Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

The King and The Man. The nicknames alone reflect the stature golfer Arnold Palmer and the Cardinals’ Stan Musial have in the sports world.

palmer_musialBoth hailed from western Pennsylvania. Both were champions who represented the best in their professions.

Both were special athletes who deeply appreciated their fans and never wavered in connecting with them.

Each legend respected and enjoyed the other.

In one of his last major honors in a life filled with significant tributes, Palmer received the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award in December 2015.

Palmer, 87, died Sept. 25, 2016. His passing occurred three years after Musial, 92, died on Jan. 19, 2013.

Best of class

Musial was born in Donora, Pa. Palmer was a native of Latrobe, Pa. Their hometowns are located about 35 miles from one another, just south of Pittsburgh.

In November 1962, when Musial was a year away from retiring as a player and Palmer was in his prime, Esquire magazine selected four athletes of the time that it regarded as guaranteed for immortality. They were: Palmer, Musial, football’s Jim Brown and tennis’ Pancho Gonzales.

A year later, in October 1963, the newly created Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame elected its inaugural class. Three came from the western Pennsylvania chapter: Palmer, Musial and baseball’s Pie Traynor.

At the induction dinner in Philadelphia on Dec. 8, 1963, Musial told the audience, “Pennsylvania can be proud of all its athletes.”

That afternoon, Musial had visited a Philadelphia hospital to present one of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame inductees, Hans Lobert, who had undergone surgery, a plaque, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Before the induction dinner, Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News asked Musial, who had retired as a player after the 1963 season, about the possibility of making a comeback in 1964.

A playful, good-natured Musial replied, “I can’t come back. It would take me too long to give the plaques back. Heck, it would take me two months at least.”

Asked how he was adjusting to his new role as a Cardinals vice president, Musial said, “I went out to the (baseball) winter meetings on the West Coast. Boy, executives have it soft. I told them if I had known it was like this, I’d have retired five years ago.”

Honoring Arnie

In July 1970, Palmer was selected athlete of the decade (1960-70) by the Associated Press. A testimonial dinner was planned for July 21 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. The most prominent figure among the 800 guests was Musial.

“I am grateful that you would invite me to help honor Arnie,” Musial said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In my opinion, there is no greater golfer and finer man anywhere than Arnold Palmer.”

Throughout the years, Palmer and Musial continued their friendship. They appeared together at celebrity charity golf events. In 1978, during the PGA Championship at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, Musial visited with Palmer as his guest in the clubhouse.

Life like Stan

The Musial Awards celebrate sportsmanship in North America. The signature award is the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award. Joe Torre was the first recipient in 2014. Palmer was the second recipient.

After needing assistance from two aides to walk onto the stage at the Peabody Opera House in downtown St. Louis to accept the award, Palmer was seated and told the crowd that Musial was “one of the greatest people I ever knew.”

“If every person in the world lived their life like Stan Musial did his, you could all walk away proud,” Palmer said. Video

Previously: How Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin sang for Stan Musial

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Of the many tributes expressed on Ozzie Smith Appreciation Day, the best came from a Cardinals opponent.

larkin_smithTwenty years ago, on Sept. 28, 1996, Barry Larkin, the heir apparent to Smith as the top shortstop in the National League, was at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, playing for the Reds against the Cardinals in the next-to-last game of the regular season.

The Cardinals had chosen that Saturday afternoon to honor Smith, 41, who in June had announced that the 1996 season would be his last as a player.

In the pre-game festivities before a crowd of 52,876, master of ceremonies Jack Buck was joined by an array of Cardinals legends, including Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Whitey Herzog.

Larkin, who like Smith would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, took his turn at the microphone and spoke for the profession.

“Ozzie created a fraternity among shortstops and all those who had a relationship with him,” Larkin said. “On behalf of all baseball players, we thank you. For your sportsmanship. For your humanitarian work. For your great defensive plays. For hitting that home run in the 1985 playoffs. For representing baseball with honesty and integrity.”

Paving the way

Also in attendance were Smith’s mother and his three children.

Cardinals management announced that the franchise would retire the uniform No. 1 worn by Smith during his St. Louis playing career from 1982-1996. Among the gifts Smith received was a baby grand piano from his teammates and staff.

“I’d like to thank God for giving me the ability to go out and perform for 19 years in a sport that I love,” Smith said. “I’d like to thank my mom for being my inspiration and driving force. I thank my family for their support. I thank the Cardinals organization for its support and the opportunity to perform for the greatest fans in the world. I thank all my teammates, past and present, because I could not have done it without all of you.”

In summary, the master fielder known as the Wizard of Oz, said, “You have all been part of my dream. Thanks to every one of you for traveling down my Yellow Brick Road.”

Observing the lovefest, columnist Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, “We saw an all-time record for most hugs and kisses in a single day at Busch Stadium.”

Touch of class

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa started Smith at shortstop that day and put him in the leadoff spot in the batting order.

As he headed to his position to begin the game, Smith treated fans to a somersault and his signature backflip.

The Reds started pitcher Mike Morgan, who had been released by the Cardinals a month earlier.

When Smith stepped to the plate in the first inning, Morgan tipped his cap to his former teammate. “Mike is one of the nicest guys in the game,” Smith told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Smith grounded out to Morgan.

In the third, Smith sliced a grounder down the third-base line. Eduardo Perez, the Reds’ third baseman and son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez, dived to his right, fielded the ball and threw out Smith from his knees.

Smith grounded out routinely to third against Morgan in the fifth.

Reaching base

In the sixth, facing left-hander Mike Remlinger, Smith hit a looping liner to left for a RBI-single. It would be the last regular-season hit of his career.

In his final at-bat of the game in the eighth, Smith was hit on the foot by a pitch from Scott Sullivan.

The Reds went down in order in the ninth. Bret Boone and Perez each grounded out to Smith. Larkin made the last out on a pop-up to first. The Cardinals won, 5-2. Boxscore

Smith had six fielding assists in the game and started a double play.

Starting again the next day in the season finale, Smith was 0-for-2 before he was replaced by Royce Clayton.

In the 1996 postseason, Smith was 1-for-3 in the NL Division Series versus the Padres and hitless in nine at-bats in the NL Championship Series against the Braves.

Previously: Ozzie Smith cheered Barry Larkin’s best personal feat

Previously: Bitterness at Ozzie Smith retirement announcement

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Three months after he was traded by the Giants to the Cardinals, Billy Southworth hit a home run against his former team, providing the winning run in the victory that clinched the first National League pennant for St. Louis.

billy_southworth4It was sweet revenge for Southworth, whose deteriorating relationship with Giants manager John McGraw led to the trade.

Ninety years ago, on Sept. 24, 1926, Southworth broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run home run in the second inning, carrying the Cardinals to a 6-4 victory over the Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York. The victory gave the Cardinals a three-game lead over the second-place Reds with two remaining.

In a biography of Southworth by author John C. Skipper, Southworth said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better setting, in the Polo Grounds against the Giants who had traded me. That was the timeliest home run I ever hit and to have hit it against the Giants, with McGraw snarling his defiance from the bench, made it doubly thrilling and satisfying.”

Quite a comeback

Southworth, a right fielder, was traded by the Giants to the Cardinals on June 14, 1926. “I was unable to subordinate myself to McGraw’s rigid system,” Southworth explained. “So when he decided, in 1926, that I was, from his viewpoint, hopeless, he traded me with no personal feeling one way or the other.”

Contributing to their pennant push, Southworth hit .317 in 99 games for the 1926 Cardinals.

To pitch the potential pennant clincher against the Giants, Cardinals manager Rogers Hornsby chose Flint Rhem, a 20-game winner that season, as his starter.

After the Cardinals failed to score in the top of the first against Hugh McQuillan, Bill Terry slugged a three-run home run off Rhem in the bottom half of the inning.

Said Southworth: “Hornsby poured acid on us when we came back to the bench. He told us we hadn’t been taking our full cuts at the ball for several games and to get out there and swing.”

Hornsby’s words woke up the Cardinals.

In the second, Les Bell doubled and, with one out, advanced to third on a wild pitch. Bell scored on Bob O’Farrell’s infield single. The No. 8 batter in the order, Tommy Thevenow, doubled, moving O’Farrell to third.

Rhem was due up next, but Hornsby lifted him for a pinch-hitter, Specs Toporcer.

Toporcer, who hit .391 (9-for-23) as a pinch-hitter for the 1926 Cardinals, drilled a two-run double, tying the score at 3-3.

After Taylor Douthit flied out, Southworth batted and hit his home run into the upper deck in right field, giving the Cardinals a 5-3 lead.

Bill Sherdel, who relieved Rhem, held the Giants to one run in eight innings and got the win. Boxscore

Dancing downtown

In downtown St. Louis that Friday afternoon, the game was broadcast over loudspeakers set up for the public.

When Sherdel nailed down the final out, sealing the Cardinals’ victory, it “loosed bedlam in the downtown district,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Scenes comparable only with the ending of the Great War were enacted in the business section and repeated upon a smaller scale in other centers of the city’s life,” the newspaper reported. “Blizzards of paper enveloped every office building in the downtown area between Twelfth Boulevard and Fourth.”

Wrote the Associated Press: “Traffic at the principal corners was in a hopeless jam. Policemen, trying vainly to keep some semblance of order, were unable to keep the automobiles and street cars moving. Parades formed on Olive Street, Washington Avenue and other principal thoroughfares.”

At the Polo Grounds, the victorious Cardinals “merely smiled as they hurried to the clubhouse, shaking hands and slapping one another on the back” wrote the Associated Press.

That night, reported J. Roy Stockton in the Post-Dispatch, “as the young men sat around the lobby of the Alamac Hotel, accepting congratulations and reading telegrams from friends back home, they appeared suddenly to have knocked 10 years off their age.”

Confident Cards

Contacted by the Associated Press, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon said, “Nothing could possibly have made me happier than the winning of the pennant. When I took charge of the club seven years ago, I did it with the sole hope of winning a championship for St. Louis.”

Asked about the Cardinals being matched against the American League champion Yankees in the 1926 World Series, Hornsby boasted to The Sporting News, “Of course we are going to win the world’s championship. We have the punch and that means we do not fear the Yankees’ pitchers. We have better pitchers of our own, for that matter. Also, a faster fielding team.”

Indeed, the Cardinals went on to win four of seven games against the Yankees, earning the World Series title.

Previously: How Cardinals got Grover Cleveland Alexander

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In his debut with the Cardinals, Stan Musial saw a knuckleball for the first time. Rather than become baffled or intimidated, Musial determined what he’d have to do to succeed, adjusted his approach at the plate and attacked the pitch with a purpose.

jim_tobinSeventy-five years ago, on Sept. 17, 1941, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, Musial, 20, appeared in his first Cardinals game in the nightcap of a doubleheader versus the Braves. Batting third and playing right field, Musial was 2-for-4 with two RBI in the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory.

Facing knuckleball pitcher Jim Tobin, 28, who was in his fifth season in the big leagues, Musial had a double and a single, launching a Cardinals career that would lead to his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wakeup call

Converted from a pitcher to an outfielder, Musial had opened the 1941 season with the Cardinals’ Class C minor-league club at Springfield, Mo. In 141 games combined for Springfield and Class AA Rochester, Musial batted .359 with 204 hits.

When Rochester was eliminated from the International League playoffs, Musial returned home to Donora, Pa. After attending Sunday Mass, he was taking a nap when a telegram arrived from the Cardinals, instructing him to report to the big-league club in St. Louis.

Musial walked into the Cardinals’ clubhouse for the first time on the morning of Sept. 17 and was greeted by equipment manager Butch Yatkeman, who issued the newcomer uniform number 6.

After watching the Cardinals win the first game of the doubleheader, 6-1, behind rookie starter Howie Pollet, Musial was put in the lineup for Game 2 by manager Billy Southworth.

Unforgettable flutter

In the first inning, Musial stepped to the plate against Tobin.

Recalling the moment in his book, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said, “I’ll never forget … the challenge of the first knuckleball I’d ever seen. It fluttered up to the plate, big as a grapefruit but dancing like a dust devil.”

Musial swung and popped up weakly to the third baseman.

The next time up, Musial took a different approach. “I learned to delay my stride, cut down my swing and just stroke the ball,” Musial said.

With two on and two outs in the third inning, Musial swung at the knuckler and lined a two-run double to right-center field.

The Cardinals won, 3-2, when Estel Crabtree snapped a 2-2 tie with a walkoff home run against Tobin in the ninth. Boxscore

Said Musial: “I was a happy kid all right and pretty lucky.”

Rave reviews

In its report on the game, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch cited “some welcome help from Stanley Musial, recruit outfielder from Rochester.”

Impressed, The Sporting News called Musial “a hard hitter” who “packs a lot of wallop in his 5 feet and 11 inches and 158 pounds of muscle.”

In summary, The Sporting News opined, “In addition to his hitting ability, Musial has shown exceptional speed and defensive skill. National League pitchers can expect to see a lot of him in 1942.”

In 12 games with the 1941 Cardinals, Musial batted .426 (20-for-47) and struck out just once.

He would go on to bat .429 (18-for-42) in his career versus Tobin, according to retrosheet.org.

Previously: Cards rookie Enos Slaughter set torrid extra-hit pace

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Facing a familiar foe, George Watkins and Frankie Frisch delivered an unusual double dose of ninth-inning power for the Cardinals.

frankie_frisch4On June 16, 1931, Watkins and Frisch hit back-to-back home runs off the Phillies’ Ray Benge in the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis, erasing a 1-0 deficit and lifting the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory.

It was the first of only three times since 1930 that the Cardinals hit the tying and go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning, according to researcher Tom Orf.

The other times were:

_ On July 4, 1953, facing starter Paul Minner, Peanuts Lowrey hit the tying two-run home run and Rip Repulski hit the go-ahead solo home run in the top of the ninth at Chicago, overcoming a 3-1 deficit and carrying the Cardinals to a 7-3 triumph in the opener of a doubleheader. Stan Musial contributed a three-run double off Johnny Klippstein in the inning. Boxscore

_ On Sept. 6, 2016, facing reliever Tony Watson, Matt Carpenter hit the tying solo home run and Randal Grichuk hit the go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the ninth at Pittsburgh, wiping out a 6-5 deficit and helping the Cardinals to a 9-7 victory. Jhonny Peralta also hit a solo home run off Watson in that inning. Boxscore

Struggle to score

The 1931 ninth-inning comeback was the lone time the Cardinals achieved the feat at home.

Benge, a right-hander who would earn 101 wins in 12 seasons in the major leagues, had shut out the Cardinals on three hits through eight innings.

Sparky Adams led off the bottom of the ninth for St. Louis and lined out to shortstop.

Next up was Watkins.

Too careful

A left-handed batter, Watkins would hit .293 versus right-handed pitchers in 1931. He was especially effective against Benge. Watkins would hit .348 (24-for-69) against Benge in his career, according to the Web site retrosheet.org.

With his 1-0 lead, Benge worked carefully against Watkins with one out in the ninth.

“Benge fooled around with Watkins and, after Watty fouled off a couple, he finally got one in there too good,” Burleigh Grimes, the Cardinals’ starting pitcher, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Watkins hit the pitch onto the roof of the right-field pavilion at Sportsman’s Park, tying the score at 1-1.

The next batter was Frisch.

Guessing game

A switch-hitter, Frisch batted from the left side against Benge.

Like Watkins, Frisch would hit Benge hard during his career, producing a .391 batting average (25-for-64), according to retrosheet.org.

Frisch, however, hadn’t hit a home run in 1931.

“Frisch was lucky enough to guess just right,” said Grimes. “The first one to Frankie was a slow one and he figured the next was going to be a curve. Sure enough, it was and Frank was laying for it.”

Frisch hit the pitch onto the pavilion roof as well. Boxscore

Previously: Kolten Wong, Frankie Frisch gave pop to Cards at 2nd

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During a season in which he led the National League in runs scored (126) and stolen bases (64), it was power _ not speed _ that produced two of the most satisfying moments for Lou Brock.

lou_brock12Brock hit just seven home runs for the 1971 Cardinals, but two of those overcame ninth-inning deficits, tying the score and forcing extra innings.

Forty-five years later, Jedd Gyorko duplicated Brock’s home run feats. In 2016, Gyorko became the first Cardinals batter with two ninth-inning, score-tying home runs in a season since Brock in 1971, according to researcher Tom Orf.

Gyorko, a right-handed batter, hit a ninth-inning solo home run off Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen, tying the score at 3-3 on July 22, 2016, at St. Louis. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in 16 innings. Boxscore

A month later, Gyorko hit a two-run home run in the ninth off Phillies reliever Jeanmar Gomez, tying the score at 3-3 on Aug. 19, 2016, at Philadelphia. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in 11 innings. Boxscore

Handling Hoerner

Brock, a left-handed batter, produced 200 hits in 1971. Though he batted better that season versus right-handers (.328) than he did against left-handers (.287), Brock would hit five of his seven home runs off southpaws. The first of those came against a former Cardinals teammate, Joe Hoerner of the Phillies, on May 5, 1971.

Almost three months later, on July 31, 1971, the Phillies held a 4-2 lead over the Cardinals entering the ninth inning at Philadelphia.

Ted Sizemore, leading off the inning, drew a walk from Phillies reliever Ken Reynolds. When Reynolds fell behind in the count 2-and-0 to Brock, Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi lifted the right-hander and replaced him with Hoerner.

Brock worked the count to 3-and-1, then sliced a home run over the left-field fence, tying the score at 4-4. The Phillies won, 5-4, in 16 innings. Boxscore

Last hope

The outcome turned out better for the Cardinals when, a month later, Brock slugged another ninth-inning home run.

On Aug. 29, 1971, the Reds led the Cardinals, 3-2, entering the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis.

Don Gullett, 20, the Reds’ left-handed starter, was going strong in the ninth. When Gullett retired the first two batters of the inning, Brock represented the Cardinals’ last hope.

For much of the season, Brock had been using the bats of Dick Schofield, a light-hitting utility player.

“I started using Schofield’s bats in the third game of the season,” Brock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Brock explained to the Associated Press that he preferred the 36-ounce model used by Schofield. “I’ve only used my own bat, a light one, about a dozen times this season,” Brock said.

However, when the Cardinals traded Schofield to the Brewers in July 1971, he took most of his bats with him.

The Natural

During the weekend series with the Reds, Brock uncovered a leftover Schofield bat at Busch Stadium and used it when he faced Gullett in the first inning.

Brock flied out to center field. “I got under the pitch,” Brock said. “I was swinging behind it.”

Brock’s teammates retrieved the bat and hid it. “They figured Gullett was throwing too hard for me to be using it,” Brock said.

Before Brock went out to face Gullett with two outs in the ninth, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson presented Brock with the Schofield bat.

Asked by the Carbondale (Ill.) Southern Illinoisan whether he was trying to hit a home run off Gullett with the heavier bat, Brock replied, “Sure, I was swinging for it. With two outs in the last inning and one run down, you rather subconsciously do.”

Brock took Gullett’s first pitch, a fastball, for a strike. “Then he gave me the same pitch again,” Brock said.

Brock swung and laced the ball down the left-field line. It carried over the fence, about 10 feet from the foul pole, for a home run that tied the score at 3-3. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in the 11th when Clay Carroll walked Sizemore with the bases loaded. Boxscore

For his career, Brock batted .357 (5-for-14 with two home runs) versus Hoerner and .322 (19-for-59 with three home runs) against Gullett.

Previously: Why Lou Brock got into Hall of Fame on first try

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