Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Seven years after he integrated major league baseball, Jackie Robinson led an effort to end discrimination at the Chase Hotel in St. Louis.

In 1954, the Cardinals had their first black player, first baseman Tom Alston. The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. Despite these milestones, the Chase Hotel still prohibited blacks from using its dining room, bar or pool.

Robinson took a stand in trying to uproot the hotel’s segregationist policies when the Dodgers came to St. Louis to play the Cardinals in 1954, but it created friction with other blacks on the team.

White lodge

Located at the corner of Lindell and Kingshighway and across the street from Forest Park, the elegant Chase Hotel was built in 1922 by Chase Ullman and became known for its luxury, glamour, fine dining and entertainment. Features included a roof garden, Turkish steam baths and “rubbing rooms” for men and women, St. Louis Magazine noted. The roof garden eventually was enclosed and turned into the Zodiac Room Lounge.

A Mediterranean-style swimming pool became another popular feature of the Chase. The pool was “about the shade of the gold lame briefs Rudolf Nureyev is rumored to have worn there,” according to St. Louis Magazine. Pirates baseball broadcaster Bob Prince dived into the pool from a third-floor guest room to settle a $20 bet, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, prompting the hotel to erect metal barriers on the windows facing the pool.

In 1929, the rival Park Plaza was built next door to the Chase. The two merged into the Chase Park Plaza in 1961. Today, the Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta Hotel boasts on its Web site: “Upholding the grand tradition of early 20th century style and gracious hospitality.”

Until the 1950s, the hospitality was extended only to whites. The hotel didn’t accept black guests, but it did entertain its white customers with top black performers such as Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Dorothy Dandridge, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Eartha Kitt.

Horne told the Washington Post, “The first time I worked at the Chase, I couldn’t come in through the front door.”

In 1952, Dandridge demanded to be the first black performer to stay at the hotel. Though Chase officials “reluctantly agreed,” parts of the building remained off limits to her and all blacks. She was required to use the service elevator before and after each performance rather than walk through the lobby to the guest elevators, according to the website Vanguard of Hollywood.

Strings attached

After Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues with the Dodgers in 1947, the Chase didn’t permit the black players of visiting ballclubs to stay there. If a ballclub chose to stay at the Chase, it meant the white team members went there and the blacks went to another hotel, usually a so-called black hotel.

“For years, St. Louis has been the only city on the circuit where Negro players lived apart from the team,” Lou Smith reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

In 1953, the Chase altered its policy and allowed the entire New York Giants team to stay there, including its three black players _ Ruben Gomez, Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson, the Baltimore Afro American newspaper reported. (Willie Mays wasn’t with the Giants in 1953 because of military service.)

The Giants’ black players “didn’t care for” the restrictions placed on them at the Chase, The Sporting News reported. The restrictions included no use of the bar, dining room or swimming pool, author Neil Lanctot noted in his book “Campy,” a biography of Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella.

Nonetheless, the Dodgers declared they would stay at the Chase in 1954. When the ballclub arrived in St. Louis on April 26, the Dodgers’ six black players (Sandy Amoros, Joe Black, Roy Campanella, Jim Gilliam, Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson) were given the option by traveling secretary Lee Scott of staying at the Chase with its restrictions or going to the Adams Hotel, which catered to blacks.

If the black players stayed at the Chase, they would have to eat all meals in their rooms instead of the dining room, stay out of the bar and the pool, and not appear in the hotel lobby except for going to and coming from the ballpark and the train station, The Sporting News reported.

Split decision

Robinson was the only one of the six black Dodgers to agree to stay at the Chase. Though he bristled at the restrictions, Robinson said he believed staying there was an important step toward ending discrimination.

In a column by Sam Lacy of the Baltimore Afro American, Robinson said, “Other fellows coming along behind me will benefit by this opening wedge. If you don’t get your foot in the door, you’ll never force it open.”

The other black Dodgers disagreed. Roy Campanella and Joe Black persuaded Sandy Amoros, Jim Gilliam and Don Newcombe to go to the Adams Hotel in the Gaslight Square entertainment district, the Baltimore Afro American reported.

“The Chase is not for me,” Campanella said to Sam Lacy. “As I see it, they didn’t want us down there for seven years. So as far as I’m concerned, they can make it forever.”

Campanella also told Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier, “I’m not going to stay there. If they didn’t want us before, they won’t get my business now.”

Campanella and the others had additional reasons for preferring the Adams.

“The manager of the (Adams) had been good to us for years,” Newcombe told Dick Young of the New York Daily News in May 1954. “He even supplies us with a car to get to and from the ballpark. Why should we let him down now? We’re not trying to set any precedents.”

In an interview with Neil Lanctot, Dodgers executive Buzzie Bavasi said the Adams “had a superstretch limo pick up the black players, usually with a blonde or two in the backseat.”

Dodgers divided

Robinson, who viewed Campanella as being too timid on civil rights issues, was upset with his teammate’s decision to choose the familiar comfort of the Adams. According to Neil Lanctot, “The issue of segregation at the Chase destroyed whatever little remained of their relationship.”

Dick Young wrote in the Daily News, “A lively argument ensued in the clubhouse _ Robinson against Newcombe and Campanella.”

According to Young, Campanella said, “I’m no crusader. I’m a ballplayer and I’m happy right where I am,” and Newcombe said of Robinson, “He thinks we owe him something because he was the first. We owe him nothing.”

(Decades later, in interviews with the Daily News and Los Angeles Times, Newcombe claimed he joined Robinson in trying to reverse discrimination at the Chase.)

When the Pirates arrived at the Chase after the Dodgers departed, their black second baseman, Curt Roberts, registered, went to the dining room and waited 45 minutes without being served. Frustrated, he checked out and went to the Adams, the Pittsburgh Courier reported.

“Within a few days, the situation at the Chase had become a national story in the black press,” according to the Campanella biography. (Most of the mainstream newspapers, including the two St. Louis dailies, provided little or no coverage of the issue.)

Change for the better

The Pirates, whose general manager, Branch Rickey, was the Dodgers executive who brought Robinson to the majors, acted quickly to defend Curt Roberts. Pirates traveling secretary Bob Rice told Chase officials the ballclub wouldn’t return there unless Roberts was given the same treatment as other team members, the Pittsburgh Courier reported.

Jackie Robinson told Dodgers traveling secretary Lee Scott he would insist on being served in the Chase dining room the next time the ballclub went there. Dodgers management pledged support, the Baltimore Afro American reported.

Just before the Dodgers and Giants returned to St. Louis for games in June 1954, they received letters from Chase management, assuring them blacks no longer would be restricted from using the dining room or lobby, and could attend shows in the roof garden, according to the Baltimore Afro American.

(The bar and pool remained off limits to blacks as late as 1957, according to Neil Lanctot.)

The St. Louis NAACP (National Association for Advancement of Colored People) and two weekly newspapers, St. Louis Argus and St. Louis American, had protested to Chase management about discriminatory policies, “and this, along with the undesirable publicity, is believed to have influenced the hotel’s capitulation,” Sam Lacy reported.

When the Dodgers went to St. Louis in June 1954, the entire team, including all the black members, stayed at the Chase. It was the first time since 1946 that every member of the Dodgers stayed in the same St. Louis hotel.

It would not have happened when it did “if Robinson had not been made of sterner stuff than Campanella, Gilliam and Newcombe,” Clifford McKay concluded in the Baltimore Afro American.

Read Full Post »

Frank Thomas, a slugging outfielder for the 1950s Pirates, came close to being acquired by the Cardinals, but it would have come at a hefty price.

In 1957, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane was ready to deal Ken Boyer to the Pirates for Thomas and third baseman Gene Freese. When the deal got put on hold by Cardinals hierarchy, Lane quit and became general manager of the Cleveland Indians.

A right-handed batter, Thomas played for seven teams during 16 seasons in the majors, belting 286 home runs. He hit 30 or more home runs in a season three times, twice topped 100 RBI and never struck out as many as 100 times. Thomas was 93 when he died Jan. 16, 2023.

Different uniform

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Thomas developed a passion for baseball at an early age. In the book “We Played the Game,” Thomas recalled, “My mother said I never went to bed without a bat or ball in my hand. I first used my dad’s pick hammer for a bat.”

Thomas said he attended the games of the Pirates and the Negro League Homestead Grays at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. “I got my first baseball from (Negro League catcher) Josh Gibson. He gave me two,” Thomas told author Danny Peary.

When Thomas was 12, he was sent by his parents to a Catholic seminary in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to study for the priesthood. He quit the seminary when he was 17, returned to Pittsburgh and played sandlot baseball. Six months later, after he turned 18, the Pirates signed him in July 1947. “It was like a miracle,” Thomas said in “We Played the Game.”

In his first professional season, playing for a 1948 minor-league Tallahassee team managed by former Cardinals outfielder Jack Rothrock, Thomas produced 132 RBI. Three years later, he made his debut in the majors with the 1951 Pirates.

Possessing power and a strong throwing arm, Thomas was a good player on mostly bad Pirates teams. In 1954, when he earned the first of three all-star honors, Thomas batted .298 with 32 doubles, 23 homers and 94 RBI.

Shopping list

During the 1957 season, the Cardinals shifted Ken Boyer from third base to center field. Boyer led National League center fielders in fielding percentage but his hitting declined. He batted .265 with 19 home runs and 62 RBI in 1957 after putting up better numbers (.290, 23 homers and 89 RBI) the year before.

At the 1957 World Series between the Braves and Yankees, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane met in New York with his Pirates counterpart, Joe Brown, and discussed a trade of Ken Boyer for Frank Thomas, The Pittsburgh Press reported. A pull hitter who stood close to the plate, Thomas hit .290 with 23 home runs and 89 RBI for the Pirates in 1957.

Lane said he and Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson had two four-hour talks with Brown and Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh about the proposed trade, according to The Sporting News. The talks continued into the fall.

In the book “Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain,” biographer Kevin D. McCann noted, “Lane had been Boyer’s biggest supporter and harshest critic. He expected much from him and felt he should be as good as _ or even better than _ Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle. He wasn’t timid about publicly chastising what he perceived to be Ken’s lack of competitive hustle and aggressiveness.”

On Oct. 23, 1957, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Lane was willing to trade Ken Boyer and pitcher Willard Schmidt to the Pirates for Frank Thomas and Gene Freese.

“Boyer is reported to have told friends in St. Louis that he had been alerted by the Cardinals not to be surprised if he were traded,” The Sporting News reported. “He was expecting to come to Pittsburgh.”

Boyer told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, “After the season I had, I had made up my mind that I was going to be traded by Lane.”

Too many chiefs

Lane said he and Joe Brown talked trade until the first week of November 1957 “and, for his part, was ready to make the deal,” The Sporting News reported, but there was a hang-up.

In 1956, after swapping Red Schoendienst to the Giants and trying to deal Stan Musial to the Phillies for pitcher Robin Roberts, Lane was told any trades he wanted to make must be approved by club owner Gussie Busch and team executive vice president Dick Meyer. “Lane was unhappy with the handcuffs on him,” The Sporting News reported.

Lane told The Pittsburgh Press that Busch “has too many advisers to suit me. If I’m the general manager, I want to stand or fall on my own decisions. Before I’d make a deal, I’d always tell Busch. Then his vice-presidents would call a meeting and in three or four days I’d get an answer.”

According to the Sporting News, when Lane sought permission to make the trade of Boyer and another player (possibly Schmidt) for Thomas and Freese, “the okay wasn’t forthcoming.”

“The Cardinals’ brass shuddered every time I’d mention Boyer in a trade,” Lane told The Pittsburgh Press, “but they should have known if I traded him I’d get somebody good in return.”

Lane told The Sporting News, “I had a tough time selling the Cardinals officials on the prospect of trading Boyer, but I believe I finally won them over,” but Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that “high command turned down the deal.”

Though he had a year remaining on his Cardinals contract, a frustrated Lane quit in November 1957 and accepted an offer to be general manager of the Cleveland Indians, who agreed not to restrict his ability to make trades. Lane’s assistant, Bing Devine, replaced him as Cardinals general manager.

Just say no

Devine had no interest in pursuing the trade Lane had put together with the Pirates. “Stan Musial is the only player not tradeable, but Boyer comes close to it,” Devine said to The Sporting News.

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson had other ideas. Asked by the Post-Dispatch whether he would have made the deal with the Pirates that Lane had proposed, Hutchinson said, “I’d still be inclined to give it a considerable amount of attention. Boyer has potential, all right, but I don’t know whether he’s determined enough to achieve that potential.”

In December 1957, the Phillies offered outfielder Richie Ashburn and pitcher Harvey Haddix (a former Cardinal traded by Lane) for Boyer, but Devine declined, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Boyer said to the Post-Dispatch, “I told my wife that if I’d have been the Cardinals, I’d have made that trade.”

(In his autobiography, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said Lane had initiated talks with the Phillies about Ashburn for Boyer before departing St. Louis.)

Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch also revealed that the Pirates approached Devine with an offer of outfielder Bill Virdon (another former Cardinal traded by Lane) and Freese for Boyer, but that was rejected, too.

Returned to third base in 1958, Boyer hit .307 with 23 home runs and 90 RBI, and won the first of five Gold Glove awards. He remained a force for the Cardinals, powering them to a World Series title in 1964 and winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Thomas had a big year in 1958 for the Pirates, batting .281 with 35 home runs and 109 RBI, but was traded to the Reds after the season.

Breaks of the game

After stints with the Cubs and Braves, Thomas was a Met when he hit a walkoff home run to beat the Cardinals’ Curt Simmons on July 9, 1964. Pinch-hitting with one on, two outs and the Cardinals ahead, 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth, Thomas pulled a changeup over the wall at Shea Stadium in his first at-bat since developing a glandular infection May 31. Boxscore

A month later, Thomas was traded to the first-place Phillies, who wanted him as their first baseman for the pennant stretch. Thomas provided a spark, hitting .294 with seven home runs and 26 RBI in 143 at-bats before fracturing his right thumb on Sept. 8.

The Phillies, who held a six-game lead at the time Thomas was injured, went into a slide soon after, allowing the Cardinals to overtake them and win the pennant.

Read Full Post »

If the career of Nate Colbert had gone according to script, he would have been the power-hitting first baseman the Cardinals needed in the early 1970s.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the Astros fouled up the plan and the Padres benefitted.

A right-handed slugger with power to all fields, Colbert played 10 years in the big leagues and clubbed 22 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons. He remains the Padres’ career leader in home runs with 163, two more than Adrian Gonzalez hit for San Diego. Colbert was 76 when he died on Jan. 5, 2023.

Happy at home

Born and raised in St. Louis, Colbert was a Cardinals fan who attended games at Busch Stadium, formerly Sportsman’s Park.

“I lived close to old Busch Stadium,” Colbert said years later to the Los Angeles Times, “and I sat in the bleachers with a glove, trying to catch batting practice home runs.”

On May 2, 1954, Colbert, 8, was supposed to play in a youth baseball game, but skipped it to attend a Sunday doubleheader between the Giants and Cardinals. “I almost never missed a Sunday doubleheader when the Cardinals were at home,” Colbert recalled to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

That day, Colbert got to see Stan Musial become the first big-league player to slug five home runs in a doubleheader.

“Stan was my idol after that day,” Colbert said to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Los Angeles newspaper, Colbert had a congenital defect in his spine that created a constant muscle spasm, but he developed into a standout baseball player, first with the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club team in the Khoury League and then at Sumner High School in St. Louis.

Also, while in high school, Colbert helped out in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, “and sometimes they let me take batting practice,” Colbert told Bob Wolf of the Los Angeles Times. “Before games, I would sit in Stan’s locker, and he was great to me. He was always so kind.”

Cardinals scout Joe Monahan said to the Post-Dispatch, “He was a good-looking hitter. He had fine wrists and was already capable of overpowering the ball.”

As a high school senior, Colbert got a formal tryout with the Cardinals at their ballpark. With manager Johnny Keane watching, Colbert hit two balls against the scoreboard in left and another into the screen in right. The Cardinals signed him three days after he graduated in June 1964.

Major leap

After a summer with a Cardinals rookie league team in Florida, a broken hand limited Colbert to 81 games with Class A Cedar Rapids in 1965 and he was left off the Cardinals’ winter roster. “I guess they figured no one would take a risk on a 19-year-old kid with a broken hand in Class A ball,” Colbert told the Post-Dispatch.

The Astros, though, were in a mood to gamble, and they selected Colbert in the November 1965 draft of unprotected players.

Baseball rules required the Astros to keep Colbert in the majors all of the 1966 season or offer him back to the Cardinals. 

“The Astros knew Colbert wasn’t ready for the major leagues,” The Sporting News noted, “but they liked his potential and decided to make the sacrifice of keeping a youngster on the bench who wouldn’t be able to help them much.”

Though he was in the big leagues with the likes of 1966 Astros teammates Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub and Jim Wynn, “I hated to leave St. Louis,” Colbert later told the Los Angeles Times. “It took me until my mid-20s not to root for the Cardinals. Whenever I saw their uniform, I wished I was in it.”

Colbert appeared in 19 games, 12 as a pinch-runner, with the 1966 Astros and was hitless in seven at-bats. After spending most of the next two seasons in the minors, he was picked by the Padres in the National League expansion draft.

Pride of the Padres

Bill Davis was the Opening Day first baseman for the 1969 Padres, but he struggled to hit early in the season. Colbert got a chance and made the most of it, hitting home runs in three consecutive games for the Padres from April 24-26 and earning the first base job.

When the Padres went to St. Louis for the first time in May 1969, Colbert had six hits in 12 at-bats during the three-game series. One of those hits was a two-run home run versus former Astros teammate Dave Giusti. Padres manager Preston Gomez credited hitting coach and ex-Cardinal Wally Moon with helping Colbert develop a more compact swing without losing power, the Post-Dispatch reported. Boxscore

For the 1969 season, his first as a big-league regular, Colbert hit .293 in 12 games against the Cardinals with an on-base percentage of .370.

Colbert went on to have seasons of 38 home runs in 1970, 27 in 1971 and 38 again in 1972. Contrast that with the home run totals of the primary Cardinals first basemen of that time: Joe Hague (14 in 1970 and 16 in 1971) and Matty Alou (three in 1972).

Before acquiring slugger Dick Allen from the Cardinals in October 1970, the Dodgers asked the Padres whether Colbert was available, Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times reported. “If we traded him now,” Preston Gomez responded, “we’d have to leave town.”

Colbert “may be baseball’s best young slugger,” the Times declared in April 1971.

Launching pad

Colbert did some of his best slugging against pitchers such as Don Sutton (seven home runs), Tom Seaver (five) and Phil Niekro (four). “He hits all of us good, but me he wears out,” Seaver told United Press International in July 1972.

A month later, on Aug. 1, 1972, Colbert had his biggest day, hitting five home runs in a doubleheader against the Braves in Atlanta and joining his boyhood hero, Stan Musial, as the only big-leaguers to achieve the feat.

In the first game that Tuesday night, Colbert hit a three-run homer versus Ron Schueler in the first inning and a solo shot against Mike McQueen in the seventh. He also had two singles, including one that drove in a run, and totaled five RBI. Boxscore

In the second game, Colbert slammed home runs against Pat Jarvis (grand slam in second), Jim Hardin (two-run shot in seventh) and Cecil Upshaw (two-run shot in ninth) and totaled eight RBI. For the doubleheader, Colbert produced 13 RBI and 22 total bases. Boxscore

Not only did he hit each home run against a different pitcher, he took just six swings to accomplish the feat. Colbert hit the grand slam on a 1-and-0 offering; the other four homers came on first-pitch swings, the Los Angeles Times reported. “Every pitch was either high in the strike zone or right down the middle,” Colbert told the newspaper.

Hank Aaron played first base for the Braves in both games that evening and after Colbert’s fifth home run, “He stopped me as I went out to first base,” Colbert told the Los Angeles Times. “He said, ‘That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.’ “

According to the Times, Colbert came within inches of hitting two more home runs that evening. Both of his singles came after fly balls that barely curved foul. 

“Nate is just starting to mature as a hitter,” Hank Aaron said to the Post-Dispatch. “The five home runs he hit against us went to all fields and none of them was cheap. He didn’t even swing hard. That’s how strong he is.”

Reds manager Sparky Anderson told the St. Louis newspaper, “I used to think Lee May was the strongest hitter in the league, but now I think Colbert is.”

Stan the Man

Two weeks later, on Aug. 16, 1972, when the Cardinals were in San Diego, Colbert was honored for his five-homer feat in a ceremony before the game. Stan Musial was on hand to congratulate him.

According to the Associated Press, in presenting a plaque to Colbert, Musial said to him, “Baseball is a game of records and they’re meant to be tied or broken. I’m happy one of mine was tied by a St. Louis boy and a former Cardinal.”

Musial then added, “We made a mistake when we let you go.”

In the game that followed, Colbert hit a home run against Bob Gibson, but the Cardinals won. (For his career, Colbert batted .239 with two home runs, 11 hits and 11 walks versus Gibson). Boxscore

Years later, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Musial and Colbert have a common bond that has made them good friends.”

Colbert said to the newspaper in 1989, “Now when I see him, he says, ‘We’re the only ones to do it.’ “

Trials and tribulations

Chronic back pain shortened Colbert’s playing career. “My back got worse and worse,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “It was deterioration of the vertebrae.”

In a three-way trade involving the Cardinals, Colbert was sent to the Tigers in November 1974. The next year he was shipped to the Expos and he ended his playing career with the 1976 Athletics.

Colbert hit 173 career home runs and had more strikeouts (902) than hits (833). “Considering my medical history, I probably shouldn’t even have played major league baseball,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

After his playing days, Colbert worked for the Padres as a minor-league coach and instructor, and in community relations, until October 1990 when he was indicted on 12 felony counts involving fraudulent loan applications.

Colbert was sentenced to a year in federal custody after he pleaded guilty to a federal bank fraud charge as part of a plea bargain arrangement, said assistant U.S. attorney William Hayes.

Read Full Post »

Denny Doyle was a baseball pixie, a Punch-and-Judy hitter who got to the big leagues because of his fielding at second base.

Standing 5 feet 9, he swung a 32-ounce stick _ “Dick Allen cleans his teeth with bats like that,” Doyle told Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News _ but he clobbered the Cardinals and, most improbably, their ace, Bob Gibson.

A .240 hitter in the National League, Doyle hit .309 versus the Cardinals and .464 against Gibson for his career.

Batting from the left side, Doyle turned into Tony Gwynn at the sight of a Cardinals pitcher. He had more career hits (58), home runs (three) and runs scored (26) versus the Cardinals than he did against any other foe. He was 78 when he died on Dec. 20, 2022.

Caveman cometh

After attending high school in Horse Cave, Ky., near Mammoth Cave National Park, Doyle accepted a basketball scholarship to Morehead State. He averaged 2.7 points in 11 varsity games and switched his focus to baseball.

In the summer of 1965, Doyle got a tryout with the Phillies, who offered him a contract. He signed only after the Phillies agreed to let him earn his college degree before reporting to the minors. “I had nine hours to go to get my diploma,” Doyle told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The Phillies didn’t like it too much, but I had to graduate first.”

At Spartanburg, S.C., in 1966, Doyle, the second baseman, made an immediate connection with the shortstop, Larry Bowa. They formed both a friendship and a dandy keystone combination. Doyle and Bowa played together for three seasons in the minors and became rookie starters with the Phillies in 1970.

Noting that Bowa was loud and Doyle was quiet, Inquirer columnist Frank Dolson wrote, “Bowa and Doyle complement each other beautifully … Two Larry Bowas might be too explosive. Two Denny Doyles might be too bland. Together they are perfect.”

Phillies coach Doc Edwards told the newspaper, “Anybody breaks up this combination ought to have his head chopped off.”

Getting to Gibson

The second base job with the Phillies opened for Doyle after they traded Cookie Rojas to the Cardinals. The consensus was Doyle, 26, had the fielding skills but the rookie’s ability to hit was in question. “I have to be an artist at the bunting game and the hit-and-run,” Doyle said to the Philadelphia Daily News. “I’ve got to make contact with the bat.”

He was batting .204 for the season when he stung the Cardinals with a four-hit game against them on May 24, 1970, at Philadelphia. Boxscore

Doyle hit .208 for the 1970 season but .298 versus the Cardinals in 14 games.

The next year, he did even better against St. Louis _ .333 in 13 games. The most impressive performance came on July 30, 1971, at Philadelphia. Doyle, batting .226 for the season, reached base safely in five plate appearances against Gibson. He had three singles, a home run and was hit by a pitch. Doyle was plunked leading off the first inning and slugged his home run on the first pitch he saw from Gibson in his next trip to the plate.

Doyle’s home run into the bullpen in right broke a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings for Gibson, who, nonetheless, achieved the win, pitching a complete game and driving in the winning run with a home run versus Chris Short in the seventh. Boxscore

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, asked after the game what pitches he threw to Doyle, Gibson growled, “Ask some intelligent questions. I threw him a fastball, slider, fastball and a curve. And I won the ballgame, which is the important thing.”

Gibson had much success when facing the Phillies _ his 30 career wins against them were his most versus any foe _ but it was a different story with Doyle. In 32 career plate appearances against Gibson, Doyle had a .516 on-base percentage, including 13 hits. Gibson struck him out just twice.

Pennant push

Doyle only once achieved four RBI in a game. Naturally, it came against the Cardinals. On Sept. 20, 1973, he had a three-run home run and a sacrifice fly versus Cardinals starter Alan Foster at Philadelphia. Boxscore

For the season, Doyle hit .386 in 14 games against the 1973 Cardinals.

Afterward, at the urging of manager Danny Ozark, the Phillies acquired second baseman Dave Cash from the Pirates, making Doyle expendable. He was shipped to the Angels in December 1973 and then to the Red Sox in June 1975.

Doyle thrived with the Red Sox, putting together a 22-game hitting streak, batting .310 for the season, solidifying the defense and helping them become 1975 American League champions. He started at second base in all seven games of the 1975 World Series and had eight hits.

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe noted, “Denny Doyle makes the double play. He stops balls from going through when there are men on base. He keeps rallies going. He doesn’t strike out. He wants to win and he usually manages to find a way to do it.”

Doyle’s last season in the majors was 1977. Two brothers also made it to the big leagues _ Brian Doyle, an infielder with the Yankees (1978-80) and Athletics (1981), and Blake Doyle, a coach with the Rockies (2014-16).

Read Full Post »

Toward the end of his Hall of Fame career, Fred McGriff gave the Cardinals something to remember him by.

A left-handed power hitter, McGriff slugged 22 regular-season home runs against the Cardinals and two more in the playoffs. The very last two came on June 21, 2002, in a Cardinals-Cubs classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The Friday afternoon game matched right-handers Woody Williams, 35, of the Cardinals and Jon Lieber, 32, of the Cubs. Both pitched with precision and smarts.

J.D. Drew, the second batter of the game, slammed a home run, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the first, before Lieber settled into a groove.

Williams retired the first 12 Cubs batters.

McGriff, who struck out his first time at the plate against Williams, led off the bottom of the fifth.

Traded by the Rays to the Cubs the year before (he made his Cubs debut against the Cardinals), McGriff, a first baseman, had led both the American League and National League in home runs (1989 with the Blue Jays and 1992 with the Padres), and had helped the Braves win two pennants and a World Series title. Video

At 38, he still was a force. (McGriff would produce 30 home runs and 103 RBI for the 2002 Cubs, giving him 10 seasons with 30 homers and eight seasons with 100 RBI.)

After McGriff worked the count to 3-and-1 in his at-bat in the fifth, Williams challenged him with a fastball. McGriff drove it out of the park for a home run, tying the score at 1-1.

When he came to bat again in the seventh, Williams jammed him with a fastball, but McGriff got around on it and belted another home run, which turned out to be the game-winner.

The Cubs won, 2-1. Williams pitched seven innings, walked none and allowed three hits _ the two McGriff home runs and a single by Lieber.

Lieber pitched a three-hit complete game and also walked none.

The game was played in a snappy one hour, 49 minutes _ the fastest involving the Cardinals since a May 1981 game against Steve Carlton and the Phillies that was completed in one hour, 45 minutes, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

“Several times, Williams and Lieber used more pitches while warming between innings than in securing their next three outs,” Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch observed.

Williams told the newspaper, “It’s the way the game is supposed to be played … The way baseball is today, it’s set up for a three-hour game, which is a crock.”

Asked about his decision to throw a fastball to McGriff with the score tied in the seventh, Williams told Strauss, “I threw exactly the type of pitch that I wanted to throw when it was a 1-1 game. I got beat.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wanted Williams to work around McGriff and take his chances with other batters. Referring to the fastballs McGriff hit for home runs, La Russa told the Post-Dispatch, “We made a couple of pitching mistakes.”

Williams saw it differently: “I go right at him … I’m not pitching around him.” Boxscore

McGriff hit .389 versus Williams in his career. Four of his seven hits against him were home runs.

Read Full Post »

Gaylord Perry had a career record of 14-14 versus the Cardinals, but there was nothing mundane about the night-and-day seasons he experienced against them in consecutive years during the 1960s.

In four starts against the Cardinals in 1966, Perry was 4-0 and didn’t walk a batter.

The next year, Perry was 0-5 in five starts versus the Cardinals.

Perry pitched well against the Cardinals in both seasons (1.06 ERA in 1966) and (2.23 ERA in 1967), but one of the big differences between the two years was the blistering bat wielded by his ex-teammate, St. Louis slugger Orlando Cepeda.

On-the-job training

Relying on a fastball and curve, Perry reached the majors with the Giants in 1962. After four seasons with them his record was 24-30. His breakthrough came in 1966 when he mastered the spitball taught two years earlier by Bob Shaw.

Acquired by the Giants from the Braves in January 1964, Shaw was throwing at spring training when Perry observed how his pitches dipped sharply. Asked how he did it, Shaw showed Perry how to throw a spitball, a pitch banned in the majors.

In his book “Me and the Spitter,” Perry said Shaw told him, “It takes a lot of work. You got to know how much to apply, where, how to hold the ball and control it, and, most important, how to load it up without anybody seeing you.”

From then on, “Shaw and I were inseparable, spitball buddies, so to speak,” Perry said in his book.

According to Perry, “Most pitchers experiment with a spitter but soon give it up. If you don’t throw it correctly, it is just a hanging curveball, a gopher pitch. It took me the rest of that (1964) season and the next (1965) to master it in every way.”

At the same time, Perry also worked on developing a slider, and on learning to control his emotions on the mound.

Big winner

“By Opening Day, 1966, I had my spitter, my slider and my temper in good shape,” Perry said in his book.

The results were spectacular: Perry won 20 of his first 22 decisions and finished with 21 wins for the 1966 Giants.

His four wins against the Cardinals were by scores of 2-0, 4-2, 3-2 and 3-1.

Perry was 2-0 for the season when he entered a May 1, 1966, start against Bob Gibson and the Cardinals at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Limiting the Cardinals to four singles, including two infield hits, in the 2-0 shutout, Perry credited the slider. Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the San Francisco Examiner, “Slider? I didn’t see anything but fastballs.” Boxscore

Five days later, at St. Louis, Perry again beat Gibson and the Cardinals. Gibson pitched a three-hitter, struck out 14 but lost, 4-2. Boxscore

On July 4 at San Francisco, Perry got the game-winning hit, a single versus Nelson Briles, in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals. Boxscore

A week later, in the All-Star Game at steamy St. Louis, Perry was the winning pitcher for the National League with two scoreless innings of relief. Boxscore

Facing the Cardinals for the final time in 1966, Perry ran his season record to 19-2 with a 3-1 win at San Francisco on Aug. 16. A key moment came in the sixth inning when, with one out and the Giants ahead, 2-1, the Cardinals put runners on first and third. Perry struck out Orlando Cepeda and got Mike Shannon to end the inning with a grounder. Boxscore

The four wins over the Cardinals in 1966 gave Perry a career record of 6-0 against them.

Give and take

Cepeda was the Giants first baseman the first time Perry threw a spitter in a game, May 31, 1964, in an epic 23-inning marathon with the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York. Perry pitched 10 scoreless innings of relief.

One of the first batters he threw the spitter to was Mets pitcher Galen Cisco, who, with two on and one out in the 15th, grounded into a double play. After snaring the relay throw, Cepeda “rolled the ball along the grass, tumble-drying it by the time it reached the mound,” Perry recalled in his book. “Everybody protects a spitball pitcher.” Boxscore

Two years later, in May 1966, Cepeda was traded to the Cardinals. In his first full season with them, he won the 1967 National League Most Valuable Player Award and the Cardinals won a World Series title. He also beat up on Perry and the Giants that year.

Perry’s five losses to the 1967 Cardinals were by scores of 2-1, 4-1, 3-1, 2-1 and 2-0. Cepeda had the game-winning hit in three of those.

The first came on April 18 at San Francisco. After Roger Maris reached second on an error with two outs in the 11th, Cepeda got jammed by a Perry pitch but muscled it into right-center for a RBI-single, breaking a 1-1 tie. Boxscore

Two months later, on June 18 at San Francisco, Cepeda’s two-run home run against Perry snapped a 1-1 tie in the eighth and carried the Cardinals to victory. Boxscore

“Cepeda especially enjoyed beating Perry because Gaylord and Orlando weren’t always the best of friends when they were Giants teammates,” The Sporting News reported.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cepeda said Perry charged him with not putting out 100 percent when they were teammates.

On June 26, 1967, the Cardinals beat Perry and the Giants at St. Louis. Boxscore When the Giants returned two months later, Cepeda slammed another two-run home versus Perry in a 2-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

For the 1967 season, Cepeda hit .471 versus Perry and .419 with 11 RBI versus the Giants.

In his book “Baby Bull,” Cepeda said of the 1967 season, “I saved some of my best hitting exploits for the Giants … Roger Maris said he had never seen any one player so single-handedly beat another team like I beat the Giants that year.”

Spit and polish

In Perry’s fifth loss to the 1967 Cardinals, on Aug. 24 at San Francisco, Dick Hughes pitched a four-hit shutout and delivered a run-scoring single in the 2-0 triumph. (“Hughes, by the way, threw a pretty good spitter,” Perry said in his book.) Cepeda had a single and two walks, and was almost flattened by a Perry pitch, The Sporting News reported.

After the game, Cepeda said in mocking fashion to the Post-Dispatch, “Poor Gaylord Perry. He pitched a good game again.” Boxscore

Cepeda’s success against Perry in 1967 didn’t last. He hit .217 against him for his career.

Other career batting marks versus Perry among 1967 Cardinals regulars: Lou Brock (.212), Curt Flood (.171), Julian Javier (.169), Roger Maris (.273), Dal Maxvill (.111), Tim McCarver (.186) and Mike Shannon (.190).

Perry was tough on the Cardinals when they repeated as National League champions in 1968. He pitched a no-hitter against them and was 3-1 with an 0.82 ERA.

In Perry’s last career appearance against the Cardinals, at Atlanta in 1981, he faced the likes of Keith Hernandez, Tommy Herr and Garry Templeton. Perry, 42, started for the Braves and Jim Kaat, 42, relieved for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »