinals gave him a chance and he made the most of it.

Thomas served several roles with the Cardinals before becoming a top baseball executive. Having earned the respect and trust of Whitey Herzog, Thomas was responsible for developing the pipeline that supplied much talent for the Cardinals’ championship clubs in the 1980s.

Impressed by what he accomplished, the Phillies hired Thomas and he was their general manager when they won a National League title in 1993.

Settled in St. Louis

Born in Peoria, Thomas moved with his mother and stepfather, an auto mechanic, to Jacksonville, Ill., and Waco, Texas, before settling in St. Louis when he was 8, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

A standout athlete at Beaumont High School in St. Louis, Thomas, 18, hit .580 his senior baseball season and was signed by the Yankees in June 1954.

Another Yankees outfield prospect at the time was Whitey Herzog.

A left-handed batter who hit for power and average, Thomas spent seven seasons in the Yankees’ farm system before reaching the majors with them in 1961.

A special opportunity occurred for Thomas when the Yankees played the Cardinals at St. Louis in a pair of exhibition games on the eve of the 1961 season opener. Substituting for right fielder Roger Maris late in both games, Thomas got to play before friends and family, and singled in an at-bat against Mickey McDermott.

Two weeks later, making his big-league debut as a pinch-hitter at Baltimore, Thomas singled to center against future Hall of Famer and former Cardinal Hoyt Wilhelm. Playing right field for the Orioles was Whitey Herzog. Boxscore

Fitted for a halo

In May 1961, the Yankees dealt Thomas to the Angels, a first-year expansion club. He became the first Angels player to hit a grand slam (against the Orioles’ Milt Pappas), the first to hit three home runs in a game and the first to go 5-for-5.

On Sept. 5, 1961, Thomas had 9 hits in 11 at-bats in a doubleheader against the Athletics at Kansas City. Boxscore and Boxscore

The next year, Thomas hit .290 with 26 home runs and 104 RBI for the 1962 Angels and was named an American League all-star.

Those early Angels teams were stocked with colorful characters such as veterans Steve Bilko, Rocky Bridges, Art Fowler and Ted Kluszewski, and newcomers the likes of Bo Belinsky, Dean Chance, Jim Fregosi, Bob “Buck” Rodgers and Thomas.

“We were a group of guys no one wanted and were out to prove we could play,” Thomas told the Los Angeles Times.

Rodgers, who went on to manage the Brewers, Expos and Angels, was Thomas’ road roommate with the Angels. He gave Thomas the nickname “Mad Dog” for hurling a 3-wood into a tree during a celebrity golf outing at the Rio Hondo Club.

“I can’t say anything bad about him, except I had to order the pizza all the time when we were roomies,” Rodgers said to the Los Angeles Times.

After the 1962 season, Thomas had surgery on a knee he damaged during his prep football days. He wasn’t the same after that. In his last five big-league seasons (1964-68), he played for five teams (Angels, Red Sox, Braves, Cubs, Astros).

(On the morning of May 28, 1966, the Braves dealt Thomas to the Cubs for reliever Ted Abernathy. That afternoon, Thomas made his Cubs debut and drove in the tying run with a single against Abernathy. Boxscore)

Multiple skills

Thomas made his last big-league playing appearance on Sept. 27, 1968, as a pinch-hitter for the Astros against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

After playing for the Nankai Hawks in Japan in 1969 (a teammate was former Cardinals second baseman Don Blasingame), Thomas finished his playing career with the Cardinals’ Tulsa affiliate managed by Warren Spahn.

“I knew I wanted to stay in the game,” Thomas said to the Los Angeles Times.

Back home in St. Louis, he got hired by the Cardinals. According to the team media guide, Thomas filled the following roles:

_ 1971-72: Cardinals batting practice pitcher and bullpen coach.

_ 1973: Manager of a Cardinals team in the rookie Gulf Coast League in Sarasota, Fla.

_ 1974: Manager of the Cardinals’ Modesto farm club in the California League.

_ 1975: Cardinals administrative assistant to Joe Cunningham in sales and promotions.

“I sold season tickets,” Thomas told author Tom Wheatley. “It wasn’t easy. You had to wine and dine people to sell them … and we were horsefeathers for a while there.”

_ 1976-80: Cardinals traveling secretary.

In his autobiography, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, who brought Thomas into the organization, said, “He did more than just make travel arrangements for the ballclub. When I had a question on player development, I always valued him as a sounding board. I liked to check with him when I wanted an opinion from someone not so close to me in the baseball office.”

_ 1981-88: Cardinals director of player development.

Whitey Herzog, who had the dual role of Cardinals manager and general manager, chose Thomas to be director of player development after the 1980 season.

“Lee is a lot like me,” Herzog told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Lee has enough confidence in his ability to make a decision and go ahead and do it.”

During Thomas’ time as director of player development, the Cardinals developed players such as Vince Coleman, Danny Cox, Ricky Horton, Terry Pendleton, Joe Magrane, Greg Mathews, John Stuper, Andy Van Slyke and Todd Worrell. Thomas suggested the successful shifting of Pendleton from second base to third. Thomas and scout Hal Smith also initiated the conversion of Worrell from starter to closer.

In 1983, Thomas brought in his close friend and former Angels teammate, Jim Fregosi, to manage the Cardinals’ top farm team at Louisville. With Thomas and Fregosi in synch, the talent pipeline flowed.

“We respect each other’s abilities, and we have no problem about communication,” Fregosi told the Los Angeles Times.

Winning touch

The Cardinals won three National League pennants and a World Series championship during Thomas’ time as director of player development.

Herzog, who as director of player development for the Mets helped build the team that won the 1969 World Series title, said to the Los Angeles Times, “The guy in charge of player development manages six or seven clubs at the same time. He has to have a feel for every player at every level.”

As for Thomas, Herzog said,  “He gave me the right answer every time I called to ask if a certain player or pitcher was ready. That’s what you want from a guy in that position.”

When Cardinals general manager Joe McDonald was ousted in January 1985, “I wanted Lee Thomas” to replace him, Herzog told the Los Angeles Times, but the Cardinals hired Dal Maxvill.

In June 1988, Thomas left the Cardinals to be general manager of the last-place Phillies. He hired Fregosi to be Phillies manager in 1991. Two years later, with Thomas and Fregosi in charge, the Phillies became National League champions.

“Big-league front offices are well-stocked with executives who have a hard time pulling the trigger,” wrote Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Frank Dolson. “They hem. They haw. They hedge. Thomas does none of the above. He shoots from the hip. In that way, he is much like his old boss, Whitey Herzog.”

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Rogers Hornsby set a standard that, a century later, never has been matched by another Cardinals player.

One hundred years ago, in 1922, Hornsby had a 33-game hitting streak for the Cardinals. It remains the franchise record.

Hornsby, 26, achieved the feat in a dominant season for him. A right-handed batter and second baseman, Hornsby in 1922 led the National League in batting (.401), on-base percentage (.459), slugging percentage (.722), runs (141), hits (250), total bases (450), doubles (46), home runs (42), RBI (152) and extra-base hits (102). He also had 17 stolen bases and struck out a mere 50 times in 704 plate appearances.

Collared by Cubs

On Aug. 12, 1922, Hornsby was hitless in a game against the Cubs at St. Louis. His long fly to right against Tiny Osborne (6-foot-5, 215-pound rookie starter) with the bases loaded in the fifth was caught near the fence by former Cardinal Cliff Heathcote.

(When Osborne was lifted in the seventh, Cubs shortstop and team captain Charlie Hollocher, a St. Louis native, “took the ball from the big pitcher and in so doing must have made some sort of a curt remark,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. “Osborne took exception and made a break as if to swing on the captain’s jaw. As he did, umpire Charlie Moran interfered and Osborne was dragged off the field by two huskier mates.”)

In the ninth, facing Percy Lee Jones, Hornsby made the game’s last out, completing an 0-for-4 afternoon and dropping his season batting average from .381 to .377. He wouldn’t have another hitless game for more than a month. Boxscore

Hot hitting

During the 33-game hitting streak, Hornsby’s performances included:

_ Four hits against the Dodgers on Aug. 17. National League strikeout leader and future Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance was the Dodgers’ starter. Boxscore

_ Three hits and four RBI versus the Reds on Sept. 9. Boxscore

_ Three hits and six RBI against the Phillies on Sept. 15. Two of the hits were home runs, a solo shot and a grand slam, both versus starter Jimmy Ring. Four years later, Ring and Frankie Frisch were traded by the Giants to the Cardinals for Hornsby. Boxscore

On Sept. 19, with a cold breeze cutting through the field in Boston, Hornsby extended his streak to 33 games when he pulled a Frank Miller pitch past third baseman Walter Barbare and into left field for a single in his fourth and last plate appearance of the afternoon. Boxscore

Hornsby’s batting average for the season was .400 with 12 games left to play. During the streak, he batted .466, with 68 hits in 146 at-bats.

Nobody’s perfect

On Sept. 20, 1922, the Cardinals were in Brooklyn for a Wednesday doubleheader with the Dodgers at Ebbets Field.

In the opener, spitball specialist Burleigh Grimes was the Dodgers’ starter. Hornsby would collect 59 hits against Grimes in his career, but none came on that day. Grimes won the matchup of future Hall of Famers, holding Hornsby hitless in four plate appearances and snapping his streak.

Hornsby never got a ball out of the infield. In his first three plate appearances, he grounded out twice and struck out.

In the ninth, with Jack Smith on first and none out, Hornsby tapped a ball to Grimes, who made an accurate throw to shortstop Jimmy Johnston, covering second. Johnston dropped the ball and Smith was safe at second on the error. Hornsby reached first on the fielder’s choice.

“Hornsby was just stopped by a great pitcher,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported. “That was all there was to it.”

Grimes pitched a three-hitter and allowed only an unearned run in achieving his 16th win of the season, including four against the Cardinals.

“Burleigh Grimes probably would have held the Cards hitless and runless had Jimmy Johnston removed some of the lead from his shoes,” the New York Daily News noted. “As it was, Grimes allowed only three hits, each of which bounced off the glove of the Brooklyn shortstop.” Boxscore

In the second game, Hornsby, “considerably peeved at being held hitless” in the opener, according to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, had two home runs and a single. The Dodgers’ Leon Cadore pitched the entire game, allowing 20 hits, two walks and 13 runs (three earned). Boxscore

(Two years earlier, on May 1, 1920, Cadore and Joe Oeschger each pitched 26 innings in a game between the Dodgers and Braves. Boxscore)

Entering the Oct. 1 season finale against the Cubs, Hornsby had a season batting average of .400. He went 3-for-5 in the finale to finish at .401, his first of three .400 seasons as a Cardinal. Boxscore

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As Cardinals, pitchers Murry Dickson and Howie Pollet were beneficiaries of the productive hitting of Enos Slaughter. As Pirates, they were victims of the same.

In September 1952, Slaughter delivered walkoff wins for the Cardinals in consecutive games versus the Pirates.

One of those game-winning hits came against Dickson. The other occurred an inning after Slaughter tied the score versus Pollet.

Six years earlier, Dickson (15 wins) and Pollet (21 wins) were two of the top starters for the 1946 World Series champion Cardinals. Slaughter led the National League in RBI (130) that season and made a daring dash from first to home to score the winning run in Game 7 of the World Series.

A lot had changed by 1952. The Cardinals no longer were a consistent contender, and Dickson and Pollet were pitching for one of the all-time worst teams.

Getting it done

At 36, Slaughter still had a prominent role with the 1952 Cardinals as their right fielder, cleanup hitter and team captain. Though not a classic power hitter, Slaughter was a challenge for any pitcher. He led the 1952 Cardinals in RBI (101) and triples (12), and hit .300.

Slaughter was in his usual lineup spot for the Cardinals against the Pirates on Saturday night, Sept. 6, 1952, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. With 20 games left to play, the Cardinals were 77-57, but nine behind the first-place Dodgers.

Starting for the Pirates was Murry Dickson. The year before, he had 20 wins for the Pirates. In 1952, he would suffer 21 losses. The Pirates entered the game with a 39-98 record on their way to a 42-112 finish. The Pirates’ catcher was another former member of the 1946 Cardinals, Joe Garagiola.

Dickson and the Pirates took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth. Red Schoendienst led off for the Cardinals and singled. Stan Musial followed with a sharp grounder to first baseman Tony Bartirome, who threw to shortstop Dick Groat, covering second, for the force out of Schoendienst. Groat’s relay throw to Bartirome nearly completed a double play, but umpire Babe Pinelli ruled Musial safe at first.

(Pinelli’s call peeved the Pirates. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted, “Joe Garagiola sounded off quite freely with Pinelli after the game on the trip to the clubhouse. Both exercised the freedom of speech article in the Constitution.”)

Instead of batting with the bases empty, Slaughter came up with Musial on first and laced a double off the screen in right field. Musial raced home, tying the score at 4-4.

Dickson still was pitching in the 10th when Solly Hemus led off with a double. After Schoendienst popped out, Musial was walked intentionally, bringing up Slaughter. (Musial in his career batted .419 with 52 hits versus Dickson. Slaughter batted .267 with 27 hits against him.)

Slaughter hit Dickson’s first pitch onto the right field roof for a three-run walkoff home run and a 7-4 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

The home run was Slaughter’s 1,900th career hit. He would finish with 2,383.

(Slaughter hit four walkoff home runs in the majors, three for the Cardinals and one for the Athletics.)

Encore performance

The next day, before what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described as a “slender Sunday crowd” of 9,298, Howie Pollet started against his former team.

Pollet shut out the Cardinals for seven innings, limiting them to two hits, but in the eighth, with the Pirates ahead, 3-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with none out. Musial struck out, but Slaughter followed with a triple high off the screen in right-center, tying the score.

“Came the ninth and now defeat was inevitable,” The Pittsburgh Press noted. “It always is with the Pirates.”

Pirates manager Billy Meyer sent Jim Waugh, an 18-year-old rookie, to pitch the bottom of the ninth against the Cardinals. After retiring the first batter, he walked the next three.

Another rookie, Cal Hogue, relieved, facing Slaughter with the bases loaded. Hogue’s best pitch was “a jagged overhanded curve,” according to Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch.

Working the count to 3-and-1, Slaughter sent a fly into medium right-center. Dick Hall, the Pirates’ 6-foot-6 rookie center fielder, loped over to the ball, then turned away and shielded his eyes from the sun.

The ball fell a few feet in front of him for a single as Solly Hemus streaked home from third with the winning run.

Unlike his game-winning home run the night before, Slaughter’s walkoff single wasn’t crushed but the result was the same. Martin J. Haley, covering the game for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, described it as a “sun-kissed single.”

(St. Louis native Dick Hall eventually was converted from an outfielder to a pitcher. He became a successful reliever, pitching in three World Series for the Orioles and earning 93 wins and 71 saves in the majors.)

According to the Globe-Democrat, even if Hall had caught the ball, Hemus “undoubtedly would have scored” from third on the sacrifice fly.

“The sad sack Buccos walked off the field as though trailing a funeral procession,” The Pittsburgh Press reported. Boxscore

Jubilant Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky told Broeg that “all the adjectives in the world can’t describe” Slaughter.

“I didn’t expect him to do nearly what he’s done this season,” Stanky said. “I didn’t think he’d come close to driving in 100 runs.”

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A season that began with Dal Maxvill in a batting slump, resulting in his benching, ended for him with a World Series championship.

On Aug. 30, 1972, the Cardinals traded Maxvill to the Athletics for minor-league third baseman Joe Lindsey and a player to be named (minor-league catcher Gene Dusan).

A gifted fielder, Maxvill was a winner, and he brought those qualities with him to the Athletics.

Maxvill was a member of seven World Series clubs _ five as a player (Cardinals of 1964, 1967, 1968 and Athletics of 1972 and 1974) and two as a general manager (Cardinals of 1985 and 1987). Four of those (1964 and 1967 Cardinals and 1972 and 1974 Athletics) won World Series titles.

Getting it done

A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in electrical engineering, Maxvill signed with the Cardinals in 1960 and made his mark with them when he started at second base in all seven games of the 1964 World Series as a replacement for injured Julian Javier.

After fending off a challenge from Jerry Buchek, Maxvill became the Cardinals’ shortstop in 1966. A light hitter with little power, Maxvill earned the job because of his glove. He was their shortstop on the 1967 and 1968 World Series teams. The 1968 season was Maxvill’s best: He hit .253 and earned a Gold Glove Award.

Maxvill, 33, was the Opening Day shortstop for the Cardinals in 1972, but he went hitless in his first 21 at-bats and was replaced by Ed Crosby.

Though Crosby lacked Maxvill’s fielding skills, the Cardinals were willing to play him if he hit. After batting .324 in April, Crosby hit .217 in May and Maxvill returned to the starting lineup.

Rejuvenated, Maxvill hit .280 in June and .253 in July. To his delight, he hit for a higher average in those months than his road roommate, Joe Torre, the reigning National League batting champion, did. Torre hit .250 in June and .252 in July.

Maxvill drove in four runs against the Phillies on July 2 Boxscore and hit his last big-league home run, an inside-the-park poke against the Astros’ Larry Dierker, on July 9. Boxscore

“He’s being more aggressive at the plate,” Cardinals hitting coach Ken Boyer told The Sporting News. “He’s not taking so many good pitches.”

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said Maxvill also was fielding better “than any other infielder in the National League.”

The Cardinals, though, fell out of contention, and general manager Bing Devine was looking to trade for prospects.

Change of scene

With their record at 58-61, the Cardinals traded outfielder and first baseman Matty Alou to the Athletics on Aug. 27. Three days later, Maxvill was dealt.

The Maxvill trade was the fifth involving the Athletics and Cardinals in 1972. Describing Athletics owner Charlie Finley as “an aggressive guy,” Devine told The Sporting News, “He calls every day and does not seem to worry about a player’s age or salary.”

On the day they acquired Maxvill, the Athletics were in first place, a half game ahead of the White Sox, in the American League West Division.

Maxvill’s departure left Lou Brock and Bob Gibson as the only Cardinals players from the 1967 and 1968 pennant-winning teams.

“The future is more important than the present now,” Devine said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Maxvill told the newspaper he hadn’t expected to be traded but was grateful the Cardinals sent him to a contender.

Fitting in

The Athletics got Maxvill to play second base. Their shortstop, Bert Campaneris, led the American League in stolen bases for the sixth time in 1972 and he also led the league’s shortstops in putouts that season.

Dick Green, the Athletics’ Opening Day second baseman, suffered a herniated disc in April and needed back surgery. His replacement, Larry Brown, suffered the same injury in June.

Maxvill was one of 11 players used at second base by the Athletics in 1972.

In his Athletics debut, on Sept. 1 against the Tigers, Maxvill started at second and contributed two hits and a sacrifice bunt. Boxscore

Maxvill made 21 September starts at second for the 1972 Athletics, but manager Dick Williams often lifted him for a pinch-hitter early in the games. During one stretch, he made five starts without getting a plate appearance.

Key contributor

On Sept. 20, Maxvill contributed two defensive gems to help the Athletics beat the second-place White Sox and move five games ahead of them with two weeks left to play. In the clubhouse after the game, a grateful Dick Williams greeted Maxvill “with a big kiss on the cheek,” The Sporting News reported. Boxscore

“I like this ballclub,” Maxvill told the Oakland Tribune. “This is the type of ballclub we had in St. Louis five or six years ago when we won pennants.”

A week later, on Sept. 28, Maxvill drove in the winning run in the division title clincher against the Twins.

With the score tied at 7-7, Sal Bando led off the bottom of the ninth and was hit by a pitch from Dave LaRoche. Williams ordered the next batter, Maxvill, to attempt a sacrifice bunt. Squaring to bunt, Maxvill watched the first three pitches sail wide, then took a called strike.

Given the green light by Williams to swing at the 3-and-1 pitch, Maxvill drove a double into left-center, scoring Bando with the winning run and giving the Athletics the division title. Boxscore

Maxvill told the Oakland Tribune, “This was one of the most important hits I’ve ever had. The most important.”

It turned out to be his only RBI for the 1972 Athletics.

Helping hand

Dick Green was back for the American League Championship Series against the Tigers, so he started at second base and Maxvill was a reserve.

In Game 2, shortstop Bert Campaneris was ejected in the seventh inning for flinging his bat toward the mound after being hit in the ankle by a Lerrin LaGrow pitch. Video Maxvill replaced Campaneris at short. Boxscore

American League president Joe Cronin suspended Campaneris for the remainder of the series. Maxvill started at shortstop in each of the following three games and fielded flawlessly, helping the Athletics clinch their first pennant since 1931. Game 5 video clips

Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn allowed Campaneris to play in the 1972 World Series but extended the suspension to the first five games of the 1973 regular season.

Maxvill was on the World Series roster but didn’t appear in a game of the classic won by the Athletics against the Reds.

Because of Campaneris’ suspension, Maxvill was the Opening Day shortstop for the reigning champions in 1973. The Cardinals’ Opening Day shortstop, Ray Busse, was a bust and eventually got replaced by Mike Tyson.

In July 1973, Maxvill’s contract was purchased by the Pirates. Released in April 1974 after starting at shortstop on Opening Day for the Pirates, he was reacquired by the Athletics and helped them win another World Series title.

Maxvill played two innings in the 1974 World Series against the Dodgers. For his career, he played in 179 World Series innings (120 at shortstop and 59 at second base) and committed no errors.

Maxvill, 36, began the 1975 season as a coach on the staff of Athletics manager Al Dark. Activated in August, Maxvill contributed to their division title run.

After stints as a coach with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves, Maxvill became the Cardinals’ general manager in 1985 and remained in that role until 1994.

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