Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the “busiest and brainiest relief pitcher in baseball,” Mike Marshall usually was effective against the Cardinals, but they also had some spectacular successes, twice beating him with walkoff home runs.

A right-hander with remarkable stamina, Marshall was the first relief pitcher to win a Cy Young Award. It happened in 1974, when he pitched for the Dodgers in 106 games, a major-league record for most appearances in a season by a pitcher.

A student of body movement who earned a doctorate in exercise physiology, Marshall developed an approach that enabled him to pitch often and well throughout most of the 1970s. An innovator, educator and baseball rebel, he died May 31, 2021, at 78.

Changing course

At age 11, Marshall was a passenger in a car that was struck by a train near his home in Adrian, Mich. Marshall’s uncle was killed in the accident and Marshall suffered a back injury, according to Sports Illustrated.

Despite an aching back, Marshall became a standout high school athlete in multiple sports, including as a baseball shortstop. He was 17 when he signed with the Phillies in September 1960.

While playing shortstop in the Phillies’ farm system, Marshall enrolled at Michigan State and attended classes during the baseball off-seasons.

Marshall hit for average in the minors, but his back bothered him, making it difficult for him to field grounders, and he told the Phillies he wanted to pitch, the Detroit News reported.

Marshall had a 3.39 ERA in 44 games for Phillies farm clubs in 1965. The Tigers purchased his contract in April 1966 and brought him to the big leagues in 1967. He pitched for the Seattle Pilots, an American League expansion team, in 1969 and the Astros in 1970. 

At Michigan State, Marshall earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1965 and a master’s degree in 1967. His mentor was William Heusner, a professor in kinesiology, the study of body movement. Heusner made Marshall an assistant, giving him a chance to teach.

Describing himself as an educator first and ballplayer second, Marshall told The Sporting News that as a teacher, “I feel I am performing a function that makes me feel vital as a human being.”

Marshall’s academic work helped him develop an approach to pitching. He taught himself to throw a screwball without straining his arm, but the Tigers, Pilots and Astros prohibited him from throwing the pitch.

“Those three were linked by a common denominator of insecurity,” Marshall told The Sporting News. “They couldn’t accept someone trying anything different, or admit that another man’s way might be right.”

Good match

Marshall’s baseball career took an upturn in June 1970 when the Astros traded him to the Expos. Gene Mauch was Expos manager and he encouraged Marshall to throw the screwball.

“It was Mauch who allowed Marshall to develop the concepts, the artistry, the free expression Marshall exhibits on the mound,” The Sporting News noted.

Marshall said, “Our relationship was poetry. I felt we talked as peers.”

Mauch showed faith and patience. Marshall was 3-7 with the 1970 Expos. The first time he faced the Cardinals was as a starter on Aug. 8 and he gave up five runs in 2.1 innings. Boxscore

The turning point came the next year when Marshall focused on relieving and earned 23 saves for the 1971 Expos.

“I’d say 1971 was my most satisfying season,” Marshall told The Sporting News. “That was the year I realized I was a major-league player.”

Marshall had a spectacular August for the 1971 Expos, with five saves and an 0.83 ERA, but suffered a setback against the Cardinals in September.

On Sept. 24, 1971, Joe Hague hit a walkoff grand slam against Marshall in the 10th inning, giving the Cardinals a 10-6 victory. It was the first walkoff home run allowed by Marshall in the majors. Boxscore

Head of the class

In the next two seasons with the Expos, Marshall had 14 wins, 18 saves and a 1.78 ERA in 1972, and 14 wins, a league-leading 31 saves and a 2.66 ERA in 1973. He led the league in games pitched _ 65 in 1972 and 92 in 1973.

During those two seasons, Marshall either won or saved 77 of the Expos’ 149 victories.

The Sporting News noted, “Marshall has revolutionized the thinking about relief pitchers, about their conditioning, about their concepts while on the mound.

“He has applied his understanding of kinesiology to the screwball, which he can make move in more than one direction, and to a conditioning program that makes it possible for him to pitch with a frequency and consistency that is beyond the capabilities of all other pitchers.”

Speaking out

After the 1973 season, Marshall was named Expos player of the year by the Montreal chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. The honor came with a $5,000 check from O’Keefe Brewery, a sponsor of Expos games, but Marshall refused to accept the money.

“I don’t feel I should compete against my own teammates for money like this,” Marshall said to The Sporting News.

Marshall requested in writing that the brewery donate the money to sickle cell anemia research. When he learned the brewery instead gave the $5,000 to an amateur baseball program, Marshall objected and pressured the brewery to honor his request, The Sporting News reported.

Marshall created another controversy when, in an interview with a Michigan reporter, he criticized the Expos’ defensive play.

“Who the hell wants to go back and pitch for that defense any more?” Marshall said. “Second base was terrible. There’s no way we can play another year with Ron Hunt … Third base was terrible. We have absolutely no defense with Bob Bailey. Zero. You can put a high school kid out there and get the same production out of our defense.”

Marshall apologized, but the controversies lingered. Described by Sports Illustrated as a “brooding intellectual of the bullpen” with a “mantle of Kierkegaardian gloom,” Marshall was traded by the Expos to the Dodgers for outfielder Willie Davis in December 1973.

Special season

Dodgers manager Walter Alston let Marshall pitch as much as he wanted. Marshall pitched in 13 consecutive Dodgers games and was 6-0 with two saves and 1.67 ERA in that stretch.

“What he has done is against everything that I ever felt was physically possible,” Dodgers pitcher Jim Brewer told The Sporting News.

Another Dodgers pitcher, Andy Messersmith, said to Sports Illustrated, “He’s a unique and complex individual. There is no one like him in this game. He’s small and rotund, but I haven’t seen anything athletic he can’t do if he puts his mind to it. I’ve never known Mike to go into anything, even Frisbee throwing, without some thought about the muscles involved.”

Marshall was 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA for the 1974 Dodgers and led the league in games pitched (106) and saves (21). He pitched 208.1 innings in relief. The Dodgers won the pennant, and in the World Series against the Athletics, Marshall pitched in all five games, allowing one run in nine innings. Video

Sports Illustrated said of the 1974 National League Cy Young Award winner: “It is his knowledge of his own body, its strengths and limitations, that allows him to pitch in as many as 100 games a season.”

Magic numbers

At his peak, Marshall was dominant against the Cardinals, with ERAs of 1.10 in 1972, 1.69 in 1973 and 1.06 in 1974. In 1976, Marshall made three appearances versus the Cardinals and got wins in all three, posting a 1.08 ERA.

After being traded by the Dodgers in June 1976, Marshall pitched for the Braves, Rangers, Twins and Mets. With the Twins, he was reunited with Mauch and was the American League leader in saves (32) and games pitched (90) in 1979.

In 96 career innings versus the Cardinals, Marshall gave up only two home runs to them. The first was the walkoff grand slam by Joe Hague in 1971. The other came in Marshall’s final season, 1981, with the Mets.

On Sept. 12, 1981, Julio Gonzalez hit a two-run walkoff homer run versus Marshall in the 13th inning, giving the Cardinals a 4-2 triumph. It was Gonzalez’s first homer in the big leagues in three years. Boxscore

Marshall finished with a career record of 97-112 and 188 saves. Against the Cardinals, he was 6-7 with 33 saves.

Marshall is one of five pitchers to pitch in 90 or more games in a big-league season. The list:

_ Mike Marshall: 106 (1974 Dodgers), 92 (1973 Expos) and 90 (1979 Twins).

_ Kent Tekulve: 94 (1979 Pirates), 91 (1978 Pirates), 90 (1987 Phillies).

_ Salomon Torres: 94 (2006 Pirates).

_ Pedro Feliciano: 92 (2010 Mets).

_ Wayne Granger: 90 (1969 Reds).

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When his arm was sound, Ernie White had the talent to be an ace on the Cardinals’ pitching staff.

Eighty years ago, in June 1941, White pitched consecutive two-hit shutouts for the Cardinals against the Dodgers and Giants.

The back-to-back gems were the centerpieces in a stretch of 27.2 scoreless innings pitched by White, a left-hander who threw hard with an easy motion.

White earned 17 wins for the 1941 Cardinals, but arm ailments kept him from ever having another double-digit win season.

Turning pro

In 1937, White, 20, was pitching for a textile mill team in his native South Carolina when he was discovered and signed by Cardinals scout Frank Rickey, brother of club executive Branch Rickey, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

White made his Cardinals debut in 1940 and was a prominent part of the pitching staff in 1941.

Besides White, the 1941 Cardinals pitching staff for manager Billy Southworth included Lon Warneke, Mort Cooper, Max Lanier, Harry Gumbert and Howie Krist. All posted double-digit win totals for the 1941 Cardinals.

On June 7, 1941, the Cardinals started Sam Nahem against the Giants at the Polo Grounds. A New York native, Nahem had a law degree from St. John’s University and enjoyed classical music and literature.

A right-hander, Nahem gave up three runs and was relieved by White with none out in the second. Referring to Nahem as the “boy lawyer,” J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote dismissively, “The Brooklyn barrister didn’t have his usual stuff. Southworth told Sam to spend the rest of the afternoon reading, or something.”

White pitched eight scoreless innings of relief and got the win as the Cardinals prevailed, 11-3. Boxscore

Right stuff

White’s next appearance came on June 15 in a start versus the Dodgers in the second game of a doubleheader at St. Louis.

With two outs and none on in the third inning, pitcher Hugh Casey doubled for the Dodgers’ first hit of the game. White hit Pee Wee Reese with a pitch and walked Billy Herman, loading the bases.

“Ernie was plainly rattled,” W. Vernon Tietjen of the St. Louis Star-Times observed.

Up next was Pete Reiser, who hit a hard grounder to the right side toward Don Padgett, a hulking catcher and outfielder who was making a rare start at first base.

“Padgett threw his 215 pounds at the ball, stuck out his glove and, sure enough, when he picked himself up the ball was stuck in it,” Tietjen wrote in the Star-Times.

Padgett tossed to White, covering first, for “a sensational putout.”

In the bottom half of the third, White doubled, sparking a three-run Cardinals uprising.

White allowed one other hit, a double by Reese in the sixth, and finished with a two-hit shutout in the Cardinals’ 3-0 victory. Boxscore

Special talent

The shutout of the Dodgers ran White’s scoreless innings streak to 17.

His next appearance came June 21 in a start versus the Giants at St. Louis. White pitched another two-hit shutout. The Giants’ hits were singles by Billy Jurges in the second and Mel Ott in the fourth.

In the sixth, White stroked a RBI-single against Bill Lohrman, “a drive that took Lohrman’s cap right off his head and made him wonder, no doubt, if perhaps he wasn’t wearing his protective helmet during the wrong part of the game,” the Post-Dispatch noted. Boxscore

Four days later, on June 25, White started against manager Casey Stengel’s Braves at St. Louis.

In the second, with two outs and Braves runners on second and third, Sibby Sisti grounded a ball just out of the reach of second baseman Creepy Crespi. The hit scored both runners, ending White’s scoreless streak at 27.2 innings.

White held the Braves scoreless in the last seven innings and got the win as the Cardinals triumphed, 6-2. White also drove in one of the Cardinals’ runs with a sacrifice fly.

The win boosted White’s record for the season to 5-1 and kept the Cardinals in first place, a half-game ahead of the Dodgers. Boxscore

In the Star-Times, W. Vernon Tietjen wrote, “Everybody knows baseball pennants are rarely, if ever, won without a Paul Derringer or Bucky Walters, a Dizzy Dean, a Carl Hubbell or a Red Ruffing. Everybody knows, too, that the Cardinals are still leading this race without a substantial facsimile thereof. A good many persons strongly suspect, however, that the Cardinals have one in the making in Ernest Daniel White.”

White “has all the attributes of pitching greatness,” Tietjen declared. “His fastball, delivered with no more apparent effort than a warmup pitch, leaves batters wondering where it went.”

Career curtailed

The Cardinals (97-56) finished in second place, 2.5 games behind the champion Dodgers (100-54). White was 17-7 and was third in the National League in ERA at 2.40. He had 12 complete games and three shutouts.

An arm ailment sidelined White for part of the 1942 season, but he pitched a shutout in Game 3 of the World Series, leading the Cardinals to a 2-0 victory over the Yankees at New York. The Yankees’ lineup featured four future Hall of Famers: Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon and Phil Rizzuto. Boxscore

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, White was the first pitcher to shut out the Yankees in a World Series game since the Cardinals’ Jesse Haines did it in 1926.

White had a shoulder injury in 1943. He entered the Army in January 1944, fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and was discharged in January 1946.

He returned to baseball, but his arm wasn’t right. The Cardinals released White in May 1946 and he signed with the Braves, rejoining his former Cardinals manager, Billy Southworth. His final season in the majors was 1948 and he departed with a career mark of 30-21 with a 2.78 ERA.

White went on to manage teams in the farm systems of the Braves, Reds, Athletics, Yankees and Mets for 15 seasons.

In 1963, 22 years after his scoreless innings streak ended against Casey Stengel’s Braves, White became a coach on the staff of Stengel’s Mets. 

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Only one of the 267 career home runs hit by George Hendrick in the big leagues stayed in the park, and it enabled the Cardinals to beat Fernando Valenzuela the first time they faced him.

Forty years ago, on June 11, 1981, Hendrick’s two-run inside-the-park home run against Valenzuela provided the margin of victory in the Cardinals’ 2-1 triumph over the Dodgers at St. Louis.

The next day, major-league players went on strike and play wouldn’t resume for two months.

Dodger in danger

A left-hander with an exceptional screwball, Valenzuela debuted in the majors with the Dodgers as a reliever in September 1980. He earned a spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation in 1981 and gained national prominence when he won his first eight decisions.

Valenzuela, 20, was scheduled to make his first career appearance against the Cardinals on Thursday, June 11, in the finale of a three-game series at Busch Memorial Stadium.

His first visit to St. Louis was highly anticipated, but it took a dark turn on June 10 when Valenzuela received a death threat. He was taken that night from Busch Memorial Stadium by FBI agents and placed under round-the-clock protection, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Despite the threat, Valenzuela, 20, made his start versus the Cardinals the following night. A crowd of 39,250 turned out for the matchup of Valenzuela (9-3) against the Cardinals’ Silvio Martinez (1-4).

Extra security was provided for Valenzuela because St. Louis police chief Eugene Camp said the FBI had received information of a plot to kidnap the pitcher, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Camp said undercover St. Louis police officers were assigned to keep watch over Valenzuela.

Cardinals capitalize

Those in attendance wouldn’t have known from Valenzuela’s performance that he had been threatened. He pitched with poise and command against the Cardinals.

His only trouble on the field came in the first inning. With two outs and none on, Keith Hernandez coaxed a walk. George Hendrick followed and looped a liner to right field.

“It appeared to be an ordinary single,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

Right fielder Pedro Guerrero charged the ball, hoping for a catch, but it landed five feet in front of him, skipped past him and bounced to the wall. Hernandez and Hendrick circled the bases, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

“I thought I had a chance,” Guerrero said to the Los Angeles Times. “I just couldn’t get it. No excuses.”

Valenzuela told the Post-Dispatch, “It was a very strange home run.”

Fulfilling expectations

The Dodgers got a run in the sixth when Ken Landreaux scored from first on Dusty Baker’s two-out double, but Silvio Martinez allowed nothing more. Bruce Sutter relieved with one out in the eighth and shut down the Dodgers the rest of the way, preserving the win, the last for Martinez in the big leagues.

Valenzuela went seven innings, yielding three hits, walking three and striking out nine, before he was relieved. Hendrick’s fluke home run and singles by Gene Tenace and Tito Landrum accounted for the Cardinals’ hits. Boxscore

“Fernando is everything they said he was,” Tenace told the Post-Dispatch. “Besides having tremendous poise, he has four pitches and he’s not afraid to throw any of them in any situation. He has two great screwballs, a hard one and a slow one. He has an excellent curve, plus a good fastball.”

Landrum said, “By having two speeds on his screwball, he really keeps you off balance. One is a kind of fadeaway. The other breaks hard.”

Keith Hernandez added, “He’s got the best screwball I’ve ever seen. The Lord blesses a select few and he was definitely blessed.”

After the game, six men, all of them either police officers or FBI agents, escorted Valenzuela from the ballpark through a private exit, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Silly seasons

The victory moved the Cardinals (30-20) to within 1.5 games of the first-place Phillies (34-21) in the National League East. The players went on strike the next day.

Before play resumed on Aug. 10, baseball declared the games completed before the strike would count as one season, and the games completed after the strike would count as a second season. Those teams with the best division records in each season would advance to the playoffs.

The Phillies were declared champions of the National League East Division in the first season.

Baseball made the decision even though, because of scheduling inconsistencies, all teams were not playing the same amount of games. 

After the strike, the Expos (60-48) finished atop the National League East in the second season and the Cardinals (29-23) placed second.

The Phillies and Expos were the National League East teams that went to the playoffs, even though overall in 1981 the top three records in the division belonged, in order, to the Cardinals (59-43), Expos (60-48) and Phillies (59-48).

The Dodgers, who finished atop the National League West in the first season of 1981, became National League and World Series championships.

Pedro Guerrero overcame his gaffe against the Cardinals and hit .300 for the Dodgers. He was named World Series most valuable player, hitting .333 with two home runs versus the Yankees.

Valenzuela finished 13-7 with eight shutouts in 1981 and won both the National League Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year Award. He was 1-0 in the World Series, pitching a complete game.

Guerrero and Valenzuela both eventually played for the Cardinals.

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Though it wasn’t unusual for Darryl Kile to hit a batter with a pitch, the number he plunked in a game against the Cardinals was extraordinary, even for him.

Twenty-five years ago, on June 2, 1996, while with the Astros, Kile hit four Cardinals batters with pitches in a game at St. Louis. Three of the four who were struck figured in the scoring, leading to a Cardinals victory.

Kile was the first National League pitcher to pelt four batters with pitches in one game since the Cubs’ Moe Drabowsky did it exactly 29 years earlier, on June 2, 1957, against the Reds. Boxscore

Breaking bad

The Sunday afternoon game between the Astros and Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium matched a pair of right-handers, Kile vs. Todd Stottlemyre.

In the second inning, Kile plunked the leadoff batter, Ray Lankford. He moved to second on Gary Gaetti’s single and scored on John Mabry’s hit.

Gaetti was hit by a pitch in the sixth, but the Cardinals didn’t score.

It was a different story in the eighth. With two outs, none on and the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead, Gaetti and Mabry each singled. The next batter, Danny Sheaffer, hitless in his last 10 at-bats, was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. It was the first time in three years Sheaffer got plunked in a major-league game.

Up next was Luis Alicea, the Cardinals’ hot hitter. Alicea had hit a home run in each of his three previous games. With the bases loaded, he dug in, expecting Kile to throw a strike.

“I wanted to get a good rip at it,” Alicea told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was disappointed because I didn’t even have a chance.”

Kile hit Alicea with a pitch, scoring Gaetti from third and giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

“I was just trying to make too good a pitch,” Kile told the Associated Press.

Kile said he hit three batters with curveballs. Regarding the two he plunked in the eighth, Kile said, “You just can’t do stuff like that.”

The Astros got a runner to second base with two outs in the ninth, but Stottlemyre got Craig Biggio to pop out to shortstop Royce Clayton, completing the shutout win. Boxscore

Batters beware

Kile hit a league-high 16 batters with pitches in 1996. It was the second time he led the league in most batters hit by pitches. The other was when he plunked 15 in 1993.

After being acquired by the Cardinals in November 1999, Kile twice led the club in most batters hits by pitches (13 in 2000 and eight in 2002) and placed second in 2001 (11).

In 12 years in the majors, Kile hit 117 batters with pitches. By comparison, Bob Gibson, who had a reputation as an intimidator, hit 102 batters with pitches in 17 years. Gibson is the Cardinals franchise leader in that category.

The major-league record for most batters hit by pitches is 277 by Gus Weyhing, who pitched from 1887-1901, including part of the 1900 season with the Cardinals.

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A game-winning home run against the Cardinals provided an early indication that the 1957 season would be special for catcher Del Crandall and the Braves.

On April 24, 1957, Crandall clouted a walkoff home run in the ninth inning, giving the Braves an 8-7 victory over the Cardinals at Milwaukee.

The win was the Braves’ sixth in their first seven games of the season. Propelled by the fast start, they went on to win the 1957 National League pennant, finishing eight games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals, and dethroned the Yankees for the World Series championship.

Crandall was a major contributor to the Braves’ success. A gifted catcher and strong thrower, he was liked and respected by a Braves pitching staff featuring Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette.

A big-league catcher for 16 seasons, Crandall died May 5, 2021, at 91. He was the last surviving member of the Boston Braves.

Taking charge

Crandall was 19 when he was called up to the Braves from the minors in June 1949. Based in Boston, the 1949 Braves were the defending National League champions and were managed by Billy Southworth, the former Cardinals manager.

The teen’s first big-league hit came against Dutch Leonard, the Cubs’ 40-year-old knuckleball artist who had been pitching in the majors since Crandall was 3. Boxscore

The Braves had another 19-year-old, pitcher Johnny Antonelli, and he and Crandall formed a teenage battery in nine games in 1949.

In the book “We Played the Game,” Antonelli said he and Crandall were roommates in Boston.

“Del became my best friend on the team,” Antonelli said. “We were called the Milkshake Twins.

“Del was a leader as a rookie. He liked to hear chatter around the diamond when he was catching, and one day he gunned the ball down to third, saying, ‘Come on, Elliott, wake up.’ Bob Elliott was a seasoned player and warned, ‘Don’t do that again, kid,’ but he would. That’s the way Del would be his entire career.”

After two years (1951-52) in the Army, Crandall rejoined the Braves, who had relocated to Milwaukee, and developed into one of the game’s best catchers.

Among Crandall’s accomplishments:

_ An eight-time National League all-star.

_ Four-time Gold Glove Award winner.

_ Five times led the National League in number of runners caught stealing.

_ Four times led National League catchers in fielding percentage.

“Del had a good head on his shoulders,” pitcher Bob Buhl told author Danny Peary. “We called him Jack Armstrong, the all-American boy. He would never do anything wrong. For instance, he didn’t drink. Yet he wasn’t resentful of those who did, which was fortunate, because we were a drinking team.”

Mistake pitch

Playing in a lineup with Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, Crandall usually batted near the bottom of the order. He hit 26 home runs in 1955, including a walkoff grand slam against the Phillies.

His next walkoff home run came two years later versus the Cardinals.

The score was tied at 7-7, with one out and none on in the bottom of the ninth, when Crandall batted against Cardinals reliever Willard Schmidt.

Crandall got behind in the count 0-and-2. “I had good stuff,” Schmidt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was getting the ball right where I wanted it.”

He had no excuse, Schmidt said, for the pitch he threw next.

“In that situation, and to a man like him, you never put the ball anywhere but out of the strike zone, maybe even call it a little brushback,” Schmidt said.

Instead, “I was stupid,” Schmidt said. His pitch was over the plate and Crandall hit it over the fence in left, giving the Braves a walkoff win. Boxscore

Crandall hit 15 home runs for the 1957 Braves. He hit another in Game 7 of the World Series against Yankees reliever Tommy Byrne, helping the Braves clinch the championship. Boxscore and video at 38:12 mark

The next year, Crandall hit another Game 7 World Series home run, against reliever Bob Turley, but the Yankees prevailed. Boxscore

Run producer

In 1960, Crandall had his best season as a hitter. He batted .294 with 19 home runs, 77 RBI and a league-leading 12 sacrifice flies. In a stretch from July 16 to Aug. 25, Crandall hit five home runs: two each against Sandy Koufax and Robin Roberts and one versus Bob Gibson. He also hit a home run against Bill Monbouquette in the All-Star Game. Boxscore

The next year, Crandall sat out for most of the season because of an arm ailment and Joe Torre, 20, took over the catching.

In 1962, Torre was the Opening Day catcher but Crandall came back strong and ended up starting the majority of games. 

On June 1, 1962, Crandall broke an 0-for-17 skid with two singles, a triple and five RBI in the Braves’ 7-0 triumph over the Cardinals at Milwaukee. It was the second and last time Crandall produced five RBI in a big-league game. Boxscore

Braves manager Birdie Tebbetts said Crandall took extra batting practice before the game and worked on hitting the ball through the middle of the diamond, the Associated Press reported.

Bob Shaw, who pitched the shutout against the Cardinals, said, “Pitching to a guy like Del makes it a lot easier. He knows the hitters.”

Multiple skills

In 1963, Bobby Bragan became Braves manager and he preferred Torre to be the starting catcher. Crandall shared backup duties with Bob Uecker.

In his book “Chasing the Dream,” Torre said, “I’ll always be grateful to Crandall for being a true professional and being so quick to help me during my first few years in the big leagues.”

After the season, Crandall was traded to the Giants. 

On May 31, 1964, in the opener of a doubleheader against the Mets at New York, Crandall caught nine innings in Juan Marichal’s complete-game win. Boxscore

In the second game, Crandall batted for pitcher Gaylord Perry in the 23rd inning and delivered a RBI-double against Galen Cisco, breaking a 3-3 tie and sparking the Giants to a 5-3 marathon victory. Boxscore

Crandall finished his playing career with the Pirates (1965) and Indians (1966). He hit .254 overall and .219 versus the Cardinals.

Crandall remained in baseball into the 1990s. He managed the Brewers (1972-75) and Mariners (1983-84). With the Brewers, he was the first big-league manager of Darrell Porter and mentored the future Cardinals catcher.

Also, Crandall was an Angels coach (1977), a minor-league manager in the farm systems of the Dodgers, Brewers and Angels, and broadcaster for the White Sox (1985-88) and Brewers (1992-94).

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For a guy who lacked speed, Joe Torre hit a surprisingly high number of triples during his prime years with the Cardinals.

Torre led the Cardinals in triples in 1970 and 1971, and ranked second on the club in 1969 and 1972.

Fifty years ago, on May 29, 1971, Torre hit a walkoff three-run triple against his former team, the Braves, erasing a 7-5 deficit in the ninth inning and giving the Cardinals an 8-7 triumph.

It was one of a team-high eight triples Torre produced in 1971, a year when he led the National League in hitting, total bases and RBI.

Three bases

Torre was 20 when he hit his first big-league triple on June 22, 1961, for the Braves against the Giants’ Billy Loes at Milwaukee. Boxscore

In nine seasons with the Braves, the most triples Torre hit in a year were five in 1964. Two of those triples came on Sept. 24 in a game against the Phillies, who were in a skid that enabled the Cardinals to rise up and win the pennant. Boxscore

Traded to the Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda in March 1969, Torre embarked on a four-year stretch of impressive triples production.

A right-handed batter, Torre had 29 triples for the Cardinals from 1969-72.

In 1969, when Lou Brock led the Cardinals in triples with 10, Torre and Vada Pinson tied for second with six apiece.

Torre topped the Cardinals in triples in 1970 (9) and 1971 (8).

Brock was the team triples leader in 1972 with eight, and Torre and Ted Simmons each had six, tying for second.

Though Torre’s line-drive stroke was ideal for Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, he had more triples on the road than he did at home in three of the four seasons between 1969 and 1972.

In his final two Cardinals seasons, Torre had two triples in 1973 and one in 1974.

In 18 years in the majors, Torre hit 59 triples, including 32 for the Cardinals.

Zoned in

Weight loss was a contributing factor in Torre’s high number of triples with the Cardinals.

In his book “Chasing the Dream,” Torre said he went on a diet during spring training in 1970 and his weight dropped from 228 pounds to 208. During the season, he slimmed down to 195 pounds.

Splitting his time between catching and playing third base in 1970, Torre batted .325 with 203 hits and 100 RBI.

He followed that with a career year in 1971. Batting cleanup in every game, Torre led the National League in batting average (.363), hits (230), total bases (352) and RBI (137), and won the Most Valuable Player Award.

“I was locked in all year,” Torre said in his book. “I used to go home and know what pitches I was going to hit off the pitcher the next day. It was weird. I had such a feeling of concentration, of being able to block everything out. The more hits you get, the more confident you are. The key is your confidence level.”

Torre was hot from the start of the season and never cooled off. He hit safely in the first 22 games of the season. For the month of April, Torre batted .366 and had 34 hits in 24 games.

Finding the gap

In May 1971, Torre batted .355. He capped the month with his game-winning triple against the Braves on the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend at St. Louis.

After the Braves broke a 5-5 tie with two runs in the top of the ninth, they brought in Cecil Upshaw to pitch the bottom half.

The first two batters, Lou Brock and Matty Alou, each singled. With the runners on first and second, none out, Ted Simmons bunted. Upshaw reached for the ball and bobbled it, enabling Simmons to safely reach first and loading the bases for Torre.

Upshaw and Torre were Braves teammates from 1966-68. As a Cardinal, Torre had faced Upshaw three times and was hitless against the right-hander who threw nearly underhanded with a sweeping delivery from below the waist.

Getting a pitch to his liking, Torre lined it into right-center, clearing the bases and ending the game with his triple. Boxscore

Torre went on to hit .382 with runners in scoring position in 1971.

He was remarkably consistent overall, hitting .324 or better in every month of the season. He hit .356 versus right-handers and .376 against left-handers in 1971.

“I had a ton of hits to right field that year, even more than I usually did,” Torre said in his book. “My philosophy on hitting was pretty simple: Dare them to jam you. I think there are a lot more hits on the handle than on the end of the bat.”

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