Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott forever are linked as teammates, friends, road roommates, Hall of Famers and, tragically, by a bizarre twist of fate.

Thirty years ago, on Nov. 21, 1988, Hubbell, 85, died in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital from injuries suffered in a car accident two days earlier.

Hubbell’s death occurred 30 years to the day Ott died under eerily similar circumstances. On Nov. 21, 1958, Ott, 49, died in a New Orleans hospital from injuries suffered in a car accident a week earlier.

Hubbell was the ace pitcher and Ott the home run slugger who spent their entire major-league playing careers with the Giants.

Ott, 17, debuted with the Giants in 1926 and Hubbell, 25, joined them in 1928. They roomed together on road trips from the time Hubbell arrived with the Giants until he pitched his last game in 1943, according to the Associated Press. Both men had low-key personalities and friendly demeanors and genuinely liked one another.

Hubbell was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947 and Ott was inducted four years later in 1951.

When Ott died, Hubbell told the New York Daily News, “I’m heartsick. Mel was one of my closest friends.”

Perfect pitch

Hubbell was born in Carthage, Mo., and grew up on a cotton and pecan farm near Meeker, Okla.

In 1924, when he turned 21, Hubbell signed with a minor-league club in Oklahoma and taught himself to throw a pitch known as a “reverse curve” or “fadeaway.”

When right-handers Christy Mathewson of the Giants and Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Cardinals threw the “reverse curve,” it broke in to right-handed batters and away from left-handed ones. As a left-hander, Hubbell’s version broke in to left-handed batters and away from right-handed ones.

In 1925, when Hubbell was tossing the pitch in warmups, the catcher said, “That’s the screwiest thing I ever saw,” and the “reverse curve” became known as a screwball, according to The Sporting News.

Hubbell’s success with the pitch attracted the interest of major-league scouts and in August 1925 the Tigers acquired him from the Oklahoma City club in the Western League.

The Tigers invited Hubbell to spring training in 1926 and 1927 but returned him to the minor leagues both times. According to the Associated Press, a Tigers coach, believing Hubbell would hurt his arm throwing a screwball, told him, “Don’t fool with that. Forget it.”

“So I forget it,” said Hubbell, “and Detroit forgot me.”

The Tigers sold Hubbell’s contract to a minor-league club in Beaumont, Texas, in April 1928. Giants scout Dick Kinsella liked what he saw from Hubbell there and on July 12, 1928, the Giants purchased his contract. Two weeks later, Hubbell made his big-league debut.

Big winner

Hubbell’s most celebrated performance came in the 1934 All-Star Game when he struck out five future Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, in succession. Boxscore

“My style of pitching was to make the other team hit the ball, but on the ground,” Hubbell told writer John P. Carmichael. “It was as big a surprise to me to strike out all those fellows as it probably was to them.”

The all-star feat got the glory, but in games that counted in the standings Hubbell’s most impressive outing occurred against the Cardinals.

On July 2, 1933, in the opener of a Sunday doubleheader at the Polo Grounds in New York, Hubbell pitched an 18-inning shutout in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Cardinals.

Hubbell held the Cardinals to six hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out 12. He retired 20 batters in a row from the seventh inning to the 13th and only one Cardinals runner reached third.

Cardinals starter Tex Carleton nearly matched Hubbell, pitching 16 scoreless innings before he was relieved by Jesse Haines. In the 18th, with Giants runners on first and third, two outs, Hughie Critz “shot a single past Haines’ left ear,” scoring Jo-Jo Moore, the St. Louis Star-Times reported. When Moore touched the plate, “a deafening roar went up and straw hats, torn programs and other debris rained upon the turf,” according to the New York Daily News. Boxscore

Hubbell pitched 16 seasons (1928-43) for the Giants and had a record of 253-154 with a 2.98 ERA. He twice won the National League Most Valuable Player Award (1933 and 1936), pitched in three World Series (1933, 1936 and 1937) and was a nine-time all-star.

Hubbell earned 21 wins or more in five consecutive seasons (1933-37) and in 1933 he led the league in wins (23), ERA (1.66), shutouts (10) and innings (308.2). He won 24 consecutive regular-season decisions over a two-year period (1936-37). Flagstaff Film clip of Hubbell vs. Cardinals on July 21, 1938.

Throwing the screwball eventually took a physical toll on him. When Hubbell’s left arm was at rest, his palm faced out instead of in. “I couldn’t get over Hubbell’s hand,” writer Roger Angell observed. “It was like meeting a gladiator who bore scars inflicted at the Colosseum.”

Eye for talent

Following his retirement as a player after the 1943 season, Hubbell became Giants farm director and rebuilt their sagging minor-league system. Among the prospects the Giants developed under Hubbell were Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.

Hubbell made all decisions on which prospects the Giants would draft and which of the organization’s minor-league players got promotions, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

He was Giants farm director for 34 years until a stroke forced him to give up the job in 1977 at age 74. The stroke “left him unable to walk for a while and caused slurred speech,” according to the Arizona Republic. Hubbell had a second stroke in 1984, but continued to do scouting for the Giants in Arizona.

Hubbell lived in an apartment in Mesa, Ariz., not far from the Giants’ spring training base. “I get along all right,” Hubbell said to the New York Daily News in 1987. “When I can get to the car, I go to the post office, the bank, different places you have to go. There’s nothing wrong with the car. Only me.”

He ate breakfast at the counter of a Mesa restaurant every other morning and that’s where he was headed on Nov. 19, 1988, when he lost control of his car and hit a metal pole after suffering an apparent stroke, according to police reports.

Hubbell, who was alone in the car, was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. He died of head and chest injuries two days later. He was survived by two sons and two grandchildren. His wife, Lucille, whom he married in 1930, died in 1967.

In citing his “consistency of excellence” as a pitcher, the New York Times noted, “Hubbell’s businesslike demeanor on and off the pitching mound contrasted with more colorful, eccentric pitchers of his era, like Lefty Gomez of the Yankees and Dizzy Dean of the Cardinals. Hubbell won respect and attention solely from on-field performances.”

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Willie McCovey made the Cardinals pay for disrespecting an elder.

On June 15, 1979, with the score tied at 6-6, a Giants runner on second and two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning, the Cardinals opted to give an intentional walk to Jack Clark and take their chances with McCovey, who was 41 years old and in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career.

McCovey foiled the strategy, hitting the first pitch from Darold Knowles over the fence at Candlestick Park in San Francisco and lifting the Giants to a 9-6 walkoff victory.

McCovey, who died Oct. 31, 2018, at 80, hit 521 home runs, including 41 against the Cardinals, in a 22-year career in the big leagues with the Giants, Padres and Athletics.

One of his most impressive feats came in June 1979 when he silenced skeptics by hitting three home runs in less than 24 hours in a pair of wins against the Cardinals.

Still in the game

At spring training in 1979, critics clamored for the Giants to start Mike Ivie at first base instead of McCovey. Ivie was 26 and batted .308 for the Giants in 1978. McCovey hit .228 for the 1978 Giants and appeared to some to be finished as a ballplayer.

Ivie opened the 1979 season as the Giants’ first baseman but after two months his batting average was .244 and manager Joe Altobelli began playing McCovey more.

When the Cardinals came to San Francisco for a three-game series on June 15, 1979, McCovey was in the lineup as the cleanup batter and first baseman for the Friday night opener.

McCovey led off the fourth inning and lined a 3-and-0 pitch from starter Pete Vuckovich over the wall in left-center for a home run, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.

The Giants led, 6-5, until the Cardinals got a run in the eighth.

McCovey nearly delivered a game-winning hit in the 11th. With one out and runners on second and first, McCovey hit a line drive to right-center. Rob Andrews, the runner on second, took off, thinking the ball was a hit, but right fielder George Hendrick was positioned to make the catch and throw to second before Andrews could get back, completing a double play.

“They had no business playing me the way they did,” McCovey said to United Press International. “Since when doesn’t the right fielder play me on the line? They did the wrong thing and got lucky.”

Big Mac attack

In the 13th, the Giants had Larry Herndon on first base, one out, when Andrews hit a bouncer to third baseman Ken Oberkfell, who was thinking he could turn a double play, but the ball struck Oberkfell in the chest and he was only able to get the out at first.

“I got caught between hops,” Oberkfell said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

With Herndon on second, two outs, Clark was at the plate and McCovey was on deck. Clark, the future Cardinal, was a right-handed batter facing Knowles, a left-hander. After the count went to 2-and-0, Knowles was instructed to walk Clark intentionally.

McCovey batted left-handed and the Cardinals figured Knowles had a better chance of retiring him than he did Clark. McCovey had produced two hits in 14 career at-bats versus Knowles.

The strategy backfired. Knowles’ first pitch to McCovey was a mistake, “a hanging slider,” he said, and McCovey uncoiled his 6-foot-4 frame and crushed a towering drive over the fence in right-center for the sixth walkoff home run of his career.

“I knew it was gone the second I hit it,” McCovey said.

Knowles, disgusted, flung his glove into the air as McCovey circled the bases. Boxscore

Experience matters

The long game required a quick turnaround for the players, who returned to Candlestick Park the next morning, June 16, 1979, for a Saturday afternoon start time.

McCovey was back in the cleanup spot and in the third inning he hit a two-run home run against starter Silvio Martinez, extending the Giants’ lead to 3-0 and propelling them to a 6-1 triumph. Boxscore

“Willie McCovey is one of the chosen people,” Altobelli said to the San Francisco Examiner. “He’s a living legend.”

The home run was the sixth in McCovey’s last eight games.

“You can’t judge a guy on age,” McCovey said. “Guys over 35 can still do it, but for some reason you have to keep proving it. Our society is geared to youth and people are brainwashed that you have to be young to do anything.”

McCovey finished with 15 home runs in 1979 and he returned for a final season in 1980, enabling him to play in four decades during a big-league career started in 1959.

McCovey hit 421 of his career home runs against right-handers and he had success against several Cardinals, including Bob Gibson (.290 batting average against, seven home runs), Nelson Briles (.353, seven home runs) and Ray Washburn (.366, three home runs).

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Tigers catcher Bill Freehan was a central character in one of the most controversial plays in Cardinals history.

In the 1968 World Series, the defending champion Cardinals won three of the first four games against the Tigers. Freehan was the goat. He went hitless in the first four games, made two errors and was tormented by Cardinals baserunners, especially Lou Brock, who swiped seven bases.

Things changed in Game 5 at Tiger Stadium on Oct. 7, 1968.

In the third inning, Brock was at first when Freehan called for a pitchout and nailed the speedster at second. “That was the first lucky guess I’ve made all Series,” Freehan told columnist Milton Gross of the New York Post.

Still, the Cardinals led 3-2 in the fifth and were threatening to knock out starter Mickey Lolich. With Brock at second, Julian Javier lined a single to left. Willie Horton, a left fielder not known for his defense, unleashed a strong, accurate throw to the plate. (Lolich told the Associated Press, “As fast as Brock is, I didn’t even figure there would be a throw.”) The peg took one clean hop directly to Freehan, who stood, blocking the plate, “like the towering Washington monument,” wrote Milt Richman, columnist for United Press International.

Brock tried to score standing, collided with Freehan and was called out by umpire Doug Harvey, igniting an animated protest from the Cardinals.

The momentum _and the Series _ shifted to the Tigers with that play. “It was the biggest play of the game,” Brock said to the Associated Press. “It was the turning point. We had the makings of a big inning, and instead of one run, one man on and one out, there were two outs and no runs.”

Detroit rallied to win, 5-3, and send the Series back to St. Louis, but the debate raged about whether Brock was safe or out. Brock said his foot touched the plate before Freehan tagged him. Freehan said Brock came up short of the plate. Others thought Brock stepped on Freehan’s planted foot and bounced off and around the plate. Video

Columnist Milton Gross reported this exchange:

Freehan: “Harvey told me if Lou had slid, he would have been safe. He just never touched the plate.”

Brock: “I was safe. I touched the center of the plate right between Freehan’s legs. Freehan came up behind me as we were arguing after the play and tagged me.”

Freehan: “I was surprised he didn’t slide. There I was, set. With my left foot planted where it was, he’d have had to slide through it or touch the plate with his hand simply because I was between him and the plate. When he hit me on the left side, he just spun away from the plate. The reason I tagged him a second time was I saw him coming back _ like a reflex, you know?”

Brock: “If I slid, he would have had a good chance of blocking me out. He was standing wide-legged, his feet four or five feet apart, one up the third-base line, the other at the corner of the plate. If you slide, he gets down on one knee and you don’t get in.” Boxscore

The on-deck batter, Curt Flood, gestured for Brock to slide, but “I didn’t have time to look at anyone,” Brock said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The play was in front of me and I had to look at the catcher.”

Flood said Brock was safe because “half of Brock’s foot was on the plate.”

In his World Series column for the Post-Dispatch, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson said he thought Brock was safe and did right by not sliding. “When the catcher is blocking the plate, you can slide and never get to it,” Gibson said.

Years later, in his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson saw the play differently. “In my heart, I wish Lou had slid,” Gibson said.

The Tigers won Game 6. Facing Gibson in Game 7, Detroit broke a scoreless tie in the seventh, with Freehan’s double driving in Jim Northrup after Northrup lined a two-run triple that was misjudged by Flood in center.

In the ninth, Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver fouled out to Freehan to end the game, won by Detroit, 4-1, giving the Tigers their first World Series championship in 23 years. Boxscore

Though the Cardinals had 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts against Freehan in the Series and he batted .083 (2-for-24), he is remembered most for his block of home plate in Game 5.

Brock, interviewed in 2012 by Mike Stone of CBS Detroit, still insisted he was safe on that play.

“I did not have a great jump, but I thought I could make it,” Brock told Stone. “But Willie Horton made the throw of his life. I never thought Horton could make that throw. The next thing I know I was going to collide with Bill Freehan _ and we know who would have won that. I was safe, but the umpire called me out, so I was out.”

Previously: Should Curt Flood have caught Jim Northrup’s drive?

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For Wayne Krenchicki, who usually didn’t do well against Cardinals pitching, a game-winning hit, even a crummy one, was a special achievement.

Krenchicki, who died Oct. 16, 2018, at 64, played eight years in the major leagues as an infielder for the Orioles (1979-81), Reds (1982-83 and 1984-85), Tigers (1983) and Expos (1986).

A left-handed hitter, he had a career batting average of .266, though he hit .169 lifetime against the Cardinals.

Right spot

On May 23, 1983, the reigning World Series champion Cardinals looked to end a three-game losing streak when they faced the Reds at Cincinnati. Cardinals starter Joaquin Andujar was matched against Joe Price. Krenchicki played third base and batted seventh.

In the sixth inning, with the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, Johnny Bench drew a one-out walk from Andujar and Ron Oester doubled to right, moving Bench to third. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog ordered an intentional walk to Paul Householder, loading the bases for Krenchicki.

The Cardinals were hoping for an inning-ending double play from Krenchicki, who was batting .167 for the season. Krenchicki was seeking a sacrifice fly. “I wanted to hit in the air to the outfield,” Krenchicki said to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “All I wanted was the one run.”

Andujar got ahead in the count, 1-and-2, and threw a slider “right in on my fists,” Krenchicki told the Dayton Journal-Herald.

Krenchicki swung and looped a floater to the opposite field. The ball fell softly inside the left-field foul line, barely fair, for a bloop double, scoring Bench and Oester and giving the Reds the lead.

“It was just crummy enough that I knew nobody would catch it,” Krenchicki said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Yeah, I’d agree with that,” Herzog said to United Press International. “It hit right in the middle of the chalk line.”

Andujar yelled at Krenchicki, “You throw the ball harder than you hit it.”

Bill Scherrer relieved Price, held the Cardinals hitless over the last three innings and the Reds won, 2-1. Boxscore

Cardinals connection

A month later, the Reds traded Krenchicki to the Tigers and reacquired him after the 1983 season. Krenchicki played two more years with the Reds before he was dealt to the Expos in March 1986 for pitcher Norm Charlton, who became one of the Nasty Boy relievers who helped give the Reds their swagger in their World Series championship season in 1990.

Krenchicki, a Trenton, N.J., native, was a standout shortstop at the University of Miami and played for the Hurricanes when they made their first appearance in the College World Series in 1974. Krenchicki, a first-round draft choice of the Orioles in January 1976, was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

Krenchicki’s last season as a professional player was 1988 when he played for three minor-league teams, including the Cardinals’ Class AAA affiliate, the Louisville Redbirds. Playing for manager Mike Jorgensen, Krenchicki hit .195 in 18 games for Louisville before he was released on June 17, 1988.

After his playing career, Krenchicki spent 20 years (1991-2010) as a minor-league manager, primarily with independent teams not affiliated with major-league organizations. He managed the Newark Bears to the Atlantic League championship in 2007.

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The National League expansion draft enabled third baseman Coco Laboy to get out from under control of the Cardinals and earn a chance to play in the major leagues.

Fifty years ago, on Oct. 14, 1968, Laboy was selected by the Expos in the sixth and final round of the draft.

Laboy, 28, had been in the Cardinals’ system for six seasons, including the last four at the Class AAA level. Though he hit for average and with power and fielded well, he never got the call to play for the Cardinals.

Given an opportunity by the Expos, Laboy delivered, becoming a popular and productive player in the franchise’s inaugural year.

Stay or go?

After the 1968 season, the National League expanded from 10 teams to 12 with the addition of the Expos in Montreal and the Padres in San Diego.

To help stock their rosters, the newcomers were permitted to draft a total of 60 players, 30 for each expansion club, from the existing National League franchises. The draft consisted of six rounds, and the Expos and Padres were allowed to each select five players per round from the major-league and minor-league rosters of the other clubs.

Each National League team could protect 15 players. A team could protect three more players each time one was taken from its list of unprotected.

The 15 players protected by the two-time defending National League champion Cardinals were pitchers Nelson Briles, Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Jerry Reuss and Ray Washburn; catchers Tim McCarver and Ted Simmons; infielders Orlando Cepeda, Joe Hague, Julian Javier, Dal Maxvill and Mike Shannon; and outfielders Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Vada Pinson, according to Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals wavered until the last minute before protecting Washburn instead of newly acquired pitcher Dave Giusti, the Post-Dispatch reported.

When the Padres chose Giusti in the first round, the Cardinals added pitchers Joe Hoerner and Mike Torrez and infielder Steve Huntz to the protected list.

Joining Giusti and Laboy among the players drafted from the Cardinals were pitcher Clay Kirby (second round) and infielder Jerry DaVanon (third round) by the Padres and pitchers Jerry Robertson (fourth round) and Larry Jaster (fifth round) by the Expos.

Laboy batted .292 with 44 doubles and 100 RBI for the Tulsa Oilers in 1968. “He’s been a fine Triple-A hitter,” said Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, “but he’s been in our minor-league system a long time without having been brought up. Frankly, we were glad to see him get a chance in the big leagues.”

Going nowhere

Jose Laboy was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the same hometown of Orlando Cepeda. Laboy told the Montreal Gazette people called him Coco for as long as he could remember, but he didn’t know why.

At 18, he signed with the Giants and played for four seasons (1959-62) in their farm system. He batted .305 with 83 RBI for the Class C Fresno Giants in 1960, but in 1962 Laboy suffered a serious back injury on a slide into second base, was limited to 13 games and got released after the season. “The doctors told me I’d never play again,” Laboy said to The Sporting News.

Laboy played winter ball in Puerto Rico, proved he was healthy and signed with the Cardinals in February 1963. The Cardinals assigned him to the Class A Winnipeg Goldeyes and he batted .292 with 21 home runs that season.

In 1964, Laboy was sent to the Class A Raleigh Cardinals, who were managed by George Kissell. Laboy thrived, batting .340 with 24 home runs, but an incident late in the season tarnished him.

On Aug. 20, 1964, in a game at Rocky Mount, N.C., Laboy became convinced pitcher Carl Middledorf was throwing at him and others. In the fifth inning, Laboy bunted along the first-base line. As Middledorf fielded the ball, Laboy charged at him with a bat. Laboy hit Middledorf twice with the bat, striking him in the back and chest, and a brawl ensued, the Rocky Mount Telegram reported.

Middledorf was not badly hurt and continued pitching until the eighth inning, according to the Rocky Mount newspaper.

Police arrested Laboy, took him to headquarters and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon. Laboy was released on $150 bail, appeared in court the next morning and entered a guilty plea. Judge Tom Matthews sentenced Laboy to 30 days on a road crew, suspended the sentence and fined him $20.25. The Carolina League suspended Laboy for three days and fined him $25.

Oh, Canada

While playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, Laboy’s teammate for three years was Phillies second baseman Tony Taylor.

“I knew when I first saw him that he could make the major leagues,” Taylor said to Sports Illustrated.

Taylor shared his insights with Phillies manager Gene Mauch. When Mauch became Expos manager, he remembered Taylor’s recommendation of Laboy.

“Several times when I was managing the Phillies I talked to Tony Taylor about Laboy,” Mauch said. “Before we went to the draft meetings, I talked to Tony again.”

Taylor said Laboy “is a good ballplayer and a smart one. He is the kind of player Mauch likes.”

At Expos spring training camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1969, Mauch and his staff showed unwavering confidence in Laboy, even though he struggled while trying to impress.

The Expos went into their inaugural season with Laboy as their third baseman. In the season opener on April 8, 1969, against the Mets at New York, the Expos led, 8-6, in the eighth when Laboy hit a three-run home run against Ron Taylor, the former Cardinal. Laboy’s home run proved the difference in an 11-10 Expos triumph. Boxscore

A week later, on April 14, 1969, the Expos played their first home game, facing the Cardinals at Parc Jarry. In the seventh, with the score tied at 7-7, Laboy hit a double against Gary Waslewski and scored on pitcher Dan McGinn’s single to left. “I never ran harder,” said Laboy, whose run provided the winning margin in an 8-7 Expos victory. Boxscore

Laboy acknowledged getting special pleasure from beating the Cardinals. “They never gave me a chance,” he said. “I wanted especially to beat them today.”

Fun while it lasted

Laboy’s magical beginning to his major-league career continued throughout the first month. He batted .377 with 14 RBI in 20 April games.

“Every day he does something that just tickles me,” Mauch said. “Sometimes I want to kiss him.”

Asked to explain why Laboy was performing so well, Mauch said, “Character. Coco’s got that. He just tries so damn hard to do what you want _ and he’s doing it.”

Laboy finished his rookie season with a .258 batting mark, 18 home runs and 83 RBI.

The next season was a different story. Laboy hit .199 in 1970, was replaced by Bob Bailey at third base in 1971, and spent three seasons as a reserve before the Expos released him in September 1973 at age 33.

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After losing their way while trying to navigate a path to the top of the 1958 National League standings, the Cardinals embarked on an odyssey of cultural awakening and confidence building.

Sixty years ago, in the fall of 1958, the Cardinals traveled to Japan for a goodwill tour and a series of 16 exhibition games against Japanese all-star teams. Along the way, the Cardinals also played exhibition games in Hawaii, Guam, Philippines, Okinawa Island and South Korea.

The Cardinals began the journey from St. Louis on Oct. 9, 1958, and completed the trip with their return on Nov. 18, 1958.

During their adventure, the Cardinals won nearly every game, providing a boost to their self-esteem after finishing the regular season at 72-82, 20 wins fewer than the National League champion Braves.

In addition, the Cardinals were exposed to a world they never knew.

Palaces and diamonds

The Cardinals took 20 players, along with manager Solly Hemus and coaches Johnny Keane and Harry Walker, on the excursion.

They had eight pitchers _ Bob Blaylock, Ernie Broglio, Jim Brosnan, Larry Jackson, Sam Jones, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Phil Paine and Bill Wight.

Brosnan agreed to write columns for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch during the trip.

The 12 Cardinals position players were Ruben Amaro, Don Blasingame, Ken Boyer, Joe Cunningham, Alex Grammas, Gene Green, Ray Katt, Wally Moon, Stan Musial, Bobby Gene Smith, Hal Smith and Lee Tate.

As the Cardinals boarded a plane at Lambert Field in St. Louis, “Musial was the last man up the ramp,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “Musial had the biggest camera kit of all the big camera kits. When the trip is finished, Hemus will know what every Cardinal can do with a 35-millimeter.”

The Cardinals arrived in Honolulu on Oct. 10 and were welcomed by “a hula dancing troupe and a high school band,” the Associated Press reported. The team was taken to Iolana Palace and met with Hawaii Governor William Quinn, a graduate of St. Louis University. Musial was presented a key to the city by Honolulu Mayor Neal Blaisdell.

The Cardinals won all three exhibition games in Hawaii against local teams whose rosters were supplemented by visiting big-league players Lew Burdette, Bob Turley and Eddie Mathews, who were paid to participate.

On the way to the Japanese mainland from Hawaii, the Cardinals stopped at Guam, Manila and Okinawa Island and won an exhibition game against locals or military clubs at each site.

Play to win

The Cardinals arrived in Tokyo on Oct. 20, 1958.

“Dressed in bright maroon coats, white shirts, light gray ties with black and white stripes, light gray trousers and black shoes, they were given a rousing welcome by more than 1,500 fans, most of them flag-waving children,” the Associated Press reported.

From the airport, the Cardinals were driven through Tokyo in 13 decorated open cars and presented with large floral bouquets by kimono-clad women. The team also was greeted by a group of American children, residents of Yokohama, dressed in Cardinals uniforms.

The Cardinals prepared to play 16 games throughout Japan, plus one in Seoul, South Korea.

“We’re going to win all 16 games during our Japan visit,” Hemus said. “My boys are going to hit at least 25 home runs in Japan. No one wants to lose even goodwill games. We came to Japan to win every game we can.”

On Oct. 23, 20,000 people streamed into Tokyo’s Komazawa Stadium to watch the Cardinals conduct their first workout. “I never saw so many people watch a mere workout,” Hemus said.

Altering slightly his prediction of a sweep, Hemus said, “If we lose more than two games to the Japanese all-stars, I’m going to be mighty disappointed.”

Clubhouse chronicler

Broadcaster Joe Garagiola accompanied the Cardinals on the trip and his broadcasts were carried by Cardinals flagship radio station KMOX.

Readers of the Post-Dispatch were treated to Brosnan’s insightful, clever prose. Some examples:

_ “At Chunichi Stadium in Nagoya, the Japanese proved they can hit a hanging curveball as far as anyone. I threw one in the ninth and this fellow, Yomauchi, parked it in the center field seats, 410 feet away.”

_ “An amazingly industrious people, the Japanese are handicapped by lack of land, but utilize every foot-acre, each tillable clod of black earth. In the bottomlands, the rice is planted, the garden plots are stuffed with huge cabbages and turnips, and the slopes sport timber and orchards. Even the mountains look hand-formed.”

_ “They say it goes to 35-below at Sapporo in December. At the Sapporo Grand Hotel, a grand hotel, under a sheet, two blankets and a quilt three inches thick, I burrowed in for the winter. Which lasted for nine hours; then we suited up for another game.”

_ “To get to the Hotel Fujiya from Tokyo, we had to take a narrow road, just wide enough for an English bicycle, down which Japanese buses go careening madly in order to keep on schedule. Arriving in a downpour, after a three-hour ride, everyone was struck by the beauty of the bar.”

_ “The hotel’s rooms are not numbered, as from 100 to 1,000, but given individual names, such as Chrysanthemum, Cape Jasmine and Nandina Japonica. Try to remember that at 3 in the morning after a bottle of sake.”

Lost in translation

To the delight of Hemus, the Cardinals won 14 of the 16 games against the Japanese all-stars, as well as the exhibition in Seoul versus the South Korean all-stars.

On the way back, several Cardinals departed in San Francisco and headed from there to their homes. The rest of the party went on to St. Louis and emerged from the plane “looking like gypsies traveling first class,” with luggage laden with souvenirs, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The trip was a success, but it didn’t help the Cardinals compete any better in the National League. They lost 15 of their first 20 games in 1959 and finished the season next-to-last at 71-83.

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