Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

In 1960, while pursuing a pennant with the Pirates, pitcher Bob Friend twice surrendered game-winning home runs to Stan Musial in a two-week span in the heat of the National League title chase.

Friend, who died Feb. 3, 2019, at 88, was a durable, dependable right-hander for 16 major-league seasons, including 15 with the Pirates.

Friend led the National League in ERA (2.83) in 1955, tied for the league lead in wins (22) in 1958 and twice pitched the most innings (314.1 in 1956 and 277 in 1957).

When the Pirates won their first pennant in 33 years in 1960, Friend was 18-12 with a 3.00 ERA and led the staff in starts (37), shutouts (four), innings pitched (275.2) and strikeouts (183).

He might have won 20 if not for the home run heroics of Musial.

Power stroke

On Aug. 11, 1960, the Cardinals opened a five-game series against the Pirates at Pittsburgh. The second-place Cardinals, who were five games behind the Pirates, started Ernie Broglio against Friend in Game 1.

The Pirates scored a run in the fifth, the Cardinals tied the score at 1-1 in the eighth and both starting pitchers still were in the game as it entered the 12th.

Bill White opened the inning with a single. After Ken Boyer flied out, Musial, who had doubled twice in the game, came to the plate.

Friend’s first pitch to him was a fastball and Musial hit it into the upper deck in right for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.

The Pirates scored a run in the bottom half of the 12th, but Broglio struck out Dick Stuart with the potential tying run at second, securing a 3-2 victory and moving the Cardinals within four games of the Pirates. Boxscore

When Friend got into the clubhouse, he “disgustedly tossed his glove toward his locker,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“I can’t pitch any better,” Friend said to The Pittsburgh Press. “I tried to get Musial to hit to center field and pitched him over the outside of the plate, but he went right with me. The fastball was on the outside of the plate and yet he pulled it into the seats.”

Friend told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I thought I had as much stuff as I ever had and threw as hard as I did any time this season.”

Musial, typically modest, said, “Bob is a good pitcher, real fast and cagey. I guess I was kind of lucky to tag him the way I did.”

Told the home run was the 424th of his major-league career, Musial replied, “That’s quite a few for a singles hitter.”

Musial visited his hometown of Donora, Pa., during the series and took heat for beating the Pirates. He told the Post-Dispatch, “My old friends kept asking me, ‘What did you have to do that for?’ ”

Behind the pitching of Bob Gibson, the Cardinals won the second game of the series, getting within three of first place, but the Pirates won the last three, pushing their lead to six.

Oldie but goodie

Two weeks later, the first-place Pirates came to St. Louis for a three-game series. The Cardinals were in third place, 8.5 games behind the leaders.

In the series opener, on Aug. 26, 1960, Friend again was matched against Broglio.

In the seventh inning, with the scored tied at 1-1, Musial, hitless in three at-bats, came up with a runner on first and one out.

Friend got ahead on the count, 1-and-2, and tried to jam Musial on the fists with a fastball. The pitch was inside, but low, and Musial hit it to the pavilion roof in right for a two-run home run.

“It was the only ball I hit good during the game,” Musial said.

Said Friend: “Pretty soon I’ll be talking to myself.”

Broglio retired the Pirates in order over the last two innings and Musial’s home run proved the difference in a 3-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

“Like I always say, there’s room in this game for old men who can hit,” said Musial, 39.

For his career, Musial hit .277 with five home runs against Friend.

The Cardinals went on to sweep the series and get within 5.5 games of first place, but the Pirates didn’t falter. Friend played a prominent role down the stretch, winning four of his last five decisions.

Friend, who pitched for the Yankees and Mets in his final season in 1966, finished with a career record of 197-230. Against the Cardinals, he was 19-28 with seven shutouts.

On Aug. 15, 1951, in his rookie season, Friend, 20, pitched his first big-league shutout with a two-hitter against the Cardinals at Pittsburgh. The Cardinals’ two hits came in the second inning on singles by Nippy Jones and Bob Scheffing. Boxscore

Using a sinker and curve, Friend recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts in a win versus the Cardinals on Aug. 20, 1959, at Pittsburgh. Boxscore

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The Pirates came close to convincing the Cardinals to send them Stan Musial, but settled instead for Murry Dickson.

Seventy years ago, on Jan. 29, 1949, the Cardinals sold the contract of Dickson, a starting pitcher, to the Pirates for $125,000.

The Pirates were willing to pay almost three times as much if the Cardinals included Musial in the deal. The purchase price would have been $310,000 _ $250,000 for Musial, the reigning National League batting champion, and $60,000 for Dickson, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

One of the Cardinals’ owners was willing but the other wasn’t, so Musial remained with St. Louis.

Right stuff

Dickson was born in Tracy, Mo., a town along the Platte River in the western part of the state. He was 20 when he signed with the Cardinals in 1936.

A right-hander with a slight build, Dickson began his professional career with Grand Island of the Nebraska State League in 1937 and worked his way through the Cardinals’ system.

After posting a 22-15 record for Houston of the Texas League in 1939, Dickson was rewarded with a promotion to the Cardinals and made his major-league debut on Sept. 30, 1939, with 3.2 scoreless innings of relief against the Cubs at Chicago. Boxscore

Dickson made another September appearance with the Cardinals in 1940 after posting a 17-8 record for Columbus, Ohio. He spent all of 1941 in the minors and stuck with the Cardinals in 1942.

The Cardinals won National League pennants in 1942 and 1943. Dickson was 6-3 in 1942, 8-2 in 1943 and made a relief appearance in the World Series versus the Yankees before entering the Army.

Dickson was assigned to a reconnaissance unit in Europe during World War II, achieved the rank of sergeant and earned four battle stars. General George S. Patton wanted Dickson to be his driver, but Dickson asked to be assigned elsewhere, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

After two years of military service, Dickson returned to the Cardinals in 1946, achieved a record of 15-6 with a 2.88 ERA and helped them win another pennant. In the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox, Dickson started Game 3 and Game 7. He was the losing pitcher in Game 3 and got no decision in Game 7, though the Cardinals won.

Pursuing a deal

In his book, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said Dickson “liked to experiment with pitches. He had the widest assortment I ever saw _ fastball, curve, slider, knuckler, sinker, screwball _ and a remarkable arm.”

Dickson was 13-16 in 1947 and 12-16 in 1948, when he gave up 39 home runs, but Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer liked him and wanted him in the starting rotation.

The Pirates liked Dickson, too. He was 0-5 against them in 1948, but with a 2.17 ERA, and the Pirates were convinced he’d improve their starting staff.

After the 1948 season, the Pirates began a “relentless pursuit” of Dickson, according to The Pittsburgh Press.

Pirates majority owner and president Frank McKinney was a friend of Cardinals president Robert Hannegan, who co-owned the St. Louis club with Fred Saigh. McKinney and Hannegan were powerful figures in the national Democratic Party and confidantes of President Harry Truman.

While attending the 1948 World Series, McKinney met with Hannegan to discuss a deal for a pitcher. Hannegan offered a choice of four _ Dickson, Red Munger, Howie Pollet and Ted Wilks, The Pittsburgh Press reported.

“Dickson was the pitcher we wanted,” McKinney said.

McKinney said he and Hannegan continued to negotiate, including when they were in Washington, D.C., for Truman’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1949.

“I worked on this deal for a long time,” McKinney said.

Wait a minute

At some point, the trade talks between McKinney and Hannegan focused on Musial.

In a column headlined “Bucs Almost Had Musial,” Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams reported McKinney “had just about convinced Robert Hannegan to sell him Musial and Murry Dickson in one package.”

While at Truman’s inauguration, Hannegan, who suffered from hypertension, said he was advised by his doctor to sell his share of the Cardinals because of the stress the job was causing him. Hannegan planned to sell his share to Saigh.

McKinney’s $310,000 bid for Musial and Dickson was appealing to Hannegan, who “wanted to get back the money he invested in Cardinals stock and get out of baseball because of ill health,” the Post-Gazette reported.

When Saigh was told of the proposed Pirates deal, he objected to Musial being included. “Saigh would have blown his top had such a deal gone through,” the Post-Gazette reported, “and no one could blame him. The move would have wrecked the St. Louis club.”

On Jan. 26, 1949, Hannegan called McKinney, told him Musial wasn’t available and the price for Dickson had gone up to $125,000. “(He) told me to make up my mind within an hour,” McKinney said to The Pittsburgh Press.

McKinney called Pirates manager Billy Meyer, who said, “Get Dickson.”

Hannegan and McKinney made the deal but agreed to keep it quiet because the next day, Jan. 27, 1949, Hannegan announced he sold his shares to Saigh, who gained control of the franchise.

Two days later, it was Saigh who announced Dickson’s contract was sold to the Pirates.

Pinpoint control

Dickson was 12-14 for the 1949 Pirates, but 5-3 versus the Cardinals, who finished a game behind the pennant-winning Dodgers.

Musial said Dickson liked to pitch from behind in the count and get overeager batters to chase pitches. “He had such great control that instead of coming in there with a fat one, he could catch a corner with a pitch that looked good, but wasn’t,” Musial said.

In five seasons with the Pirates, Dickson was 66-85. He went to the Phillies in 1954 and they traded him back to the Cardinals on May 11, 1956, with Herm Wehmeier for Harvey Haddix, Stu Miller and Ben Flowers.

Dickson was 13-8 for the Cardinals in 1956 and 5-3 in 1957 before he hurt his right shoulder and was released.

He pitched for the Athletics and Yankees in 1958, making two relief appearances for New York in the World Series against the Braves, and for the Athletics again in 1959 when he was 43.

Dickson’s career record in the big leagues was 172-181, including 72-54 for the Cardinals.

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As a 22-year-old rookie, Mel Stottlemyre pitched with poise and precision for the Yankees against the Cardinals in the 1964 World Series.

Stottlemyre, who died Jan. 13, 2019, at 77, started three World Series games versus the Cardinals and was matched against Bob Gibson in each. Stottlemyre got a win in Game 2, a no-decision in Game 5 and a loss in Game 7. He had a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings and yielded no home runs to the Cardinals.

Relying primarily on sinkers and sliders, Stottlemyre didn’t possess an overpowering fastball like Gibson did, so he tried to get groundouts rather than strikeouts.

In his complete-game victory over the Cardinals, Stottlemyre got 18 of the 27 outs on ground balls, according to The Sporting News. Of the 35 Cardinals batters he faced, nine hit the ball into the air, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Stottlemyre “pitched impressively with a sinker that was so good he needed only three outfield putouts,” Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg noted.

Yankee from Yakima

Stottlemyre was born in Hazleton, Mo., a village along the Big Piney River near Mark Twain National Forest in the southern part of the state. His father was a pipefitter and moved the family to Oregon and South Carolina before settling in Mabton, an agricultural town in Yakima Valley in Washington state, in the early 1950s.

Stottlemyre attended Yakima Valley Community College, joined the baseball team and was taught to throw a sinker by coach Chuck Brayton.

“He was a hard worker and a dedicated pitcher from the start,” Brayton told The Sporting News. “I guess you could sum it up by saying he loved the game.”

Eddie Taylor of the Yankees was the only big-league scout to make an offer to Stottlemyre.

“Every time I was tempted to go along with the crowd I’d think about the boy’s determination, his character and his will to learn,” Taylor said. “What impressed me most was he always pitched winning baseball and he had a free-throwing arm. His fastball was really not much, but he had that effortless way of throwing the ball. What kept me interested was his sinker.”

Stottlemyre, who didn’t get a signing bonus, was assigned to the Class D level of the minor leagues in 1961.

In 1964, he was at Class AAA Richmond, Va., and had a record of 13-3 with a 1.42 ERA. Seeking a replacement for Whitey Ford, who had a hip problem, the Yankees called up Stottlemyre in August.

The right-hander made his major-league debut on Aug. 12, 1964, pitched a complete game and got the win in a 7-3 Yankees triumph over the White Sox. Stottlemyre went on to post a 9-3 record and 2.06 ERA for the Yankees, who won the American League pennant by finishing a game ahead of the White Sox.

Go low

After Ray Sadecki beat Ford in Game 1 of the World Series, Stottlemyre was matched against Gibson in Game 2 at St. Louis on Oct. 8, 1964.

Stottlemyre dodged trouble in the sixth when a ball laced by Lou Brock struck him on the right wrist. Stottlemyre retrieved the ball, threw out Brock and assured Yankees manager Yogi Berra the wrist was all right.

“It was numb for a little bit, but that feeling went away,” Stottlemyre told the New York Daily News.

In the eighth, with the Yankees ahead, 4-1, the Cardinals put runners on second and third with none out. “I thought about taking Stottlemyre out,” Berra said. “One more hit and I would have.”

Relying on the sinker, Stottlemyre got Curt Flood to ground out to third and Brock to ground out to short. Carl Warwick scored from third on Brock’s groundout, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 4-2, but the Cardinals had two outs and a runner, Jerry Buchek, on second.

The threat, though, wasn’t over. Buchek moved to third on catcher Elston Howard’s passed ball and Bill White walked, bringing cleanup hitter Ken Boyer to the plate.

Stottlemyre’s first pitch to Boyer was a mistake, high and inside, but Boyer swung and missed. Howard went to the mound and reminded Stottlemyre to keep the ball down and away. Boyer grounded out softly to short, ending the inning.

“When Stottlemyre got in the jam, I expected to get a good shot at him, but he didn’t give in,” Boyer said.

Said Howard: “He has more poise than any other young pitcher I’ve ever caught. Base hits don’t rattle him. He keeps coming back.”

The Yankees went on to an 8-3 victory. The first four batters in the Cardinals’ order, Flood, Brock, White and Boyer, were held hitless.

Stottlemyre’s line: 9 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks 4 strikeouts.

Gibson’s line: 8 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts.

“We have a pretty good-hitting ballclub, but we couldn’t get much off that kid,” Gibson said. “He’s nothing but good. I’d have had to be awfully good to beat him today.” Boxscore

Dueling aces

Stottlemyre and Gibson both were good in Game 5 on Oct. 12, 1964, at Yankee Stadium. The Cardinals prevailed, 5-2, on Tim McCarver’s three-run home run off Pete Mikkelsen in the 10th.

Stottlemyre’s line: 7 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts.

Gibson’s line: 10 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts. Boxscore

Stottlemyre and Gibson both started Game 7 on two days’ rest on Oct. 15, 1964, at St. Louis. They were tired but Gibson was better, going the distance in a 7-5 Cardinals triumph.

Stottlemyre’s line: 4 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts.

Gibson’s line: 9 innings, 9 hits, 5 runs, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts. Boxscore

In 11 big-league seasons, all with the Yankees, Stottlemyre was 164-139 with a 2.97 ERA.

He served as pitching coach for the Mets (1984-93), Astros (1994-95), Yankees (1996-2005) and Mariners (2008). The 1986 Mets and the Yankees of 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 won World Series championships.

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Jaime Garcia often was at his best for the Cardinals when facing the Brewers.

On Jan. 9, 2019, Garcia, 32, retired as a major-league pitcher. The left-hander had a regular-season career record of 70-62 with a 3.85 ERA in 10 seasons in the big leagues. He spent eight of those years with the Cardinals and had a regular-season career mark of 62-45 with a 3.57 ERA for them.

Against the Brewers in his career, Garcia had a 12-6 regular-season record and 2.86 ERA. Eleven of those wins came while he was with the Cardinals.

The Brewers were the opponent in Garcia’s two most impressive outings.

Almost perfect

On May 6, 2011, Garcia retired the first 22 batters in a row and finished with a two-hit shutout against the Brewers at St. Louis. Boxscore

“I knew I had a perfect game,” Garcia said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s so hard not to think about it, but I was doing the best I could to stay focused on the next pitch.”

With one out in the eighth, Garcia walked Casey McGehee, ending the perfect game bid, and gave up a single to Yuniesky Betancourt before getting Corey Hart to ground into a double play. The second hit he allowed was a Rickie Weeks double in the ninth.

“His sinker was moving,” Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “His off-speed stuff was moving good, breaking down in the zone.”

Five years later, Garcia did even better.

Magic movement

On April 14, 2016, Garcia, relying on a mix of sinkers, sliders and cutters, pitched a one-hit shutout and struck out a career-high 13 in the Cardinals’ 7-0 triumph over the Brewers at St. Louis. Boxscore

Garcia’s strikeout total was the most for a Cardinals left-hander since Steve Carlton fanned 16 on May 21, 1970, at Philadelphia in a game the Phillies won, 4-3. Boxscore

Garcia was the first Cardinals left-hander to pitch a one-hit shutout and strike out as many as 13.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny described the darting movement of Garcia’s pitches as “odd and rare.”

“It’s just amazing what he can make the ball do,” Matheny said.

The movement Garcia gets on those pitches puts pressure on his left middle finger and requires treatment for blisters and a battered nail, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reported.

Garcia also singled twice, giving him more hits than he allowed.

The Brewers had three base runners. In the third, Keon Broxton struck out swinging on a wild pitch and reached first. In the sixth, Domingo Santana singled. Martin Maldonado walked, leading off the eighth.

Big starts

Garcia started twice against the Brewers in the 2011 National League Championship Series and had one rough outing. In Game 1, he allowed six runs in four innings and was the losing pitcher. He gave up one run in 4.2 innings in Game 5, but didn’t get a decision in a game the Cardinals won, 7-1.

Garcia, selected by the Cardinals in the 22nd round of the 2005 amateur draft, had his best seasons in 2010 and 2011.

His 2.70 ERA was the best of any National League left-hander in 2010 and produced a 13-8 record. Garcia was 13-7 in 2011 and started two games in the World Series against the Rangers, including Game 2 when he pitched seven scoreless innings but didn’t get a decision. He also started Game 6 and pitched three innings before the Cardinals rallied for a 10-9 victory in 11.

On Dec. 1, 2016, the Cardinals traded Garcia to the Braves for pitchers John Gant and Chris Ellis and infielder Luke Dykstra. Garcia pitched for the Braves, Twins and Yankees in 2017 and for the Blue Jays and Cubs in 2018.

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Born and raised near Pittsburgh, John Stuper wanted to pitch for the hometown Pirates, went to the Cardinals instead and became a World Series winner as a rookie.

Forty years ago, on Jan. 25, 1979, the Pirates traded Stuper to the Cardinals for infielder Tommy Sandt.

The minor-league move turned into a big deal for the Cardinals, but not before Stuper had to revive a career headed in reverse.

Hometown hopeful

A native of Butler, Pa., 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, Stuper was a baseball and basketball standout in high school. In three seasons as a college pitcher, he had a 34-3 record. The right-hander was 25-3 in two years at Butler County Community College and 9-0 for Point Park College in downtown Pittsburgh.

The Pirates chose Stuper in the 18th round of the June 1978 amateur draft, offered a $2,500 bonus and signed him that night.

“It’s been my lifelong dream to be a professional baseball player,” Stuper said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I know the odds are against making it to the majors, but I’m not thinking about that now.”

Years later, asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch why he wasn’t drafted in a higher round, Stuper replied, “The rap on me in high school and later in college was I labored too much and didn’t have a smooth enough delivery.”

Stuper was assigned to the Pirates’ Class A club at Charleston, S.C., and posted a 4-8 record and 5.33 ERA.

“He still has a few mechanical problems he has to correct,” said Pirates farm director Murray Cook.

Said Stuper: “I learned a lot. It was an adjustment getting used to being away from home and playing against better talent.”

Climbing the ladder

Four months after his first professional season ended, Stuper was called at home by Cook, who told him of the trade to the Cardinals.

“I was a little disappointed when I was traded, but my friends encouraged me to think positively that the Cardinals wanted me, not that the Pirates didn’t,” Stuper said to The Pittsburgh Press.

In the Cardinals’ minor-league system, Stuper had ERAs of 2.71 in 1979 and 2.41 in 1980. After the 1979 season, he enrolled at LaRoche College in McCandless, Pa., and earned a degree in English. After the 1980 season, he pitched winter baseball in Mexico.

When Stuper got to Cardinals spring training camp in 1981, he was “in midseason form,” he later told the Post-Dispatch, because of his work in Mexico.

Stuper impressed the Cardinals, who conceded he pitched well enough to deserve a role on the Opening Day roster, but they sent him to Class AAA Springfield, Ill., so he could pitch regularly as a starter.

“He’s going to be a good pitcher,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog. “He’s been awfully impressive.”

A step back

Stuper struggled at Springfield and couldn’t get untracked. When the major-league players went on strike in June 1981, Herzog said he intended to go to Springfield “to see what’s wrong with Stuper,” who had lost seven of nine decisions.

Turns out the toll of pitching in Mexico, followed by a spring training workload, left Stuper out of sorts during the 1981 season. He finished with a 6-14 record and 4.92 ERA.

“In the long run, pitching in the winter hurt me,” Stuper said. “My arm was very fatigued all season.”

Stuper went home and worked to get his arm in shape, but he had a poor spring training in 1982 and the Cardinals sent him to Class AAA Louisville in mid-March.

A year after being the surprise of spring training camp, Stuper went to Louisville knowing he needed a good showing to get back in the Cardinals’ plans.

Mission accomplished

“One of my goals this year is to show that last season was a fluke,” Stuper said to the Associated Press.

After taking the loss on Opening Night, Stuper won seven consecutive decisions for Louisville and was 7-1 with a 1.46 ERA when he was called up to the Cardinals on May 28, 1982.

“I was shooting for September,” Stuper said to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I would have been happy with that, so obviously I’m elated with this.”

Stuper made his major-league debut on June 1, 1982, in a start against the Giants at St. Louis. He pitched eight innings, allowing three runs, tripled against Atlee Hammaker and scored the tying run, but the Giants prevailed, 4-3, in 11. Boxscore

Giants first baseman Reggie Smith, a former Cardinal, said, “I liked the young guy’s guts. He challenges you.”

Said Stuper: “I thought my stuff was OK, but I wasn’t real sharp. I was getting behind on too many hitters. My location wasn’t as good as I like it to be.”

Homeward bound

Stuper won four of his first five decisions with the Cardinals.

On Aug. 14, 1982, Stuper pitched in Pittsburgh for the first time as a big-leaguer, getting the start against the Pirates. He yielded one run in 7.1 innings, earning the win in a 4-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t kind of special. Very special,” Stuper said. “I always dreamed about coming here to pitch for the Pirates. The day I got traded, I started dreaming about coming here to pitch against them.”

Stuper finished his rookie season with a 9-7 record and 3.36 ERA, helping the Cardinals win the National League East Division title.

In the postseason, he made three starts and the Cardinals won all three, though he didn’t get a decision in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves or in Game 2 of the World Series versus the Brewers.

Stuper did win Game 6 of the 1982 World Series, pitching a four-hitter in a 13-1 Cardinals victory and setting up a decisive Game 7 won by St. Louis.

Stuper was 12-11 for the Cardinals in 1983 and 3-5 in 1984 before he was traded to the Reds for outfielder Paul Householder.

In 1989, Stuper earned a master’s degree in English from Slippery Rock University. He was a Cardinals minor-league pitching instructor in 1991 and 1992 before becoming head baseball coach at Yale in 1993.

Stuper was entering his 27th season as head coach at Yale in 2019.

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Darold Knowles was the first free-agent player signed by the Cardinals, the club he dreamed of playing for as a youth in Missouri.

Forty years ago, on Jan. 16, 1979, the Cardinals signed Knowles to a two-year contract for $100,000 per season.

Three years after baseball put in a system enabling players to become free agents, the Cardinals finally acquired one.

Free agency for players occurred in 1976 after Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause in court and arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally should be free to sign with any teams they wanted after playing a season without contracts.

On July 12, 1976, a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners created the framework for determining who could become free agents.

Though the Cardinals did pursue Pete Rose and other free agents, they consistently were outbid.

The signing of Knowles, a left-handed reliever, wasn’t a blockbuster, but he was respected, experienced and wanted to play for the Cardinals.

Redbirds rooter

Knowles was born in Brunswick, Mo., a rural community known for producing pecans, and he became a standout amateur player.

The first major-league game he saw as a youth was at St. Louis in the 1950s. “I’ve been a Cardinals fan for as long as I can remember,” Knowles said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals, though, weren’t too interested in Knowles and he signed with the Orioles in February 1961.

Knowles, 23, made his major-league debut for the Orioles in 1965, pitched in five games for them and was traded after the season to the Phillies.

Storybook success

With his mother and father in attendance, Knowles got his first major-league win in his first appearance for the Phillies on April 14, 1966, at St. Louis against the Cardinals.

“I can pitch up here,” Knowles said to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’ve got to throw strikes. I don’t consider myself a strikeout pitcher. If I can throw 27 ground balls, I’m happy.”

The Phillies led, 5-3, when Knowles relieved starter Ray Herbert with a runner on first and none out in the fourth. Knowles pitched “six pressure-packed innings” and “constantly worked his way out of trouble,” the Inquirer reported.

After the Cardinals scored in the fifth, pulling within a run at 5-4, Lou Brock led off the seventh with a walk, but was picked off by Knowles.

“We were going to bunt Lou over,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said. “I don’t know what he was doing trying to steal.”

Said Knowles: “I figured that with them one run down, Brock would try to steal sometime. So I decided to throw to first right away. We got Brock and that was the ballgame. It was a big lift for me.” Boxscore

Championship caliber

In addition to the Orioles and Phillies, Knowles pitched for the Senators (1967-71), Athletics (1971-74), Cubs (1975-76), Rangers (1977) and Expos (1978) before joining the Cardinals.

With the 1970 Senators, Knowles was 2-14 with 27 saves and a 2.04 ERA.

Knowles was with the Athletics when they won three consecutive World Series championships (1972-74). He pitched in all seven games of the 1973 World Series versus the Mets, earning saves in Game 1 and Game 7, and totaled 6.1 scoreless innings.

In 1978, when he joined the Expos, Knowles was reunited with manager Dick Williams, who managed the championship Athletics clubs in 1972 and 1973. Knowles was 3-3 with six saves and a 2.38 ERA for the Expos and they wanted to re-sign him in 1979, “but my family and I didn’t like Montreal,” Knowles said.

Knowles, 37, became a free agent and interested the Cardinals, who were seeking a left-hander to join Mark Littell as short-inning relievers.

Old pro

“I feel good and I think I can have four or five more good years,” Knowles said when he signed with the Cardinals. “I’ve never been overpowering, but I’ve been blessed with good control and the ability to keep my pitches low.”

Said Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons: “Knowles knows what he’s doing. He’s been through every kind of situation. Whatever he’s lost with his arm, he can compensate for with his head. He knows how to approach his job, and the approach is 70 percent of the game.”

At first, Knowles did well for the Cardinals, posting a 2-1 record with four saves and a 2.00 ERA in May, but he finished the 1979 season at 2-5 with six saves and a 4.07 ERA.

Knowles, 38, returned to the Cardinals in 1980 for the second year of his contract.

In his second appearance, on April 18, 1980, Knowles was brought in to protect an 8-7 lead against the Pirates with one on and one out in the sixth. He threw a “scroogie changeup” to the first batter he faced, Dave Parker, who hit a home run and put the Pirates ahead, 9-8.

“The ball was low enough, but I didn’t want it over the plate,” Knowles said.

Knowles allowed another run before completing the inning and was the losing pitcher in a 12-10 Pirates triumph. Boxscore

“We were in a position to win this game and I screwed it up,” Knowles said.

Coaching career

On May 9, 1980, Knowles was released soon after the Cardinals acquired left-hander Jim Kaat from the Yankees.

“I didn’t have that much left,” Knowles said to the Society for American Baseball Research. “I didn’t have the good stuff that I had earlier, but it was OK. I wound up playing for my boyhood dream team and loved every minute in St. Louis.”

Knowles finished with a career record of 66-74, 143 saves and a 3.12 ERA.

The next year, the Cardinals hired Knowles as minor-league pitching coach and he served in the role from 1981-88. In 1983, when Cardinals pitching coach Hub Kittle left the club in June to be with his ailing wife, Knowles filled in for him the remainder of the season.

In 1989, Phillies general manager Lee Thomas, the former Cardinals director of player development, hired Knowles to be pitching coach. Serving on the staff of manager Nick Leyva, a former Cardinals coach, Knowles was Phillies pitching coach in 1989 and 1990.

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