Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

In a lineup featuring future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, it was Erv Dusak who delivered two of the most important hits for the 1946 Cardinals.

Seventy-five years ago, on July 16, 1946, Dusak hit a three-run walkoff home run in the ninth, enabling the Cardinals to complete a four-game sweep of the front-running Dodgers.

Two months later, in the last week of the regular season, Dusak hit another walkoff home run, a solo shot in the 10th inning against the Reds, for a victory that kept the Cardinals in first place.

Power prospect

An outfielder, Dusak was one of three players who made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in September 1941 after being called up from the Rochester farm team. The others were Musial and third baseman Whitey Kurowski.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said Cardinals executive Branch Rickey didn’t say much to him when he joined the team.

“It was obvious that the player on his mind was Dusak, not Musial, and I can see why,” Musial recalled. “Erv was a strapping right-handed power hitter who ran well, fielded well and threw considerably better than I did.”

Unfortunately for Dusak, pitchers quickly discovered a weakness. “Erv had too much trouble with the breaking ball to last long in the big leagues,” Musial said.

Dusak spent most of 1942 back at Rochester. Following the season, he enlisted in the Army and spent three years (1943-45) in World War II service.

In 1946, the Cardinals opened the season with an outfield of Musial and Slaughter in the corners and Terry Moore in center. Dusak made the team as a reserve.

Swing series

The Dodgers set the early pace in the 1946 National League race, winning eight of their first nine.

When they came to St. Louis for a four-game series in July, the Dodgers (49-28) were 4.5 games ahead of the Cardinals (45-33).

The series began with a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park on Sunday July 14. The Cardinals won the opener, 5-3. Slaughter drove in four runs, including two on a tie-breaking home run in the eighth, and Ted Wilks pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Johnny Beazley. Boxscore

In the second game, Musial led off the 12th with a walkoff home run against Vic Lombardi, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 triumph. Boxscore

Game 3 of the series was played on Monday night July 15. Schoendienst had three RBI and the Cardinals prevailed, 10-4.

In the third inning, the Dodgers thought their left fielder, Pete Reiser, snared a drive by Slaughter, but umpire Al Barlick ruled Reiser trapped the ball. Dodgers manager Leo Durocher argued and was ejected. Boxscore

The next day, Tuesday July 16, National League president Ford Frick suspended Durocher for five days and fined him $150 for “laying hands on” Barlick during the rhubarb, the New York Daily News reported. Durocher departed St. Louis rather than stick around for that night’s series finale.

Setting the stage

With coach Chuck Dressen as acting manager for Game 4 of the series, the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

“The big crowd, almost silent, appeared to have given up,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported. “Most Brooklyn writers had their stories written.”

Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer told The Sporting News, “It looked like we were goners.”

The Cardinals had the bottom of their order due to face left-hander Joe Hatten.

Hatten got ahead in the count, 1-and-2, to the first batter, Marty Marion, “when the miracle happened,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

Hatten grazed Marion on the side of his uniform jersey with a pitch, putting him on first.

Clyde Kluttz, a catcher acquired from the Phillies in May, singled to left, moving Marion to second.

After Dyer sent Dusak to bat for pitcher Howie Pollet, Dressen went to the mound to talk to Hatten. A right-hander was ready in the bullpen, but Dressen stuck with Hatten, a decision some speculated Durocher would not have made.

Fantastic finish

Dusak, batting .229 for the season, was given the bunt sign. After he failed in his first attempt to bunt successfully, he was permitted to swing away. He lashed at Hatten’s second pitch and fouled it off.

Hatten’s next two pitches missed the strike zone, evening the count at 2-and-2. He came back with a fastball and Dusak connected.

“The wallop rang out like a pistol shot,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

According to the Star-Times, “There was a terrific crack and everybody knew at once it was all over.”

The ball carried over the left-field wall and landed 10 rows up in the bleachers, turning the two-run deficit into a 5-4 victory and a series sweep. Boxscore

“Frenzied spectators unloosed a thunderous shout and kept it up for many minutes,” the Globe-Democrat reported. “So jubilant were the Cardinals players that they gathered at the plate and almost mobbed Dusak as he scored.”

The New York Daily News noted, “The Dodgers, with their chins sunk against their chests, trudged forlornly off the field, while all around them Redbird fans joined the St. Louis players in whistling, stomping and jumping with joy.”

Dusak was “as happy as a youngster who had just seen Santa Claus for the first time,” the Globe-Democrat declared.

In the locker room, a young bleacher fan showed up with the home run ball and presented it to Dusak, the Star-Times reported.

“He hit one of the most beautiful home runs I ever expect to see,” Dyer told The Sporting News.

Encore performance

By sweeping the series, the Cardinals (49-33) moved within a half-game of the Dodgers (49-32).

“No series played by the Dodgers all season gave them more of a jolt,” Dyer said to The Sporting News.

The Cardinals and Dodgers waged a fierce fight for first place the remainder of the season.

On Sept. 24, the Cardinals (94-55) held a half-game lead over Brooklyn (94-56) heading into a game against the Reds at St. Louis.

The Reds started Johnny Vander Meer, the left-hander who pitched consecutive no-hitters in 1938.

Vander Meer limited the Cardinals to two singles through eight innings and took a 1-0 lead into the ninth, but Musial tied the score with a two-out RBI-single.

In the 10th, Dusak batted with none on. Working the count to 3-and-1, he got a fastball and pulverized it. The ball cleared the wall in left and “landed only a few feet in front of the concession stand at the back of the bleachers,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Dusak’s second walkoff home run of the season gave the Cardinals a 2-1 victory and put them a game ahead of the Dodgers with four to play. Boxscore

Mobbed again by his teammates, Dusak was carried off the field on the shoulders of Dyer and coach Mike Gonzalez, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Change in plans

More drama followed. The Cardinals lost three of their last four games and the Dodgers won two of four, leaving the clubs tied for first at the end of the regular season. A best-of-three playoff was held and the Cardinals won the first two games, clinching their fourth pennant in five years.

The Cardinals then prevailed in a seven-game World Series versus the Red Sox.

Dusak hit .240 with nine home runs for the 1946 Cardinals. As a pinch-hitter, he was 4-for-10. Three of the hits were home runs.

In 1947, Dusak batted .284 for the Cardinals, but slumped to .209 in 1948. He decided to become a pitcher and returned to the minors in 1949.

Dusak pitched in 14 games for the Cardinals in 1950 and five more in 1951 before he was traded to the Pirates.

The Dodgers got a bit of revenge on May 22, 1951, when Gil Hodges hit a grand slam against Dusak. Boxscore

Dusak’s big-league career statistics: .243 batting average, 24 home runs, 0-3 pitching record, one save, 5.33 ERA.

Read Full Post »

The Cardinals decided nights in red satin weren’t for them.

Seventy-five years ago, in 1946, the Cardinals planned to take a bold departure from their traditional look. They bought red satin uniforms to wear during night road games.

When it came time to don the shiny red fabric in a game, however, the Cardinals backed out and stuck with their flannels.

Pajama game

Satin baseball uniforms made a sensation at the American Association All-Star Game at Toledo in 1938. The minor-league all-stars, including Ted Williams, wore red, white and blue satin uniforms for the night game, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In the 1940s, with night games becoming more commonplace, a few National League teams decided to try satin uniforms because the material reflected the ballpark lights.

Satin is a fabric weave that produces a smooth, soft, glossy material with a luxurious look. It is made of silk, polyester or nylon.

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Dodgers, Braves and Reds experimented with satin uniforms in the 1940s.

Innovative executive Branch Rickey chose to have the Dodgers wear satin uniforms in 1944. The former Cardinals administrator got the idea from watching All-American Girls Professional Softball League teams play in satin uniforms under the lights in 1943, Newspaper Enterprise Association reported.

Rickey planned for the 1944 Dodgers to wear white satin uniforms with blue piping for night home games, and blue satin uniforms with white piping for night road games.

“Rickey decided to make Them Beautiful Bums even more colorful,” Newspaper Enterprise Association declared.

United Press described the Dodgers’ outfits as “satin pajamas” and “Little Lord Fauntleroy uniforms.” 

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called the uniforms “satin nightgowns” and rated the home whites as looking better than the road blues. “The flashy white undies with the blue stripes stood out particularly well,” the Brooklyn newspaper noted.

According to Brooklyn Daily Eagle columnist Tommy Holmes, “The players were expecting a lot of razzing from the wisecrackers, but witticisms from the cash customers were conspicuous by their absence.”

Newspaper Enterprise Association concluded, “The next thing you know they’ll be playing baseball without spikes and with chewing tobacco checked in the clubhouse.”

Fashion faux pas

Two years later, in 1946, the Cardinals purchased bright red satin uniforms for road night games, The Sporting News reported, but the duds never got worn by the big-leaguers.

The St. Louis Star-Times reported Cardinals players “refused to wear” the satins. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat claimed the Cardinals “considered the new satin suits too effeminate.” According to The Sporting News, manager Eddie Dyer determined “the uniforms were too fancy for the Cardinals.”

The Cardinals sold the red satins to Fred C. Steffens, a St. Louis sportsman, who donated the brand-new uniforms to the North Side Teen Town baseball team of St. Louis, the Star-Times reported.

On June 12, 1946, Cardinals pitcher Ken Burkhart presented the uniforms to the youth team at St. Louis’ Sherman Park.

Comfortable in their own skin, as well as in their familiar uniforms, the Cardinals went on to win the 1946 National League pennant and beat the Red Sox for the World Series championship.

Sharp-dressed men

While the 1946 Cardinals balked at wearing satin, the 1946 Braves embraced the idea.

On May 11, 1946, the Braves debuted their satin uniforms in a Saturday night home game against the Giants. It was the first time a big-league night game was played in Boston. Boxscore

The Boston Globe described the Braves’ outfits as “a slithery uniform of white satin with scarlet piping, which shine like lingerie in a department store window.”

Among the Braves swathed in satin were a group of former Cardinals, including manager Billy Southworth, center fielder Johnny Hopp and first baseman Ray Sanders. “A sight to behold,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch declared.

The Reds wore satin uniforms in 1948. After playing the Cardinals on a steamy Friday night in St. Louis on July 9, the Reds switched to gray flannels the following night.

According to The Sporting News, Reds players “complained the satins were too uncomfortable during the sweltering heat.”

After Reds general manager Warren Giles, acting on the recommendation of manager Johnny Neun, approved the scrapping of satin for flannel for the Saturday, July 10 game, “the fancy monkey suits went out.” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Soon after, satin uniforms, like top hats and knickers, faded out of style.

Read Full Post »

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).

Read Full Post »

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. 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »