Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Early in his Hall of Fame career, Pirates slugger Willie Stargell experienced a humbling stretch of futility against the Cardinals.

Stargell struck out swinging in seven consecutive plate appearances versus the Cardinals in September 1964.

Recalling the embarrassment he felt, Stargell told the Atlanta Constitution, “I literally went home and cried.”

Can’t connect

On Sept. 24, 1964, the Cardinals (84-67) were five games behind the first-place Phillies (90-63) when they opened a five-game series against the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

Stargell, 24, was in his second full season with the Pirates. Though he displayed astonishing power, he was vulnerable to left-handed pitching. He also was hampered by torn cartilage in his left knee and bone chips in his left elbow.

The series began with a Thursday doubleheader. Bob Gibson started the opener and pitched a complete game in a 4-2 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

In his last at-bat in the game, Stargell struck out. (Stargell had more career strikeouts (41) than hits (38) versus Gibson, including a whiff for the last out of Gibson’s 1971 no-hitter.)

Left-hander Ray Sadecki started the second game of the doubleheader and pitched a five-hit shutout in a 4-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Stargell struck out in all four of his plate appearances versus Sadecki, giving him five consecutive whiffs for the night. (Stargell had three hits, all singles, in 50 career at-bats versus Sadecki and struck out 22 times against him.)

“Sadecki completely handcuffed Willie Stargell,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

In Game 3 of the series on Friday night, another left-hander, Gordon Richardson, made his sixth start of the season for the Cardinals.

Stargell fanned his first two times at the plate against Richardson, stretching his strikeout streak to seven.

He ended the futility with a single against right-handed reliever Ron Taylor in the seventh, drawing a mocking ovation from the crowd.

The next time up, in the ninth, Stargell struck out facing right-handed knuckleball specialist Barney Schultz. Boxscore

Sultans of swish

That was Stargell’s last at-bat of the season. He missed the Pirates’ final nine games, including the last two of the Cardinals series.

While the Cardinals completed a five-game sweep of the Pirates, the Reds won five in a row against the Mets, and the Phillies lost four straight to the Braves. With a week left in the season, the Reds were in first place, 1.5 games ahead of the Cardinals.

On the last day of the season, the Cardinals clinched the pennant, finishing a game ahead of the Phillies and Reds.

Stargell underwent knee surgery on Sept. 30, 1964. For the season, he hit 21 home runs and struck out 92 times. He hit .295 against right-handers and .188 versus left-handers. Stargell had 16 hits and 32 strikeouts against left-handers in 1964.

The only time Stargell led the National League in most times striking out in a season was 1971. Stargell whiffed 154 times that year, but also led the league in home runs (48) and extra-base hits (74).

Stargell struck out 1,936 times in his big-league career. The only left-handed batters who struck out more were Reggie Jackson (2,597), Jim Thome (2,548) and Adam Dunn (2,379).

Stargell is tied with another left-handed batter, the Cardinals’ Stan Musial, for career home runs (475), but Stargell struck out almost three times as much as Musial did (696).

According to Baseball Almanac, pitcher Sandy Koufax of the 1955 Dodgers holds the National League record for striking out in the most consecutive plate appearances (12). The last of those 12 strikeouts came against the Cardinals’ Ben Flowers.

The National League record by a batter other than a pitcher for striking out in the most consecutive plate appearances is nine. The three players who did that were Adolfo Phillips of the 1966 Cubs, Eric Davis of the 1987 Reds and Mark Reynolds of the 2007 Diamondbacks.


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In their 1982 opener, the Cardinals beat Nolan Ryan, setting the tone for a championship season.

Forty years ago, on April 6, 1982, the Cardinals scored six runs against Ryan, knocking him from the game after three innings, and rolled to a 14-3 victory over the Astros at Houston.

After losing their next three games, the Cardinals won 12 in a row. The fast start provided them an important boost in a season that resulted in a National League pennant and World Series championship.

A dilly of a delivery

A right-hander who overpowered hitters for more than a quarter of a century, Ryan ranks as baseball’s all-time leader in strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (seven). He had 324 career wins, but was 10-13 versus the Cardinals. Ryan was 4-3 against them with the Mets and 6-10 with the Astros.

In 1968, when he was 21, Ryan’s reputation rocketed with a dazzling stint for the Mets against the Cardinals in a March 26 spring training game. He struck out six, including Orlando Cepeda, Johnny Edwards and Mike Shannon in succession, in four scoreless innings.

According to The Sporting News, Cepeda called Ryan “the best young pitcher I have seen since I came into the major leagues.” Cepeda’s teammate, Lou Brock, said Ryan “blew me away from the plate. He made me strictly a defensive hitter the second time up.”

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The kid threw harder than any pitcher I’ve ever seen.”

Ryan literally experienced a blistering start to the 1968 regular season. Blisters developed on the fingers of his right hand and threatened to derail him until Mets trainer Gus Mauch came to the rescue. Mauch went to a New York delicatessen and asked for the brine from the sourest dill pickles available. He instructed Ryan to soak his fingers in the juice and, before long, the brine toughened the skin and the blisters healed.

Ryan “never is without his pickle brine,” The Sporting News reported. “He dips his fingers while sitting in his hotel room, while watching television and before he goes to bed at night. He even dips them in a plastic bottle of brine on the dugout bench between innings.”

“I can smell the brine when I’m pitching,” Ryan said.

Ryan faced the Cardinals for the first time in the regular season on May 7, 1968, at St. Louis. He pitched a three-hitter in a 4-1 victory for his first complete game in the majors. The Cardinals’ hits were singles by Curt Flood, Mike Shannon and Bobby Tolan.

“He’s faster than Sandy Koufax and he’s the fastest I’ve seen in the major leagues,” Shannon said to the Associated Press.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Ryan threw 125 pitches _ 98 fastballs and 27 curves. “He threw more good curves against the Cardinals tonight than he had all year,” said Mets manager Gil Hodges. Boxscore

Playing like champs

Ryan was 35 when he started the 1982 season opener, his first for the Astros, against the Cardinals inside the Astrodome. The year before, Ryan led National League pitchers in ERA (1.69).

Making their Cardinals debuts were center fielder Lonnie Smith and shortstop Ozzie Smith.

The Cardinals acquired Lonnie Smith to ignite the offense, and he did the job in his first plate appearance in the first inning of the first game. Awarded first base after a Ryan fastball grazed his jersey, Smith swiped second and continued to third when catcher Alan Ashby’s rushed throw bounced into the outfield.

After Tommy Herr struck out, Keith Hernandez drew a walk. Ryan got ahead of the count, 0-and-2, on the next batter, Darrell Porter.

“I was looking for a fastball and I was going to adjust to everything else,” Porter told the Post-Dispatch,

Ryan threw a curve. “A hanger, very much a hanger,” said Porter. “I knew he might throw me a curveball, but I didn’t expect it to be there saying, ‘Hit me.’ “

Porter hit it over the wall in right for a three-run home run.

George Hendrick followed with a single and moved to third on Dane Iorg’s double.

Swinging at a 3-and-0 pitch, Steve Braun got the Cardinals’ fourth consecutive hit, a single, scoring Hendrick and advancing Iorg to third. Ozzie Smith’s grounder forced out Braun at second, but scored Iorg, giving the Cardinals a 5-0 lead.

“After I hung the curve to Porter, I started over-striding,” Ryan told the Associated Press.

The Cardinals added another run in the second. Lonnie Smith singled, stole second and scored on Herr’s double.

For his career, Lonnie Smith hit .500 (12-for-24) versus Ryan. He also twice was hit by Ryan pitches and drew five walks against him. Smith’s on-base percentage versus Ryan is .613.

Ryan gave up singles to Ozzie Smith and Lonnie Smith in the third, but the Cardinals didn’t score. In the bottom half of the inning, Ryan was removed for pinch-hitter Danny Heep.

Ryan’s totals: 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts, 1 batter hit by pitch.

“This was the worst I’ve ever been with the Astros,” Ryan told the Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

A force in his 40s

The last time Ryan faced the Cardinals in a regular-season game was Sept. 3, 1988, when he was 41. He limited the Cardinals to four hits in seven innings and got the win. The Cardinals’ hits were a Steve Lake double and singles by Luis Alicea, Rod Booker and ex-Astro Denny Walling.

“He’s just unbelievable … He’s got the best arm ever,” Walling told the Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Ryan’s 61 shutouts rank seventh all-time, but in 26 starts against the Cardinals he never pitched a shutout.

In 1969, when the Mets became World Series champions, Ryan had more than one win in a season versus the Cardinals for the only time. He was 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA against them that year.

Two years later, Ryan was the starter when the Cardinals’ Joe Torre had a 22-game hitting streak snapped. Ryan’s last start for the Mets came in the game in which Steve Carlton also made his last start for the Cardinals.

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When it came time to select a team to sign with, the Cardinals were the first choice of teen pitching prospect Ralph Terry. Instead of beginning his baseball career with them, though, Terry ended up with the Yankees.

Terry’s heart may have been with the Cardinals, but he went on to pitch in five World Series with the Yankees and was involved in two of the most dramatic Game 7 finishes.

He also pitched against the Cardinals in the 1964 World Series and narrowly missed having a pivotal role in the crucial Game 4.

A right-hander who in 12 seasons in the majors had a 107-99 record, including 78-59 with the Yankees, Terry died on March 16, 2022, at 86.

Deadly arm

Terry was born in Big Cabin, Okla., and raised in the nearby town of Chelsea in the northeastern section of the state.

According to the New York Times, “As the story goes, Terry first tested his pitching arm on his grandmother’s farm. He started throwing corncobs, then switched to rocks. One day, he killed grandma’s pet rooster with a rock. The next day, she gave him a baseball. After that, he terrorized only schoolboy batters.”

Terry excelled in sports for the Chelsea High School Green Dragons and in amateur baseball leagues.

In November 1953, when he was 17, Terry said he decided to accept an offer from Cardinals scout Fred Hawn, The Sporting News reported. The Yankees continued their pursuit, prompting a series of arguments between Hawn and Yankees scout Tom Greenwade. according to the New York Times.

On Nov. 19, 1953, Greenwade persuaded Terry to choose the Yankees. Greenwade prepared a telegram of acceptance to send to Yankees general manager George Weiss in New York. Terry signed it, but because he was younger than 18, the agreement needed the signature of a parent to be official.

According to J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Terry said Greenwade had him sign his mother’s name to the telegram.

Weiss said he received the telegram, saw the signatures of Terry and his mother, and immediately sent back a confirmation of the acceptance, the New York Daily News reported.

“Confirmation by telegraph is an accepted way of doing business,” Weiss told United Press.

Dazed and confused

That night, Terry said, he changed his mind about joining the Yankees. He met with Hawn and Cardinals minor-league manager Ferrell Anderson in Joplin, Mo., and signed a Cardinals contract. Accompanied by Hawn, Terry went home to Chelsea, where his mother also signed the agreement, The Sporting News reported.

According to United Press, Terry’s mother denied she or her son had come to terms with the Yankees.

Terry told the wire service, “I definitely want to play with the Cardinals. I was confused for a time. There was a lot of fast talk on both sides, but I feel I’d be better off with the Cardinals.”

With both the Yankees and Cardinals claiming Terry, baseball commissioner Ford Frick was asked to settle the dispute.

“We’ll welcome any investigation,” Cardinals vice-president Bill Walsingham told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “We signed him first.”

To the Post-Dispatch, Walsingham said, “We are sure we are not only within our rights signing Terry, but also that the actions of our scout (Hawn) were entirely honest and above board.”

After meeting with Yankees and Cardinals officials, Frick ruled in favor of the Yankees, saying Terry accepted their terms before signing with the Cardinals.

Referring to Terry apparently forging his mother’s signature on the Yankees telegram at the suggestion of Greenwade, the Post-Dispatch dryly noted Frick’s ruling “surprised some observers,” but Cardinals vice-president John Wilson said, “Although we’re sorry and disappointed to lose Terry, there’s nothing to be done about it.”

Hype and hope

Noting that Greenwade was the scout who signed another prized prospect from Oklahoma, Mickey Mantle, the New York Daily News headline announcing Terry’s arrival with the Yankees declared, “Second Mickey?”

Terry, who turned 18 in January 1954, came to Yankees spring training camp a month later and dazzled manager Casey Stengel.

“I think he’s the greatest pitching prospect I’ve laid eyes on since I’ve been in baseball,” Stengel, 63, said to Dan Parker of the New York Daily Mirror.

Terry, 20, got to the majors with the Yankees in August 1956. They traded him to the Athletics in June 1957 and reacquired him in May 1959.

Goat and hero

In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the score was tied at 9-9 when Bill Mazeroski led off for the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth against Terry, working in relief.

After the first pitch, catcher Johnny Blanchard went to the mound and said, “This guy is a high-ball hitter. Get the ball down,” Terry said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Mazeroski walloped the next pitch, a slider, for a home run, clinching the championship.

“I knew it was high when I let it go,” Terry told the Post-Gazette. “I thought it might be hit off the wall for a double.” Boxscore and Video

Two years later, Terry again was pitching for the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series. With the Yankees ahead, 1-0, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Terry, a 23-game winner during the season, faced Willie McCovey with two outs and runners on second and third.

“The first pitch was down the middle and it surprised me and I pulled it foul,” McCovey told the New York Times. “I figured it was a mistake, but the second was another strike.”

McCovey scorched a line drive at second baseman Bobby Richardson. If the ball rose, Richardson said, he would have been in trouble, but instead it started to sink and it landed with a thud into his mitt for the final out. Boxscore and Video.

Terry, who started and won Games 5 and 7 after losing Game 2, was named most valuable player of the 1962 World Series.

“I am a very lucky fellow,” Terry told the New York Times. “You don’t often get another chance to prove yourself in baseball or in life.”

Different story

The Cardinals were desperate for a win in Game 4 of the 1964 World Series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won two of the first three games, and a win in Game 4 would put them in a commanding position.

With the Yankees ahead, 3-0, in the sixth inning, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, one out, against starter Al Downing. Dick Groat hit a grounder that had the look of an inning-ending double play. Bobby Richardson gloved the ball, but his toss to shortstop Phil Linz, who was moving toward the bag at second, was late and off target. All runners were safe, loading the bases, and Richardson was charged with an error.

“If Groat gets a clean hit, then I’d have to pull Al Downing and go with Ralph Terry,” Yankees manager Yogi Berra told the Post-Dispatch.

Because Downing had induced a grounder that should have produced an out, Berra felt compelled to let Downing, a left-hander, pitch to Cardinals cleanup hitter Ken Boyer, who batted right-handed.

“Terry still was in the bullpen when Downing threw a waist-high changeup to Boyer,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

Boyer hit it over the fence in left for a grand slam and the Cardinals went on to a 4-3 victory, evening the Series. Boxscore and Video.

If Berra had brought in Terry to face Boyer, it’s impossible to say whether the result would have been different, but Terry did pitch two scoreless innings in the eighth (when he got Boyer to ground into a double play) and ninth.

National Leaguer

That was the last game Terry pitched for the Yankees. He went to the Indians and Athletics before finishing his career with the Mets.

Terry’s first appearance in the National League was a start against the Pirates at Forbes Field on Aug. 11, 1966. Facing Terry for the first time since the World Series home run, Mazeroski flied out in the first, singled in the third and popped out in the fifth. Boxscore

According to Dick Young of the New York Daily News, a month later, when Terry saw his 1960 Yankees manager, Casey Stengel, now retired, in Los Angeles, he said, “Hey, Casey, I got Mazeroski out. I pitched him low.”

Stengel replied, “It’s about time.”

During his stint with the Mets, Terry faced the Cardinals once and it didn’t go well for him.

On Aug. 14, 1966, the Mets led the Cardinals, 3-1, in the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis. With two outs and none on, reliever Jack Hamilton walked Curt Flood and yielded a single to Tim McCarver.

Orlando Cepeda hit a pop foul near the Cardinals’ dugout. The ball tipped off the mitt of Mets catcher Jerry Grote. Instead of a game-ending out, Cepeda got to continue the plate appearance and walked, loading the bases.

Mets manager Wes Westrum brought in Terry to face Mike Shannon. With the count 2-and-2, Terry threw a pitch low and away. Shannon reached out and stroked a two-run single, tying the score at 3-3.

“The ball I hit was a hell of a pitch,” Shannon said. “I don’t know whether the pitch would have been a strike or not, but I couldn’t take the chance.”

The next batter, Charlie Smith, hit Terry’s first pitch for a single, driving in pinch-runner Bob Gibson with the winning run. Boxscore

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Adam Wainwright may be the last pitcher to produce a pinch-hit for the Cardinals.

With the designated hitter being used in the National League for the first time in 2022, it may be a while before the Cardinals pick a pitcher to be a pinch-hitter. Even if a pitcher was needed to bat, the odds would be against him getting a hit after a long layoff as a batter.

According to researcher Tom Orf, the last time a Cardinals pitcher got a hit as a pinch-hitter was April 8, 2017, when Wainwright did it in a game against the Reds at St. Louis.

Late in the game, Wainwright did “significant lobbying” for a chance to pinch-hit, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In the eighth inning, with one out, none on, and the Cardinals ahead, 9-3, Matheny sent Wainwright to bat for pitcher Jonathan Broxton. Wainwright singled to left against Drew Storen. Boxscore

Explaining why hitting was “something serious” to him, Wainwright told Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch, “You can win one or two games a year if you get a key hit, a key bunt.”

Big thrill

Wainwright, who hit a home run in his first plate appearance in the majors, is the last Cardinals pitcher to produce a RBI as a pinch-hitter, according to Orf.

It happened on June 10, 2016, at Pittsburgh. With the score tied at 3-3 in the 12th inning, the Cardinals had Matt Carpenter on first, two outs, Aledmys Diaz at the plate and Jonathan Broxton on deck.

Because the Cardinals had no more position players on the bench, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle ordered pitcher Juan Nicasio to give an intentional pass to Diaz, moving Carpenter into scoring position. Hurdle decided he’d rather have a pitcher at the plate than Diaz, the Cardinals’ rookie shortstop.

“I really struggle with having Diaz given an opportunity to beat us there when we figured Wainwright would be hitting next,” Hurdle told the Post-Dispatch.

Sent by Matheny to bat for Broxton, Wainwright hit a double to left-center, scoring Carpenter and Diaz and giving the Cardinals a 5-3 lead. The Cardinals scored six runs in the inning and won, 9-3. Boxscore and Video

Asked about Hurdle’s strategy, Wainwright told Rick Hummel, “I get it. I’m a pitcher and the odds are probably a lot less that I’m going to get a hit than Aledmys.”

Wainwright, who had 75 career RBI, called the two-run double as a pinch-hitter “one of the highlights of my career.”

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Wainwright said. “Winning the World Series is about the only time I could be happier than I am now.”

For his career with the Cardinals, Wainwright had five hits in 21 at-bats as a pinch-hitter, with three RBI.

His teammate, pitcher Jason Marquis, had six hits as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. Playing for manager Tony La Russa, Marquis was 3-for-9 as a pinch-hitter in 2005 and 3-for-10 in 2006, but he had no RBI.

The last Cardinals pitcher to hit a home run as a pinch-hitter was Gene Stechschulte in 2001. It came against Armando Reynoso of the Diamondbacks in Stechschulte’s first plate appearance in the big leagues.

Take that

Pitcher Bob Gibson had three hits in 11 career at-bats as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. He totaled 144 RBI, three as a pinch-hitter.

Gibson’s first RBI as a pinch-hitter came on Aug. 8, 1965, at St. Louis. Batting for pitcher Barney Schultz, Gibson, 29, doubled to left against Warren Spahn, 44, scoring Mike Shannon from second. Boxscore

Gibson hit .269 (7-for-26) versus Spahn in his career.

Nine months later, on April 17, 1966, the Cardinals played the Pirates at Pittsburgh. In the fifth inning, with Roberto Clemente at bat, Cardinals starter Nelson Briles “hummed a high fastball past Roberto’s left ear” and Clemente “hit the dirt to escape being clipped,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

When Clemente got up, he glared at Briles and then at the Cardinals’ dugout. Gibson yelled at him, “I’d do the same thing to you.”

According to the Post-Gaztette, after the inning ended, Gibson shouted in the direction of Clemente and the Pirates’ dugout, “If you want a piece of me, you know where to come.”

Two innings later, manager Red Schoendienst sent Gibson to bat for reliever Ray Sadecki with the bases loaded. Facing Bob Veale, Gibson singled to right, where Clemente was stationed, and drove in two runs. Boxscore

As the Pirates took the field in the eighth, Gibson went to the clubhouse via the Pirates’ dugout. “No one said a word to him,” the Post-Gazette reported.

(A year later, Clemente hit a ball that struck Gibson, fracturing his leg.)

Gibson hit .538 (7-for-1) versus Veale in his career.

Both Spahn and Veale threw left-handed. A right-handed batter, Gibson hit .222 against left-handers and .199 versus right-handers.


One of the most remarkable seasons by a Cardinals pitcher was achieved by Curt Davis in 1939. He had a 22-16 record and hit .381 (40-for-105) that year. As a pinch-hitter in 1939, Davis batted .357 (5-for-14) with no RBI.

Two of the Cardinals’ best-hitting pitchers, Dizzy Dean and Bob Forsch, were hitless as pinch-hitters.

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Wide receiver Charley Taylor and quarterback Sonny Jurgensen were in sync, able to connect in a city often associated with disconnection. So when they botched a play in a key game against the St. Louis Cardinals, it was unusual and costly.

With the Washington Redskins, Taylor was “the man who had given more headaches to cornerbacks than any pass catcher to play the game,” according to the Washington Post.

His ability to consistently rack up receptions made him one of the franchise’s most popular players. As Sports Illustrated noted, “It would have surprised hardly anyone at a Georgetown dinner party to hear Henry Kissinger, with his mouth full of caviar canapes, discoursing about the grace of Charley Taylor.”

Taylor played in 22 games versus the Cardinals. He caught 78 passes against them, but it was one he didn’t catch that became perhaps the most noteworthy.

A player who held the NFL record for career receptions (649) when he retired after the 1977 season, Taylor died on Feb. 19, 2022, at 80.

Multiple skills

Charley Taylor was born and raised in Grand Prairie, Texas, an aircraft manufacturing hub located 14 miles west of Dallas. His mother, Myrtle, was a chef, butcher and restaurant owner and his stepfather, James, built airplane parts, according to the New York Times.

A local grocer, R.B. Clarke, who had connections to Arizona State University, arranged for Taylor to meet the school’s football coach, Frank Kush, who offered a scholarship.

Taylor excelled as a running back at Arizona State and hoped to be drafted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys so he could play near home. When a college roommate informed him he was taken by Washington with the third overall pick in the first round of the 1964 draft, “I actually rolled over in bed and started crying because I wanted to go to Dallas so bad,” Taylor told the Associated Press.

Swift and sure-handed, Taylor excelled at running back for Washington his rookie season in 1964, rushing for 755 yards, catching 53 passes and scoring 10 touchdowns in 14 games.

About midway through the season in 1966, coach Otto Graham moved Taylor from running back to wide receiver. Taylor initially resisted the move but discovered the position change “gives me the opportunity to do what I do best _ catch the ball and run with it,” Taylor told the Associated Press.

Taylor and Bobby Mitchell gave Washington a pair of elite receivers as targets for quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. All three were destined for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Taylor said Mitchell and assistant coach Ray Renfro, a Browns receiver when Graham quarterbacked them, were influential in his transformation.

“They knew I had the knack for catching the ball,” Taylor said to the Associated Press. “What they had to teach me was to run patterns. That’s the difficult thing _ reading defenses and running good patterns.”

Taylor led the NFL in receptions in 1966 (72) and 1967 (70).

Mitchell, who also had started his NFL career as a running back before shifting to receiver, told Sports Illustrated, “Charley would always get the double coverage. I had some big days because people said Charley Taylor wasn’t going to beat them.”

All mixed up

Taylor, 33, and Jurgensen, 40, were in their 11th season together when Washington (4-2) faced the Cardinals (6-0) on Oct. 27, 1974, at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

Though the Cardinals defeated Washington in the second week of the season and were atop the NFC East Division, Taylor said, “We still feel Dallas is the team we have to beat.”

Pinned to a bulletin board in the Cardinals’ locker room, Taylor’s quote was viewed as “an affront to our pride,” Cardinals defensive tackle Bob Rowe told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Taylor was matched in the game against cornerback Roger Wehrli, another future Pro Football Hall of Famer. When the Cardinals drafted Wehrli out of Missouri in the first round in 1969, it was partly because it was thought he had the speed to cover receivers such as Taylor.

On the game’s opening drive, Washington advanced to the Cardinals’ 48-yard line before Jurgensen attempted a pass. On first-and-10, he called for Taylor to run an out pattern to the sideline.

Taylor ran the route correctly, but Wehrli had him covered. Taylor adjusted, turning up field, but Jurgensen didn’t adjust his pass. He threw before Taylor broke free of Wehrli.

“I was throwing the ball away,” Jurgensen told the Post-Dispatch.

Instead, he threw it into the hands of Wehrli, who moved forward, rather than follow Taylor, when he saw Jurgensen release the ball. “I just kept coming and there was no one there but me,” Wehrli told the Post-Dispatch.

Wehrli streaked 53 yards down the sideline, converting an interception into a touchdown for the first time in his NFL career. His only other interception return for a touchdown was in 1979 against Tommy Kramer of the Minnesota Vikings. Wehrli totaled 40 interceptions, all for the Cardinals.

St. Louis won the game, 23-20, improving to 7-0 and moving three games ahead of Washington in the division standings. Video and Game Stats

“The Cardinals made the big plays,” Jurgensen said to the Post-Dispatch. “Now they’re in the driver’s seat. It was a key game. We had to have it, and they got it.”

St. Louis and Washington each finished 10-4 in the regular season and each lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Taylor remains the Washington franchise leader in career touchdowns scored (90) _ 11 rushing and 79 receiving.

Of his 79 touchdown catches, 53 came on throws from Jurgensen, 21 from Billy Kilmer, two each from Randy Johnson and Jim Ninowski and one from Joe Theismann. The touchdown pass to Taylor was the first of Theismann’s NFL career.

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After giving Curt Flood a chance at the center field job, the Cardinals decided they needed an upgrade at the position. The player they wanted was Bill Bruton.

A left-handed batter, Bruton became the Braves’ center fielder in 1953 and helped transform them into National League champions in 1957 and 1958. 

In December 1960, the Cardinals made multiple offers for Bruton, including one that likely involved trading Bob Gibson.

Impact player

Bruton got his start in pro baseball when his father-in-law, future Hall of Fame third baseman Judy Johnson, put out the word about him, The Sporting News reported. Bruton was 24 when Braves scout Johnny Ogden signed him in 1950.

Bruton made an impact his first season in the minors, swiping 66 bases for Eau Claire. The next year, he had 27 triples for Denver.

“I’ve seen no player in baseball today who is as fast as Bruton,” Braves scout Walter Gautreau told The Sporting News.

With Class AAA Milwaukee in 1952, Bruton totaled 211 hits and scored 130 runs.

Before the 1953 season, the Braves relocated from Boston to Milwaukee and Bruton was named their Opening Day center fielder.

Splendid start

The Braves began the 1953 season at Cincinnati. Bruton, 27, had a dazzling debut. Batting leadoff, he had two hits, a stolen base and scored a run.

Described by the Cincinnati Enquirer as a “mercury-footed” outfielder who covered center “like the morning dew,” Bruton made six putouts, “two of them only short of sensational.”

“In the third inning, he leaped high in front of the center field seats to take what looked like a surefire double away from Willard Marshall,” the Enquirer reported. “He repeated the performance at the expense of Bobby Adams in the ninth.” Boxscore

The Braves took a flight to Milwaukee after the game and were greeted at the airport by 1,500 admirers, according to United Press.

Heroics at home

The next day, in their first regular-season home game since moving from Boston, the Braves played the Cardinals, and Bruton again was sensational.

In the eighth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, the Cardinals had two on and two outs when Stan Musial drove a Warren Spahn pitch into left-center. Bruton made a running catch, depriving Musial of a two-run double.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Braves had two outs and none on when Bruton, described by The Sporting News as the “Jesse Owens of the baselines,” hit an inside fastball from Gerry Staley over the head of right fielder Enos Slaughter for a triple. Sid Gordon’s single scored Bruton, giving the Braves a 2-1 lead.

The Cardinals tied the score in the ninth.

Batting with one out and none on in the 10th, Bruton got a knuckleball from Staley. “Man, it just hung there,” Bruton told the Associated Press.

Bruton drilled the pitch to deep right. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Slaughter “ran back to the waist-high wire fence, reached up and almost made the catch, but as his fingers began to close on the ball, his elbow struck sharp prongs protruding from the wire barrier.”

The impact jarred the ball loose and it dropped over the fence for a home run, Bruton’s first in the majors. It also turned out to be his only home run of the season and his only walkoff home run in 12 years in the big leagues. Boxscore

As Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch noted, Bruton’s dramatics made him “as popular in Milwaukee as beer and cheese.”

Multiple talents

Bruton was the Braves’ center fielder for eight years (1953-60). Hank Aaron, who joined the Braves in 1954, was his outfield teammate for seven of those seasons.

The Braves won the pennant in 1957 but Bruton sat out the World Series because of a knee injury. The next year, when the Braves repeated as National League champions, Bruton had a .545 on-base percentage in the World Series, reaching base 12 times (seven hits and five walks) in 22 plate appearances.

Bruton led the National League in stolen bases three times: 1953 (26), 1954 (34) and 1955 (25).

In 1960, Bruton, 34, had one of his best seasons, leading the league in runs scored (112), triples (13) and assists by a center fielder (11). He also ranked fourth in hits (180).

The Braves, though, had been searching for a second baseman ever since Red Schoendienst came down with tuberculosis, and general manager John McHale decided Bruton’s trade value would bring an experienced infielder.

Determined to deal

The Cardinals preferred Bruton to Flood.

In three seasons as Cardinals center fielder, Flood’s batting average and on-base percentage decreased every year: 1958 (.261 batting average, .317 on-base percentage), 1959 (.255 and .305) and 1960 (.237 and .303). He also had a mere two stolen bases in both 1958 and 1959, and none in 1960.

“We’ve been interested in Bruton for some time,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told the Post-Dispatch.

According to The Sporting News, the Cardinals offered their shortstop, Daryl Spencer, for Bruton. Spencer had been a second baseman with the Giants.

When the Braves reacted unenthusiastically, the Cardinals approached the Phillies about making a three-way trade with the Braves.

According to the Associated Press, the Braves were interested in Phillies second baseman Tony Taylor and reliever Turk Farrell. In exchange, the Phillies wanted outfielder Wes Covington from the Braves, and first baseman Joe Cunningham and pitcher Bob Gibson from the Cardinals, the Philadelphia Daily News reported. Bruton would go to the Cardinals.

(Later that month, the Cardinals offered Gibson to the Senators for Bobby Shantz.)

According to The Sporting News, the three-way deal “went down the drain” when the Phillies “stepped up their demands.”

“We wanted to make a deal,” Cardinals manager Solly Hemus said, “but it wound up with the Phillies wanting too many of our established players. We would have had to give up four or five, and would have gotten one or two.”

The Cardinals tried again to interest the Braves in a swap of Spencer for Bruton. “The Braves began to warm up to his possibilities,” The Sporting News reported, but then the Tigers entered the picture.

Flood is the answer

When the Tigers proposed dealing second baseman Frank Bolling to the Braves for Bruton, talks with the Cardinals ceased. Braves general manager John McHale had been general manager of the Tigers and he was an admirer of Bolling.

“When I was at Detroit, I thought Bolling was just as valuable to the club as Harvey Kuenn or Al Kaline,” McHale told The Sporting News.

To ensure the Tigers didn’t waver, McHale sweetened the deal. On Dec. 7, 1960, the Braves traded Bruton, catcher Dick Brown, infielder Chuck Cottier and pitcher Terry Fox for Bolling and a player to be named, outfielder Neil Chrisley.

According to the Sporting News, Hemus contacted Tigers manager Bob Scheffing and asked whether the Tigers would flip Bruton to the Cardinals, but was told no.

Don Landrum, acquired from the Phillies in September 1960, opened the 1961 season as the Cardinals’ center fielder. The Cardinals also tried Don Taussig and Carl Warwick there.

In July, Hemus was fired and replaced by Johnny Keane, who committed to Flood in center. Flood rewarded Keane’s confidence by hitting .324 in July, .330 in August and .355 in September. He went on to be the center fielder on Cardinals clubs that won three league championships and two World Series titles.

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