Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Seeking an upgrade at first base, the Cardinals gambled on Andres Galarraga, hoping he wasn’t an out-of-shape retread who couldn’t handle the slider and instead still was an elite hitter who just needed a nurturing environment and a stretch of good health.

andres_galarragaThe Cardinals, it turned out, were correct about Galarraga, but, in a cruel twist, it was the Rockies, not St. Louis, who benefitted from his best work.

Twenty-five years ago, on Nov. 25, 1991, the Cardinals traded pitcher Ken Hill to the Expos for Galarraga.

The trade was controversial because some thought the Cardinals should have signed a free-agent first baseman, kept Hill and avoided the risk of investing in Galarraga, who had experienced a subpar 1991 season after having established himself as a premier first baseman.

Glory days

Galarraga averaged 23 home runs and 88 RBI each year from 1988 to 1990 with the Expos. He also won Gold Glove awards for his fielding in 1989 and 1990.

When Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog selected Galarraga for the 1988 National League all-star team, he called him “one of the best righthanded-hitting first basemen in this league since Gil Hodges and a sure Hall of Famer unless he has a career-threatening injury,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In 1988, Galarraga led the NL in hits (184), doubles (42) and extra-base hits (79).

The biggest negative was he struck out too much. Galarraga struck out the most of any NL batter in each of three consecutive seasons: 1988 to 1990.

By 1991, his performance declined significantly. Plagued by a pulled groin muscle and coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, Galarraga batted .219 with nine home runs in 95 games for the 1991 Expos. He was booed often by fans in Montreal. “He’s a sensitive guy,” said Expos teammate Tim Wallach, “and you could tell he was hurting a lot.”

Potential trouble

The Cardinals, meanwhile, were in the market for a first baseman. Pedro Guerrero, who held the position in 1991, was 35 and the Cardinals wanted a younger replacement with better fielding skills.

Among the available free agents were Wally Joyner, Bobby Bonilla and Danny Tartabull. However, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, “We have decided we are not going to bid on any major free agents.”

Instead, the Cardinals pursued a trade for Galarraga. “We’ve been trying to make this deal for two months,” Maxvill said.

Dan Duquette, Expos general manager, wanted Cardinals pitcher Rheal Cormier, a native Canadian, for Galarraga. “We talked long and hard about Cormier,” Duquette said. “They told me they would not give up Cormier.”

Hill, 25, was a good consolation prize. He was 11-10 with a 3.57 ERA in 30 starts for the 1991 Cardinals and led the staff in strikeouts (121). He yielded only 147 hits in 181.1 innings, but also issued a team-high 67 walks.

“At times, Hill pitches like Don Drysdale and at other times he pitches like Don Knotts,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Dan O’Neill. “… Hill is still young but patience is wearing thin.”

Said Cardinals manager Joe Torre: “It’s tough to give up an arm like Kenny Hill, but he’s been inconsistent.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, though, thought the Cardinals made a bad deal.

“The Cardinals are taking a risk, sending Hill’s live arm to Montreal for Galarraga’s dead bat,” Miklasz opined.

Noting that Hill is “capable of rolling up a sequence of monster seasons,” Miklasz said, “This is the danger: Hill is still on the way up. Galarraga has been on the way down.”

Of Cardinals management, Miklasz concluded, “They prefer to part with prospects instead of profits.”

Tough break

Galarraga raised hopes for a comeback season with a strong spring training showing in 1992. He batted .314 with 12 RBI in exhibition games.

On April 6, as Galarraga came to bat for the first time in the season opener against the Mets at St. Louis, George Grande said to Cardinals broadcast partner Jack Buck, “I think fans will like him in St. Louis, don’t you, Jack?”

Replied Buck: “If he hits.”

Hopes for a hot start for Galarraga crumbled in Game 2 of the season. In the fourth inning, Galarraga suffered a broken right wrist when hit by a pitch from Mets reliever Wally Whitehurst.

Galarraga returned to the lineup May 22, but he pressed at the plate and went into a deep funk. Galarraga entered July with a .185 batting average and no home runs.

Though he performed better in the second half, it still was a dismal season for Galarraga. He hit .243 with 10 home runs in 95 games and had almost as many strikeouts (69) as hits (79). He batted .191 with runners in scoring position and had an abysmal overall on-base percentage of .282.

Hill, meanwhile, was 16-9 with a 2.68 ERA in 33 starts for the 1992 Expos, who finished in second place, four games ahead of the Cardinals, in the NL East Division.

Rockies revival

After the 1992 season, Cardinals hitting coach Don Baylor became Rockies manager and Galarraga became a free agent.

Baylor encouraged the expansion club to sign Galarraga. In the second half of the 1992 season, Baylor had convinced Galarraga to stop pulling the ball and hit to right field. Galarraga batted .301 in his final 146 at-bats with the Cardinals from July 24 to Oct. 4.

With Baylor continuing to work with him, Galarraga was the 1993 NL batting champion, hitting .370 for the Rockies. He also produced 22 home runs, 98 RBI and a .403 on-base percentage in 120 games.

Despite bouts with cancer, Galarraga went on to a productive playing career that lasted until 2004. He finished with 2,333 hits, 399 home runs and 1,425 RBI.

Previously: The unproductive reunion of Ken Hill, Cardinals

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After pursuing Ryne Sandberg to be their second baseman in 1997, the Cardinals instead chose Delino DeShields soon after it seemed the free agent had agreed to a deal with the Reds.

delino_deshields2DeShields, motivated to rebuild a career that had stalled during a three-year stint with the Dodgers, was a standout for a dismal 1997 Cardinals club. He provided the spark at the top of the batting order that the Cardinals had been seeking.

Twenty years ago, on Nov. 20, 1996, the Cardinals signed DeShields, 27, to a one-year contract, with a club option for a second season. It was a shrewd signing.

Courting a Cub

In 1996, though the Cardinals won the National League Central Division title, their primary second baseman, Luis Alicea, committed the most errors (24) at that position in the NL and batted .258.

When Alicea became a free agent in October 1996, the Cardinals decided to find another second baseman.

They initially focused on Sandberg, the longtime Cubs standout who, like Alicea, had become a free agent.

Sandberg, 37, produced 25 home runs and 92 RBI for the 1996 Cubs. He never had played in a World Series, though, and he was open to the possibility of signing with a contender.

“It’s a very, very strong interest of Sandberg’s to engage in dialogue with the Cardinals,” Jim Turner, Sandberg’s agent, told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in November 1996. “If they’re interested in talking, we are, too.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill., “Of course we’d be interested in Ryne Sandberg. I’m surprised he’s still available, but I’m sure we’ll talk to him.”

Said Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty of Sandberg, “That’s an interesting name for us … That would be an interesting idea for our club.”

Seeking right fit

The Cardinals also were talking with the Pirates about a trade for Jeff King, who played second base as well as third and first. King produced 30 home runs and 111 RBI for the 1996 Pirates.

Eventually, the Cardinals ruled out both Sandberg and King. Sandberg wanted a guaranteed two-year contract, Hummel reported, and the Cardinals were leery of doing that deal for a player in his late 30s. The asking price for King was deemed too steep by the Cardinals.

(Sandberg re-signed with the Cubs and King was traded to the Royals.)

Instead of a power hitter, the Cardinals decided to pursue a second baseman who could bat leadoff. They turned their attention to DeShields.

A free agent, DeShields had struggled with the Dodgers after beginning his career impressively with the Expos. In four years (1990-93) with the Expos, DeShields hit .277 with an on-base percentage of .367. In three years (1994-96) with the Dodgers, DeShields hit .241 with an on-base percentage of .326.

In 1996, DeShields slumped to .224 and had almost as many strikeouts (124) as hits (130). He did have 48 stolen bases, though. He also was a friend of Cardinals shortstop Royce Clayton. Some thought DeShields would fit well in St. Louis.

“He’s a talented player who just hasn’t played up to his potential,” Jocketty said.

Seeing red

The pursuit of DeShields took a twist on Nov. 14, 1996, when the Dayton Daily News and the Los Angeles Times reported that the free agent had agreed to a two-year contract with the Reds. The newspapers said the Reds planned to trade second baseman Bret Boone to the Padres to open a spot for DeShields. The Associated Press picked up the reports and the story made national news.

Adam Katz, agent for DeShields, quickly refuted the stories.

“Cincinnati will not even be on our list to consider until Bret Boone is gone,” Katz told Bob Queenan of The Cincinnati Post. “We won’t talk to any club unless there is a job for Delino.”

Katz told Hummel, “Nothing fell apart. It was irresponsible journalism. There never was a deal with Cincinnati.”

The Reds wanted pitchers Scott Sanders and Dustin Hermanson from the Padres for Boone. Kevin Towers, Padres general manager, told The Cincinnati Post he would deal one, but not both, of the pitchers for Boone.

With the Reds and Padres unable to work a deal _ Boone would be traded by the Reds to the Braves in November 1998 _ the Cardinals again had a path to DeShields.

St. Louis success

DeShields agreed to a Cardinals contract that paid him $1.5 million in 1997. That was about half of what DeShields earned with the 1996 Dodgers.

A grateful DeShields said he chose the Cardinals because “there is a good group of guys on the team and it’s a good situation. I have a lot of respect for guys like (Tom) Pagnozzi, Ray (Lankford) and Brian (Jordan).”

Said Pagnozzi, the Cardinals’ catcher: “Getting out of L.A. is going to have a big impact on him … He’s a perfect fit for the Cardinals.”

Jocketty said some of DeShields’ problems in Los Angeles stemmed from his working relationship with Tommy Lasorda, who was Dodgers manager until replaced by Bill Russell in June 1996. DeShields, who said he played with a damaged hip in 1996, was benched for part of the season by Russell.

“He didn’t like the situation in L.A.,” Jocketty said of DeShields. “He didn’t like Tommy. This will be a much better environment for him … Tony (La Russa) is very good at working with players like this and getting the most out of them.”

Igniting the offense

DeShields delivered for the Cardinals. He led the NL in triples (14) in 1997 and he was the Cardinals leader in hits (169), stolen bases (55) and multi-hit games (50). He batted .295 and had an on-base percentage of .357. His 71-point improvement in batting average was the greatest gain among NL players from 1996 to 1997.

The 1997 Cardinals, however, finished 73-89.

In 1998, DeShields hit .290 with 26 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .371 in 117 games for the Cardinals. After that season, he became a free agent and signed with the Orioles. Joe McEwing was the Cardinals’ primary second baseman in 1999.

Previously: How Luis Alicea got encore with Cardinals

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In a bid to bolster their offense, the Cardinals acquired one of the top run producers of the 1950s. The move helped them become contenders again.

del_ennisSixty years ago, on Nov. 20, 1956, the Cardinals got outfielder Del Ennis from the Phillies for outfielder Rip Repulski and infielder Bobby Morgan.

At the time, the only active major leaguers with more career RBI than Ennis were Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Vernon and Enos Slaughter, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane said.

The deal was a steal for the Cardinals.

Placed in a batting order with Musial and Ken Boyer, Ennis hit .286 with 24 home runs and 105 RBI for the 1957 Cardinals.

St. Louis, which had finished in fourth place in the National League at 76-78 in 1956, placed second at 87-67 in 1957. It was the Cardinals’ first finish of second or higher since 1949 and their first winning season since 1953.

Ennis had a lot to do with that turnaround.

High expectations

A Philadelphia native, Ennis had played 11 seasons (1946-56) with the Phillies, batting .286 and producing 1,812 hits and 1,124 RBI. He six times had seasons of 100 or more RBI with the Phillies. In 1950, when the Phillies won the pennant, Ennis led the NL in RBI with 126, eight ahead of the Pirates’ Ralph Kiner.

The Cardinals had interest in Ennis for several years. In 1949, Cardinals owner Fred Saigh offered Phillies owner Bob Carpenter $200,000 for Ennis, according to Ed Pollock of the Philadelphia Bulletin.

“We have the fellow you want, but we won’t take money for him,” Carpenter said to Saigh. “You can have Ennis and we’ll take Musial.”

That ended the discussion.

Still, despite his success, Ennis was “a favorite target of abuse for the Phillies’ bleacher fans,” who expected even more from the hometown player, The Sporting News reported.

Ennis told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I don’t think I’ve been helped either by the boos back there (in Philadelphia) because, though I’ve tried to accept them and shrug them off, I believe maybe I’ve tried too hard.”

Ennis added, “I’ll confess there were times I would have liked to have gone into the stands to get a particularly vicious heckler.”

Younger model

During the 1956 World Series, Lane met with Phillies general manager Roy Hamey to discuss a trade. The Phillies wanted Repulski. They saw Repulski, 28, as a younger version of Ennis, 31.

Repulski’s best season with the Cardinals was 1954 when he produced 175 hits, 39 doubles, 19 home runs and 79 RBI. In 1955, he had 23 home runs and 73 RBI. In 1956, slowed by a hairline wrist fracture, Repulski was limited to 112 games, producing 11 home runs and 55 RBI.

To sweeten the deal, Lane included Morgan, whom the Phillies had dealt to the Cardinals in May 1956 for infielder Solly Hemus. Lane knew the Phillies liked Morgan as a utility player.

The 1956 Cardinals had ranked fourth in the NL in runs (678) and sixth in home runs (124).

Said Lane: “Our crying need has been for power … and we feel Ennis ought to help provide the punch … Ennis is a good whacker.”

Some were surprised the Cardinals were able to acquire Ennis.

“I don’t think Repulski is going to drive in as many runs as Ennis,” Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella said to The Sporting News. “That guy drives them in pretty good every year and he’s been doing it for a long time.”

Del delivers

Ennis started slowly for the 1957 Cardinals. He was batting .225 at the end of May. He heated up with the summer, hitting .317 in June, .308 in July and .357 in September. Overall, Ennis hit .299 with runners in scoring position.

His 105 RBI for the 1957 Cardinals ranked second in the NL, trailing only Hank Aaron of the Braves at 132. Musial had 102 RBI. Ennis and Musial became the first Cardinals teammates to produce 100 or more RBI in a season since Musial (126) and Ray Jablonski (104) in 1954.

Musial (29), Ennis (24) and Wally Moon (24) also gave the 1957 Cardinals three players with 20 or more home runs in a season for the first time since Musial (30), Steve Bilko (21) and Jablonski (21) in 1953.

The 1957 Cardinals ranked third in the NL in runs with 737 _ 59 more than they’d scored in 1956.

Repulski had 20 home runs and 68 RBI for the 1957 Phillies, who finished in fifth place at 77-77.

In 1958, Ennis’ production tailed off. He hit .261 with three home runs and 47 RBI for the Cardinals. After that season, he was traded to the Reds.

Previously: Frank Lane and his tumultuous stint as Cardinals GM

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As a utility player with the Cardinals, Tito Francona was thinking about his future. The idea of becoming a manager appealed to him.

tito_franconaIn its July 2, 1966, edition, The Sporting News wrote that Francona “explained that he had learned a lot on the sidelines that should help him in his hoped for career as a manager.”

Francona, who played 15 seasons in the big leagues, including two (1965 and 1966) with the Cardinals, never did get to fulfill his dream of becoming a manager. After 1970, his final season as a player, Francona returned to his native Pennsylvania and became a parks and recreation director in Beaver County, according to his biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

It was Francona’s son, Terry, who would become a manager, winning World Series championships with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and an American League pennant with the Indians in 2016.

Like his father, Terry also was a big-league player, primarily a first baseman and outfielder, who played 10 years (1981-90) in the major leagues, mostly with the Expos.

Terry was 5 years old when his father was acquired by the Cardinals from the Indians in a cash transaction on Dec. 15, 1964, two months after St. Louis had won the World Series championship.

Introducing Tito Francona to Cardinals fans in The Sporting News, writer Neal Russo reported that being a referee of high school and college basketball games during the winter kept Francona in good physical condition. “So do his two youngsters, son Terry, nearly 6 years old, and daughter Amy, as frisky a 3-year-old as any you’ll see at the Kentucky Derby,” Russo wrote.

Bound for Browns

John Francona was born in Aliquippa, Pa., about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh, in 1933 and was nicknamed Tito _ which, in Italian, means Giant _ by his father.

In 1952, at 18, Francona signed an amateur free-agent contract with the St. Louis Browns. “They were at the bottom (of the American League) and I figured I’d have a better chance of moving up fast with them,” Francona told The Sporting News in 1964.

Francona never made it to St. Louis with the Browns. The franchise relocated to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Orioles. Francona made his big-league debut with the 1956 Orioles.

In 1959, Francona had his best big-league season, batting .363 with 145 hits in 122 games for the Indians. In 1961, his lone season as an all-star, Francona batted .301 and had career highs of 178 hits and 85 RBI for the Indians.

A left-handed batter, Francona sprayed the ball to all fields. The Indians, though, were seeking more power from a corner outfielder. After the 1964 season, in which he hit .248 in 111 games, Francona was put on the trading block.

The Indians offered to trade Francona, catcher John Romano and pitcher Gary Bell to the Twins for catcher Earl Battey, pitcher Dick Stigman and outfielder Jimmie Hall, The Sporting News reported, but the proposal was rejected. The Indians also talked with the Cubs about a deal involving Francona and others for outfielder Billy Williams, but that also fell through.

Unable to package Francona in a major trade, the Indians sold his contract to the Cardinals for cash. After nine seasons in the American League, Francona would be playing in the National League for the first time.

Quality move

The Cardinals envisioned Francona, 31, as a pinch-hitter and backup to Mike Shannon in right field and to Bill White at first base. His acquisition generally was seen as a shrewd move by general manager Bob Howsam.

“Tito’s not too old and the St. Louis ballpark was made for good left-handed hitters,” said Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning.

Said Phillies first baseman Roy Sievers: “Tito can do a lot of things well. He’s agile. He can do a good job in the outfield and he’s an excellent backup man for Bill White at first base … The short porch in right field at Busch Stadium will help him a lot.”

Francona hit .259 in 81 games for the 1965 Cardinals. He batted .265 as a pinch-hitter.

Used in the same role by the Cardinals in 1966, Francona hit .212 in 83 games. He hit .171 as a pinch-hitter.

Goodbye to good guy

In spring training 1967, Bobby Tolan, 21, beat out Francona, 33, for the role of left-handed pinch-hitter and backup outfielder and first baseman.

On April 10, a day before the Cardinals opened the 1967 regular season, Stan Musial, in one of his first transactions as general manager, sold Francona’s contract to the Phillies.

Noting that the Cardinals received an amount greater than the $20,000 waiver price in the deal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, “The indication is that the Cardinals felt Francona had to play regularly to be of help with his bat and the Redbirds have several younger ballplayers to move in at first or the outfield.”

In 1969 and 1970, Francona played for an Athletics team that included infielder Tony La Russa and catcher Dave Duncan. In 2004, La Russa was manager and Duncan was pitching coach of a Cardinals team that played in the World Series against manager Terry Francona’s Red Sox.

La Russa told the Post-Dispatch then that he and Tito Francona had roomed together on road trips with the Athletics.

“Some guys treated me like I shouldn’t be there … but not Tito,” said La Russa, who was a light-hitting reserve infielder. “He was just a terrific roommate and a very, very helpful guy.”

Previously: George Kernek: Cardinals’ choice to replace Bill White

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Initially perceived as a marginal player in an unimportant trade, Tony Scott replaced Bake McBride in center field for the Cardinals and was their most prominent starter at that position until Willie McGee claimed the role.

tony_scottThough Scott got his chance with the Cardinals because of his connections to Vern Rapp, it was under another manager, Ken Boyer, with whom Scott had his best St. Louis season.

Forty years ago, on Nov. 8, 1976, the Cardinals traded pitchers Bill Grief and Angel Torres and outfielder Sam Mejias to the Expos for pitcher Steve Dunning, infielder Pat Scanlon and Scott.

Underwhelmed by the transaction, Dick Kaegel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote, “On the surface, it looks like one of those meaningless exchanges of baseball bodies, a deal that could hurt both clubs.”

Rapp’s guys

Dunning, Scanlon and Scott all had played in 1976 for Rapp, who managed Denver, the Class AAA club of the Expos.

In comments to The Sporting News, Scott said of Rapp, “He handles players right. He always gives people a fair shot. He made a winner out of everybody. It was a great experience to play for him.”

After the 1976 season, Rapp was chosen by the Cardinals to replace Red Schoendienst as manager.

On Rapp’s recommendation, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine made the trade for Dunning, Scanlon and Scott.

Devine said the key player for St. Louis was Dunning, a right-handed reliever who had been a first-round choice of the Indians in the 1970 draft. Dunning, 27, split the 1976 season between the Expos (2-6, 414 ERA) and Denver (3-0, 2.74 ERA).

The Cardinals hoped Scanlon could provide pop as a pinch-hitter. Scanlon, 24, hit .308 with 18 home runs for Denver in 1976.

Odd fit

Scott, 25, seemed the least likely to fit in with the 1977 Cardinals, who were flush with outfielders such as McBride, Lou Brock, Hector Cruz, Jerry Mumphrey and Mike Anderson.

McBride, who won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1974, had been limited to 64 starts in center field for the 1976 Cardinals because of knee surgery, but he was expected to be recovered in 1977.

Scott, a switch-hitter, had batted .182 with the 1975 Expos after having spent parts of the 1973 and 1974 seasons with them. At Denver in 1976, Scott batted .311 with 21 doubles, 18 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .361.

Regarding Scott’s play in center, Rapp said, “Denver has one of the larger fields in baseball. Tony had a lot of room to run and he did a good job.”

Unimpressed, Ian MacDonald of The Sporting News wrote, “The Expos were in the market for a good defensive outfielder and they feel that they may have their man in Mejias.”

Job won

Scott played in the Puerto Rican Winter League after his trade to the Cardinals and established a single-season record with 25 stolen bases, including three steals of home.

After a strong spring training, Scott opened the 1977 season as a Cardinals reserve outfielder. The starters were Brock in left, McBride in center and Cruz in right.

Neither Dunning nor Scanlon would play for the Cardinals.

Scott sizzled from the start. He batted .357 (10-for-28) in April and .355 (27-for-76) in May.

Meanwhile, McBride, hampered by a shoulder injury, was feuding with Rapp, who had banned his players from growing long hair or facial hair.

In The Sporting News, Neal Russo wrote, “Rapp was not on the greatest of terms with McBride. It was Bake who became the first to defy the new manager on his hair code.”

On June 15, 1977, the Cardinals traded McBride to the Phillies and made Scott the center field starter. McBride, who had hit .300 or better in each of his first four seasons (1973-76) with the Cardinals, was batting .262 when traded. Scott had a .331 batting average.

Redbird regular

Scott finished the 1977 season with a .291 batting mark, 16 doubles and 13 stolen bases in 95 games.

Scott opened the 1978 season as the Cardinals’ starting center fielder. In April, Rapp was fired and replaced by Boyer. A month later, the Cardinals acquired George Hendrick from the Padres and made him their everyday center fielder. Scott hit .228 in 96 games.

In 1979, Boyer moved Hendrick to right field and reinserted Scott at center field. Scott responded with a solid season: .259 batting average, 152 hits in 153 games, 22 doubles, 10 triples, 68 RBI (including eight sacrifice flies) and 37 stolen bases. Scott also ranked first among NL center fielders in assists (13) and third in putouts (398).

Scott again was the Cardinals’ starting center fielder in 1980 _ he ranked first among NL center fielders in fielding percentage at .997 _ and at the beginning of 1981.

On June 7, 1981, the Cardinals traded Scott to the Astros for pitcher Joaquin Andujar. The following year, McGee emerged as the Cardinals’ everyday center fielder. McGee and Andujar played prominent roles in helping the 1982 Cardinals to a World Series championship.

In five seasons (1977-81) with the Cardinals, Scott batted .255.

Previously: How Hub Kittle got Joaquin Andujar to Cardinals

Previously: Tom Underwood was key in major Cardinals trades

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

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Three of the most memorable Cardinals World Series home runs were hit by third basemen: Ken Boyer, David Freese and Tom Lawless.

tom_lawlessIn 1964, Boyer hit a sixth-inning grand slam off Al Downing in Game 4 at New York, carrying the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the Yankees and evening the series at 2-2.

In 2011, Freese hit an 11th-inning walkoff home run off Mark Lowe in Game 6 at St. Louis, carrying the Cardinals to a 10-9 victory over the Rangers and evening the series at 3-3.

Boyer and Freese were established Cardinals starters in the years in which they hit their dramatic World Series home runs.

Not so for Lawless, who rarely played during the regular season for the 1987 Cardinals. After three games of the 1987 World Series, slugger Reggie Jackson, working the event for ABC television, told USA Today, “I’m still trying to find out who Tom Lawless is.”

In Game 4, on Oct. 21, 1987, Lawless introduced himself to the nation in a most unexpected manner. He hit a three-run home run off Frank Viola in the fourth inning, carrying the Cardinals to a 7-2 victory over the Twins and evening the series at 2-2.

Lawless had gotten just two hits, none a home run, and no RBI during the 1987 regular season.

Twenty-nine years later, Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs, playing in Game 2 of the 2016 World Series versus the Indians, became the first non-pitcher since Lawless to get a RBI in the Fall Classic after having had none in the regular season that year.

Schwarber, however, had sat out most of the the 2016 regular season because of an injury after appearing in two April games and going hitless in four at-bats. Lawless had been on the Cardinals’ active roster all of the 1987 season, but appeared in only 19 games, batting .080 (2-for-25).

Fat pitch

Lawless, who made just three starts (none at third base) during the regular season, got his chance to play in the World Series because of a rib-cage injury to starting third baseman Terry Pendleton.

Lawless started at third base in Game 1 and was hitless in three at-bats. Jose Oquendo started at third base for the Cardinals in Games 2 and 3.

In Game 4, manager Whitey Herzog returned Lawless to the starting lineup. He batted eighth in the order and played third base, with Oquendo moving to right field.

Pitching for the Twins was Viola, who had earned 17 wins during the regular season and had started and won Game 1 of the World Series.

In the Cardinals’ half of the fourth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, Tony Pena led off with a walk and moved to third on Oquendo’s single.

Next up: Lawless.

With the count 0-and-1, Viola threw a fastball.

“A mediocre fastball,” said Twins manager Tom Kelly.

“It was less than mediocre,” said Viola. “It was a brutal fastball.”

Flipping out

Lawless swung and lifted a high fly toward left field.

Lawless “gazed fondly as the ball headed for the facing behind the wall,” wrote Rick Hummel in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“From the way he hit it and stood there, I thought it must be in the upper deck,” said Herzog.

Keeping his eye on the ball, Lawless, bat in hand, began a slow walk toward first base. When he saw the ball carry just beyond the wall and the umpire signal home run, Lawless flipped the bat into the air and began his jubilant home run trot. Video

On the ABC telecast, broadcaster Al Michaels exclaimed, “Did we really see that?”

Regarding the bat flip, Lawless said, “I just must have blanked out there for a second. This never happened to me before.”

Divine intervention

The home run gave the Cardinals a 4-1 lead and stunned the Twins.

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Doug Grow described it as “a sporting miracle” and “a swing that will forever become a part of World Series lore.”

Paul McEnroe of the Star Tribune called the Lawless stunner “as important as any homer hit by a Cardinal in the 15 World Series the team has played in.”

Lawless said he walked slowly to first while watching the ball because he thought he had hit a sacrifice fly and didn’t want to pass Oquendo on the basepath.

“It’s a big stadium, especially for a little guy like me,” Lawless told Kevin Horrigan of the Post-Dispatch. “I’ve hit balls that good before, but they haven’t gone out.” Boxscore

On the rare side

Until then, Lawless had hit only one home run in the big leagues. It occurred on April 25, 1984, for the Reds against Ken Dayley of the Braves at Atlanta. Dayley was a teammate of Lawless on the 1987 Cardinals.

Lawless became the third Cardinals player to hit a World Series home run after having hit none during the regular season that year. The others were pitchers: Jesse Haines in 1926 and Bob Gibson, who did it twice, in 1967 and in 1968.

Before Lawless, the last non-pitcher to hit a World Series home run after having hit none during the regular season that year was outfielder Marv Rickert of the 1948 Braves, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Acknowledging the dreamlike status of his achievement, Lawless said, “I may sleep in my uniform tonight.”

Previously: Les Bell to David Freese: Cardinals 3rd base champions

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