Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Stan Javier seemed destined to become a Cardinals player, but although he had the name, pedigree and skills, it didn’t happen.

Forty years ago, on March 26, 1981, Javier signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent.

Stan was the son of Julian Javier, a second baseman who helped the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series championships in the 1960s.

Julian named his son in honor of Stan Musial, who was Julian’s Cardinals teammate from 1960-63.

An outfielder and first baseman who batted from both sides, Stan Javier went on to play 17 seasons in the majors for eight teams, but not the Cardinals.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch aptly noted, “Stan Javier would have been an ideal Cardinals player, a switch-hitter who can run and play more than one position.”

A good name

Stan Javier was born on Jan. 9, 1964, and raised in the Dominican Republic. He was one of five children of Julian and Ynez Javier. Stan’s older brother, Julian Jr., became a doctor.

Asked why he named a son Stan, Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch, “I wanted my son to be like Stan Musial. Stan Musial is a gentleman.”

Musial was playing in his last season in 1963 when Julian Sr. told him that Ynez was pregnant and the child would be a boy. “He said, ‘Why don’t you name him after me?’ ” Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch. “I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ Stan’s a good name for him.”

In 1990, Stan Javier said of Stan Musial, “I don’t know him that well, but I knew who he was and knew all about him when I was growing up in the Dominican.”

When Stan Javier was a toddler, he spent some summers visiting his father in St. Louis and went with him to Busch Memorial Stadium. In 1988, Stan Javier told the Post-Dispatch, “I remember the stadium, the clubhouse, the players _ Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.”

Making an impression

Stan Javier developed into a talented youth baseball player in the Dominican Republic. In 1981, soon after Stan turned 17, he and his father showed up at Cardinals spring training camp in Florida. Julian Sr. wanted the Cardinals to take a look at his son and offer him a contract.

Impressed, the Cardinals signed Stan and told him to report in June to their farm team in Johnson City, Tenn., following his graduation from high school in the Dominican Republic.

Stan hit .250 in 53 games for Johnson City in 1981. At home after the season, he worked with his father to improve his game. “He pitched batting practice to me a lot and worked on my stance,” Stan said to The Sporting News.

When Stan reported to Johnson City in 1982, he hit “with authority,” said director of player development Lee Thomas.

Wearing No. 6, the same as Musial had, and playing on a Johnson City team with Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton, Stan hit .276 in 57 games. “Stan definitely is a major-league prospect,” Johnson City manager Rich Hacker told The Sporting News.

All business 

On Jan. 24, 1983, the Cardinals and Yankees traded minor leaguers. The Cardinals sent Javier and infielder Bobby Meacham to the Yankees for outfielder Bob Helson and pitchers Steve Fincher and Marty Mason.

The Post-Dispatch reported the deal was to appease Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who held hard feelings toward the Cardinals for sending him an injured player, Bob Sykes, in exchange for Willie McGee 15 months earlier.

In 1988, looking back on the deal, Stan Javier told the Post-Dispatch, “That trade was the hardest thing for me … I really was just starting to learn how to play.”

The Yankees brought Stan to the majors in April 1984. Eight months later, he was part of a package sent by the Yankees to the Athletics for Rickey Henderson.

Be yourself

Stan became a role player for the Athletics under manager Tony La Russa.

In 1988, Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch, “My son has been playing good ball and he’ll be a good player, but not like Stan Musial.”

“I wish I could hit like Stan Musial and catch the ball like Julian Javier,” Stan Javier said to reporter Dave Luecking. “That would be nice. I admire those players, but there’s no way I can be those two. You have to be your own person. If you try to be like someone else, you’re in trouble. I hit like Stan Javier and catch like Stan Javier.”

Stan got to play in two World Series (1988 and 1989) with the Athletics. According to the Post-Dispatch, Julian and Stan Javier were the third father and son to get World Series hits. The others were Jim and Mike Hegan, and Bob and Terry Kennedy.

Happy homecoming

In May 1990, the Athletics traded Stan to the Dodgers for Willie Randolph. When the Dodgers went to St. Louis that month for a series against the Cardinals, Stan got to play at Busch Memorial Stadium for the first time as a major leaguer. He hadn’t been to the ballpark since he was a child.

On May 26, he entered the game as a substitute and hit a three-run triple against Scott Terry. Boxscore

The next night, Stan, starting in center field and batting second, was 4-for-6 against the Cardinals. He scored three runs and drove in one. Boxscore

For the series, Stan was 5-for-8 with four RBI.

“It felt gratifying to have a good game here,” Stan told the Post-Dispatch.

Swing and miss

After La Russa left the Athletics to manage the Cardinals, he and general manager Walt Jocketty tried to acquire Stan.

The Cardinals had “considerable interest” in making a trade with the Giants for Stan in November 1998, the Post-Dispatch reported, but the Astros got him instead.

When Stan became a free agent after the 1999 season, the Post-Dispatch predicted the Cardinals would “go hard after Stan.”

“I think he can play a lot and protect us in the outfield,” Jocketty said.

Instead, Stan signed with the Mariners and finished his playing days with them. Video

Stan produced 1,358 career hits. He batted .270 against left-handers and .269 versus right-handers.

His career numbers against the Cardinals included a .366 on-base percentage and .271 batting average.

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The Cardinals tried to beat two teams in one day. Adding to the challenge, they tried to do it against a pair of aces, Sal Maglie and Warren Spahn.

On Sept. 13, 1951, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, the Cardinals played an afternoon game against the Giants and a night game versus the Braves.

According to The Sporting News, it was the first time since 1899 that a big-league club faced two opponents in the same day.

The Cardinals split the unusual doubleheader, beating the Giants and losing to the Braves.

Stormy weather

Thursday, Sept. 13, was supposed to be a day off for the Cardinals, but rainouts changed the schedule.

When the Braves and Cardinals were rained out of a game on June 23, it was rescheduled for the night of Sept. 13.

The Giants got involved when their Sept. 12 game with the Cardinals was rained out. Because the Giants had a day off Sept. 13 and weren’t scheduled to come back to St. Louis, it was proposed that the game be played then.

National League president Ford Frick approved the plan to have the Cardinals take on the Giants and Braves on the same day, but denied a request by Cardinals owner Fred Saigh to have both games played in the evening, the New York Daily News reported.

The start of the game against the Giants was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game versus the Braves was given an 8:30 p.m. start.

“To think, this was to have been an open date, a chance to loaf or go fishing,” Cardinals manager Marty Marion said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

St. Louis spoilers

The Giants, 5.5 games behind the first-place Dodgers, were trying to tighten the pennant race. According to the Daily News, they arrived at Sportsman’s Park on Sept. 13 “full of hope” because Sal Maglie was starting for them. Maglie was 20-5 and had won his last five decisions. Cardinals starter Tom Poholsky was 5-12.

To the Giants’ dismay, when the game got under way Maglie “didn’t have control and didn’t have a thing on the ball when he did get it over,” the Daily News noted.

The Cardinals scored six runs in the second inning against Maglie and reliever Monty Kennedy, but the uprising came with a price. Poholsky, whose RBI-single knocked Maglie out of the game, was spiked near the right knee by catcher Wes Westrum when he slid home on Red Schoendienst’s hit and had to leave.

Rookie Dick Bokelmann replaced Poholsky to start the third and was tasked with protecting the 6-0 lead.

An unusual play occurred in the bottom half of the inning. Kennedy threw a pitch behind Vern Benson’s back. In trying to duck the pitch, Benson tilted his bat back. The ball struck the bat and caromed toward the mound.

“For a few seconds, everybody stood still, figuring it had to be a foul ball,” the Daily News reported.

Instead, it was ruled to be in play. Kennedy finally picked up the ball and tossed to first baseman Whitey Lockman for the out. According to the Daily News, “Benson just stood at the plate in bewilderment.”

The Giants scored twice against Bokelmann in the sixth and got two more in the eighth before Gerry Staley relieved and saved the 6-4 victory for the Cardinals. Boxscore

The loss dropped the Giants six games behind the Dodgers and gave Brooklyn a magic number of 10. Any combination of Dodgers wins or Giants losses totaling 10 would clinch the pennant for Brooklyn. “That just about does it for the Giants,” the Daily News declared.

Sensational Spahn

Between games, the Cardinals ate dinner and skipped batting practice. Braves starter Warren Spahn took advantage. He pitched a one-hitter in the night game, a 2-0 Braves victory.

“It was the best game I ever pitched,” Spahn told the Boston Globe.

The only Cardinals to reach base were Chuck Diering on a leadoff walk in the third and pitcher Al Brazle on a bloop single with one out in the sixth. Brazle’s floater fell just beyond the reach of second baseman Roy Hartsfield.

“It was a changeup,” Spahn said. “It was a good pitch, outside, just where I wanted it. He was lucky. I’d throw the same pitch to Brazle nine times in a row under the same circumstances.”

The win was Spahn’s 20th of the season and his fifth against the Cardinals in six decisions. His catcher for the game was the former Cardinal, Walker Cooper.

Spahn survived a scare in the third when he stopped a hard grounder by Del Rice with his hands. The glove and the ring finger of his pitching hand took the brunt of the shock, the Boston Globe reported. Boxscore

What a finish

The Giants recovered from their Sept. 13 loss to the Cardinals and won 12 of their final 13 regular-season games.

They finished in a first-place tie with the Dodgers, who lost nine of their last 17 regular-season games.

In a best-of-three playoff to determine the National League champion, the Giants prevailed, winning Game 3 on Bobby Thomson’s walkoff home run.

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Chuck Dressen thumbed his nose at being tossed.

On June 6, 1951, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Dressen, the Dodgers’ manager, was ejected in the fifth inning for complaining about ball and strike calls while Peanuts Lowrey batted for the Cardinals.

After plate umpire Artie Gore motioned for Dressen to take a hike, the manager stormed out of the dugout, kicked dirt around the plate and gesticulated wildly.

The performance ended when Dressen departed down the dugout steps, but it was just the first act in an afternoon of theatrics.

Costume party

According to the New York Daily News, Dressen went “to the cubicle beneath the stands, where it is possible to do a little bootleg managing.”

Unsatisfied with that arrangement, Dressen dreamed up a different scheme. According to The Sporting News, Dressen put on a groundskeeper’s cap and jacket and slipped into a corner of the Dodgers’ dugout, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed. He was about to pick up a rake to enhance the disguise when Cardinals manager Marty Marion spotted him and informed Gore.

“Marty turned me in when I was giving out instructions from the dugout,” Dressen told The Sporting News.

After being ordered by Gore to leave the dugout, Dressen headed for the clubhouse, but he wasn’t done.

Sitting pretty

In the seventh inning, Dressen, wearing street clothes, positioned himself in a box seat next to the Dodgers’ dugout on the first-base side.

Ever vigilant, Marion detected Dressen and again informed Gore. According to Marion, Gore replied, “There is nothing wrong with that, but if you see him doing anything to run the team from there, you let me know and I’ll chase him,” the New York Daily News reported.

Marion saw shortstop Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers’ captain, go over to Dressen’s seat.

“Dressen was giving the signs and motioned for Reese to get some pitchers warmed up,” Marion told The Sporting News. “He was making a joke of the game.”

When Marion advised Gore what he had seen, Gore told Dressen to leave. Dressen watched the rest of the game from team owner Walter O’Malley’s private perch under the mezzanine behind home plate.

Asked whether he was giving instructions to Reese, Dressen “grinned and said he wasn’t that dumb,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

“I just told Pee Wee to find out from Gore what Marion was complaining about,” Dressen said. “I wouldn’t try to relay signs right out there in the open.”

According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Dressen said he sat in the box seat at the request of a photographer. Dressen told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the photos were for a shoe polish ad.

Some nerve

The Dodgers won, 3-2. Roy Campanella drove in all the Dodgers’ runs and Ralph Branca pitched a complete game. Boxscore

Marion protested the game on the grounds that Dressen broke the rules when he didn’t stay away after being ejected in the fifth inning.

National League president Ford Frick fined Dressen $100 for “failure to leave the bench when ejected and for masquerading in the dugout,” but denied the protest.

Miffed that Marion turned him in to Gore, Dressen told The Sporting News, “If I ever get the chance, you can bet I’ll pour it on him good. I don’t appreciate what he did to me.”

Nearly 50 years later, on June 9, 1999, in a night game against the Blue Jays, Mets manager Bobby Valentine returned to the dugout disguised in sunglasses and a fake moustache after being ejected. Valentine said he was fined $5,000 and suspended for two games for the prank. Video

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Eight months after his “shot heard around the world” won the pennant for the Giants, Bobby Thomson shocked the Cardinals with another walkoff home run.

On June 16, 1952, Thomson hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, erasing a 7-4 Cardinals lead and lifting the Giants to an 8-7 victory at the Polo Grounds in New York.

It was Thomson’s first walkoff home run since his three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth on Oct. 3, 1951, at the Polo Grounds. That home run, against the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca, carried the Giants from a 4-2 deficit to a 5-4 triumph in the decisive game of a playoff series to determine the National League champion. Boxscore and video

Though the walkoff grand slam versus the Cardinals didn’t clinch a championship, it had a magic of its own.

Hit and miss

The Monday afternoon game between the Cardinals and Giants was poorly played. Giants pitchers gave up 16 hits, four walks and hit two batters. The Giants also made three errors. The Cardinals could have had more than a three-run lead entering the ninth, but they hit into five double plays and stranded 10.

Rookie right-hander Eddie Yuhas, working his fifth inning in relief of starter Harry Brecheen, was the Cardinals’ pitcher in the bottom of the ninth. He walked the leadoff batter, Hank Thompson.

George Wilson followed with a line drive. Second baseman Red Schoendienst grabbed it backhanded “with a graceful leap to his right,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Schoendienst whirled and fired to first baseman Dick Sisler in an attempt to nail Hank Thompson, who had ventured far off the bag, but the throw was high and wild. Hank Thompson advanced to second on the error.

The next batter, Davey Williams, grounded sharply to right. Schoendienst broke the wrong way and the ball skipped into the outfield for a single, advancing Hank Thompson to third.

Mix and match

With Whitey Lockman, a left-handed batter, coming up next, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky wanted a left-hander to pitch. Stanky lifted Yuhas and brought in Bill Werle. Lockman walked, loading the bases and bringing Bobby Thomson to the plate.

A right-handed batter, Thomson was hitless in his last 17 at-bats. Stanky, who eight months earlier was the Giants’ second baseman when Thomson hit his walkoff home run against the Dodgers, wanted a right-hander to face his former teammate.

Stanky brought in rookie Willard Schmidt, who earned a save against the Giants the day before.

“Thomson and everybody in the park knew Schmidt, with three on base, was not going to go cute,” The Sporting News noted. “He was coming in with the fastball to get the first strike if possible.”

Sure enough, Schmidt’s first pitch was a fastball. Thomson leaned into it “like a man who knew his business,” United Press International reported.

Far and fair

Thomson pulled the pitch down the left field line, “a vicious, high drive,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The ball curled around the foul pole and “cleared the left field roof, not more than four feet from the foul line,” the New York Daily News noted.

Augie Donatelli, umpiring at third, carefully followed the ball’s track and signaled the ball stayed fair. Cardinals catcher Del Rice argued otherwise, to no avail.

As Thomson circled the bases and approached the plate following the three runners ahead of him, “it looked like Pennant Day all over again,” the Daily News observed. “The entire team was there to greet him, shake his hand and pound his back.”

Schmidt “stood on the mound as though paralyzed,” the Daily News noted. Boxscore

Fantastic feat

Fans and media marveled at Thomson’s knack for delivering dramatic endings.

_ “Yes, children, there is a miracle man,” International News Service wrote as its lead to the game story.

_ “This is an act which cannot be improved.” declared The Sporting News.

_ “Had the game been in a World Series or in a crucial pennant stretch drive, the finish would have been immortalized just as was that golden victory that clinched a pennant for the Giants over Brooklyn last October,” United Press International concluded. “As it was, folks who saw it won’t forget it for a long time.”

In his book “The Giants Win The Pennant,” Thomson said, “I can remember leaving the clubhouse early. I was walking across center field and some diehard fans who were still in the stands gave me a great ovation. I’m sure a lot of them were remembering my homer the year before. It was as if I was continuing the heroics.”


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(Updated March 19, 2021)

From the first game he pitched in the National League to the last, Stan Williams had a significant connection to the Cardinals.

A right-hander with a reputation for intimidating batters, Williams played in the majors for 14 seasons. He died on Feb. 20, 2021, at 84.

Williams was 21 when he made his big-league debut for the Dodgers against the Cardinals at St. Louis in July 1958. He was 35 when he pitched his final National League game as a Cardinals reliever in September 1971.

Williams’ time with the Cardinals was brief, but successful. He made 10 relief appearances for them and was 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA.

Big and fast

Born in New Hampshire, Williams was a toddler when his family moved to Denver. He played organized baseball for the first time in high school and attracted scouts because of his fastball. “I was a Stan Musial fan and kept track of his hits every day,” Williams said in the book “We Played the Game.”

Williams was 17 when the Dodgers signed him in 1954 and sent him to the minors.

It was at Newport News in 1955, he said, that he got the reputation for being mean. The Dodgers taught pitchers “that when you got ahead of a hitter you kept him off the outside corner by pitching him in and knocking him back or down,” Williams told author Danny Peary.

“I just started rearing back and throwing it as hard as I could at their chins and let them get out of the way.”

Williams, who grew to 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, was imposing and erratic. In 242 innings for Newport News, he struck out 301, walked 158 and hit 16 batters.

After a teammate, catcher Bob Schmidt, taught him to throw a slider during winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Williams progressed. He was in his fifth season in the minors when he got called up to the Dodgers in 1958.

Joltin’ Joe

Williams made his debut in the majors on May 17, 1958, at St. Louis. Entering in the fifth, he worked two scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the seventh. Joe Cunningham hit a two-run home run against him. Boxscore

A left-handed hitter, Cunningham battered Williams throughout his career. In 36 plate appearances versus Williams, Cunningham had 13 hits, eight walks and twice was hit by pitches _ an on-base percentage of .639. His career batting average against Williams was .500.

That’s entertainment

Two months after his debut versus the Cardinals, Williams had a noteworthy encounter with them. 

On Aug. 15, 1958, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Williams, 21, was matched against the Cardinals’ Sal Maglie, 41, a former Dodger nicknamed “The Barber” for the close shaves he gave batters with pitches.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals were “highly irritated” by the amount of time Williams was taking to deliver pitches. When Williams came to bat in the fourth, Maglie “took off his shoe, emptied it of dirt and slowly put it on again, tying his laces with much care.”

As the crowd roared, Williams backed out of the box and “kicked some imaginary mud from his cleats,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

Then Williams stepped back in and hit Maglie’s first pitch over the high screen in left for a home run, his first in the majors. Boxscore

Teddy bear

“Nobody in the league has a better fastball than Stan Williams,” Cardinals slugger Ken Boyer told the Los Angeles Times in 1960.

As part of a Dodgers rotation that featured Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, Williams’ signature pitch was the knockdown.

“In all the years I played, he was the only guy who ever scared me _ and he was on my team,” Ron Fairly, a first baseman for the Dodgers and Cardinals, told the San Francisco Examiner. “The thing about Stan, he was so big and strong, and he threw as hard as Koufax. The difference was Sandy was not mean. Stan was very mean.”

Roger Craig, a former Dodgers and Cardinals pitcher, said, “He was the meanest pitcher I ever saw. Everyone thought Drysdale was so mean, but Stan was far worse.”

One year, Williams had a clause in his contract calling for a $500 bonus if he kept his season walk total to less than 75. According to the San Francisco Examiner, as he neared the mark, he plunked a batter when the count got to ball three rather than risk a walk.

“It was a game of intimidation in those days,” Williams said. “I was never a headhunter. I never pitched with the idea of hurting anyone. I don’t think I’ve ever been mean. What I had was a very competitive streak. That helped give me an edge. So I took advantage of it.”

Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson could relate. In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “Guys like Don Drysdale, Stan Williams and Sandy Koufax raised the level of competition by claiming their territory and daring you to take it from them.

“The fact is,” said Gibson, “knockdowns were commonplace in my day, and guys like Drysdale and Stan Williams employed them more liberally than I did.”

Big hurt

In August 1960, Williams was matched against Lew Burdette of the Braves. “Burdette used to dig a hole in front of the mound” with his foot, Williams told The Sporting News. “To avoid it, I pitched from the side of the rubber. On a pitch to Lee Maye, I slipped and my back went one way and my arm the other. I felt something snap.”

Williams said he thinks he tore a muscle in his right arm or shoulder, but he kept pitching. He had win totals for the Dodgers of 14 in 1960, 15 in 1961 and 14 in 1962, but he said the pain got progressively worse.

“I pitched with tears running down my cheeks many a time after I hurt my arm in 1960,” Williams told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The Dodgers traded Williams to the Yankees after the 1962 season, but “there were times when I couldn’t raise my arm, so I started throwing from the hip,” he said. 

The Yankees shipped Williams to the Indians in March 1965. He spent most of that season and all of 1966 in the minors.

Williams was with Class AAA Portland in 1967 “when the adhesions popped again and I regained my strong arm.”

Called up to the Indians in July 1967, Williams posted six wins and a 2.62 ERA. The next year, he won 13 and had a 2.50 ERA.

The Twins acquired Williams after the 1969 season and made him a reliever. He was 10-1 with 15 saves and a 1.99 ERA in 1970, helping them win a division title.

Perfect record

On Sept. 1, 1971, the Twins traded Williams to the Cardinals for outfielder Fred Rico and pitcher Danny Ford.

Cardinals scout Joe Monahan, who recommended Williams, told the Post-Dispatch, “He’s not going to be overwhelmed by a pennant race.”

On Sept. 7, 1971, Williams got a win against the Phillies in the completion of a game suspended from Aug. 1. Boxscore

He also got relief wins against the Cubs and Mets. Boxscore and Boxscore

The Cardinals released Williams in April 1972. He surfaced in the American League with the Red Sox and pitched his final three games in the majors.

Coach and dad

Williams was a coach for pennant-winning Red Sox (1975) and Yankees (1981) clubs, and the 1990 World Series champion Reds. 

When Williams was the Reds’ pitching coach, they developed a trio of intimidating relievers called the “Nasty Boys.”

In 1976, Williams’ son, Stan Jr., a high school pitcher and outfielder, was chosen by the Cardinals in the 11th round of the amateur baseball draft. Stan Jr. opted to attend the University of Southern California. He signed with the Yankees after they drafted him in the 38th round in 1981 and pitched for two seasons in their farm system.

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St. Louis was a special place for Juan Pizarro. He got his first and 100th wins in the majors there against the Cardinals.

A left-hander who pitched 18 seasons in the big leagues, Pizarro died on Feb. 18, 2021, at 84.

Pizarro was 20 when he got his first win in the majors for the Braves in a start versus the Cardinals at the original Busch Stadium. He also got his first big-league hit, a home run, in that game.

The Cardinals thought so highly of Pizarro that they tried to trade for him that season.

Ten years later, Pizarro, 30, got his 100th win in the big leagues for the Pirates in a start versus the Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium.

Prime prospect

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Pizarro was signed by Braves scout Luis Olmo, the former outfielder.

In 1956, his first season in the minors, Pizarro, 19, was 23-6 with a 1.77 ERA for Jacksonville, a Class A club in the South Atlantic League. With future Cardinals pitching coach Mike Roarke doing most of the catching, Pizarro struck out 318 batters in 274 innings.

Rollie Hemsley, a former catcher who managed Charlotte in the South Atlantic League, told Sports Illustrated that Pizarro is “the nearest thing to Bob Feller I’ve ever seen.”

Bill Terry, the Hall of Fame first baseman who was president of the South Atlantic League, said, “He could be just as great as Warren Spahn.”

Big leap

While playing winter baseball in Puerto Rico, Pizarro said teammate Ruben Gomez, a Giants pitcher, taught him to throw the screwball. Pizarro added the pitch to an arsenal that included a fastball and curve. He reported to spring training with the Braves in 1957, trying to make the leap from Class A ball to the majors.

The Miami News declared Pizarro the most exciting rookie in spring training: “His every pitch is being watched with high expectancy.”

Pizarro posted a 3.31 ERA in five spring training games and made the Braves’ Opening Day roster. “He has proved to me he can pitch major-league ball,” Braves manager Fred Haney told The Sporting News.

After Pizarro’s final exhibition game, Haney said, “He’ll be another Warren Spahn some day.”

First win

The Braves opened the 1957 season on April 16, but Pizarro sat for three weeks before making his big-league debut in a start against the Pirates at Pittsburgh on May 4. He limited the Pirates to a run in seven innings, but Pittsburgh won, 1-0, on Vern Law’s two-hit shutout. Boxscore

Six days later, on May 10, Pizarro made his second big-league appearance with a start versus the Cardinals at St. Louis.

The start of the Friday night game was delayed 31 minutes because of rain and neither team took batting practice.

In the second inning, with the Braves ahead, 3-0, Pizarro swung at the first pitch he saw from Cardinals starter Sam Jones and hit the ball onto the roof of the pavilion behind right field for a home run.

Ken Boyer tagged Pizarro for a solo home run in the second. With the Braves up, 6-1, in the fourth, the Cardinals’ Wally Moon walloped a three-run home run in the fourth. The Moon shot carried out of the ballpark and across Grand Avenue before crashing into a window pane.

“He had to rely on his fastball and he had a tendency to relax when we had a pretty good lead, especially in the fourth,” Braves catcher Del Crandall told the Associated Press. “After that, he became more determined and began firing again.”

Though Pizarro wobbled, he never lost the lead and he continued to contribute with his bat. After Pizarro led off the sixth with a single, Eddie Mathews won a matchup of future Hall of Famers when he hit a two-run home run against reliever Hoyt Wilhelm. The ball cleared the roof and landed on Grand Avenue.

In the ninth, the Cardinals, trailing 10-5, loaded the bases with two outs, but Pizarro struck out Del Ennis and sealed his first win.

Pizarro gave up nine hits and issued four walks, but the Cardinals stranded eight.

Unimpressed, Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson told the Associated Press, “He’d better be better than that. If that’s all he can do, then I’ve got news for him. He won’t stay up here … He was only throwing, not pitching.”

Cardinals backup catcher Walker Cooper, who at 42 was 22 years older than Pizarro, batted against him in the ninth as a pinch-hitter and singled. “I could hit that guy with baling wire at midnight with the lights out,” Cooper boasted.

Among the Cardinals held hitless by Pizarro were Al Dark and Stan Musial. Pizarro ended Dark’s 15-game hit streak. Musial, who entered the game with a batting mark of .403 for the season, was 0-for-4 with a walk.

Pizarro was “awfully quick,” Musial said. “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a winner up here.” Boxscore

No deal

Later that month, the Braves and Cardinals had trade talks focused on outfielder Del Ennis. The Associated Press reported the Braves offered three players for Ennis. They gave the Cardinals their choice of a starting pitcher, either Ray Crone or Gene Conley, plus reliever Dave Jolly and outfielder Chuck Tanner.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals asked for Crone and outfielder Wes Covington, and the Braves countered with Conley and Tanner.

“Before I let a guy like Ennis go, I’d want a lot of pitcher in return,” Cardinals general manager Frank Lane told the Associated Press.

Lane said he was interested in Pizarro and another pitcher, Bob Trowbridge. The Braves wouldn’t give up Pizarro, and the talks ended.

On July 3, the Braves sent Pizarro to the minors to get more work. He went 4-0 and was back with the Braves on July 26.

Pizzaro lost twice to the Cardinals in 1957. The second of those defeats occurred on Aug. 18 when Musial beat him with a two-run home run in the 10th inning at Milwaukee. Pizarro never lost to the Cardinals again. Boxscore

Better with age

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, who played winter ball with Pizarro in Puerto Rico, called him “an immensely talented” teammate.

On April 30, 1967, Pizarro, in his first season with the Pirates, started for them against the Cardinals and pitched a four-hit shutout at St. Louis for his 100th win in the majors.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst, who was Pizarro’s teammate with the Braves from 1957-60, told the Associated Press, “He used to be much faster but very wild then. He has much better control now. The big difference was in the old days if you stayed close to him you could beat him. Now he can protect a one- or two-run lead.” Boxscore

Pizarro was 3-0 with two saves and a 1.07 ERA versus the 1967 Cardinals, who won the National League pennant and became World Series champions. He earned saves in both games of a doubleheader against them on Labor Day, Sept. 4.

In 1971, Pizarro, 34, had one more gem versus the Cardinals. He pitched a six-hit shutout for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

“He makes pitching an art,” Cubs manager Leo Durocher said.

Pizarro finished with a career mark against the Cardinals of 7-2. Overall, he was 131-105.

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