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After slicing his pay, the Cardinals cut deeper into the pride of Joe Medwick with a move he viewed as a public insult.

Eighty years ago, on Aug. 1, 1939, the Cardinals were one strike away from completing a win at home against the Braves when manager Ray Blades removed Medwick from left field for a defensive replacement.

Blades said the move was made for strategic reasons. Medwick said it was done to humiliate him.

Salary squabble

Medwick, a right-handed hitter of Hall of Fame caliber, made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in September 1932 and became their left fielder in 1933.

In 1934, Medwick batted .379 in the World Series against the Tigers, helping the Cardinals win the championship.

Medwick achieved his best season in 1937 when he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award and earned the Triple Crown by leading the league in batting average (.374), home runs (31) and RBI (154).

Though he had another stellar season in 1938, batting .322 with 21 home runs and leading the league in doubles (47) and RBI (122), the Cardinals wanted to cut his pay for 1939 because he didn’t repeat his Triple Crown performance.

Medwick, 27, sought a 1939 salary of $22,000, a $2,000 increase from his 1938 pay of $20,000. The Cardinals offered $15,000, The Sporting News reported.

After a holdout during 1939 spring training, Medwick signed for $18,000, a $2,000 cut from what he made in 1938.

“Certainly Medwick is not happy with the Cardinals,” wrote J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He was unhappy when he signed his 1939 contract and made no attempt to conceal the fact. Joe felt he had been browbeaten into signing.”

The Dodgers, managed by Medwick’s friend and former Cardinals teammate, Leo Durocher, reportedly offered $200,000 for Medwick in the spring of 1939, but were rebuffed.

When the Dodgers came to St. Louis for a series against the Cardinals in late July 1939, Durocher hosted a dinner party and Medwick attended, causing some to suspect tampering.

Medwick dismissed the concerns, telling the St. Louis Star-Times, “I don’t want anyone to get the impression I ever ease up an inch when I’m playing against the Dodgers. No one is going to select my friends. If I want to attend a dinner at Durocher’s home, that’s my business.”

Mad as hell

After the Dodgers left town, the Cardinals opened a series versus the Braves on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 1, at Sportsman’s Park.

In the ninth inning, with the Cardinals ahead, 4-3, the Braves had a runner on first, two outs, and Tony Cuccinello at the plate against Clyde Shoun.

With the count at 1-and-2 on Cuccinello, Cardinals coach Mike Gonzalez, acting on orders from Blades, came out of the dugout, asked the plate umpire for time and hollered out to Medwick to come off the field.

As Lynn King, a reserve outfielder, trotted out to take over in left, Medwick “staged a temperamental demonstration that showed his total disregard for his manager’s ideas of how to run a ballclub,” the Star-Times reported.

According to published reports, Medwick “threw his glove high in the air, dug up the turf with his spikes as he marched sullenly toward his glove, and kicked the glove around with disgust before he picked it up.”

Instead of going to the dugout, Medwick “stormed through the wagon gate on the third-base side of the grandstand,” the Star-Times reported.

As Medwick exited, Cuccinello swung and missed at strike three, ending the game. Boxscore

Playing the percentages

Asked why Medwick was removed, Blades told the Post-Dispatch, “I consider King a better defensive outfielder than the other fellow.”

Regarding the timing, Blades said, “I would have made the change earlier, but I was afraid (the Braves) might get another run to tie the score and I wanted to keep King in reserve as a pinch-hitter. With two outs, I decided the wisest thing was to strengthen our defense.”

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon defended his manager, telling the Post-Dispatch, “That’s Blades baseball. He plays for every bit of percentage … I didn’t think anybody had reason for feeling badly or being hurt.”

Others saw it differently:

_ The Sporting News: “The yanking of Joe in that game could hardly be construed as less than a humiliation.”

_ The Post-Dispatch: “If Blades has a weakness, it is the coldness which makes him forget and disregard the human element as he strives for victory.”

Dissatisfied with Cards

Medwick, who went into the clubhouse after he left the field, ducked into the trainer’s room to avoid reporters.

On the morning of Aug. 3, before the Braves and Cardinals played a doubleheader, Star-Times sports editor Sid Keener contacted Medwick at home and got him to talk about the incident.

Medwick said, “I think it was the rawest deal I’ve ever received in my baseball career … I’m dissatisfied playing with the Cardinals.

“If Blades thought I wasn’t spry enough to go after some drives in the ninth, why didn’t he take me out before the inning started?” Medwick said. “I don’t look like an old man out there, do I? I’ve made some pretty fancy catches this season, saved a lot of extra-base hits for our pitchers and I would have caught anything Cuccinello would have hit out to left field.”

Forget about it

When Medwick arrived at Sportsman’s Park for the Thursday afternoon doubleheader, he and Blades met and “apparently smoothed out their differences,” the Star-Times reported.

“I simply explained to Joe why I took him out of the game,” said Blades. “As for a feud or any personal differences between us, that’s foolish.”

Said Medwick: “Blades explained his move and I agree with him. Let’s forget the whole deal.”

Blades and Medwick posed in the dugout for photographers and shook hands.

Medwick got an ovation when he took his position in left field. When Medwick batted for the first time, leading off the second inning, he was cheered and responded by hitting a home run. Boxscore

Medwick batted .332 with 48 doubles and 117 RBI for the 1939 Cardinals.

In 1940, the Cardinals stumbled and, with their record at 14-24, Breadon fired Blades on June 7. Five days later, Medwick was traded to the Dodgers.

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Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi staged a sit-in at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis to protest an umpire’s call favorable to the Cardinals.

Lucchesi, who managed the Phillies (1970-72), Rangers (1975-77) and Cubs (1987), died on June 8, 2019, at 92.

After managing in the minor leagues for 19 years, Lucchesi (pronounced Lou-Kay-See) got his first chance in the majors with the 1970 Phillies, a team in a rebuilding phase.

Lucchesi was promoted from the minors “for one reason: Win back the hearts and minds of fans who abandoned the Phillies in droves,” Philadelphia columnist Bill Conlin wrote.

After a 10-9 record in April, the 1970 Phillies were 10-18 in May.

In seeking help for his team from a higher power, “I even lit a candle in church in Pittsburgh, and it blew out,” Lucchesi said to Sports Illustrated.

Dividing line

On June 27, 1970, the Phillies entered their Saturday afternoon game at St. Louis with a 31-37 record and were in fifth place in the six-team National League East.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the score tied at 8-8, Jim Beauchamp, starting in center field in place of injured Jose Cardenal, led off and lined a drive to deep right-center against Joe Hoerner, a former Cardinal.

As the ball reached the wall at the 386-foot mark, “two fans reached out and one of them touched the ball, which fell to the ground,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Phillies thought Beauchamp’s hit should be declared a ground-rule double because of fan interference, but second-base umpire Tony Venzon signaled a home run, giving the Cardinals a 9-8 lead.

Luchessi ran out of the dugout to argue with Venzon and was joined by six other Phillies, who circled the umpire near second base. Venzon explained to them the ball hit above the yellow line at the top of the wall and therefore was a home run.

The Phillies disagreed, saying the fan touched the ball as it hit the wall below the yellow line.

Call stands

According to the Inquirer, a television replay supported the Phillies’ argument, and Cardinals broadcasters “said they thought the ball hit the arm of a fan reaching downward from the first row of the bleachers,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“He reached below the yellow line,” said Phillies right fielder Byron Browne, a former Cardinal.

Said Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa: “There was no way that could be a home run.”

The Phillies claimed Venzon hadn’t run into the outfield to get a close look at the play. Lucchesi asked him to consult with the other umpires.

“Tony, getting it right is the most important thing,” Lucchesi said to him.

Venzon replied, “No, that’s it.”

“What got me so hot at Venzon was him refusing to ask the umpires for help,” Lucchesi said.

Temper tantrum

Outraged, Lucchesi “kicked clouds of dirt and gestured wildly,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported. According to the Inquirer, “a wild argument continued for several minutes,” and Lucchesi was ejected.

Lucchesi said he wanted to run out to the outfield wall and ask the fan to show Venzon where he touched the ball, “but I got so hot at jawing with Venzon I forgot what I really was going to do.”

Instead, Lucchesi plopped down on the second-base bag. Venzon ordered him to leave the field, but Lucchesi refused to budge.

“When I sat down on the base, I told him I was staying put until he asked his buddies,” Lucchesi said.

“He knew he was wrong and he didn’t hustle on the play.”

Magic word

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, “Park police were ready to remove Frank off the base.”

Phillies coach George Myatt arrived, looked Lucchesi in the eye and said, “Luke.”

The word got Lucchesi’s attention and he got up and left the field.

Myatt rescued Lucchesi with a pre-arranged code.

“I know myself well enough to know that when I get that hot, I’m not responsible,” Lucchesi said to the Philadelphia Daily News. “I reach a point where I don’t realize what I’m doing. Before the season, I gave the coaches a code word to holler at me in case I blew my top.”

The code word was “Luke,” a shortened variation of Lucchesi.

“”When I hear that, I know I’m going to get myself in trouble,” Lucchesi said.

The Cardinals held on for a 9-8 victory. Boxscore

The next day Lucchesi learned what kind of trouble he’d gotten into. He was fined $150 by National League president Chub Feeney, who said in a telegram, “Any repetition of this type of action will merit a suspension.”

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Ray Blades was a pitcher for an elementary school team when Branch Rickey first took notice of him and became impressed by his baseball skills.

Rickey kept tabs on Blades in the ensuing years, brought him into the Cardinals’ system as a player and groomed him for a leadership role.

On Nov. 6, 1938, Blades became manager of the Cardinals.

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon had the final say on naming a manager, but he was influenced by Rickey, the club’s vice president and general manager, who recommended Blades.

Attracting attention

Blades was born in Mount Vernon, Ill., and lived there for two years before his family moved to nearby McLeansboro, Ill.  In 1909, the family relocated to St. Louis and Blades enrolled at Franz Sigel School, a public elementary school.

In 1913, Blades, in his final year in grammar school, pitched in the championship final of the Public School League baseball tournament at Sportsman’s Park. Rickey, who was working for the St. Louis Browns, was the home plate umpire for the game and took note of the talented pitcher.

“I scouted the boy when he played on a public school team here,” Rickey told the St. Louis Star-Times. “I admired his aggressiveness.”

After graduating from elementary school, Blades attended McKinley High School in St. Louis for a year before the family went back to McLeansboro.

Blades graduated from high school in McLeansboro and went to work for an electrical company in St. Louis. In 1918, with World War I raging, Blades enlisted in the Army, served in France and was discharged in May 1919. When he returned home, he joined a semi-pro baseball team in Mount Vernon.

The Cardinals, managed by Rickey, came to Mount Vernon that summer to play an exhibition game against the local club. Blades again impressed Rickey and signed with the Cardinals after the game.

Short fuse

Blades made his professional debut in the minor leagues in 1920 as a second baseman. After another year in the minors, Blades reached the big leagues with the Cardinals in 1922. The Cardinals’ best player, Rogers Hornsby, was the second baseman, so Blades was converted to an outfielder.

A fiery player, Blades sparked the Cardinals as a leadoff batter. He hit .311 with 21 doubles and 13 triples in 1924. The next year, he hit .342 with 37 doubles and eight triples.

“He was a dashing, courageous type, arguing with opposing players and umpires almost every afternoon,” the Star-Times reported.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Blades had “a violent temper” and “when something makes him see red, he really goes to town.”

Blades “was strangely unpopular” with Cardinals fans, the Post-Dispatch reported, “and the men on the bench used to boil and swear when the fans would boo Ray.”

Managing up

On Aug. 17, 1926, Blades, batting .306, tore ligaments in a knee while chasing a fly ball. The injury caused him to sit out the final month of the regular season and the World Series.

Blades never regained full effectiveness. He was a reserve in 1927 and 1928 and got demoted to the minors in 1929. He returned to the Cardinals as a player-coach in 1930 and served in that role through the 1932 season. Blades played 10 seasons with the Cardinals and hit .301 with a .395 on-base percentage

Rickey, who was Blades’ manager from 1922-25, became head of baseball operations for the Cardinals and built their farm system. He chose Blades to manage the Cardinals’ Columbus (Ohio) affiliate in 1933.

Blades managed in the Cardinals’ system for six seasons _ three with Columbus (1933-35) and three with Rochester (1936-38). Rickey credited Blades with the development of several prospects, including pitcher Paul Dean and outfielder Terry Moore.

On Sept. 11, 1938, Breadon reluctantly fired Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch, who was feuding with Rickey. Breadon liked Frisch, but Rickey was getting overtures from the Cubs and Breadon feared Rickey would join the Cardinals’ rival if Frisch wasn’t ousted. Cardinals coach Mike Gonzalez replaced Frisch for the remainder of the season, becoming the first Cuban-born manager in the major leagues.

Big promotion

The top candidates to manage the Cardinals in 1939 were two of their minor-league managers, Blades and Burt Shotton, along with former Dodgers manager Burleigh Grimes and former Phillies manager Jimmie Wilson, the Star-Times reported. All four had played for the Cardinals. Shotton also had managed the Phillies and Reds, making Blades the only one of the candidates who didn’t have big-league managing experience.

Rickey, however, urged Breadon to select Blades, whom he called “one of my own products.”

“Pressure by Rickey is said to have been a strong factor in gaining the appointment” for Blades, the Star-Times reported.

“I put in all the good licks I could for Blades,” Rickey said. “I believe we’ll see the return of the Gashouse Gang spirit under Blades’ leadership.”

Blades, 42, got a one-year contract. “I naturally have always wanted this position, but never dared hope I would get it,” he said.

The hiring received a lukewarm reception from Cardinals fans, who were hoping for a manager with a higher profile.

“I realized I would be stepping into a fast one with the fans in St. Louis if I decided on Blades,” Breadon said. “I feel Blades merits more consideration than he has been given by baseball’s followers. He’s been a sharp student of the game and he has developed many young stars for us.”

Short stay

The Cardinals finished in second place with a 92-61 mark in Blades’ first season as manager in 1939, but they started poorly the next year and were 14-24 when Breadon, without consulting Rickey, fired Blades on June 7, 1940, and replaced him with Billy Southworth.

Southworth led the Cardinals to two World Series championships (1942 and 1944) and three consecutive National League pennants (1942-44).

Blades became a coach with the 1942 Reds. After Rickey joined the Dodgers, he hired Blades, who managed the Dodgers’ St. Paul affiliate from 1944-46. Blades was a Dodgers coach in 1947 and 1948.

In 1951, Blades returned to St. Louis as a coach on the staff of Cardinals manager Marty Marion. Blades also was a Cubs coach from 1953-56.

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Gussie Busch made a handshake agreement to hire Leo Durocher to manage the Cardinals, lied about it to the public and reneged on the commitment.

Busch’s mishandling of the Durocher deal was one of several missteps made by the meddling Cardinals owner during the 1964 season.

Despite Busch’s bumbling, the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant on the last day of the regular season and went on to clinch a World Series title against the Yankees.

Holy cow!

On Aug. 17, 1964, the Cardinals were nine games out of first place when Busch, figuring there was no hope for a pennant, fired general manager Bing Devine and replaced him with Bob Howsam, a colleague of consultant Branch Rickey.

Busch wanted to fire manager Johnny Keane, too, but decided to wait until after the season.

On Aug. 29, 1964, before a Saturday game between the Dodgers and Cardinals at St. Louis, Durocher was interviewed by broadcaster Harry Caray. Durocher, a shortstop for the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang clubs in the 1930s before becoming a manager and leading the Dodgers (1941) and Giants (1951 and 1954) to pennants, was in his fourth season as a Dodgers coach in 1964 and Caray asked him whether he wanted to manage again.

If an offer was made, Durocher replied, “I just know I would accept if it was a good ballclub.”

Busch was listening and liked what he heard. He contacted Caray and told him he wanted to meet with Durocher the next morning. Caray called Durocher at his hotel room that night and said he’d drive Durocher to Busch’s estate in the morning.

In his book “Nice Guys Finish Last,” Durocher said, “Harry was going to pick me up at 8 in the morning, not in front of the hotel but two blocks down on Lindell Boulevard where nobody would see us.”

It’s a deal

On Aug. 30, 1964, Caray took Durocher to Busch’s home and waited in the car as Durocher went inside. Busch and Durocher had breakfast before going into an office where they talked for about an hour. According to Durocher, Busch stuck out his hand and said, “You’re the manager of the ballclub. Don’t worry about the salary.”

Durocher returned to the car and told Caray what happened. “Harry was simply overjoyed,” Durocher said.

When the Dodgers got back to Los Angeles, Durocher informed club owner Walter O’Malley about his talk with Busch. O’Malley already knew, Durocher said, because Busch had phoned him. Durocher and O’Malley agreed Durocher would resign near the end of the season, clearing the way for the Cardinals to hire him.

Left hanging

On Sept. 22, 1964, three weeks after Busch and Durocher met, Milt Richman of United Press International reported Keane would be fired within two weeks and Durocher “most likely will succeed him.”

“The decision to fire Keane was reached some time ago” by Busch “who conferred with Durocher the last time the Dodgers were in St. Louis,” Richman reported.

Contacted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Busch said he had “great admiration for Durocher,” but denied he had met with him.

Durocher told United Press International, “I haven’t approached anybody and nobody has approached me.”

Asked about Keane’s performance as manager, Busch declined comment.

Busch “left Johnny Keane hanging by his thumbs,” the Post-Dispatch concluded.

On the day Richman broke the story, the Cardinals, in New York to play the Mets, were six games behind the first-place Phillies. It later was learned Keane met that day with a “trusted emissary” for the Yankees about the club’s managerial job, according to the Associated Press. The Yankees planned to fire manager Yogi Berra after the season and contacted Busch to get permission to talk to Keane. Busch gave his approval, but soon came to regret it.

The plot thickens

On Oct. 1, 1964, Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi announced Durocher would not return as coach “at his own request.”

Asked whether he was going to become Cardinals manager, Durocher told the Los Angeles Times, “My hands are tied. I just can’t say.” Bavasi said Durocher asked for his release so he could negotiate for a managerial job and he got the impression the Cardinals were the club.

Durocher’s timing was terrible because the Cardinals had surged while the Phillies had faltered. From Sept. 24 to Oct. 1, the Cardinals won eight in a row and moved into first place with three games remaining.

On Oct. 2, 1964, the day after Durocher resigned, Busch met Keane in the clubhouse and offered him a contract extension, but Keane said he preferred to wait until after the season to discuss an offer, the Post-Dispatch reported.

On Oct. 4, 1964, after the Cardinals clinched the pennant that day, Busch approached Keane at the team party and offered him “whatever you want,” but Keane said he wouldn’t talk terms until after the World Series.

October surprise

Busch’s attempts to sign Keane put Durocher in limbo. Durocher expected “to accept Busch’s offer to manage the Cardinals next season but when Leo pounced the cupboard was bare,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

On Oct. 9, 1964,, the New York Journal-American reported Busch offered Durocher $100,000 to forget about their agreement. Durocher denied getting any payoff from Busch.

The Cardinals clinched the World Series title on Oct. 15, 1964. Busch scheduled a news conference for the next morning with the intention of announcing a contract extension for Keane, but when Keane arrived at the gathering he handed Busch a resignation letter. Keane cited Busch’s firing of Devine and flirtation with Durocher among the reasons for his decision.

A few hours later, the Yankees fired Berra.

With Keane’s departure, Busch could have hired Durocher, but he feared a backlash from a fan base who blamed the two conspirators for driving out Keane. “Although Durocher has the qualifications and credentials to do the job on the field, indications are that public pressure might make this choice unwise for the ballclub _ and the (Anheuser-Busch) brewery,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Thanks, Leo

Busch called Durocher and “right from the beginning I didn’t like the way the conversation was going,” Durocher said. “All hemming and hawing and not a word about managing his ballclub.”

“I could understand the fix he was in,” Durocher said. “He had become the laughingstock of the country.”

Durocher also understood the public perceived he and Busch as having acted underhandedly.

As Busch dawdled, Durocher said to him, “Apparently what you’re trying to tell me is you can’t make me manager of your ballclub. Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

“Yeah,” said Busch, “in sort of a way.”

“It’s perfectly all right,” Durocher responded. “Forget the handshake. Forget you gave me the job.”

Busch replied, “Thanks very much, Leo. I knew you’d understand the predicament I was in” and hung up.

“There I sat, with the telephone in my hand,” Durocher said.

On Oct. 20, 1964, the Cardinals named coach Red Schoendienst to be the manager and the Yankees hired Keane to replace Berra.

Durocher worked in broadcasting for a year before becoming manager of the Cubs in 1966.

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In a pairing of two of the most successful and colorful sports leaders of the 1980s, Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka spent an evening with the Cardinals as a guest of their manager, Whitey Herzog.

Thirty years ago, on July 19, 1988, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Ditka got into a Cardinals uniform, took batting practice with the team and brought out the lineup card to the umpires at home plate before the start of the game against the Dodgers.

Ditka came to St. Louis to promote Herzog’s restaurant at Union Station. The management firm that ran Herzog’s restaurant also operated Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago.

Bringing Ditka and Herzog together created the media attention the restaurant managers sought.

Ditka led the 1985 Bears to a NFL championship, winning 15 of 16 regular-season games and all three postseason games. The Bears qualified for the playoffs in seven of his 11 seasons as their head coach. A popular “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch at the time featured actors playing blue-collar Bears fans who spoke with Chicago dialects about their devotion to “Da Bears” and to Ditka, “Da Coach.”

Herzog led the 1982 Cardinals to a World Series championship and followed that with National League pennant-winning seasons in 1985 and 1987. Dubbed “The White Rat” during his playing career because of his light-colored hair and resemblance to a Yankees pitcher with the same nickname, Herzog transformed the Cardinals into winners by emphasizing a style of play, called “Whiteyball,” featuring speed, fielding, relief pitching and fundamentals

Fan of The Man

Ditka was named Michael Dyczko when he was born Oct. 18, 1939, in Carnegie, Pa. The surname was changed to Ditka during his childhood because it was easier to pronounce.

As a youth in Aliquippa, Pa., where the family moved in the 1940s, Ditka became a Cardinals baseball fan because their best player, Stan Musial, also was from western Pennsylvania.

“I’ve been a St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan since I was a kid, basically because of one man, and that was The Man: Stan Musial,” Ditka told the Chicago Tribune in 1988. “Musial was from Donora, Pa., and I was from just outside of Pittsburgh. In the bottom of my heart, I’m still a Cardinals fan. I have to root for the Cubs every once in a while.”

At Aliquippa High School, Ditka played football, baseball and basketball and was coached by Press Maravich, the father of future college and NBA standout “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

Though Ditka was a catcher and outfielder for the high school baseball team, and later for the University of Pittsburgh, he knew his future was in football. “My fondest memories of baseball were playing in Little League and then in Pony League and then American Legion, because we competed pretty good in the state of Pennsylvania,” Ditka said.

After excelling as a receiver and punter for the University of Pittsburgh football Panthers from 1958-60, Ditka went on to become a top tight end in the NFL with the Bears (1961-66), Eagles (1967-68) and Cowboys (1969-72). He was inducted as a player into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.

Ditka was head coach of the Bears (1982-92) and Saints (1997-99).

“We always enjoyed playing the Cardinals in football,” Ditka said. “St. Louis went through a great era of football down here when Don Coryell was here and Jim Hart and Dan Dierdorf … They were about as good a team as there is in the Eastern Division.”

That’s entertainment

When Ditka got to the Cardinals baseball clubhouse to meet Herzog before the game with the Dodgers, he was issued a uniform with No. 89. That was his uniform number during his NFL playing days.

“Ditka and Herzog appeared to enjoy each other’s company,” columnist Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch observed, but both “appeared to be just the least bit embarrassed by what their business partners had gotten them into.”

The Cardinals had lost 10 of their previous 11 games, prompting Herzog to tell Ditka, “Let’s don’t joke around with this too much. Bad as we’re going it doesn’t pay to joke too much.”

Ditka stood 6 feet 3 and weighed 230 pounds, and when Herzog saw him in a size 48 Cardinals jersey, he called Tom Brunansky to come over and said to the strapping right fielder, “He’s going to take batting practice. If he hits one out, I may have to move you out of cleanup.”

Replied Brunansky: “He can have right field as far as I’m concerned. Anything for some run support.”

Brunansky, acquired by the Cardinals from the Twins three months earlier, went to his locker and came back wearing a Minnesota Vikings football T-shirt. “What do you think of this?” he said playfully to Ditka.

Hit and miss

In the batting cage, Ditka, 48, hit “a couple of soft-liners, a couple of semi-loud fouls,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Ditka hit “one drive to the warning track after several swings and misses.”

“He’s got a short stroke,” said Herzog. “He’s got potential.”

Ditka gave Cardinals players Bear caps to wear during batting practice. “You know what?” said Herzog. “We hit better with them Bears caps on.”

Wearing his Cardinals uniform with the name Ditka on the back, the Bears coach joined Dodgers coach Bill Russell in presenting team lineup cards at home plate to umpires Tom Hallion, Joe West, Bob Engel and Charlie Williams.

The Cardinals went on to beat the Dodgers, 3-2, that night. Brunansky, batting cleanup, contributed a single, a walk, a stolen base and scored a run. Boxscore

Three days later, Ditka was back with the Bears for the opening day of training camp in Wisconsin.

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Chuck Stobbs was a left-hander who made his major-league debut at age 18, pitched for three American League franchises, yielded an epic home run to Mickey Mantle, experienced a streak of 16 consecutive losses and was given a chance to extend his career with the Cardinals.

On July 9, 1958, Stobbs, 29, was claimed by the Cardinals from the Senators for the waiver price of $20,000.

The Cardinals utilized Stobbs as a reliever the remainder of the season before they released him. He returned to the Senators, reviving his career after discovering and correcting an eye problem.

Young pro

Stobbs was a standout athlete at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va., and was recruited by several college football programs. He chose to pursue a professional baseball career and was signed in May 1947 by Red Sox scout Specs Toporcer, a former Cardinals infielder.

Stobbs was 18 when he made his major-league debut with the Red Sox in a relief role on Sept. 15, 1947, against the White Sox. He became a starter in 1949 and had one of his best seasons in 1950, posting a 12-7 record.

After the 1951 season, the Red Sox traded Stobbs to the White Sox and he spent one season with them before he was dealt to the Senators in December 1952.

“Stobbs suffers from asthma and the changeable spring weather makes him weak,” columnist Bob Addie reported in The Sporting News. “Once the weather gets hot and dry, Chuck feels human again and becomes a better pitcher.”

Stobbs made his first regular-season appearance for the Senators on April 17, 1953, in a start against the Yankees at Griffith Stadium in Washington and it was memorable. In the fifth inning, Mantle hit a pitch from Stobbs out of the ballpark, a home run estimated to have traveled more than 500 feet and the only ball to clear the left field bleachers at Griffith Stadium. Boxscore

In 1956, Stobbs was 15-15 for the Senators, but lost his last five decisions. The losing streak stretched to 16 when Stobbs lost his first 11 decisions in 1957.

Stobbs was 8-20 with a 5.36 ERA for the Senators in 1957 and 2-6 with a 6.04 ERA for them in 1958 when he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cardinals.

Seeking relief

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson had pitched and managed in the American League for the Tigers, was familiar with Stobbs and thought the breaking-ball specialist could help in the bullpen.

“I suppose I’ll be called in to pitch to Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews and some of those other sluggers,” Stobbs said. “Maybe I’ll get past them by walking them.”

Stobbs disliked airplane travel and was dismayed to learn the Cardinals took flights on longer road trips. “I didn’t know the train was so obsolete,” Stobbs said. “I thought I was in baseball, but it seems somewhere along the way I joined the Air Force.”

Stobbs made his Cardinals debut on July 13 against the Pirates at St. Louis. Entering the game in the fifth inning with a 6-5 lead, he yielded a two-run home run to Bill Mazeroski and took the loss. Boxscore

On July 16, in a four-inning relief stint against the Braves at St. Louis, Stobbs gave up back-to-back home runs to Mathews and Hank Aaron and took another loss. Boxscore

A week later, on July 23 at Milwaukee, Stobbs relieved starter Larry Jackson and shut out the Braves for six innings. Boxscore

When the Cardinals fell into an eight-game losing streak from July 27 to Aug. 3, Stobbs offered to contribute the rabbits feet and other good-luck charms fans sent him when he experienced his 16-game skid with the Senators. “The charms apparently are easier to find than prospects from Redbird farms who can help right away,” wrote Neal Russo of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Stobbs lost his first three decisions with the Cardinals before earning his lone win on Aug. 6 with five scoreless relief innings against the Giants at St. Louis. Stobbs also walked, scored a run and executed a sacrifice bunt. Boxscore

On Sept. 9, Stobbs earned a save against the Cubs at St. Louis, entering with two on, two outs and an 8-7 lead in the ninth and retiring Walt Moryn on a fly out. Boxscore

Stobbs finished with a 1-3 record, a save and a 3.63 ERA in 17 relief appearances for the 1958 Cardinals. Left-handed batters hit .300 (15-for-50) against him.

Eye opener

Described by The Sporting News as a “carefree bachelor,” Stobbs got married in November 1958 and was preparing to report to spring training before the Cardinals released him in January 1959.

Stobbs was home in Washington, D.C., when he went to renew his driver’s license and nearly flunked the eye test. He saw an optometrist and learned he had weak vision in his right eye. The eye problem “seriously affected his depth perception and could easily account for his increasing inability in recent years to find home plate with his pitches,” Shirley Povich reported in The Sporting News.

After being fitted for glasses, Stobbs met with Calvin Griffith and convinced the Senators owner to give him a chance to compete for a job in spring training. Able to hit his spots with his improved vision, Stobbs had a string of 16 scoreless innings in 1959 spring training games and opened the regular season as a Senators reliever.

Stobbs was 1-8 with seven saves and a 2.98 ERA for the 1959 Senators. In 1960, Stobbs had one of his best Senators seasons, finishing 12-7 with a 3.32 ERA.

When the Senators relocated to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961, Stobbs went with them and pitched his final season there. In 15 years in the majors, Stobbs was 107-130 with a 4.29 ERA.

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