Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

The Cardinals liked what they saw from Matt Holliday in the short term and decided to pay the price to keep him for the long term.

Ten years ago, on Jan. 5, 2010, Holliday, a free agent, informed the Cardinals he accepted their offer of a seven-year contract for $120 million. It was the richest contract given by the Cardinals and it went to a left fielder who had played 63 regular-season games for them.

Holliday batted .353 and had an on-base percentage of .419 for the 2009 Cardinals after being acquired on July 24 in a trade with the Athletics. With Holliday, the Cardinals were 39-25 and won the 2009 division title with an overall mark of 91-71.

When Holliday became a free agent in November 2009, agent Scott Boras said his client wanted an eight-year contract with an average annual salary of $17 million to $18 million and a no-trade clause.

The prospect of featuring a middle of the batting order with Albert Pujols, Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Ryan Ludwick in the third through sixth spots motivated the Cardinals to propose a deal.

Leading suitor

On Dec. 10, 2009, as baseball’s winter meetings were ending, the Cardinals made a formal offer to Holliday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but the terms were kept secret.

Club owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak were hoping to have negotiations settled by Christmas Day, but talks moved at a deliberate pace.

The Red Sox offered five years, but were rejected, according to the Post-Dispatch.

After the Red Sox dropped out of the bidding, it was unclear whether any other clubs were competing with the Cardinals for Holliday. The Orioles and Mets reportedly expressed interest, but it was believed only for a short-term deal.

Boras said Holliday “had a variety of options of various lengths from different teams.”

Waiting game

During the first weekend in January 2010, DeWitt and Mozeliak met with Boras and Holliday near the player’s home in Austin. Texas, in an effort to close a deal.

The Cardinals indicated if Holliday didn’t accept their offer by Jan. 8, 2010, they would have to move on to other candidates.

A possible alternative to Holliday in left field had been Mark DeRosa, who played for the Cardinals in 2009 before becoming a free agent, but he signed with the Giants. The Cardinals didn’t want to risk missing out on other free agents while waiting for Holliday to make a decision.

The Cardinals reportedly were interested in free-agent third baseman Miguel Tejada, who hit .313 with 46 doubles and 86 RBI for the 2009 Astros, if they couldn’t sign Holliday.

Regarding negotiations with Holliday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the Post-Dispatch, “We’ve made it clear how much we want to keep him. At some point, you have to go in one direction or another.”

Good fit

Soon after DeWitt and Mozeliak returned to St. Louis from Austin, Holliday notified them he accepted their offer. Two hours later, Holliday made his decision public in an interview with ESPN Radio.

“Playing in St. Louis with guys I made friends with, and given the way the organization is run, became very appealing to me,” Holliday said.

Regarding the decision process, Holliday said, “You get into January, you want to get excited about spring training and not worry about contract stuff. I was ready for it to be over.”

The Cardinals’ willingness to approve no-trade protection and guarantee $17 million for a seventh season sealed the deal, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Holliday accepted the offer two weeks before he turned 30.

“The Cardinals did their homework and were willing to gamble that Holliday will age well as a player,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.

At the announcement of the formal signing, the Cardinals said Holliday would wear uniform No. 7. Holliday said he chose the number to honor fellow Oklahoma native Mickey Mantle, whose No. 7 was retired by the Yankees.

With the Rockies and Athletics, Holliday had worn No. 5, but Pujols had that number with the Cardinals, When Holliday was traded to St. Louis in July 2009, he was given No. 15, previously worn by Cardinals luminaries such as Tim McCarver, Darrell Porter and Jim Edmonds.

Holliday played eight seasons (2009-2016) for the Cardinals and produced 1,048 hits in 982 games, with a batting average of .293 and a .380 on-base percentage.

The Cardinals qualified for the postseason in six of Holliday’s eight seasons with them. In the 2011 National League Championship Series versus the Brewers, Holliday batted .435 and had 10 hits and three walks in 26 plate appearances, giving him a .500 on-base percentage.

After his seven-year contract expired following the 2016 season, Holliday became a free agent and signed with the Yankees.

In 15 seasons with the Rockies, Athletics, Cardinals and Yankees, Holliday had 2,096 hits and 1,220 RBI.

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As a catcher for the Cardinals, Ted Simmons helped Steve Carlton achieve his first 20-win season. As an opposing hitter, Simmons hit with power against Carlton.

One reason Simmons was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2019 was he could hit any kind of pitching, including the best.

Of his 248 regular-season career home runs in the majors, Simmons hit 22 against fellow future Hall of Famers.

The future Hall of Famer who Simmons hit the most home runs against was Carlton, who spent most of his career with the Phillies after being a teammate of Simmons with the Cardinals.

A switch-hitter, Simmons hit seven home runs against Carlton, a left-hander.

Here is a breakdown of the number of home runs Simmons hit versus future Hall of Famers:

_ Steve Carlton, 7 home runs against.

_ Tom Seaver, 3

_ Don Sutton, 2

_ Ferguson Jenkins, 2

_ Bert Blyleven, 2

_ Phil Niekro, 2

_ Rich Gossage, 1

_ Bruce Sutter, 1 (See story)

_ Lee Smith, 1

_ Gaylord Perry, 1

Battery mates

Carlton debuted with the Cardinals in 1965 and Simmons debuted with them three years later, in 1968.

Tim McCarver was Carlton’s primary catcher with the Cardinals from 1965-69. After McCarver got traded to the Phillies in October 1969, Simmons and Joe Torre split the catching for the Cardinals the next year. Torre caught Carlton in 20 games in 1970 and Simmons was his catcher in 15, according to baseball-reference.com.

The first time Carlton and Simmons started a regular-season game together was June 2, 1970, a 12-1 Cardinals win versus the Giants at St. Louis. Carlton pitched a four-hitter. Simmons had a single, a triple and a walk, scoring twice. Boxscore

In 1971, when Torre shifted to third base, Simmons was the Cardinals’ catcher. He caught in 33 of Carlton’s 37 games for the 1971 Cardinals.

On Sept. 28, 1971, Carlton earned his 20th win of the season, beating the Mets at New York. Simmons was the catcher and produced a single, a double and two RBI. Boxscore

It was the last time Carlton would pitch for the Cardinals. Five months later, on Feb. 25, 1972, he was traded to the Phillies on orders of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, who was fed up with player salary demands.

Carlton and McCarver were reunited as Phillies. According to baseball-reference.com, the catchers who caught the most games pitched by Carlton were McCarver (236), Bob Boone (147), Bo Diaz (79) and Simmons (48).

Carlton had a 3.24 ERA over the 358.2 innings Simmons was his catcher.

Mighty matchup

Carlton’s career record against the Cardinals was 38-14 with five shutouts, 27 complete games and a 2.98 ERA.

Simmons batted .274 against Carlton. Of his 34 hits, 17 were for extra bases: nine doubles, seven home runs, one triple. Simmons had a .357 on-base percentage versus Carlton, drawing 16 walks and getting hit by a pitch once.

The most significant home run Simmons hit against Carlton was on June 25, 1977, at St. Louis.

In the seventh inning, with the Phillies ahead, 2-1, Hector Cruz led off for the Cardinals and pulled the ball down the third-base line. Third baseman Mike Schmidt snared it, but his throw sailed past first baseman Richie Hebner. Cruz was credited with a single and advanced to second on Schmidt’s throwing error.

Simmons, due up next, turned to teammate Mike Anderson and said, “I’m just going to look for anything inside that I can pull and hit hard,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

With McCarver catching, the first pitch Carlton threw Simmons was a slider, low and on the inside corner of the plate.

“He might have wanted to get the ball in the dirt or something because usually he doesn’t give me the ball in the strike zone unless it’s outside,” Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Simmons hit the ball into the left-field seats for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

“That’s one of the hardest he’s hit right-handed,” said Cardinals manager Vern Rapp. “That was hit deep into the deck.”

Said McCarver: “Simmons is just a good hitter. He might be the purest hitter in the game outside of Rod Carew. Maybe even more than Pete Rose because Simmons has more power.”

Bob Forsch and Rawly Eastwick held the Phillies scoreless over the last two innings, preserving the win for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Three years later, on April 26, 1980, at Philadelphia, Simmons got another key hit against Carlton, but it wasn’t a home run. Carlton pitched a one-hitter versus the Cardinals. Simmons’ single in the second deprived Carlton of a no-hitter, a feat that eluded him throughout his career. Boxscore

Special deliveries

Among other noteworthy home runs by Simmons against fellow future Hall of Famers were one hit against the Braves and another hit for them.

On Aug. 23, 1975, Simmons hit a grand slam against Phil Niekro, snapping a 1-1 tie in the fifth and carrying the Cardinals to a 7-2 win over the Braves at St. Louis. Simmons said he hit a low screwball, not Niekro’s signature knuckleball.

“I just golfed it,” Simmons said. “He’s been throwing me a lot of screwballs.”

The grand slam was the fifth of Simmons’ major-league career but his first versus a right-hander. Boxscore

Simmons batted .203 against Niekro in his career. He had almost as many walks (15) as hits (16).

On Aug. 31, 1986, the Cubs played the Braves in Atlanta. The Cubs started and ended the game with two future Hall of Famers, Dennis Eckersley and Lee Smith.

Simmons, 37, and in his first season with the Braves, led off the ninth, batting for pitcher Jeff Dedmon with the score tied at 3-3.

Throwing sliders, Smith got ahead in the count 1-and-2.

“Being down 1-and-2 is not the best situation to be in against Smith,” Simmons told the Chicago Tribune. “You’re living on the edge.”

On the next pitch, “Simmons timed the slider properly and launched an electric rainbow to right field,” the Atlanta Constitution reported.

The walkoff home run gave the Braves a 4-3 triumph. Boxscore

“When they say go up there and get it done like this, it’s do or die,” Simmons said. “When you do, it’s the greatest. When you don’t, it’s the worst. I like it.”

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In one of the most unusual at-bats of his Hall of Fame career, Ted Simmons stepped in for the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter against a pitcher who didn’t expect to be used in relief and hit a grand slam, accounting for all the runs in the game.

Batting for another switch-hitter, Reggie Smith, who had to depart because of back pain, Simmons hit an 0-and-2 pitch from Jon Matlack over the left-field wall, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 victory over the Mets in the second game of a doubleheader on June 23, 1975, at New York’s Shea Stadium.

It was the first of six pinch-hit home runs Simmons had in the major leagues.

Ready or not

Simmons caught Ron Reed’s shutout in Game 1 of the Monday night doubleheader, a 1-0 Cardinals victory. Simmons, batting cleanup, contributed a single and a walk. Boxscore

In the second game, Simmons was out of the lineup and Ken Rudolph was the starting catcher.

The game was scoreless when Cardinals pitcher John Denny led off the eighth inning with a single to left for his first major-league hit. Bake McBride moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt.

After Mike Tyson drew a walk from Mets starter George Stone, putting runners on first and second with one out, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told Simmons, “I’m probably going to use you to pinch-hit. Get a bat.”

As Simmons started out to the plate, he saw the scheduled batter, Luis Melendez, headed there, too, the Associated Press reported.

Ted asked Red, “Don’t you want me to hit?”

“Yeah, but for Reggie Smith,” Schoendienst replied.

Melendez singled to left, loading the bases, and Simmons came up to bat for the ailing Smith, who was 0-for-3 against Stone.

Sink or swim

In the Mets’ bullpen, Matlack had gotten up to fulfill his routine of throwing between starts. After the Cardinals loaded the bases, bullpen coach Joe Pignatano turned to Matlack and said, “Are you ready?”

“Ready for what?” Matlack replied.

Pignatano said, “You’re in the game.”

“I was almost done with my workout,” Matlack said to the Passaic (N.J.) Herald-News. “I had no idea they wanted me to go in as a reliever. I had been throwing out of my full windup and was just about done working out of the stretch.”

Mets manager Yogi Berra said, “I brought him in because he makes them hit a lot of groundballs. I talked to him before the game and told him I might have to use him.”

Matlack, who hadn’t appeared in relief in three years, said, “Being thrown in a game like that is an unnatural situation for me.”

Cat and mouse

When Matlack, a left-hander, entered the game, Simmons, a switch-hitter, stood in from the right side of the plate. He swung and missed at the first two pitches.

“The first pitch was a fastball down at the knees,” said Simmons. “The second was a slider around my neck. I said to myself, ‘I wish I could have that one back.’ ”

Matlack said he noticed Simmons “was pulling out on the first two pitches” and decided to throw a curve.

“The purpose of the 0-and-2 pitch is not necessarily a waste pitch,” said Matlack. “If anything, he was supposed to hit it foul. Or, if he doesn’t swing, it sets him up for the next pitch.”

Matlack’s curve looked like a slider or cut fastball, Simmons said, and came in low and inside.

“I was on the plate, trying to protect it and hoping to at least hit a fly ball for a run,” Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Matlack said, “The pitch was a hell of a curve, I thought. It was right where I wanted it. I was surprised he even swung at it.”

Said Simmons: “I got all of it.”

After watching a television replay of the grand slam, Matlack noted, “As he hit the ball, his hands collapsed, It was almost as if he was looking for that pitch.”

Simmons’ slam enabled the Cardinals to sweep. A grateful Reggie Smith said, “We had the right man for the right job at the right time.” Boxscore

Simmons hit .377 (20-for-53) with two home runs versus Matlack in his career.

Of Simmons’ nine grand slams in the majors, seven were with the Cardinals and he hit one each with the Brewers and Braves.

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The Cardinals tried for a year to acquire second baseman Fernando Vina and when they finally succeeded they were rewarded for their effort.

Twenty years ago, on Dec. 20, 1999, the Cardinals got Vina from the Brewers for pitchers Juan Acevedo and Matt Parker, plus catcher Eliezer Alfonzo.

Vina gave the Cardinals the consistent leadoff batter they’d been lacking and solidified the infield defense.

AL all-star

Vina was born and raised in Sacramento, Calif., where his parents settled after immigrating to the United States from Cuba. His father took a maintenance job with a local college. In 1989, when Vina attended Arizona State, he toured Cuba with Team USA.

A left-handed batter with speed, Vina played for the Mariners (1993) and Mets (1994) before being traded to the Brewers. In five seasons with the Brewers (1995-99), Vina batted .286 and produced 559 hits in 528 games. His best season was 1998 when he was named a National League all-star and batted .311 with 198 hits and 101 runs scored.

After the 1998 season, the Brewers shopped Vina because he had “the highest trade value” on their roster, The Sporting News reported, and rookie Ronnie Belliard was available to replace him.

The Cardinals, seeking a replacement for departed free agent Delino DeShields at second base, became serious suitors for Vina in December 1998, according to The Sporting News, but couldn’t come up with a pitcher the Brewers wanted.

On May 9, 1999, Vina collided with Brewers teammate Jeromy Burnitz while pursuing a pop fly and injured his left knee. He returned to the lineup three weeks later, developed tendinitis in the knee and was shut down for the season after June 3.

High praise

Joe McEwing was the Cardinals’ second baseman in 1999 and batted .275, but the the club wanted a leadoff batter with a high on-base percentage and speed.

The Cardinals pursued a deal with the Dodgers for second baseman Eric Young, offering reliever Ricky Bottalico, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but when talks stalled they turned their attention to Vina, who had 22 stolen bases and a .386 on-base percentage for the Brewers in 1998, his last full season before the knee injury.

The Cardinals offered pitcher Garrett Stephenson, but the Brewers insisted on Acevedo and the deal was made.

“He’s a legitimate top of the lineup guy,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

Vina said, “My plan is to get on base any way I can. This lineup is incredible … If I get on base, good things are going to happen.”

At spring training in 2000, Vina impressed coach Jose Oquendo, a former Cardinals second baseman.

“He’s the best I’ve seen turning the double play, ever,” Oquendo said.

Vina said, “Defense is a big part of my game. I don’t underestimate the momentum that can turn our way when you come up with a good defensive play or turn a double play.”

Key contributor

On April 3, 2000, in the season opener against the Cubs at St. Louis, Vina had a successful Cardinals debut, producing two singles, a triple, scoring a run, driving in a run and turning a double play. Boxscore

Vina, who turned 31 two weeks into the season, batted .300 for the 2000 Cardinals, scored 81 runs, had an on-base percentage of .380 and led National League second basemen in fielding percentage.

He also was hit by pitches a league-leading 28 times in 2000. He achieved the total even though he was on the disabled list for two weeks in June because of a hamstring injury and sat out 14 September games because of a rib injury.

The Cardinals’ single-season record for most times hit by pitches is 31 by right fielder Steve Evans in 1910.

Vina had three more seasons of double-figure hit-by-pitch totals for the Cardinals _ 22 in 2001, 18 in 2002 and 11 in 2003.

According to The Sporting News, “Vina is the key to jump-starting the team’s offense … When Vina gets on, it makes it easier for No. 2 hitter (J.D.) Drew to hit the ball in the hole.”

Vina had his best Cardinals season in 2001 when he batted .303 with 191 hits and 95 runs scored.

He won Gold Glove awards for his defense in 2001 and 2002.

Vina played four seasons (2000-2003) with the Cardinals, generated 570 hits in 488 games and sparked them to three postseason appearances.

Ill-advised decision

After an injury-marred 2003 season, Vina became a free agent and signed with the Tigers. In December 2007, he admitted using Human Growth Hormone, a performance-enhancing drug banned by Major League Baseball, in 2003 with the Cardinals in an attempt to heal more quickly from hamstring and knee ailments.

“I tried everything rehabbing,” Vina said. “I came to a point that I was desperate.

“Was it right? No. Obviously, it was wrong. I’m embarrassed by it. Bottom line, it was stupid. I’m embarrassed now and it didn’t help, either.”

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The Cardinals wanted Joe Girardi to be their backup catcher but settled for Mike Matheny.

Twenty years ago, on Dec. 15, 1999, the Cardinals signed Matheny, a free agent, after failing in their bid to get Girardi, who went to the Cubs.

The Cardinals’ No. 2 choice turned out to be a No. 1 catcher.

Matheny became the Cardinals’ starter in 2000, helped them become division champions and won a Gold Glove Award for his defensive excellence. Matheny played five seasons for the Cardinals, who got to the postseason in four of those years, and won the Gold Glove Award three times.

In a nifty twist, Girardi became a free agent after the 2002 season and signed with the Cardinals to be Matheny’s backup in 2003.

Prayers answered

After five years (1994-98) with the Brewers, Matheny was a backup to Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher in 1999 and hit .215 in 57 games.

“Matheny is an intelligent, studious catcher with a quiet motion behind the plate and an easy rapport with the pitchers,” The Sporting News noted, but his weak hitting was keeping him from being a starter.

“It’s a simple matter of the requisite bat speed being absent,” The Sporting News concluded in September 1999. “Barring a miraculous transformation at the plate, his destiny is to be a backup catcher.”

When Matheny, 29, became a free agent after the 1999 season, the Brewers showed interest, but not the Cardinals.

St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty “thought he had a good chance to sign Joe Girardi,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Girardi was with the Yankees from 1996-99 and played in three World Series for them before becoming a free agent. Though the Cardinals offered more money than the Cubs did, he signed with Chicago to be near his home.

Pitcher Pat Hentgen, whom the Cardinals acquired from the Blue Jays in November 1999, urged them to sign Matheny.

The Cardinals gave Matheny a one-year deal for $750,000 and planned to have him back up incumbent starter Eli Marrero.

“I like to think I’m an unselfish player and will be helpful whether I’m playing or not,” Matheny said. “That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in playing, because I am.”

An Ohio native who attended the University of Michigan, Matheny was residing with his wife, Kristin, and four children in Weldon Spring, Mo., about 25 miles from St. Louis. Kristin grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield and she and her husband had decided to raise their family in the area.

“She must have some powerful prayers because we really didn’t think about the Cardinals being interested in us,” Matheny told the Post-Dispatch.

Fighting for a job

A couple of weeks before spring training began in 2000, the Cardinals signed another free-agent catcher, Rick Wilkins, creating competition for Matheny. Wilkins had been in the big leagues for nine seasons (1991-99) and hit .303 with 30 home runs for the 1993 Cubs.

If Matheny didn’t hit, Wilkins gave the Cardinals an option.

“I wish I could take a little of the enthusiasm I feel when I’m behind the plate and have it when I get into the batter’s box,” Matheny told the Post-Dispatch. “I just love being behind the plate, all the strategy that goes unseen there, but I’m working on revamping my swing and improving on the things that have held my statistics back.”

The Cardinals entered spring training committed to Marrero, 26, as their starting catcher. Marrero, diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1998, hit .192 in 114 games for the Cardinals in 1999, but management expected him to be stronger and better in 2000.

Initially, all three catchers struggled to hit in spring training. Two weeks before the season opener, their batting averages were .091 for Matheny, .100 for Marrero and .217 for Wilkins.

“I put a lot more pressure on myself early on than I should,” Matheny said. “I was trying to do too much and open eyes … Then I started to panic, trying to make up for lost ground.”

A hot streak near the end of spring training earned Matheny the backup job over Wilkins, who was sent to the minor leagues. Wilkins “was very much in the picture until Matheny had a stronger last week offensively,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

On March 29, 2000, manager Tony La Russa informed Matheny he was on the Opening Day roster. “It was like making the big leagues for the first time,” Matheny said.

Taking charge

When the Cardinals opened the season on April 3, 2000, at home against the Cubs, the starting catchers were Matheny and Girardi. With his father and brothers attending from Ohio, Matheny contributed a single and a double and scored a run in the Cardinals’ 7-1 triumph. Boxscore

Experiencing an Opening Day in St. Louis for the first time, Matheny said, “I can honestly say it was about the most fun I’ve ever had playing in the game.”

Hitting and fielding well and displaying a quick release on throws, Matheny supplanted Marrero as the No. 1 catcher. In May 2000, The Sporting News declared, “Matheny continues to exceed expectations.”

On July 1, 2000, Marrero tore a ligament in his left thumb. A couple of weeks later, Matheny cracked a rib but continued to play. He wore a flak jacket and had his chest taped before every game. Carlos Hernandez, acquired from the Padres at the trade deadline, gave the Cardinals insurance at the catcher position.

Matheny hit .261 with 47 RBI in 128 games for the 2000 Cardinals and led National League catchers in number of runners caught attempting to steal (49). He sat out the postseason after he severed two tendons and a nerve in his right ring finger while using a hunting knife he received as a 30th birthday gift.

After their playing careers, Girardi and Matheny became big-league managers. Girardi won a World Series championship with the 2009 Yankees and Matheny won a National League pennant with the 2013 Cardinals.

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Jody Davis was with the Cardinals when he experienced a life-threatening health crisis, recovered and got on a fast track to the major leagues.

Forty years ago, on Dec. 10, 1979, the Cardinals traded pitcher Ray Searage to the Mets for Davis, a catcher.

Three months later, in March 1980, Davis was in the Cardinals’ spring training clubhouse when he began coughing up blood. Bleeding internally, he was rushed to a hospital, lost large amounts of blood and underwent two surgeries.

By June 1980, Davis was playing for a Cardinals farm club. The next year, he made his big-league debut against the Cardinals.

Peach state product

Davis was born in Gainesville, Ga., and started playing organized baseball when he was 9. He excelled at baseball and basketball in high school. Davis continued playing baseball at Middle Georgia Junior College and was a freshman when the Mets drafted him in 1976.

Davis played four seasons (1976-79) in the Mets’ farm system. In 1979, he hit .296 with 21 home runs and 91 RBI for Jackson of the Class AA Texas League.

The Cardinals, planning to keep their best catching prospect, Terry Kennedy, in the big leagues in 1980, were seeking a catcher for the top level of their farm system. The Mets agreed to trade them Davis for Searage, a left-hander who was 10-4 with a 2.22 ERA for Arkansas of the Texas League in 1979.

Searage eventually played seven seasons in the majors and was Pirates pitching coach for 10 years (2010-19).

Intestinal issues

Davis attended 1980 spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., with the Cardinals and was glad to be in their organization. “I didn’t think too highly of the Mets,” he told the St. Petersburg Times. “The Cardinals are so much nicer. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the difference between night and day.”

On March 20, 1980, Davis played in a “B” squad game in St. Petersburg and was hit in the shoulder by a foul tip. He went to the hospital for X-rays, was released and went to Al Lang Stadium, the Cardinals’ spring training home.

Inside the clubhouse, Davis, 23, became ill and vomited blood. When paramedics arrived, Cardinals third baseman Ken Reitz helped them lift Davis’ stretcher up the steps.

At the hospital, doctors determined he had a stomach ulcer and decided to operate.

“I guess I must have had one at one time because they found some scar tissue there,” Davis told the Chicago Tribune. “At any rate, they removed one-fourth of my stomach.”

The next morning, in his hospital room, Davis vomited blood again. A second surgery was performed the next day.

“Just beneath my stomach, they found an artery that was leaking, that never had developed properly,” Davis said. “So they cut away about six inches of it, attached the loose ends and sewed me up again.”

Throughout the three-day ordeal, doctors gave him transfusions totaling four gallons of blood, Davis said.

“I guess I’m lucky to be around,” he said.

Almost everyone on the Cardinals’ roster either donated blood or committed to do so to a St. Petersburg blood bank that provided about 30 pints to Davis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Back in action

Davis spent three weeks in the hospital before returning home to Georgia to continue his recuperation.

On June 22, 1980, Davis played in his first game since his surgeries. Catching and batting fifth for the Cardinals’ Class A St. Petersburg farm club, he had a hit and a RBI against Winter Haven.

“I’ve had to start all over,” Davis said to the St. Petersburg Times. “I lost 40 pounds in the hospital. When I was recovering, I could only walk a short distance.”

Davis played in 45 games for St. Petersburg and hit .277 with six home runs. On Aug. 6, 1980, he advanced to the Cardinals’ Class AAA team in Springfield, Ill., and played in 13 games.

When the Cardinals failed to protect Davis on their 40-man winter roster, the Cubs claimed him for $25,000 in the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 8, 1980.

Rapid rise

The Cubs had to include Davis on their 1981 Opening Day roster or offer the Cardinals the chance to take him back for $12,500. Cubs general manager Bob Kennedy, father of catcher Terry Kennedy, liked what he saw of Davis in spring training and decided to keep him.

“As a catcher, his style reminds me a lot of Sherm Lollar,” Kennedy said, referring to the White Sox all-star of the 1950s and 1960s.

Davis was the Cubs’ third-string catcher behind Barry Foote and Tim Blackwell. Among his Cubs teammates was Ken Reitz, who had helped him while he lay bleeding in the Cardinals’ clubhouse a year earlier.

On April 21, 1981, 13 months after his surgeries, Davis made his major-league debut as the starting catcher for the Cubs against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

A week later, the Cubs traded Foote to the Yankees. In June, Davis became the Cubs’ starting catcher.

“Everyone on the club is surprised by this unbridled rookie’s raw talent, potential and aggressiveness,” wrote Chicago Tribune columnist John Husar.

Davis had a powerful throwing arm and was adept at working with pitchers.

“I’m just amazed at his maturity,” said Cubs pitcher Doug Bird. “He seems to know more about the other batters than you expect from a rookie.”

Pitcher Doug Capilla said, “I have confidence in him any time, any situation, any pitch. He’s not afraid to call a breaking pitch with two strikes and the bases loaded. He gives pitchers a personal assurance that what he calls will be good.”

Davis played for the Cubs from 1981-88 and for the Braves from 1988-90. In 1984, when the Cubs won a division title, Davis contributed 19 home runs and 94 RBI.

Davis twice was a National League all-star (1984 and 1986) and he won a Gold Glove Award (1986).

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