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The last hit of the Hall of Fame career of Frankie Frisch completed a ninth-inning comeback that carried the Cardinals to a walkoff victory and inspired his teammates to carry Frisch off the field.

In 1937, Frisch, 40, was manager of the Cardinals. He also was in his last season as a player.

Frisch had been a standout second baseman for the Giants from 1919 to 1926. After he was dealt for Rogers Hornsby, Frisch continued his success with the Cardinals, helping them to four National League pennants and two World Series titles. He became their player-manager in 1933.

As late as 1936, Frisch played 59 games at second base and 22 at third base for the Cardinals, batting .274 with an on-base percentage of .353.

In 1937, however, Frisch seldom appeared in the lineup.

His last game at second base was on May 29, 1937. Over the next two months, he had five at-bats as a pinch hitter. Frisch failed to reach base in any of those plate appearances.

So it was a bit of a surprise when, with the outcome on the line in the Cardinals’ game against the Braves on Aug. 4 at St. Louis, Frisch put himself at the plate as a pinch hitter.

Keep the line moving

The Braves led, 6-2, entering the bottom of the ninth inning of the Wednesday afternoon game before 2,303 spectators at Sportsman’s Park.

Braves starter Lou Fette, who had a 13-3 record, appeared to be in control. The rookie from Alma, Mo., retired two of the first three batters in the ninth. Terry Moore, who had walked, was on first base when Johnny Mize came to the plate, representing the Cardinals’ last hope.

With a four-run lead, the Braves weren’t holding Moore at first. So, he went to second base uncontested while Fette focused on Mize.

Mize singled to right, scoring Moore and cutting the Braves’ lead to 6-3.

Joe Medwick followed with a double to left-center, driving home Mize and making the score 6-4.

Braves manager Bill McKechnie, the former Cardinals skipper, brought in Guy Bush to relief Fette. Bush, 35, had a 2.76 ERA.

Don Padgett greeted him with a single to right, scoring Medwick and reducing the Braves’ lead to 6-5.

Don Gutteridge got the Cardinals’ fourth consecutive hit _ a single to left. When Padgett advanced from first to third on the play, drawing the throw from the outfield, Gutteridge alertly took second.

With runners on second and third, Pepper Martin, sent to pinch-hit for Leo Durocher, received an intentional walk, loading the bases.

Stout heart

Mickey Owen was due up next for the Cardinals. A rookie catcher, Owen was the Cardinals’ eighth-place batter. He was 1-for-4 in the game, giving him a .214 batting mark for the season.

Frisch, who was batting .194 and hadn’t produced a hit since May 28, grabbed a bat and stood in at the plate for Owen.

“I felt I was the right man in this spot,” Frisch said to the St. Louis Star and Times. “I believed I could deliver the much-needed hit in the pinch … Why should I put some other man in that spot when I figured I could get a hit myself?”

Frisch, a switch hitter, batted from the left side against Bush, a right-hander. Swinging at the first pitch, Frisch “slashed it down the first-base line like a shot out of a howitzer,” the Star-Times reported.

The ball eluded first baseman Elbie Fletcher and bounded into right field. Padgett scored from third with the tying run and Gutteridge raced from second to the plate with the winning run for a 7-6 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Frisch’s teammates rushed toward him, lifted him onto their shoulders and carried him triumphantly to the dugout.

“The best pinch-hit I’ve ever seen,” Medwick said.

Frisch, the Star-Times observed, “still packs a pretty stout heart beneath those red birds on his Cardinals uniform shirt.”

The hit gave Frisch 2,880 for his big-league career.

The next day, Frisch batted for the final time. Pinch-hitting in the ninth for Moore, Frisch grounded into a double play in a game the Cardinals lost 4-1 to the Braves.

Frisch finished with a career batting mark of .316 and 1,244 RBI. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947.

Previously: Kolten Wong, Frankie Frisch gave Cards pop at 2nd

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In July 1977, when Al Hrabosky ignored manager Vern Rapp’s facial hair ban and let his whiskers grow, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch intervened and tried to get the pitcher to follow orders. Rather than obey, Hrabosky fought back. He told Busch he would file a grievance with the players’ union if the Cardinals tried to force him to shave.

If Hrabosky filed a grievance, the matter would go to arbitration. To Busch, the prospect of appearing before an arbiter and likely losing to Hrabosky and the union was more distasteful than having the pitcher grow a moustache.

Outmaneuvered, Busch lifted the facial hair ban Rapp had imposed at the start of 1977. At the same time, in an effort to show he maintained confidence in Rapp, Busch extended the manager’s contract through the following season.

Busch, though, was angry and humiliated.

Unaccustomed to defiance from an employee, Busch lashed out publicly at Hrabosky. He challenged him to become a better pitcher and warned Hrabosky to quit being disruptive.

“You pushed me into a corner,” Busch said, addressing Hrabosky, “and no one does that to me.”

Hrabosky realized his victory came at a price. He predicted the Cardinals would get rid of him.

Hairy situation

Hrabosky had established himself as an effective Cardinals reliever in 1973. Soon after, he developed a persona as the “Mad Hungarian.” With a Fu Manchu moustache, flowing black hair and menacing glower, Hrabosky tried to intimidate or irritate batters by standing behind the mound, facing the infield, muttering to himself and pounding his fist into his glove before whirling around and preparing to pitch.

After Rapp replaced Red Schoendienst as manager, he imposed the facial hair ban for 1977. Clean-shaven, Hrabosky no longer looked like the “Mad Hungarian.” He said he believed that took away from his ability to pitch at his best.

Unhappy and resentful, Hrabosky ripped Rapp in spring training, then apologized. In May, he refused Rapp’s request to meet and briefly was suspended for insubordination.

On July 4, the Cardinals began a 15-game road trip. They didn’t play well and tension mounted between manager and players.

Rapp called a clubhouse meeting in Philadelphia on July 14. Rapp began the session by saying he’d noticed 5 o’clock shadows on the faces of some players. He considered that a violation of the facial hair ban and said he’d suspend anyone who didn’t shave, The Sporting News reported.

Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock spoke up and asked Rapp to “bend a little” on his rules. Rapp replied, “I’m not going to change,” and left the clubhouse.

Jack Buck, Cardinals broadcaster, told listeners, “It’s one against 25.”

After the game, Hrabosky told a Philadelphia radio station “there’s no way” he could play another season with Rapp as manager. Soon after, Hrabosky began letting his facial hair grow.

Plenty of trouble

The Cardinals lost 11 of 15 games on the trip _ Hrabosky was 0-2 with a save and an 11.42 ERA _ before entering the all-star break.

When the team got back to St. Louis, Busch met with Hrabosky on July 21, the pitcher’s 28th birthday. Rather than a gift, Hrabosky received scorn.

“Well, young man, if you’re looking for trouble you can believe August A. Busch Jr. will give you more than you can handle,” Busch said.

Hrabosky told Busch he had the backing of Marvin Miller, leader of the players’ union. Miller encouraged Hrabosky to file a grievance.

That’s when Busch lifted the ban, saying management wouldn’t give Hrabosky “the satisfaction of dragging the Cardinals and baseball into the courtroom.”

Said Hrabosky: “From the legal standpoint, they knew they’d lose.”

Put up or shut up

Hrabosky at that time had a record of 2-4 with seven saves and a 4.58 ERA.

“You said … you can only get batters out by being psyched up with your moustache and beard,” Busch said. “Then go ahead and grow it. But, boy, are you going to look like a fool if you don’t get batters out.”

Said Hrabosky: “After much thought and personal reflection, I know it will be in the best interests of the ballclub and of my career to go back to being Al Hrabosky. I sincerely believe my appearance had a great effect on my performance … I sincerely believe my decision will help me on the field.”

Busch told Hrabosky: “My suggestion … would be for you to stop causing this trouble in the middle of a pennant race, obey the rules of the team, work your butt off for a pennant and quit this complaining.”

Jeff Meyers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, wrote that Hrabosky “deserves applause for having had the courage to stand up for what he thought was right,” but added that Busch had “deflated Hrabosky’s massive ego.”

Fading fastball

Cardinals infielders Mike Tyson and Garry Templeton were among the players who said they would grow facial hair in support of Hrabosky. Another infielder, Don Kessinger, said he wouldn’t try a moustache or beard.  “If I grow one, my wife won’t kiss me and there ain’t nothing worth that,” Kessinger said.

On July 23, Hrabosky made his first Cardinals appearance since his meeting with Busch and received mostly applause from the spectators at Busch Stadium. He pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief and the Cardinals beat the Astros, 4-3.

Hrabosky had a productive August (3-1 record, one save, 3.52 ERA) and a dismal September (0-0, no saves, 6.75 ERA).

“His fastball isn’t what it used to be and the whole league knows it,” Buck said.

Hrabosky’s overall statistics for 1977: 6-5, 10 saves, 4.38 ERA.

In The Sporting News, Neal Russo wrote, “Al Hrabosky was as bad with his beard as without.”

On Dec. 8, 1977, the Cardinals traded Hrabosky to the Royals for pitcher Mark Littell and catcher Buck Martinez.

Previously: Al Hrabosky, Vern Rapp and a tumultuous spring

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

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What began as the feel-good story of Cardinals spring training dissolved into a feud between comeback hopeful Andy Van Slyke and manager Tony La Russa.

The rift, just as the 1997 Cardinals were launching into their season 20 years ago, was created by miscommunication, overreaction and ego from both sides.

Van Slyke, who had come out of retirement in a bid to earn a job as a Cardinals utility player, batted .545 in spring training in 1997 before being sidelined by a leg injury. He wanted assurances he would have a spot on the active roster when he healed. The Cardinals refused to make that kind of commitment.

That led to a war of words between Van Slyke and La Russa.

Versatile talent

Plagued by recurring back pain, Van Slyke retired after playing the 1995 season with the Orioles and Phillies.

A first-round pick of the Cardinals in the 1979 draft, Van Slyke made his major-league debut with St. Louis in 1983. He played 69 games in the outfield, 30 at third base and nine at first base.

In 1984, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog again used Van Slyke in the outfield (81 games) and at third base (32 games) and first base (30 games).

Sticking primarily to the outfield, Van Slyke’s best Cardinals seasons were 1985 (25 doubles, 13 home runs, 34 stolen bases) and 1986 (23 doubles, 13 home runs, 21 stolen bases).

On April 1, 1987, the Cardinals traded Van Slyke, catcher Mike LaValliere and pitcher Mike Dunne to the Pirates for catcher Tony Pena. In eight years (1987-94) with the Pirates, Van Slyke won a National League Gold Glove Award five times for his outfield defense and three times was named an all-star.

Comeback candidate

After his retirement, Van Slyke, who continued to reside in St. Louis, spent 1996 as a baseball analyst for ESPN and did a radio show. With his back feeling better, Van Slyke began working out, hoping to play again.

In February 1997, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported La Russa had invited Van Slyke to Cardinals spring training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., to compete for a job.

“It’s intriguing,” Van Slyke said. “I’ve always wanted to end my career with a Cardinals uniform on.”

A week later, the Cardinals signed Van Slyke and another utilityman candidate, former Indians slugger Cory Snyder, to minor-league contracts.

Third base training

When Van Slyke, 36, arrived at Cardinals camp, he was given a locker between those of pitcher Dennis Eckersley, 42, and outfielder Willie McGee, 38. “They’re trying to make me feel young,” Van Slyke said.

Cardinals coaches Carney Lansford, an all-star third baseman for La Russa with the Athletics, and Mark DeJohn, a former Tigers infielder, were assigned to work with Van Slyke. The Cardinals wanted to see whether he could be a backup to Gary Gaetti at third base.

“You can’t just take a guy from the outfield and stick him at third base,” Lansford said. “But given the proper amount of time and the right instruction he could have a chance.”

Van Slyke said of playing third base, “I’m better than I was 11 years ago.”

Replied Lansford: “He’s got a long way to go.”

Big bat

What Van Slyke still could do best was hit.

In his first exhibition game, Van Slyke delivered a RBI-single off Reds reliever Jeff Shaw. “That was a professional at-bat, a big-league at-bat,” La Russa gushed.

Van Slyke produced 11 hits in his first 20 at-bats.

“He’s shown that his talent is alive and kicking,” said La Russa.

Said Van Slyke: “My biggest concern was to get a fair shot and I’ve gotten that. Even if I don’t make the team, there will be absolutely no animosity toward Tony or this organization. This organization owes me nothing. I owe the Cardinals and baseball everything.”

On March 22, Van Slyke tore a muscle in his left calf.

Hummel wrote that Van Slyke “would have made the club” if he hadn’t been injured.

Next step

On March 26, needing to set their roster as they prepared to leave Florida, the Cardinals told Van Slyke to remain at training camp and work on getting healthy.

“When I’m ready, there’s only one place I want to play _ and that’s not extended spring training or (Class AAA) Louisville,” Van Slyke said.

La Russa indicated Van Slyke likely would need to accept a minor-league rehabilitation assignment before he could be considered for a spot on the Cardinals’ roster.

“We have to see if he really wants to do this,” La Russa said. “He wants some guarantees, but there are no guarantees in this game. He has to decide if he wants to take his best shot, with no guarantees.”

Go home

On the eve of the Cardinals’ April 1 season opener, Van Slyke, working out in Florida, complained to the Post-Dispatch about his status.

“I’d like to have some communication with (general manager) Walt Jocketty and Tony La Russa,” Van Slyke said. “Communication with this new group is something that needs to be worked on … Right now, a lukewarm response would be great. At least I’d be getting one.”

Van Slyke’s comments irked La Russa, who, after stewing for a couple of days, delivered a salvo.

“That’s just not accurate,” La Russa told Hummel. “I talked to him Wednesday or Thursday before we left (Florida). I think the problem is he’s not hearing what he wants to hear.

“If he wants communication and he needs certainty, he can go home … The Cardinals don’t need to be criticized for handling his situation. He hasn’t had any communication? Well, my communication is to go home. It was all explained to him. If he can’t understand that, then go home. What he said was extremely disappointing. It just shocked me.”

End of the line

With his wife about to deliver a baby, Van Slyke returned to St. Louis and waited. By the end of April, it was clear Van Slyke’s bridges had been burned.

“I don’t think there’s any more interest from their point of view,” Van Slyke said of the Cardinals.

Said La Russa: “There are a lot of things he needs to do before he comes here that he hasn’t shown a willingness to do.”

Van Slyke’s comeback bid had ended.

Previously: How Andy Van Slyke amazed Jose Oquendo

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Struggling to score, the Cardinals opened the 1997 season by losing a franchise-record six in a row.

From April 1-6, the 1997 Cardinals scored a total of 12 runs in losing three to the Expos at Montreal and three to the Astros at Houston. All the games were played indoors.

It was the first time the Cardinals started a season 0-6.

The ugly start 20 years ago put the Cardinals in a hole from which they couldn’t recover. Never getting their record above .500, the 1997 Cardinals finished 73-89.

Expectations had been for a much different outcome.

High hopes

In 1996, Tony La Russa’s first season as St. Louis manager, the Cardinals (88-74) won the National League Central Division title and swept the Padres in the NL Division Series. After getting within a win of clinching the 1996 pennant before losing to the Braves in the NL Championship Series, the Cardinals were supposed to be contenders in 1997.

At a banquet in February 1997, La Russa raised the stakes, predicting the Cardinals would repeat as division champions.

The Cardinals had a successful spring training in Florida, posting a 19-11 record in exhibition games.

“So far, the signs are outstanding _ the way they’ve gone through the drills, the way they’ve competed in the games and the way they’ve related to each other and the coaches,” La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The signs are all go.”

After departing Florida, the Cardinals went to Arlington, Texas, and then to Baltimore to play exhibition games against the Rangers and Orioles _ St. Louis won both _ before opening the season on April 1 at Montreal.

In his column for the Post-Dispatch, Bernie Miklasz wrote, “La Russa has had the game face on since, oh, about Dec. 26. It should be a good year. The Cardinals should repeat as Central Division champions.”

Loss #1, April 1, at Montreal

In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, Cardinals reliever Tony Fossas walked pinch-hitter Sherman Obando with the bases loaded, forcing in the winning run and giving the Expos a 2-1 victory. Boxscore

Obando never took a swing in the six-pitch at-bat. “I didn’t see the ball up, so I didn’t swing,” Obando said.

The Cardinals scored their lone run in the sixth when Delino DeShields scampered home from third on a wild pitch from Jim Bullinger.

Loss #2, April 2, at Montreal

The Expos, behind the pitching of Jeff Juden, Omar Daal and 39-year-old Lee Smith, held the Cardinals to two singles and won, 4-1.

For the second consecutive game, the lone Cardinals run was scored by DeShields advancing from third to home on a wild pitch.

Said La Russa: “I have confidence that good hitters are going to hit.” Boxscore

Loss #3, April 3, at Montreal

The Cardinals blew leads of 2-0 and 4-2, losing 9-4. The Expos raked starter Alan Benes for 10 hits and seven runs in 4.2 innings.

“You can draw any conclusions you want to,” said La Russa. “They just flat outplayed us all three games.” Boxscore

The next day, in Houston, Miklasz met with La Russa before the game and described the manager as looking “as cheerful as your basic werewolf.”

“Those three insipid losses (at Montreal) made baseball’s most famous vegetarian more nauseated than he would by a plate stacked high with pepperoni, sausage and bacon,” Miklasz wrote.

Said La Russa: “We should have been more competitive in each of those three games. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have done better in how we played _ and the manager should have done a better job.”

Loss #4, April 4, at Houston

Jeff Bagwell’s bases-loaded single off Eric Ludwick in the 11th inning snapped a 2-2 tie and lifted the Astros to a 3-2 victory.

The Cardinals started a season 0-4 for the first time since 1985.

St. Louis stranded 13 base runners. John Mabry drove in both Cardinals runs. Boxscore

In four games, the Cardinals were batting .167 with runners in scoring position.

“I feel terrific about our club,” La Russa said. “There isn’t anything we didn’t try to do tonight. The effort was there, the intensity, everything.”

Loss #5, April 5, at Houston

The Astros beat the Cardinals, 6-2. With their 0-5 record, the 1997 Cardinals matched the teams of 1902, 1919, 1960 and 1973 for worst start in franchise history.

Wrote Miklasz: “The lineup is as lethal as a Pez dispenser.”

Sid Fernandez started and earned the win in his final appearance of a 15-year major-league career. Ramon Garcia pitched four scoreless innings in relief for the save. Boxscore

“It’s a six-month test … I still like our club a lot,” said La Russa.

Loss #6, April 6, at Houston

Bagwell, hitting for infielder Tim Bogar in the eighth, delivered a two-run, two-out double off John Frascatore, erasing a 2-1 Cardinals lead and carrying the Astros to a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

The three-game sweep gave the Astros more wins against the Cardinals in 1997 than they had in 1996, when they lost 11 of 13 to St. Louis.

Having set the franchise record for most losses to begin a season, the Cardinals limped back to St. Louis for their home opener.

“I think I see guys trying to force things,” La Russa said. “It’s human nature. I hope they do. Otherwise, it means they don’t care.”

Said Cardinals third baseman Gary Gaetti: “It’s hard not to press when you’re really trying to get that first one.”

That’s a winner

After an off-day in St. Louis on April 7, the Cardinals played their home opener on April 8.

Willie McGee, 38, hitting for pitcher Mark Petkovsek, rescued the Cardinals by slashing a home run off Ugueth Urbina with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, giving St. Louis a 2-1 triumph over the Expos. Boxscore

“You couldn’t write a better script,” Mabry said of McGee’s streak-busting blast.

Said La Russa: “This was more dramatic than anything I’ve seen in a movie.”

Previously: Why Cards chose Delino DeShields over Ryne Sandberg

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(In tribute to Dallas Green, who died March 22, 2017, at 82, I am posting here a story I did that was published in the Dec. 31, 2007, farewell edition of The Cincinnati Post.)

When Lou Piniella was chosen to manage the Reds, the ball club called a press conference at Riverfront Stadium on Nov. 3, 1989.

It was unusual for me, sports editor of The Post, to attend. I usually worked from the newsroom. But I went to the stadium that day.

The Reds were a troubled franchise. Pete Rose, who had managed them since 1984, had been banned from baseball. His interim successor, Tommy Helms, had departed bitterly, saying he never would work for club owner Marge Schott again.

Piniella, who had worked for New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, made a strong impression. He spoke convincingly about why the Reds would succeed.

When Piniella finished, I approached Schott. I had been named sports editor in August, a few days before Rose’s banishment, and hadn’t met Schott.

“I’m Mark Tomasik, new sports editor of The Post.”

“Nice to meet you, honey,” Schott said. “I hope you’ll bring some class to The Cincinnati Post.”

From March 1989 to December 1997, I had the privilege of working for The Post, most of that time as its sports editor. It was an era of big personalities and big stories in local sports: Rose, Schott, Piniella, Sam Wyche, Paul Brown, Boomer Esiason, Bob Huggins, Pete Gillen, Rick Pitino and dozens more.

The Post already had a lot of class when I arrived. Our sports section regularly was voted best in Ohio and one of the top 10 in the nation.

The staff talent was deep, diverse. Its best attribute: aggressiveness. Most big breaking-news local sports stories of that era were reported first by The Post.

The newsroom culture was to pursue news hard. So when I came to work at 5:30 the morning of Oct. 18, 1989, and was greeted by a story across Page 1 of the Enquirer headlined, “Dallas Green offered Reds’ manager’s job,” I knew what to expect.

Within minutes, the managing editor was at my door. “We have to have something that matches or advances that story for our Page 1,” he said.

“I don’t have any reporters at this hour,” I replied.

Our Reds reporter was in San Francisco, where that night an earthquake had rocked the Bay Area, led to more than 60 deaths and halted Game 3 of the World Series. I wasn’t going to call at 2:30 a.m. Pacific time and ask him to chase the Green story.

“I’ll take care of it,” I told the managing editor.

The Post had a source list of phone numbers for many of the biggest names in sports. Green, who lived near Philadelphia, was on the list.

Just before 7, with deadline an hour away, I dialed Green’s number. He answered. I identified myself and began to explain the call.

Green responded with a string of profanities, and hung up.

“He’s not talking,” I told the managing editor.

“You’ve got to find a way to get the story,” he said.

I waited 30 minutes.

I dialed again.

“Hello.”

“Please don’t hang up,” I pleaded. “I need your help.”

Green paused. I told him what the Enquirer was reporting and asked him to deny or confirm.

“You want to know why I was so upset when you called earlier?” he said.

“OK.”

“My daughter lives in San Francisco. That mean anything to you? We’ve been trying to contact her all night. We haven’t been able to get through. We’re worried sick. When the phone rang, we were hoping it was her.”

My impression of Dallas Green changed that instant.

“I haven’t been offered the Reds’ job,” he said. “Is that what you need?”

Yes. We printed it. Page 1. All editions.

Two weeks later, Piniella was named manager.

_ _ _

Copyright: Copyright (c) 2007 The Cincinnati Post

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In a classic clash of individual free will versus organizational authority, Al Hrabosky challenged the rules of manager Vern Rapp, creating a controversy that threatened to divide the Cardinals during spring training in 1977.

al_hrabosky3Forty years ago, Rapp, the Cardinals’ first-year manager, had declared no Cardinals player could have a beard, moustache, long sideburns or long hair. Hrabosky, the Cardinals’ top relief pitcher, had earned the nickname “Mad Hungarian,” in part, because of an intimidating look that featured a Fu Manchu moustache.

Bristling at what he considered unnecessarily rigid rules and convinced a clean-shaven look hampered his effectiveness as a pitcher, Hrabosky ripped Rapp in comments to media.

For Rapp, who never had been in the big leagues until replacing the popular Red Schoendienst as manager, Hrabosky’s outburst was a critical test of his ability to command the respect of the team.

Spirit of St. Louis

A St. Louis native, Rapp was a catcher in the Cardinals’ system from 1946-50 and from 1953-54. He was a Cardinals minor-league manager from 1965-68 before moving to the Reds organization.

After the Cardinals fired Schoendienst, they hired Rapp because of a no-nonsense reputation.

Before leaving for 1977 spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., Rapp, 48, revealed his edict on hair.

“Rapp’s tonsorial order took priority over a lot more important matters among St. Louis fans,” The Sporting News reported. “The two daily newspapers were swamped with letters, most of them in favor of the manager.”

In explaining why he implemented the ban, Rapp told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I’ve had those codes on teams I’ve managed since 1965. It’s to give the players a feeling of being responsible to the profession they’re in. The dress and hair codes reflect their character and personality to the public. It’s a big way they can start developing pride.”

Rapp’s rules

Most Cardinals players reported to spring training clean-shaven and with haircuts. Third baseman Ken Reitz “was asked by the manager to get his hair trimmed and did, but not enough to suit Rapp,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“There are a couple of others who still didn’t get their hair trimmed enough at the sides, but they will,” Rapp said.

The first player to challenge the rule was outfielder Bake McBride, who attempted to keep a goatee.

When Rapp ordered McBride to shave, McBride responded, “You’re going to make enemies.”

Said Rapp: “I didn’t come down here to win friends.”

Hrabosky, ever the showman, invited the media to film and photograph him as he shaved his Fu Manchu and beard.

The hair code wasn’t the only change introduced by Rapp. He issued daily step-by-step mimeographed instructions to the players, gave them identical team exercise suits to wear, required them to attend a demonstration by coach Sonny Ruberto on how uniforms should be worn and scheduled workouts before and after lunch.

After the Cardinals were beaten, 10-0, by the Mets in their spring training opener, “Rapp sent his players on a 15-lap tour from first to home,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Hate mood

Hrabosky initially tried to use his unhappiness with the hair code as motivation to pitch well.

“I want to prove to Rapp that I’m his No. 1 relief pitcher,” Hrabosky said. “I want to be his No. 1 stopper. I wanted to be in a hate mood and Rapp put me there by taking away my beard and moustache. But, look, I super-like Vern. I want to help him, help the ballclub and help myself. He has aroused something in me to fight back.”

A few days later, though, Hrabosky directed his frustration at Rapp.

Al apologizes

On March 20, Hrabosky told the Associated Press: “My mental outlook is atrocious. There’s more dissension on this club than I’ve ever seen.”

That same day, Hrabosky told United Press International his teammates were being stifled by Rapp. “The guys are just standing still,” Hrabosky said. “The reason is they’re afraid to move.”

Informed of Hrabosky’s comments, Rapp told the Post-Dispatch, “I just don’t understand it.”

Before the Cardinals left for their March 21 exhibition game against the Red Sox at Winter Haven, Fla., Rapp called a team meeting.

“I wanted to get everything out in the open,” Rapp said. “I wanted the players to know that I am the manager of this team. They fully realize this and they are willing to accept it.”

Hrabosky stood up at the meeting and apologized.

“I’m man enough to admit I was wrong … I’m going to keep my mouth shut and do what I have to do,” Hrabosky told the Post-Dispatch. “I offended Vern. I feel I threatened his helm. As a team member, I felt I had no right to say what I did.”

Catcher Ted Simmons, the only other player to speak at the meeting, urged his teammates to conduct themselves professionally. Said Simmons of Rapp: “He is the manager and that’s that. If he wants you to stand on your head, then you should do it.”

Family feud

The Cardinals opened the regular season on April 7 and beat the Pirates, 12-6, at Pittsburgh. Hrabosky pitched 2.1 innings and helped protect the win for starter John Denny.

Afterward, a jubilant Hrabosky was asked by The Sporting News to reflect on his spring training criticism of Rapp. “Maybe I was a little selfish and a little childish about the matter,” Hrabosky said. “I accept it now.”

Peace, though, wasn’t long-lasting.

In May, Rapp suspended Hrabosky for insubordination after the pitcher refused the manager’s request to meet.

In June, McBride, who remained unhappy with Rapp, was traded to the Phillies.

In July, with Hrabosky beginning to grow facial hair and threatening to file a grievance with the players’ union, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch ordered Rapp to discontinue the hair code.

Hrabosky led the 1977 Cardinals in saves (10) and games pitched (65) but his ERA was 4.38. After the season, he was traded to the Royals.

Rapp was fired in April 1978 and replaced by Ken Boyer.

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

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