Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Facing the Cardinals in the last week of the season during the heat of a pennant race, the Dodgers started Sandy Koufax, used a record number of pinch-hitters and rallied for three runs in the ninth on Frank Howard’s home run, but still lost.

Sixty years ago, on Sept. 22, 1959, the Cardinals knocked the Dodgers out of first place in the National League with an 11-10 victory at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The game was wild and unusual for multiple reasons, including:

_ Neither starting pitcher, Koufax nor the Cardinals’ Larry Jackson, lasted an inning.

_ Dodgers manager Walter Alston used nine pinch-hitters, setting a major league record.

_ Cardinals catcher Hal Smith hit a grand slam, his only one in seven big-league seasons, against Koufax.

_ Cardinals manager Solly Hemus got ejected before the Dodgers made an out.

Explosive start

The Dodgers went into the Tuesday night game tied with the Braves for first place. Both were 83-66 and both had five games remaining in the regular season. The Cardinals were 68-81 and in seventh place in the eight-team league.

The matchup of Koufax and Jackson figured to be a pitcher’s duel.

Koufax struck out 18 batters against the Giants three weeks earlier, tying the major-league record set by Bob Feller of the Indians in 1938 and breaking the National League mark of 17 established by the Cardinals’ Dizzy Dean in 1933.

Jackson was 8-1 versus the Dodgers at Busch Stadium in his career and 12-5 against them overall.

From the start, though, the game defied expectations.

The first three Dodgers batters, Jim Gilliam, Charlie Neal and Wally Moon, each singled, loading the bases. After Duke Snider walked, scoring Gilliam, Hemus was ejected by plate umpire Al Barlick for arguing balls and strikes. Hemus created more commotion when he failed to leave the dugout immediately after the ejection. Coach Johnny Keane took over as Cardinals manager.

When play resumed, Norm Larker singled, driving in Neal and Moon and giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Marshall Bridges relieved Jackson, threw one pitch to Gil Hodges and got him to hit into a double play, with Snider advancing to third. Maury Wills was walked intentionally and John Roseboro made an out at second, ending the inning.

“Bridges’ brilliant rescue act in the first inning cut short what promised to be an atomic blast,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

The line for Jackson: five batters faced, four hits, one walk, three runs.

Wild thing

Given a 3-0 lead, Koufax couldn’t protect it.

In the bottom half of the first, Don Blasingame walked and Joe Cunningham grounded to Koufax, who threw to second for the force. Gino Cimoli grounded out, moving Cunningham to second. After Ken Boyer walked, Gene Oliver got an infield single, loading the bases. Smith, known more for his defense than his slugging, came up next. He worked the count to 3-and-2 before belting a Koufax fastball for the grand slam and a 4-3 Cardinals lead.

Koufax yielded six grand slams in his Hall of Fame career with the Dodgers, including one to another Cardinal, Charlie James, in 1962.

After the next batter, Curt Flood, reached on an error by Gilliam at third, Chuck Churn relieved. Koufax faced seven batters and gave up two hits, two walks and four runs.

“He was just wild,” Alston said to the Los Angeles Times. “He’s the same man who struck out 18 batters the other day.”

Fastball hitter

In the ninth, Cardinals closer Lindy McDaniel, making his club-record 61st appearance of the season, was looking to protect an 11-7 lead. McDaniel hadn’t allowed a home run since May 30 when Hodges connected off him in Los Angeles.

McDaniel got the first batter, Carl Furillo, to ground out to third. Hodges singled and, after Wills lined out to second, the former Cardinal, Rip Repulski, singled.

The next batter was the 6-foot-7 rookie, Frank Howard. Smith gave McDaniel the sign for a fastball and Howard hit it into the bleachers in left-center for a three-run home run, getting the Dodgers within a run.

Howard’s homer was the second of 382 he would hit in the majors.

“Now I’m convinced he can hit a fastball,” Smith said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

McDaniel recovered by getting Gilliam to ground out to second, ending the game. Boxscore

Mix and match

When the Dodgers fell behind early, Alston went to pinch-hitters to try to get favorable matchups against Bridges, a left-hander, and McDaniel, a right-hander.

“Alston pushed every button and called on just about every available athlete to save the game,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat observed.

The nine pinch-hitters used by the Dodgers:

_ Tommy Davis, making his major-league debut, struck out in the fourth.

_ Don Demeter flied out in the fifth and stayed in the game.

_ Carl Furillo flied out in the fifth and stayed in the game.

_ Joe Pignatano walked in the sixth and stayed in the game.

_ Chuck Essegian, a former Cardinal, hit a RBI-double in the sixth.

_ Ron Fairly grounded out in the eighth.

_ Sandy Amoros grounded out in the eighth.

_ Rip Repulski singled in the ninth.

_ Frank Howard hit a three-run home run in the ninth.

According to Baseball Almanac, two other teams tied the 1959 Dodgers’ record by using nine pinch-hitters in a nine-inning game. Those teams were the Expos on Sept. 5, 1975, versus the Pirates, and the Braves on Sept. 21, 1993, against the Expos. In addition, the Cardinals and manager Tony La Russa used nine pinch-hitters in a 14-inning game on Sept. 25, 1997, versus the Reds.

The loss to the Cardinals dropped the Dodgers a game behind the Braves with four remaining. The Dodgers won three of their last four and the Braves won two, putting the clubs in a first-place tie at the end of the regular season.

The Dodgers clinched the pennant in a best-of-three playoff against the Braves, winning the first two games, and advanced to the World Series, earning the championship by winning four of six against the White Sox.

Read Full Post »

On a night when Steve Carlton pitched great, he wasn’t good enough to win.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 15, 1969, Carlton became the first major-league pitcher to strike out 19 batters in nine innings, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the mojo of the Amazin’ Mets.

Ron Swoboda hit a pair of two-run home runs against Carlton, giving the Mets a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

In addition to striking out 19 times, the Mets committed four errors, but they were a charmed club destined to become 1969 World Series champions.

In the lead to his game story for the New York Daily News, Dick Young wrote, “The Mets were absolutely no match” for Carlton, but their win “goes to prove how utterly amazin’ they really are.”

Said Mets manager Gil Hodges: “It’s great to win when you play badly.”

Getting better

Carlton, 24, wasn’t feeling well before the Monday night game with the Mets.

“I had a fever all day and I felt so bad that I slept an extra hour and didn’t get to the ballpark until 7 o’clock, an hour before the game was to start,” Carlton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

He said he took aspirins and got a rubdown from the team trainer.

The start of the game was delayed 26 minutes by rain and there was a 54-minute rain delay in the first inning.

Despite his aches and the damp conditions, Carlton struck out the sides in the first and second innings.

“I had a great fastball that kept rising and my curve was falling right off the table,” Carlton said to the Post-Dispatch.

Making mistakes

With the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, Donn Clendenon drew a walk, leading off the fourth for the Mets, and Swoboda batted next.

Carlton got ahead in the count 0-and-2 and “tried to burn another over without a waste pitch,” the New York Daily News reported.

The fastball was “right in his wheelhouse,” Carlton said, and Swoboda hit it deep into the left-field seats for a home run and a 2-1 Mets lead.

Carlton struck out the side in the fourth and the Cardinals scored twice in the fifth against Mets starter Gary Gentry, regaining the lead at 3-2.

In the middle innings, Carlton told the Post-Dispatch, “I became dizzy, tired and nauseated,” but he recovered and remained in the game.

In the eighth, Tommie Agee led off for the Mets with a single, Clendenon struck out and Swoboda came to the plate.

With the count 2-and-2, Carlton hung a slider _ “I didn’t get it inside enough,” he said _ and Swoboda lined it over the wall for a home run and a 4-3 Mets lead.

Swoboda also struck out twice and said Carlton “was fantastic.”

The two home runs gave Swoboda nine for the season. For his career, Swoboda batted .130 (6-for-46) versus Carlton with the two home runs.

“He’s primarily an inside fastball hitter,” Carlton said. “He has a tendency to swing through outside pitches and sometimes doesn’t reach them. If you go inside with him, you have to go way inside.”

Magic number

Carlton went into the ninth inning with 16 strikeouts and said he made up his mind to go for the record. Three pitchers had struck out 18 batters in nine innings. They were the Indians’ Bob Feller, the Dodgers Sandy Koufax (twice) and the Astros’ Don Wilson.

Carlton struck out pitcher Tug McGraw for No. 17 and Bud Harrelson for No. 18, tying the major-league mark. The 18 strikeouts also established a Cardinals club record, topping the previous high of 17 by Dizzy Dean versus the Cubs in a 1933 regular-season game and Bob Gibson versus the Tigers in a 1968 World Series game.

The next Mets batter, rookie Amos Otis, already had struck out three times in the game.

“I was tense,” Carlton said, “but I knew Otis was tense, too, because nobody likes to go into the record book that way, as the No. 19 strikeout.”

For Otis to avoid becoming the 19th strikeout victim, Carlton said, “I thought he might bunt.”

When asked whether he considered bunting, Otis said, “If I’m going in the books, I’m going in right. I wasn’t doing any bunting.”

With the count 2-and-2, Otis swung and missed at a slider in the dirt. The ball eluded catcher Tim McCarver, who retrieved it and threw to first base in time to complete strikeout No. 19 for Carlton.

“I’m very elated to have done something no other pitcher had ever done,” Carlton said. Boxscore

Big numbers

According to the Post-Dispatch, Carlton threw 152 pitches, including 106 for strikes. He got 12 strikeouts on fastballs, five on sliders and two on curves.

Since then, four pitchers have struck out 20 batters in nine innings. They are Roger Clemens of the Red Sox (twice), the Cubs’ Kerry Wood, the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer.

Carlton is one of four pitchers who have topped 4,000 career strikeouts. The four are Nolan Ryan (5,714), Randy Johnson (4,875), Clemens (4,672) and Carlton (4,136).

Read Full Post »

For many, it no longer paid to watch the Cardinals try to remain in the 1989 division title chase.

Thirty years ago, on Sept. 14, 1989, the paid attendance to see the Pirates play the Cardinals in a Thursday afternoon game at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis was 1,519.

It was the lowest paid attendance total for a Cardinals game since the stadium opened in May 1966.

The Cardinals’ previous lowest paid attendance figure at Busch Memorial Stadium was 3,380 on Sept. 27, 1972, for a game against the Mets. The Wednesday afternoon game was the regular-season home finale for the Cardinals, who began the day 23 games out of first place at 71-79. Boxscore

In 1989, the Cardinals were supposed to have an off-day on Sept. 14, but a game hastily was scheduled to make up for the previous night when rain halted a scoreless standoff with the Pirates in the sixth inning.

Change of plans

The three-game series with the Pirates should have been a chance for the Cardinals to secure their position in the National League East Division race, but instead it turned out to be a continuation of a slide out of contention.

The Cardinals’ woes began a few days earlier at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Cardinals (76-63) were 1.5 games behind the Cubs (78-62) entering the three-game weekend series. The Cubs won two of three and the Cardinals returned home to face the Pirates (63-79).

Held to a total of three runs, the Cardinals lost the first two games to the Pirates and went into the Sept. 13 series finale 4.5 games behind the Cubs.

The Wednesday night game matched starting pitchers Doug Drabek of the Pirates and Jose DeLeon of the Cardinals. They waged a scoreless duel before the game was called off because of rain with one out in the top of the sixth. Boxscore

The game, to be replayed entirely, was rescheduled for 12:35 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14. With little notice of an unscheduled game for a day when many were at work or school, few bought tickets.

In addition to the 1,519 paid attendees, the Cardinals allowed those with ticket stubs from the previous night’s rain-halted game to get in free. The Cardinals said 2,015 people used the free vouchers, bringing the total number of spectators to 3,534.

Stranger things

The few fans were confined to the lower deck of the stadium. The sight of such a small gathering for a Cardinals home game was unsettling to both teams.

“It was almost like a 10 o’clock in the morning game in spring training,” Pirates manager Jim Leyland said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pirates outfielder Andy Van Slyke, a former Cardinal, told the Pittsburgh Press: “I’d have given you my paycheck if you told me I’d have played before 3,500 in Busch Stadium in September with the Cardinals four games out.”

Said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog: “We’d have done better (in ticket sales) if we’d played the game in Pittsburgh.”

Adding to the weird vibe was the smoke wafting into the stadium from a fire at a burning warehouse nearby. Herzog told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the scene looked to him “like a graveyard with lights.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz noted, “The Cardinals’ season is burning and you could smell it at Busch Stadium.”

Hitting the skids

The game matched pitchers Jeff Robinson, a converted reliever, for the Pirates versus Bob Tewksbury, making his first start as a Cardinal.

The Cardinals led, 2-1, before the Pirates scored three runs in the seventh against relievers Dan Quisenberry and Ken Dayley.

In the ninth, trailing 4-2, the Cardinals scored a run on consecutive doubles by Tim Jones and Ozzie Smith. With Smith on second and one out, Vince Coleman laced a liner, but it was snared by shortstop Jay Bell, who caught Smith venturing too far off second base and turned a game-ending double play. Boxscore

The sweep by the Pirates gave the Cardinals five losses in a row and pushed them 5.5 games behind the Cubs. The Cardinals scored a total of nine runs in those five defeats.

“It’s hard to say when the nail is in the coffin,” Dayley said, “but there isn’t much daylight getting in right now.”

Said Jones: “Luckily, with the way we played, there weren’t 30,000 people in the stands.”

The Cubs (93-69) went on to win the division crown. The Mets (87-75) finished second and the Cardinals (86-76) were third.

Read Full Post »

Enos Slaughter and the Cardinals tried to intimidate Danny Murtaugh and the Pirates, but the tactic backfired.

Seventy years ago, on Sept. 5, 1949, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, Slaughter slashed Murtaugh in the chest with his spikes while sliding into second base in an unsuccessful effort to break up a double play.

Murtaugh, a former Cardinals prospect, considered the rough contact unnecessary because he had thrown the ball to the first baseman before Slaughter arrived at second base.

Slaughter’s spikes-high slide shook the Pirates from a slumber. Murtaugh sparked a game-winning rally in the 10th inning and the Pirates later played a key role in preventing the Cardinals from winning the 1949 National League pennant.

Head hunters

On April 27, 1949, during a 7-1 Pirates victory at St. Louis, Cardinals pitchers twice hit leadoff batter Stan Rojek with pitches. The second one, by reliever Ken Johnson, beaned Rojek in the head and he was carried from the field on a stretcher. The Pirates “thought it was deliberate,” according to the Pittsburgh Press. Boxscore

Rojek was sidelined for a week and the Pirates lost eight of their next nine.

Five months later, when they went to St. Louis for a Labor Day doubleheader, the Pirates (57-71) were 23.5 games behind the first-place Cardinals (81-48).

In the first game of the doubleheader, Slaughter produced a triple, home run and five RBI, carrying the Cardinals to a 9-1 triumph and handing the Pirates their eighth consecutive loss. Boxscore

Rough stuff

Seeking a sweep, the Cardinals appeared poised to strike in the second inning of the second game. Nippy Jones led off with a single. Slaughter hit a grounder to Murtaugh, who fielded it cleanly but bobbled the ball as he started to throw. The error allowed Slaughter to reach first and moved Jones to third with none out.

Marty Marion batted next and hit a groundball to third baseman Eddie Bockman. As Jones held third, Bockman fired a throw to Murtaugh at second.

Murtaugh caught the ball on the bag for the forceout of Slaughter at second, pivoted and threw to first baseman Jack Phillips in time to complete the double play. Murtaugh’s throw “barely missed Enos’ head,” according to the St. Louis Star-Times.

Slaughter, who had gone into his slide, raised his feet high and crashed hard into Murtaugh, who was cut “across the right side of his chest,” drawing blood, the Pittsburgh Press reported.

Slaughter got up, dusted himself off, said nothing to Murtaugh and trotted into the Cardinals’ dugout along the third-base line.

Murtaugh “didn’t realize he was bleeding until he put his hands inside his shirt,” the Pittsburgh Press observed.

Sticks and stones

Incensed, Murtaugh shouted at Slaughter in words “too hot to handle or to take without retort,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Slaughter motioned for Murtaugh to come over to the dugout and fight. Murtaugh tossed his glove aside and moved rapidly toward Slaughter, who emerged onto the field.

Jones alertly left the third-base bag and clamped his arms around Murtaugh to keep him from pursuing Slaughter. Members of the Cardinals stopped Slaughter from proceeding.

No one was ejected because “nothing more harmful than expressive nouns and adjectives” were exchanged, the St. Louis Star-Times noted.

Murtaugh was given first aid in the Pirates’ dugout and insisted on staying in the game. Inspired, the Pirates “displayed more fight, more needling ability and more zest for winning than they’ve shown in a long time,” according to the Pittsburgh Press.

The Pirates built a 4-0 lead before the Cardinals fought back, tied the score and forced extra innings.

Sweet revenge

With one out and none on in the top of the 10th, Murtaugh, who had singled twice in the game, came to the plate to face reliever Red Munger and “grinned mockingly as the stands booed him again,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Murtaugh responded by stroking a double into right-center field. Ed Fitz Gerald ran for him and scored when Rojek doubled with two outs, giving the Pirates a 5-4 lead.

In the bottom of the 10th, Slaughter led off, singled and moved to second on Marion’s sacrifice bunt, but Vic Lombardi got the next two batters to ground out, sealing the win. Boxscore

Asked about being spiked, Murtaugh noted Slaughter was an outfielder “and we can’t retaliate.”

“If he were an infielder, he’d never try that,” Murtaugh said.

Three weeks later, the first-place Cardinals held a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers when they went to Pittsburgh for a two-game series with the Pirates.

Still steaming from the beaning of Rojek and the spiking of Murtaugh, the Pirates played like a contender and won both games, 6-4 on Sept. 27 and 7-2 on Sept. 29, knocking the Cardinals from first place.

The stunned Cardinals went on to Chicago for a season-ending series with the Cubs, lost two of three and finished in second, a game behind the champion Dodgers.

Murtaugh began his professional career in the Cardinals’ organization, but never played for their big-league club. He spent five seasons (1937-41) in the Cardinals’ farm system and batted .299 with 186 hits for their Houston club in 1940.

After hitting .317 in 69 games for Houston in 1941, the Cardinals sold Murtaugh’s contract to the Phillies on June 28. The Phillies put him in their lineup and the rookie led the National League in stolen bases (18) in 1941.

On May 2, 1946, the Cardinals reacquired Murtaugh from the Phillies for cash, but sent him to their farm club at Rochester, where he batted .322 with 174 hits. After the season, the Braves selected Murtaugh in the Rule 5 draft.

Murtaugh finished his big-league playing career with the Pirates. He hit .290 for them in 1948 and .294 in 1950.

In 1957, Murtaugh became the Pirates’ manager. He managed them for 15 seasons and led them to World Series championships in 1960 and 1971.

Read Full Post »

After losing 10 of 11 decisions against the Dodgers, Al Jackson persevered and outdueled Sandy Koufax.

Jackson died Aug. 19, 2019, at 83. A left-handed pitcher who relied on a sinker for groundball outs, Jackson made his major-league debut in 1959 with the Pirates, spent most of his career with the Mets and had two strong seasons with the Cardinals.

During his first stint with the Mets from 1962-65, Jackson was 1-9 versus the Dodgers. He lost eight consecutive decisions against them before spinning a three-hitter and outdueling Claude Osteen in a 1-0 Mets victory on June 21, 1965, at Dodger Stadium. Boxscore

Two months later, on Aug. 10, 1965, Koufax got his 20th win of the season, striking out 14 Mets and beating Jackson in a 4-3 Dodgers victory at Los Angeles. Boxscore

The Mets traded Jackson and third baseman Charlie Smith to the Cardinals for third baseman Ken Boyer after the 1965 season.

Tough luck

After opening the 1966 season as a reliever, Jackson was moved into the Cardinals’ starting rotation in May, replacing Ray Sadecki, who got traded to the Giants.

The first time Jackson faced the Dodgers as a Cardinal was June 1, 1966, at St. Louis. Although he pitched well, he again took the loss. Jackson held the Dodgers to three hits in seven innings, but Koufax pitched a shutout in a 1-0 Dodgers victory.

Jackson “deserved a better fate, but he was pitted against a master,” the Los Angeles Times observed.

The Dodgers scored an unearned run in the seventh. With one out and none on, Jackson “got a slider too high and too close” to Willie Davis, who hit the pitch into the right-field corner for a triple, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. When right fielder Bobby Tolan’s throw eluded relay man Julian Javier, Davis raced to the plate on the error.

“I’m sure Jackson would like to have that pitch back,” Davis said. Boxscore

The loss dropped Jackson’s career record versus the Dodgers to 1-10.

Beating the best

One month later, on July 1, 1966, at Dodger Stadium, Jackson and Koufax again were matched against one another.

Koufax had a five-game winning streak versus the Cardinals. His season record was 14-2. Jackson had been given an extra day of rest since making his last start five days earlier against the Astros.

The two left-handers held their opponents scoreless through the first six innings. With one out in the seventh, Orlando Cepeda singled and Mike Shannon slugged a home run, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

Jackson did the rest, pitching a six-hit shutout. Only one Dodgers baserunner, Wes Parker in the first inning, reached second base. Jackson got the Dodgers to ground into three double plays and walked none.

“When I have a good day, I work my infielders pretty hard,” Jackson said.

The game was completed in 1 hour, 53 minutes.

Jackson said “my breaking ball wasn’t working so good” and his fastball initially was “too straight.” A word of advice from pitching coach Joe Becker helped.

Becker “told me to become a pitcher again, instead of a thrower, and I started keeping the ball down,” Jackson said.

In the ultimate compliment, Koufax said, “I had the best stuff I’ve had all year, but Al just pitched better.” Boxscore

Action Jackson

Jackson’s gem changed his luck against the Dodgers. Six of his last eight career decisions versus the Dodgers were wins. Jackson was 2-2 with an 0.92 ERA versus the Dodgers for the 1966 Cardinals and 3-0 against them for the 1967 Cardinals.

Jackson, who was traded back to the Mets after the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series title, finished with a career mark of 7-12 and a 3.41 ERA versus the Dodgers. He was 5-2 against them as a Cardinal; 2-10 as a Met.

Here is the breakdown of Jackson’s Dodgers decisions: 3-0 vs. Don Sutton, 1-0 vs. Claude Osteen, 1-0 vs. Jim Brewer, 1-2 vs. Don Drysdale, 1-5 vs. Koufax, 0-2 vs. Joe Moeller, 0-2 vs. Pete Richert and 0-1 vs. Bill Singer.

Jackson had an overall major-league record of 67-99 with a 3.98 ERA. In two seasons with St. Louis, he was 22-19 with a 2.97 ERA.

In 1966, when he was 13-15 with a 2.51 ERA, Jackson was second on the Cardinals in wins, games started (30), complete games (11) and innings pitched (232.2). He was 12-14 with a 2.61 ERA as a starter; 1-1 with an 0.73 ERA in six relief appearances.

Jackson was 9-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 39 appearances for the 1967 Cardinals. He was 5-3 with a 4.88 ERA in 11 starts; 4-1 with a 2.81 ERA as a reliever.

Read Full Post »

Steve Huntz had impressive timing for a player with unimpressive numbers.

Fifty years ago, on Aug. 28, 1969, Huntz hit his first major-league home run, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 walkoff victory over the Astros at St. Louis.

Huntz was an unlikely candidate for such a feat. The rookie infielder entered the game with a season batting average of .186.

Prospect with pop

Huntz began his professional career when he signed with the Orioles as an amateur free agent after three successful varsity seasons at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland.

In 1964, his first professional season, Huntz had 74 RBI for the Class A Midwest League Fox Cities Foxes. Of his 98 hits, 34 were for extra bases.

Cardinals scouts Jim Belz and Joe Mathes liked what they saw from Huntz. Based on their recommendations, the Cardinals paid $8,000 for the right to select Huntz in the November 1964 minor-league draft.

Huntz broke his leg in 1965 and sat out the season. He came back in 1966, played for Class AA Arkansas and committed 44 errors at shortstop.

After spending the 1967 season with Class AAA Tulsa, Huntz was called up to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September and appeared in three games for the Cardinals.

Huntz, a switch-hitter, was considered a prime candidate to earn a spot with the 1968 Cardinals as a utility player, but he batted .167 in spring training and “displayed limited range at the most critical position as backup man to Dal Maxvill at shortstop,” The Sporting News reported.

The Cardinals kept veteran Dick Schofield as their reserve shortstop and sent Huntz to Tulsa for the 1968 season.

Playing for manager Warren Spahn, Huntz hit .284 with 35 doubles and 74 RBI, helping Tulsa win the 1968 Pacific Coast League championship. Though Huntz committed 41 errors at shortstop, the Cardinals were intrigued by his power.

“He’s an infielder with sting at the plate and there aren’t many prospects like that around,” said Cardinals assistant farm director Fred McAlister.

As for fielding, McAlister said, “Huntz does a good job of moving to his right, bracing himself and gunning the ball. He can’t move to his left the way Dal Maxvill can, but how many men can a shortstop throw out when he fields the ball deep to his left? It’s making the routine plays that’s most important with a shortstop.”

Ups and downs

After the 1968 season, Schofield was traded to the Red Sox for pitcher Gary Waslewski, opening a path for Huntz to be a reserve infielder for the 1969 Cardinals. A headline in The Sporting News declared, “Cards Tap Huntz As New Super Sub.”

Huntz, 23, spent the entire 1969 season with the Cardinals, but struggled from the start. A breakthrough came on July 1, 1969, in a doubleheader against the Mets at St. Louis. Huntz, who had one RBI for the season, started at second base in the opener and drove in a run. Boxscore In the second game, he started at shortstop and drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double against Don Cardwell. Boxscore

Nearly two months later, Huntz got his first big-league home run. He entered the game against the Astros at Busch Stadium in the ninth inning as a replacement for Maxvill, who was lifted in the bottom half of the eighth for pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo.

The Astros led, 1-0, until the Cardinals tied the score in the bottom of the ninth against starter Don Wilson. Vada Pinson led off with a single. Joe Torre followed with a potential double-play grounder, but the ball took a bad hop, caromed off shortstop Denis Menke’s shoulder and went into center field for a single, advancing Pinson to third. A Dave Ricketts sacrifice fly scored Pinson.

Huntz led off the bottom of the 10th and hit a 2-and-1 pitch from Wilson over the right-field wall for the walkoff home run. Boxscore

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “When Steve went up to hit in the 10th, I said, ‘Hit one out of here so we can get going,’ and damned if he didn’t.”

Huntz had one more Cardinals highlight. On Sept. 26, Huntz became the only 1969 Cardinals batter to hit two home runs in a game. Facing the Expos at Jarry Park in Montreal, Huntz hit a two-run home run against Don Shaw and a solo home run versus ex-Cardinal Larry Jaster. Boxscore

“I haven’t exactly been mashing the ball, you know,” Huntz said. “I’ve tried to do the job, but I haven’t performed as well as I thought I would.”

Huntz completed the 1969 Cardinals season with a .194 batting average in 71 games. He had more strikeouts (34) than hits (27) and committed nine errors in 52 games at shortstop.

Moving on

At spring training in 1970, Huntz hit .345, but the Cardinals deemed him overweight and opted to send him to Tulsa. After Huntz told teammates he wouldn’t report to the minors, the Cardinals traded him to the Padres for pitcher Billy McCool on April 2, 1970.

The Padres assigned Huntz to their Class AAA farm club at Salt Lake City. He threatened to quit, but reconsidered after a talk with Padres manager Preston Gomez. “I told him to get in shape and he could be up with us before too long,” Gomez said.

Huntz hit .308 in seven games for Salt Lake City and got called up to the Padres.

On April 28, 1970, in his first Padres at-bat, Huntz hit a home run against the Expos at San Diego. It came against Waslewski, his former Cardinals teammate. Boxscore

Huntz hit 11 home runs for the 1970 Padres. Three of those homers came against future Hall of Famers _ Tom Seaver, Gaylord Perry and Phil Niekro.

Huntz also played for the White Sox in 1971 and again for the Padres in 1975.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »