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Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Brian Jordan produced his most important hit for the Cardinals against one of the all-time best relief pitchers.

brian_jordanFacing Trevor Hoffman in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1996 National League Division Series, Jordan slugged a two-run home run, breaking a 5-5 tie and lifting the Cardinals to their first postseason series championship in nine years.

Hoffman by that time had established himself as an elite reliever. With 42 saves _ the first of his nine seasons with 40 or more _ and nine wins, the right-hander had factored in 55 percent of the 92 regular-season victories achieved by the 1996 Padres.

Hoffman would go on to build a distinguished 18-year career in the big leagues. His 601 saves rank second all-time behind only the 652 by Mariano Rivera of the Yankees.

Hoffman generally is considered a strong candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2016, he received votes on 67.3 of the Baseball Writers Association of America ballots. Results of the 2017 voting will be revealed Jan. 18.

In a career filled with successes, one of Hoffman’s earliest and most glaring stumbles was in his first postseason against the Cardinals.

Key catch

After winning the first two games at St. Louis, the Cardinals were in position to clinch the best-of-five NL Division Series with a victory against the Padres in Game 3 at San Diego on Oct. 5, 1996.

The Padres led 4-1 after five innings, but the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, taking a 5-4 lead.

In the eighth, Ken Caminiti connected off Cardinals reliever Rick Honeycutt for his second home run of the game, tying the score. The Padres had a runner on second with two outs when Jody Reed launched a line drive to the gap in right-center. Jordan, the right fielder, dived and made an inning-ending catch. Video

“I think that was the most important play of the ballgame,” Jordan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If that ball gets by me, they’re going to score.”

Bruce Bochy, the Padres’ manager, brought in Hoffman to pitch the ninth.

Hoffman got Ozzie Smith to line out to left.

Ron Gant drew a walk.

“I was high in the zone to Gant,” Hoffman told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be.”

Up next was Jordan.

Delivering a dagger

Jordan led the 1996 Cardinals in RBI, with 104. He hit .367 with runners on base.

As a result of his diving catch the previous inning, Jordan’s neck and left shoulder stiffened when he got back to the dugout, but a quick massage from trainer Gene Gieselmann got Jordan ready to face Hoffman in the ninth.

After working the count to 3-and-2, Jordan lined a pitch foul down the left-field line.

Jordan expected the next delivery to be a fastball. Hoffman threw a slider.

Hoffman: “I hung it right over the middle.”

Jordan: “He threw me a slider up and I kept my hands back.”

Hoffman: “It wasn’t a high hanger. Brian had to go down and get it.”

Jordan: “If I miss that, I’m throwing my hat and my helmet down.”

Timing it right, Jordan swung _ “It looked like he hit one-handed,” Hoffman said _ and lofted the ball over the left-field wall. Boxscore

Bob Costas, calling the game on television for NBC, described the home run as “a dagger through the heart” of the Padres. Video

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, rated Jordan’s jolt “the biggest St. Louis home run” since Jack Clark’s pennant-clinching shot against the Dodgers in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 NL Championship Series.

“I’ve always wanted to play in pressure situations,” Jordan said. “… To see that ball come down, over the fence, it was satisfying.”

Said Hoffman: “On 3-and-2, he’s looking to drive the ball and I gave him a pitch to do it … It was the right pitch in that situation. Unfortunately, the execution wasn’t quite there and I got bit in the butt.”

Previously: Cardinals dealt Trevor Hoffman first defeat

Previously: How Tony Gwynn tormented Dennis Eckersley

Previously: Why Jack Clark got chance to put Cards in World Series

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In a career filled with consistent hitting versus the Cardinals, Jeff Bagwell reached a personal pinnacle when he hit for the cycle against them.

jeff_bagwellBagwell, a first baseman, produced 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI in 15 years (1991-2005) with the Astros.

He is a leading candidate to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame when results of balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America are revealed on Jan. 18, 2017. A candidate needs to be named on 75 percent of the ballots to be elected. In 2016, Bagwell got 71.6 percent of the votes.

Championship contenders

Many of Bagwell’s most meaningful games came against the Cardinals, who developed into the Astros’ most intense division rival.

In nine of the last 10 seasons of Bagwell’s career, 1996-2005, either the Astros or Cardinals finished in first place in the National League Central Division. In 2001, the Cardinals and Astros tied for first with 93-69 records. In 2004 and 2005, when the Cardinals won division titles, the Astros qualified for the postseason as a wild card and faced St. Louis in the NL Championship Series. The Cardinals prevailed in 2004; Houston won in 2005.

Bagwell, a right-handed batter, had more regular-season career hits (223) versus the Cardinals than he did against any other foe.

In 192 regular-season games facing St. Louis, Bagwell hit .319, with 38 home runs, 139 RBI and a .422 on-base percentage.

In 2000, when the Cardinals were division champions, Bagwell hit .463 (19-for-41) against them, with seven home runs and 18 RBI in 11 games.

His best single-game performance versus the Cardinals came the next year.

Liftoff in Houston

The Cardinals had won four in a row, holding opponents to three runs or fewer, heading into a series opener against the Astros on July 18, 2001, at Houston.

In the first inning, Bagwell hit a run-scoring single off starter Mike Matthews. He flied out to center in the third.

The Cardinals scored six times in the fifth and led, 8-6.

Sparked by Bagwell, the Astros rallied for eight runs in the bottom half of the inning.

Bagwell led off the fifth with a double against Luther Hackman. After the Astros scored five times, Bagwell capped the inning with a three-run home run off Gene Stechschulte.

Coming through

That meant Bagwell needed a triple to complete the cycle for the only time in his big-league career. He’d tripled just once (at Chicago) at that point in the season.

In the seventh, with Craig Biggio on third base and one out, Bagwell faced Andy Benes. “My only concern was getting that run home (from third),” Bagwell told the Houston Chronicle.

Bagwell lined a deep shot to right-center field.

“That’s probably the only place you can hit a triple in this park, for a right-hander,” Biggio said.

Bagwell rounded second _ “I was kind of laboring. I wasn’t going very fast,” he said _ and beat the throw to third.

“It worked out where I got a triple and got the cycle,” said Bagwell, “but a base hit up the middle would have been nice, too.” Boxscore

Bagwell became the fourth Houston player _ and the first since Andujar Cedeno on Aug. 25, 1992, versus the Cardinals Boxscore _ to hit for the cycle. The other Astros to do so were Cesar Cedeno and Bob Watson.

“I’m jealous,” Astros outfielder Moises Alou said to the Associated Press. “I’ve never even hit for the cycle when I played softball.’

Bagwell, who drew a walk while facing Dave Veres in the eighth, finished the game 4-for-5 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s cool,” Bagwell said, “but it’s not something I put much stock in.”

Previously: Could Craig Biggio have made Hall of Fame as Cardinal?

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Tim Raines played like a Hall of Famer against the Cardinals.

Raines is considered a prime candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

tim_rainesThe switch-hitting outfielder, who played 23 seasons in the big leagues, primarily with the Expos and White Sox, is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the final time in 2017. Raines, who received 69.8 percent of the votes in 2016, needs 75 percent to earn election. Results of the balloting will be revealed Jan. 18, 2017.

If Raines is elected, his career performance versus the Cardinals will have had a key role. Though Raines played well against most teams, he was especially good versus the Cardinals.

Raines had more career triples (12), walks (107) and RBI (70) against the Cardinals than he did versus any other team. Raines batted .324 against the Cardinals, with 187 hits, 105 runs scored, 68 stolen bases and a .424 on-base percentage.

Overall for his career, Raines batted .294 with 2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases and a .385 on-base percentage. Raines ranks fifth all-time in steals. Rickey Henderson (1,406), Lou Brock (938), 19th century player Billy Hamilton (914) and Ty Cobb (897) are ahead of him.

Deadly speed

Raines showed consistent excellence versus the Cardinals from 1982-85. During that stretch, his batting average against the Cardinals was .314 or better every year and his on-base percentage each season was .417 or higher. In 1982, when the Cardinals won the World Series championship, Raines batted .391 (27-for-69) against them, with an on-base percentage of .494.

One of Raines’ most significant games against the Cardinals occurred during a 7-4 Expos victory on Sept. 18, 1984, at St. Louis. Raines had four stolen bases, giving him 70 for the season. Raines became the first player to have 70 steals or more in four consecutive seasons.

“Coming from a small town (Sanford, Fla.) which nobody has ever heard of and then coming to the major leagues, it makes me proud to be able to do what I’ve done,” Raines said after the game to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Raines would finish the 1984 season with 75 stolen bases, leading the National League for the fourth year in a row. He had 71 steals in strike-shortened 1981, 78 in 1982 and 90 in 1983.

(Though Raines also achieved 70 steals in both 1985 and 1986, the Cardinals’ Vince Coleman surpassed him as the NL stolen base leader in those seasons.)

In his book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Whitey Herzog, who managed the Cardinals from 1980-90, called Raines “a great hitter with deadly speed.”

“If you don’t keep him off base, you’re going to get beat, especially when you can’t hold him on,” Herzog told Hummel.

Hard to stop

With Joaquin Andujar pitching and Darrell Porter catching, Raines swiped second base three times and third base once in his four-steals game against the Cardinals.

Raines “took advantage of Andujar’s slow release toward home plate,” Hummel reported.

“He’s got a quick move to first, but he’s got that high leg kick when he comes to the plate,” Raines said of Andujar. “He comes to the plate slow all the time. I’ve always felt that when he’s pitching, I can run.”

Said Andujar: “That guy just flies. It doesn’t matter whether you throw 100 times to first, he will still steal the base.”

After Andujar was relieved by Kevin Hagen, Raines attempted to steal his fifth base of the game but was caught by Porter.

Porter was one of just four catchers to throw out Raines attempting to steal up to that point in the season, according to the Post-Dispatch. The others: Steve Lake (Cubs), Mike Scioscia (Dodgers) and Ozzie Virgil (Phillies). Boxscore

Raines also had a standout season against the Cardinals in 1990, batting .373 (19-for-51) with 13 RBI and a .469 on-base percentage. On Oct. 1, 1990, Raines had five RBI, including a grand slam off Frank DiPino, in a 15-9 Expos triumph over the Cardinals at Montreal. Boxscore

Previously: In measuring greatness, Lou Brock beats Tim Raines

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Of the eight career home runs Dexter Fowler has hit against the Cardinals, including one in the postseason, the most dramatic helped the Rockies to a second consecutive late-inning comeback.

dexter_fowlerOn July 7, 2010, Fowler crushed a three-run home run in the eighth inning off Cardinals reliever Jason Motte, tying the score at 7-7 and positioning the Rockies for a win in the ninth.

Six years later, on Dec. 9, 2016, Fowler, a free agent, got a five-year contract to play center field and bat leadoff for the Cardinals after helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

Clutch performer

Fowler was in his second full season with the Rockies in 2010 when the Cardinals came to Denver for a three-game series.

In the opener, on July 6, 2010, the Rockies erased a 9-3 Cardinals lead when they scored nine runs in the ninth and won, 12-9. Seth Smith broke a 9-9 tie with a three-run walkoff home run off Ryan Franklin. Fowler doubled and scored in that inning. Boxscore

The next night, the Cardinals led 7-4 in the eighth. The Rockies had runners on first and second, one out, when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa brought in Motte to relieve Trever Miller and face Fowler.

A switch hitter, Fowler batted from the left side against the hard-throwing Cardinals right-hander.

Fastball hitter

After missing the strike zone with his first two pitches, Motte delivered a 97 mph fastball. Fowler swung and missed.

The next pitch was a ball, running the count to 3-and-1.

Motte threw another 97 mph heater. This time, Fowler fouled off the pitch.

“You’re just trying to get a hit and keep the train going,” Fowler said to the Associated Press.

Motte’s payoff pitch was a 98 mph fastball. “That’s his best pitch, so that’s what I was looking for,” Fowler told the Denver Post.

Fowler connected and the ball sailed over the wall for a three-run home run. Audio of home run call at about 3:07 mark

It was Fowler’s first home run since April 28.

“That one to Fowler was right down the middle … and he got the barrel on it,” Motte said to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You fall behind (in the count) and you’ve got to throw strikes. You throw strikes, they hit the ball.”

Rocky Mountain high

Fowler’s home run set the stage for a Rockies walkoff win in the ninth.

With his bullpen depleted, La Russa chose Evan MacLane, making his major-league debut, to pitch the ninth.

MacLane, a left-hander, worked the count to 3-and-2 against the leadoff batter, Chris Iannetta. MacLane’s next pitch, a changeup, was drilled for a home run, giving the Rockies an 8-7 walkoff win. Boxscore

Previously: Jason Motte ran table on Cardinals saves in 2012

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Barry Bonds might have broken Hank Aaron’s career home run record as a member of the Cardinals, not the Giants, if he and the Redbirds had been able to agree on a compensation package.

barry_bondsTen years ago, in December 2006, the Cardinals and Bonds, a free agent, expressed mutual interest in exploring a deal.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who urged the front office to pursue discussions, was fascinated by the possibility of having Bonds and Albert Pujols in the same batting order.

“I was intrigued by the idea,” La Russa said to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Joe Strauss. “… I’m thinking it might be there for (Bonds) in St. Louis … We have an opportunity if he thinks he fits with us.”

For Bonds, who had been with the Giants since 1993, the Cardinals looked appealing for at least two reasons:

_ La Russa had a track record of successfully managing, and protecting, sluggers (Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco) whose reputations had been tainted by suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use.

_ Bonds, 42, never had played on a World Series championship team and he knew his time for doing so was running short. The Cardinals, who won the 2006 World Series title, had qualified for the postseason in six of the previous seven years. The Giants had losing records in each of the previous two seasons.

Bonds “has thought seriously about playing alongside Albert Pujols in St. Louis,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

La Russa envisioned a 2007 Cardinals batting order of David Eckstein at shortstop, Jim Edmonds in center field, Pujols at first base, Bonds in left field, Scott Rolen at third base, Juan Encarnacion (or Chris Duncan) in right field, Yadier Molina at catcher and Aaron Miles at second base.

Bonds still could produce. In 2006, he had 23 doubles, 26 home runs, 115 walks and 77 RBI in 130 games. With 734 career home runs, Bonds needed 22 more to break Aaron’s record of 755.

Though negotiations didn’t get much beyond a preliminary stage _ the Cardinals wanted Bonds to agree to a deeply discounted salary _ the flirtation between the two parties appeared sincere while it lasted.

Let’s talk

Shortly after he had surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow, Bonds became a free agent in October 2006. Though many expected him to stay with the Giants, other teams, most publicly the Athletics, were interested.

In a Nov. 11, 2006, column in the Post-Dispatch, Bernie Miklasz scoffed, “Scratch the ridiculous rumors of the Cardinals having an interest in signing Barry Bonds. There’s nothing to it. If the Cardinals make a run at any prominent free-agent hitter, it will be Alfonso Soriano.”

However, a month later, during the baseball winter meetings in Orlando in December 2006, La Russa became convinced Bonds was available and he encouraged the Cardinals to meet with Bonds’ representatives, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals met with the Bonds group, including Jeff Borris, the slugger’s agent, and then had internal meetings to discuss the matter. La Russa requested a meeting with Bonds, though it was unclear whether that session occurred.

However, Bonds did meet with Tigers manager Jim Leyland in Orlando. Leyland, who was Bonds’ manager with the Pirates from 1986-1992, “wasn’t acting on behalf of the Tigers,” the Mercury News reported.

“Leyland and La Russa are very close and it’s thought that Leyland might have been gathering a read on Bonds for his good friend,” wrote Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News.

The interest was serious enough that Cardinals officials considered polling their key players to get their take on the notion of Bonds joining the club, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols, back to back? It’s more than a fantasy league lineup _ and more than a rumor,” the Mercury News told its readers.

Show me the money

When the discussions between the Cardinals and Bonds’ representatives turned to money, it became evident a deal wouldn’t occur.

The Cardinals had offered another veteran free-agent hitter, Luis Gonzalez, a one-year deal at $7.3 million, the Post-Dispatch reported. Bonds was seeking more than $10 million a year.

“It’s not realistic,” La Russa said to Strauss, “because if he comes with us he would only be making pennies.”

“We couldn’t pay him,” La Russa concluded.

Wrote the Mercury News: “Barry Bonds is intrigued with playing under the St. Louis arch, but the money is pointing him someplace else. Bonds isn’t known for leaving cash on the table.”

The San Jose newspaper predicted Bonds “would return to San Francisco if the Cardinals cannot approach the Giants’ offer.”

Pressed by reporters, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty snapped, “There’s nothing on with Bonds. I’m sick and tired of people asking that. We don’t have money for Bonds.”

On Dec. 7, 2006, Bonds and the Giants agreed on financial terms. Bonds would receive a $15.8 million base salary in 2007, plus bonus incentives that could increase the package to $20 million.

Messy affair

Naturally, just the idea the Cardinals would consider signing Bonds created controversy among Cardinals fans and media.

Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch opined, “The Cardinals’ brief but unrequited dalliance with Barry Bonds turned out to be just like every other naughty romance: loaded with provocative attraction, potentially perilous consequences, a tinge of remorse, a hint of shame and a ton of relieved hindsight.”

Burwell asked, “Would the most despised man in all of sports suddenly have found a safe and welcome haven in the bosom of Cardinal Nation?”

Miklasz’s take: “The Cardinals and their fans have a history of embracing Mark McGwire and baseball’s steroids culture, so why draw the line at Bonds?”

In his final season, Bonds hit 28 home runs for the 2007 Giants. On Aug. 7, 2007, he hit career home run No. 756 off Mike Bacsik of the Nationals, breaking Aaron’s record. Bonds finished with 762 career home runs.

Previously: Albert Pujols and the start of his NL MVP run

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If Red Sox ace Boo Ferriss would have started Game 6 of the 1946 World Series against the Cardinals, would Boston have won the championship? In retrospect, probably not, but at the time the decision by Red Sox manager Joe Cronin to hold Ferriss for a possible Game 7 created controversy and second guessing.

boo_ferrissAfter the Red Sox won Game 5, giving them three wins in the best-of-seven Series, they needed one more victory to clinch the title. Cronin indicated he’d start Ferriss in Game 6. Ferriss had shut out the Cardinals in Game 3 and he had led the Red Sox in wins during the regular season, with 25.

At the last minute, however, Cronin changed his mind and started Mickey Harris in Game 6. The Cardinals beat Harris, evening the Series. Ferriss started the decisive Game 7, but the Cardinals won that, too, earning their third World Series crown in five years.

Cronin was criticized for not starting his best pitcher when the Red Sox had the opportunity to claim the championship with a Game 6 triumph. Few pitchers in 1946 had better credentials than Dave “Boo” Ferriss, who, 70 years later, died on Nov. 24, 2016, at 94.

Big winner

Ferriss _ he got his nickname when, as a child, he tried to say the word “brother” and it came out “boo,” according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research _ debuted with the Red Sox in 1945 and posted a 21-10 record.

In 1946, Ferriss, a right-hander, was even better. He won his first 10 decisions and finished the regular season at 25-6, including a 13-0 mark at home.

After the Red Sox and Cardinals split the first two games of the 1946 World Series at St. Louis, Ferriss got the start in Game 3 on Oct. 9 at Boston. Throwing a sinker from a three-quarters sidearm delivery, Ferriss held the Cardinals scoreless for nine innings, limiting them to six hits and a walk in a 4-0 Red Sox triumph.

Stan Musial tried to spark the Cardinals in the first inning when he walked with two outs and stole second base. Noticing Musial taking a big lead off second, Ferriss turned and caught him flat-footed. Holding the ball, Ferriss moved toward Musial, who broke for third. Ferriss threw to third baseman Pinky Higgins, who applied the tag.

In the ninth, Musial tripled with two outs, but Ferriss preserved the shutout by striking out Enos Slaughter. Boxscore

Chance to clinch

The Cardinals evened the Series with a win in Game 4 and Boston went ahead with a win in Game 5. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Star-Times reported Ferriss would start Game 6 on Oct. 13 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Cronin told reporters, “Don’t worry about any seventh game. There won’t be any.”

Post-Dispatch columnist John Wray wrote that Cronin “thinks Ferriss will turn back the Redbirds and clinch the world title in the sixth game. Ferriss is a real hurdle for the Birds.”

Dizzy Dean, retired Cardinals ace, told the Post-Dispatch on the eve of Game 6, “I reckon it’ll be Ferriss for the Sox tomorrow.”

Change of plans

Ferriss, though, would have been pitching on three days’ rest, instead of the usual four, if he had started Game 6. He also would have been matched against Harry Brecheen, who had shut out the Red Sox in Game 2 and was chosen the Cardinals’ Game 6 starter by manager Eddie Dyer.

“Ferriss was set to start,” reported the Detroit Free Press, “but at the last hour” Cronin reconsidered and opted to start Harris.

A left-hander, Harris had started and lost Game 2, though he yielded one earned run in seven innings. During the regular season, Harris had a 17-9 record.

“Cronin gambled on (Harris) because Sportsman’s Park usually has been a paradise for southpaws,” United Press reported.

This time, Harris gave up three runs in 2.2 innings and the Cardinals won Game 6, 4-1. Boxscore

Cardinals clout

After a scheduled off day on Oct. 14, Game 7 was played on Oct. 15 at St. Louis. Described by the Post-Dispatch as “a master of variable speed and control,” Ferriss, starting on five days’ rest, was opposed by Murry Dickson.

In the fifth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, Dickson doubled, scoring Harry Walker from second. Red Schoendienst followed with a single, scoring Dickson and giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. After Terry Moore singled, Cronin replaced Ferriss with Joe Dobson.

Ferriss’ line: 4.1 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts.

The Red Sox tied the score with two runs in the eighth, but the Cardinals went ahead in the bottom half when Slaughter made a mad dash from first and scored on a Walker hit off Bob Klinger. Brecheen, who had relieved Dickson, shut down the Red Sox in the ninth, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 triumph and the championship. Boxscore

Decisions, decisions

Based on Brecheen’s performance in Game 6, Ferriss, if he had started that game, would have had to shut out the Cardinals in order to ensure the Red Sox of clinching then.

Still, Cronin caught heat for his decision-making:

_ Sid Kenner, St. Louis Star-Times: “Why didn’t Cronin pitch Ferriss in the sixth game and then, if the Red Sox lost that number, Joe Dobson was the top ace up the sleeve?”

_ Herbert Goren, New York Sun: “Cronin’s pitching strategy was questioned in the last two games. How judicious was it to save Ferriss for the seventh game when he was ready for the sixth?”

_ The Sporting News: “Some surprise was expressed over Cronin’s decision to start Harris. Many thought he would lead with Ferriss in the hope of winding up the Series.”

Keener reported Cronin “originally had Ferriss primed and ready” for Game 6, but had “a change of heart” after learning Brecheen was starting.

In defense of Cronin, Ed McAuley of the Cleveland News wrote, “Ferriss’ performance in the (seventh) game confirmed the manager’s suspicion that (Ferriss) needed more than three days’ rest.”

The 1946 season was the pinnacle of Ferriss’ pitching career. He pitched six seasons, all with the Red Sox, and had a 65-30 record.

Previously: The story of Joe DiFabio, original No. 1 pick of Cards

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