Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Knowing Duke Snider wasn’t enamored with the new home of the Dodgers, the Cardinals made a bid to acquire him, but the price was deemed too high.

Sixty years ago, on April 25, 1958, the Cardinals played the Dodgers in Los Angeles for the first time in the regular season. The Dodgers left Brooklyn after the 1957 season and relocated to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum while waiting for Dodger Stadium to be built.

Snider, a left-handed pull hitter who thrived at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, was frustrated by the dimensions of the Coliseum. The distance from home plate to the fence in right-center was 440 feet and it was 390 feet from home plate to the wall in right. Snider found drives hit to right that would have been home runs at Ebbets Field were fly outs at the Coliseum.

The Coliseum was much friendlier to right-handed pull hitters, with a distance of 251 feet down the line from home plate to the left field fence. Though a screen stretching 42 feet high and 140 feet long was erected along the left field wall, hitters still reached the seats with routine fly balls.

Musial as mentor

Snider, the Dodgers’ highest-paid player at $42,000, was batting .231 with one home run when the Cardinals arrived in Los Angeles for the first time in 1958. A gimpy left knee was bothering him and he was being booed by hometown crowds who expected the outfielder to hit with the kind of power he displayed in Brooklyn.

Asked by the Los Angeles Times about his knee, Snider replied, “It hurts like the dickens.”

Asked about the booing, Snider said, “I’m used to it and I expect it when I’m not going good. I’d boo, too. I’m supposed to be a hitter, a long ball hitter. When I don’t hit, the fans certainly are entitled to boo.”

Before the opening game of the series with the Cardinals, Snider and his St. Louis counterpart, left-handed hitter Stan Musial, met at the batting cage, and Musial tried to console him. In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial recalled the conversation. “You can’t let this thing throw you,” Musial told Snider. “You can’t beat a park like this, so join it.”

In the game that night, Musial practiced what he preached. He produced a double and three singles in four at-bats against a left-hander, Fred Kipp, and raised his batting average for the season to .533 in nine games.

Snider was 0-for-4, but the Dodgers won, 5-3, Boxscore

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bob Broeg wrote, “If the Cardinals can’t win with Stan Musial hitting as though he had invented the game, what’s going to happen to the Redbirds when the man cools off to _ oh, say, a simple .400?”

High stakes

The game , however, was overshadowed by Broeg’s Post-Dispatch exclusive, reporting how the Cardinals discussed with the Dodgers a proposed trade involving Snider.

According to Broeg, Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi offered Snider to the Cardinals for third baseman Ken Boyer and outfielder Wally Moon. Though Cardinals general manager Bing Devine wanted Snider, whose power stroke was suited for St. Louis’ Busch Stadium (formerly Sportsman’s Park), he thought Bavasi was asking too much in return.

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson said, “Sure, we’d like to have Snider. He’s not hitting in this heartbreak park (the Coliseum), but he’d rattle that fence at Busch Stadium. Still, he’s damaged goods _ with that operated-on left knee _ and we wouldn’t give Boyer for him, let alone both Boyer and Moon. Besides, (at 31) he’s nearly five years older than Kenny.”

Asked by the Los Angeles Times about the Post-Dispatch scoop on the proposed Snider deal, Bavasi said, “Somebody’s been smoking the wrong stuff.”

According to the Times, Bavasi said he and Devine were being facetious when they talked about a deal involving Snider, Boyer and Moon. The Times said Devine wanted Snider, “but realizes that the chances of getting him are as remote as northeastern Nepal.”

Devine, though, continued to shop for a left-hander hitter and admitted discussing a proposed deal with the Reds for either of their catchers, Ed Bailey or Smoky Burgess.

The Sporting News, meanwhile, acknowledged the Cardinals’ interest in Snider was sincere, telling its readers, “The Cardinals appeared unwilling to give up Boyer, Moon and others as requested by Los Angeles for Duke Snider.”

Snider snapped out of his slump and batted .312 for the 1958 Dodgers, but his 15 home runs were far below the 40 or more he’d hit in each of the previous five seasons. Musial, 37, hit .337 in 1958, placing third in the National League behind Richie Ashburn of the Phillies (.350) and Willie Mays of the Giants (.347).

After the 1958 season, the Cardinals traded Moon and pitcher Phil Paine to the Dodgers for outfielder Gino Cimoli.

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Displaying mutual respect, Ty Cobb and Stan Musial met on the field before the first regular-season game between the Giants and Cardinals in San Francisco.

Sixty years ago, on April 22, 1958, the Cardinals played at Seals Stadium for the first time since the Giants moved from New York. Cobb, 71, resided in Atherton, Calif., near San Francisco, and he went to the game to see Musial, 37, who was in the lineup for his first West Coast regular-season game.

Like Musial, Cobb batted left-handed. Cobb played for 24 years (1905-28) in the American League and retired as baseball’s career hits leader. Today, Cobb and Musial still rank first and second all-time in career hits among left-handed batters. The top four in career hits among all batters are switch-hitter Pete Rose (4,256), Cobb (4,189), right-handed Hank Aaron (3,771) and Musial (3,630).

Cobb, dressed in coat and hat and described by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as “tall and sharp-eyed,” went onto the field during pre-game warmups and chatted with Musial. Their conversation continued in the dugout before Cobb took a seat in the stands to watch the game.

Musial, batting third and playing first base, produced a double and two singles in five at-bats, scored twice and drove in a run. Cobb admired how Musial scored from second on Gene Green’s line-drive single to left.

In comments published by The Sporting News, Cobb said of Musial, “He showed me that his legs are still good. That’s the life of a ballplayer _ his legs. I’ve always contended Joe DiMaggio could have lasted five years longer had he used his legs more in the winter.

“Musial’s speed impressed me,” Cobb said. “Too many long ball hitters today think they’re paid only to hit homers. Musial always hits his share of them, but he also fields and runs the bases. Stan is of the stripe who played in my time. There are too few of them today.”

Drawing a crowd

Musial and his road roommate, Del Ennis, sparked St. Louis to a 7-5 victory in that first Cardinals regular-season game at San Francisco. Ennis, a left fielder who batted cleanup, hit a two-run home run against Giants starter Johnny Antonelli in the first inning and a RBI-single off Al Worthington in the seventh.

The game drew a near sellout crowd of 22,786 to Seals Stadium (capacity 22,900) on a Tuesday night, and many were there to see Musial. “San Franciscans began to line up as early as noon for the 4,000 unreserved seats,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “Approximately 1,000 reportedly were turned away when the general admission and bleacher tickets were exhausted.”

Among retired Cardinals players who visited the clubhouse were Taylor Douthit and Tommy Giaviano. Musial and a former teammate, Hank Sauer of the Giants, posed together for photographers before the game. Both wore uniforms with the No. 6.

“Musial got by far the largest hand of the night when he batted,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Said Musial: “I never thought I’d play long enough to be in the majors when the big leagues went to the Coast, but it’s quite a thrill. Personally, I’ll miss New York _ wish we could go there, too.”

Opposite field swing

With the wind blowing in from right field to home plate, Musial decided not to try pulling pitches. His singles were hit to center and his double, which produced a run against Mike McCormick, was slashed along the left-field line.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said of Seals Stadium, “I found that the trade winds made it tough (to bat) for a left-hander … The brisk breeze gave wings to anything hit to left field and served as an anchor on drives smashed to right.”

Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda each had three hits for San Francisco, but the Giants stranded 13 base runners. Boxscore

After winning the series opener, the Cardinals lost the next two games, 8-7 and 6-5, when the Giants came from behind in the ninth innings of both.

“Not even the most delightful restaurants in a city of so many good ones can take away the bitterness of the horrible late-inning games we lost on the first trip west in 1958,” Musial said.

In two seasons at Seals Stadium before the Giants moved to Candlestick Park in 1960, Musial batted .294, with 20 hits and 11 walks in 20 games.

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Dick LeMay was a pitcher who impressed Carl Hubbell, earned a complete-game win in his first major-league start against Bob Gibson and was the ace on Cardinals minor-league teams managed by Warren Spahn.

Unlike Hubbell, Gibson and Spahn, who were Hall of Fame pitchers, LeMay was a journeyman. Though he pitched in the big leagues for the Giants and Cubs, LeMay spent a significant portion of his playing career in the Cardinals’ system.

LeMay, who died March 19, 2018, at 79, pitched for Cardinals Class AAA clubs during a five-year period (1964-68) when the major-league team won three National League pennants.

Screwball specialist

A Cincinnati native, LeMay, 19, received an offer to begin his professional career with the Reds, but he chose to sign with the Giants as an amateur free agent in 1958 because they offered the most money, a $12,000 signing bonus.

LeMay was toiling in the Giants’ system when, in 1961, Hubbell, the organization’s director of player development, scouted him and filed a favorable report. Like Hubbell, who had been a Giants ace in the 1930s, LeMay was left-handed and threw an effective screwball.

“When I looked at LeMay, I discovered he had a good forkball and screwball, wasn’t too fast, but could consistently get his breaking ball over,” Hubbell told The Sporting News.

Backed by Hubbell’s endorsement, LeMay was promoted to the Giants and he made his major-league debut for them on June 13, 1961, with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief against the Dodgers. After two more scoreless relief stints, LeMay got his first big-league start on June 24, 1961, versus the Cardinals at St. Louis.

The game matched LeMay against Gibson, who was in his third big-league season and starting to emerge as a consistent winner.

LeMay shut out the Cardinals until the ninth, when he yielded a run-scoring single to Carl Warwick. Powered by home runs from Orlando Cepeda (a three-run shot off Gibson) and Willie McCovey, the Giants prevailed, 6-1. LeMay got the complete-game win. Gibson went five innings and gave up five runs. Boxscore

Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported LeMay threw “soft breaking stuff with a big motion, using a screwball and forkball more than he did a fast one.”

Appearing with Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray on a post-game radio show, LeMay said he hoped Giants manager Al Dark “lets me get back in the bullpen. You get in more games that way.”

Ups and downs

After LeMay was shelled for seven runs in 5.2 innings in a start against the Cardinals on July 8, he returned to the bullpen. He got a win against the Cardinals on July 20, with 3.1 innings in relief of starter Sam Jones. LeMay gave up a bases-loaded double to Bill White in the sixth (two of the runs were charged to Jones), but shut out the Cardinals over the last three innings. With the score tied at 6-6 in the eighth, LeMay sparked a four-run rally against Lindy McDaniel by drawing a walk on five pitches. Boxscore

LeMay posted a 3-6 record with three saves and a 3.56 ERA for the 1961 Giants.

He made nine relief appearances for the 1962 Giants and was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA. The loss came against the Cardinals on Sept. 20 when LeMay was unable to protect a 4-3 lead in the ninth. Boxscore

Upset by the loss, Dark “knocked a box containing three dozen hardboiled eggs off a table and scattered them about the clubhouse,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

After the 1962 season, the Giants traded LeMay to the Colt .45s. Toward the end of spring training in 1963, the Colt .45s (who later became the Astros) dealt LeMay to the Cubs. The Cubs loaned LeMay to the Atlanta Crackers, a Class AAA affiliate of the Cardinals, and he was 3-3 with a 2.22 ERA for that club before being called up by the Cubs. LeMay made nine appearances, three versus the Cardinals, for the 1963 Cubs and was 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA.

Stuck in minors

The Cubs cut loose LeMay and he signed with the Cardinals, who invited him to their 1964 major-league spring training camp as a non-roster player. When the season began, LeMay was assigned to the Class AAA Jacksonville Suns and he did well for them (12-7 record, 2.81 ERA). The Cardinals rewarded LeMay by placing him on their 40-man big-league winter roster, putting him in the mix to earn a relief job in 1965.

Before the start of spring training in 1965, The Sporting News said of the defending World Series champion Cardinals, “The bullpen shapes up pretty well, with Barney Schultz and Ron Taylor as the bellwethers and such men as Bob Humphreys, Mike Cuellar, Fritz Ackley and Dick LeMay available.”

The Cardinals, however, returned LeMay to Jacksonville for the 1965 season and he again did well (17-11, 3.19) for the Suns.

Though he was excelling at the highest level of their farm system, LeMay wasn’t prominent in the Cardinals’ plans. Left-handers such as Steve Carlton and Larry Jaster surpassed LeMay as premier prospects. LeMay, who turned 28 in 1966, spent that season with the Tulsa Oilers, a Cardinals Class AAA club, and was 14-13 with a 4.35 ERA.

In 1967, Spahn, who retired as the all-time leader in wins among left-handed pitchers, became manager of the Oilers. LeMay was Spahn’s most durable starter in 1967 (13-18, 3.48) and 1968 (16-10, 3.29).

After that, LeMay went back to the Cubs organization, pitched two more seasons at the Class AAA level, retired from playing and managed the Class A Quincy (Ill.) Cubs of the Midwest League in 1971 and 1972.

LeMay pitched in 45 major-league games, nine versus the Cardinals. He was 2-1 with a 5.13 ERA against St. Louis. His overall career mark in the big leagues is 3-8 with a 4.17 ERA.

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Greg Holland will be trying to do better for the Cardinals than he did against them.

Holland, a relief pitcher who became a free agent and signed a one-year contract with St. Louis on March 31, 2018, experienced some of his roughest outings when he pitched against the Cardinals.

In 10 career appearances versus St. Louis, Holland, a right-hander, has a 4.82 ERA. Though he earned three saves against the Cardinals and struck out 17 in 9.1 innings, he also yielded three home runs.

Big hit

With the Royals in 2011, Holland was 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA. The lone loss came against the Cardinals.

On June 18, 2011, at St. Louis, the Royals led, 4-3, when Colby Rasmus led off the bottom half of the eighth inning for the Cardinals with a single against Tim Collins. Royals manager Ned Yost brought in Holland to face the Cardinals’ power hitters, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Holland had yielded one earned run in 14.1 innings over his previous 10 appearances.

Pujols grounded out, moving Rasmus to second. After getting a strike on Holliday, Holland tried to jam him with a 96 mph fastball. “I knew it was a bad pitch before he hit it,” Holland said to the Kansas City Star. “Then, when he hit it, I knew it was a really bad pitch.”

Holliday hit the ball 422 feet over the center field wall for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 5-4 lead. Video

“Everybody in their bullpen throws 95 or 96 (mph), so you better be ready for the fastball,” Holliday said.

Said Holland: “I tried to get the ball in and it leaked back over the plate. It was up. Boom! Bad combination.”

The Cardinals won, breaking a seven-game losing streak. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called Holliday’s home run “as big a hit as we’ve had all year.”

Yost said of Holland, “He’s been lights out and he was lights out tonight with the exception of one pitch. He didn’t execute a pitch to Holliday. I mean, he threw it right down the middle.” Boxscore

Command issues

A year later, on June 16, 2012, Holliday again got to Holland.

With the Royals ahead, 7-6, in the seventh inning at St. Louis, Holland yielded a RBI-single to Holliday and a two-run single to Yadier Molina. The Cardinals won, 10-7. Boxscore

Holland had given up one run in 15.2 innings since returning from the disabled list before his smackdown in St. Louis. “Holly struggled with his command and it just wasn’t good for us,” Yost said.

A week later, on June 23, 2012, at Kansas City, Holland permitted a double by Holliday and a two-run home run by Allen Craig during an 8-4 Cardinals victory. Boxscore 

Holliday has three hits in four career at-bats versus Holland. Yost said of Holliday, “We try to get him on breaking balls and he hits the curveball. We try to stay hard on him with fastballs and he hits the fastball. We’ve got to make a pitch in a good location and hope he hits it hard at somebody.”

On May 28, 2017, at Denver, Paul DeJong, in his first major-league at-bat, hit a home run for the Cardinals against Holland, who was in his lone season with the Rockies. Video

It was the first home run Holland allowed that season. Said DeJong of the ball he hit, “I kept watching where it would go, and it kept going.” Boxscore

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Rusty Staub, who did his best hitting versus right-handed pitchers, and Bob Gibson were matched against one another often. Though Staub didn’t hit Gibson as well as he did most right-handers, he had a couple of significant games while facing the Cardinals’ ace.

Staub, who died March 29, 2018, at 73, had more plate appearances (162) and more at-bats (143) versus Gibson than he did against any other pitcher in his major-league career.

A left-handed batter, Staub played 23 seasons in the big leagues, starting in 1963, when he was 19, with the Houston Colt .45s before they were renamed the Astros. An outfielder and first baseman, Staub also played for the Expos, Mets, Tigers and Rangers.

Staub had career totals of 2,716 hits and 1,466 RBI, with a .279 batting average. Against right-handed pitching, he hit .291. Gibson was among the few right-handers who fared well against Staub, limiting him to a .224 batting average, but Staub was a respected adversary, compiling 32 hits, 16 walks and 15 RBI against him.

Cardinals nemesis

In 256 games against the Cardinals, Staub batted .273, with 226 hits, 109 walks and 102 RBI. He hit .300 or better versus the Cardinals every year from 1966 to 1973. Some of his performances against St. Louis were dominant: .484 batting average and 13 RBI in 1966; .328 and 15 RBI in 1967; and .343 and 15 RBI in 1975.

Staub was tough on Cardinals right-handers such as Nelson Briles (.384 batting average against) and Ray Washburn (.327), and one of the left-handers he solved was Steve Carlton (.308). Staub had more RBI (25) versus Carlton than he did against any other pitcher. All four of his career home runs off Carlton came while the pitcher was with the Cardinals.

Staub was 20 when he hit his first home run against a Cardinals pitcher, left-hander Curt Simmons, 35, in 1964.

Another longtime Cardinals left-hander, Ray Sadecki, struck out Staub more times (21) than any other major-league pitcher.

Perfect at plate

On May 1, 1968, Gibson pitched 12 innings, yielding seven hits and no earned runs, in a 3-1 Cardinals victory over the Astros at Houston. Staub gave him the most trouble, with four hits and a sacrifice bunt in five plate appearances.

“You can’t trick Staub,” Gibson said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood: “Staub has a good, short stride and he seems to know what kind of pitch is coming.”

Staub, batting in the cleanup spot, produced three singles and a double.

Explaining how Gibson relied on fastballs and sliders, Cardinals catcher Johnny Edwards said, “I think Gibby threw two curves all night and the only changeup was the one Rusty Staub hit up the middle (in the fourth) for a single.”

In the Astros’ half of the 11th, with the score tied at 1-1, Jimmy Wynn drew a leadoff walk. Staub was up next, and even though he was perfect at the plate against Gibson, Astros manager Grady Hatton instructed him to bunt. Staub executed, moving Wynn into scoring position at second base.

After Doug Rader struck out, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst ordered Gibson to walk John Bateman to get to Denis Menke, a career .184 batter versus Gibson. Menke grounded into a forceout. Boxscore

Sweet swing

Seven years later, on April 23, 1975, Gibson was matched against Mets ace Tom Seaver in a game at New York. Staub was with the Mets then.

In the fifth, with the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, Jack Heidemann singled against Gibson and moved to second on Jerry Grote’s single. With Seaver at the plate, Gibson made a pickoff throw to second baseman Ted Sizemore. Sizemore applied a tag, but umpire Tom Gorman ruled Heidemann safe.

“He never got to the bag,” Sizemore said of Heidemann. Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock added, “He’s still reaching for that base.”

After Seaver grounded out, Wayne Garrett walked, loading the bases, and Felix Millan hit a two-run double. After an intentional walk to Del Unser, reloading the bases, Staub stepped to the plate.

Staub swung at Gibson’s first pitch to him, a fastball, and walloped it off the scoreboard in right for a grand slam. The Mets won, 7-1.

“I’ve always said the key to hitting is to have men on base,” Staub said to The (White Plains, N.Y.) Journal News. “It doesn’t matter who bats behind you in the batting order. It matters only if men are on base in front of you and you can get a pitch to hit.”

Said Gibson: “I was having control problems and when you have control problems you don’t throw the same.” Boxscore

The grand slam was the sixth of nine Staub hit in the big leagues. Like Gibson, two other future Hall of Fame pitchers, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley, yielded grand slams to Staub.

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Ed Charles hit the most important home run of his major-league career against the Cardinals.

Charles, who died March 15, 2018, at age 84, was a third baseman who played eight seasons in the big leagues with the Athletics (1962-67) and Mets (1967-69).

In 1969, Charles hit a home run against the Cardinals’ Steve Carlton that helped the Mets clinch their first postseason berth.

Carlton cursed

The 1969 season was the first for divisional play in the major leagues. The Cardinals were two-time defending National League champions. The Mets, who joined the league in 1962 as an expansion team, never had experienced a winning season.

Few predicted the Mets would be the league’s best team in 1969. Yet, entering their game against the Cardinals on Sept. 24 at New York, the Mets were in first place in the NL East and needed one win to clinch the division title.

The game matched Carlton, the future Hall of Fame left-hander, against Gary Gentry. A week earlier, on Sept. 15 at St. Louis, Carlton struck out 19 Mets, including Charles twice, but the Cardinals were beaten, 4-3, on a pair of two-run home runs by Ron Swoboda. Boxscore

Career climax

Determined to clinch the playoff berth before a sellout crowd at Shea Stadium, the Mets looked motivated from the start of their Sept. 24 match with the Cardinals. With one out in the first inning, Donn Clendenon hit a three-run home run and, after Swoboda walked, Charles hit a two-run home run, giving the Mets a 5-0 lead and prompting manager Red Schoendienst to remove Carlton from the game. The Mets cruised to a 6-0 victory.

“Boom. Boom. We’re dethroned,” Schoendienst said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in describing the first inning salvos by the Mets.

Said Carlton: “Tonight was the worst experience of my life.”

The home run by Charles was a drive to right-center. Curt Flood, the Cardinals’ center fielder, banged against the wall in pursuit of the ball and was taken out of the game after two innings because of a bruised knee. Video

Charles clapped his hands as he rounded the bases because, as he informed United Press International, “I wanted to tell the fans, and tell the world, this home run meant more to me than any other in my life.” Boxscore

At 36, Charles was a platoon player on a roster filled with teammates entering their primes. “I am in the twilight zone,” Charles said. “I’m not like these younger guys. There is going to be a next year for them. There may not be another next year for me.”

Pinch-hit power

Indeed, after the Mets went on to win the NL Championship Series against the Braves and the World Series versus the Orioles, Charles was released and didn’t play again.

A right-handed batter, Charles posted a .263 career batting average. He made his major-league debut two weeks before turning 29 and hit .288 with 17 home runs as a rookie with the 1962 Athletics.

In 37 career games against the Cardinals, Charles batted .228.

Before his home run against Carlton, Charles’ best performance versus the Cardinals occurred in 1968 when he delivered pinch-hit home runs in consecutive games. On June 1, Charles, batting for Kevin Collins, hit an eighth-inning home run against Joe Hoerner, Boxscore and on June 2, in the opener of a doubleheader, Charles batted for Al Jackson and hit a seventh-inning home run against Bob Gibson. Boxscore

According to The Sporting News, Charles became the sixth National League batter to hit pinch-hit home runs in consecutive times at-bat and just the second to do it on consecutive days. Dale Long of the Cubs hit pinch-hit home runs on consecutive days vs. the Giants on Aug. 13-14, 1959.

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