Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Erich Barnes was a formidable foe of the St. Louis football Cardinals. He was an intimidating, savvy defensive back who played 14 seasons in the NFL. In seven games against the Cardinals, he intercepted six passes.

Two of Barnes’ most significant clashes with the Cardinals occurred in consecutive seasons (1966 and 1967) at St. Louis. The first illustrated his fiery intensity. The second showed his smarts.

An all-pro who totaled 45 interceptions with the Chicago Bears (1958-60), New York Giants (1961-64) and Cleveland Browns (1965-71), Barnes was 86 when he died on May 6, 2022.

Rough stuff

Barnes played college football at Purdue and earned a bachelor’s degree. The Bears selected him in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL draft.

In January 1961, the Bears sent Barnes to the Los Angeles Rams for quarterback Billy Wade. The Rams then flipped Barnes to the Giants for defensive back Lindon Crow, a former Chicago Cardinal who had threatened to retire unless the Giants traded him to a team near his California home.

“We gave up a class A player in Barnes,” Bears head coach George Halas told the Chicago Tribune, “but you must give up a class A player to get one in return.”

“Often matched against the league’s best wide receivers,” the New York Times noted, Barnes helped the Giants reach the NFL title game in three consecutive seasons (1961-63).

Bobby Mitchell of the Washington Redskins said of Barnes, “When a man can hold me down playing man-to-man defense, he’s doing a tremendous job.”

Barnes developed a reputation for making hard hits “with an exuberance that drew penalties or warnings,” the Associated Press reported. In a 1963 game against the Bears, he was assessed a penalty for roughing another tough guy, tight end Mike Ditka.

“Throughout Barnes’ career, his method of operation was simple: You come across the middle, you get busted in your chops,” the Akron Beacon Journal observed.

Barnes displayed an uncanny knack for arriving at the same time a pass reached a receiver, and then whacking the ball from the recipient’s arms with a motion similar to a butcher wielding a cleaver.

“He was very intense on the field,” Barnes’ teammate, Giants offensive lineman Roosevelt Brown, told the Akron newspaper. “Off the field, he was very laid back. That’s when you wanted to meet him. You didn’t want to meet up with him on the football field.”

Barnes had 18 interceptions in four seasons with the Giants. 

Like the Bears four years earlier, the Giants were in desperate need of an experienced quarterback in August 1965, and Barnes had trade value. The Giants sent Barnes to the Browns for linebacker Mike Lucci, then swapped Lucci and guard Darrell Dess to the Detroit Lions for quarterback Earl Morrall.

Danger zone

On Dec. 17, 1966, the Browns and Cardinals played at Busch Memorial Stadium. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Browns ahead by 28, backup quarterback Jim Ninowski threw a sideline pass to pint-sized Walter “The Flea” Roberts. The pass was incomplete, but Cardinals rookie defensive back Bobby Williams followed Roberts out of bounds and knocked him toward the Browns’ bench.

Roberts got up and “wanted to fight,” Williams said to the Associated Press. “He jumped on me. Then Barnes came over. Then it seemed like the whole Browns team was around me.”

Barnes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I guess I was the first one to reach Williams, and I gave him a shove.”

Barnes then kicked, or attempted to kick, Williams while he was down, witnesses told United Press International.

“I swung my foot, but I’m not even sure I touched him,” Barnes said to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It was more of a chastising gesture. I had no intention of hurting him.”

Emotions were raw. Some spectators left their seats, gathered on top of a dugout and shouted at the Browns players on the sidelines.

“Ushers were unable to control the unruly bunch,” the Jacksonville (Ill.) Daily Journal reported, “and policemen with nightsticks were rushed to the scene.”

Bruce Alford, a line judge on the officiating crew, feared the mob would storm the field. “I thought there might not be enough policemen when the trouble started,” Alford told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

During a timeout, a spectator broke loose, approached Barnes from behind and struck him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground.

“The first thing I know, I’m flat on my back,” Barnes recalled to the Post-Dispatch, “and I see our other players pushing some fan away from me.”

The assailant was handcuffed by police and taken away. Game stats

Two plainclothes police officers were assigned to escort Barnes from the locker room to the team bus, according to the Post-Dispatch.

After reviewing film, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle fined Barnes $250 for making “a major contribution to an inflammatory sideline incident.”

Experience matters

A year later, when the Browns returned to Busch Memorial Stadium on Dec. 10, 1967, “Barnes was booed vociferously when he was introduced” before the game, the Dayton Daily News reported.

Unfazed, Barnes responded with an outstanding performance. “Can’t play this game to win popularity contests,” Barnes told the Dayton newspaper.

In the third quarter, with the Browns ahead, 10-9, Cardinals tight end Jackie Smith took a handoff from Jim Hart on an end-around play.

“We’d studied films of that play all week,” Barnes told the Post-Dispatch.

When Barnes saw Smith take the ball, it was his responsibility to leave the receiver he was covering, Bobby Joe Conrad, and advance toward Smith, but Barnes’ instincts told him something was amiss.

“I say to myself, ‘Why is Bobby Joe Conrad running by me so hard?’ ” Barnes told the Post-Dispatch. “Most pass receivers don’t really run unless they think they’re going to get the ball.

“I say, ‘Erich, ain’t no pass receiver going to run that hard on a fake.’ That’s how I guessed Jackie Smith might plan to throw on that end-around. So I stay with Conrad.”

Sure enough, Smith stopped, looked downfield and tossed a pass toward Conrad. It was the first pass Smith attempted in a NFL game. Barnes intercepted it and ran 40 yards to the Cardinals’ 21. A few minutes later, Lou Groza kicked a field goal for a 13-9 Browns lead.

Barnes’ pickoff and return “put the Cardinals in a hole for the entire third quarter,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “The play served to turn the game in Cleveland’s direction.”

Barnes came up big again on the last play of the game.

With the Browns ahead, 20-16, Hart connected with Smith on a pass to the Cleveland 18. Six seconds remained when Smith caught the ball. Barnes blocked Smith’s path to the sideline so that he couldn’t get out of bounds and stop the clock. Forced to run down the field, Smith was tackled by middle linebacker Dale Lindsey as time expired. Game stats

Read Full Post »

The Reds thought they beat the Cardinals on a home run that didn’t count. The Cardinals thought they won on a home run that did count. The unsatisfying result was that neither team won. A tie score was declared and a makeup game was scheduled.

The adventure began on a Saturday afternoon, May 14, 1938, when the Reds and Cardinals played at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

In the sixth inning, the Reds led, 3-1, and had runners on first (Billy Myers) and third (Lonny Frey), two outs, when Dusty Cooke hit a deep drive to right-center against Cardinals rookie starter Max Macon.

“The ball soared on and on,” The Sporting News reported, and still was rising as it carried over the outfield wall and the bleacher seats. It struck an iron girder just below the roof “at a point where the pavilion is not protected by screen,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch observed, and caromed back into the playing field.

Lee Ballanfant, the umpire with the closest view, ruled the ball was in play. Center fielder Enos Slaughter retrieved it and threw to third baseman Joe Stripp. Cooke, sliding, arrived just ahead of the ball.

Cooke was credited with a two-run triple, extending the Reds’ lead to 5-1, but the Reds argued that he hit a three-run home run, making it a 6-1 score.

According to the Associated Press, Sportsman’s Park had no ground rule for a ball striking a beam underneath the pavilion roof and falling back into the playing field.

Ballanfant, backed by the other two umpires, Bill Klem and Ziggy Sears, determined it was a judgment call.

Reds manager Bill McKechnie disagreed and filed a protest, saying the umpires deprived Cooke of a home run. The Reds contended it was a home run because the ball cleared the outfield wall and would have landed on the pavilion roof or in the seats if it hadn’t struck the girder.

Diamond drama

Trailing 5-1, the Cardinals rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth. If Cooke had been allowed a home run instead of a triple, the Reds would have held on for a 6-5 victory. Instead, the score was 5-5 and the game went to an extra inning.

In the 10th, Frank McCormick’s two-out single scored Lonny Frey from second, giving the Reds a 6-5 lead.

Joe Stripp led off the bottom of the inning with a single against Ray Benge. Gene Schott relieved and fell behind in the count, 3-and-1, to Enos Slaughter.

Given the sign to swing away, Slaughter crushed a home run above the pavilion roof in right, turning “an impending defeat into a glorious Cardinals victory,” the Post-Dispatch reported. Cardinals rushed onto the field and “mauled and hauled Slaughter from the plate to the dugout” in celebration of the 7-6 comeback triumph. Boxscore

According to the Sporting News, McKechnie called National League president Ford Frick at his New York office and was assured a hearing would be held.

“Even officials of the St. Louis team anticipate Frick will allow the protest,” The Cincinnati Post reported.

Play it again

Frick decided to visit Sportsman’s Park and see for himself the spot where Cooke’s drive struck the beam near the pavilion roof.

On June 3, two days after he made his inspection, Frick ruled Cooke’s hit was a home run, but instead of awarding the Reds a 6-5 victory, Frick declared the outcome a 7-7 tie. He ruled that all statistics from the game counted in the record book, but the outcome did not. He ordered the game replayed in its entirety.

The Reds had hoped Frick either would award them a win, or rule for play to resume in the sixth, with the Reds batting, two outs, and a 6-1 lead.

“If that was a home run, the Reds won the game, and it must be difficult for manager McKechnie to understand Frick’s ruling to replay,” J. Roy Stockton wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

McKechnie, a former Cardinals manager who led them to the 1928 National League pennant, told The Cincinnati Post, “Frick’s decision that we must replay the entire game is unjust.”

“Frick showed a distinct lack of courage,” McKechnie said to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Frick told the Associated Press that awarding the Reds a win, or resuming the game in the sixth inning, would penalize the Cardinals “for an error which was in no part its own and concerning which they had no responsibility.”

The Cardinals, though, were unhappy, too. They thought Frick should have upheld the decision of the umpires and validated the 7-6 victory.

Just peachy

The makeup was scheduled as the second game of a Saturday doubleheader on Aug. 20 at Sportsman’s Park.

The Cardinals scored four in the first, knocking out Reds starter Peaches Davis.

In the seventh, with the Cardinals ahead, 5-1, Johnny Mize hit a ball that struck near the edge of the pavilion roof atop the screened section in right. Mize stopped at second base, but umpire Dolly Stark incorrectly ruled it a home run. The Reds argued, and plate umpire George Barr overruled Stark, declaring the hit a double.

The Reds scored three in the eighth, but the Cardinals held on for a 5-4 victory. Boxscore

Read Full Post »

Facing Ernie Broglio for the first time since they were traded for one another, Lou Brock ignited a rally with a bunt.

On July 28, 1964, Broglio started for the Cubs against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It was the first time the Cardinals and Cubs played one another since the June 15 deal of Brock and pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth to the Cardinals for Broglio, pitcher Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens.

Broglio, who was 3-5 with a 3.50 ERA for the 1964 Cardinals, entered the series with a 1-4 record and 5.70 ERA for the Cubs. Pitching with an aching right elbow, he lost his first four decisions with the Cubs before beating the Mets with a 10-hit complete game.

Brock, who batted .251 for the 1964 Cubs, entered the series with a .338 batting average and 11 stolen bases for the Cardinals. Brock’s speed, base running and hitting drew comparison’s with former Cardinals standout Enos Slaughter.

“He’s about as close to Slaughter as you can get,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane told the Associated Press, “and he’s faster. His running has made a great difference to this ballclub.”

Brock said, “Stealing bases is like hitting. It’s timing and rhythm. I don’t study pitchers much. When you have the timing and rhythm, a pitcher can do anything and you can still steal the base.”

Lighting a spark

The Tuesday afternoon game was played before 16,052 spectators on a day when the Chicago temperature exceeded 90 degrees.

Brock grounded out and struck out in his first two plate appearances against Broglio.

In the sixth, with the Cubs ahead, 4-1, Brock gave the Cardinals a chance to climb back. With one out and none one, he pushed a bunt toward the mound. Broglio fielded the ball, but Brock streaked to first with a single. Ken Boyer drove him in with a triple, and Bill White followed with a home run, tying the score at 4-4.

Though the Cubs regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth against an ineffective Bob Gibson, Broglio couldn’t protect it and the Cardinals knocked him out with two runs in the seventh. Broglio and Gibson each gave up six runs.

The game was delayed for five minutes before the start of the ninth because of excessive heat and humidity. Plate umpire Doug Harvey was overcome by exhaustion and was replaced by Lee Weyer.

The Cardinals prevailed, 12-7, in 10 innings, with another of their former pitchers, Larry Jackson, taking the loss. Boxscore

Chicago blues

Brock faced Broglio twice more in 1964, going 0-for-2 with a walk on Sept. 6 and 2-for-4 (two singles) on Sept. 11.

In the Sept. 6 game, Broglio pitched 6.1 innings and allowed one earned run, but he told The Sporting News, “I felt as if I had pulled everything inside the elbow.” Boxscore

The last match between them was on June 27, 1965, when Brock drove in a run with a groundout. Boxscore

As a Cardinal, Brock was 3-for-10 versus Broglio. As a Cub, he was 7-for-31, with two home runs. His home run on July 19, 1962, ended a streak of 11.1 scoreless innings for Broglio. Boxscore

Overall, Brock hit .244 versus Broglio with five RBI.

Brock excelled against the Cubs throughout his Cardinals career. His .334 batting mark versus the Cubs was his best against any opponent. Brock also had career highs in hits (342) and doubles (64) against the Cubs.

In four starts against the Cardinals, Broglio was 0-2 with a 5.32 ERA. He underwent right elbow surgery after the 1964 season for removal of four bone fragments, and told The Sporting News he had been taking cortisone shots once every two weeks for two years.

Broglio pitched two more years (1965-66) for the Cubs and was 30 when he played his last game in the majors.

Brock and Broglio developed a friendship after their playing careers. Broglio displayed a photo from Brock, who inscribed it to “a hell of a player.”

“Ernie is top of the charts,” Brock told ESPN. “He is a good man, a man with integrity. We have a good relationship.”

Read Full Post »

What happened to Bob Gibson on a frigid night at Connie Mack Stadium was weird even by Philadelphia standards. Almost as weird as Santa Claus being booed and pelted with snowballs, or a team mascot getting attacked by an opposing manager.

Sixty years ago, on April 16, 1962, Gibson gave away a six-run Cardinals lead in the first and didn’t last the inning against the Phillies.

For a pitcher who usually excelled at protecting leads and dominated the Phillies, the failure by Gibson defied the odds and illustrated just how difficult and unpredictable the game could be, even for those at the top of the profession. 

Frozen tundra

After winning their first three games of the 1962 season, the Cardinals were in Philadelphia to play the Phillies on a Monday night. According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the temperature at game time was “a bone-chilling cold” 32 degrees.

“The ball was slick and cold, just like a piece of ice,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The starting pitchers were Gibson, 26, and Cal McLish, 36, whose full name was Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.

Both were making their first appearances of the season. Against the Phillies in 1961, Gibson was 3-0 with an 0.67 ERA, allowing two earned runs in 27 innings. An Oklahoma native who followed the Cardinals as a youth, McLish was making his Phillies debut after being acquired from the White Sox a month earlier. (In 1982, McLish was the pitching coach for the Brewers, who opposed the Cardinals in the World Series.)

An audience of 3,895 settled in to see the show.

Out of control

Struggling to get pitches over the plate, McLish “was in the showers before you could pronounce his whole name,” Neal Russo of the Post-Dispatch observed.

McLish walked the first two batters, Don Landrum and Julian Javier. Bill White doubled, scoring Landrum and moving Javier to third. After Stan Musial was walked intentionally, loading the bases, Ken Boyer walked unintentionally, scoring Javier.

Gene Oliver made the first out, popping up to third. Doug Clemens, who grew up in Leesport, about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia, cleared the bases with a double, making the score 5-0.

Phillies manager Gene Mauch replaced McLish with Dallas Green. “It wasn’t that bad pitching out there,” McLish said to the Post-Dispatch, “but I kept fighting myself and got in a rut.”

Green drilled Julio Gotay with a fastball. “It was a knockdown pitch,” Keane told the Post-Dispatch.

The next batter, Gibson, wasn’t intimidated. He rapped a grounder into the hole on the left side for an infield single, and, when shortstop Ruben Amaro made a wild throw after gloving the ball, Clemens scored, giving the Cardinals a 6-0 lead.

Not worth the wait

“Thirty minutes elapsed before Dallas Green got the side out, and, by that time, Gibson was as stiff as a fungo bat,” Stan Hochman noted in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Keane told the Post-Dispatch, “Gibson was cooled off by the time he got to the mound. Maybe we missed the boat by not sending him to the bullpen while we were at bat so long.”

Like McLish did in the top half of the inning, Gibson walked the first two batters (Tony Taylor and Johnny Callison), but Tony Gonzalez struck out and Wes Covington flied out to center.

Then the next six Phillies batters reached base.

Billy Klaus singled, scoring Taylor. Frank Torre walked, loading the bases, and Clay Dalrymple followed with a two-run single, getting the Phillies within three at 6-3.

Amaro walked, reloading the bases, and Gibson was relieved by Ernie Broglio.

“I have no excuses,” Gibson said to the Post-Dispatch. “I was just wild. My ball was moving real good _ in fact, it was moving a little too much. I had good stuff.”

Keane said, “Gibson, with his fastball, usually knocks the bats out of their hands on a cold night like this one.”

Roy Sievers batted for Dallas Green and drew a walk from Broglio, scoring Torre from third. Tony Taylor followed with a two-run single, tying the score at 6-6.

With Broglio shutting out the Phillies over the last eight innings, the Cardinals rallied for four runs against Don Ferrarese and two versus Jack Baldschun, winning 12-6. Boxscore

(Two weeks later, Ferrarese was traded to the Cardinals for Bobby Locke.)

Back on track

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson recalled, “After that, our pitching coach, Howie Pollet, made me throw more pitches and simulate game conditions in the bullpen, which seemed to help.”

Two weeks later, Gibson pitched a two-hitter to beat the Houston Colt .45s. Boxscore

Gibson was 15-13, including 3-1 versus the Phillies, in 1962 before he broke his right leg during batting practice before a September game against the Dodgers.

For his career, Gibson was 30-12 with a 2.59 ERA versus the Phillies. He had more career wins against the Phillies than he did versus any other club.

Read Full Post »

Tommy Davis twice hit home runs to beat Bob Gibson in 1-0 shutouts pitched by Sandy Koufax.

A two-time National League batting champion who amassed 2,121 career hits, Davis batted .167 against Gibson, but made a lasting impression on the Cardinals’ ace with those game-winning home runs.

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “The man on the Dodgers who could beat you _ whom you couldn’t let beat you _ was Tommy Davis.”

Davis died April, 3, 2022, two weeks after he turned 83.

Local guy

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Davis excelled in multiple sports at Boys High School. His basketball teammate was Lenny Wilkens, who launched a Hall of Fame playing career with the St. Louis Hawks.

A right-handed hitter, Davis was a prized baseball prospect. The Phillies and Yankees wanted him, but he chose the Dodgers in 1956 after Jackie Robinson phoned him and made a pitch, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

The Dodgers departed Brooklyn for Los Angeles after the 1957 season, and Davis made his big-league debut two years later in a game at St. Louis against the Cardinals. Boxscore

In 1960, the Cardinals also were the opponent when Davis got his first big-league hit (against Ron Kline) and his first big-league home run (against Bob Duliba).

Civil rights

in 1961, the Dodgers’ spring training site, Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Fla., still had segregated seating and segregated bathrooms. According to author Jane Leavy in the book “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy,” Davis led a contingent of Dodgers players to see Peter O’Malley, who was in charge of the facility, and said to him, “We got to change this.”

O’Malley agreed, but at the ballpark the next day the black fans, unconvinced they could sit where they wanted, were in what had been the segregated section near the right field corner. According to Leavy, Davis and his teammates “took them by the hand and led them out of the stands” and showed them it was all right to sit anywhere. “Directing traffic until they got used to it,” Davis said.

Smart hitter

A couple of months later, on May 25, 1961, 6,878 spectators attended a Thursday night matchup between Koufax and Gibson at St. Louis.

Davis, starting at third base and batting fifth, struck out his first two times at the plate. In “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “I had been striking him out with sliders low and away, and I seemed to have the edge on him.”

Gibson was on a roll, having retired seven consecutive batters, when Davis led off in the seventh inning.

“I had noticed that, as I continued to pitch him outside, Davis was gradually sneaking up toward the plate,” Gibson said. “He was practically on top of the plate, and so, out of duty, I buzzed him inside with a fastball.

“I don’t know if he was setting me up, but he must have been looking for the fastball on his ribs, because he backed off a step, turned on that thing, and crushed it over the left field fence.”

In the book “Sixty Feet, Six Inches,” Gibson said, “I think he was just waiting for me to bring one inside, and I was still young and dumb enough to oblige him.”

Cardinals catcher Hal Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The pitch Davis hit wasn’t even a strike.”

The home run into the bleacher seats in left-center broke a streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings for Gibson and was all Koufax needed. He pitched a three-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory. It was the first time Koufax pitched a complete game against the Cardinals. Boxscore

Dodgers pitching coach Joe Becker told the Post-Dispatch, “Finally, after six years of trying, he’s putting all of his baseball abilities together.”

Brooklyn brotherhood

A year later, on June 18, 1962, Gibson and Koufax engaged in another duel before 33,477 attendees on a Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

Through eight innings, the Dodgers’ only hits were two singles by ex-Cardinal Wally Moon. Koufax limited the Cardinals to five singles.

The game was scoreless when Davis batted in the bottom of the ninth with one out and none on.

“Smart guy that I am, I remembered that Davis had beaten me the year before when I stopped pitching him outside and came in with a fastball,” Gibson said in “Stranger to the Game.”

“I thought, ‘Now, he remembers that I remember that pitch inside, and so he’s thinking that there’s no way I’m coming inside again in this situation. Just to cross him up, I’m going to do it again.’

“So, I threw the fastball inside again, and goddamn if he didn’t hit it out again to beat me. I learned right then that the dumbest thing you can do as a pitcher is try to be too smart.”

With the count 1-and-0, Davis told the Post-Dispatch, he was looking for a fastball. “Gibson had been getting me out on breaking stuff,” Davis said. “He was throwing the fastball when he got behind.”

Davis’ walkoff home run deep into the bullpen in left gave Koufax and the Dodgers another 1-0 victory. It was the first time Koufax pitched a complete game without allowing a walk. Boxscore

“There are instances, as Tommy Davis taught me twice over, when a pitcher can think too much,” Gibson said in “Stranger to the Game.” “That was a hard lesson for me.”

In “Sixty Feet, Six Inches,” Gibson said, “It was a textbook case of overthinking. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Worse yet, I went against my better judgment. When I started winning big was when I stopped doing stuff like that.”

After the game, according to Jane Leavy, Davis and his wife went to a Los Angeles nightspot and saw Gibson there.

“I walked over to him and he said, ‘Hi, how you doing, Tom?’ ” Davis told Leavy. “My wife says, ‘Oh, is this the guy you hit the home run off?’ I’m thinking, ‘I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m dead.’ “

Hit man

In September 1963, the Dodgers were a game ahead of the second-place Cardinals entering a series at St. Louis. After the Dodgers won the first two games, Gibson started the finale.

With the Cardinals ahead, 5-1, Davis faced Gibson with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and delivered a two-run single, knocking Gibson from the game. The Dodgers rallied and prevailed in 13 innings, sweeping the series on their way to winning the National League pennant. Boxscore

Davis had an amazing season in 1962, leading the National League in batting (.346), hits (230) and RBI (153). Those were the most hits by a National League player since Stan Musial had 230 for the 1948 Cardinals, and the most RBI by a National League player since Joe Medwick had 154 for the 1937 Cardinals.

Davis repeated as National League batting champion in 1963, hitting .326.

In May 1965, Davis broke his right ankle and he wasn’t the same ballplayer after that. Coveted as a designated hitter in the American League in the 1970s, he played 18 seasons in the majors and hit .294.

Read Full Post »

Scipio Spinks had the talent and charisma to become a renowned player for the Cardinals, but injuries derailed his promising pitching career.

Fifty years ago, on April 15, 1972, in a swap of pitchers, the Cardinals sent Jerry Reuss to the Astros for Spinks and Lance Clemons.

The dispatching of Reuss was initiated by the Cardinals’ petty plutocrat, Gussie Busch, but general manager Bing Devine nearly straightened out the mess when he obtained Spinks.

A right-hander with an exceptional fastball and an ebullient personality, Spinks was as foreign to St. Louis as a hero of antiquity, but he quickly made his mark.

Notable name

Born and raised in Chicago, Scipio Spinks could trace his first name to Scipio Africanus Major, a Roman general who defeated the Carthage leader Hannibal in the Battle of Zama on the north coast of Africa in 202 BC.

“Spinks said the first male child in his father’s family has been named Scipio for a number of generations,” The Sporting News reported.

Spinks told the Associated Press the family name spanned a minimum of six generations. “I’m at least Scipio Spinks the sixth,” he said.

The south side of Chicago, where Spinks was from, was White Sox territory, but he rooted for the Cubs. “I liked Lou Brock a lot, even when he wasn’t hitting, because he could run and so could I,” Spinks told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but my first favorite was Ernie Banks.”

(When Spinks joined the Cardinals, he and Brock became teammates.)

A standout high school athlete who ran the 100-yard dash in 9.5 seconds, Spinks said he wrote to the Cubs multiple times, asking for a tryout, but they were uninterested. He was 18 when he signed with the Astros as an amateur free agent in 1966.

Spinks made his major-league debut with the Astros in September 1969. He got called up again in May 1970 and made five appearances, including a start against the Cardinals in which he gave up a home run to Dick Allen. Boxscore

The Astros had two terrific prospects, Spinks and 6-foot-8 J.R. Richard, at their Oklahoma City farm team in 1971. Richard was 12-7 with 202 strikeouts in 173 innings. Spinks was 9-6 with 173 strikeouts in 133 innings.

“Oklahoma City foes say Scipio Spinks throws harder than teammate J.R. Richard,” The Sporting News reported.

Spinks pitched in five September games for the 1971 Astros and beat the Braves for his first win in the majors.

Idiot wind

At spring training with the 1972 Astros, managed by ex-Cardinal Harry Walker, Spinks earned a spot in a starting rotation of Don Wilson, Larry Dierker, Dave Roberts and Ken Forsch. Roberts gave Spinks the nickname “Bufferin” because his fastball worked faster than aspirin, The Sporting News reported.

Meanwhile, Reuss, a St. Louisan who had 14 wins for the 1971 Cardinals, came to spring training unsigned in 1972. A petulant Busch threw a fit in February when pitcher Steve Carlton dared to negotiate a contract rather than bend to Busch’s will. Busch ordered Devine to trade Carlton.

Next on Busch’s Schlitz list was Reuss. In addition to trying to negotiate an upgrade on the $20,000 salary offered by the Cardinals, Reuss, 22, made the mortal sin of growing a moustache. Busch was apoplectic. His narrow mind went into bully mode and he pressured Devine to deal Reuss, too.

Devine announced the trade at 6 p.m. following the Cardinals’ Opening Day loss to the Expos before 7,808 spectators at Busch Memorial Stadium. Boxscore

Seven years earlier, when Bob Howsam was general manager, the Cardinals traded another left-hander, Mike Cuellar, to the Astros and came to regret it. The Reuss deal had the same vibe.

Fitting in

Spinks, 24, was put into a starting rotation with Bob Gibson, Rick Wise and Reggie Cleveland. He lost his first start, then won his next three decisions, including a May 9 game against the Astros. Boxscore

“His fastball was just dynamite,” Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons told The Sporting News.

Brock said, “He seems to be able to challenge the hitters consistently better than most pitchers with his experience.”

Brock and Gibson took a liking to Spinks, whom The Sporting News described as “a great crowd-pleaser and a bubbling personality.” Their good-natured needling became a clubhouse staple.

“Big-name stars are the easiest to kid,” Spinks told the Associated Press. “Brock, Gibson, Joe Torre – people of that caliber – take it, then they dish it back. It keeps everybody smiling.”

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “I admired Spinks’ energy and appreciated the fact he apparently thought he could become a better pitcher by hanging around me.”

Spinks bought a large stuffed gorilla in a hotel gift shop, dubbed it “Mighty Joe,” and displayed the good-luck charm in his clubhouse locker. The other players eventually adopted Mighty Joe as a team mascot.

After beating the Phillies on June 30, Spinks was 5-4 with a 2.33 ERA and was being hailed, along with the Mets’ Jon Matlack, as a strong candidate for the 1972 National League Rookie of the Year Award.

“I’ve been in baseball 30 years and I’ve seen a lot come and go, but this guy Spinks is one of the greatest I’ve seen break in,” umpire Ed Sudol told The Sporting News. “Besides that fastball, he has a snapping curve.”

Reds coach Alex Grammas, the former Cardinals shortstop, said, “Spinks can throw as hard as Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson.”

Wounded knee

On July 4 at Cincinnati, Spinks streaked from first base to the plate on a Luis Melendez double and slid into the shin guards of catcher Johnny Bench. The collision knocked the ball from Bench’s glove and Spinks was ruled safe, but he tore ligaments in his right knee. Boxscore

Spinks had knee surgery two days later and was done for the season. At the time of his injury, Spinks ranked third among National League pitchers in strikeouts, behind Carlton and Tom Seaver.

Spinks was 5-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 16 starts for the 1972 Cardinals. In his five wins, his ERA was 1.20 and all were complete games.

In 1973, Spinks returned to the Cardinals’ starting rotation, lost his first four decisions and then got a measure of revenge against the Reds, earning a win with six shutout innings. Boxscore

It would be Spinks’ last win in the majors. In June, he went on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury and was shut down for the season. In eight starts for the 1973 Cardinals, Spinks was 1-5 with a 4.89 ERA.

At spring training in 1974, the Cardinals traded Spinks to his hometown Cubs for pinch-hitter Jim Hickman. On his way out, Spinks gave “Mighty Joe” to Bernie Carbo, a former Cardinals teammate who was with the Red Sox.

Spinks never played in another big-league game. He tore a thigh muscle and spent the 1974 season in the Cubs’ farm system. His last season, 1975, was with minor-league teams of the Astros and Yankees.

Lance Clemons, the other pitcher acquired for Reuss, appeared in three games for the 1972 Cardinals and was traded to the Red Sox in March 1973.

Reuss played 22 seasons in the majors, primarily with the Pirates and Dodgers, and earned 220 wins. He was 14-18 with five shutouts versus the Cardinals.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »