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In his first spring training as a big-league player, Stan Musial felt the pressure of high expectations, went into a slump and nearly lost a starting spot in the Cardinals outfield.

stan_musial32Seventy-five years ago, in 1942, Musial, 21, reported to spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., as the favorite to join veterans Terry Moore and Enos Slaughter as outfield starters.

A year earlier, Musial had faced an uncertain baseball future when he converted from pitcher to outfielder at the Cardinals’ minor-league spring training camp. The transformation was a spectacular success, with Musial rapidly rising through the Cardinals system and reaching the big leagues in September 1941.

Based on his strong but brief trial _ .426 batting average (20-for-47) in 12 games with the 1941 Cardinals _ Musial was firmly in the club’s plans entering spring training in 1942.

The Natural

The 1942 Cardinals were seeking to fill a gap at first base created by the departure of slugger Johnny Mize, who was traded to the Giants in December 1941.

The Cardinals entered 1942 spring training expecting Johnny Hopp and rookie Ray Sanders to compete for the first base job. Hopp had platooned in left field with Don Padgett and Coaker Triplett in 1941. With Hopp shifting to first base, the Cardinals pegged Musial to take over in left field.

“We lost a little strength in Mize, to be sure, but Johnny Hopp, Stan Musial and others will help to make it up,” Cardinals executive Branch Rickey told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in its Feb. 22, 1942, edition.

Musial reported to Cardinals camp on Feb. 27. The next day, the St. Louis Star-Times reported, “You can take it from Billy Southworth, who manages the St. Louis Cardinals and has been in organized baseball for 30 years, that Stan Musial … is the best-looking young left-handed batter to come up to the major leagues since Paul Waner jumped from San Francisco to Pittsburgh in 1926.”

Southworth told Sid Keener of the Star-Times that Musial “is destined to become the rookie of the year” in the National League in 1942.

“He does everything well and looks like he’s been doing it for years the way he runs the bases,” Southworth said. “What is even more amazing is the fact that only a year ago he was a pitcher, just out of the Class D ranks. He hits straightaway like a seasoned veteran.”

In the groove

Musial did well at the start of the Grapefruit League exhibition season. In the opener, on March 6 against the Yankees, Musial hit an inside-the-park home run off Hank Borowy and also produced a RBI-double and a single. Four days later, Musial had two singles and a RBI against the Reds.

Analyzing Musial’s batting stroke, J. Roy Stockton of the Post-Dispatch observed:

“He has an impressive style at bat. He keeps that left arm stiff and swings in a flat arc, which undoubtedly accounts for the fact that he hits so many line drives. Occasionally, he will get under the ball, driving it over the right-field barrier … Musial seems to take a short swing, but his timing is so excellent and his coordination so good that he gets unexpected distance with his drives. His swing reminds you of the drives of a golfer whose game is well-grooved.”

Said Southworth: “Much depends this year on Stan Musial. I’d say he already was one of our key men.”

Facing a challenge

Musial, however, went into a skid the last three weeks of March and his batting average dropped to .194.

In his 1964 book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said he had trouble adjusting to the poor hitting background at Florida ballparks.

While Musial struggled, another rookie left fielder, Harry Walker, 23, hit consistently well for the Cardinals that spring. Unlike Musial, Walker didn’t have the burden of high expectations and the pressure that came with it.

Entering April, the Cardinals conceded Walker was a contender for the starting left field job. “Walker seems to have found himself,” Southworth said. “He has quit pressing and is just about a 100 percent better ballplayer than he was last spring.”

In his book, Musial said, “If I hadn’t come up to the Cardinals in the fall of 1941 and hit so hard, I’m convinced I would have been sent down in the spring of 1942 because I hit so softly … I was a lemon in the Grapefruit League.”

Blessing from boss

On April 3, near the end of the Cardinals’ time in Florida, Musial broke out of his slump with an inside-the-park home run and a single against the Tigers.

Soon after, when the Cardinals left Florida to return to St. Louis for a set of exhibition games against the Browns before opening the regular season at home, Southworth approached Musial and said, “Don’t worry, Stan. You’re my left fielder. You can do it.”

Said Musial: “Billy had a way with young players. His confidence when I was hitting under .200 helped.”

Musial was the 1942 Cardinals’ Opening Day left fielder. He went on to have a strong first full season in the big leagues, batting .315 with 147 hits in 140 games. Musial produced 32 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs and had a on-base percentage of .397.

Musial was a key contributor to a Cardinals club that clinched the NL pennant with a 106-48 record and went on to win four of five against the Yankees in the World Series.

Previously: Why Cardinals traded Johnny Mize to Giants

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Benefiting from the wisdom and experience of master instructors, Mike Shannon was a willing pupil in a grand experiment that was integral to the Cardinals becoming World Series champions in 1967.

mike_shannon6Seeking a starting third baseman, the Cardinals decided to give Shannon first crack at earning the job during spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., 50 years ago.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst and instructor George Kissell developed a series of drills to convert Shannon from right fielder to third baseman.

The Cardinals needed to replace third baseman Charlie Smith, who had been traded to the Yankees for right fielder Roger Maris in December 1966.

Shannon had batted .288 with 16 home runs and 64 RBI as St. Louis’ right fielder in 1966. Schoendienst wanted to keep Shannon’s bat in the lineup in 1967, joining first baseman Orlando Cepeda and Maris in forming a potentially potent trio of RBI producers.

Moving Shannon to third would enable the Cardinals to have both Maris and Shannon in the lineup.

The conversion, though, wouldn’t be easy.

Head start

Shannon’s main competitors within the Cardinals for the starting third base job were Ed Spiezio, Phil Gagliano, Jerry Buchek and Ted Savage. None, though, were considered Shannon’s equal in hitting with power and driving in runs.

Before pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, the Cardinals held a special instructional camp starting Feb. 17 at St. Petersburg, with Schoendienst, Kissell and coach Joe Schultz as teachers.

The Cardinals invited eight players _ Shannon, Gagliano, Buchek, Savage, infielder Jimy Williams, outfielders Bobby Tolan and Alex Johnson, and catcher Pat Corrales _ to the camp. Spiezio would have been invited but was excused because he had played winter ball in the Caribbean.

“The Shannon-at-third experiment is rated a longshot by most observers,” The Sporting News reported.

Schoendienst and his assistants devised infield workouts to determine whether Shannon could be effective at third base.

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, journalist J. Roy Stockton observed: “Schoendienst is giving Shannon and other infielders the toughest defensive drills they probably have ever seen. … Instead of fielding friendly grounders off a fungo stick, the athletes had to handle the most difficult chances.”

With Kissell pitching to Schoendienst, the manager hit the ball to the infielders.

“Red still can swing a vicious bat with unusual place-hitting skill,” Stockton wrote. “The infielders never knew who was going to have to tackle the next shot off the manager’s bat.”

Bat man

Shannon did well enough at the instructional camp _ “So far, so good,” Schoendienst told The Sporting News _ to enter spring training as No. 1 on the depth chart at third base.

“I prefer Shannon because he has the best bat of anybody we might consider for third base,” Schoendienst said. “Another reason is that Mike will tackle anything and give it a real try. He’s that kind of guy.”

Bob Broeg, Post-Dispatch sport editor, opined: “If Shannon … can be in the lineup with his aggressive bat, the Redbirds’ attack will be considerably stronger than if the club is forced to give up and return him to compete in an outfield overcrowded with talent.”

Shannon, however, struggled with his fielding during spring exhibition games.

“Mike isn’t reacting quite as well … because he’s got his hands on his knees and his weight back on his heels,” Schoendienst said. “He doesn’t come up on the balls of his feet, hands loose in front of him, ready to go in any direction with the pitch. He’s got to concentrate better, too.”

Hot pepper

With the season opener about two weeks away, Schoendienst intensified his work with Shannon.

“Schoendienst took him to the private infield beyond the left-field fence at Al Lang Field and brought along virtually the entire pitching staff,” Broeg reported.

Schoendienst wanted Shannon and the pitchers to work together at calling plays and handling bunts.

Afterward, “Schoendienst slashed and lashed hot grounders and line drives at Shannon in a torrid one-man pepper game,” Broeg observed. “Shannon’s cap was off, his black hair matted with perspiration as he lunged left, then right and threw his hands up in self-defense as Schoendienst smashed the ball at him … from a distance of no more than 40 feet.”

Said Cardinals shortstop Dal Maxvill: “I feel sorry for Mike. He’s really giving it the old try. Red has been hitting balls at him like that every day. Mike really wants to make it.”

Making the grade

Shannon produced 19 RBI in Florida Grapefruit League spring training games, validating the Cardinals’ view that his bat was needed.

Named the starter at third base, Shannon pulled a muscle in his left side in the April 11 season opener and didn’t return to the lineup until April 23.

As the Cardinals hoped, Shannon played well enough at third base and delivered run production. He had 12 home runs and 77 RBI. Only Cepeda, with 111, drove in more runs for the 1967 Cardinals.

Batting primarily in the fifth and sixth spots in the order, Shannon hit .293 with runners in scoring position.

Shannon played in 123 regular-season games at third base and made 29 errors. He also committed two errors in seven World Series games.

Still, with Shannon providing punch and Maris delivering timely hitting and solid defense in right field, the 1967 Cardinals finished at 101-60, 10.5 games ahead of the second-place Giants, and won four of seven from the Red Sox in the World Series.

Previously: Ted Savage had long, fruitful 2nd career with Cardinals

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In his bid to join the Cardinals, Red Schoendienst had no trouble with the baseball skills part of the challenge. It was the hassle of everyday life that proved to be his biggest obstacle to becoming a professional player.

red_schoendienst12Seventy-five years ago, in 1942, Schoendienst impressed the Cardinals at a tryout camp and earned a contract, launching him on a career that would lead to election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and special status as a beloved franchise icon.

Displaying the tenacity that enabled him to spend eight decades in the big leagues as a player, manager, coach and advisor, Schoendienst overcame a series of roadblocks _ from serious to annoying _ to give himself a chance to receive an offer from the Cardinals.

Damaging accident

Schoendienst was born and raised in Germantown, Ill., about 40 miles from St. Louis. In 1939, at 16, Schoendienst quit high school and got a job in the Civilian Conservation Corps. He played amateur baseball after work and on weekends.

While on the job, Schoendienst and a friend, Joe Linneman, were building fences.

In the 1998 book “Red: A Baseball Life,” Linneman recalled: “We would stretch the wire as tight as we could get it and then use a hammer to drive a staple into a dry hedge post, which was almost as hard as a piece of steel.”

As Linneman slammed the hammer into a post, a staple caromed off the hardwood and into Schoendienst’s left eye.

“It was,” said Schoendienst, “the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”

Doctors wanted to remove the eye, but Schoendienst objected. Under treatment, Schoendienst’s sight gradually improved.

Three years later, he felt confident enough in his vision to pursue a career with the Cardinals.

Big city

In 1942, Schoendienst and Linneman noticed a newspaper item about a Cardinals tryout camp to be held at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Anyone attending the camp would be admitted for free to a Cardinals game against the Dodgers that week.

Neither Schoendienst nor Linneman had been to a big-league game, so they decided to take part in the camp. “I don’t think either one of us went to that tryout camp thinking we had it made,” Schoendienst said in his book.

Lacking a car or the money for bus fare, Schoendienst, 19, and Linneman hitched a ride on a dairy truck and were dropped off about a mile and a half from the ballpark. They walked the rest of the way.

Schoendienst and Linneman were among the players who performed well enough at the daylong camp to get an invitation to return for more workouts the next day.

Linneman planned to spend the night at the home of an aunt in suburban St. Louis. He invited his friend to come along, but Schoendienst didn’t want to impose.

Possessing 25 cents, Schoendienst went to a diner and spent 10 cents on a hot dog. A sympathetic waitress brought the freckle-faced teenager a glass of milk on the house.

Afterward, Schoendienst went to the train terminal at Union Station and planned to spend the night on a bench. When he was ushered out by security, he found a bench in a nearby park.

Then it rained.

With his remaining 15 cents, a tired, soaked Schoendienst rented a room at a flophouse. He awoke the next morning covered in insect bites.

“When I got to the ballpark, they gave me some lotion to put on the bites, but I think that was part of the reason I moved so fast that day,” Schoendienst said. “I made up my mind I was going to swallow my pride and stay with Joe’s aunt the next night _ and I did.”

Impressive prospects

Schoendienst’s tryout lasted a week. Near the end, Cardinals executive Branch Rickey drove Schoendienst and two other standouts from the camp _ Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola _ to Forest Park for a workout because there wasn’t enough room at the ballpark.

“He was a terrible driver,” Schoendienst said of Rickey. “That car ride was scary. He was talking and driving like there was nobody else on the road.”

During the workout, Schoendienst, Berra and Garagiola took turns hitting against one another. (Garagiola would sign with the Cardinals but Berra went with the Yankees.)

When the training camp ended, Schoendienst hitchhiked back to Germantown. Soon after, Cardinals scout Joe Mathes asked Schoendienst to return to St. Louis _ again he hitched a ride on a dairy truck _ and signed him to a contract for $75 per month.

Rise through ranks

The Cardinals assigned Schoendienst to their Union City, Tenn., team in the Class D Kitty League. After Schoendienst played six games at shortstop for Union City, batting .407 (11-for-27), the Kitty League folded and he was sent to Albany, Ga., of the Class D Georgia-Florida League. His teammate there was his friend, Linneman, who had been signed by the Cardinals as a pitcher.

With his weak left eye causing him problems against right-handed pitchers, Schoendienst became a switch hitter. He batted .269 in 68 games for Albany in 1942, but also committed 27 errors at shortstop.

From there, Schoendienst made a meteoric rise through the organization.

In 1943, a year after his tryout with the Cardinals, Schoendienst, a shortstop for manager Pepper Martin’s Class AA Rochester, N.Y., team, was named Most Valuable Player of the International League. Though he committed 48 errors at shortstop, Schoendienst batted .337 with 187 hits and 20 stolen bases in 136 games.

Schoendienst “showed poise and an instinct for doing the right thing,” The Sporting News reported, and added he “gets a good jump on a ball, owns a good pair of hands and strong arm.”

In October 1943, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Schoendienst “is a great prospect, but needs experience.”

Two years later, in 1945, Schoendienst, 22, debuted with the Cardinals and primarily played left field. He shifted to second base in 1946 and was named an all-star that season.

Previously: How Bill Bergesch got Bob Gibson to Cardinals

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The relationship formed by Ozzie Canseco and the Cardinals was based on mutual need rather than mutual affection. Neither expected it to last long.

ozzie_cansecoCanseco, after flopping during a stint in Japan, was looking to revive his career in the United States in order to make himself appealing in the National League expansion draft.

The Cardinals were seeking a slugger to generate fan interest at their top farm club in Louisville.

Twenty-five years ago, in January 1992, the Cardinals signed Canseco, a free agent, to a minor-league contract. It was the start of a relationship that would take several twists and turns.

Changing roles

Ozzie and his twin brother Jose were born in Cuba on July 2, 1964. Jose became a standout on three pennant-winning Athletics teams managed by Tony La Russa. Ozzie entered the Yankees organization in 1983 as a pitcher.

“He had a good breaking ball and he could throw hard,” Bucky Dent, Ozzie’s manager with the Class A Fort Lauderdale Yankees, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We liked him a lot as a pitcher, but he was always wanting to switch over (to outfield).”

Said Ozzie: “I asked them every year, ‘Please let me make the transition from pitching to hitting.’ ”

In 1986, Ozzie got his wish. Released by the Yankees, he signed with the Athletics and became an outfielder. In 1990, Ozzie made his major-league debut with the Athletics as a teammate of Jose. Appearing in nine games, Ozzie batted .105.

Oh, brother

Jose was one of baseball’s top players. In 1988, when he won the American League Most Valuable Player Award, Jose became the first big-league player to have 40 home runs and 40 steals in a season.

“Jose cast a tremendous shadow over me because of who he is, because we’re identical twins,” Ozzie told Scripps Howard News Service. “… When I was trying to make the transition from pitcher to hitter, people expected me to hit like Jose did and I had a problem with that.”

Released by the Athletics after the 1990 season, Ozzie signed with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japanese Pacific League.

“I basically went over there to learn how to hit the breaking ball,” Ozzie told the Post-Dispatch. “The forkball, the slider _ that’s all you see over there if you’re a power hitter.”

However, Ozzie never made it to the majors in Japan. Instead, the Buffaloes assigned him to their minor-league club at Osaka. Ozzie left after 38 games and returned home to Miami.

Louisville lumber

When the NL announced plans to expand in 1993 to Miami and Denver, Ozzie saw opportunity. If he could have a strong season in 1992, he believed the Marlins, with a large fan base of Cuban-Americans, would select him in the expansion draft. First, though, he needed to find a team to play for in 1992.

Ted Simmons, Cardinals player development director, was seeking veterans to stock the Louisville roster. He offered Ozzie a contract.

“This is purely a ‘Come to spring training and show me what you got’ type of deal,” Simmons said.

Ozzie showed enough to make Louisville’s Opening Day roster. He started belting home runs, many prodigious.

In July 1992, the Post-Dispatch reported Ozzie “is drawing fans and drawing respect as one of the most feared power hitters in the American Association.”

Cardinals management took notice. Though Ozzie struck out 96 times in 98 games with Louisville, he slugged 22 home runs. When big-league rosters expanded on Sept. 1, Ozzie, 28, was one of the players the Cardinals promoted.

Ozzie got into nine games with the 1992 Cardinals. He hit .276 with no home runs and made several fielding mistakes before he injured his right shoulder.

Still, the Cardinals saw enough to view him as a potential contributor in 1993.

“He has raw power,” said Cardinals hitting coach Don Baylor.

In November 1992, Ozzie was one of 15 players the Cardinals protected from the expansion draft.

Spring disappointment

Ozzie’s hopes of sticking with the Cardinals got a boost in February 1993 when St. Louis traded starting right fielder Felix Jose to the Royals for first baseman Gregg Jefferies. The Cardinals declared Brian Jordan and Ozzie the candidates to compete in spring training for the starting right fielder job.

“I want to see them both play and see who wins it,” said manager Joe Torre. “I don’t think it’s Jordan’s job to lose.”

Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said of Ozzie: “What we saw at the Triple-A level was that he could hit the ball out of any ballpark … We don’t have anybody with that kind of power and really haven’t had in the organization for a long time.”

Asked about Ozzie’s outfield skills, Maxvill replied, “He’s no Willie McGee or Willie Mays … but he did a very adequate job.”

“Mainly,” Maxvill concluded, “he needs to whack the ball for us.”

After hitting .192 in his first 10 spring training games, Ozzie finished as the 1993 Cardinals’ Grapefruit League leader in home runs (4) and RBI (14).

Neither he nor Jordan, though, won the job.

On March 31, the Cardinals traded pitcher Mark Clark to the Indians for Mark Whiten and named him their starter in right field.

Ozzie was demoted to Louisville.

“I thought I did well enough to make the team,” Ozzie said. “I’m disappointed.”

Farewell, St. Louis

Ozzie went on a tear at Louisville, hitting nine home runs. On May 5, he was brought back to the Cardinals.

He floundered in the field, however, and hit .176 with no home runs in six games. The Cardinals returned him to Louisville.

Ozzie continued to slug home runs for Louisville _ 13 in 44 games _ but he also struck out 59 times. On June 11, Ozzie informed the Cardinals he was quitting.

“It got to a point where I was miserable and it seemed like I was constantly fighting an uphill battle,” Ozzie said.

Said Maxvill: “He definitely had gone backwards in all aspects and complained the whole way. So I guess he needs a career change and, quite frankly, it’s probably a good idea.”

Ozzie sat out the rest of the season. On Dec. 14, 1993, the Cardinals traded him to the Brewers for minor-league outfielder Tony Diggs.

Ozzie played professional baseball for several more seasons, including a stint in the Mexican League, but he never returned to the majors after his trials with the 1992-93 Cardinals.

Previously: How a tragic accident brought Mark Whiten to Cards

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Given a choice of facing Del Ennis or Stan Musial with runners in scoring position and the game on the line, Warren Spahn did what no other big-league pitcher had done before him: He opted to pitch to Musial.

warren_spahnIt was the only time in Musial’s illustrious 22-year Cardinals career that a pitcher intentionally walked a batter in order to get to Musial.

It happened 60 years ago on a Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17, 1957, in a game between the Cardinals and Braves at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Pennant race

The slumping Cardinals, who had lost nine in a row, were fighting to remain in the 1957 National League pennant race when they went to Milwaukee for a four-game series in August. The Braves, riding a 10-game winning streak, were in first place, 7.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and Dodgers, who were tied for second.

St. Louis won the series opener, 6-2, behind the slugging of Ennis, who hit a three-run home run off Juan Pizarro.

Game 2 of the series matched Larry Jackson of the Cardinals against Lew Burdette.

The Cardinals jumped ahead with three runs in the first, but the Braves came back with two runs in the sixth and one in the eighth, tying the score at 3-3.

Managerial moves

Don McMahon, a rookie, relieved Burdette in the ninth. After Eddie Kasko grounded out, Jackson, the pitcher, hit a broken-bat pop fly to right that fell safely in front of Bob Hazle for a single. The next batter, Ken Boyer, reached base when shortstop Felix Mantilla booted a grounder for an error.

With Wally Moon at the plate, McMahon’s first pitch to him eluded catcher Del Crandall for a passed ball. Jackson advanced to third on the play and Boyer to second.

Braves manager Fred Haney lifted McMahon and brought in Spahn, a left-hander, to face Moon, a left-handed batter, with the count at 1-and-0.

Two nights earlier, on Aug. 15, Spahn had started against the Reds at Cincinnati and pitched a complete game in an 8-1 Braves victory. With one day of rest, the Braves ace was making his fourth and final relief appearance of the season.

Unforgettable ploy

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson countered by bringing in Ennis, a right-handed batter, to hit for Moon.

Ennis, batting .275 with 17 home runs, was a threat, but he was no Musial. At 36, Musial was having a sensational season. He was batting .333 and would finish the year at .351, earning his seventh NL batting crown.

Still, with first base open, Spahn issued an intentional walk to Ennis, loading the bases with one out and bringing Musial, a left-handed batter, to the plate.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said the sight of Spahn walking Ennis to face him is one “I’ll never forget.”

Musial fared well versus Spahn in his career _ .318 batting average and .412 on-base percentage _ but on this day the Braves pitcher won the showdown of future Hall of Famers.

Musial rapped a Spahn pitch on the ground to the second baseman _ Musial’s friend and former teammate, Red Schoendienst.

Schoendienst fielded the ball and flipped it to Mantilla for the force of Ennis at second. Mantilla’s relay throw to first baseman Frank Torre was in time to retire Musial, completing the inning-ending double play.

“He’s the only pitcher ever to walk a batter to face me,” Musial confirmed.

Back and forth

The drama wasn’t over. Another future Hall of Famer, Braves center fielder Hank Aaron, had a large role to play in the outcome.

In the 11th, with Spahn pitching, Don Blasingame led off for the Cardinals and stretched a routine single into a hustling double. Kasko grounded out to second, advancing Blasingame to third.

Jackson was due up next, but Hutchinson sent Walker Cooper, 42, to hit for the pitcher. Cooper lifted a long sacrifice fly to left, scoring Blasingame and giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.

Billy Muffett, a rookie, was Hutchinson’s choice to pitch the bottom half of the inning. Muffett retired the first batter, Schoendienst, on a pop-up.

The next batter, Frank Torre, hit a low line drive to left. Ennis lumbered in, got a glove on the ball and dropped it. Torre, credited with a single, was replaced by pinch-runner Hawk Taylor.

Eddie Mathews followed with a single to center. Boyer, playing center field, hesitated on his throw, enabling Taylor to reach third.

That brought Aaron to the plate.

Hank hammers

Aaron was angry. In the ninth, Jackson had moved Aaron off the plate with a high, tight pitch. Aaron, in comments to the Associated Press, accused Jackson of “trying to stick one in my ear.”

“It’s on purpose,” Aaron said. “I can tell when they’re throwing at me.

“If that’s the only way they can win a ballgame, they ought to get other jobs. I don’t mind being brushed back _ you expect that _ but I don’t like them balls aimed at my head. We don’t knock Stan Musial down, so why do they do it to me?”

Aaron hit Muffett’s first pitch to him into right-center for a double. Taylor trotted home from third, tying the score at 4-4. Racing from first, Mathews headed toward the plate and barely beat Blasingame’s relay throw, giving the Braves a 5-4 victory and making a winner of Spahn. Boxscore

The Braves went on to clinch the pennant, finishing eight games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals.

Previously: Del Ennis provided power in Cardinals lineup

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In a union of legendary rivals who represented baseball at its best, Stan Musial hired Warren Spahn to be a manager in the Cardinals organization.

spahn_musialFifty years ago, on Feb. 25, 1967, a month after he was named Cardinals general manager, Musial bypassed Sparky Anderson and selected Spahn to be manager of the Class AAA Tulsa Oilers.

Anderson had managed the Cardinals’ Class A St. Petersburg club to a league championship in 1966 and reportedly was the top internal candidate for the Tulsa opening.

Spahn, who never had managed, was the recommended choice of Tulsa owner A. Ray Smith.

Though Cardinals executives such as farm director George Silvey had input, Musial, as general manager, had the final decision regarding who to hire as manager for the Cardinals’ top affiliate.

Matchup of marvels

In Spahn, Musial chose the candidate who had been his respected nemesis during their Hall of Fame playing careers.

Spahn, who pitched 21 seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the Braves, is the all-time leader in career wins (363) among left-handers. Musial, who played 22 seasons in the major leagues, all with the Cardinals, is the all-time leader in total bases (6,134) among left-handed batters.

Their matchups spanned the 1940s to 1960s. Musial has a career .318 batting average and .412 on-base percentage against Spahn, according to the Web site retrosheet.org. Musial has more hits (104), doubles (23), triples (6) and walks (50) versus Spahn than any other player. Only Willie Mays (18) hit more home runs against Spahn than Musial (17) did.

In his 1964 book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial called Spahn “the best National League pitcher of my era.”

“Spahnie was more than a student of pitching,” Musial said. “He was a scientist.”

Musial concluded: “It was a great challenge to hit against this cunning guy … and I’m proud to have done well.”

Pressure on Stan

If not for Bob Howsam’s departure, Musial and Spahn might never have worked together and Anderson might not have left the Cardinals.

On Jan. 22, 1967, Howsam resigned as Cardinals general manager and became executive vice president and general manager of the Reds. Musial, a Cardinals vice president, took on the additional role of general manager.

One of Howsam’s cronies was Tulsa manager Charlie Metro, who was waiting in the wings in case Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst faltered. Metro followed Howsam to the Reds, accepting a job as a scout.

With spring training close to opening, Musial and the Cardinals had to scramble to find a replacement for Metro in Tulsa.

Spahn, 45, was residing on his 2,800-acre cattle ranch in Hartshorne, Okla., about 120 miles from Tulsa. He made it known he wanted to get back into baseball. Smith was thrilled by the possibility of having a baseball icon manage his club, so the Oilers owner went to work on trying to convince Musial to make it happen.

On Feb. 20, 1967, Musial said Smith’s request was under review and that he hoped to announce a choice soon, The Sporting News reported.

Smith told the Associated Press that Musial had been pressured to select a candidate from within the Cardinals’ organization, “but we fought a hard fight” for Spahn.

Though Anderson was “first choice for the position,” according to The Sporting News, Spahn got the Tulsa job. Anderson was assigned to manage the Cardinals’ Class A club at Modesto, Calif.

Rookie manager

Spahn’s hiring was announced by Smith at a news conference at Tulsa’s prestigious Southern Hills Country Club.

“The Oilers and Tulsa are mighty lucky to get a man of Spahn’s caliber,” Smith said.

Said Spahn: “I’ve always wanted an opportunity to manage. The ranch is great, but it’s more like a plaything. I’d like to manage in Tulsa for 10 years. Naturally, I’m for a major-league job someday, but first I’ve got to earn that.”

Tulsa opened the 1967 season with a roster that included pitchers Tracy Stallard and Wayne Granger; catchers Pat Corrales and Sonny Ruberto; infielders Elio Chacon, Bobby Dews and Coco Laboy; and outfielder Danny Napoleon.

Other managers in the Pacific Coast League that season included Chuck Tanner of the Seattle Angels, Whitey Lockman of the Tacoma Cubs, Bob Skinner of the San Diego Padres and Mickey Vernon of the Vancouver Mounties.

Under Spahn, Tulsa had a dismal 1967 season (65-79), though he did receive high marks for helping to develop starting pitchers Mike Torrez (10 wins) and Hal Gilson (15 wins). Silvey noted that Spahn “must have helped Torrez quite a bit. Mike has added a curve and he’s faster.”

Meanwhile, Anderson led Modesto to a 79-61 record and a league championship in 1967. After the season, Anderson joined the Reds as manager of their Class AA Asheville club.

Anderson “was so upset at being bypassed (for the Tulsa job) that he quit the Cardinals organization,” The Sporting News reported.

Two years after leaving the Cardinals, Anderson was named manager of the Reds and went on to build a Hall of Fame career.

Ups and downs

In 1968, Spahn took Tulsa from worst to first. The Oilers finished 95-53 and won the league championship.

Spahn managed Tulsa in 1969 (79-61), 1970 (70-70) and 1971 (64-76) before he was fired by Cardinals general manager Bing Devine.

“Devine said I had been here five years and there were young prospective managers in the organization who needed to move up,” Spahn said.

Though Spahn went on to work as a coach and instructor with other organizations, Tulsa would be the only team he would manage.

Previously: How Charlie Metro miffed Stan Musial

Previously: Cardinals boosted managing career of Sparky Anderson

Previously: Warren Spahn and his Cardinals connection

Previously: Why the Cardinals fired Warren Spahn

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