Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Stan Musial won a game for the Cardinals with a walkoff pop-out.

It happened 60 years ago, on May 31, 1963, against the Giants at St. Louis.

In the ninth inning, with the score tied at 5-5, reliever Don Larsen, the former Yankee who pitched a World Series perfect game, walked Cardinals leadoff batter Curt Flood.

Bill White tried to move Flood to second with a sacrifice bunt, but fouled off two attempts. Then he swung away, rapping a grounder to second baseman Cap Peterson. A rookie, Peterson’s throw to shortstop Jose Pagan covering second was too late to get Flood, and White was safe at first on the fielder’s choice.

Bobby Bolin relieved and Dick Groat bunted, pushing the ball between the mound and third base. Bolin fielded it and tried getting Flood at third, but Flood beat the toss and Groat was credited with an infield single, loading the bases for Musial.

A left-hander, Billy Pierce, was brought in to face him.

Giants manager Al Dark moved the infield in and called for his outfielders to play shallow, hoping to make a play at the plate if necessary.

Musial swung at Pierce’s first pitch and hit a pop-up toward the right side of the infield. The umpires shouted, “Infield fly,” meaning Musial automatically was out.

Dazed and confused

The infield fly rule is called on a fair ball that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort when runners either are on first and second, or when the bases are loaded, before two are out. The rule is for the benefit of the runners because it keeps infielders from letting a shallow fly drop with the intention of causing a force play at second and third, or second, third and home, according to MLB.com. A runner is allowed to attempt to advance at his own risk.

When Musial’s pop fly went into the air, Peterson turned and started back toward his normal second base position, the San Francisco Examiner reported. Then he froze, according to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

When center fielder Willie Mays and right fielder Felipe Alou saw Peterson fail to react, they raced in to try for a catch.

“Mays came closest to getting the ball,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but it fell among he and Alou and Peterson. According to the Examiner, “the ball landed right where Peterson was standing when the ball was pitched.”

When Curt Flood on third saw that the ball was unlikely to be caught, he dashed to the plate. Mays tried to grab the ball on one bounce so that he could throw home, the Post-Dispatch reported, but he could not come up with it. Flood streaked across the plate with the winning run and Musial was credited with a RBI.

Disgusted, Mays kicked his glove about 30 feet, the Post-Dispatch reported. Boxscore

The pop fly was Peterson’s responsibility to catch, Dark said to the Post-Dispatch. Regarding the outcome of a game being decided on an infield fly rule out, Dark told the newspaper, “I’ve never seen such a play at any point in any game.”

The wining pitcher was Bob Gibson, who had entered in the top of the ninth and pitched a scoreless inning of relief. He retired Willie McCovey, Matty Alou and Harvey Kuenn in order.

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Bob Uecker’s speed, whatever there was of it, was no match for the arm of Jesus Alou.

A perfect throw by Alou in a game against the Cardinals nailed Uecker at the plate, aiding a win for the Giants that moved them into sole possession of first place in the 1964 National League pennant race.

Alou, youngest of three brothers to play in the majors, was an outfielder and contact hitter who excelled against premier pitchers. St. Louis University students formed a fan club in his honor. He was 80 when he died on March 10, 2023.

Oh, brother

Jesus Alou was a right-handed pitcher when he joined the Giants’ Class D farm team at Hastings, Neb., in 1959. Alou, 17, “developed a sore arm and was sure he was about to be released,” the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported. Instead, he became an outfielder, the same position played by his brothers Felipe and Matty.

“I always thought that maybe they just kept me because Felipe and Matty were moving up and they didn’t want them to feel bad,” Alou told the newspaper.

All three Alou brothers were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. In his autobiography, “Alou: My Baseball Journey,” Felipe said, “Our home was the size of an average bedroom in the United States _ 15 by 15 feet _ some of it with an uneven cement floor, and the rest, particularly our kitchen floor, was dirt.”

Felipe recalled Jesus would take meat “right out of the pot when it was still cooking over an open fire. He loved meat and always seemed to have a ravenous appetite … Jesus was the one who grew the tallest and filled out the most.”

Felipe entered the Giants’ system in 1956 and Matty joined him a year later. Felipe reached the majors with the Giants in 1958 and Matty got there in 1960.

Jesus Alou hit .324 or better in four consecutive seasons in the minors before he was brought up to the Giants in September 1963.

In Jesus Alou’s debut against the Mets, he, Matty and Felipe batted consecutively in the eighth inning (Jesus and Matty as pinch-hitters) and became the first trio of brothers to appear in the same big-league game. Boxscore

Five days later, Felipe (in center), Matty (in left) and Jesus (in right) were the Giants outfielders for two innings in a game against the Pirates. Boxscore

In his book, Felipe said, “People have asked me what I felt. Pride, to some degree, but mostly what I felt was an overwhelming sense of responsibility to look out for my younger brothers. I was more concerned for them than anything.”

After seeing Jesus Alou play, Giants manager Al Dark told the San Francisco Examiner, “He’ll be something special one of these days, perhaps next year.”

The three Alou brothers appeared in a game together eight times, but never started a game together.

After the season, Felipe was traded to the Braves and Dark said Jesus would get first crack at Felipe’s right field job. “In Dark’s expert opinion, (Jesus) is destined to become a better all-around ballplayer than Felipe, a development which would qualify him to rub shoulders with the best in the business,” the Examiner noted.

Forgive me, Father

A son of a carpenter _ naturally _ Alou was the first player in the majors to be named Jesus. Some of the less enlightened had a devil of a time accepting this.

“In the Dominican Republic, as well as elsewhere in Latin America, the name Jesus is a common one, but in this country … the name is sacred to the Savior and a jarring note is struck when the name is not so honored,” Examiner columnist Prescott Sullivan wrote in March 1964.

“It’s a grand name, a wonderful name, and Jesus Alou wears it proudly,” Sullivan wrote, but “we’ve been thinking that what Jesus Alou needs is a nickname.”

Sullivan suggested Alou should be called “Jay or Jess or even Chi Chi.”

(Sullivan provided playwright Neil Simon with the inspiration for the Oscar Madison character in “The Odd Couple,” according to the Associated Press.)

Sullivan contacted several San Francisco holy men, who told him that, by God, they agreed with the notion that Alou should not be called by his given name.

Monsignor Eugene Gallagher, director of the Catholic Youth Organization, confessed, “A nickname for Alou would eliminate the danger of disrespect for a name sacred to our Savior.” A spokesman for Episcopal Bishop James Pike of Grace Cathedral said, “It would be simpler all around to call him by a name other than the one given to our Lord.” Rabbi Alvin Fine of Temple Emanuel offered, “For baseball purposes, I’d rather call him Butch.”

The advice was taken as gospel. Some broadcasters and reporters referred to the player as Jay Alou instead of Jesus.

Good impressions

On May 28, 1964, Alou was the left fielder for the Giants at St. Louis. In the seventh inning, the Cardinals led, 1-0, and had Bob Uecker on second when Carl Warwick lined a single to left. “With two out, we had to try for the run and send Uecker in,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We had to hope for a wide throw, or a bounce that got past the catcher.”

Instead, Alou charged the ball, scooped it on one hop and fired a strike on the fly to catcher Del Crandall, who was waiting when Uecker slid into the tag. “That ball passed Uecker like a roadrunner,” coach Vern Benson said to the Post-Dispatch.

In the next inning, Willie Mays hit a Curt Simmons pitch off a girder in right-center for a two-run home run. The Giants won, 2-1, and moved into first place. Boxscore

(Mays “used to play cards with us all the time,” Jesus Alou told the Fort Launderdale Sun-Sentinel. “Every time he won, he gave us our money back.”)

Two months later, Alou had six hits (five singles and a home run) in a game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

The Giants stayed in contention but finished three games behind the champion Cardinals.

The next year, Alou had 22 hits, including five doubles and two home runs, in 18 games against the 1965 Cardinals.

When the Giants played at St. Louis on June 28, 1966, a fan club of 48 graduate students from St. Louis University came to Busch Memorial Stadium and supported Alou with banners and cheers, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Alou had three hits in the game, scored twice and stole a base, then posed for pictures with the students. He hit .333 versus the Cardinals in 1966. Boxscore

Close call

After the 1968 season, Alou was chosen in the National League expansion draft by the Expos, who flipped him to the Astros for Rusty Staub.

In a June 1969 game against the Pirates, Alou fractured his jaw in a collision with shortstop Hector Torres while chasing a pop fly. On the ground, Alou “looked like he was dead,” Astros player Denis Menke told the Associated Press.

Alou swallowed his tongue and struggled to breathe before Pirates trainer Tony Bartirome “pulled Alou’s tongue up, inserted an inflationary tube in his throat and blew into it to open the passage,” Astros trainer Jim Ewell told the wire service.

Alou recovered and in 1970 he hit .306 for the Astros and .460 (17-for-37) against the Cardinals. In a May 1 game at St. Louis, he had three hits, three RBI and two runs scored. Boxscore

In 1971, the Cardinals acquired Matty Alou from the Pirates. In a game at Houston that year, Matty had two hits for the Cardinals and Jesus had three for the Astros. Boxscore

Bruce Bochy, who went on to manage the Giants to three World Series championships, began his professional playing career in the Astros’ system. In Felipe Alou’s book, Bochy said, “When I was a player, Jesus Alou was a guy who took me under his wing _ something I will never forget. I would sit next to Jesus in the dugout whenever I had the chance, soaking in his sage wisdom.”

In his book “I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally,” Jim Bouton said Astros teammate Jesus Alou “is one of the most delicate, sensitive, nicest men I have ever met. He’d walk a mile out of his way to drop a coin in some beggar’s cup.”

Playing to win

In 1973 and 1974, Jesus Alou got to play in two World Series for the champion Athletics. The manager of the 1974 team was Al Dark. Jesus was joined on the A’s by an Angel, fellow reserve outfielder Angel Mangual.

Jesus Alou played 15 seasons in the majors and had 1,216 hits. He was at his best against some future Hall of Famers, batting .436 (24-for-55) against Steve Carlton, .370 (17-for-46) against Don Sutton, .353 (12-for-34) against Sandy Koufax and .333 (14-for-42) against Tom Seaver.

After his playing days, Jesus Alou was a scout for the Expos, and then director of Dominican Republic operations for the Marlins and later the Red Sox.

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For a guy who hit .154 in the 1964 World Series, Yankees first baseman Joe Pepitone was at the center of several significant plays against the Cardinals.

Pepitone got hit by a Bob Gibson pitch at a key moment in Game 2, lined a ball that struck Gibson in Game 5, and belted a grand slam in Game 6.

The Cardinals prevailed in seven games, but Pepitone wasn’t done with them. After he joined the Cubs in 1970, Pepitone thrived against the Cardinals. A career .258 hitter in the majors, Pepitone batted .331 in 36 regular-season games versus the Cardinals.

Pepitone also played for, and had conflicts with, former Cardinals managers Johnny Keane and Harry Walker.

A power hitter and Gold Glove fielder who had a well-earned reputation as a carouser, Pepitone played for the Yankees, Astros, Cubs and Braves. He was 82 when he died on March 13, 2023.

Survival skills

In spring 1958, Pepitone, 17, was approached at his Brooklyn high school by an acquaintance who displayed a .38 Colt revolver and simulated a hold-up. The gun discharged and a slug ripped through Pepitone and came out his back. A priest administered last rites before Pepitone was rushed into surgery.

In his book, “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud,” Pepitone said, “I was in surgery for nine hours. The bullet had struck a rib and caromed out my lower back, missing three vital organs by inches.”

He spent 12 days in the hospital. Soon after, Pepitone’s father, Willie, 39, died from complications following a heart attack.

In August 1958, the Yankees signed Pepitone for $25,000. He said in his book he splurged on a Thunderbird, a speedboat and several silk suits.

Four years later, in April 1962, Pepitone reached the majors. His first hit, a single, came against a future Hall of Famer, Jim Bunning. After the season, the Yankees traded first baseman Bill Skowron, opening the door for Pepitone to replace him in 1963. On Opening Day, he smacked two home runs. Boxscore

Pepitone, 22, had 27 home runs for the 1963 Yankees and led the club in RBI (89) and total bases (260). He followed that with 28 home runs and 100 RBI for the 1964 Yankees.

The Yankees won their fifth consecutive American League pennant in 1964 and faced the Cardinals in the World Series.

Bad actor

The Cardinals won Game 1 and part of the reason was Pepitone’s inability to deliver on scoring chances. In the fifth and seven innings, he batted with two runners on base and made the final outs both times. Boxscore

In Game 2, with the score tied at 1-1 and Mickey Mantle on first, Bob Gibson threw a pitch low and inside to Pepitone. “I was going to swing at the ball, but then it started coming in on me and I checked my swing,” Pepitone told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Plate umpire Bill McKinley said the ball struck Pepitone in the right thigh and awarded him first base, with Mantle moving to second. The Cardinals argued the ball hit Pepitone’s bat first. “That play was the turning point of this game,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane told the Associated Press.

The next batter, Tom Tresh, singled, scoring Mantle and giving the Yankees the lead. They went on to win. Boxscore and Video at 12:22 mark

During batting practice before Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, Pepitone spotted Cardinals first baseman Bill White near third base. Pepitone had a photo of he and White together before Game 1, and wanted White to autograph it.

“So Pepitone, emerging from the first base dugoout, limped pitiably all the way to third base,” the New York Times reported. “The Cardinals whooped and sneered. Pepitone limped harder. The Cardinals couldn’t avoid laughing.”

“If that ball hit you,” Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver yelled out, “you’ve got a wooden leg.”

White autographed the photo and Pepitone headed back to the dugout, but forgot to limp. When the Cardinals called him on it, Pepitone began “limping worse than ever,” the Times noted.

Then, according to the New York Daily News, White hollered, “Hey, you’re limping on the wrong leg,”

“Oops,” said Pepitone, who switched his limp.

On his first trip to the plate in Game 3, Pepitone was decked by Curt Simmons’ first pitch. He also had to spin away from two other Simmons pitches, the Daily News noted.

Throughout the game, “Cardinals bench jockeys gave Pepitone a solid riding every time he came to bat,” The Sporting News reported.

Crucial out

The Cardinals, with Gibson pitching, led, 2-0, in the ninth inning of Game 5. With Mantle on first and one out, Pepitone hit a hard liner that struck Gibson in the right hip. As the ball darted toward the third base line, Gibson “was off the mound in a flash, grabbed the ball and fired off balance” to White at first base, The Sporting News reported.

When umpire Al Smith called Pepitone out, the Yankees argued. (Film clips “show Smith was correct in calling him out,” the Daily News reported.)

The next batter, Tom Tresh, hit a home run, tying the score. If not for Gibson’s play, Pepitone would have joined Mantle on the bases and Tresh’s homer would have won the game for the Yankees. Instead, the Cardinals prevailed on Tim McCarver’s home run in the 10th. Boxscore and Video

Rare feat

In Game 6 at St. Louis, the Yankees led, 4-1, when Pepitone faced Gordon Richardson with the bases loaded in the eighth. Twice, with the count 2-and-2, Pepitone fouled off balls “that just skipped off McCarver’s glove,” according to the Post-Dispatch. Then he hit a grand slam onto the roof in right. Boxscore and Video at 2:45 mark

Pepitone became the 10th player to hit a World Series grand slam, The Sporting News noted. Ken Boyer did it for the Cardinals in Game 4. The 1964 World Series was the second to have two grand slams. In 1956, Bill Skowron and Yogi Berra did it for the Yankees versus the Dodgers.

Authority issues

After the Cardinals clinched the championship in Game 7, Johnny Keane resigned and became Yankees manager. In his autobiography, Pepitone said, “Keane and I didn’t hit it off from the beginning.”

Pepitone said Keane fined him multiple times. Keane also benched him indefinitely for reporting late to the ballpark and failing to take batting practice, the Associated Press reported.

“There was a moment in 1965 when I came close to punching Johnny Keane,” Pepitone said in his book.

Pepitone was deep in debt in 1965, he said in his book, and trying to hide from bill collectors. Near the end of the season, he said, Yankees general manager Ralph Houk convinced him to enter a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

“For me, the 1965 baseball season was one long agonizing scream,” Pepitone said in his book. “I tried to muffle it with endless partying and rebelling against authority. Before the season was over, I was feeling my mind snap, crack, pop at any minute.”

Keane was fired in May 1966. Pepitone led the Yankees that season in home runs (31), RBI (83), runs scored (85) and total bases (271).

Pepitone also got attention for what was considered a bold step in a macho culture _ using a hairdryer in the clubhouse. A prankster teammate slipped “some baby powder in the thing,” he told the Associated Press in 1968. “You should have seen the mess when I turned it on.”

After hitting 27 home runs in 1969, Pepitone was traded to the Astros for Curt Blefary. The trade reunited Pepitone with former Yankees teammate Jim Bouton. In his book, “Ball Four,” Bouton wrote about how Pepitone wore two hairpieces, one for ballgames and another for going out on the town. Pepitone opened a men’s hair styling boutique in New York and was looking to franchise the business, the New York Daily News reported.

The Astros’ manager, Harry Walker, had been a Cardinals manager (1955) and coach on Keane’s staff (1961-62). Walker and Pepitone didn’t get along either.

Pepitone hit 14 home runs in 279 at-bats for the 1970 Astros, but in July he was told by Walker he no longer could room alone on road trips. Fed up with what he considered petty rules, Pepitone walked out on the team and asked to be put on the voluntary retirement list. In his book, Pepitone said, “I couldn’t stand Harry Walker and all his rules and regulations.”

Placed on waivers, Pepitone was claimed by the Cubs.

Moving on

Leo Durocher, the Cubs manager, put Pepitone in center field and he did well. He produced 12 home runs and 44 RBI in 213 at-bats for the 1970 Cubs and made one error in 459 innings in center.

The next year, primarily playing first base, Pepitone hit .307 for the Cubs and .411 (23-for-56) against the Cardinals. In three home games versus the Cardinals from June 18-20, Pepitone was 8-for-9 with three walks, a hit by pitch, and seven runs scored. June 18 Boxscore June 19 Boxscore June 20 Boxscore

His success versus the Cardinals extended to 1972, when he hit .438 (7-for-16) against them. During that season, Durocher left and replaced Harry Walker as Astros manager.

One of Pepitone’s last big games came against the Cardinals on April 15, 1973, when he had five RBI and scored three runs. “Pepitone can play well,” Cubs manager Whitey Lockman told the Post-Dispatch. “It depends whether he wants to.” Boxscore

A month later, Pepitone, 33, was dealt to the Braves. He played in three games for them, the last against the Cardinals, and quit. “I’d had it with major league baseball,” Pepitone said in his book. “I just didn’t have any feeling for the game.”

The next year, he went to Japan, didn’t like it, hurt his ankle and played in 14 games before seeking his release.

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Dan McGinn didn’t sign with the Cardinals when they drafted him, but they got to know one another quite well.

A left-handed pitcher, McGinn did some of his best work against the Cardinals during his first full season in the majors with the 1969 Expos, a National League expansion team.

McGinn was 2-1 with a save and a 1.29 ERA in six relief appearances versus the 1969 Cardinals. In both wins, he delivered hits that were pivotal to the outcomes.

In five seasons in the majors, McGinn pitched with the Reds, Expos and Cubs. He was the first Expos player to hit a home run in the regular season, and he was the winning pitcher in their first home game. He finished his playing career in the Cardinals’ system. McGinn was 79 when he died on March 1, 2023.

A touch of blarney

McGinn earned varsity letters in baseball, basketball and football at Cathedral High School in Omaha. A quarterback, he signed a letter-of-intent to accept a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

When McGinn changed his mind and took a scholarship offer from Notre Dame head coach Joe Kuharich instead, Nebraska head coach Bob Devaney said the quarterback was making a mistake. “We play his type of football and Notre Dame does not,” Devaney told United Press International.

In 1963, McGinn’s sophomore year and his first varsity season, junior John Huarte was Notre Dame’s quarterback. Hugh Devore, who replaced Kuharich as head coach, made McGinn the punter. The left-handed passer was a right-footed kicker. After the football season, McGinn pitched for Notre Dame’s baseball team and was 5-2 as a sophomore.

Ara Parseghian, Notre Dame’s third head coach in three years, took over in 1964 and immediately revived the football program. Parseghian built an offense around two seniors, Huarte and receiver Jack Snow. He also gave Snow the punting duties. Huarte won the Heisman Trophy and Snow was an all-America. McGinn was a backup to Snow.

McGinn’s chance to shine came on the baseball field. He was 8-3 his junior season. The Cardinals chose him in the 21st round of the June 1965 amateur draft. “The Cards wanted me to sign right away, but I felt I had to get my degree,” McGinn told the Dayton Daily News.

He said no to the Cardinals, and returned to Notre Dame for his senior year. With Jack Snow gone to the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, Parseghian made McGinn the punter for the 1965 team. “It was a great privilege to play for Ara Parseghian,” McGinn told the Tampa Times. “He’ll do anything to help any of his players.”

In January 1966, a month after the football season ended, the Reds selected McGinn in the first round of the secondary phase of the amateur draft. When the Reds agreed to let McGinn remain at Notre Dame to complete the work for his degree before reporting to the minors, he signed with them.

Signing the contract meant he had to give up his senior baseball season at Notre Dame, but he did graduate in June with a degree in communication arts.

Rude welcome

Assigned to Class AA Knoxville, McGinn was put in the starting rotation and had a 5.23 ERA in 1966 and a 6-13 record in 1967. “Frankly, we’d given up on McGinn as a major-league prospect,” Reds general manager Bob Howsam told the Dayton Daily News.

The Reds sent McGinn to the Class AA Asheville (N.C.) Tourists in 1968 and it changed the course of his career. Asheville manager Sparky Anderson and pitching coach Bunky Warren converted McGinn into a reliever and he flourished.

McGinn posted a 2.29 ERA in 74 appearances for Asheville, winner of the Southern League championship. Bunky Warren “helped Dan McGinn more than anyone knows,” Sparky Anderson told The Sporting News.

On Sept, 3, 1968, McGinn was called up to the Reds. He arrived at Crosley Field in Cincinnati just as that night’s game against the Cardinals was starting, and slipped into a uniform with no time for introductions to his new teammates.

In the 10th inning, manager Dave Bristol sent McGinn to run the bases for first baseman Don Pavletich. In the 11th, McGinn, who never had played in a pro game outside the Southern League, was on the mound, facing the Cardinals.

He walked the first batter, Ed Spiezio, on five pitches, “and then, as the nervous lefty worked the count to 2-and-0 on Lou Brock, Bristol replaced him with Billy McCool,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. McCool completed a walk to Brock (charged to McGinn), and the Cardinals went on to score twice in the inning.

McGinn was the losing pitcher in his initiation to the majors. Asked why he chose to use McGinn with the game on the line, Bristol told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “He has to be baptized in the big league sometime.” Boxscore

Tres bien

A month later, the Expos selected McGinn in the National League expansion draft.

In their first regular-season game, on April 8, 1969, against the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York, McGinn relieved starter Mudcat Grant in the second inning. In the fourth, facing Tom Seaver, McGinn broke a 3-3 tie with his first big-league hit, a home run at the 371-foot mark in right. Video

“It was a one-in-a-million shot,” McGinn told the Montreal Star. “I just guessed fastball on the first pitch and let ‘er rip.” Boxscore

A week later, the Cardinals were the opponent for the Expos’ first home game. McGinn relieved the starter, ex-Cardinal Larry Jaster, in the fourth and pitched 5.1 scoreless innings for the win, his first in the majors. The feat was extra sweet, coming against the team that beat him in his debut. “I’ve waited for this chance to get even and it sure feels good,” McGinn told the Montreal Star.

McGinn’s single in the seventh against Gary Waslewski scored ex-Cardinals prospect Coco Laboy and broke a 7-7 tie. Boxscore

The King and I

When the Expos came to St. Louis for the first time a week later, McGinn was involved in a game-deciding controversy.

With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals had the bases loaded, two outs, when McGinn was brought in to face Tim McCarver. After McGinn made five warmup tosses, McCarver asked plate umpire Shag Crawford to examine the ball. Crawford tossed the ball away and gave McGinn another “that was slicker than Yul Brynner’s scalp,” McGinn told the Montreal Star.

McGinn asked for a different ball but the request was denied. McGinn then purposely heaved his final warmup pitch over the head of catcher John Bateman and into the screen, hoping to have it removed from the game, the Star reported.

Crawford kept the ball in play. “Next, Bateman rubbed it against his shoe to get black polish on it and force Crawford to change the ball,” the Star reported.

Crawford tossed out the ball but gave McGinn another shiny one.

McGinn worked the count to 3-and-2 on McCarver, then walked him on a pitch high and inside, forcing in the winning run. McGinn blamed himself, not the ball. “I just couldn’t get the ball over (the plate),” McGinn said to the Star. Boxscore

That sinking feeling

McGinn’s second win against the Cardinals in 1969 was a lot like his first. On June 26 at Montreal, McGinn pitched 6.2 innings in relief, allowing one unearned run, and sparked a two-run rally in the sixth with a single against Ray Washburn.

Of the 20 outs McGinn recorded, only one was on a fly ball to an outfielder. The rest were strikeouts or “dime store ground balls,” the Montreal Gazette noted.

“When McGinn’s sinker is right, you’ll see 9,000 ground balls and some strikeouts,” Expos catcher Ron Brand told the Post-Dispatch. “There was no way anyone could have hit some of McGinn’s sinkers in the air.” Boxscore

After pitching in 88 games in 1968 (74 for Asheville and 14 for the Reds), McGinn pitched in 74 for the 1969 Expos _ a total of 162 appearances over two seasons.

Lamb to lion

McGinn had a dreadful beginning to the 1970 season. His ERA after 11 relief appearances was 11.77.

On May 11, Expos rookie Carl Morton (3-0, 2.64 ERA) was scheduled to start against Tom Seaver (6-0, 2.10) and the Mets. Seaver had won 16 consecutive regular-season decisions dating to August 1969.

Expos manager Gene Mauch preferred saving Morton for an easier matchup, so he picked McGinn to start against Seaver.

“He was the lamb being led to slaughter,” Red Foley wrote in the New York Daily News, “but apparently neither the Mets nor Tom Seaver were informed of the scheduled sacrifice. As far as they’re concerned, the lamb turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

McGinn pitched a three-hit shutout for the win. Mauch told The Sporting News, “He’s the most enigmatic young man I’ve ever met.” Boxscore

Two months later, McGinn was matched against Bob Gibson in a start at St. Louis. Like McGinn, Gibson was born and raised in Omaha. McGinn played against Gibson in an Omaha industrial basketball league, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In the third inning, with the score tied at 1-1, the Cardinals had the bases loaded, two outs and Mike Shannon at the plate. McGinn threw a wild pitch, resulting in a run. It turned out to be the decisive run in the Cardinals’ 2-1 triumph. Boxscore

In April 1972, McGinn was traded to the Cubs, and a year later he was sent to the minors. The Cardinals acquired him on May 26, 1973, and McGinn, 29, spent the rest of that season, his last, with their farm club in Tulsa.

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Born and raised in St. Louis, Dave Nicholson was one of baseball’s all-time best power-hitting prospects, but the Cardinals were unwilling to pay the price it took to sign the hometown slugger.

In January 1958, Nicholson was 18 when he signed with the Orioles for more than $100,000, a shocking sum for an amateur at that time.

A right-handed batter, he was “probably the hottest prospect in the country,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

Though he went on to hit some mighty home runs in the majors, the records Nicholson set were for striking out. As Frank Hyland of the Atlanta Constitution noted, Nicholson “turned around the can’t-miss label. He could miss, and did almost every opportunity.”

An outfielder, Nicholson played seven seasons in the majors with the Orioles, White Sox, Astros and Braves. He was 83 when he died on Feb. 25, 2023.

Special talent

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, strong and swift, Nicholson attracted pro scouts to St. Louis to see him play in amateur leagues and for Southwest High School. “He has power, physique, the arm and speed,” White Sox farm director Glen Miller told the Chicago Tribune. “His hands are as big as hams.”

The Cardinals scouted Nicholson for two years, The Sporting News reported.

In the summer of 1957. when Nicholson was playing in the amateur Ban Johnson League after his junior season in high school, Orioles scout and former Cardinals catcher Del Wilber tracked him. “Best prospect I’ve ever seen,” Wilber told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

The Orioles sent seven scouts at various times to St. Louis to verify Wilber’s glowing reports on Nicholson. All liked what they saw. Paul Richards, who had the dual role of general manager and manager of the Orioles, and his pitching coach Harry Brecheen, the former Cardinal, showed up, too. They put Nicholson through a special workout, with Brecheen pitching to him. Nicholson passed the test, according to the Globe-Democrat. 

By the end of the summer, scouts from every big-league team had come to see the teen who crushed baseballs with the power of a hulk.

Your bid

In the fall of 1957, Nicholson, a senior, dropped out of high school and took a job with a St. Louis printer for $60 a week, the Baltimore Sun reported. According to the Chicago Tribune, Nicholson withdrew from school because of a disagreement with a coach who wanted him to play football. The Sporting News reported he left because of “weakness in the classroom.”

The pro scouts didn’t care. Every big-league team, except the Tigers, made Nicholson an offer, the Associated Press reported. It put the teen and his parents in a strong negotiating position. They let the clubs drive up the bidding in visits to the family’s Arthur Avenue home.

The Cardinals dropped out when the price reached $60,000, the Globe-Democrat reported. The Yankees didn’t stick around long either. Their scout, Lou Maguolo, who signed the likes of Tony Kubek, Norm Siebern and Lee Thomas, told The Sporting News, “Nicholson struck out seven times in 10 trips when I saw him, and I can’t recommend anybody like that.”

When the bidding reached six figures, three teams were left in the running: Cubs, Orioles, White Sox. According to The Sporting News, the Cubs and White Sox made the highest offers, but Nicholson said he chose the Orioles because, “I like Paul Richards, and I honestly think the quickest road to the majors is through the Orioles’ farm system.”

In addition to the bonus of more than $100,000 (published estimates of the amount ranged from $107,000 to $150,000), the deal included two new Pontiacs _ one for Dave and one for his father, Larry, The Sporting News reported. Larry Nicholson also was given a part-time scouting job with the Orioles.

According to the Globe-Democrat, the only other baseball amateurs to get signing bonuses of $100,000 or more were Paul Pettit (Pirates, 1950), St. Louisan Frank Baumann (Red Sox, 1952) and Hawk Taylor (Braves, 1957). Nicholson “is worth every penny,” White Sox scout Pat Monahan told the Globe-Democrat.

Learning curve

A month after signing, Nicholson was at the Orioles’ spring training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. Watching him in batting practice, Richards told The Sporting News, “He has as much bat speed as I have seen in a youngster.”

The quick bat didn’t result too often in contact, especially against breaking pitches. Nicholson struck out in seven of his first eight at-bats in spring training games, The Sporting News reported. His only hit in 11 at-bats in exhibition games was a home run against the Giants’ Curt Barclay.

“The kid’s stance is too wide,” Cubs hitting coach Rogers Hornsby told The Sporting News. “He has to do it all with his arms, and the breaking stuff will give him a fit.”

Richards planned to have Nicholson start his pro career at the Class D level of the minors, but changed his mind and sent him to Class A Knoxville. After 25 games, he was dropped to Class B Wilson, N.C. He struggled there, too, and was demoted to Class D Dublin, Ga. 

The Dublin club was managed by a St. Louisan who spent six years playing in the Cardinals’ farm system, Earl Weaver. His task was to restore Nicholson’s sagging confidence. “He has the tools to make the majors,” Weaver told The Sporting News. “He just has to get the experience to catch up with the other boys.”

Nicholson’s combined numbers for the 1958 season were 98 hits (15 for home runs) and 158 strikeouts.

The Orioles assigned Nicholson, 19, to Class AA Amarillo in 1959, and again it was a mistake. Overmatched, he was dispatched to the Class C Aberdeen (S.D.) Pheasants and put under the care of their manager, Earl Weaver.

Weaver got Nicholson to relax and play loose. Nicholson responded, producing 35 home runs and 119 RBI for Aberdeen. When injuries depleted the Pheasants’ pitching staff, Weaver had Nicholson take some turns on the mound. In nine pitching appearances, including two starts, Nicholson was 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA. He struck out 43 batters in 34 innings.

Swishing sound

Nicholson, 20, began the 1960 season with Class AAA Miami, then was called up to the Orioles in May. He batted .186 and struck out 48 percent of the time (55 whiffs in 113 at-bats) in his first big-league season.

After another year in the minors in 1961, Nicholson was with the Orioles in 1962. He batted .173 and struck out 44 percent of the time (76 whiffs in 173 at-bats).

The Orioles dealt Nicholson, Ron Hansen, Pete Ward and Hoyt Wilhelm to the White Sox for Luis Aparicio and Al Smith in January 1963. The White Sox made Nicholson their left fielder. He hit 22 home runs for them in 1963, but struck out 175 times, a major-league record.

Just six years earlier, the batter who fanned the most times in the American League in 1957 was the Senators’ Jim Lemon, with 94. As The Sporting News noted, “It wasn’t too long ago when the total of 100 strikeouts in any one season was considered staggering … but those days are gone, perhaps never to return.”

(Today, the major-league record for striking out the most times in a season is held by Mark Reynolds, 223 whiffs with the 2009 Diamondbacks. At least Reynolds hit 44 home runs that year. In 2011, Drew Stubbs of the Reds struck out 205 times and hit 15 homers. According to baseball-reference.com, the career big-league salaries paid to those players: $30 million to Reynolds and $15 million to Stubbs.)

Playing hardball

On May 6, 1964, in the first game of a doubleheader at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Athletics starter Moe Drabowsky threw a slider to Nicholson on a 2-and-1 count. Nicholson launched a towering shot that disappeared over the roof covering the upper deck in left and landed in nearby Armour Square Park. White Sox officials estimated the ball carried 573 feet, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The ball was retrieved by 10-year-old Michael Murillo Jr., who was listening to the game on his radio while his father was at softball practice in the park, the Tribune reported. In exchange for the home run ball, Nicholson gave Michael an autographed baseball and one of his bats.

Some witnesses in the upper deck said the ball cleared the roof on a fly; others said it hit atop the roof, then skidded out of the ballpark. Regardless, Nicholson joined Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Robinson as the only players to propel a home run out of Comiskey Park, the Tribune reported.

Nicholson’s prodigious homer was the first of three he hit that day. He had another against Drabowsky an inning later, and hit one in the second game against Aurelio Monteagudo. Boxscore and Boxscore

Two months later at Kansas City, in his first plate appearance against Drabowsky since hitting the home runs against him, Nicholson was struck in the forehead, just above the left eye, by a fastball. He fell to the ground, bleeding. Teammates carried him off the field on a stretcher. Nicholson was taken to a hospital and needed stitches to close the wound.

“The beaning was clearly an accident,” the Kansas City Times reported. “It appeared Nicholson was hit by a fastball that took off. Drabowsky was not warned by the plate umpire, Joe Paparella, and there was nothing said to him by the White Sox players.”

Paparella told The Sporting News, “It was an inside pitch that sailed.” Boxscore

Hit or miss

As Nicholson’s strikeout rate increased, his playing time decreased with the White Sox in 1964 and again in 1965. His totals in three seasons with them: 176 hits (37 for home runs) and 341 whiffs.

One person who didn’t lose faith in Nicholson was Paul Richards, who had become general manager of the Astros. He traded for Nicholson in December 1965.

Going to a National League team meant Nicholson would get to play in his hometown for the first time as a big-leaguer. On May 30, 1966, in his first at-bat in his first game in St. Louis, Nicholson singled against Bob Gibson. Boxscore 

On July 5, 1966, Nicholson hit two home runs against the Braves’ Denny Lemaster. One of the shots reached the purple seats in the fourth level of the Astrodome, 512 feet from home plate. Boxscore A month later, Nicholson belted a home run against Sandy Koufax. Boxscore

The long balls were thrilling; the strikeouts, not so much. Nicholson had the most strikeouts among Astros batters in 1966. After the season, he went to the Florida Instructional League, tried converting into a pitcher and “showed some promise,” The Sporting News reported.

Then, Paul Richards came back into his life. Richards, who left the Astros to become general manager of the Braves, acquired Nicholson in the trade that sent Eddie Mathews to Houston in December 1966.

Richards had hopes Nicholson, 27, still could be a consistent hitter, but he wanted him to begin the 1967 season in the minors at Class AAA Richmond, where he could play every day. The Braves sent hitting instructor Dixie Walker to Richmond to work with Nicholson, but the plan unraveled.

Nicholson struck out 100 times in 254 at-bats and was demoted in July 1967 to Class AA Austin (managed by Hub Kittle).

In September, Richards did Nicholson a favor and brought him to the Braves. He played his last 10 games in the majors that month. His last hit, a single, came against Bob Gibson in Atlanta. Boxscore

Nicholson’s last big-league game was Oct. 1, 1967, against the Cardinals. Naturally, his last at-bat, against Nelson Briles, resulted in a strikeout. Boxscore

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Prevented by racism from playing in the minors in 1955, Roman Mejias opened the season in the majors as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting right fielder ahead of another rookie, Roberto Clemente.

That season, Mejias (of Cuba), Clemente (Puerto Rico) and Felipe Montemayor (Mexico) formed the first all-Latino starting outfield in the big leagues.

Though Mejias didn’t play often for the Pirates as a rookie, he had some of his best games versus the Cardinals. For the rest of his career, Mejias hit well against them.

A right-handed batter and outfielder, Mejias played nine seasons in the majors with the Pirates, Houston Colt .45s and Boston Red Sox, He was 92 (and probably much older) when he died on Feb. 22, 2023.

Bayou bigotry

Mejias was born in Abreus, Cuba. Most sources list the date of his birth as Aug. 9, 1930. Others list it as 1925. Pirates scout Howie Haak said Mejias was 32 when he signed him for $100 before the 1953 season. Pirates general manager Branch Rickey agreed to list Mejias’ age as eight years younger, Haak told Peter Gammons of the Boston Globe in 1985.

(According to the Waco Herald-Tribune, George Sisler was scouting for the Pirates in Cuba, spotted Mejias in a game, “liked the way he snapped those wrists and signed him on the spot.”)

In 1953, Mejias’ first season in the Pirates’ system, he hit .322 for Class D Batavia, N.Y. The next year, he batted .354 with 141 RBI for Class B Waco, Texas, and had a 55-game hitting streak.

At spring training in 1955, the Pirates assigned him to the Class AA New Orleans Pelicans, but that club “refused his contract because of color,” The Pittsburgh Press reported. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The Pelicans owners decided they wouldn’t take his contract because he is a Cuban Negro.”

Because Mejias hit well in spring training, the Pirates put him on their Opening Day roster, hoping he could make the leap from Class B to the majors.

Latino talent

Mejias and Clemente were assigned to be road roommates with the 1955 Pirates, according to The Pittsburgh Press. Clemente was drafted from the Dodgers’ system during the winter, but when the Pirates opened the 1955 season at Brooklyn their starting right fielder was Mejias. Frank Thomas started in left and Tom Saffell in center. Boxscore

The next day, for the Pirates’ home opener against the Phillies, Mejias again started in right and Clemente was on the bench. Mejias hit a home run against Herm Wehmeier but also made an error, leading to a pair of Phillies runs. Boxscore

After a third consecutive start in right, Mejias was benched by manager Fred Haney and replaced by Clemente.

On April 24, 1955, at Philadelphia, when Haney started an outfield of Mejias in left, Felipe Montemayor in center and Clemente in right, “the Pirates were told they are making history with the first all-Latin American outfield,” The Pittsburgh Press reported. Boxscore

A week later, on May 2, the Pirates started the same outfield combination against the Cardinals in Pittsburgh. Boxscore

Put me in, coach

On June 12, 1955, in a game against the Braves at Pittsburgh, Mejias snapped a 3-3 tie with a two-run home run against Warren Spahn, lifting the Pirates to a 5-3 victory. Boxscore

As the summer wore on, though, Mejias got less playing time. He had three hits in July and four in August. When the Cardinals came to Pittsburgh at the end of August, Mejias was batting .197 for the season.

In the series opener on Aug. 30, Mejias got the start in right, smacked a two-run triple against Harvey Haddix and scored a run in the Pirates’ 3-1 victory. Boxscore

Starting again in the series finale on Sept. 1, Mejias had four RBI, including a three-run double versus Luis Arroyo, in a 7-6 Pirates triumph. Boxscore

Mejias hit .355 (11-for-31) against the Cardinals in 1955 _ far better than his season batting mark of .216 in 176 plate appearances.

“It didn’t do him good to be on a big-league roster (in 1955),” Jack Hernon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote. “He wasted away a season when he could have been developing. It was because the club didn’t have a farm team which would accept him. The player suffered and perhaps the Pirates killed off a fine prospect.”

Ups and downs

After playing for minor-league Hollywood (Calif.) in 1956, Mejias was the Pirates’ Opening Day right fielder in 1957 when Clemente was sidelined because of a bad back. Boxscore When Clemente recovered, he joined an outfield with Bill Virdon in center and Bob Skinner in left. Mejias was sent back to the minors.

In 1958 and 1959, Mejias was a reserve outfielder with the Pirates. A highlight came on May 4, 1958, in a start against the Giants, when he slammed three home runs in the game at San Francisco’s Seals Stadium. Two of the homers were hit against Johnny Antonelli and the other off Marv Grissom. All were pulled to left. Mejias was the first Pirate to hit three homers in a game since Ralph Kiner.

“I hit line drives, try to get base hits,” Mejias told the San Francisco Examiner. “I’m not a home run hitter really.” Boxscore

In 1959, when he hit .236 for the season, Mejias batted .377 (20-for-53) against the Cardinals.

Mejias spent most of the next two seasons (1960 and 1961) in the minors and wasn’t on the roster when the Pirates prevailed against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

Houston calling

In October 1961, the Houston Colt .45s selected Mejias in the National League expansion draft, and he finally got a chance to play every day.

Mejias, the starting right fielder, hit a pair of three-run home runs in Houston’s Opening Day win at home against the Cubs. Boxscore

As usual, he battered the Cardinals, hitting .290 against them. On April 26, 1962, Bob Gibson held Houston hitless until Mejias hit a home run in the eighth. Boxscore Mejias hit another home run against Gibson in August. Boxscore (Mejias batted .300, 6-for-20, versus Gibson in his career.)

Mejias went on to lead the expansion team in runs scored (82), hits (162), home runs (24), RBI (76), stolen bases (12), batting average (.286) and total bases (252) in 1962. According to his listed birth date, Mejias turned 32 that season. “He was 40,” Howie Haak insisted to the Boston Globe.

“He’s a wonderful person, and he’s a very fine ballplayer,” Houston manager Harry Craft told the Globe. “I know of at least 10 games we never would have won without Mejias. He has a tremendous throwing arm. He’ll never embarrass you.”

Fenway follies

Envisioning Mejias launching home runs over the Green Monster wall in left at Boston’s Fenway Park, the Red Sox traded two-time American League batting champion Pete Runnels to Houston for him in November 1962.

When Red Sox officials learned Mejias’ family was unable to get permission from the Fidel Castro regime to leave Cuba, they worked with the Red Cross to make it happen. Mejias’ wife, two children (ages 12 and 10) and two sisters joined him in the United States in March 1963. “Best day of my life,” he told the Globe.

The Red Sox opened the 1963 season with Mejias in center, but he got off to a dreadful start, hitting .117 in April and .189 in May.

He started to press and tried too often to hit home runs over the Green Monster. “I’m playing like a bush-leaguer,” Mejias said to the Globe.

Red Sox executive Mike Higgins told him, “Forget about the fence. Don’t even look at it when you’re batting,” the Globe reported.

“You’ve got fence-poisoning,” Higgins said. “You’re spoiling your swing and your timing because you’re trying to hit the fence. Just try to hit the ball anywhere.”

Mejias had a good June _ batting .304 for the month and hitting three home runs in a doubleheader against the Orioles Boxscore and Boxscore. September was good, too. He hit .310 for the month and had seven RBI in a game against the Twins. Boxscore

Overall, though, he hit .227 with 11 home runs. The Red Sox thought he was 33, but if Howie Haak was correct, Mejias was 41.

The next year, Tony Conigliaro, 19, started in center for the Red Sox and Mejias was on the bench. Mejias batted .238 in 1964, his last season in the majors.

A career .254 hitter, Mejias batted .316 versus the Cardinals.

Of Mejias’ 54 career home runs, 12 came against pitchers who got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame _ Warren Spahn (4), Sandy Koufax (2), Bob Gibson (2), and Jim Bunning, Robin Roberts, Don Drysdale and Juan Marichal (1 each).

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