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Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Early in his Hall of Fame career, Pirates slugger Willie Stargell experienced a humbling stretch of futility against the Cardinals.

Stargell struck out swinging in seven consecutive plate appearances versus the Cardinals in September 1964.

Recalling the embarrassment he felt, Stargell told the Atlanta Constitution, “I literally went home and cried.”

Can’t connect

On Sept. 24, 1964, the Cardinals (84-67) were five games behind the first-place Phillies (90-63) when they opened a five-game series against the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

Stargell, 24, was in his second full season with the Pirates. Though he displayed astonishing power, he was vulnerable to left-handed pitching. He also was hampered by torn cartilage in his left knee and bone chips in his left elbow.

The series began with a Thursday doubleheader. Bob Gibson started the opener and pitched a complete game in a 4-2 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

In his last at-bat in the game, Stargell struck out. (Stargell had more career strikeouts (41) than hits (38) versus Gibson, including a whiff for the last out of Gibson’s 1971 no-hitter.)

Left-hander Ray Sadecki started the second game of the doubleheader and pitched a five-hit shutout in a 4-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Stargell struck out in all four of his plate appearances versus Sadecki, giving him five consecutive whiffs for the night. (Stargell had three hits, all singles, in 50 career at-bats versus Sadecki and struck out 22 times against him.)

“Sadecki completely handcuffed Willie Stargell,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

In Game 3 of the series on Friday night, another left-hander, Gordon Richardson, made his sixth start of the season for the Cardinals.

Stargell fanned his first two times at the plate against Richardson, stretching his strikeout streak to seven.

He ended the futility with a single against right-handed reliever Ron Taylor in the seventh, drawing a mocking ovation from the crowd.

The next time up, in the ninth, Stargell struck out facing right-handed knuckleball specialist Barney Schultz. Boxscore

Sultans of swish

That was Stargell’s last at-bat of the season. He missed the Pirates’ final nine games, including the last two of the Cardinals series.

While the Cardinals completed a five-game sweep of the Pirates, the Reds won five in a row against the Mets, and the Phillies lost four straight to the Braves. With a week left in the season, the Reds were in first place, 1.5 games ahead of the Cardinals.

On the last day of the season, the Cardinals clinched the pennant, finishing a game ahead of the Phillies and Reds.

Stargell underwent knee surgery on Sept. 30, 1964. For the season, he hit 21 home runs and struck out 92 times. He hit .295 against right-handers and .188 versus left-handers. Stargell had 16 hits and 32 strikeouts against left-handers in 1964.

The only time Stargell led the National League in most times striking out in a season was 1971. Stargell whiffed 154 times that year, but also led the league in home runs (48) and extra-base hits (74).

Stargell struck out 1,936 times in his big-league career. The only left-handed batters who struck out more were Reggie Jackson (2,597), Jim Thome (2,548) and Adam Dunn (2,379).

Stargell is tied with another left-handed batter, the Cardinals’ Stan Musial, for career home runs (475), but Stargell struck out almost three times as much as Musial did (696).

According to Baseball Almanac, pitcher Sandy Koufax of the 1955 Dodgers holds the National League record for striking out in the most consecutive plate appearances (12). The last of those 12 strikeouts came against the Cardinals’ Ben Flowers.

The National League record by a batter other than a pitcher for striking out in the most consecutive plate appearances is nine. The three players who did that were Adolfo Phillips of the 1966 Cubs, Eric Davis of the 1987 Reds and Mark Reynolds of the 2007 Diamondbacks.

 

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The Cardinals traded the National League batting champion, who also had the best outfield arm in the game, because they didn’t want to pay him.

Ninety years ago, on April 11, 1932, six months after they became World Series champions, the Cardinals dealt left fielder Chick Hafey to the Reds for pitcher Benny Frey, first baseman Harvey Hendrick and cash.

The trade was made by Cardinals executive Branch Rickey, with approval from club owner Sam Breadon, because for the second consecutive year Hafey was prepared to sit out the start of the season in a contract dispute.

At a time when players had little leverage to negotiate other than holding out, Hafey was fed up with being underpaid by the Cardinals and was determined to get what he considered fair compensation for performance that eventually earned him election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Special talent

Born and raised in Berkeley, Calif., Hafey was a 20-year-old pitching prospect when the Cardinals signed him in 1923 on the recommendation of Charles Chapman, a University of California professor and friend of Rickey, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Impressed by Hafey’s hitting at Cardinals training camp that spring, Rickey, the club’s manager, made him an outfielder.

Hafey went into the farm system, hit .360 for Houston in 1924, and was called up to the Cardinals in August that year. He took over as the Cardinals’ left fielder in 1927 and went on a torrid five-year run, even though he suffered from severe sinus problems that weakened his vision.

J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Hafey as “a man who hit line drives against the fences, one of the most powerful hitters ever to wear a Cardinals uniform.”

One of the first players to use eyeglasses, Hafey hit .329 or better each year from 1927 to 1931.

“He was, next to Rogers Hornsby, the best right-handed hitter I ever saw, even though he really couldn’t see well,” Cardinals infielder Andy High told Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch.

In the book “The Gashouse Gang,” Spud Davis, a National League catcher for 16 seasons, said in rating the best right-handed hitters, “The greatest I ever saw was Chick Hafey. He was one of the greatest all-around players, too. He could do everything. He had that arm! He could stand against the fence in left in St. Louis and throw strikes to the plate all day long. The ball came in light as a feather. If his eyes had been good, there’s no telling what he could have done.”

Broeg wrote, “His throwing arm might have been the most powerful ever.”

Moneyball

After hitting .336 with 107 RBI for the 1930 Cardinals and helping them reach the World Series for the third time in five years, Hafey sought an increase in his $9,000 salary.

Unimpressed by what Breadon and Rickey offered, Hafey sat out spring training in 1931 before signing for $12,500 after the regular season started. Because he didn’t play his first game until May 16, the Cardinals docked him $2,000, cutting his salary to $10,500, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In his book, “Memories of a Hall of Fame Sportswriter,” Broeg said, “Hafey was most unfortunately underpaid, a victim, in part, of the Great Depression, and the Cardinals’ tendency to play Scrooge.”

Hafey treated the club better than management treated him. He won the 1931 National League batting title, hitting .349 in 122 games, and helped the Cardinals win the pennant. Hafey also contributed 95 RBI and a .404 on-base percentage.

Hafey figured his performance merited a raise. According to the Post-Dispatch, he wanted a $17,000 salary in 1932 _ $15,000 as a base and $2,000 extra for the amount the Cardinals cut him the year before.

The Cardinals offered $13,000 and “labeled him privately as an ingrate who should have been thankful he’d played on four pennant winners in a six-year period, blithely ignoring his contributions,” Broeg noted.

Take a hike

When it became clear to Breadon and Rickey that Hafey wasn’t going to sign before the start of the 1932 season, they decided to trade him against the wishes of manager Gabby Street, the Dayton Daily News reported.

At 8 p.m. on April 10, 1932, Rickey called Reds owner Sidney Weil, who had been trying to acquire Hafey for almost two years, The Sporting News reported. They talked into the wee hours of the morning and came to an agreement.

What the Cardinals wanted most was cash. In addition to offering pitcher Benny Frey and first baseman Harvey Hendrick, Weil agreed to give the Cardinals “a tremendous amount of cash,” The Sporting News reported.

According to the book “The Spirit of St. Louis,” the amount was $50,000.

On April 11, 1932, the eve of the season opener, the crowd “cheered wildly” when Weil announced the trade in Cincinnati at a joint luncheon of the chamber of commerce and Kiwanis Club, according to The Sporting News.

There was no such cheering in St. Louis, just bad vibes.

In the book “The Pilot Light and the Gashouse Gang,” Broeg described the Cardinals’ treatment of Hafey as “pathetic.”

Post-Dispatch columnist John Wray, siding with management, called Hafey “a chronic conscientious objector” who “sulked himself out of a job with a championship outfit.”

Rickey shamelessly portrayed himself the victim.

“I am not saying Hafey owed anything to this club,” Rickey said to Sid Keener of the St. Louis Star-Times. “He made the hits at the plate and I realize I didn’t swing the bat for him. Nevertheless, it’s kind of tough in this business when a ballplayer loses all traces of loyalty. That’s what hurts me in trading Hafey.”

Hafey signed a $15,000 contract with the 1932 Reds and said to the Associated Press, “I’m ready to go back and bear down.”

Coming and going

A first baseman, Rip Collins, opened the season in left field for the Cardinals. Eventually, 10 players started in left for them in 1932.

On April 24, 1932, the Cardinals stumbled into Cincinnati with a 3-7 record. Hafey had asked manager Dan Howley to let him make his Reds debut in the series opener, according to The Sporting News.

Batting cleanup, Hafey had three singles in four at-bats against his former team and snared Pepper Martin’s deep drive to left. Boxscore

Hafey went on to hit .303 against the Cardinals in his career.

In September 1932, the Cardinals called up slugger Joe Medwick, who took over in left. Like Hafey, Medwick would have a Hall of Fame career. He also would run afoul of Breadon and Rickey regarding pay _ and was traded to the Dodgers primarily for cash, of course.

(Rickey had a personal incentive to trade players for cash because his contract called for him to get a percentage of the sale as remuneration in addition to his salary.)

Neither Frey nor Hendrick lasted long with the Cardinals. Within two months of acquiring them, the Cardinals returned both to the Reds for _ you guessed it _ more cash.

Hafey hit .344 for the 1932 Reds but a bout with influenza limited him to 83 games.

In 13 seasons with the Cardinals and Reds, Hafey hit .317. He hit more home runs from the No. 5 spot in the batting order than any player in Cardinals history, according to researcher Tom Orf.

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Adam Wainwright may be the last pitcher to produce a pinch-hit for the Cardinals.

With the designated hitter being used in the National League for the first time in 2022, it may be a while before the Cardinals pick a pitcher to be a pinch-hitter. Even if a pitcher was needed to bat, the odds would be against him getting a hit after a long layoff as a batter.

According to researcher Tom Orf, the last time a Cardinals pitcher got a hit as a pinch-hitter was April 8, 2017, when Wainwright did it in a game against the Reds at St. Louis.

Late in the game, Wainwright did “significant lobbying” for a chance to pinch-hit, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In the eighth inning, with one out, none on, and the Cardinals ahead, 9-3, Matheny sent Wainwright to bat for pitcher Jonathan Broxton. Wainwright singled to left against Drew Storen. Boxscore

Explaining why hitting was “something serious” to him, Wainwright told Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch, “You can win one or two games a year if you get a key hit, a key bunt.”

Big thrill

Wainwright, who hit a home run in his first plate appearance in the majors, is the last Cardinals pitcher to produce a RBI as a pinch-hitter, according to Orf.

It happened on June 10, 2016, at Pittsburgh. With the score tied at 3-3 in the 12th inning, the Cardinals had Matt Carpenter on first, two outs, Aledmys Diaz at the plate and Jonathan Broxton on deck.

Because the Cardinals had no more position players on the bench, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle ordered pitcher Juan Nicasio to give an intentional pass to Diaz, moving Carpenter into scoring position. Hurdle decided he’d rather have a pitcher at the plate than Diaz, the Cardinals’ rookie shortstop.

“I really struggle with having Diaz given an opportunity to beat us there when we figured Wainwright would be hitting next,” Hurdle told the Post-Dispatch.

Sent by Matheny to bat for Broxton, Wainwright hit a double to left-center, scoring Carpenter and Diaz and giving the Cardinals a 5-3 lead. The Cardinals scored six runs in the inning and won, 9-3. Boxscore and Video

Asked about Hurdle’s strategy, Wainwright told Rick Hummel, “I get it. I’m a pitcher and the odds are probably a lot less that I’m going to get a hit than Aledmys.”

Wainwright, who had 75 career RBI, called the two-run double as a pinch-hitter “one of the highlights of my career.”

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Wainwright said. “Winning the World Series is about the only time I could be happier than I am now.”

For his career with the Cardinals, Wainwright had five hits in 21 at-bats as a pinch-hitter, with three RBI.

His teammate, pitcher Jason Marquis, had six hits as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. Playing for manager Tony La Russa, Marquis was 3-for-9 as a pinch-hitter in 2005 and 3-for-10 in 2006, but he had no RBI.

The last Cardinals pitcher to hit a home run as a pinch-hitter was Gene Stechschulte in 2001. It came against Armando Reynoso of the Diamondbacks in Stechschulte’s first plate appearance in the big leagues.

Take that

Pitcher Bob Gibson had three hits in 11 career at-bats as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. He totaled 144 RBI, three as a pinch-hitter.

Gibson’s first RBI as a pinch-hitter came on Aug. 8, 1965, at St. Louis. Batting for pitcher Barney Schultz, Gibson, 29, doubled to left against Warren Spahn, 44, scoring Mike Shannon from second. Boxscore

Gibson hit .269 (7-for-26) versus Spahn in his career.

Nine months later, on April 17, 1966, the Cardinals played the Pirates at Pittsburgh. In the fifth inning, with Roberto Clemente at bat, Cardinals starter Nelson Briles “hummed a high fastball past Roberto’s left ear” and Clemente “hit the dirt to escape being clipped,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

When Clemente got up, he glared at Briles and then at the Cardinals’ dugout. Gibson yelled at him, “I’d do the same thing to you.”

According to the Post-Gaztette, after the inning ended, Gibson shouted in the direction of Clemente and the Pirates’ dugout, “If you want a piece of me, you know where to come.”

Two innings later, manager Red Schoendienst sent Gibson to bat for reliever Ray Sadecki with the bases loaded. Facing Bob Veale, Gibson singled to right, where Clemente was stationed, and drove in two runs. Boxscore

As the Pirates took the field in the eighth, Gibson went to the clubhouse via the Pirates’ dugout. “No one said a word to him,” the Post-Gazette reported.

(A year later, Clemente hit a ball that struck Gibson, fracturing his leg.)

Gibson hit .538 (7-for-1) versus Veale in his career.

Both Spahn and Veale threw left-handed. A right-handed batter, Gibson hit .222 against left-handers and .199 versus right-handers.

Postscript

One of the most remarkable seasons by a Cardinals pitcher was achieved by Curt Davis in 1939. He had a 22-16 record and hit .381 (40-for-105) that year. As a pinch-hitter in 1939, Davis batted .357 (5-for-14) with no RBI.

Two of the Cardinals’ best-hitting pitchers, Dizzy Dean and Bob Forsch, were hitless as pinch-hitters.

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In December 1960, the Cardinals made a bid to acquire catcher Elston Howard from the Yankees. While they were at it, they tried for pitcher Whitey Ford, too.

It was an audacious attempt, coming two months after a World Series in which Howard hit .462 and Ford pitched a pair of shutouts, but Cardinals general manager Bing Devine indicated the Yankees gave him reason to try.

The Cardinals offered pitchers Larry Jackson and Ron Kline, plus catcher Hal Smith, for Ford, Howard and pitcher Ryne Duren.

The Yankees said no _ and, as it turned out, were mighty glad they did so.

Local connection

The Cardinals were in the market for a power hitter because in 1960 only one player, Ken Boyer, hit more than 17 home runs for them. Howard hit for power and played multiple positions _ catcher, outfield and first base.

“Anybody who can play two or three positions capably is going to be able to write his own ticket, and Howard can do that,” Devine told Bob Burnes of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “He’s probably the best catcher in the American League, but can do almost as well in the outfield or at first base.”

Born and raised in St. Louis, Howard did well in a tryout with the Cardinals after he graduated from Vashon High School in the late 1940s, but the club wasn’t signing black players then and never made him an offer.

When Howard reached the big leagues in 1955 at 26, he was the first black Yankees player _ eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers and one year after the first black, Tom Alston, played for the Cardinals.

In 1960, Howard was an American League all-star for the fourth consecutive season. Devine “tried hard to land him,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Connecting the dots

After losing to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, the Yankees replaced manager Casey Stengel with Ralph Houk and general manager George Weiss with Roy Hamey.

The Yankees had three catchers, Howard (31), fellow St. Louisan Yogi Berra (35) and Johnny Blanchard (27), and Houk was considering moving Berra to the outfield, the Globe-Democrat reported.

According to The Sporting News, “The Cardinals had heard reports that, because of the rapid development of Johnny Blanchard, the Yankees might be willing to trade Howard.”

If that was so, Devine figured, Cardinals catcher Hal Smith, a defensive specialist, might appeal to the Yankees as an experienced backup to Blanchard.

Also, reliever Ryne Duren, who had 67 strikeouts in 49 innings for the 1960 Yankees, appeared obtainable to the Cardinals because of reports he “was in the doghouse with Houk,” The Sporting News reported.

The Yankees had expressed interest in Cardinals pitcher Ron Kline, according to The Sporting News.

Devine approached Hamey with an offer of Smith and Kline for Howard and Duren. The Yankees wanted more, and that’s how Larry Jackson and Whitey Ford got mentioned, The Sporting News noted.

Expanding the offer

Ford (32) was the Yankees’ ace, but he experienced shoulder problems during the 1960 season and finished 12-9, his lowest winning percentage (.571) since entering the majors in 1950. Before he shut out the Pirates in Games 3 and 6 of the World Series, the Yankees talked to the Giants about a swap of Ford for pitcher Johnny Antonelli, the Associated Press reported.

That gave Devine the idea Ford may be obtainable in exchange for another quality starter. In order to expand the deal for Howard, Devine offered Larry Jackson, an 18-game winner for the Cardinals in 1960, if the Yankees would swap Ford.

On Dec. 5, 1960, a headline in the Globe-Democrat declared, “Redbirds May Land Ford, Howard.”

“The possibility of a Cardinals-Yankees trade, involving major athletes on both sides, picked up steam,” Jack Herman reported in the Globe-Democrat. “One thing that’s been established is the fact that Ford is on the block.”

According to John Fox, sports editor of the Binghamton (N.Y.) Press and Sun-Bulletin, the Cardinals said “the offer stood only if Ford was inspected first by a physician of their naming.”

Ford told the Associated Press, “I don’t know if I’d quit or not if I were traded. It all depends on where I was traded.”

Howard said, “I don’t want to be traded. I’m happy where I am.”

No deal

On Dec. 6, 1960, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Yankees co-owner Dan Topping “turned thumbs down” on the Cardinals’ proposal. “We won’t deal Howard,” he said.

Though Houk told The Sporting News that “talk of our considering any offer which included Ford was based on hot air,” the Binghamton newspaper reported the reason the proposal was rejected “was not the idea of including Duren or Ford, but the request for Howard.”

The Cardinals’ chances for a deal also were hampered by the entrance of the Dodgers into trade talks for Howard. “We got a better proposition from the Dodgers,” Houk told The Sporting News. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers offered pitcher Johnny Podres and outfielder Duke Snider for Howard.

If the Yankees added rookie pitcher Bill Short to the package, the deal with the Dodgers would have been made, United Press International reported.

Instead, the Yankees stayed pat, and got rewarded.

In 1961, Ford was 25-4, got two more wins in the World Series against the Reds and received the Cy Young Award. Howard batted a career-high .348 with 21 home runs. Two years later, he won the 1963 American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Hal Smith developed a heart ailment and had to quit playing in June 1961. Larry Jackson had four fewer wins (14) in 1961 than he had the year before, and Ron Kline got sent to the Angels.

 

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Gene Mauch, who drew comparisons with Eddie Stanky, got to play for him a brief while with the Cardinals.

On March 26, 1952, the Cardinals claimed Mauch for $10,000 after he was placed on waivers by the Yankees.

Mauch began the 1952 season with the Cardinals as a utility infielder but was released in May. A few months later, he began a more prominent career as a manager.

The Natural

The Dodgers signed Mauch, 17, in 1943 out of Fremont High School in Los Angeles.

A year later, at the Dodgers’ wartime spring training camp at Bear Mountain, N.Y., Mauch, 18, impressed manager Leo Durocher and earned the shortstop job.

“He’s a natural,” Durocher, the former Cardinals shortstop, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “He does everything right by instinct.”

Pee Wee Reese, who took over for Durocher as Dodgers shortstop in 1940, was in military service in 1944, opening an opportunity for Mauch. “Durocher regards Mauch as a better shortstop prospect than Reese was at Mauch’s age,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

On April 18, 1944, Mauch was the Dodgers’ Opening Day shortstop against the Phillies. Boxscore

Joining Mauch in the infield were first baseman Howie Schultz, a 6-foot-6 basketball player; second baseman Luis Olmo, an outfielder; and third baseman Gil English, a utilityman appearing in a big-league game for the first time in six years. English was an upgrade from Dixie Walker, an outfielder who flopped in a tryout at third base in spring training.

Years later, Mauch told the Atlanta Constitution, “It must have been the worst infield of all time.”

Mauch started the Dodgers’ first five games, made no errors but hit .133 and was returned to the minors. In May 1944, Mauch entered the Army Air Corps and served until the spring of 1946.

On the move

When Mauch resumed his baseball career, he embarked on an odyssey as a utility player with the Dodgers, Pirates, Cubs and Braves.

Atlanta Constitution columnist Furman Bisher told the story of the time the Braves’ bus got stuck under a low overpass on the way to a game. The embarrassed driver was unsure what to do. Mauch suggested he let the air out of the tires and back out. The driver did.

Mauch spent most of the 1951 season with the Braves’ Class AAA team in Milwaukee, hitting .303 and posting a .445 on-base percentage. Milwaukee manager Charlie Grimm told The Sporting News, “Every big-league scout I have talked with this season tells me Mauch is good enough to be the regular shortstop on almost any big-time club except the Yankees and Dodgers.”

Naturally, it was the Yankees who took Mauch in the Rule 5 draft in November 1951. Looking to be the backup to shortstop Phil Rizzuto, Mauch batted .077 in spring training.

The Cardinals, in Eddie Stanky’s first season as manager, were seeking a reserve infielder to replace Stan Rojek. They claimed Mauch on waivers from the Yankees near the end of spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., where both clubs trained.

On their way from Florida to St. Louis to open the 1952 season, the Cardinals played a series of exhibition games. At Lynchburg, Va., on April 9, Mauch drove in the winning run against the Phillies.

Mauch, 26, made his Cardinals regular-season debut on April 17 when he was sent to run for Steve Bilko. Boxscore

Pinch-running became Mauch’s primary role with the Cardinals. He appeared in seven games, four as a pinch-runner, two as a substitute shortstop and one as a pinch-hitter. In four plate appearances for the Cardinals, he had no hits and a walk. In two fielding chances at shortstop, he made one putout and one error.

In May 1952, the Cardinals acquired Virgil Stallcup from the Reds to be their backup shortstop and asked waivers on Mauch.

Chance to lead

According to the Associated Press, the Cardinals were planning to send Mauch to one of their minor-league teams, Rochester or Columbus, if no one claimed him, but the Braves did. Mauch spent the rest of the 1952 season with the Braves’ farm club in Milwaukee and hit .324.

After the season, Mauch’s former Dodgers teammate, Dixie Walker, left his job as manager of the minor-league Atlanta Crackers, a Braves farm team in the Class AA Southern Association, to become a Cardinals coach on Stanky’s staff.

Crackers owner Earl Mann sought a player-manager to replace Walker. While attending the 1952 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees in New York, Mann met with Braves general manager John Quinn, who recommended Mauch.

According to the Atlanta Constitution, Quinn labeled Mauch an Eddie Stanky-type.

“He’s always thinking on the field, talks baseball all the time, and is one of the sharpest young students of baseball in the game,” Quinn said. “I feel confident that Mauch is ready to take a shot as a manager in double-A ball.”

Mann called Mauch at home in Los Angeles, invited him to Atlanta for an interview and hired him. “That’s where my future is in baseball _ managing,” Mauch told the Atlanta Constitution.

Mann said, “He has everything I’ve been looking for in a manager: youth, aggressiveness, personality.”

Told Mauch was described as a Stanky-type, Eddie Stanky replied to the Atlanta Constitution, “I’m not sure that’s an asset, but I’m sure you’ve got a good man. I can vouch for him as a student of baseball.”

Making his mark

Mauch had no connection to Atlanta or the South, so he arrived as a mystery man to Crackers fans. Columnist Furman Bisher wrote, “The selection of Mauch exploded on Atlanta with much the same surprising effect as if the Prohibition candidate had won the presidency.”

It didn’t take long for him to get noticed. Mauch, 27, led the 1953 Crackers to an 84-70 record. One of his top players was outfielder Chuck Tanner, who, like Mauch, became a successful big-league manager.

According to the Atlanta Constitution, Mann invited Mauch to return in 1954, but Mauch declined. “We may have had some success on paper, but I wasn’t satisfied because I didn’t think I measured up to what I thought I should as a manager,” Mauch told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Crackers sent Mauch to the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels, a Cubs farm team, and he resumed playing. He returned to the majors as a Red Sox utility player in 1956 and 1957, then went back to managing. He managed the Red Sox’s farm team at Minneapolis in 1958 and 1959.

In 1960, Mauch was 34 when he got his first job managing in the majors with the Phillies. The man who hired him, general manager John Quinn, was the one who recommended Mauch for the Atlanta job when Quinn was with the Braves.

A smart instigator, Mauch turned out to be a lot like Stanky. Mauch managed in the big leagues for 26 seasons with the Phillies, Expos, Twins and Angels but never won a pennant.

Throughout his playing career, Mauch had several managers who either had played for or managed the Cardinals. Those influencers included Leo Durocher (1944 Dodgers), Ray Blades (1946 St. Paul), Jimmy Brown (1947 Indianapolis), Frankie Frisch (1949 Cubs), Billy Southworth (1950 Braves) and Eddie Stanky (1952 Cardinals).

In 1980, when Whitey Herzog became Cardinals general manager, he tried to hire Mauch to manage the Cardinals, but was turned down.

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Roger Maris didn’t like being criticized. Rogers Hornsby didn’t like being snubbed. Subsequently, Maris and Hornsby didn’t like one another.

On March 22, 1962, in the usually relaxed setting of spring training, an impromptu encounter between Maris, the Yankees’ outfielder, and Hornsby, the Mets’ hitting coach, turned ugly before an exhibition game at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record five months earlier, refused to pose for a photo with Hornsby, who holds the mark for top career batting average by a right-handed hitter.

The incident went public when Hornsby, stung by Maris’ disrespect, lashed out at him in comments to newspaper reporters.

Though eventually linked by their prominent roles in Cardinals championship success _ Hornsby was the manager and second baseman for the 1926 World Series champion Cardinals, and Maris was the right fielder on Cardinals World Series clubs in 1967 and 1968 _ their differences kept them apart.

Mantle fan

In 1961, when Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle were in pursuit of Ruth’s home run record, Hornsby, scouting big-league clubs for the Mets in Chicago, publicly supported Mantle because he considered him a better player than Maris.

“I told a writer that there was only one thing Maris could do better than the Babe _ that was run,” Hornsby said to The Sporting News. “I also said Mantle has all types of ability Maris doesn’t have. I said I’d like to see Mantle lead in home runs.”

In the book “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero,” authors Tom Clavin and Danny Peary wrote that Maris “took it personally” when Hornsby criticized him.

Hornsby was a career .358 hitter who batted better than .400 in a season three times for the Cardinals and led the National League in hitting seven times. He preferred a player such as Mantle, who hit .317 with 54 home runs in 1961, to Maris, who batted .269 in 1961 and never hit .300 in the big leagues.

“I’ll give Maris credit for hitting all those homers,” Hornsby told The Sporting News, “but he has the advantage of playing in Yankee Stadium. He’s got the short right field there and he’s a right field hitter.”

Maris, who hit 31 of his 61 home runs away from Yankee Stadium in 1961, silently bristled at Hornsby’s remarks. Hornsby wasn’t alone in his criticism and, as spring training neared in 1962, Maris had heard enough.

“This stuff about not hitting for an average gets me,” he told The Sporting News. “Eighteen more hits would have brought me to .300. Lots of guys bloop in that many or more.”

Bad vibes

Mets manager Casey Stengel, 71, put Hornsby, 65, on his coaching staff in 1962. Stengel had managed the Yankees to seven World Series championships and 10 American League pennants before he was fired after the 1960 World Series.

When the defending World Series champion Yankees, featuring Maris and Mantle, came to St. Petersburg to play Stengel’s expansion team Mets in March 1962, it drew a lot of attention.

Joel Schrank, an enterprising photographer for United Press International, got the idea to pose the two rajahs, Hornsby and Maris. Schrank approached Hornsby, who agreed to the request. Hornsby grabbed a bat and followed Schrank to the Yankees dugout, where they found Maris.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, when Maris was asked to pose with Hornsby, he said to Schrank, “Why should I? He’s done nothing but run me down. He says I can’t hit.”

Maris turned his back on them and walked away, the Associated Press reported.

“That bush leaguer,” Hornsby said to The Sporting News. “I’ve posed for pictures with some major league hitters, not bush leaguers like he is. He couldn’t carry my bat.”

According to the Associated Press, Hornsby also called Maris a “little punk.”

By comparison, Hornsby told The Sporting News, Yankees first baseman Bill Skowron approached Stengel before the same game and asked him whether Hornsby could share advice about hitting.

“There were a few things he thought I could straighten out for him,” Hornsby said. “We talked for about 15 minutes. That’s the difference between a high-class fellow and a swelled-up guy.”

Regarding Hornsby, Maris said to the New York Daily News, “All last year I kept reading how he said I was a lousy hitter. So why should I pose with him? He says I’m a lousy hitter and a busher. Well, I think he is a lousy hitter, too _ that is, in my category, home runs.”

(Hornsby twice led the National League in home runs, with 42 in 1922 and 39 in 1925, and ranked in the top 10 in the league 14 times.)

Difference of opinions

New York Herald Tribune columnist Red Smith, who described Hornsby as the “mightiest of all National League hitters and the roughest right-handed bruiser in human history,” wrote that Hornsby was justified for being miffed by Maris’ slight.

Noting that Maris “has not yet learned to live with fame,” Smith advised the Yankees slugger to learn from the experience. “If, through stubbornness, he becomes embittered, it can warp what should be a productive professional life,” Smith cautioned.

Yankees manager Ralph Houk told The Sporting News that when he was a boy Hornsby “was sort of an idol,” but he said he disagreed with Hornsby’s characterization of Maris.

“He says Maris is a bush leaguer and a lousy .269 hitter. I know differently,” Houk said.

About three weeks after the incident, Hornsby’s book, “My War With Baseball,” was published.

In the chapter titled “There Won’t Be Any More .400 Hitters,” Hornsby said, “Maris, a left-handed hitter, is strictly a right field pull hitter … They didn’t pitch him very smart in 1961. Threw him too many inside pitches, which is all he’s looking for so he can pull the ball. He’ll never have a big average, let alone hit .400. He couldn’t hit .400 if he added all his averages together.”

(Maris remains the only big-league player to hit 61 home runs in a season without using performance-enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa all hit more than 61 but needed steroids to do it, and attempted to cover up their fraud. The Cardinals rewarded McGwire, a career .263 hitter, for the revenue his flimflam generated for them by putting him alongside Hornsby in their club hall of fame. Imagine what Hornsby would say about that.)

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