Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Vince Coleman was so fast he made it to the major leagues much sooner than the Cardinals expected.

On Aug. 18, 2018, Coleman will be inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. Coleman led the National League in stolen bases in each of his six seasons with St. Louis (1985-90) and three times swiped more than 100 bases _ 110 in 1985, 107 in 1986 and 109 in 1987.

In 1985, Coleman won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, capping a year in which he scored 107 runs for the Cardinals and sparked them to a pennant.

When the 1985 season began, however, Coleman was with Louisville and both he and the Cardinals agreed he needed to spend more months in the minors before he was ready for the big leagues.

The plan changed in April when the Cardinals called up Coleman to fill in for a pair of injured outfielders, Willie McGee and Tito Landrum. Coleman was supposed to stay a couple of days, but his speed created headaches for opponents and opportunities for the Cardinals. When McGee and Landrum got healthy, Coleman remained as the Cardinals’ leadoff batter and left fielder.

Multiple talents

Coleman was raised in Jacksonville by his mother, Willie Pearl Coleman, a single parent who worked as a dietitian at a hospital. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Florida A&M, earned spots on the football and baseball teams, and was granted an athletic scholarship.

Coleman was a punter and placekicker for the football team, following the lead of his cousin, Greg Coleman, who was a punter for 10 seasons in the NFL, primarily with the Minnesota Vikings.

One of Vince Coleman’s baseball teammates at Florida A&M was Lary Aaron, son of home run king Hank Aaron. In his sophomore year, Coleman broke his wrist and sat out the baseball season. As a junior in 1981, Coleman batted .383 with 65 stolen bases in 66 games. He hit .407 his senior season and had 42 steals in 28 games.

The NFL’s Washington Redskins invited Coleman to a minicamp in May 1982 and urged him to become a wide receiver, but Coleman was hesitant to try. The next week, Coleman was selected by the Cardinals in the 10th round of baseball’s amateur draft and he signed with them.

Coleman was a baseball fan of the Angels because they had his favorite player, Rod Carew, “but I was glad the Cardinals drafted me because I knew (manager) Whitey Herzog likes to have a running team,” Coleman said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Fast track

The Cardinals assigned Coleman to their rookie league club at Johnson City in 1982 and he had 43 stolen bases in 58 games.

Coleman went to Class A Macon in 1983 and established a professional single-season record with 145 stolen bases. Coleman accomplished the feat in 113 games after sitting out most of June because of a broken right hand. “I think I’m the fastest man in baseball,” Coleman said.

The 1983 season also was when Coleman became a switch-hitter. A natural right-hander, he hit .350 right-handed and .357 left-handed for Macon.

The Cardinals brought Coleman to St. Louis on Sept. 3, 1983, to be honored in a pre-game ceremony for his stolen base record. After that, he reported to the Springfield, Ill., farm club to help against Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League playoffs.

From there, Coleman reported to the Cardinals’ Florida Instructional League to focus on hitting curves and sliders.

Coleman skipped the Class AA level and opened the 1984 season with Class AAA Louisville. “I’d be delighted if Vince could hit .250 or .260 after jumping all the way to Triple A,” Louisville manager Jim Fregosi said to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It’s a natural thing for him to struggle.”

Coleman batted .257 with 101 stolen bases in 152 games for Louisville, but the Cardinals didn’t bring him to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September. “I’m a little down about not going up,” Coleman said.

Learning curve

Coleman reported to the Cardinals’ major-league spring training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., for the first time in 1985. Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith tried to arrange a $5,000 match race between Coleman and McGee to find out who was fastest. When third baseman Terry Pendleton learned of the plan, he asked to be included in the race, even though he lacked speed. “If they both slip, I could win,” Pendleton told the Post-Dispatch.

McGee wanted no part of the race and Herzog told Coleman, “You should never race. Somebody would have to lose. This way, nobody will ever know. It will be a mystery.”

Herzog called Coleman “the best prospect in baseball,” but Coleman flailed at breaking balls out of the strike zone, batted .138 (4-for-29) in spring training games and was re-assigned to Louisville.

“When I started out, I figured it would take four or five years to get to the major leagues,” Coleman said. “If I don’t make it (this year), I won’t be disappointed.”

Said Herzog: “He’s as good a worker as I’ve ever had in one of my camps. You might see him up here before the year is over.”

The Cardinals opened the 1985 season with an outfield of Lonnie Smith in left, McGee in center and Andy Van Slyke in right, with Landrum the backup.

Coleman batted .143 (3-for-21) in five games with Louisville, but, when Landrum went on the disabled list because of a pulled abdominal muscle and McGee was shelved for a few days because of a strained thigh muscle, the Cardinals called up Coleman on April 17.

Best of class

In his debut game, on April 18, 1985, against the Expos at St. Louis, Coleman had a single, walk and two stolen bases. Boxscore

The next night, April 19, Coleman had four hits, including a RBI-triple in the eighth against John Candelaria, in a 5-4 Cardinals victory over the Pirates. Boxscore

“He’s a cocky little son of a gun, isn’t he?” Herzog said. “It’s amazing what a spark like that can do for a ballclub.”

Coleman credited Cardinals coaches Johnny Lewis and Dave Ricketts for his success. “They were the ones who were with me when I became a switch-hitter three years ago,” Coleman said. “They basically know me as a hitter. They know what I should do and what not to do.”

When McGee returned to the lineup, Coleman remained and Lonnie Smith was traded to the Royals in May. “I would venture to say there’s never been a better defensive outfield than Van Slyke, McGee and Vince,” Herzog said. “For speed, arms and defense, you can’t get much better than that.”

Coleman went on to shatter the major-league rookie stolen base record of 72 established by Juan Samuel of the 1984 Phillies. Coleman’s 110 steals in 1985 are surpassed only by Rickey Henderson of the Athletics (130 in 1982) and Lou Brock of the Cardinals (118 in 1974).

Coleman was the first unanimous choice for the National League Rookie of the Year Award since Orlando Cepeda of the 1958 Giants and the fourth Cardinals player to win the award, joining outfielders Wally Moon (1954), Bill Virdon (1955) and Bake McBride (1974).

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An umpire’s ruling and an official scorer’s decision prevented the Cardinals from achieving a no-hitter against the Mets.

Forty years ago, on Aug. 12, 1978, John Denny and Roy Thomas combined to pitch a one-hitter in a 5-1 Cardinals victory over the Mets at New York.

John Stearns had the lone hit, an infield single leading off the seventh inning.

Stearns would have been out on the play, but umpire Paul Pryor said first baseman Roger Freed took his foot off the bag too soon while catching a throw from second baseman Mike Tyson.

Pryor called Stearns safe and official scorer Red Foley of the New York Daily News credited Stearns with a single. If Stearns was safe because of Freed’s misstep, the play should have been scored an error, not a hit, the Cardinals argued.

Pitching and fielding

The game matched starting pitchers John Denny of the Cardinals against Kevin Kobel of the Mets. Denny was making his first appearance in two weeks after recovering from “a bad back, a bad left leg and a bad cold,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Kobel was a left-hander and Cardinals manager Ken Boyer decided to give his first baseman, left-handed batter Keith Hernandez, a break in the Saturday afternoon game. Backup first baseman Roger Freed started in place of Hernandez.

The Cardinals scored a run in the first and three in the second against Kobel. Denny limited the Mets to a walk in the first three innings.

In the bottom of the fourth, with one out, Denny walked Lee Mazzilli, who moved to second on a groundout by Willie Montanez. Stearns followed with a grounder to shortstop Garry Templeton, “who lobbed a throw to first,” according to the Post-Dispatch. The ball eluded Freed, Mazzilli scored from second and Templeton was charged with a two-base error.

Playing footsie

The Mets remained hitless entering the seventh against a tiring Denny. Boyer told the Post-Dispatch he planned to lift Denny after the inning, even if the no-hitter was intact. “After the fifth inning, I was losing it rapidly,” Denny said.

Stearns led off the Mets’ half of the seventh with a slow bouncer toward second. Tyson charged, grabbed the ball barehanded and, though off-balance. fired an accurate throw to Freed at first base.

As Stearns reached first, Pryor pointed toward the bag and the fielder, indicating Freed had pulled away too quickly after snaring Tyson’s toss.

“He pulled his foot off the base,” Pryor said to the Post-Dispatch. “Tyson made a hell of a play and, if he (Freed) had caught the ball with his foot on the bag, Stearns would have been out.”

Freed disagreed with the umpire and said, “He blew the play … We had him by a step and a half.”

Stearns and Mets first-base coach Denny Sommers said Pryor made the correct call.

Judgment call

As soon as Pryor declared Stearns safe, Foley scored the play a single.

Tyson disagreed, saying, “If he’s safe, then it’s got to be an error.”

Home plate umpire Ed Vargo told the Post-Dispatch, “It’s got to be an error.”

In Foley’s judgment, though, no error was made because the play was difficult and the fielders executed as best they could.

“It was a tough play for (Tyson) and he had to make a hell of a play just to make it close,” Foley said to the Post-Dispatch. “I’d like to give this guy a no-hitter, but I can’t.”

Denny got the next batter, Steve Henderson, to hit into a double play and Joel Youngblood grounded out to Templeton, ending the inning. Denny was done after yielding one unearned run, one disputed hit and three walks in seven innings.

The Cardinals scored another run in the eighth and Boyer put in Hernandez, who would win the first of 11 consecutive Gold Glove awards that year, as a defensive replacement for Freed. Thomas relieved Denny, allowed no hits and a walk in two innings, and closed out a 5-1 Cardinals victory.

Denny shrugged off any concern about missing a chance to be part of a no-hitter. “The idea is to win the game,” he said. Boxscore

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Johnny Lewis, a prospect considered to have more potential than Lou Brock, overcame personal tragedy, rebounded from setbacks in his playing career and became a pioneering coach for the Cardinals.

Lewis, who died July 29, 2018, at 78, was an outfielder with a strong throwing arm, speed and a powerful hitting stroke. He got to the major leagues with the Cardinals in 1964 and was given prominent playing time in right field the first two months of the season, but by June he was back in the minor leagues.

Traded to the Mets two months after the Cardinals won the 1964 World Series championship, Lewis played three more seasons in the major leagues before returning to the Cardinals and building a second career with them as an administrator, coach, manager and instructor.

Heavy heart

Lewis was born in Greenville, Ala., and moved to Pensacola, Fla., as a toddler. At 19, he entered the Cardinals’ organization in 1959.

Advancing through the St. Louis system, Lewis played his best for manager Whitey Kurowski, a former Cardinals third baseman. Lewis played for Kurowski at Winnipeg in 1960 and at Tulsa in 1961 and 1962. In 1960, Lewis hit .299 with 23 home runs and 104 RBI for Winnipeg and he followed that with a .293 batting mark, 22 home runs and 85 RBI for Tulsa in 1961.

While in the minor leagues, Lewis got married and he and his wife, Ola Mae, began raising a family. In the winters, Lewis played baseball in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Lewis, 22, was in Venezuela when his wife was killed in an automobile crash in the United States.

“My wife went to a church convention and on the way back the car she was in got into an accident and all five people in it were killed,” Lewis said to Milton Gross of the North American Newspaper Alliance. “I came back from Venezuela and there I was with two little babies, one wasn’t a year old, and I said to myself, ‘What do I do now?’

“I wasn’t going to quit baseball, get a job, stay home and take care of the babies, but my mother said she’d take care of them. She’s a good woman, my mother, and I got to keep remembering that my babies are with somebody who loves them.”

Spring sensation

In 1964, Lewis, 24, reported to spring training with the Cardinals and competed with several other prospects, including Mike Shannon, for an outfield spot. Lewis played splendidly in the exhibition games, hitting .333, and was named the Cardinals’ top prospect in a poll of writers and broadcasters.

Stan Musial, who became a club executive after retiring as a player, called Lewis the Cardinals’ “best outfield prospect since Bill Virdon,” who won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1955.

The Sporting News described Lewis’ success as “the Cinderella epic of the spring.”

“I haven’t seen anybody like him in the last 10 years,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane said.

Lewis “rates high in all five categories. He can run, throw, field, hit and also hit for power,” Keane said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

According to Keane, the five-tool players in the National League in 1964 were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Roberto Clemente.

Learning curve

Lewis was shy and quiet and his teammates nicknamed him “Gabby” because he said so little, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Cardinals first baseman Bill White, who became Lewis’ mentor, said, “What we got to do is make Lewis think more aggressively, but it will take time. He knows nothing but Florida, where he’s lived, and Alabama, where he was born. Where could he have learned anything else?”

As the season neared, Keane decided to platoon Lewis and Carl Warwick in right field. Lewis, a left-handed batter, would play against right-handed pitchers and Warwick, who batted right-handed, would play against left-handers.

Though Lewis had the talent, some offered caution.

“Lewis has all the potential, but the boy has an inferiority complex,” Cardinals senior consultant Branch Rickey told The Sporting News. “I wish he’d believe in himself as much as all of us believe in him.”

Said third baseman Ken Boyer: “The kid should be a good player. I just hope they don’t expect him to break down the fences the first few years.”

Short stay

On April 15, 1964, Lewis got his first big-league hit, a RBI-single against Don Drysdale of the Dodgers. Boxscore Three days later, on April 18, Lewis slugged his first big-league home run, a solo shot against Bobby Bolin of the Giants. Boxscore

Lewis hit .207 in April and .278 in May. On June 10, he injured an ankle and had to leave the game. Three days later, on June 13, the Cardinals acquired outfielder Bob Skinner from the Pirates and sent Lewis to their Jacksonville farm team. Lewis hit .234 in 40 games for St. Louis, making 28 starts in right field.

On June 15, the Cardinals made another trade, getting outfielder Lou Brock from the Cubs.

“We hope Brock will fill the category of one of our regular outfielders until someone in the future, perhaps Johnny Lewis, comes along,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said to The Sporting News.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch, Devine said, “I feel Lewis probably has more potential than Brock. He fields better and he throws better.”

Brock, however, took hold of the left field job and Shannon, recalled from the minors, became the right fielder. Meanwhile, Lewis floundered at Jacksonville until an X-ray on Aug. 6 revealed he had a hairline fracture of his ankle. Lewis “had been bothered by the ankle for some time,” The Sporting News reported.

In September, after Lewis returned to the lineup and helped Jacksonville win the International League championship, he was called up to the Cardinals but didn’t get into a game. The Cardinals clinched the National League pennant on the last day of the season and won four of seven games against the Yankees in the World Series.

Meet the Mets

The Cardinals tried converting Lewis into a switch-hitter at the Florida Instructional League in October 1964, but the experiment failed. On Dec. 7, 1964, the Cardinals traded Lewis and pitcher Gordon Richardson to the Mets for pitcher Tracy Stallard and infielder Elio Chacon. Devine, fired by the Cardinals in August 1964, had joined the Mets as assistant to president George Weiss and advocated for Lewis.

“Playing with the Cardinals, it was a case of making good instantly or you were gone,” Lewis said. “I don’t blame them for that. They were pennant contenders and they couldn’t afford to wait, but for me it meant I always was more conscious of making mistakes. I couldn’t take chances. I was constantly tight.”

Lewis hit .245 with 15 home runs in 148 games for the 1965 Mets. On June 14, 1965, he broke up a no-hit bid by the Reds’ Jim Maloney with a home run in the 11th inning at Cincinnati. Boxscore

After the 1965 season, Lewis remarried. However, while his personal life improved, his playing career declined. He played parts of two more seasons with the Mets, batting .193 in 1966 and .118 in 1967, and finished with a year in the minors in 1968.

Second career

By 1970, Devine was back with the Cardinals as general manager and he gave Lewis a chance to return to St. Louis, too. Lewis was hired to be Cardinals assistant promotions and sales director and he spent two years (1970-71) in the role.

In 1972, Lewis became administrative coordinator of player development and scouting for the Cardinals.

After a year in that job, Lewis became the first African-American to serve on the Cardinals’ coaching staff. Lewis was the Cardinals’ first-base coach on manager Red Schoendienst’s staff for four seasons (1973-76).

For the next five years (1977-81), Lewis was a Cardinals’ minor-league manager at Calgary (1977-78), Gastonia (1979) and Johnson City (1980-81). Among the future major-leaguers managed by Lewis were pitchers Danny Cox and outfielders Curt Ford and Stan Javier.

From 1982-84, Lewis was a Cardinals’ minor-league hitting instructor.

In 1985, Lewis became the hitting coach for the Cardinals and was a special mentor to rookie speedster Vince Coleman. Lewis was the hitting coach on manager Whitey Herzog’s staff for five seasons (1985-89) and the Cardinals won two National League pennants in that time. Another Lewis pupil, Willie McGee, won the NL Most Valuable Player Award and the league batting title in 1985.

From 1990-98, Lewis was a Cardinals minor-league hitting instructor. He finished his career as the minor-league hitting coordinator for the Astros from 1999-2001.

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Looking to boost his sagging career, Felipe Lopez joined the Cardinals and benefitted from being tutored by Jose Oquendo.

Ten years ago, on Aug. 5, 2008, Lopez signed with the Cardinals a week after being released by the Nationals.

Lopez, 28, was best suited for shortstop and second base, but he also possessed the skills to play all infield and outfield positions, much like Oquendo did for the Cardinals before becoming a coach.

Also, Lopez was a switch hitter, like Oquendo had been, and both were natives of Puerto Rico. Oquendo saw Lopez as a protege, and Lopez responded favorably to the special attention Oquendo gave him.

Traveling man

Lopez was 21 when he made his major-league debut with the Blue Jays in August 2001. He played two seasons (2001-02) with the Blue Jays before serving stints with the Reds (2003-06) and Nationals (2006-08).

His best season was 2005 when he hit .291 with 23 home runs and 85 RBI as the Reds shortstop and was named to the National League all-star team.

In July 2006, the Reds swapped Lopez to the Nationals for shortstop Royce Clayton, the former Cardinal. By 2008, Lopez had shifted to second base, but his production declined and he was batting .234 when the Nationals released him.

The 2008 Cardinals had Aaron Miles and Adam Kennedy at second base and Cesar Izturis and Brendan Ryan at shortstop, but decided to add Lopez.

Lopez said signing with the Cardinals was a “no-brainer,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, and he marveled at the clubhouse atmosphere. “As soon as I walked in, I felt the energy,” Lopez said. “That inspires you … to play well.”

Mentoring program

Oquendo urged Lopez “to be more aggressive in his play defensively” and get to the ball quicker.

“He probably needs to widen his (defensive) stance a little more when he’s taking ground balls,” Oquendo said.

Oquendo also worked with Lopez on his mental approach and told him his departures from the Blue Jays, Reds and Nationals were a sign he was doing something wrong.

“For him to be bouncing from place to place in the major leagues …. Why?” Oquendo asked. “Maybe he has to change the way he approaches the game, or the way he goes about the game. There’s a key somewhere for him and hopefully we’re the key.”

Lopez got off to a fast start, batting .357 in his first nine games for the Cardinals. “Lopez was a heck of a pickup by Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak,” columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote in the Post-Dispatch. “Lopez is playing hard for the Cardinals, something he hadn’t done for a long time.”

Back for more

Lopez batted .333 for the Cardinals in August and .414 in September.

In a three-game, season-ending series versus the Reds at St. Louis. Lopez was 8-for-12 with two walks, seven runs scored and four RBI. He went 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored in the Cardinals’ 7-6 victory on Sept. 26 Boxscore and he was 4-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored in their 11-4 triumph on Sept. 28. Boxscore

Lopez made starts at second base (20), third base (eight), left field (seven) and shortstop (three) for the 2008 Cardinals. He also played in right field and at first base.

Lopez batted .385 for the 2008 Cardinals and his on-base percentage was .426.

Granted free agency after the season, Lopez was approached by the Cardinals about returning, the Post-Dispatch reported, but they couldn’t assure him he’d be an everyday player in 2009.

Lopez instead accepted a one-year, $3.5 million contract from the 2009 Diamondbacks. Playing primarily at second base, Lopez batted .301 for the Diamondbacks before he was acquired by the Brewers in July 2009. Lopez hit .320 for the Brewers, became a free agent after the 2009 season and signed again with the Cardinals.

The encore with St. Louis wasn’t as good for Lopez as the first time around. He hit .231 in 109 games as a Cardinals utility player in 2010 before he was released in September.

Lopez’s most memorable feat for the 2010 Cardinals may have been the scoreless inning he pitched on April 17 in a game won by the Mets, 2-1, in 20 innings at St. Louis. Boxscore

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With their third baseman, Gary Gaetti, about to turn 40, the Cardinals went looking for a successor and came up with Fernando Tatis.

Twenty years ago, on July 31, 1998, the Cardinals traded pitcher Todd Stottlemyre and shortstop Royce Clayton to the Rangers for Tatis, pitcher Darren Oliver and a player to be named, outfielder Mark Little.

The move upset Gaetti, who wasn’t ready to give up his starting role, and surprised Tatis, who was happy being with the Rangers.

Though his stay in St. Louis turned out to be short, Tatis made it memorable, accomplishing an unusual feat within the most productive season of his career.

Vying for value

The 1998 Cardinals were 50-57 and out of playoff contention entering the last day of the interleague trade deadline on July 31. With Stottlemyre and Clayton eligible to become free agents after the season, the Cardinals looked to trade them rather than have them depart without getting any players in return.

The Cardinals tried to sign Stottlemyre to a long-term contract that summer, proposing three years for $21 million, but he wanted a four-year contract, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The Cardinals don’t have to apologize for offering $7 million a season,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote.

Stottlemyre was sought by several contenders, including the Rangers, who were neck-and-neck with the Angels in the American League West Division. Stottlemyre had extensive postseason experience, pitching in the 1992 and 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays and the 1996 National League Championship Series for the Cardinals.

The Rangers offered Oliver, a left-hander, for Stottlemyre. Oliver, 27, was younger than Stottlemyre, 33, and wouldn’t be eligible for free agency until after the 1999 season. The Cardinals liked Oliver, but also wanted Tatis. Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told his counterpart, Doug Melvin, the Rangers would have to take Clayton, 28, in exchange for Tatis, 23, if they wanted Stottlemyre. Melvin agreed, projecting Clayton as an upgrade over Kevin Elster at shortstop.

After replacing Ozzie Smith as Cardinals starting shortstop in 1996, Clayton was a National League all-star in 1997, but he slumped in 1998 (.234 batting average) and the Cardinals weren’t interested in offering him a contract before he entered free agency.

“Clayton represented everything wrong with this disappointing team: moodiness and stubbornness,” wrote Miklasz. “He pouted when he didn’t bat leadoff. He never embraced the suggestions to hit smarter with two strikes. Clayton never tried to hit the ball the opposite way.”

All-star potential

While rating Oliver as “a solid third or fourth starter and probably better than that,” Jocketty acknowledged, “The guy we liked is Tatis. We needed to find a third baseman and he was the best guy available.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Tatis had “an above-average arm. He’s got the talent to become an impact-type third baseman.”

Said Melvin: “We don’t like giving him up because we really think he’ll be an all-star third baseman.”

Tatis made his major-league debut with the Rangers in 1997 and he was batting .270 in 95 games for them in 1998 when he was traded.

After joining the Cardinals, Tatis said of the trade, “When I knew about it, I felt really bad. I was just in shock … I loved it over there.”

Gaetti was unhappy about being benched for Tatis. Gaetti, 39, was batting .263 with 23 doubles and 10 home runs when Tatis was acquired. “The third baseman was not the weakest link on this team,” Gaetti said. “It’s just frustrating.”

On Aug. 14, the Cardinals released Gaetti and he signed with the Cubs five days later, on Aug. 19, his 40th birthday.

Ups and downs

Tatis got off to a terrible start with the Cardinals, committing three errors in his first three games and going hitless in his first 11 at-bats.

“It’s asking a lot for him to make plays like Brooks Robinson and hit like Mike Schmidt, but when he settles in he’ll be fine,” La Russa said.

Tatis got on track and batted .287 for the 1998 Cardinals. Oliver made 10 Cardinals starts that season and was 4-4 with a 4.26 ERA.

After dealing Tatis, the Rangers acquired Todd Zeile, the former Cardinal, from the Marlins to play third base. Stottlemyre (5-4), Clayton (.285) and Zeile helped the 1998 Rangers finish in first place in the AL West and reach the postseason.

In 1999, Tatis had the best season of his 11-year career in the big leagues. Tatis had single-season career highs in runs (104), hits (160), home runs (34), RBI (107), walks (82), stolen bases (21), batting average (.298) and on-base percentage (.404) for the 1999 Cardinals.

On April 23, 1999, he became the only major-league player to hit two grand slams in an inning, achieving the feat in the third against Chan Ho Park of the Dodgers. Boxscore

In 2000, Tatis was limited to 96 games, none from April 30 to June 29 because of a groin injury. With Placido Polanco available to play third base, the Cardinals traded Tatis and pitcher Britt Reames to the Expos in December 2000 for pitchers Dustin Hermanson and Steve Kline.

Oliver led the 1999 Cardinals in innings pitched (196.1) and was 9-9. He became a free agent after that season and returned to the Rangers.

Free agents Stottlemyre and Clayton took different paths after the Yankees eliminated the Rangers in the 1998 AL Division Series. Stottlemyre signed with the Diamondbacks and Clayton stayed with the Rangers.

Little, 26, the player to be named in the Rangers-Cardinals deal, made his major-league debut with St. Louis in September 1998 and had one hit in 12 at-bats. After spending 1999 and 2000 with minor-league Memphis, Little was granted free agency and signed with the Rockies.

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Wayne Garrett, who had some of his best games against the Cardinals, finished his major-league playing days with them, producing a sustained stretch of solid hitting for St. Louis and positioning himself to earn an opportunity to extend his career in Japan.

Forty years ago, on July 21, 1978, the Cardinals purchased Garrett’s contract in a waiver deal with the Expos. The Cardinals envisioned Garrett, a left-handed batter, for a pinch-hitting role, but he performed well when given the chance to substitute for slumping third baseman Ken Reitz and ended up being used in a platoon with Reitz the remainder of the season.

Playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers, Garrett batted .333 for the 1978 Cardinals, generating 21 hits in 63 at-bats. He hit .389 (7-for-18) with runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals were impressed and wanted Garrett, 30, to return in 1979 as a utility player, but when he and the club couldn’t agree on contract terms, Garrett departed as a free agent.

Cards connections

In 1965, Garrett was selected by the Braves in the sixth round of major-league baseball’s first amateur draft. During his stint in the Braves’ system, Garrett caught the attention of Mets scout Bob Scheffing, who recommended him to management. In December 1968, the Mets took Garrett in the Rule 5 minor-league draft and he opened the 1969 season with the major-league club.

Garrett made his big-league debut for the Mets on April 12, 1969, against the Cardinals at New York. Batting third and playing second base, Garrett had a single and walk against Dave Giusti, who pitched a shutout in a 1-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

The next day, April 13, Garrett again got the start at second base and had a double and walk against Bob Gibson, who pitched the Cardinals to a 3-1 triumph. Boxscore

Garrett eventually was shifted to third base and platooned there with Ed Charles.

On July 2, 1969, Garrett had his first four-hit game in the big leagues. Batting fifth and playing third base, Garrett was 4-for-6 with four RBI, a walk and a run scored in the Mets’ 6-4 victory over the Cardinals in 14 innings at St. Louis. Garrett drove in two runs against Giusti with a double and a single, added a RBI-single against Chuck Taylor in the eighth and drew a bases-loaded walk from Ron Willis in the 14th. Boxscore

Garrett started 63 games at third and 34 games at second for the 1969 Mets, who supplanted the Cardinals as National League champions, and batted .218. The rookie got into two games in the 1969 World Series against the Orioles.

Big hits

On Sept. 1, 1970, Garrett had another four-hit game for the Mets against the Cardinals. He was 4-for-5 with a walk against Gibson and scored twice in a 4-3 Mets victory in 12 innings at St. Louis.

In the 12th, with the score tied at 3-3, Garrett led off with a single against Gibson. With Cleon Jones up next, the Mets signaled for a hit-and-run, but Jones swung and missed at a high fastball from Gibson. Garrett swiped second and continued on to third when catcher Ted Simmons’ throw clanked off the glove of Milt Ramirez for an error on the shortstop. Jones followed with a sacrifice fly, driving in Garrett with the go-ahead run. Boxscore

Garrett hit .333 versus Gibson in his career, with 22 hits in 66 at-bats and 10 walks, and had a .421 on-base percentage against the Cardinals ace.

In 1973, Garrett had his best big-league season, batting .256 with 16 home runs and 58 RBI as the third baseman for the Mets, who won their second National League pennant. Facing the Athletics in the World Series, Garrett hit solo home runs against Vida Blue in Game 2 and Catfish Hunter in Game 3. Batting leadoff in all seven games of the World Series, Garrett produced five hits, five walks and was hit by a pitch, but he struck out 11 times and batted .167.

The Mets traded Garrett to the Expos in July 1976 and he platooned at second base with Pete Mackanin the remainder of the season. In 1977, Garrett was plagued by shoulder and leg injuries and was a backup to Larry Parrish at third and Dave Cash at second.

Packing a wallop

By July 1978, Garrett seldom played for the Expos. He was batting .174 for the season when the Cardinals acquired him in a transaction that attracted little attention.

Soon after, Cardinals manager Ken Boyer decided to start Garrett against right-handed pitching because Reitz batted .183 overall in June and .226 in July.

On Aug. 13, 1978, Garrett was 3-for-4 with a walk, a RBI and a run scored in a 6-1 Cardinals triumph over the Mets at New York. Boxscore

A couple of weeks later, on Aug. 31 at St. Louis, Garrett batted for pitcher Aurelio Lopez and hit a ninth-inning grand slam against Reds reliever Doug Bair, though Cincinnati won, 11-6. The ball Garrett hit landed 20 rows deep in the bleacher seats beyond the right-field wall, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Boxscore

It was Garrett’s second major-league grand slam. The first occurred on Sept. 29, 1976, against former Mets teammate Tom Seaver in a 7-2 Expos victory at New York.

Overseas adventure

Garrett played his final big-league game on Sept. 26, 1978, going 2-for-4 in a 3-1 Cardinals win over the Mets at New York. Boxscore

“We got to make some decisions on him,” Boyer said. “He’s looking for a long-term contract, like three years, and we want to see whether we should enter into that kind of deal with him.”

The Cardinals decided to pursue free-agent Pete Rose rather than invest in a multi-year deal for a utility player. Garrett became a free agent and drew interest from the Brewers, but his best offer came from Japan.

Adrian Garrett, Wayne’s brother, went to Japan in 1977 after eight seasons as a utility player in the major leagues with the Braves, Cubs, Athletics and Angels. Adrian hit 35 home runs for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 1977 and 40 home runs for them in 1978.

Wayne Garrett followed his brother’s career path, signed with the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Central League and played for them in 1979 and 1980.

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