Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

During a season in which the Cardinals won a National League pennant and World Series championship, Don Lock found the key to success against their formidable pitching.

In 1967, Lock, in his first NL season as a center fielder for the Phillies, batted .382 (13-for-34) with 12 RBI in 11 games against the Cardinals.

A right-handed batter, Lock was especially effective against Cardinals left-handers. He hit four home runs against them in 1967.

Lock, a Kansas native who as an amateur had attracted the attention of the Cardinals, died Oct. 8, 2017, at 81.

Hit or miss

As a teen, Lock was a standout athlete in multiple sports. “The Cardinals were interested in signing Lock when he was playing American Legion baseball back home in Kingman, Kan.,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Instead, Lock attended Wichita State on a basketball scholarship and played for coach Ralph Miller, who would be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Lock earned varsity letters in baseball, basketball and track.

By then, other big-league organizations, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics and Dodgers, had joined the Cardinals in pursuit of Lock. According to his obituary, Lock accepted a $22,500 bonus to sign with the Yankees in 1958.

The Yankees’ deal “was $2,500 more than the next best, the one Boston offered. So I took it,” Lock told the Post-Dispatch. “I was just a kid out of college who had a wife and a kid and car payments to meet. I needed money.”

Lock played in the Yankees’ minor league system from 1958-62. He had 35 home runs in 1960 for the Class A Binghamton (N.Y.) Triplets and 29 home runs in 1961 for the Class AAA Richmond Virginians. Though he had established himself as a power prospect, Lock couldn’t find a spot on a Yankees roster that included sluggers such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Bill Skowron.

In July 1962, the Yankees traded Lock to the Senators. He became one of the American League’s premier power hitters, ranking among the top 10 in home runs in 1963 (27) and 1964 (28), but he also had more strikeouts than hits each year he played for Washington. He was second in the league in strikeouts in both 1963 (151) and 1964 (137).

Second chance

After the 1966 season, the Senators dealt Lock to the Phillies for pitcher Darold Knowles and cash. “Lock came to the Phillies with a reputation as one of baseball’s most inconsistent hitters,” wrote Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News. “His pattern was a short rash of homers followed by a long rash of strikeouts.”

Phillies manager Gene Mauch decided to utilize Lock and Johnny Briggs in a center field platoon in 1967.

On May 26 at Philadelphia, Lock hit a home run that beat the Cardinals.

In the eighth inning, with the score tied at 4-4, the Phillies had runners on second and third, two outs, with Lock at the plate against left-handed reliever Joe Hoerner. Cookie Rojas was on deck.

“The strategy with the score tied and the winning run on base would normally be to intentionally walk Lock and pitch to Rojas,” Conlin wrote.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst thought otherwise. He remembered that 10 days earlier, at St. Louis, Rojas had hit a home run against the Cardinals and Hoerner had struck out Lock.

Schoendienst wanted Hoerner to pitch to Lock rather than to Rojas.

If not for a misplay, it would have been the right decision.

Hoerner got Lock to hit a pop fly into foul territory, just beyond first base. Second baseman Phil Gagliano, who had the best angle for a catch, called off first baseman Orlando Cepeda, but misjudged the ball and it fell to the ground.

Given another chance, Lock swung at a low fastball and sent a laser over the left-field wall. “The ball was still rising when it ticked the front slope of the roof and bounced off a sign,” Conlin wrote.

Said Lock: “That’s as good as I can hit a ball, I guess.”

The three-run home run was the difference in a 7-4 Phillies victory. Boxscore

Special day

A month later, on June 25, the Phillies were in St. Louis for a doubleheader against the Cardinals.

Lock had what he called his best day in the major leagues. He produced six hits in eight at-bats and drove in six runs, leading the Phillies to a sweep.

Lock was 4-for-5 with three RBI in the first game and 2-for-3 with three RBI in the second game.

In the opener, Lock had a two-run home run and two singles in three at-bats against the Cardinals’ starter, left-hander Larry Jaster, helping the Phillies to a 6-4 victory. Boxscore

(A month earlier, Lock also was 3-for-3 _ two doubles and a single _ against Jaster. So, in two games against Jaster, Lock was 6-for-6.)

In the doubleheader nightcap, Lock hit a two-run home run against left-hander Al Jackson, propelling the Phillies to a 10-4 triumph. Boxscore

“I’ve shortened my stroke a little,” Lock said. “I’m not taking the bat back as far and I’m choking up about an inch-and-a-half.”

Lock also hit two home runs _ one in 1967 and the other in 1968 _ against Cardinals left-hander Steve Carlton.

Lock finished the 1967 season with 14 home runs in 112 games.

He was with the Phillies again in 1968 and ended his big-league career playing for both the Phillies and Red Sox in 1969.

Lock’s overall batting mark in eight major-league seasons is .238. His career batting average versus the Cardinals is .359 (23-for-64) with five home runs and 17 RBI in 22 games.

Previously: Epic showdowns: Jim Bunning vs. Bob Gibson

Read Full Post »

A month into his first season as Cardinals manager, Solly Hemus behaved in a way that damaged his reputation and diminished his stature among some players.

Desperate and disgusted when the Cardinals lost 15 of their first 20 games in 1959, Hemus resorted to insults and intimidation in an effort to rattle the opposition and motivate his team.

Using racist remarks, Hemus lost respect and created resentment.

Two years later, he was fired during the 1961 season and never managed in the major leagues again.

A successful oil businessman in Houston, Hemus, 94, died Oct. 3, 2017. In his obituary, he was remembered as a caring man and a philanthropist.

Managing up

Hemus, an infielder, played for the Cardinals from 1949 until he was traded to the Phillies in May 1956. Skilled at reaching base, Hemus scored 105 runs in 1952 and 110 in 1953.

After he was traded, Hemus, a prolific letter writer, wrote to Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, expressing gratitude for his playing career in St. Louis and indicating a desire to return to the organization.

Busch and Hemus continued to correspond. When the Cardinals fired Fred Hutchinson in September 1958, Hemus was Busch’s choice _ not general manager Bing Devine’s _ to become player-manager.

The 1959 Cardinals started sluggishly under Hemus. After losing the first game of a doubleheader to the Pirates on May 3 at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals’ record was 5-15. The Pirates won in the 10th when a fly ball by Bill Mazeroski was misjudged by right fielder Gino Cimoli and sailed over his head for a RBI-single.

An instigator

Furious and determined to shake the Cardinals from their slumber, Hemus put himself into the starting lineup at second base for Game 2.

In the first inning, Hemus faced Bennie Daniels, making his first start of the season for the Pirates.

A pitch from Daniels to Hemus “nicked him on the right pants leg,” according to The Pittsburgh Press.

“Hemus just stuck his leg out to be hit on purpose as usual,” Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Daniels’ pitch “wasn’t a brushback pitch, but Hemus tried to make a federal case out of it,” said Pittsburgh writer Les Biederman.

As Hemus went to first base, he “tossed a few choice phrases in Daniels’ direction,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In his book “The Long Season,” Cardinals reliever Jim Brosnan said, “(Hemus) yelled at Daniels, ‘You black bastard.’ ”

Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, in his book “Stranger to the Game,” said, “I can understand that Hemus wanted to light a fire under us, but that was no excuse for calling Daniels a black bastard.”

As Daniels and Hemus exchanged words, Pirates first baseman Dick Stuart “blocked Solly’s path in case he might be thinking of pursuing Daniels,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Players poured onto the field, but there was no fighting.

In his book, “Uppity,” Cardinals first baseman Bill White said, “After that, Daniels always called Hemus ‘Little Faubus,’ a reference to Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, who tried to block school desegregation in Little Rock in 1957.”

Tempers flare

In the third inning, Hemus blooped a run-scoring double to left against Daniels, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

When Hemus batted again in the sixth, Daniels’ first pitch “just missed” Hemus’ chin, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“I didn’t think that pitch was too close,” Daniels told the Post-Gazette. “I guess Hemus did.”

On the next delivery, Hemus moved up in the batter’s box and “threw his bat toward Daniels before the pitch reached the plate,” The Pittsburgh Press said.

“What was I supposed to do, turn the other cheek?” Hemus told the Post-Dispatch. “The bat slipped out of my hand just like the ball slipped out of Daniels’ hand.”

The bat landed several feet from Daniels. Again, players rushed onto the field. This time, there were scuffles.

Murtaugh “got a short punch at Hemus during the fighting and drew a little blood,” according to The Pittsburgh Press.

Hemus, who told The Sporting News he “was clipped a few times,” grappled with Pirates coach Len Levy.

“I told Solly it was silly to be throwing a bat because somebody could be killed,” Levy said. “Hemus challenged me, so I had to protect myself.”

Fans booed and threw beer cans onto the field.

After order was restored, play resumed with no ejections. “They didn’t have anything to throw me out for,” Hemus said.

Daniels retired Hemus on a groundout to short. After the Cardinals completed their half of the inning, Hemus removed himself from the game.

(Because of a curfew, the game was suspended in the seventh and resumed on the Cardinals’ next trip to Pittsburgh in June. The Cardinals won, 3-1.) Boxscore

Bad example

Noting that Hemus claimed he had tried to put a spark into the Cardinals, Brosnan said, “If that truly was his intention, he did it as awkwardly as he could. All he proved to me was that little men _ or boys _ shouldn’t play with sparks, as well as with matches.”

Wrote the Post-Gazette: “Hemus’ behavior seemed something less than expected from a major league manager.”

The Pittsburgh Press concluded Hemus “went to great lengths to set what turned out to be a bad example.”

After the second game was suspended, Hemus held a closed-door meeting with his team.

During the session, Gibson said, “Hemus referred to Daniels as a nigger … It was hard to believe our manager could be so thickheaded and it was even harder to play for a guy who unapologetically regarded black players as niggers.”

In his book “The Way It Is,” Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood said Hemus told the team, “I want you to be the first to know what I said to Daniels. I called him a black son of a bitch.”

Flood said he and teammates “sat with our jaws open, eyeing each other” as Hemus spoke.

“We had been wondering how the manager really felt about us,” Flood said. “Now we knew. Black sons of bitches.”

Said Gibson: “Hemus’ treatment of black players was the result of one of the following: Either he disliked us deeply or he genuinely believed that the way to motivate us was with insults.”

White said of Hemus, “I never had a problem with him, but some of the other players, especially Curt Flood and Bob Gibson, absolutely despised him, partly because he didn’t play them as much as they would have liked but also because they thought he was a racist.”

In 1992, Gibson recalled, Hemus approached him at a Cardinals reunion and said he wasn’t a racist. Gibson reminded Hemus of the incident with Daniels. According to Gibson, Hemus defended himself as “a master motivator doing what he could to fire up the ball club.”

Said Gibson: “My response was ‘Bullshit.’ ”

In his book “October 1964,” author David Halberstam said Hemus “was saddened that years later Gibson and Flood still thought of him as a racist. He accepted the blame for what had happened. The world had been changing, but he had not, he later decided.”

Read Full Post »

By any definition, Jose Oquendo was a giant killer.

In his first four years in the major leagues, Oquendo hit three home runs. All came against the Giants. The first two occurred in the regular season. The third happened 30 years ago, on Oct. 14, 1987, and carried the Cardinals to a National League pennant.

In the decisive Game 7 of the 1987 NL Championship Series at St. Louis, Oquendo hit a three-run home run in the second inning, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead. The blast stunned the Giants and inspired the Cardinals, who went on to a 6-0 victory and a berth in the World Series against the Twins.

“You’ve heard of a home run giving somebody a lift,” Cardinals slugger Jack Clark said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “This one lifted us right out of the stadium.”

Asking for trouble

Oquendo was 20 years old and a rookie with the Mets when he hit his first big-league home run. It occurred on Aug. 21, 1983, against Giants left-hander Gary Lavelle at San Francisco.

In 1987, Oquendo was a Cardinals utility player. He produced 71 hits _ 61 for singles. On July 25 that season, Oquendo hit his second big-league home run. It came against Giants left-hander Craig Lefferts at San Francisco.

With another Giants left-hander, Atlee Hammaker, starting Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog sought to stack his lineup with players who batted from the right side. Needing a first baseman to replace Clark, who was injured, Herzog moved right fielder Jim Lindeman to first and chose Oquendo, a switch hitter, to start in right.

In the second inning, the Cardinals led, 1-0, and had Willie McGee on second, Tony Pena on third and one out. Oquendo, the eighth-place batter, was at the plate and pitcher Danny Cox was on deck.

With first base open, Giants manager Roger Craig had the option of walking Oquendo intentionally, setting up a potential force out at every base with Cox at the plate.

Instead, the Giants decided to take their chances with Oquendo.

“I didn’t think Roger Craig would want to pitch to me,” Oquendo said.

Countered Craig: “Hammaker has got out a lot better hitters than Oquendo. With one out, I wouldn’t put Oquendo on … You can second-guess me. I don’t care.”

It’s a gift

With the count even at 2-and-2, Hammaker threw Oquendo a slider that barely missed the strike zone. “Real close,” Oquendo admitted.

The full-count payoff pitch was a cut fastball over the plate. “It hung about as high as the bird on Oquendo’s uniform,” wrote San Francisco columnist Ray Ratto.

“Hung it big as day,” said Giants third baseman Kevin Mitchell.

“I thought they’d try to throw me breaking balls outside,” Oquendo said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was surprised he came in.”

“Even then,” said Hammaker to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Oquendo needs luck.”

Taking a confident cut, Oquendo connected with the pitch and drove the ball over the left-field wall at Busch Stadium. Video

“If you’re talking improbable, implausible and almost impossible, how about Jose Oquendo hitting a home run?” wrote Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

“Was I stunned?” asked Cardinals third baseman Terry Pendleton. “Weren’t you?”

Said Herzog: “It was a goddamn Christmas present.” Boxscore

Hard work pays

Oquendo’s home run occurred on the birthday of his daughter, 3-year-old Adianez. “I feel proud,” Oquendo said.

During the series with the Giants, Doug DiCences, an infielder acquired by the Cardinals from the Angels, had suggested to Oquendo that he watch an instructional hitting video by future Hall of Famer Rod Carew. Oquendo, who admired Carew, studied the video before Game 7, according to the Post-Dispatch.

“He’s probably the hardest worker we have on the ball club,” Cardinals hitting coach Johnny Lewis said of Oquendo. “He was out here today (before Game 7) at 2:30 taking batting practice … He was ready.”

Oquendo would finish his 12-year career in the major leagues with 15 home runs _ 14 in the regular season and one in the postseason.

Only one was hit against a right-hander, Doug Bair of the Pirates.

Previously: How Ozzie Smith motivated Cards to get Jose Oquendo

Previously: Tom Lawless and his role in Cardinals World Series lore

Read Full Post »

For overall excellence with bat and glove, Julian Javier earned a place alongside future Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock as a standout for the Cardinals in the 1967 World Series.

The trio capped their consistently strong postseason with clutch performances in the decisive Game 7 against the Red Sox at Boston 50 years ago on Oct. 12, 1967.

After the Cardinals and Red Sox split the first six games, St. Louis prevailed in the finale, 7-2, at Fenway Park. In that game:

_ Gibson pitched a three-hitter, struck out 10 and contributed a home run. He won all three of his starts against the Red Sox and was named recipient of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.

_ Brock produced two hits, a walk, three stolen bases and scored a run. For the Series, he hit .414 (12-for-29) with seven steals and eight runs scored.

_ Javier delivered the key hit _ a three-run home run. For the Series, he hit .360 (9-for-25) and fielded splendidly. Javier made 12 putouts, helped turn four double plays and made 20 assists. His lone error occurred on a hurried relay throw in the finale.

Brock told United Press International he believed the World Series MVP trophy “has to go to Javier. He made some of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen in addition to his nine hits.”

Strategy session

Through five innings of Game 7, the Cardinals led, 4-1. With Gibson at peak form, the Red Sox realized they likely would need to keep the Cardinals from scoring again in order to have a chance to rally.

In the sixth, Tim McCarver, hitless in his previous 10 at-bats, led off for the Cardinals and stroked a low liner to right against Red Sox ace Jim Lonborg. Ken Harrelson charged in and attempted a diving catch, but the ball glanced off his glove. McCarver hustled to second base with a double.

Mike Shannon followed with a one-hop smash that clanked off third baseman Joe Foy. With McCarver holding at second, Shannon reached first base safely and Foy was charged with an error.

Red Sox manager Dick Williams visited Lonborg on the mound. “I went out there to take him out,” Williams told The Sporting News.

Lonborg asked to stay in. He explained to Williams that the next batter, Javier, likely would try to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt. Williams agreed.

After Javier, the Cardinals’ eighth- and ninth-place batters, Dal Maxvill and Gibson, were due to bat. If Javier sacrificed, Lonborg figured, he liked his chances of escaping the inning unscathed.

“Jim said he still felt good,” Williams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “and we thought Javier would be bunting.”

Instead, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst, sensing a chance to drive a dagger into Boston’s hopes, allowed Javier to swing away.

Game changer

Looking to make contact, “I wasn’t trying to hit the ball hard,” Javier said to the Associated Press.

Relying on breaking pitches, Lonborg got ahead in the count, 1-and-2.

The next pitch, a slider, lacked a sharp break and hung in the strike zone.

Javier connected _ “It went up there,” he said of the ball_ and the high drive carried over the Green Monster wall in left field for a home run, giving St. Louis a 7-1 lead.

“This one is a crusher,” Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray said. Video

As McCarver, Shannon and Javier rounded the bases and reached home plate _ “A joyous parade,” Caray crowed _ many in the Boston crowd fell silent.

The Red Sox managed to score a run in the eighth before Gibson sealed the win in the ninth. Boxscore

Noting that two of the Cardinals’ top hitters had struggled throughout the World Series _ Orlando Cepeda batted .103 and McCarver hit .125 _ Javier said “we could have beat them in five games” if the middle-of-the-order duo had produced better.

A few days after the championship celebration, Javier returned to his home in the Dominican Republic. Arriving at the airport in Santo Domingo, Javier was “given a hero’s welcome,” according to the Post-Dispatch. In a public ceremony, President Joaquin Balaguer presented Javier with the Order of the Fathers of the Country, the Dominican Republic’s highest decoration.

Previously: George Scott: Bob Gibson ‘won’t survive 5’ in Game 7

Previously: World Series duels: Norm Siebern vs. Bob Gibson

Read Full Post »

Consistently confrontational, Al Hrabosky was involved in controversy right down to his very last homestand as a Cardinals pitcher.

In 1977, Hrabosky, the so-called “Mad Hungarian,” was involved in a series of incidents, including feuding publicly with manager Vern Rapp, getting suspended by the club for refusing to meet with the manager and incurring the wrath of team owner Gussie Busch by defying a ban on facial hair.

Hrabosky also sparked an on-field brawl in May that year when he hit Cesar Cedeno of the Astros with a pitch.

Forty years ago, on Sept. 26, 1977, Hrabosky capped his tumultuous season by throwing a pitch at the head of Warren Cromartie of the Expos in the opening game of the Cardinals’ final homestand.

An Expos pitcher, Wayne Twitchell, peeved by what he perceived to be an intentional assault of his teammate, waited outside the Cardinals’ clubhouse to confront Hrabosky after the game.

Tough ninth

The Expos and Cardinals entered the ninth inning of the Monday night game at St. Louis with the score tied at 5-5. Among the highlights to that point were Garry Templeton’s two-run inside-the-park home run against Twitchell in the sixth and Gary Carter’s three-run home run for the Expos in the seventh against Eric Rasmussen.

Rawly Eastwick yielded singles to the first four Expos batters in the ninth. The last of those consecutive hits, by Ellis Valentine, drove in a run and put the Expos ahead, 6-5.

With the bases loaded and none out, Hrabosky relieved Eastwick.

The first batter he faced, Carter, pulled a curveball to left for a single, scoring two and giving the Expos an 8-5 lead.

“The count was 2-and-2 and he had just blown one by me,” Carter said to the Associated Press. “I consider myself a fastball hitter and I was surprised to get the curve. He got it up some and I waited for it.”

Danger zone

Next up was Cromartie. Hrabosky threw a fastball that sailed directly toward Cromartie’s head. Cromartie raised his arm to protect his face and the ball struck his right wrist.

“If he hadn’t got his hand up, it would have hit him right here,” Expos manager Dick Williams, pointing to his temple, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Valentine tried to charge from the dugout to the mound to get at Hrabosky, but he was restrained by teammates. Players from both clubs gathered on the field but no fights erupted and no one was ejected.

“He threw at him,” Valentine said. “Everybody on the ball club knew it.”

Hrabosky stayed in the game and completed the inning. The Expos added a run on a sacrifice fly by pitcher Don Stanhouse. The Cardinals failed to score in their half of the ninth and the Expos won, 9-5. Boxscore

Face to face

Hrabosky exited the dugout through a hallway to the clubhouse. As he approached the clubhouse door, he was surprised to see Twitchell there.

Twitchell, 6 feet 6, 215 pounds, pointedly told Hrabosky, 5 feet 11, 185 pounds, that hitting Cromartie with a pitch right after yielding a two-run single to Carter “was very poor timing.”

“I asked what the hell he thought he was doing,” Twitchell said. “He said it was unintentional.”

Several Cardinals had gathered in the hallway on their way to the clubhouse. “I was drastically outnumbered,” Twitchell said.

Asked whether he was seeking a fight, Twitchell said, “If that’s what it came to, but he wouldn’t swing.”

Twitchell departed and went to the Expos clubhouse.

“He hung a pitch and Carter gets a hit,” Twitchell said of Hrabosky. “Now he’s going to take it out on the next hitter? If you are going to brush back a hitter, there’s no worse place you can put the ball.”

Hrabosky declined to comment to reporters.

Said Cardinals manager Vern Rapp: “There was no intent. What does a guy want to hit him for with two men on and nobody out?”

Hrabosky pitched in three more games for the Cardinals. After the season, he was traded to the Royals.

Previously: Bake McBride was a menace against Wayne Twitchell

Previously: Gary Carter and his two 5-RBI games against Cardinals

Read Full Post »

Facing a collection of arms ranging from a 15-year-old making his big-league debut to a 36-year-old batting practice pitcher, the 1944 Cardinals became the first team in the majors to achieve two shutout wins by margins of 16 runs or more in the same month.

On June 10, 1944, the Cardinals beat the Reds, 18-0. Two weeks later, on June 24, the Cardinals beat the Pirates, 16-0.

Only one other major-league club, the 2017 Twins, earned two shutout wins by margins of at least 16 runs in the same month, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. On Sept. 2, 2017, the Twins beat the Royals, 17-0. Ten days later, on Sept. 12, the Twins beat the Padres, 16-0.

Fun facts

Both of the lopsided June shutout victories by the 1944 Cardinals occurred on Saturday afternoons and in road games _ at Cincinnati and at Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals had a total of 43 hits _ one home run _ in the two games.

Stan Musial contributed seven hits in nine at-bats with four walks.

Mort Cooper pitched the shutouts: a five-hitter and a three-hitter.

Reaching base

The Cardinals’ game against the Reds took place at Crosley Field four days after the Allies launched the D-Day invasion in France. The game attracted 3,510 cash customers, 318 servicemen and 1,641 youths from the Knothole baseball program.

Though the Cardinals had 21 hits and received 14 walks, the game was completed in a relatively brisk 2:23.

Musial had three singles, three walks, three RBI and scored four times.

The Cardinals had 19 singles and two extra-base hits. George Fallon, the eighth-place batter, and Johnny Hopp, the leadoff man, each doubled.

St. Louis stranded 18 base runners, tying a major-league record.

The 18-0 score was the most lopsided shutout win in the National League since 1906 when the Cubs beat the Giants, 19-0, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Hey, Joe

With the Cardinals ahead, 13-0, Reds manager Bill McKechnie decided to have Joe Nuxhall, 15, make his major-league debut in the ninth inning.

With their pitching staff depleted because of military service during World War II, the Reds had signed Nuxhall that year. His parents agreed to let him join the club for home games. Because he wasn’t old enough to drive, Nuxhall took a 30-minute bus ride from his home in Hamilton, Ohio, to Crosley Field for the games, according to the Washington Post.

Nuxhall, in the dugout while the Reds prepared to bat in their half of the eighth inning, heard McKechnie call out, “Joe!”

“I said to myself, ‘He can’t be talking to me,’ ” Nuxhall told Cincinnati TV station WCET in 2005. “We had a couple of Joes on the ball club. And he says ‘Joe!’ a little louder. I looked and he said, ‘Go warm up.’ ”

Nuxhall, wearing borrowed cleats, grabbed a glove and started up the dugout steps to head to the bullpen.

“I was scared to death,” Nuxhall recalled in a 1994 interview with the Associated Press. “I got all shook up and tripped over the top step and fell flat on my face in the dirt. It was embarrassing.”

After the Reds batted in the eighth, Nuxhall took the mound to pitch the ninth, becoming the youngest player to appear in a major-league game.

“I was kind of in awe of these guys, the way they were hitting line drives,” Nuxhall said of the Cardinals.

Wild thing

Admitting to being “scared out of my wits,” Nuxhall threw wildly but was managing his way through the inning. Of the first four batters he faced, Nuxhall walked two and retired two on infield outs.

Runners were on first and second when Musial stepped to the plate.

“Probably two weeks prior to that, I was pitching against seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, kids 13 and 14 years old,” Nuxhall said. “All of a sudden, I look up and there’s Stan Musial … It was a very scary situation.

“By that time, I was all over the place (with my pitches). It wasn’t two inches outside. It was high and inside, high and outside, bouncing pitches. When (Musial) walked up there, I guess he thought I was a needle threader. My first pitch, he just lined to right. Hit it hard.”

Musial’s single loaded the bases.

Unnerved, Nuxhall walked the next three batters, leading to three runs, and then yielded a two-run single to Emil Verban.

McKechnie went to the mound _ “I believe he said, ‘Joe, that’s enough,’ ” Nuxhall recalled _ and took the teen out of the game after he had yielded five runs in two-thirds of an inning. Boxscore

“What the cash customers saw in the ninth didn’t exactly meet with their hearty approval,” the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote of Nuxhall’s debut.

Said Nuxhall: “Those people that were at Crosley Field that afternoon probably said, ‘Well, that’s the last we’ll see of that kid.’ ”

(After his debut, Nuxhall wouldn’t pitch in the big leagues again until 1952 at age 23. He went on to play 16 seasons in the majors, earning 135 wins, and later became a beloved broadcaster for the Reds.)

Hit parade

Two weeks later at Forbes Field, Ray Sanders led the Cardinals’ attack against the Pirates. Sanders had a single, double, home run and walked twice. He drove in three and scored twice.

Musial had four hits _ three singles and a double _ and a walk. He scored twice and had a RBI.

The Cardinals used 22 hits and seven walks for their 16 runs. They stranded 14. The game, played the day after a tornado swept through Pittsburgh, was completed in a snappy 2:02 before 4,899 paying spectators.

Cooper limited the Pirates to three singles.

Xavier Rescigno, who relieved Pirates starter Fritz Ostermueller with none out in the second, gave up 17 hits and 10 runs in seven innings.

With the score 15-0, “it finally reached such a stage that (Pirates) manager Frankie Frisch sent Joe Vitelli, his batting practice pitcher, to the mound to hurl the ninth,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Vitelli, 36, yielded back-to-back doubles to pinch-hitter Pepper Martin, 40, and Sanders for the final run. Boxscore

Previously: How Giants beat John Tudor, Cardinals, 21-2

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »