Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

Naturally, a ballplayer who craved the spotlight and never missed a chance to put on a show should be the subject of a Hollywood movie.

Seventy years ago, in 1952, the film “The Pride of St. Louis,” about the life of pitcher and broadcaster Dizzy Dean, came to theaters across the United States.

It got a better critical reception in New York and Los Angeles than it did in St. Louis.

From mound to movie

A master showman on the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang teams of the 1930s, Dean was the last National League pitcher to achieve 30 wins in a season. Other pitchers of the era, such as Carl Hubbell, may have been as talented, but none matched Dean’s ability to perform theatrics and attract attention.

In his big-league debut for the Cardinals, he pitched a three-hitter and gained the affection of the fans. When he faced Babe Ruth for the first time, Dean got the best of the matchup and even had the Babe laughing. When armed robbers learned it was Dean who had been a victim of their stickup, they sent him a batch of neckties as a token of apology.

By 1951, Dean was an established and popular baseball broadcaster. Producer Jules Schermer pitched the idea of a movie about Dean to 20th Century Fox executives. After they bought in, Schermer approached Dean, “who was, of course, delighted” with the suggestion, the Associated Press reported.

The movie people envisioned the central characters to be Dizzy Dean, his wife, Patricia Dean, and Dizzy’s brother, Paul Dean, who also had pitched for the Cardinals. According to John Carmichael of the Chicago Daily News, Dizzy got $50,000 for the movie rights to his story. Paul was offered $15,000, but held out for more.

“Finally, I said I’d give him $5,000 of my end if he’d sign the danged contract, or we might never have got it made,” Dizzy told Carmichael.

In the book “Diz,” biographer Robert Gregory wrote that Patricia Dean negotiated the movie rights to Dizzy’s story and “settled for $100,000 _ payable, she insisted, in spread-out sums so the taxes would be smaller.”

Music man

Herman Mankiewicz was hired in 1951 to write the screenplay for “The Pride of St. Louis” from a story by Guy Trosper. Nine years earlier, Mankiewicz and Orson Welles won an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”

Dan Dailey, known best for his work in musicals, was cast as Dizzy Dean.

In 1949, Dailey got an Academy Award nomination for best actor in “When My Baby Smiles at Me,” co-starring Betty Grable. (The best actor Oscar that year went instead to Laurence Olivier for “Hamlet.”) Dailey also appeared in 1949’s “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.

Soon after he was tabbed for the Dizzy Dean role, Dailey admitted himself to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., for psychiatric treatment because of an emotional breakdown. “I’d cracked,” he told syndicated columnist Hedda Hopper.

Dizzy Dean kiddingly told people that Dailey “went nuts” at the thought of having to portray him, The Sporting News reported.

After five months at the clinic, Dailey was discharged and began preparing to film “The Pride of St. Louis” in late summer 1951.

Joanne Dru got the part of Patricia Dean. An actress who co-starred with John Wayne in westerns such as “Red River” (1948) and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949), Dru was the sister of Peter Marshall, who went on to host the “Hollywood Squares” TV game show. Marshall’s son, Pete LaCock, became a big-league first baseman and hit a grand slam against Bob Gibson to beat the Cardinals’ ace in the last game of his Hall of Fame career.

A newcomer to movies, Richard Crenna was cast as Paul Dean. A radio performer, Crenna went on to have a long career in television (“The Real McCoys”) and film (most memorably, 1981’s “Body Heat”).

Learning curve

Dailey spent weeks studying slow-motion footage of Dean on the mound. “Then, working before mirrors, Dailey painstakingly imitated his windup, rear-back, and follow-through,” The Sporting News reported.

According to the Associated Press, Dailey pitched 45 minutes a day for three weeks to Ike Danning. A former minor-league catcher who got into two games with the 1928 St. Louis Browns, Danning coached Dailey on pitching motion.

“If determination means anything, he’ll look something like a pitcher,” Danning said. “It isn’t easy to teach a guy to look professional when he hasn’t played much baseball. It’s especially hard with a style like Dizzy’s.”

The baseball scenes were shot in Los Angeles at Gilmore Field, home of the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars, according to Internet Movie Database.

To get a feel for being a ballplayer, Dailey, wearing a Hollywood Stars uniform, sat on the team’s bench during a game, The Sporting News reported.

Dean, who went to Hollywood to see early clips of the movie, said Dailey “looks just like me when I was fogging them in there,” The Sporting News reported.

Starry night

The Missouri Theater at North Grand Boulevard and Lucas Avenue in St. Louis was site of the world premiere of “The Pride of St. Louis” on Friday night, April 11, 1952. The next day, the Browns and Cardinals were to play the first of two exhibition games at Sportsman’s Park before the regular season opened.

Attending the premiere were Dailey, Dru and her husband, actor John Ireland, Dizzy Dean and St. Louis mayor Joseph Durst, who proclaimed April 11-18 as Dizzy Dean Week in the city.

Several members of the Browns, including team owner Bill Veeck and manager Rogers Hornsby, attended, but no one from the Cardinals.

“It is understood the Cardinals declined to attend, even though the film has a great deal about the Cardinals team,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted without offering an explanation.

Television station KSD did a live broadcast of the ceremonies from the plush theater lobby.

Different perspectives

New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote, “Baseball itself, while it runs loudly and rampantly all through the film, is not the major interest in this picture … It is Dizzy Dean, the character, the whiz from the Ozark hills, the braggart, the woeful grammarian, the humbled human being, that is dished up here.”

He rated the Herman Mankiewicz script “howlingly humorous,” noted that Dailey played Dean “in high gear and in accents that reek of the hills,” and gushed that the ending “brings a little tug on the heart and it leaves you grateful to all who made this picture _ and to a legend by the name of Dizzy Dean.”

Los Angeles Times critic John L. Scott also gave a rave: “How much of this is fact and how much fiction need worry nobody. It is entertaining and whether you like baseball or not you will find ‘Pride of St. Louis’ an enjoyable movie.”

In St. Louis, “Singing in the Rain” with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds opened the day before “The Pride of St. Louis” premiered. Praising “Singing in the Rain” for having “everything you could want in a musical,” Post-Dispatch critic Myles Standish noted that “Kelly does a solo on a rain-swept street to the title song which should rank as a classic.”

As for “The Pride of St. Louis,” Standish disliked “a rather trite and tepid screenplay” that showed Dizzy “as an amiable, rather child-like, buffoon.”

Standish also didn’t like Patricia Dean being portrayed as a “conventional sweet movie wife bolstering up her man” instead of “the shrewd manageress she seems to be,” or that the concerns of a few teachers regarding Dean’s lousy grammar were “absurdly magnified into a phony dramatic climax.”

(“The Pride of St. Louis” earned Guy Trosper an Academy Award nomination for best story. The 1953 Oscar, however, went to a trio of writers for “The Greatest Show on Earth.”)

Dizzy Dean loved “The Pride of St. Louis.” By mid-April 1952, he’d seen it six times, according to biographer Robert Gregory.

“I ain’t saying this just because it’s about me,” Dean said, “but I think them Hollywood boys outdid theirself.”

See it for yourself: You Tube video

Read Full Post »

Ed Bauta overcame a difficult beginning to his big-league career with the Cardinals and gained the confidence of his manager.

A right-handed sinkerball specialist, Bauta was a Pirates prospect when the Cardinals acquired him and second baseman Julian Javier in 1960.

The Cardinals wanted Bauta, even though they knew his right knee was injured.

Frustrated by the slow healing process, Bauta nearly quit before pitching a game for the Cardinals. When he finally made his debut with them, it went badly.

Bolstered by the support of trainer Bob Bauman, Bauta persevered and went on to pitch in 80 games over four seasons with the Cardinals. He was 87 when he died on July 6, 2022, 62 years to the day after his Cardinals debut.

Pitching prospect

Eduardo Bauta was raised on a family farm in central Cuba. Doing farm chores and cutting sugar cane as a youth enabled him to develop a strong work ethic, according to his obituary.

Bauta was a catcher as an amateur until a ball struck him in the throat. “I could take only liquids for 15 days,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Attending a Pirates tryout camp, he got a chance to pitch and impressed scout Howie Haak, who signed him. Bauta was 21 when he played his first season in the Pirates’ system at Clinton, Iowa.

In 1960, Bauta had an 0.95 ERA in 12 relief appearances for the Pirates’ Columbus (Ohio) affiliate. Eddie Stanky, special assistant to Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, scouted Bauta and recommended him.

Soon after, Bauta made a wager with a Columbus teammate that he could get a base hit during batting practice. Swinging mightily at a pitch and missing, Bauta fell and tore ligaments in his right knee, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals had agreed to send pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell and infielder Dick Gray to the Pirates for Julian Javier and a pitching prospect. Bauta was one of four pitchers the Pirates offered. Aware of his knee injury, the Cardinals chose him on the strength of Stanky’s scouting report.

Welcome to The Show

Bauta joined the Cardinals on June 12, 1960, and reported to trainer Bob Bauman for treatment of the damaged knee. Frustrated with being sidelined, Bauta said Bauman helped restore his confidence as well as strengthen his knee.

“Doc talked me out of quitting,” Bauta told the Post-Dispatch. “Doc spent a lot of time with me every day. He said, ‘Eddie, you’re not going to quit as long as I’m around here.’ “

On July 6, 1960, the Cubs were routing the Cardinals at Wrigley Field in Chicago when Bauta was called into the game to make his major-league debut. He hadn’t pitched in a game since injuring his knee in May.

Bauta gave up a three-run home run to George Altman in the seventh, and then another three-run home run to Altman in the eighth. Boxscore

“I got Altman out most of the time in the (Caribbean) winter league,” Bauta said to the Post-Dispatch, “but I couldn’t put the ball where I wanted it today.”

True grit

A month later, on Aug. 10, after three consecutive scoreless outings, Bauta was brought in to protect a one-run lead against the Phillies in the bottom of the 10th at Philadelphia.

He retired two batters, but gave up a single and walked two, loading the bases and prompting manager Solly Hemus to visit the mound.

“I had Ronnie Kline warmed up and I was thinking of making a move,” Hemus told the Post-Dispatch.

Hemus asked Bauta, “How do you feel?’ The rookie replied, “I can get them, Skip.”

“Go get them,” Hemus said before returning to the dugout.

Clay Dalrymple swung at Bauta’s first pitch and lofted a fly to center for the final out. Bauta had his first save in the majors. “He showed me something,” Hemus said to the Post-Dispatch. “Anyone who can do that can pitch for me.” Boxscore

Back and forth

Assigned to minor-league Portland (Ore.) in 1961, Bauta was 9-1 with a 1.95 ERA when he got called up to the Cardinals in July. He got his first big-league win on Aug. 23 against the Dodgers. Boxscore

In 13 relief appearances for the 1961 Cardinals, Bauta was 2-0 with five saves and a 1.40 ERA.

Based on that performance, Bauta was in the Cardinals’ plans for 1962. The season began promisingly for him. On April 25, he pitched eight scoreless innings of relief against the Houston Colt .45s. Boxscore

(The game ended in a tie after 17 innings because of a local curfew in Houston that forbid starting an inning after 12:50 a.m. The game was replayed on another date but all the statistics counted.)

After 11 relief appearances in 1962, Bauta had an 0.93 ERA, but then he had a terrible June. After he gave up two home runs to Smoky Burgess of the Pirates on June 30, the Cardinals demoted Bauta to their Atlanta farm club. Boxscore

On the road again

Bauta was back with the Cardinals in 1963. He was 3-4 with three saves when the Cardinals dealt him to the Mets on Aug. 5 for reliever Ken MacKenzie.

(MacKenzie was a Yale graduate. One time, when MacKenzie was brought in at a critical point in a game, Mets manager Casey Stengel said to him, “Make like those guys are the Harvards.”)

In four seasons (1960-63) with the Cardinals, Bauta was 6-4 with 10 saves.

When Bauta faced the Cardinals for the first time after the trade, he pitched 2.1 scoreless innings and struck out Stan Musial. Boxscore

With the Mets, Bauta pitched in the last game played at the Polo Grounds Boxscore and the first game played at Shea Stadium. Boxscore

The 1964 season was Bauta’s last in the majors, but he continued to play until 1974, primarily in the Mexican League. In 1973, Bauta, 38, was a starting pitcher for Petroleros de Poza Rica and was 23-5 with a 2.25 ERA.

Read Full Post »

A journeyman reliever developed into an integral contributor to two contending Cardinals clubs.

Ten years ago, on July 31, 2012, the Cardinals acquired pitcher Edward Mujica from the Marlins for minor-league third baseman Zack Cox.

A right-hander with command of the strike zone, Mujica stabilized the Cardinals’ bullpen in 2012 and helped them reach the National League Championship Series. The next year, he filled a void in becoming their closer and helped position them to win a National League pennant.

Great Caesar’s Ghost…

Born and raised in Venezuela, Mujica was the son of a factory worker and a homemaker in the town of Yagua in the northwest part of the country.

He signed with the Cleveland Indians in October 2001 when he was 17, reached the majors with them in June 2006 and was traded to the Padres in April 2009.

Using a split-fingered pitch and a change-up, he developed a reputation for throwing strikes. In 59 games for the 2010 Padres, Mujica had 72 strikeouts and six walks, a ratio of 12 strikeouts for every walk issued.

In November 2010, the Padres traded him to the Marlins.

The Marlins changed managers in June 2011, replacing Edwin Rodriguez with an 80-year-old, Jack McKeon, who took a 1930s approach to player relations. It was McKeon who gave Mujica the nickname “The Chief.”

“He said to me one day, ‘I can’t say your name. Are you American Indian?’ ” Mujica recalled to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I said, ‘No, I’m from Venezuela.’ He said, ‘It’s better for me to call you The Chief. You’re the last of the Mohicans.’ “

Mujica said, “That was crazy, but I said OK, and everybody started calling me The Chief.”

(When Mujica got traded to the Cardinals, he said he was surprised when their general manager, John Mozeliak, called him and said, “Chief, how are you doing?” Mujica told the Post-Dispatch, “I said, ‘What? How did you know that?'”)


In 67 relief appearances for the 2011 Marlins, Mujica was 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA and earned a reputation as a clubhouse comedian. “He’s the class clown,” teammate Heath Bell told the Miami Herald. “He loves to have fun.”

Another teammate, Steve Cishek, told the Palm Beach Post, “In the bullpen, he’s a swordsman. I’ll look over and all of a sudden he has a stake that he pulled out of the ground and he’s fighting an imaginary person. It’s hilarious.”

Cishek, who took fencing classes in college, rewarded Mujica with a fencing foil and mask. Mujica kept those above his locker.

“I’m a funny guy,” Mujica told the Miami Herald. “I just try to enjoy my time because this job only lasts 10 or 15 years, and you have to enjoy the moment.”

Mujica also was known to take naps in the bullpen during early innings of games. After a TV camera showed him napping at Wrigley Field in Chicago, he came to the ballpark the next day with a hand-written sign: “Cameraman, Please Do Not Disturb.”

Helping hand

Happy to play for fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen, who took over as Marlins manager in 2012, Mujica told the South Florida Sun Sentinel “it was a big surprise” to be traded to the Cardinals.

The Marlins made the deal to get Zack Cox “with the thought he could be our third baseman in the near future,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told the Miami Herald. “We really like the bat.”

Cox was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round of the June 2010 amateur draft. Other 2010 first-round picks included Bryce Harper (Nationals), Manny Machado (Orioles), Christian Yelich (Marlins) and Nick Castellanos (Tigers).

(Cox never reached the majors.)

Noting that Mujica, 28, had an above-average split-fingered pitch, Cardinals pro scouts Mike Juhl and Mike Jorgensen recommended the club trade for him.

On the day of the deal, the Cardinals (55-48) were in third place, seven games behind the division-leading Reds, and their bullpen was in disarray. Relievers were making a mess of the seventh inning and that was creating chaos in the eighth and ninth, too.

Manager Mike Matheny designated Mujica to pitch the seventh. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and catcher Yadier Molina urged Mujica to feature his spit-fingered pitch instead of the slider, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The results were immediate and impressive. Mujica didn’t allow a run in his first 18 games pitched for the Cardinals. With Mujica locking down the seventh inning, Matheny was able to stick with Mitchell Boggs as a setup reliever in the eighth and Jason Motte as closer in the ninth.

The consistent combination of Mujica, Boggs and Motte stabilized the bullpen. In 29 games pitched for the 2012 Cardinals, Mujica had a 1.03 ERA, allowing three earned runs in 26.1 innings. He struck out 21 and walked three.

The Cardinals finished 88-74, second in their division and fifth overall in the National League, but in the watered-down system approved by team owners and the players’ union, fifth is good enough to qualify for the playoffs.

After dispatching the Braves and Nationals, the Cardinals were in the National League Championship Series against the Giants. Mujica was the winning pitcher in Game 1, striking out the side in a scoreless seventh. Boxscore

Mujica pitched four scoreless innings in the series, but the Giants prevailed, winning four of seven games to clinch the pennant.

Fun while it lasted

Near the end of spring training in 2013, Motte suffered an elbow injury. Matheny began the season with Boggs as the closer, but he faltered.

Mujica took over as closer and converted his first 21 consecutive save chances, earning a spot on the National League all-star team.

By August, fatigue set in. Mujica pitched three consecutive days six times in 2013. He pitched in six games in seven days from July 4-10.

Mujica strained his shoulder, causing numbness in his neck. He also had a groin injury. Unable to push off the mound the right way, his arm slowed down and so did his pitch speed, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In mid-September, with Mujica struggling, Trevor Rosenthal replaced him as closer. Mujica finished the season with 37 saves. He struck out 46 and walked five. The only Cardinals pitchers with more saves in a season are Rosenthal, Jason Isringhausen, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Motte and Ryan Franklin.

The 2013 Cardinals, who posted the best record in the National League at 97-65, won the pennant, eliminating the Pirates and Dodgers in the playoffs, before falling to the Red Sox in the World Series.

Granted free agency after the World Series, Mujica signed with the Red. Sox. By 2016, he was back in the minors.

The Cardinals signed Mujica to a minor-league contract in 2018. At spring training, he earned a save with a scoreless inning against the Braves. “How about that? Blast from the past,” Matheny said to the Post-Dispatch.

Sent to Memphis, Mujica, 34, led the team in saves (13) and games pitched (48). He struck out 35 and walked six in 51.1 innings, but wasn’t called up to the Cardinals.

Read Full Post »

The wet pitches of Bill Doak left batters high and dry.

One hundred years ago, in 1922, Doak pitched a pair of one-hitters for the Cardinals.

A lean, almost frail, right-hander, Doak’s signature pitch was a spitball. He started throwing the spitter in 1913, his first season with the Cardinals. Big-league baseball banned the spitball in 1920, but allowed 17 pitchers, including Doak, who regularly threw the pitch before then to continue using it for the remainder of their careers.

Adapt and innovate

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Doak reached the majors with the Reds, pitching in one game for them, against the Pirates, in 1912.

The Cardinals purchased Doak’s contract in 1913. Manager Miller Huggins suggested Doak try the spitball, and it turned around his career, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Doak was 19-6 for the 1914 Cardinals and led the National League in ERA (1.72). He told Baseball Magazine the spitter was “the easiest ball in the world to pitch.”

“The spitter is thrown with the same arm motion as the fastball, only you don’t have to put as much stuff on it to fool the batter,” Doak said.

In 1920, Doak earned 20 wins for the Cardinals. He also was credited with designing the modern fielding glove. It was his idea to put webbing between a glove’s thumb and first finger. Rawlings introduced the Bill Doak model in 1920, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Doak led the league in ERA (2.59) for a second time in 1921.

Beating the best

After posting 87 wins and finishing third in the league in 1921, the Cardinals, managed by Branch Rickey, were expecting to contend again in 1922.

Doak, 31, helped them to an 18-12 start, winning his first six decisions. The most impressive win in that stretch was a one-hitter against the reigning World Series champion Giants on Thursday afternoon May 11 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

The first batter of the game, shortstop and future Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft, got the only Giants hit, a bunt single along the first-base line. He then was caught attempting to steal second.

The Giants, who had future Hall of Famers High Pockets Kelly, Ross Youngs and Bancroft in their starting lineup, and used another, Frankie Frisch, to pinch-hit, were hitless the rest of the game, a 2-0 Cardinals victory.

Doak, who walked four and struck out two, was the first pitcher to shut out the Giants in 1922. Boxscore

(In its game report, the New York Daily News noted, “The Cardinals are wearing a flossy home uniform this season. Across the breasts of their monkey suits are embroidered baseball bats, on each end of which are perched cardinal birds. The supposition is that two birds on a bat are worth one in a bush.”)

Infield hits

Two months later, on Thursday afternoon July 13 at Sportsman’s Park, Doak pitched another one-hitter against the Phillies.

Leading off the seventh inning, Curt Walker hit “an ordinary infield bounder” to the right of first baseman Jack Fournier, who gloved the ball about 20 feet from the bag, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Expecting Doak to cover first, Fournier looked to toss to him for the out, but Doak “was standing there on the hill apparently contented with himself and life in general,” the Philadelphia Inquirer wryly noted.

The grounder, described by the Post-Dispatch as “an out 999 times out of a thousand,” resulted in a single, depriving Doak of a no-hitter. The Cardinals won, 1-0. Boxscore

It was the second time Doak’s failure to cover first base cost him a no-hitter.

Two years earlier, on Tuesday afternoon Aug. 10, 1920, at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, Doak pitched a one-hitter versus the Phillies. In the seventh, Cy Williams hit a grounder to the right side. Fournier and second baseman Rogers Hornsby both pursued it. Hornsby got to it, but Doak again was frozen on the mound, allowing Williams to reach base safely with a single. Boxscore

(According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Doak had a bad back and that might have been the reason he failed to cover first base on those plays.)

High achiever

After his second one-hitter of 1922, Doak had a 10-6 record. but he lost his next seven decisions. He finished the season with an 11-13 mark and 5.54 ERA. The Cardinals went 85-69, eight games behind the champion Giants.

Doak continued to pitch in the majors until 1929 when he was 38.

In 13 seasons with the Cardinals, Doak was 144-136 with a 2.93 ERA.

He ranks second among Cardinals pitchers in career shutouts (30). Only Bob Gibson (56) pitched more shutouts for the Cardinals.

Doak also ranks sixth among Cardinals pitchers in both career wins (144) and innings pitched (2,387). He is fifth in starts (320) and ninth in strikeouts (938).

In 16 seasons with the Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers, Doak was 169-157 with a 2.98 ERA.

Read Full Post »

In a year of turmoil in his personal life, pitcher Chuck Finley experienced satisfying success in his professional life when he joined the Cardinals.

Twenty years ago, on July 19, 2002, the Cardinals acquired Finley from the Cleveland Indians for minor-league first baseman Luis Garcia and a player to be named. Three weeks later, the Cardinals sent another prospect, outfielder Coco Crisp, to the Indians, completing the deal.

Though Crisp went on to produce 1,572 hits and 309 stolen bases in 15 seasons in the American League, the Cardinals got a double benefit from obtaining Finley. He was the starting pitcher they needed to replace Daryl Kile, who died a month earlier. The trade also kept the Cardinals’ closest competitor, the Reds, from getting Finley.

Bright lights

Born and raised in Monroe, La., Finley attended Louisiana Tech for a year, dropped out and went to work for his family’s nursery and landscaping businesses, planting trees and tilling soil, according to Sports Illustrated.

A year later, he enrolled at Northeast Louisiana University (now named University of Louisiana Monroe). A left-handed pitcher, he lacked command but had an exceptional fastball. The Angels drafted him in January 1985 and sent him to their farm system to be a reliever.

Finley developed a curve to go with his fastball, and in May 1986 he made the jump from Class A Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa, to the majors.

The Angels were home at Anaheim Stadium when Finley made his big-league debut in relief of future Hall of Famer Don Sutton. “I got to the mound and I couldn’t believe how bright it was,” Finley recalled to Sports Illustrated. “A night game in A ball, you turn on the porch lights.” Boxscore

In 1988, Finley joined the Angels’ starting rotation. Adding a split-fingered pitch, or forkball, to his arsenal, he posted double-figure win totals in 10 of his 12 seasons as an Angels starter.

After Finley had back-to-back 18-win seasons in 1990 and 1991, Angels executive Whitey Herzog rewarded him with a four-year $18.5 million contract, largest in franchise history. Sports Illustrated declared Finley “the best left-handed pitcher in baseball.”

Match game

In November 1997, Finley married actress Tawny Kitaen. She appeared with Tom Hanks in the 1984 movie “Bachelor Party.” Cast as the fiancee of Hanks’ character, Kitaen played the part “fetchingly,” according to the New York Times review.

She also performed in music videos for the British hard-rock band Whitesnake. Kitaen married band member David Coverdale in 1989 and they divorced in 1991.

After Finley married Kitaen, he told Paul Gutierrez of Sports Illustrated in 1998, “I found a great girl that put up with me. I couldn’t be with anybody better. We’re so much alike it’s incredible.”

Finley earned 14 consecutive wins for the Angels from July 1, 1997, to April 27, 1998. Granted free agency after the 1999 season, he signed a three-year $27 million contract with the Indians. Finley remains the Angels’ franchise leader in career wins (165), innings pitched (2,675) and starts (379).

Domestic violence

In 2002, the Indians opened the season at Anaheim, giving Finley a chance to be at home in Newport Beach with Kitaen and their two children.

On April 1, Finley and Kitaen argued while having dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Irvine, according to the Los Angeles Times. When they got home, Finley said, “his wife hit, kicked and scratched him and then called 911 before hurling a telephone through the window of their car,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police said, when they arrived, they saw cuts and bruises on Finley, the Associated Press reported. Kitaen was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors _ corporal injury on a spouse, and battery.

In exchange for her pleading guilty and after completing a counseling program, the case was dismissed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Finley and Kitaen soon divorced. She died in May 2021 at age 59.

Cost factors

On the morning of July 19, 2002, the Cardinals were atop their division, 3.5 games ahead of the second-place Reds. Though Finley, 39, was 4-11 with a 4.44 ERA for the 2002 Indians, both the Cardinals and Reds envisioned him as a starter who could tip the balance of the title chase.

According to The Cincinnati Post, the Indians agreed in principle to trade Finley to the Reds for minor-league pitcher Josh Hall. 

Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. volunteered to defer $1 million of his 2002 salary to clear payroll room for the $2 million still to be paid Finley for the season, The Cincinnati Post reported. Reds general manager Jim Bowden thought he had a done deal, but the club’s chief operating officer, John Allen, vetoed the trade. “We can’t add payroll,” Allen told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

According to ESPN.com, the Reds were close to sending outfielder Brady Clark and three prospects to the Red Sox for the cash to pay Finley, but that also fell through.

The Indians then turned to the Cardinals.

“We went back and forth,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This morning, I didn’t think it was going to happen. This afternoon, it fell back into our laps.”

With Woody Williams sidelined by injury, Finley joined a rotation of Matt Morris, Andy Benes and Jason Simontacchi.

“The Cardinals addressed their most pressing problem” and got a starter “who may alter the balance of power within a depleted division,” Joe Strauss wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds, who had been Finley’s teammate with the Angels: “He’s the ultimate workhorse. He’s one of the best professionals I’ve ever seen. When you play a big game, you want him to have the ball.”

Getting it done

Finley made his first Cardinals start on July 21, 2002, at Pittsburgh. With Mike Matheny as his catcher, Finley got the win, striking out eight in six innings.

His pitching was only part of the story. Finley doubled to left off Josh Fogg in the fourth and scored the go-ahead run on Fernando Vina’s single. The double was Finley’s first hit in 27 big-league at-bats. Boxscore

“I like what I’ve seen of this team in the two days I’ve been here,” Finley said. “When you look around and see very good players all around you, it really picks you up.”

Finley also won his second Cardinals start, beating the Cubs at St. Louis. Boxscore and Video

Three days later, Jocketty swung a deal for Scott Rolen, acquiring the third baseman, along with pitcher Doug Nickle and cash, from the Phillies for infielder Placido Polanco and pitchers Mike Timlin and Bud Smith.

The Cardinals, who entered July 2002 tied with the Reds for first place in the Central Division, closed July with a five-game lead over second-place Cincinnati.

On Aug. 27, Finley shut out the Reds on a two-hitter and Rolen hit a three-run home run in the game. Boxscore

With Finley and Rolen, the Cardinals were 17-14 in August and 21-6 in September, finishing 13 games ahead of the runner-up Astros. The Reds limped in at 78-84.

Finley finished 7-4 in 14 regular-season starts for the 2002 Cardinals, giving him a career record of 200-173.

In his last game of a 17-year big-league career, Finley started and won Game 3 of the 2002 National League Championship Series at San Francisco. Boxscore


Read Full Post »

A rookie from Comanche, Texas, felt right at home in upper Manhattan.

Ninety years ago, on June 19, 1932, Tex Carleton got his first win in the majors for the Cardinals with a two-hit shutout of the Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York.

A lanky right-hander with a sidearm delivery, Carleton pitched seven years in the minors before earning a spot with the reigning World Series champion Cardinals. The win against the Giants was the first of 100 for him in an eight-year career in the big leagues.

Prime prospect

Born and raised in Comanche, about 150 miles west of Dallas, James Otto Carleton moved with his family to Fort Worth when he was 11. Nicknamed “Tex” by a newspaper reporter, he pitched for Texas Christian University before leaving in his sophomore year, 1925, to begin a professional baseball career.

His breakout season occurred in 1931. Though sidelined a month because of a broken finger on his throwing hand, Carleton was 20-7 with a 1.90 ERA for the Houston Buffaloes.

In the book “The Gashouse Gang,” author Robert E. Hood noted, “His money pitch was a sinking fastball that was hard to hit solidly. It puzzled right-handed batters because it seemed to be heading right at them, only to break down and in at their knees. It made batters long for the shade of the dugout.”

At spring training  in 1932, Carleton was “the most consistent of the Cardinals’ pitchers,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. Of the 28 innings he pitched in exhibition games, 26 were scoreless. “Players think he will be one of the stars of the big show,” The Sporting News declared.

Carleton joined a starting rotation with Dizzy Dean, Paul Derringer, Bill Hallahan and Syl Johnson. When the season started, Carleton put pressure on himself and struggled. “I was always worried about losing the game,” he told Hood.

In his major-league debut, a start against the Cubs, Carleton walked nine in eight innings. In his next start, he issued seven walks to the Pirates in five innings.

“Wildness has made him an uncertain gamble,” wrote Red Smith in the St. Louis Star-Times.

Two months into the 1932 season, Carleton was 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA.

Under control

The start against the Giants on Sunday afternoon June 19 marked a turnaround for Carleton. Pitching with command and changing speeds, “Carleton had the Giants bewildered from start to finish,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Facing a lineup with future Hall of Famers Freddie Lindstrom, Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Travis Jackson in the third through sixth spots, Carleton retired the first 11 batters before Lindstrom reached on an error by Jimmie Reese. Shanty Hogan got the Giants’ first hit, a single, with two outs in the fifth. The other hit was a single by Eddie Moore. Carleton walked none in nine innings.

“His control was perfection itself,” wrote Red Smith. “You could see the sparks of his fastball. His sweeping sidearm curves made pretzels on the way up to the plate.”

Future Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley, benched after hitting .158 in April, made his first start of the month at first base for the Cardinals and slugged two home runs in support of Carleton.

After retiring Mel Ott for the last out in the 7-0 Cardinals triumph, Carleton “carefully removed a paper sack of chewing tobacco and secreted in his hip pocket the ball that Ott missed,” Jimmy Powers wrote in the New York Daily News. “Then he and (teammate) Pepper Martin waddled about awkwardly in a strange little war dance. They hollered loudly once or twice, then went dog-trotting out to the clubhouse, their arms draped over each other’s shoulders.” Boxscore

All about winning

Carleton finished 1932 with a 10-13 record. He was second on the club in shutouts (three) and strikeouts (113).

During the winter, Giants player-manager Bill Terry met with Cardinals executive Branch Rickey in St. Louis for trade talks. Terry “is especially hopeful of obtaining Tex Carleton, whom he believes is one of the coming hurling stars of the National League,” The Sporting News reported.

Negotiations broke off without a deal because the Cardinals “wanted too much,” Terry told the New York Daily News.

In 1933, Carleton again gave another stellar performance against the Giants at the Polo Grounds. On July 2, he and the Giants’ Carl Hubbell each pitched 16 scoreless innings. Carleton was removed for a pinch-hitter in the 17th, and Hubbell won with an 18-inning shutout. Boxscore

Carleton told author Robert Hood he thought Hubbell, not Dizzy Dean, was the best pitcher in baseball at that time.

During the 1933 season, Carleton lost weight and the club worried about his health. According to the Gashouse Gang book, team physician Dr. Robert Hyland offered an unusual remedy.

“He recommended two or three highballs before dinner each night to stimulate my appetite,” Carleton said. “I used to get prescription whiskey _ it still being Prohibition _ and carry it with me on the road.”

Though he finished the season with a 17-11 record, Carleton said he thought he could have done better. “Proud and sensitive, he felt he should win 20 games every year,” Hood wrote in the Gashouse Gang book.

Carleton was 16-11 for the 1934 Cardinals, who won a World Series title, but afterward he was traded to the Cubs for $50,000 and two pitchers, Bud Tinning and Dick Ward, neither of whom would win a game for St. Louis.

Carleton helped the Cubs win National League pennants in 1935 and 1938. He pitched a no-hitter for the Dodgers against the Reds in 1940, but, plagued by shoulder ailments, it was his last season in the majors. He finished with a career mark of 100-76.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »