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Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

If Walt Jocketty had gotten what he wanted, Larry Walker would have spent most of his career, not just the last two seasons, with the Cardinals.

Walker, a three-time National League batting champion who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Jan. 21, 2020, played his first six seasons in the majors with the Expos and became a free agent in October 1994, the same month Jocketty replaced Dal Maxvill as Cardinals general manager.

Jocketty was looking for opportunities to improve the Cardinals, who were 53-61 in strike-shortened 1994, and wanted to sign Walker.

The Rockies made the most lucrative offer and Walker signed with them in April 1995.

Nine years later, Jocketty finally got his man, acquiring Walker in a trade with the Rockies in August 2004. Walker finished his career with the Cardinals, helping them reach the postseason in 2004 and 2005.

Opening at first

In December 1994, Walker, who threw right and batted left, had surgery on his right shoulder. The right fielder’s agent, Jim Bronner, said Walker would wait until March 1995 or later to sign because he wanted to show teams his shoulder was healed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Jocketty wanted Walker to be the Cardinals’ first baseman, replacing Gregg Jefferies, who became a free agent, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“Walt Jocketty says if he has time and money to sign only one free agent it would be a hitter to replace Gregg Jefferies rather than a pitcher,” the Post-Dispatch reported on Feb. 5, 1995. “His sights still are set on Larry Walker.”

A week later, as the Cardinals and all other major-league teams prepared to open spring training camps with replacement players while the big-leaguers remained on strike, Jocketty was in pursuit of Walker.

“He’s still the best player out there,” Jocketty said. “I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”

Coors vs. Busch

Whatever amount Jocketty offered, it wasn’t enough to top the Rockies, who gave Walker a four-year contract for a guaranteed $22.49 million on April 8, 1995, according to the Associated Press.

The next day, with Walker out of the picture, the Cardinals acquired third baseman Scott Cooper from the Red Sox and planned to move Todd Zeile from third to first.

On April 26, 1995, Walker made his regular-season Rockies debut in the inaugural game played at Coors Field in Denver and produced three doubles and three RBI in a 14-inning victory against the Mets. Five inches of snow fell in the Denver area during the morning and the game, played at night in temperatures in the mid-30s, took 4 hours and 49 minutes to complete. Boxscore

Walker’s first game against the Cardinals since signing with the Rockies occurred on May 29, 1995, at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis. The high-priced slugger went 0-for-6 and got razzed by some of the spectators after his last plate appearance. Boxscore

“One of the things about this type of deal is you get to hear a lot more imaginative things from the fans,” Walker told the Rocky Mountain News. “They were chanting, ‘Oh for six.’ They didn’t know the half of it.”

Walker’s hitless night extended his skid to 0-for-24 over his last six games.

The next night, Walker was benched by manager Don Baylor. He returned to the lineup for a day game, May 31, 1995, and snapped the slump with a two-run double and a solo home run against Cardinals starter Mark Petkovsek. The homer was a majestic shot which carried into the sixth row of the center-field bleachers, according to the Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Petkovsek “made two bad pitches to Walker,” said Cardinals manager Joe Torre. “You’d like to make bad pitches to smaller guys, though.”

Said Walker: “I wasn’t sure if I should turn left or right the first time I got a hit because all I had been doing lately was turning to the right and going back to the dugout. That home run really messed me up, having to touch all four bases.”

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Larry Walker, who completed his career with the Cardinals, had one of his greatest games as their opponent.

On April 28, 1999, Walker hit three home runs for the Rockies in their 9-7 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

Walker was the first opposing player to hit three homers in a game at St. Louis since the Expos’ Larry Parrish did it 22 years earlier in 1977.

It was the second of three times Walker hit three home runs in a game for the Rockies. He also did it against his former club, the Expos, at Montreal in April 1997 and against the Indians at Cleveland in June 2004, two months before he was traded to the Cardinals.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Walker was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

An outfielder who batted left-handed, Walker began his career with the Expos and spent his prime seasons with the Rockies before finishing with the Cardinals.

In 144 regular-season games for the Cardinals, Walker batted .286 with 26 home runs and 79 RBI. He also hit six home runs in 15 postseason games for the 2004 Cardinals. In 150 regular-season games against the Cardinals, Walker hit .300 with 28 home runs and 110 RBI.

Canadian club

Born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Walker wanted to be a professional hockey player. When a junior-level hockey team coach told him he’d be their third-string goalie, Walker, 17, switched to baseball, according to the Associated Press.

Signed by the Expos in 1984, Walker became a prized prospect in their farm system when he hit 33 home runs in 1986 and 26 in 1987.

On Jan. 16, 1988, while playing winter baseball in Mexico, Walker tore ligaments in a knee when he slipped while crossing home plate. He sat out the 1988 season and “there were times I didn’t think I’d make it” to the majors, Walker told the Montreal Gazette.

“I wondered, ‘What am I going to do now? Be a garbageman?’ ” Walker said.

Walker was with Class AAA Indianapolis when he got called up to the Expos in August 1989. He became the fifth Canadian to play for the Expos, following Claude Raymond, Larry Landreth, Bill Atkinson and Doug Frobel.

Though he grew up 2,300 miles from Montreal, Walker said, “This is one big country. We’re one big family.”

In his debut game against the Giants at Montreal, Walker had a single and three walks in four plate appearances. Boxscore

“What I liked about him is he had an idea about what he wanted to do every time he went to the plate,” Expos manager Buck Rodgers said.

According to the Montreal Gazette, when Walker reached base for the fourth time in the game, Giants first baseman Will Clark turned to him and said, “Geez, three walks. Not bad. They’re pitching you like a 10-year veteran.”

At spring training in 1990, Walker impressed the Expos with his dedication. In a four-day stretch, he took 500 swings per day in the batting cage. “I can’t believe how hard he works,” said Expos hitting coach Hal McRae.

Walker won the Expos’ right field job and never looked back. He hit .281 in six seasons (1989-1994) with the Expos before becoming a free agent and signing with the Rockies.

Powering up

Walker won the first of his three National League batting titles in 1998, but a rib injury sidelined him for the Rockies’ first seven games of the 1999 season.

When he returned to the lineup, he went homerless in his first eight games before he busted out against the Cardinals on a Wednesday night in St. Louis.

Walker had four hits, including the three home runs, and a career-best eight RBI in the game. Boxscore

The performance drew comparisons to Mark McGwire, the Cardinals’ first baseman, who witnessed it, but Walker dismissed such talk.

“My name is Larry, not Mark,” Walker told the Associated Press. “I don’t have Popeye arms. I’ve just got little tiny ones.”

In the opening inning, after the first two Rockies batters singled, Walker hit a three-run homer on a 1-and-2 pitch from right-hander Jose Jimenez.

With the Rockies ahead, 4-3, in the second, Walker batted with runners on first and third, two outs, and hit the first pitch from Jimenez for another three-run home run.

Walker had three hits, all home runs, in four career at-bats versus Jimenez. The last also was in a three-homer game for Walker in 2004 when Jimenez was with the Indians. Walker and Jimenez were Rockies teammates from 2000-2003.

Walker’s third home run of the game at St. Louis came in the seventh. Facing Scott Radinsky with a runner on first and one out, Walker hit a 1-and-2 pitch from the left-hander for a two-run homer, giving the Rockies a 9-6 lead.

All three home runs were hit over the right-field wall.

In 17 seasons in the majors, Walker batted .313 with 2,160 hits, 383 home runs, 1,311 RBI and a .400 on-base percentage. He won the Gold Glove Award for his outfield play seven times.

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(Updated Jan. 21, 2020)

Ozzie Smith welcomed Derek Jeter as a peer among baseball’s best shortstops.

In 2014, when Jeter came to St. Louis with the Yankees for the last time as a player, he was embraced by Smith in a pre-game ceremony near home plate at Busch Stadium.

Smith, who won 13 Gold Glove awards, including 11 with the Cardinals, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 in his first year on the ballot. Smith got 91.7 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Jeter was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. Jeter got 99.7 percent of the votes from the baseball writers.

Parting gifts

After Jeter, 39, said 2014 would be his final season as Yankees shortstop, he was honored at each stop on the schedule.

The Yankees came to St. Louis for a three game series May 26-28 in 2014.

Jeter had played against the Cardinals in 2003 at Yankee Stadium and in 2005 at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis. The 2014 visit was at the downtown ballpark that opened in 2006.

Before the Memorial Day series opener in 2014, the Cardinals presented Jeter with cuff links bearing the likeness of franchise icon Stan Musial. The Cardinals also gave Jeter a $10,000 donation to his Turn 2 Foundation. According to its Web site, the foundation “strives to create outlets that promote and reward academic excellence, leadership development and positive behavior” for young people.

Among those representing the Cardinals at the ceremony were Red Schoendienst, the Hall of Fame second baseman who wore the same uniform number (No. 2) as Jeter did, and Smith, the acrobatic fielder nicknamed The Wizard. Video

Special bond

Smith “put out his arms and embraced” Jeter, MLB.com reported.

Smith’s last two seasons in the majors (1995-96) were Jeter’s first two.

“He’s always treated me good, especially when I was a younger player,” Jeter said. “He’s a guy that I admire. I admire his career. When you’re a young player, you remember how guys treat you. Ozzie always treated me well.”

Smith told the New York Post, “He’s probably been the perfect example of what a baseball player should be. Great ambassador for the game. He’s done it the right way.”

Cardinals reliever Randy Choate, Jeter’s teammate from 2000-2003 with the Yankees, said to MLB.com, “He leads by example. When you play with him, you want to play like him.”

Showing respect

In his first at-bat after the ceremony, Jeter singled and received a standing ovation. Boxscore

Jeter “was feted at every opportunity” during the three-game series, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Jeter started the first two games but sat out the third when the Yankees went with his backup, former Cardinal Brendan Ryan. In the seventh inning, Jeter got a standing ovation when the scoreboard camera showed him in the dugout. He responded by going to the top step and doffing his cap. Boxscore

“It’s much appreciated,” Jeter said. “It’s not something that’s expected.”

Hall of Fame stats

Jeter’s best performances against the Cardinals were in 2005 when he had five hits in 13 at-bats. His career batting mark versus St. Louis was .265 (9-for-34).

In 20 seasons (1995-2014) with the Yankees, Jeter won five Gold Glove awards and was named an American League all-star 14 times. One of his all-star appearances was the 2009 game in St. Louis.

Jeter produced a career batting mark of .310 and an on-base percentage of .377. He had 3,465 hits, including 544 doubles, with 1,311 RBI and 358 stolen bases.

Jeter has the most career hits of any shortstop.

According to MLB.com, the top six players all-time in career hits are Pete Rose (4,256), Ty Cobb (4,191), Hank Aaron (3,771), Stan Musial (3,630), Tris Speaker (3,515) and Jeter (3,465). Aaron is the only right-handed batter with more career hits than Jeter.

Jeter played in seven World Series and the Yankees won five of those. He had a World Series batting average of .321, with 50 hits in 38 games, and an on-base percentage of .384.

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As a catcher for the Cardinals, Ted Simmons helped Steve Carlton achieve his first 20-win season. As an opposing hitter, Simmons hit with power against Carlton.

One reason Simmons was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2019 was he could hit any kind of pitching, including the best.

Of his 248 regular-season career home runs in the majors, Simmons hit 22 against fellow future Hall of Famers.

The future Hall of Famer who Simmons hit the most home runs against was Carlton, who spent most of his career with the Phillies after being a teammate of Simmons with the Cardinals.

A switch-hitter, Simmons hit seven home runs against Carlton, a left-hander.

Here is a breakdown of the number of home runs Simmons hit versus future Hall of Famers:

_ Steve Carlton, 7 home runs against.

_ Tom Seaver, 3

_ Don Sutton, 2

_ Ferguson Jenkins, 2

_ Bert Blyleven, 2

_ Phil Niekro, 2

_ Rich Gossage, 1

_ Bruce Sutter, 1 (See story)

_ Lee Smith, 1

_ Gaylord Perry, 1

Battery mates

Carlton debuted with the Cardinals in 1965 and Simmons debuted with them three years later, in 1968.

Tim McCarver was Carlton’s primary catcher with the Cardinals from 1965-69. After McCarver got traded to the Phillies in October 1969, Simmons and Joe Torre split the catching for the Cardinals the next year. Torre caught Carlton in 20 games in 1970 and Simmons was his catcher in 15, according to baseball-reference.com.

The first time Carlton and Simmons started a regular-season game together was June 2, 1970, a 12-1 Cardinals win versus the Giants at St. Louis. Carlton pitched a four-hitter. Simmons had a single, a triple and a walk, scoring twice. Boxscore

In 1971, when Torre shifted to third base, Simmons was the Cardinals’ catcher. He caught in 33 of Carlton’s 37 games for the 1971 Cardinals.

On Sept. 28, 1971, Carlton earned his 20th win of the season, beating the Mets at New York. Simmons was the catcher and produced a single, a double and two RBI. Boxscore

It was the last time Carlton would pitch for the Cardinals. Five months later, on Feb. 25, 1972, he was traded to the Phillies on orders of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, who was fed up with player salary demands.

Carlton and McCarver were reunited as Phillies. According to baseball-reference.com, the catchers who caught the most games pitched by Carlton were McCarver (236), Bob Boone (147), Bo Diaz (79) and Simmons (48).

Carlton had a 3.24 ERA over the 358.2 innings Simmons was his catcher.

Mighty matchup

Carlton’s career record against the Cardinals was 38-14 with five shutouts, 27 complete games and a 2.98 ERA.

Simmons batted .274 against Carlton. Of his 34 hits, 17 were for extra bases: nine doubles, seven home runs, one triple. Simmons had a .357 on-base percentage versus Carlton, drawing 16 walks and getting hit by a pitch once.

The most significant home run Simmons hit against Carlton was on June 25, 1977, at St. Louis.

In the seventh inning, with the Phillies ahead, 2-1, Hector Cruz led off for the Cardinals and pulled the ball down the third-base line. Third baseman Mike Schmidt snared it, but his throw sailed past first baseman Richie Hebner. Cruz was credited with a single and advanced to second on Schmidt’s throwing error.

Simmons, due up next, turned to teammate Mike Anderson and said, “I’m just going to look for anything inside that I can pull and hit hard,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

With McCarver catching, the first pitch Carlton threw Simmons was a slider, low and on the inside corner of the plate.

“He might have wanted to get the ball in the dirt or something because usually he doesn’t give me the ball in the strike zone unless it’s outside,” Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Simmons hit the ball into the left-field seats for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

“That’s one of the hardest he’s hit right-handed,” said Cardinals manager Vern Rapp. “That was hit deep into the deck.”

Said McCarver: “Simmons is just a good hitter. He might be the purest hitter in the game outside of Rod Carew. Maybe even more than Pete Rose because Simmons has more power.”

Bob Forsch and Rawly Eastwick held the Phillies scoreless over the last two innings, preserving the win for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Three years later, on April 26, 1980, at Philadelphia, Simmons got another key hit against Carlton, but it wasn’t a home run. Carlton pitched a one-hitter versus the Cardinals. Simmons’ single in the second deprived Carlton of a no-hitter, a feat that eluded him throughout his career. Boxscore

Special deliveries

Among other noteworthy home runs by Simmons against fellow future Hall of Famers were one hit against the Braves and another hit for them.

On Aug. 23, 1975, Simmons hit a grand slam against Phil Niekro, snapping a 1-1 tie in the fifth and carrying the Cardinals to a 7-2 win over the Braves at St. Louis. Simmons said he hit a low screwball, not Niekro’s signature knuckleball.

“I just golfed it,” Simmons said. “He’s been throwing me a lot of screwballs.”

The grand slam was the fifth of Simmons’ major-league career but his first versus a right-hander. Boxscore

Simmons batted .203 against Niekro in his career. He had almost as many walks (15) as hits (16).

On Aug. 31, 1986, the Cubs played the Braves in Atlanta. The Cubs started and ended the game with two future Hall of Famers, Dennis Eckersley and Lee Smith.

Simmons, 37, and in his first season with the Braves, led off the ninth, batting for pitcher Jeff Dedmon with the score tied at 3-3.

Throwing sliders, Smith got ahead in the count 1-and-2.

“Being down 1-and-2 is not the best situation to be in against Smith,” Simmons told the Chicago Tribune. “You’re living on the edge.”

On the next pitch, “Simmons timed the slider properly and launched an electric rainbow to right field,” the Atlanta Constitution reported.

The walkoff home run gave the Braves a 4-3 triumph. Boxscore

“When they say go up there and get it done like this, it’s do or die,” Simmons said. “When you do, it’s the greatest. When you don’t, it’s the worst. I like it.”

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In one of the most unusual at-bats of his Hall of Fame career, Ted Simmons stepped in for the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter against a pitcher who didn’t expect to be used in relief and hit a grand slam, accounting for all the runs in the game.

Batting for another switch-hitter, Reggie Smith, who had to depart because of back pain, Simmons hit an 0-and-2 pitch from Jon Matlack over the left-field wall, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 victory over the Mets in the second game of a doubleheader on June 23, 1975, at New York’s Shea Stadium.

It was the first of six pinch-hit home runs Simmons had in the major leagues.

Ready or not

Simmons caught Ron Reed’s shutout in Game 1 of the Monday night doubleheader, a 1-0 Cardinals victory. Simmons, batting cleanup, contributed a single and a walk. Boxscore

In the second game, Simmons was out of the lineup and Ken Rudolph was the starting catcher.

The game was scoreless when Cardinals pitcher John Denny led off the eighth inning with a single to left for his first major-league hit. Bake McBride moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt.

After Mike Tyson drew a walk from Mets starter George Stone, putting runners on first and second with one out, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told Simmons, “I’m probably going to use you to pinch-hit. Get a bat.”

As Simmons started out to the plate, he saw the scheduled batter, Luis Melendez, headed there, too, the Associated Press reported.

Ted asked Red, “Don’t you want me to hit?”

“Yeah, but for Reggie Smith,” Schoendienst replied.

Melendez singled to left, loading the bases, and Simmons came up to bat for the ailing Smith, who was 0-for-3 against Stone.

Sink or swim

In the Mets’ bullpen, Matlack had gotten up to fulfill his routine of throwing between starts. After the Cardinals loaded the bases, bullpen coach Joe Pignatano turned to Matlack and said, “Are you ready?”

“Ready for what?” Matlack replied.

Pignatano said, “You’re in the game.”

“I was almost done with my workout,” Matlack said to the Passaic (N.J.) Herald-News. “I had no idea they wanted me to go in as a reliever. I had been throwing out of my full windup and was just about done working out of the stretch.”

Mets manager Yogi Berra said, “I brought him in because he makes them hit a lot of groundballs. I talked to him before the game and told him I might have to use him.”

Matlack, who hadn’t appeared in relief in three years, said, “Being thrown in a game like that is an unnatural situation for me.”

Cat and mouse

When Matlack, a left-hander, entered the game, Simmons, a switch-hitter, stood in from the right side of the plate. He swung and missed at the first two pitches.

“The first pitch was a fastball down at the knees,” said Simmons. “The second was a slider around my neck. I said to myself, ‘I wish I could have that one back.’ ”

Matlack said he noticed Simmons “was pulling out on the first two pitches” and decided to throw a curve.

“The purpose of the 0-and-2 pitch is not necessarily a waste pitch,” said Matlack. “If anything, he was supposed to hit it foul. Or, if he doesn’t swing, it sets him up for the next pitch.”

Matlack’s curve looked like a slider or cut fastball, Simmons said, and came in low and inside.

“I was on the plate, trying to protect it and hoping to at least hit a fly ball for a run,” Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Matlack said, “The pitch was a hell of a curve, I thought. It was right where I wanted it. I was surprised he even swung at it.”

Said Simmons: “I got all of it.”

After watching a television replay of the grand slam, Matlack noted, “As he hit the ball, his hands collapsed, It was almost as if he was looking for that pitch.”

Simmons’ slam enabled the Cardinals to sweep. A grateful Reggie Smith said, “We had the right man for the right job at the right time.” Boxscore

Simmons hit .377 (20-for-53) with two home runs versus Matlack in his career.

Of Simmons’ nine grand slams in the majors, seven were with the Cardinals and he hit one each with the Brewers and Braves.

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Ron Fairly tormented Bob Gibson as an opponent and helped him as a teammate.

A first baseman and outfielder, Fairly played 21 years (1958-78) in the major leagues, primarily with the Dodgers and Expos, and spent two seasons (1975-76) with the Cardinals. He played in four World Series for the Dodgers, including 1965 when he batted . 379 against the Twins.

A left-handed batter with a line drive stroke, Fairly did some of his best work against Gibson, the Cardinals’ ace.

During his Hall of Fame career, Gibson yielded more hits (48) and more doubles (10) to Fairly than he did to any other batter.

In addition to having his career highs in hits and doubles against Gibson, Fairly produced a career-best 24 RBI versus him.

In his 1968 book, “From Ghetto to Glory,” Gibson said, “I don’t have to make a mistake against Fairly. Whatever I throw, he just hits it _ I don’t care what it is _ and always when somebody is on base. The guy is just a pretty good hitter.”

Four decades later, in his book, “Sixty Feet, Six Inches,” Gibson described Fairly as a batter who “would punch the ball over the shortstop’s head and you couldn’t strike him out. I tried to pitch him in, like I did a lot of left-handed hitters, and I didn’t have any luck with that. I’d pitch him away, make a good pitch, and he’d dump it over the shortstop’s head.”

In 1975, Fairly’s first season with the Cardinals and Gibson’s last, Gibson benefitted from Fairly’s formidable hitting.

On July 27, 1975, Fairly had two hits, two walks, one RBI and scored a run in the Cardinals’ 9-6 victory over the Phillies at St. Louis. Gibson got the win, the 251st and last of his career, with four scoreless innings of relief. Boxscore

Fairly talented

Fairly attended the University of Southern California, signed with the Dodgers in June 1958 and made his debut with them three months later at age 20.

He established himself as a smooth fielder at first base and a consistent hitter.

Chicago columnist Jerome Holtzman rated Fairly “the best first baseman I’ve ever seen coming in on a bunt.”

Dodgers manager Walter Alston, in a 1965 interview with Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said he regarded Fairly the best hitter with runners on base of any of the players he’d managed.

For his career, Fairly had 17 home runs and 100 RBI versus the Cardinals. He batted .302 against Gibson, with 48 hits, including four home runs, in 159 at-bats. Fairly’s on-base percentage versus Gibson was .369.

In Gibson’s autobiography, “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson’s friend and teammate Joe Torre said, “Ron Fairly hit Gibby about as well as anybody did.”

On July 15, 1964, Fairly hit two home runs, one against Gibson and the other versus Ray Washburn, in a 13-3 Dodgers victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

Regarding the Gibson fastball he hit for the homer, Fairly said, “I just got around in front of the pitch and laid the bat on the ball. Gibson supplied the power.”

The next day, Fairly hit a homer against Ray Sadecki. For the three-game series, Fairly had 10 RBI and six hits in 13 at-bats.

A year later, on June 3, 1965, at St. Louis, Fairly hit a two-run home run off Barney Schultz with two outs in the eighth, erasing a 10-9 deficit and lifting the Dodgers to an 11-10 victory. Boxscore

Fairly hit the first walkoff home run of his major-league career on Sept. 25, 1970, for the Expos against the Cardinals in Montreal. With the Cardinals ahead, 5-4, the Expos had two on and two outs in the ninth when Fairly hit an 0-and-2 fastball from rookie Al Hrabosky for a game-winning homer. Boxscore

“I can’t hit a ball any better than that,” Fairly said to the Montreal Gazette.

Proud pro

On Dec. 6, 1974, the Cardinals acquired Fairly from the Expos for a pair of prospects, first baseman Ed Kurpiel and infielder Rudy Kinard. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine projected Fairly to be a pinch-hitter and backup to rookie first baseman Keith Hernandez. Fairly, 36, told The Sporting News, “I expect to play a lot. I’d like to play every day.”

Hernandez, 21, opened the 1975 season as the starter, struggled and was sent to the minors in June.

Fairly, getting starts at first base and in the corner outfield spots, became a valuable player for the 1975 Cardinals. He hit .301 and had an on-base percentage of .421. He also hit .343 as a pinch-hitter. On July 8, 1975, at St. Louis, Fairly hit a grand slam against Pete Falcone of the Giants. Boxscore

“I don’t fool around in batting practice,” Fairly said. “I try to hit with game situations in mind. Too many players fool around too much in batting practice and that gets them in bad habits.”

Fairly shared his knowledge with Cardinals teammates. According to The Sporting News, catcher Ted Simmons, “regarded by many as the purest hitter now active in the game,” listened to the advice Fairly gave him on hitting.

Hernandez returned to the Cardinals in September 1975 and regained his starting job. In his memoir, “I’m Keith Hernandez,” Hernandez said Fairly “took the time to show me how to better break in a first baseman’s mitt and how to cheat a little bit on a close putout at first.”

“You’re moving forward to get the ball with the glove, extending your body, and your foot comes off the bag just before the ball arrives,” Fairly told Hernandez. “Don’t rush it, or the ump will catch you pulling your foot.”

In his book, Hernandez said, “I worked on it every day during infield until I had it, and took Ron’s sly little move with me for the rest of my career.”

Watching Fairly’s impact on the Cardinals, Expos owner Charles Bronfman admitted, “That Fairly deal was very unfortunate. I think Ron fooled a lot of us by playing a lot better than we expected.”

The next season, Fairly hit .264 and had an on-base percentage of .385 for the Cardinals before they sold his contract to the Athletics on Sept. 14, 1976. He batted .364 with runners in scoring position for the 1976 Cardinals.

Overall, in his two St. Louis seasons, Fairly batted .289 with a .409 on-base percentage.

He went on to play for the Athletics, Blue Jays and Angels, finishing his career with 1,913 hits.

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