Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus lost his place in the starting lineup when he lost the confidence of manager Tony La Russa. Then Rasmus lost his spot on the club.

Ten years ago, on July 27, 2011, Rasmus was the marquee name in a multi-player trade the Cardinals made with the Blue Jays. The Cardinals dealt Rasmus and pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters for pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson.

Rasmus underachieved with the Blue Jays. The trio of pitchers acquired for him all earned wins in the 2011 postseason, helping the Cardinals become World Series champions.

Family feud

A left-handed batter, Rasmus was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, within the Cardinals’ organization, Rasmus became known as “Luhnow’s boy” because he was the first draft pick of scouting director Jeff Luhnow. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. became enamored of Luhnow, a data-driven analyst who clashed with general manager Walt Jocketty, and put him in charge of the Cardinals’ player development group.

Rasmus was 22 when he debuted in the majors with the Cardinals in 2009. He hit .251 with 16 home runs as a rookie.

In July 2010, La Russa and Rasmus had a heated exchange in the dugout. Rasmus requested a trade on more than one occasion. The Cardinals kept him and he batted .276 with 23 home runs for the season, but with more strikeouts (148) than hits (128). No other player on the 2010 Cardinals struck out 100 times.

The relationship between Rasmus, La Russa and the coaches deteriorated in 2011. La Russa said coaches Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete offered to help Rasmus but were rejected. Rasmus instead took instruction from his father, Tony Rasmus, a high school coach who played three seasons in the Angels’ farm system.

“It’s just a fact,” La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. “He was listening to someone else about his hitting.”

Colby Rasmus told Toronto’s National Post, “My dad coached me all the way growing up. He has a big interest in my baseball, wants me to play good and knows my swing pretty well.”

Tony Rasmus was discovered in the Busch Stadium clubhouse video room after working with his son in an indoor batting cage, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Rasmus struggled to make consistent contact. In mid-July, his batting average dropped to .241. Fed up, La Russa benched him and started Jon Jay in center.

Time to act

Concerned Rasmus was becoming what the Post-Dispatch described as “an eroding asset,” the Cardinals made him available for trade.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak “believed he had to cash in Rasmus now or risk seeing the trade chip lose more value idling on the bench,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz noted.

The Blue Jays, White Sox and Rays showed the most interest.

The Cardinals talked to the White Sox about pitchers Edwin Jackson and Matt Thornton. The Rays offered pitchers Jeff Niemann, J.P. Howell and a prospect, but lost interest when Mozeliak wanted another pitcher, Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Blue Jays became front-runners for Rasmus when they acquired Edwin Jackson from the White Sox, and packaged him with Dotel, Rzepczynski and Patterson.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos “has long coveted Rasmus, and he moved heaven, earth and a passel of players to get him,” the National Post reported.

On the day of the trade, the Cardinals (55-48) were in first place, a half-game ahead of the Brewers (55-49) in the National League Central Division.

“The soap opera triangle between Tony La Russa, Colby Rasmus and Tony Rasmus is gone, along with whatever distractions it caused,” declared the Post-Dispatch.

In announcing the deal, Mozeliak said, “This is a window to win.”

Miklasz noted, “In dealing Rasmus, the Cardinals should have secured a No. 2 starter and an elite prospect. This deal has short-term value. It makes sense for 2011.”

In conclusion, Miklasz wrote, “The Cardinals clearly wanted to get Colby and his daddy as far away as possible.”

Anthopoulos told the National Post, “We think we’re getting a player who has a chance to be part of this core. They’re hard to add.”

In three seasons with St. Louis, Rasmus batted .259 and had 330 hits and 320 strikeouts. “I might not have done as well as some people wanted me to, but I played hard and, looking back on it, that’s all I can say,” Rasmus said. “I’m happy with what I did.”

Tony Rasmus went on Toronto radio programs and criticized La Russa and the Cardinals. In response, Miklasz advised that Colby Rasmus “already has a reputation for letting his father control him and fight battles for him. By going off on Toronto radio shows, Tony Rasmus is only reinforcing the opinion that Colby is immature and in need of protection by daddy.”

Return on investment

Rasmus batted .173 for the 2011 Blue Jays and had more strikeouts (39) than hits (23).

The 2011 Cardinals surged in September, posting an 18-8 record for the month and finishing at 90-72. Though they placed second in their division and fourth overall in the league, the Cardinals qualified for the playoffs.

In the National League Division Series, Edwin Jackson, who was 5-2 for the Cardinals in the regular season, started and won Game 4 against the Phillies. Boxscore

Octavio Dotel, who had three wins and a save for the Cardinals in September, had two wins in the playoffs. He beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the Division Series Boxscore and won Game 5 against the Brewers in the National League Championship Series. Boxscore

Marc Rzepczynski was the winning pitcher in the pennant-clinching Championship Series Game 6 versus the Brewers. Boxscore. He also pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in four appearances in the World Series against the Rangers.

Rasmus went on to play four seasons with the Blue Jays, batting .234 with far more strikeouts (447) than hits (342).

He also played for the Astros, Rays and Orioles. He was 31 when he played his last game in the majors.

Though he never played in a World Series or got named an all-star, Rasmus received $47.4 million in salary during his career in the majors, according to baseball-reference.com. In 10 seasons, he batted .241 with 891 hits and 1,106 strikeouts. Video of career highlights

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In a lineup featuring future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, it was Erv Dusak who delivered two of the most important hits for the 1946 Cardinals.

Seventy-five years ago, on July 16, 1946, Dusak hit a three-run walkoff home run in the ninth, enabling the Cardinals to complete a four-game sweep of the front-running Dodgers.

Two months later, in the last week of the regular season, Dusak hit another walkoff home run, a solo shot in the 10th inning against the Reds, for a victory that kept the Cardinals in first place.

Power prospect

An outfielder, Dusak was one of three players who made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in September 1941 after being called up from the Rochester farm team. The others were Musial and third baseman Whitey Kurowski.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said Cardinals executive Branch Rickey didn’t say much to him when he joined the team.

“It was obvious that the player on his mind was Dusak, not Musial, and I can see why,” Musial recalled. “Erv was a strapping right-handed power hitter who ran well, fielded well and threw considerably better than I did.”

Unfortunately for Dusak, pitchers quickly discovered a weakness. “Erv had too much trouble with the breaking ball to last long in the big leagues,” Musial said.

Dusak spent most of 1942 back at Rochester. Following the season, he enlisted in the Army and spent three years (1943-45) in World War II service.

In 1946, the Cardinals opened the season with an outfield of Musial and Slaughter in the corners and Terry Moore in center. Dusak made the team as a reserve.

Swing series

The Dodgers set the early pace in the 1946 National League race, winning eight of their first nine.

When they came to St. Louis for a four-game series in July, the Dodgers (49-28) were 4.5 games ahead of the Cardinals (45-33).

The series began with a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park on Sunday July 14. The Cardinals won the opener, 5-3. Slaughter drove in four runs, including two on a tie-breaking home run in the eighth, and Ted Wilks pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Johnny Beazley. Boxscore

In the second game, Musial led off the 12th with a walkoff home run against Vic Lombardi, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 triumph. Boxscore

Game 3 of the series was played on Monday night July 15. Schoendienst had three RBI and the Cardinals prevailed, 10-4.

In the third inning, the Dodgers thought their left fielder, Pete Reiser, snared a drive by Slaughter, but umpire Al Barlick ruled Reiser trapped the ball. Dodgers manager Leo Durocher argued and was ejected. Boxscore

The next day, Tuesday July 16, National League president Ford Frick suspended Durocher for five days and fined him $150 for “laying hands on” Barlick during the rhubarb, the New York Daily News reported. Durocher departed St. Louis rather than stick around for that night’s series finale.

Setting the stage

With coach Chuck Dressen as acting manager for Game 4 of the series, the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

“The big crowd, almost silent, appeared to have given up,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported. “Most Brooklyn writers had their stories written.”

Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer told The Sporting News, “It looked like we were goners.”

The Cardinals had the bottom of their order due to face left-hander Joe Hatten.

Hatten got ahead in the count, 1-and-2, to the first batter, Marty Marion, “when the miracle happened,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

Hatten grazed Marion on the side of his uniform jersey with a pitch, putting him on first.

Clyde Kluttz, a catcher acquired from the Phillies in May, singled to left, moving Marion to second.

After Dyer sent Dusak to bat for pitcher Howie Pollet, Dressen went to the mound to talk to Hatten. A right-hander was ready in the bullpen, but Dressen stuck with Hatten, a decision some speculated Durocher would not have made.

Fantastic finish

Dusak, batting .229 for the season, was given the bunt sign. After he failed in his first attempt to bunt successfully, he was permitted to swing away. He lashed at Hatten’s second pitch and fouled it off.

Hatten’s next two pitches missed the strike zone, evening the count at 2-and-2. He came back with a fastball and Dusak connected.

“The wallop rang out like a pistol shot,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

According to the Star-Times, “There was a terrific crack and everybody knew at once it was all over.”

The ball carried over the left-field wall and landed 10 rows up in the bleachers, turning the two-run deficit into a 5-4 victory and a series sweep. Boxscore

“Frenzied spectators unloosed a thunderous shout and kept it up for many minutes,” the Globe-Democrat reported. “So jubilant were the Cardinals players that they gathered at the plate and almost mobbed Dusak as he scored.”

The New York Daily News noted, “The Dodgers, with their chins sunk against their chests, trudged forlornly off the field, while all around them Redbird fans joined the St. Louis players in whistling, stomping and jumping with joy.”

Dusak was “as happy as a youngster who had just seen Santa Claus for the first time,” the Globe-Democrat declared.

In the locker room, a young bleacher fan showed up with the home run ball and presented it to Dusak, the Star-Times reported.

“He hit one of the most beautiful home runs I ever expect to see,” Dyer told The Sporting News.

Encore performance

By sweeping the series, the Cardinals (49-33) moved within a half-game of the Dodgers (49-32).

“No series played by the Dodgers all season gave them more of a jolt,” Dyer said to The Sporting News.

The Cardinals and Dodgers waged a fierce fight for first place the remainder of the season.

On Sept. 24, the Cardinals (94-55) held a half-game lead over Brooklyn (94-56) heading into a game against the Reds at St. Louis.

The Reds started Johnny Vander Meer, the left-hander who pitched consecutive no-hitters in 1938.

Vander Meer limited the Cardinals to two singles through eight innings and took a 1-0 lead into the ninth, but Musial tied the score with a two-out RBI-single.

In the 10th, Dusak batted with none on. Working the count to 3-and-1, he got a fastball and pulverized it. The ball cleared the wall in left and “landed only a few feet in front of the concession stand at the back of the bleachers,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Dusak’s second walkoff home run of the season gave the Cardinals a 2-1 victory and put them a game ahead of the Dodgers with four to play. Boxscore

Mobbed again by his teammates, Dusak was carried off the field on the shoulders of Dyer and coach Mike Gonzalez, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Change in plans

More drama followed. The Cardinals lost three of their last four games and the Dodgers won two of four, leaving the clubs tied for first at the end of the regular season. A best-of-three playoff was held and the Cardinals won the first two games, clinching their fourth pennant in five years.

The Cardinals then prevailed in a seven-game World Series versus the Red Sox.

Dusak hit .240 with nine home runs for the 1946 Cardinals. As a pinch-hitter, he was 4-for-10. Three of the hits were home runs.

In 1947, Dusak batted .284 for the Cardinals, but slumped to .209 in 1948. He decided to become a pitcher and returned to the minors in 1949.

Dusak pitched in 14 games for the Cardinals in 1950 and five more in 1951 before he was traded to the Pirates.

The Dodgers got a bit of revenge on May 22, 1951, when Gil Hodges hit a grand slam against Dusak. Boxscore

Dusak’s big-league career statistics: .243 batting average, 24 home runs, 0-3 pitching record, one save, 5.33 ERA.

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Ted Simmons is part of a special group of players who hit with a rare combination of power and consistent contact.

Simmons is one of 12 players who finished his big-league career with at least 240 home runs and fewer than 700 strikeouts, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

A catcher who spent most of his playing days with the Cardinals before going to the Brewers and Braves, Simmons is the last player to achieve the feat. He’s also the only switch-hitter among the 12.

Simmons will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sept. 8, 2021. He is one of nine Hall of Famers among the 12 elite hitters who showed that a slugger doesn’t have to whiff a lot to produce steady power.

In order of most home runs, here are the dandy dozen based on a review of statistics at baseball-reference.com:

_ Stan Musial, 475 home runs, 696 strikeouts: The most Musial struck out in a season was 46 times in 1962 when he was 41. He batted .330 that season with 19 home runs.

In 1948, when Musial batted .376, he had more home runs, a career-high 39, than strikeouts 34.

Musial struck out three times in a major-league game only once. It happened on July 28, 1963, against the Cubs’ Dick Ellsworth when Musial was 42 and in his final season. Boxscore

The pitcher who fanned Musial the most was fellow Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. Though Spahn struck out Musial 30 times, Musial batted .318 against him. The 17 home runs Musial hit versus Spahn are the most he had against any pitcher.

_ Joe DiMaggio, 361 home runs, 369 strikeouts: Remarkably, DiMaggio had more home runs than strikeouts in seven of his 13 seasons with the Yankees.

In 1941, DiMaggio had 30 home runs and 13 strikeouts. During his 56-game hitting streak that year, he whiffed five times.

Like Musial, DiMaggio struck out three times in a big-league game just once. It happened on June 19, 1942, versus the Indians’ Mel Harder. Boxscore

_ Johnny Mize, 359 home runs, 524 strikeouts: When Mize hit 51 home runs for the Giants in 1947, he struck out 42 times. It was one of three times he had more home runs than strikeouts in a season.

The 43 home runs Mize hit for the Cardinals in 1940 were the franchise record for a season until Mark McGwire hit 70 while taking steroids to enhance his performance in 1998. Mize struck out 49 times in 1940. McGwire fanned 155 times in 1998.

_ Yogi Berra, 358 home runs, 414 strikeouts: Though he was known for chasing balls out of the strike zone, Berra six times had more home runs than strikeouts in a season with the Yankees. Perhaps the most impressive was in 1950 when Berra had 28 home runs and 12 strikeouts. He hit .322 with 124 RBI that season.

While with the Mets, Berra struck out three times in a game against the Braves’ Tony Cloninger on May 9, 1965, three days before turning 40. He decided to quit immediately and never played in another game. Boxscore 

_ Rogers Hornsby, 301 home runs, 679 strikeouts: In 1924, when he batted .424 and hit 25 home runs for the Cardinals, Hornsby struck out 32 times in 642 plate appearances.

_ Chuck Klein, 300 home runs, 521 strikeouts: When Klein achieved the Triple Crown with the Phillies in 1933, leading the National League in batting (.368), home runs (28) and RBI (120), he struck out 36 times in 667 plate appearances.

_ Ted Kluszewski, 279 home runs, 365 strikeouts: Wearing a sleeveless Reds jersey that enabled him to bare bulging biceps, Ted Kluszewski looked the part of a slugger, but he was no swing-and-miss hacker. Kluszewski only once struck out three times in a game, on June 17, 1950, versus the Phillies’ Robin Roberts. Boxscore

In 1954, when he led the National League in home runs (49) and RBI (141), Kluszewski fanned 35 times in 659 plate appearances. It was one of five times he had more home runs than strikeouts in a season.

_ Roy Campanella, 260 home runs, 501 strikeouts: The Dodgers’ catcher hit 20 or more home runs seven times but never had more than 61 strikeouts in a season.

_ Goose Goslin, 248 home runs, 585 strikeouts: In 1928, when Goslin was with the Senators, he led the American League in batting at .379, was third in slugging at .614 (trailing only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig) and struck out 19 times.

_ Ted Simmons, 248 home runs, 694 strikeouts: As consistent as he was excellent, Simmons had the same number of strikeouts, 35, in each of three consecutive seasons (1974-76) with the Cardinals. In his biggest home run year, 1979, when he hit 26, Simmons fanned 34 times.

in the book “The Ted Simmons Story,” his teammate and friend, Joe Torre, said, “Nobody in the league hits the ball so hard so consistently as Simmons.”

After falling into a slump early in the 1973 season while trying to hit home runs, Simmons said, “I knew now I wasn’t ever going to be a big home run hitter, but if I ever felt I had to have some record to shoot at, some goal to turn me on, all I had to think about was Pete Rose hitting over .300 eight years in a row. That’s a record to brag about. It’s a lot more impressive than Roger Maris’ or Hank Aaron’s home run records.”

_ Vern Stephens, 247 home runs, 685 strikeouts: A shortstop who played 15 years in the American League, Stephens hit 20 or more home runs in a season six times, including in 1944 when he helped the Browns to their only pennant.

_ Wally Berger, 242 home runs, 693 strikeouts: An outfielder who played 11 years in the National League, Berger hit 25 or more home runs for the Braves five times, including 38 as a rookie in 1930.

Kluszewski, Stephens and Berger are the only three of the 12 who haven’t been elected to the Hall of Fame.

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At his best, Bill White hit for average and distance.

Sixty years ago, in July 1961, White achieved an unprecedented slugging feat against the Dodgers, then tied a major-league base hit record held by Ty Cobb.

A left-handed batter and first baseman, White did the following:

_ On July 5, he became the first player to hit three home runs over the right-field fence in a game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

_ From July 17 to July 18, he totaled 14 hits in four games, equaling a record set by Cobb 49 years earlier for most hits in two consecutive doubleheaders.

Tough test

In 1961, White was a National League all-star and Gold Glove Award winner who was among the Cardinals’ leading hitters, but the club wanted him to produce more power. In each of the three previous seasons (1958-60), Ken Boyer was the only Cardinal to hit 20 home runs.

Heading into the game against the Dodgers at the Coliseum, White was hitting .294 with five home runs for the season.

The Coliseum seemed an unlikely place for White to go on a home run binge. The distance from home plate to the fence in right-center was 440 feet and it was 390 feet in straightaway right. Left-handed sluggers, such as the Dodgers’ Duke Snider, found those dimensions daunting.

The Coliseum was friendlier to right-handed pull hitters, with a distance of 251 feet down the line from home plate to the left field fence. Though a screen stretching 42 feet high was erected, routine fly balls reached the seats.

Adding to the degree of difficulty for White was the Dodgers’ choice of a starting pitcher, left-hander Johnny Podres. White hit for a higher average and with more power against right-handers than he did left-handers.

Pulling power

Batting second in the order in the last game managed by Solly Hemus, White grounded out his first time at the plate against Podres.

Leading off the third, White swung at an inside fastball from Podres and pulled it over the fence near the foul line for a home run.

An inning later, facing Roger Craig, White got a hanging changeup and drove it over the wall in right-center for a two-run home run.

The next time up, with two outs and a runner on second in the sixth, White was walked intentionally by Craig.

In the eighth, White led off against rookie Jim Golden and hit a slider into the seats in right-center for his third home run.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, White was the sixth Cardinals player with three home runs in a game. The others: Frank Shugart (1894), George Harper (1928), George Watkins (1931), Johnny Mize (1938 and 1940) and Stan Musial (1954).

Lee Walls of the 1958 Cubs and Don Demeter of the 1959 Dodgers also hit three home runs in a game at the Coliseum, with all carrying the short distance to left.

“I took extra batting practice last Monday determined to practice getting out in front of the ball,” White said to the Post-Dispatch. “I believe the club expects it of me.”

White had a chance to hit a fourth home run in the game when he faced Golden again in the ninth. He took a rip and lined a double to the base of the wall in right near the foul line.

Asked whether he was trying for a home run, White told the Los Angeles Times, “I wasn’t thinking so much about that as the fact that the first pitch might come pretty close to me. Then, when I did hit the ball, it looked for a second or two like it might hook in there for another homer.”

White’s road roommate, Bob Gibson, also contributed impressively to the 9-1 Cardinals triumph. Gibson pitched a four-hitter and slugged his first home run in the majors. Boxscore

Hot hitting

Two weeks later, with Johnny Keane managing the club, the Cardinals faced consecutive twi-night doubleheaders against the Cubs at St. Louis.

White produced 14 hits in 18 at-bats in the four games, all won by the Cardinals.

When Cobb achieved the mark while playing for the Tigers against the Athletics at Philadelphia in 1912, he was 14-for-19. Cobb had seven hits in 11 at-bats in the doubleheader played July 17 and, after an off day for the teams, he was 7-for-8 in the doubleheader played July 19.

In an eerie bit of serendipity, White’s record-tying performances occurred on almost the same exact July dates as when Cobb achieved the feat. In addition, Cobb died on July 17, 1961, the same day White played the first of the two doubleheaders.

White was 8-for-10 in the July 17 doubleheader against the Cubs.

In the first game, he was 4-for-5, getting three singles against starter Don Cardwell and another single versus Don Elston. Boxscore

White went 4-for-5 again in the second game. He had a double and a single against starter Jim Brewer and two singles versus Barney Schultz. Boxscore

Julian Javier also had eight hits, including seven in succession, for the Cardinals in the doubleheader.

The second game didn’t end until nearly 1 a.m. When White got home, he sat up with an ailing child and didn’t get any sleep, the Associated Press reported.

In the morning, White fulfilled a commitment to instruct youngsters at a baseball clinic at a local park from 10 a.m. to noon. According to the Post-Dispatch, White had lunch after the clinic, went to Busch Stadium and took a 45-minute nap in the trainer’s room before batting practice.

Showing no signs of fatigue, White was 3-for-4 in the opener of the July 18 doubleheader. He had two singles and a home run against starter Glen Hobbie. Boxscore

In the second game, White again was 3-for-4. He had a pair of triples, one against reliever Mel Wright and the other versus Don Elston. The hit that tied Cobb’s record was a double against Bob Anderson that “just escaped Ed Bouchee’s leap at first base,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Boxscore

Asked about tying the record, White told the Post-Dispatch, “It feels good to win two more ballgames.”

For the two doubleheaders, White had nine singles, two doubles, two triples and a home run.

White had a .417 on-base percentage in July 1961 and hit .331 for the month.

He finished the season with these numbers: .286 batting average, 28 doubles, 11 triples, 20 home runs and 90 RBI. Against the Cubs, he had 33 hits in 21 games and batted .371.


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Ted Simmons was the first catcher to start All-Star Games for both the National League and American League.

Simmons was the starting catcher for the National League all-stars when he was with the Cardinals in 1978. He was the starting catcher for the American League all-stars when he was with the Brewers in 1983.

Named an all-star eight times, Simmons played as a reserve in three games (1973, 1977 and 1981) and did not get into games after being selected in 1972, 1974 and 1979. Simmons was voted the 1979 National League starting catcher by the fans, but was unable to play because of a broken left wrist.

Ted’s turn

The Reds’ Johnny Bench was the starting catcher for the National League in every All-Star Game from 1969-77. In 1978, fans voted for Bench to be the starter again, but a bad back kept him from playing in the July 11 game at San Diego.

Bench received 2,442,201 votes in fan balloting. The other top vote-getters among National League catchers in 1978 were the Dodgers’ Steve Yeager (1,952,494), the Phillies’ Bob Boone (1,842,080) and Simmons (1,815,712).

Of the four, Simmons was producing the best. He entered the all-star break with a .311 batting average and 10 home runs. Bench (.224, 11 homers), Boone (.258, seven homers) and Yeager (.189, two homers) were not as good.

Asked for his opinion of the all-star voting by fans, Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I’d be lying if I said I did like it, but I don’t want to sound like sour-graping because everything that has come to Johnny Bench, he’s earned.”

National League manager Tommy Lasorda chose Simmons, Boone and the Braves’ Biff Pocoroba (.262, four homers) as all-star catchers, and named Simmons the starter. Before Simmons in 1978, the last catcher other than Bench to start for the National League in an All-Star Game was the Mets’ Jerry Grote in 1968.

Simmons was the first Cardinals catcher to start an All-Star Game since Walker Cooper in 1944.

Check it out

Asked about being an all-star starter, Simmons told the Post-Dispatch, “There’s nothing to match it.”

In the top of the first inning, with the Giants’ Vida Blue pitching, Simmons caught the Mariners’ Richie Zisk attempting to steal.

Batting sixth in the order, Simmons came to the plate with runners on first and second, none out, in the second against the Orioles’ Jim Palmer.

“Tough man at the plate,” said ABC-TV broadcaster Keith Jackson.

Broadcast partner Howard Cosell called Simmons “the most underpublicized exceptional hitter in baseball … I love to watch Ted Simmons hit.”

Expecting to get pitches to hit, Simmons swung exceptionally hard. “I thought I might get me a tater,” he said, explaining his home run cut.

Simmons drilled a pitch and “nearly removed the ankles from first base umpire Nestor Chylak with a nasty line drive barely outside the foul line,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Perhaps too eager to hit another hard, Simmons struck out, making him 0-for-5 in All-Star Game plate appearances.

Simmons got another chance in the third. With two outs, he again came up with runners on first and second against the Athletics’ Matt Keough, who relieved Palmer.

Fooled by a pitch, Simmons checked his swing but still connected. The ball bounced along the third-base line, “a gentle trickle placed well enough even for Simmons, no gazelle, to leg it out,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The infield single loaded the bases.

“My first all-star hit,” Simmons said with a grin. “I’ll take it. They could roll it out there if they wanted.”

Simmons got one more at-bat in the game. Leading off the sixth against the Brewers’ Lary Sorensen, Simmons took another big swing and hit a soft liner to the Red Sox’s Dwight Evans in right for an out.

Boone replaced Simmons in the seventh.

The National League won, 7-3, for its 15th victory in the last 16 All-Star Games. Asked about the dominance, Simmons told the Post-Dispatch, “The National League has the better players.” Boxscore and Game Video

Play to win

Two years later, in December 1980, Simmons and Sorensen were swapped in a multi-player trade between the Cardinals and Brewers.

Like Bench had done in the National League, Carlton Fisk dominated fan balloting for catcher in the American League.

Fisk was the American League all-star starting catcher every year from 1977-82, with the exception of 1979, when the Royals’ Darrell Porter started. Fisk was with the Red Sox until becoming a free agent and joining the White Sox in 1981.

In 1983, Simmons got the all-star start because he was the top vote-getter among American League catchers in fan balloting. He got the support because he was hitting .307 with six home runs at the all-star break and had played for the American League champions the previous year.

The top vote-getters were Simmons (946,254), the Tigers’ Lance Parrish (824,741), Fisk (870,342) and another former National Leaguer, the Angels’ Bob Boone (610,559).

Parrish was batting .304 with eight home runs at the all-star break. Fisk (.250, nine homers) and Boone (.251, three homers) were not as good with the bat.

Played on July 6, 1983, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the All-Star Game had its 50-year anniversary. The National League team was managed by the Cardinals’ Whitey Herzog, who made the trade of Simmons to the Brewers.

Simmons batted twice in the game. He grounded out to pitcher Mario Soto of the Reds in the first and popped out to second against the Giants’ Atlee Hammaker in the third before being replaced by Parrish.

The American League won, 13-3, snapping an 11-game losing streak. Boxscore and Game Video

“These guys wanted to win this game,” Simmons said to The Capital Times of Madison, Wis. “You could see it in peoples’ faces. Instead of guys saying, ‘I want out of the game. I’m going to play my three innings and go,’ they wanted to stick around.

“There were a number of former National League players who had been all-stars, like Bob Boone, Dave Winfield and myself, who tried to generate that, ‘Hey, let’s win the game,’ attitude.”

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Pitcher Gary Blaylock hit two home runs for the Cardinals and he did it in consecutive at-bats.

On May 12, 1959, in his final at-bat of the game, Blaylock hit a two-run home run against Reds reliever Jim O’Toole.

Four days later, on May 16, Blaylock took his next at-bat, against Phillies starter Jim Owens, and hit another two-run home run.

The home runs in consecutive at-bats were the only ones Blaylock hit in the majors. The 1959 season, Blaylock’s lone year as a big-league player, was split between the Cardinals and Yankees.

Long wait

Blaylock was born in the Missouri Bootheel, the southeasternmost part of the state, in the town of Clarkton, and grew up on a farm in nearby Malden.

A right-hander, he developed his arm strength milking cows, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Blaylock was 18 when he signed with the Cardinals in 1950.

Blaylock spent nine seasons in the Cardinals’ farm system. He had success, winning 23 for Johnson City in 1951 and 14 for Rochester in 1958, for instance. The Sporting News noted he “has appeared close to stardom at times,” but Blaylock repeatedly was passed over for a spot in the big leagues.

“We always have considered him a fine prospect,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told The Sporting News, “but he was young and found it difficult to control his temper. He fought himself and was, by and large, a thrower instead of a pitcher.”

The Cardinals liked what they saw of Blaylock, 27, at spring training in 1959. 

“He has matured,” Devine said. “He’s a pitcher now.”

Cardinals manager Solly Hemus told The Sporting News, “I’ll bet that if the state of the ballclub permits the use of Gary every fourth day, he’ll win 12 games. If he is used only in spots and not as a regular starter, he’ll win at least seven.”

On the run

The Cardinals opened the 1959 season with a starting rotation of Larry Jackson, Ernie Broglio, Vinegar Bend Mizell and Lindy McDaniel. Hemus said rookies Blaylock and Bob Gibson would be relievers and sport starters.

After waiting since 1950 to reach the big leagues, Blaylock made his debut on Opening Day at St. Louis, but not as a pitcher. He entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-runner for Stan Musial, and it was quite an adventure.

Taking a big lead in anticipation of a hit-and-run play, Blaylock became trapped when Giants pitcher Johnny Antonelli made a pickoff throw to first.

“All I could think of _ and I thought of a lot in a split second _ was, ‘My gosh, I’ve been in baseball 10 years, waiting to get into a big-league game, and now look what I’ve done,’ ” Blaylock told the Post-Dispatch.

Blaylock made a desperate dash toward second. A throw to shortstop Andre Rodgers, covering second, arrived ahead of the runner, but Blaylock made a belated slide, eluded “a slow, careless tag” by Rodgers, and was called safe, The Sporting News reported.

Blaylock advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an Alex Grammas single. Boxscore

Hot and cold

Six days later, on April 16, Blaylock pitched in a big-league game for the first time. Appearing in relief against the Dodgers at Los Angeles, Blaylock tossed two scoreless innings, retiring all six batters he faced. Boxscore

Hemus rewarded him with a start against the Cubs at Chicago on April 21. Blaylock pitched a complete game, but the Cubs won, 1-0, behind Glen Hobbie’s one-hitter. Musial got the Cardinals’ lone hit, a double with two outs in the seventh. Sammy Taylor drove in the Cubs’ run in the second. Boxscore

In May, Hemus put Blaylock in the starting rotation. On May 12 at St. Louis, he held the Reds scoreless for five innings. With the Cardinals ahead 5-0, Blaylock hit a two-run home run deep into the seats in left-center in the bottom of the fifth.

“I’ve always been a fair hitter,” Blaylock told the Post-Dispatch.

He pitched 6.2 innings for the win, but was lifted before he had another at-bat. Boxscore

In his next appearance, a start versus the Phillies at St. Louis, Blaylock broke a scoreless tie with a two-run home run in his first at-bat of the game in the third. Blaylock went the distance and got the win, boosting his record to 3-1. Boxscore

After that, Blaylock’s season unraveled. He never won another start and was sent to the bullpen in the middle of June. In July, the Cardinals put him on waivers and the Yankees claimed him.

In 26 appearances for the 1959 Cardinals, Blaylock was 4-5 with a 5.13 ERA. He was 3-4 as a starter and 1-1 in relief. As a batter, Blaylock was 4-for-34 with 17 strikeouts.

Blaylock was an effective reliever for the 1959 Yankees. He had a 2.59 ERA in 14 relief appearances for them. A highlight came on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium when he pitched five scoreless innings and drove in Norm Siebern with a double. Boxscore

Shelled in his one start, against the Tigers, Blaylock finished the season 0-1 with a 3.50 ERA for the Yankees.

Nurturing talent

Blaylock pitched in the Yankees’ farm system from 1960-63, then moved into managing. He was a minor-league manager for the Yankees and Royals.

In 1971, when Blaylock managed the Royals’ farm team in Billings, Mont., his shortstop was George Brett, 18, who was in his first season as a professional. According to the Kansas City Star, Blaylock said he wasn’t convinced Brett “had enough arm to be a top-flight shortstop” and moved him to third.

“I was thoroughly impressed with him as a kid and as a guy that liked to play,” Blaylock said, “but I wasn’t impressed to the point that I thought he’d be a star.”

Blaylock also served as a scout and minor-league pitching instructor for the Royals. He mentored pitching prospects Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza.

“He understands me more than anybody except my family,” Gubicza told the Kansas City Star.

The Royals named Blaylock pitching coach on the staff of manager Dick Howser in 1984. Blaylock succeeded another former Cardinal, Cloyd Boyer.

Blaylock was Royals pitching coach from 1984-87.

His coaching highlight came in 1985 when the Royals became World Series champions, defeating the Cardinals.

Royals pitchers limited the Cardinals to 13 runs in seven games. Saberhagen was 2-0 with an 0.50 ERA and won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. He also was the recipient of the 1985 American League Cy Young Award.

Note: Special thanks to Cardinals researcher Tom Orf for providing the inspiration to research and write this post.

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