Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Richie Allen capped one of his best performances for the Cardinals by hitting a grand slam against the pitcher who got traded with him to St. Louis.

Fifty years ago, on June 2, 1970, Allen had seven RBI for the Cardinals in their 12-1 victory over the Giants at St. Louis.

Allen had a run-scoring single and a two-run home run versus Giants starter Gaylord Perry. The grand slam came against Jerry Johnson, who was traded with Allen and Cookie Rojas by the Phillies to the Cardinals in October 1969 for Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Joe Hoerner and Byron Browne.

On May 19, 1970, the Cardinals dealt Johnson to the Giants for pitcher Frank Linzy. Johnson was making his fifth appearance for the Giants when he faced Allen for the first time.

New look

Looking to shake up the Cardinals, who lost six of their last seven, manager Red Schoendienst changed the batting order for the series opener versus the Giants at Busch Memorial Stadium.

Schoendienst had been featuring a top five of Jose Cardenal, Julian Javier, Lou Brock, Richie Allen and Joe Torre. Against Perry and the Giants, Schoendienst went back to the batting order he used to open the season, with Brock in the leadoff spot, followed by Cardenal, Allen and Torre. Joe Hague batted fifth, and Javier dropped to the seventh spot, behind Ted Simmons.

“The big reason for the change is getting Allen back up there to No. 3 where he can hurt people even more,” Schoendienst told the Associated Press.

To the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Schoendienst explained, “I like to bat Cardenal second, especially against right-handers, because he has good bat control and can hit that outside pitch to right. and I want to be sure Allen gets to bat in the first inning.”

Played on a damp Tuesday night, the game attracted a crowd of 11,111, a number the Post-Dispatch described as “a poker player’s dream.”

Seven future Hall of Famers were in the lineups: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry for the Giants, and Lou Brock, Joe Torre, Ted Simmons and Steve Carlton for the Cardinals. On the bench were three more: Schoendienst and pitchers Juan Marichal of the Giants and Bob Gibson of the Cardinals.

Carlton pitched a four-hitter and would have had a shutout if not for McCovey’s home run, a 420-foot drive into the bleachers in right-center. “I told myself to throw him a really nasty slider, but I hung it,” Carlton told the Post-Dispatch.

Carlton also contributed three singles. “That was just a little cream topping,” Carlton said.

Power source

Though Allen wasn’t a future Hall of Famer, he played like one.

In the first inning, Allen’s single versus Perry scored Cardenal from second.

In the fifth, Allen, a right-handed batter, sliced a Perry slider over the wall in right for a two-run homer. The ball “landed in the runway behind the right-field fence,” according to the Post-Dispatch. Impressed by Allen’s ability to drive the ball the opposite way, Cardinals coach George Kissell told the Post-Dispatch, “He hits them to right like a left-handed golfer.”

Allen had astonishing power, even though his right hand was weakened three years earlier when pieces of glass from a broken headlight on a car he was pushing severed nerves in his palm.

“I worked hard to get that hand so that I could use it again,” Allen told Dick Young of the New York Daily News. “I got a job as a bricklayer’s helper. For nothing. A friend of mine gave me the job. He wanted to pay me. He kept throwing money at me and I kept throwing it back. I wanted to work for nothing. It made me keep thinking of why I was doing it. I asked him for a slow bricklayer, though.”

Run producer

Allen and Perry faced one another frequently. Allen would finish his career with 30 hits and 31 strikeouts versus the spitball specialist.

Jerry Johnson was a different story. He was Allen’s teammate with the Phillies in 1968 and 1969, and for a brief time with the 1970 Cardinals. Johnson began the 1970 season in the minors, got called up to the Cardinals on May 1 and was 2-0 with one save in seven relief appearances for them before he was traded.

In the seventh inning, Johnson relieved Perry and deprived Allen of another RBI, striking him out on a slider with a runner on third and none out.

An inning later, Allen came up against Johnson with the bases loaded and hit a fastball into the seats in left-center for his fifth grand slam in the big leagues. He’d hit three more grand slams before his career was done. Boxscore

The home run would be the only base hit Allen would get in 12 career at-bats versus Johnson.

Allen had one other game with seven RBI. It occurred Sept. 29, 1968, for the Phillies against the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York. Allen hit a two-run home run versus Tom Seaver, a solo shot off Cal Koonce and a grand slam against Ron Taylor, the former Cardinal.

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Opening the way to a pipeline of talent, second baseman Julian Javier was the first player from the Dominican Republic to play for the Cardinals.

Sixty years ago, on May 27, 1960, the Cardinals acquired a pair of Pirates prospects, Javier and reliever Ed Bauta, for starting pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell and infielder Dick Gray.

Making the leap from the minor leagues to the Cardinals’ lineup, Javier became the third player born in the Dominican Republic to play in the major leagues. Before him were Ozzie Virgil of the 1956 Giants and Felipe Alou of the 1958 Giants.

Javier was the Cardinals’ second baseman for 12 years and contributed to three National League pennants and two World Series titles. Dominican Republic natives who followed him to the Cardinals included Albert Pujols, Joaquin Andujar, Pedro Guerrero and Tony Pena.

Opportunity knocks

Javier was born and raised in San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Located in the northeast section of the Caribbean island country, his hometown is one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa beans. A son of a truck driver, Javier had seven siblings.

In 1956, when he was 19, Javier attended a Pirates tryout camp in the Dominican Republic and was offered a contract by scout Howie Haak. Javier signed for $500, The Sporting News reported.

“We didn’t know about bonuses then,” Javier said in 1967. “Today, I would ask for $50,000.”

Javier began the 1960 season, his fifth in the Pirates’ farm system, with their Columbus, Ohio, club. The Pirates had a future Hall of Famer, Bill Mazeroski, as their second baseman and were planning to convert Javier to shortstop, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

When the 1960 Pirates got off to a fast start, winning 12 of their first 15 games, general manager Joe Brown began looking for ways to keep the team in contention. To bolster the starting pitching, he made Javier available for trade.

Infield shift

In 1960, Alex Grammas, 34, moved from shortstop to second base for the Cardinals to make room for Daryl Spencer, who was acquired from the Giants. Shortstop was Spencer’s preferred position, but Grammas “did not adjust too well to second base,” The Sporting News reported.

“I think Grammas is more at home at shortstop,” Cardinals manager Solly Hemus told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

On May 9, 1960, Hemus said Grammas would go back to shortstop and Spencer would shift to second “to tighten our defense.”

The switch “caught Cardinals brass by surprise” and Spencer “felt he was being made a scapegoat,” according to The Sporting News.

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine sought a better solution. He wanted to acquire a young middle infielder, either a second baseman or a shortstop, who would provide long-term stability.

According to Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals pursued Reds shortstop prospect Leo Cardenas, “the tall, skinny kid who looks as though he might be another Marty Marion.” Rejected, the Cardinals’ focus turned to Javier.

Help wanted

Cardinals director of player procurement Eddie Stanky, a former second baseman, scouted Javier and recommended him. Stanky said Javier was “one of the best prospects in the minors” and “his speed was second only to that of Vada Pinson of the Reds,” The Sporting News reported.

“He’s one of the fastest right-handed batters I’ve ever seen,” Stanky told the Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals weren’t the only club interested. The Phillies wanted a second baseman, too, and were talking to the Pirates about a swap of pitcher Don Cardwell for Javier. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Phillies scouted Javier for 10 days, but “the scout reported back to the front office that Javier struck out too often and had a tendency to become injured.”

After the Phillies dealt Cardwell to the Cubs for second baseman Tony Taylor, the Cardinals offered Mizell to the Pirates for Javier. Pirates general manager Joe Brown viewed Mizell, 29, as a good fit to join a rotation with Bob Friend, Vern Law and Harvey Haddix. Mizell was 1-3 for the Cardinals in 1960, but he had five seasons of double-digit win totals in his previous six with them.

“We are sacrificing a future for the present because in Mizell we have a known quantity,” Brown said.

The Pittsburgh Press noted, “Javier wouldn’t have made it with the Pirates for two or three years, but the team needed pitching help now.”

Javier, 23, hit .288 for Columbus in 1960 and Devine called him “an outstanding glove man as well as an improving hitter,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

“We consider this a major addition to the Cardinals’ regular lineup now and for the future,” said Devine.

In the Post-Dispatch, Bob Broeg concluded, “It took courage to give up a player of some reputation for one with none at the major-league level, an almost unknown.”

Hot start

On May 28, 1960, Javier made his debut in the majors at second base for the Cardinals against the Giants at St. Louis. He had six putouts, three assists and helped turn a double play. Batting eighth, Javier singled twice versus Billy O’Dell. Boxscore

Hemus used Javier’s arrival to make other moves. Spencer shifted back to shortstop and Grammas was benched. Bill White went from center field to first base, replacing Stan Musial, and Curt Flood took over in center.

With White and Javier solidifying the right side of the infield, and Flood in center, the Cardinals improved. On the day they got Javier, the Cardinals were 15-20. After the trade and the moves to upgrade the defense, they were 71-48.

“Javier knows how to make the tough double play,” Hemus told the Post-Dispatch. “He makes the club solid. Not many balls are falling in with him and Curt Flood out there. Those two have helped make our pitching better.”

In addition to showing good range in the field on grounders and pop-ups, Javier hit safely in 10 of his first 11 games. In his third game, on May 30 at Los Angeles, he hit his first big-league home run, leading off the fourth versus Clem Labine of the Dodgers. Boxscore

On June 3, Javier hit two triples versus the Giants’ Mike McCormick at San Francisco, “amazing everybody with his breathtaking speed,” The Sporting News observed. Boxscore

“I used a heavier bat, Carl Sawatski’s, because I broke my bat last night,” Javier said.

Four days later, on June 7, Javier’s wife came from the Dominican Republic to St. Louis and saw her husband play in the majors for the first time. Javier raked the Phillies for three singles. Boxscore

Stellar career

The 1960 Cardinals finished at 86-68, nine games behind the champion Pirates, who were 95-59. Mizell, in his last good season, was 13-5 for the 1960 Pirates.

Javier hit .237 with eight triples and 19 stolen bases for the 1960 Cardinals. His 15 sacrifice bunts led the league. Though he also made the most errors among National League second basemen, Javier was named to the Topps all-rookie team.

In 12 seasons with St. Louis, Javier batted .258 with 1,450 hits, twice led National League second basemen in putouts and twice was named an all-star, including 1963 when he was part of a Cardinals starting infield with Bill White, Dick Groat and Ken Boyer.

In Game 7 of the 1967 World Series, Javier’s three-run home run versus Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox was a key blow in the Cardinals’ championship clincher.

Javier was traded to the Reds for pitcher Tony Cloninger in March 1972. As a utility player, he helped the Reds win the pennant in his last season in the majors.

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Johnny Lindell faced the Cardinals in a World Series as a Yankees outfielder and in a regular season as a pitcher for the Pirates and Phillies. He also played for the Cardinals for a couple of months when they sought power for their lineup.

Seventy years ago, on May 15, 1950, the Cardinals purchased the contract of Lindell from the Yankees for the $10,000 waiver price.

Lindell was an intriguing player because of the multiple roles he performed. He began his professional career as a pitcher, moved to outfielder and went back to pitching again.

A strapping 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds, Lindell batted and threw right-handed. Talented as well as versatile, he pitched for one pennant-winning Yankees team and played outfield for another. As a hitter, he twice led the American League in triples and as a pitcher he once led the National League in most walks issued.

Pitching prospect

Lindell developed his athletic skills in high school at Monrovia, Calif., near Pasadena. He was offered a chance to play football at the University of Southern California but signed with the Yankees when he was 19 in 1936. The Yankees sent him to their farm club in Joplin, Mo., and he posted a 17-8 record.

Working his way through the minor leagues, Lindell became a prominent pitching prospect. He was 18-7 with a 2.70 ERA for the Kansas City Blues in 1940.

Lindell began the 1941 season with the Yankees, made his major-league debut in a pinch-hitting appearance on April 18 and was sent to their farm club in Newark, N.J. Lindell was 23-4 with a 2.05 ERA for Newark in 1941 and the Yankees made plans to have him on their pitching staff in 1942.

Though he pitched in 23 games for the 1942 Yankees and was 2-1 with a 3.76 ERA, Lindell’s fastball and curve no longer were effective and manager Joe McCarthy lost confidence in him. Lindell didn’t pitch in the 1942 World Series versus the Cardinals.

According to The Sporting News, McCarthy told Lindell after the season, “Johnny, it does not look as if you ever will be a really good pitcher. However, you have the makings of a hitter.”

Lindell worked on his hitting in winter ball in California and reported to spring training in 1943 as an outfield candidate.

New role

The Yankees’ center fielder, Joe DiMaggio, and right fielder, Tommy Henrich, entered military service in 1943 and the club needed outfielders. Lindell was the Yankees’ 1943 Opening Day right fielder and remained in the lineup throughout the season. Lindell started 64 games in right, 52 in center and four in left for the American League champions. He led the league in triples (12) and was named to the all-star team.

In the 1943 World Series against the Cardinals, Lindell hit .111 but was involved in a critical play.

After the teams split the first two games, the Cardinals led, 2-1, in Game 3. Lindell led off the eighth inning with a single and advanced to second when center fielder Harry Walker bobbled the ball. George Stirnweiss bunted to first baseman Ray Sanders, whose throw to third arrived ahead of Lindell.

As third baseman Whitey Kurowski went to apply the tag, Lindell “came into the bag like a 10-ton truck,” crashing into Kurowski and knocking the ball loose, The Sporting News reported. The impact snapped Kurowski’s head back.

Lindell said the collision was unavoidable because Kurowski positioned himself in front of the base. “What was I to do? Beg his pardon?” Lindell asked.

Said Cardinals manager Billy Southworth: “Lindell played ball the way I like to see it played.”

The play woke up the Yankees, who scored five runs in the inning and won, 6-2.  Boxscore

Lindell had his best season in 1944. As the Yankees’ center fielder, he hit .300 with 33 doubles, 18 home runs and 103 RBI. He led the league in triples (16), extra-base hits (67) and total bases (297).

After spending part of 1945 in military service, Lindell returned to the Yankees in 1946 and was their Opening Day left fielder. In 1947, Lindell batted .500 in the World Series against the Dodgers, collecting nine hits in 18 at-bats and driving in seven runs in six games, despite cracking a rib in Game 5.

Right fit

Lindell’s playing time decreased when Casey Stengel became Yankees manager in 1949. After starting in left field on Opening Day in 1950, Lindell struggled, hitting .190 in 21 at-bats.

The 1950 Cardinals were stocked with left-handed hitters, led by Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter, and were looking for a power bat from the right side. Lindell, 33, was an available candidate.

“He’s a good competitor, a clutch player,” Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer told The Sporting News.

Though he had spent 15 years in the Yankees’ organization, Lindell welcomed the move to St. Louis. “I wanted to be traded because I didn’t fit Casey Stengel’s idea of a ballplayer,” Lindell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Not enough obvious spark, I guess.”

Lindell reported to the Cardinals 15 pounds over his regular weight of 225, the Post-Dispatch noted, but Dyer played him immediately in left field.

In his Cardinals debut, Lindell went 0-for-4 against the Dodgers’ Preacher Roe, but in his next game he hit a two-run home run into the upper deck in left at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn against rookie Billy Loes. Boxscore

A month later, on June 24, 1950, Lindell’s 10th-inning home run against Bob Chipman gave the Cardinals a 7-6 triumph over the Braves at Boston. Boxscore

Though 12 of Lindell’s 21 hits for the Cardinals were for extra bases, including five home runs, he batted .186 in 36 games and “his fielding had slipped along with his hitting,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

On July 17, 1950, the Cardinals sent Lindell to their farm team at Columbus, Ohio. After playing in five games there, the Cardinals accommodated his request to be sent to a Pacific Coast League club closer to his California home and traded him to the Hollywood Stars, a farm team of the Dodgers.

On the mound again

In 1951, Lindell went back to pitching and was 12-9 with a 3.03 ERA for Hollywood. Relying on a knuckleball, Lindell was dominant in 1952, posting a 24-9 record and 2.52 ERA for Hollywood, which had become a Pirates affiliate.

Lindell returned to the big leagues in 1953 as a member of the Pirates’ starting rotation. On May 3, 1953, he earned his first National League win, a four-hitter against the Cardinals at Pittsburgh. Boxscore

After posting a 5-16 record and 4.71 ERA for the Pirates, Lindell’s contract was sold to the Phillies on Aug. 31, 1953. He earned one win for the Phillies and it came against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Lindell struck out 11, walked eight and ignited the winning rally in the ninth with a run-scoring single. Boxscore

Lindell “would have had a far easier time if his catchers had been able to hold” the knuckleball, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The win was Lindell’s last as a pitcher. He was 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA for the Phillies. His combined record for the Pirates and Phillies in 1953 was 6-17 with a 4.66 ERA, and in six starts versus the Cardinals he was 2-4 with a 3.64 ERA. Lindell led National League pitchers in allowing the most walks (139) and wild pitches (11).

In 1954, Lindell didn’t pitch, made seven plate appearances, all as a pinch-hitter, for the Phillies and was released on May 10.

In 12 big-league seasons, Lindell hit .273 and had a pitching record of 8-18.

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In his first game against the Phillies after being traded to the Cardinals, Richie Allen savored sweet satisfaction.

Fifty years ago, on May 11, 1970, Allen hit a three-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, ending a scoreless duel between future Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Steve Carlton and carrying the Cardinals to a 3-0 triumph.

Seven months earlier, in October 1969, Allen was traded by the Phillies to the Cardinals in a multi-player deal involving Curt Flood, Tim McCarver and others. Allen’s relationship with Phillies management deteriorated when they suspended him for part of the 1969 season because of insubordination.

Given his first chance for revenge, Allen delivered a spectacular result.

Masters on the mound

The Monday night matchup between Bunning, 38, and Carlton, 25, was a classic. Bunning was in his second stint with the Phillies. He and Allen were Phillies teammates from 1964-67. Carlton was two years away from being traded to the Phillies and becoming their ace.

Carlton gave up two hits in the first inning and two more over the last eight. He retired 15 batters in a row until Tony Taylor hit a double with one out in the ninth.

Bunning held the Cardinals hitless until the sixth. With one out, Carlton singled to center and Jose Cardenal followed with an infield hit on a slow bouncer to short. After Leron Lee struck out, Lou Brock sliced a shot toward third. Don Money, the third baseman, lunged for the ball, knocked it down and held Brock to a single, loading the bases for Allen.

Working carefully, Bunning got the count to 1-and-2 to Allen and threw a low, inside pitch. Allen swung and missed.

Surprise sign

After Carlton worked out of a tight spot in the top of the ninth, getting former teammate Byron Browne to ground out with two on and two outs, the Cardinals went to work against Bunning in the bottom half of the inning.

Leron Lee led off and drilled a high pitch against the wall in right-center for a double. Looking to set up a force play and avoid facing a left-handed batter, Bunning gave an intentional walk to Brock, preferring to face Allen.

“It was a situation Rich must have been dreaming about,” wrote Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Frank Dolson.

Allen stepped into the batter’s box and looked for a sign from George Kissell, the third-base coach. Kissell signaled for Allen to bunt.

“Rich stared at him, seemingly unable, or perhaps unwilling, to comprehend the signal,” the Inquirer reported.

Allen asked for the sign again. Kissell walked up to Allen and told him to bunt.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he ordered the bunt because “the third baseman was playing back.”

Allen squared around and took the first pitch from Bunning for strike one.

“No way he wanted to bunt,” said Phillies pitcher Chris Short, who was watching the drama from the dugout.

Allen again looked toward Kissell and got the sign to swing away. Schoendienst said he switched gears because the Phillies’ corner infielders “were coming in” to play for a bunt.

Allen fouled the pitch back, making the count 0-and-2.

Wrong pitch

Bunning wanted the next pitch to be a fastball inside. “I wanted to get it in because he likes the ball out over the plate,” Bunning told the Inquirer.

Bunning hoped to drive Allen off the plate and come back with a pitch away. “I was trying to set him up for a curveball,” Bunning explained.

Instead, Bunning’s third pitch to Allen was “way up and over the middle of the plate,” Bunning said. “It was over his head, in fact.”

Allen swung his 40-ounce bat and drove the ball into the “fourth or fifth row of the bleachers in right-center,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

As Bunning walked slowly off the mound, “Allen trotted around the bases to be mobbed at home plate by his teammates,” the Inquirer reported. He was “the center of attention in the raucous Cardinals clubhouse, as noisy as if a team had just won a pennant.”

“Rich Allen wanted to hit that ball out of here something bad and he did it,” Carlton told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Said Allen: “I’m happy I helped Steve Carlton win a game the way he pitched.” Boxscore

Gene Mauch, who had issues with Allen when he managed him with the Phillies before going to the Expos, told The Sporting News, “I wouldn’t give him a high fastball or a fast highball.”

Allen had a career batting average of .478 versus Bunning. Of Allen’s 11 hits against him, three were home runs and three were doubles.

In December 2014, Bunning was a member of a Baseball Hall of Fame committee and lobbied for Allen to be elected to the shrine. Allen needed 12 of 16 votes from the committee and got 11. The close miss upset Bunning, who absolutely had firsthand knowledge of Allen’s qualifications.

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The Cardinals gave Terry Francona a chance to finish his playing career as part of a Louisville outfield with Ray Lankford and Bernard Gilkey.

Thirty years ago, on May 5, 1990, the Cardinals signed Francona, 31, after he was released by the Brewers and assigned him to their Class AAA farm club at Louisville.

The Cardinals made the move because Francona provided insurance in case their left-handed pinch-hitter, Denny Walling, faltered, and because he brought experience to a Louisville lineup featuring prospects Lankford, Gilkey and first baseman Rod Brewer.

Francona’s lone season in the Cardinals’ system was his last as a player, but hardly the end of his baseball career.

In 2004, Francona managed the Red Sox to a World Series sweep of the Cardinals, and in 2011 he was a candidate to replace Tony La Russa as St. Louis manager.

All in the family

Tito Francona, Terry’s father, was an outfielder and first baseman in the majors for 15 years with nine teams, including the 1965-66 Cardinals.

Terry Francona followed his father into baseball. He batted .769 as a high school senior in New Brighton, Pa., and went on to play at the University of Arizona for coach Jerry Kindall, a teammate of Tito Francona with the 1962-64 Indians.

In 1980, Arizona won the College World Series championship. Terry Francona was named outstanding player of the tournament and he won the Golden Spikes Award as the top college baseball player of the year.

The Expos selected Francona in the first round of the 1980 amateur draft and he made his major-league debut with them a year later in August 1981. Like his father, Terry Francona batted left-handed and played outfield and first base.

On Sept. 16, 1981, Francona hit his first major-league home run and it came against Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter at Montreal. Francona said “Mr. Fanning,” Expos manager Jim Fanning, told him to take the first pitch from Sutter, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Francona did and it was called a ball. He swung at the second and hit it over the right-field wall.

“We felt that wasn’t a bad pitch,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.

Said Sutter: “The kid hit a home run. It couldn’t have been a good pitch.” Boxscore

Francona went on to hit .274 in a big-league career with the Expos (1981-85), Cubs (1986), Reds (1987), Indians (1988) and Brewers (1989-90). He batted .311 versus the Cardinals and had more career hits (46) against them than he did any other team.

Kentucky home

Francona’s last appearance in a big-league game was April 19, 1990, when he ran for Dave Parker. The Brewers released him April 27 and the Cardinals signed him a week later.

On May 5, 1990, in his first game for Louisville, Francona had a double and triple against Buffalo. Louisville’s outfield was Francona in right, Lankford in center and Gilkey in left.

Four days later, on May 9, 1990, those three played central roles in a wild inning.

Louisville scored 16 runs in the third inning of an 18-4 win at home against Nashville. Gilkey had two singles, a home run and four RBI in the inning. Francona and Lankford also hit home runs in the inning. Francona’s was a two-run shot and Lankford’s was his first grand slam as a professional.

Francona’s home run came against starter Rodney Imes, the first of three Nashville pitchers in the inning. The others were Bobby Moore and Neil Allen, the former Cardinal. Francona pitched the eighth and ninth innings of the blowout for Louisville and allowed one run on one hit, a home run by Keith Lockhart.

The next day, Louisville, naturally, was held to three hits, but one was a two-run home run by Francona, in a 4-1 win versus Indianapolis.

Francona played mostly against right-handers and finished the season with a .263 batting average, six home runs and 30 RBI. “We thought he’d hit better and for more power,” manager Gaylen Pitts told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

A left-handed thrower, Francona was an effective mopup reliever for Louisville. In five appearances as a pitcher, he had a 1.17 ERA, allowing one earned run in 7.2 innings and striking out six.

New career

After the 1990 season, Francona had reconstructive knee surgery. Receiving no offers to play again, he tried selling real estate but didn’t like it. He got back into baseball when his former Reds teammate, Buddy Bell, who was in the White Sox front office, offered him a job to coach in the minors. In 1992, Francona became manager of a White Sox farm team in South Bend, Ind.

Francona managed the Phillies from 1997-2000 and Red Sox from 2004-2011 before becoming Indians manager in 2013. He led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. The 2004 World Series championship was their first since 1918. He also managed the Indians to the 2016 American League pennant.

When Tony La Russa retired after managing the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series title, Francona was a candidate to replace him. Others were Mike Matheny, Ryne Sandberg, Jose Oquendo, Joe McEwing and Chris Maloney, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

A search committee interviewed Francona on Nov. 8, 2011, in Cincinnati where Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. resided and operated a private equity firm.

“We discussed pretty basic philosophy,” Francona told the Post-Dispatch. “I’d call it an enjoyable, casual conversation.”

A week later, on Nov. 14, 2011, Matheny was named manager of the Cardinals.

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Jim Frey was the Texas League batting champion when the Cardinals acquired him and gave him a chance to compete for a spot on their Opening Day roster. Frey didn’t get to the majors as a player, but he did as a manager.

Frey died April 12, 2020, at 88. An outfielder who played in the minors for 14 years, including four in the Cardinals’ system, Frey managed the Royals to their first American League pennant in 1980 and led the Cubs to their first division championship in 1984.

A left-handed batter, Frey could hit, but a weak throwing arm kept him out of the big leagues. He played in the farm systems of the Braves, Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals and Pirates from 1950-63.

Looks deceive

As a student at Western Hills High School in Cincinnati, Frey and classmate Don Zimmer became lifelong friends. Western Hills was the alma mater of multiple major-league players, including Pete Rose, Russ Nixon and Zimmer. Frey, Zimmer, Rose and Nixon all managed in the majors.

In 1957, Frey, 26, was in his eighth season in the minors. Playing left field for Tulsa, a Phillies farm club, Frey batted .336, 28 points better than any other player in the Texas League. He also led the league in hits (198), runs (102), doubles (50), triples (11) and total bases (294).

The Cardinals purchased’s Frey contract and put him on their 40-man winter roster. At spring training in 1958, Frey was a candidate for a reserve outfielder spot with the Cardinals.

“We’ll take a long look” at him, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told The Sporting News.

Listed at 5 feet 9 and 170 pounds, Frey “actually looks smaller,” The Sporting News noted, “but doubts as to his ability are dispelled when he takes his turn at the plate. The little guy, who wears specs and resembles an oversized jockey rather than a big-leaguer, has an A-1 batting style.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Frey “swings a business-like bat. He wears glasses and looks more like a sophomore who leads his class in chemistry and mathematics than he resembles a ballplayer, but he hits the ball where it is pitched, instead of trying for home runs, and what a pleasure it is to see a player so intelligent.”

Have bat, will travel

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson “gave me a real shot” to make the club, Frey told the Kansas City Star. “I hit everything they tossed up that spring, but I couldn’t throw a ball from center to second base. My arm was dead after I banged my shoulder against the fence the year before.”

The Cardinals sent Frey and another outfield prospect, Curt Flood, to their Omaha farm club.

Frey “was handicapped by the fact he has only a mediocre throwing arm and the Cards already are well prepared with left-handed pinch-hitters, Joe Cunningham and Irv Noren,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

“I’ve always been overlooked,” Frey told The Sporting News.

Playing for manager Johnny Keane, Frey hit .283 for Omaha in 1958 and had a team-leading .382 on-base percentage, but the Cardinals kept him off the 40-man winter roster entering 1959.

Frey spent the 1959 and 1960 seasons with the Cardinals’ farm club at Rochester. He hit .296 with a team-leading .387 on-base percentage in 1959. In 1960, he was the International League batting champion, hitting .317. Frey tied Leon Wagner for the club lead in home runs (16) and again was the best on the team in on-base percentage at .381.

In September 1960, the Cardinals traded Bob Sadowski and four Rochester players, Frey, Dick Ricketts, Wally Shannon and Billy Harrell, to the Phillies for Don Landrum.

Frey played in the Phillies’ system in 1961 and 1962. He opened the 1963 season with a Pirates minor-league club, got released and was signed by the Cardinals, who sent him to their Atlanta farm team. Frey, 32, finished his playing career there that season.

Coach and manager

From 1970-79, Frey was an Orioles coach on the staff of manager Earl Weaver. Like Frey, Weaver never played in the majors but he spent multiple years in the Cardinals’ farm system. The Orioles won three American League pennants during Frey’s time as coach.

In October 1979, when Frey became Royals manager, he told The Sporting News, “I think of myself as a guy who helped Weaver win games, not as his protege.”

On replacing the popular and successful Whitey Herzog as manager of the Royals, Frey said, “The name is Frey, as in, ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire.’ ”

Four years later, when he was named manager of the Cubs, who played their home games at Wrigley Field, a ballpark then without lights, Frey said, “We’re going to try to win every night.”

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