Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

If not for the effective relief pitching of Ron Perranoski, the Cardinals, not the Dodgers, might have won the 1963 National League pennant and given Stan Musial a chance to end his playing career in a World Series.

A left-hander who played 13 years in the majors and coached another 17 years in the big leagues, Perranoski died Oct. 2, 2020, at 84.

In 1963, the Dodgers held a one-game lead over the Cardinals heading into a three-game series at St. Louis. The Dodgers swept, with Perranoski earning a save and a win, and went on to clinch the pennant.

Cool and collected

Born and raised in New Jersey, Perranoski early on displayed poise and a calm disposition on the mound. “As a high school pitcher, mom and dad used to complain they couldn’t tell whether I’d won or lost by the way I looked when I came home,” Perranoski told the Los Angeles Times.

He enrolled at Michigan State and was a roommate and teammate of Dick Radatz, who, like Perranoski, would become a dominant reliever in the majors.

Perranoski signed with the Cubs in June 1958. After two years in their farm system, the Cubs traded Perranoski to the Dodgers for infielder Don Zimmer. Former Cubs manager Bob Scheffing, who considered Perranoski a top prospect, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “If I were still with Chicago, they’d have made that Perranoski trade over my dead body.”

After posting a 2.58 ERA in the minors in 1960, Perranoski pitched well at spring training in 1961 and earned a spot on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster. His first big-league save came on April 18, 1961, against the Cardinals. In what the Los Angeles Times described as “a brilliant piece of relief pitching,” Perranoski retired Bill White with the bases loaded in the eighth, and set down the side in order in the ninth. Boxscore

A year later, in May 1962, Musial’s single off a curve from Perranoski gave Musial his 3,431st hit and moved him ahead of Honus Wagner for No. 1 on the National League career hit list.

Reliable relief

In 1963, there were no better relievers in the majors than the former Michigan State roommates, Perranoski and Radatz. Perranoski was 16-3 with 21 saves and a 1.67 ERA for the 1963 Dodgers. Radatz, a hulking right-hander nicknamed “The Monster,” was 15-6 with 23 saves and a 1.97 ERA for the 1963 Red Sox.

The Los Angeles Times described Perranoski as the “miracle man of the 1963 Dodgers. If the others can’t win them, he will.”

With Perranoski in the bullpen, and Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres heading the starting rotation, the Dodgers had the best ERA in the National League in 1963, but the Cardinals kept pace with them.

Entering the Sept. 16-18 series at St. Louis, the Dodgers were 91-59 and the Cardinals were 91-61.

The Cardinals became sentimental favorites when Musial, their 42-year-old icon, revealed in August that 1963 would be his last year as a player. Musial had played in four World Series, but none since 1946, and many were pulling for the Cardinals to overtake the Dodgers and give Musial a storybook finish to his career.

Naturally, Perranoski and the Dodgers had other ideas.

Impressive pitching

Podres and Ernie Broglio were the starting pitchers for the opening game of the Dodgers-Cardinals series. The score was tied at 1-1 when the Dodgers struck for two runs in the top of the ninth against relievers Bobby Shantz and Ron Taylor.

Perranoski replaced Podres for the bottom of the ninth and got the save, retiring Dick Groat, Musial and Ken Boyer in order. Boxscore

“Podres still can make the big haul and Perranoski puts the cash in the bank,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

Said Podres: “I knew Perranoski would be ready. He’s the best relief pitcher there is.”

When Koufax pitched a four-hit shutout against the Cardinals in Game 2, the Dodgers moved three ahead in the standings. Boxscore

The Cardinals needed to win the series finale to keep their pennant hopes from fading.

Great escape

The starting pitchers for Game 3 were the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson and the Dodgers’ Pete Richert. In the eighth, with the Cardinals ahead, 5-1, the Dodgers scored three times against Gibson and Shantz, getting within a run.

Dodgers manager Walter Alston picked Perranoski to pitch the bottom of the eighth and he retired the side in order. In the ninth, Dick Nen, in his debut game, hit a home run against Ron Taylor, tying the score at 5-5.

Perranoski again retired the Cardinals in order in the ninth, but he got into trouble in the 10th. Dick Groat led off and tripled. “I tried to jam Groat with a fastball, but I got it up,” Perranoski told the Post-Dispatch.

Alston went to the mound for a conference with Perranoski. Don Drysdale was throwing in the Dodgers’ bullpen, but Alston later said, “I was going all the way with Perranoski.”

Alston asked Perranoski whether he wanted to pitch to the next batter, Gary Kolb, or load the bases with intentional walks to set up a forceout at the plate. Perranoski opted to pitch to Kolb, a left-handed batter who entered the game in the seventh to run for Musial.

“I wasn’t too alarmed because I knew I had control and I felt if I got beat they’d have to beat me on my best pitch,” Perranoski told the Los Angeles Times.

Kolb struck out looking at an outside curve.

Perranoski gave intentional walks to Ken Boyer and Bill White, loading the bases for Curt Flood. “I knew Flood was a tough cookie to double up, but I had to get him to hit the ball on the ground,” Perranoski said.

After jamming Flood with an inside fastball, Perranoski got him to chase an outside curve. Flood hit a bouncer to shortstop Maury Wills, who threw to the plate to get the forceout on Groat.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Mike Shannon came up next. “I knew Shannon was a good fastball hitter,” Perranoski said.

Perranoski started him off with a sinker. Shannon hit a tapper to third. Jim Gilliam fielded the ball and threw to first in time to retire Shannon and end the threat.

Long career

The Cardinals didn’t get another good scoring opportunity against Perranoski. In the 13th, the Dodgers scored an unearned run against Lew Burdette. Perranoski retired the Cardinals in order in the bottom half of the inning, sealing the 6-5 Dodgers win and crushing the Cardinals’ pennant chances. Boxscore

With six innings of scoreless relief, Perranoski got his 16th win of the season. “This was the biggest game I ever pitched,” he said. “It’s got to be my biggest thrill.”

Cardinals manager Johnny Keane said, “I’ve never seen anyone get them out better than he does time after time.”

The Dodgers went on to clinch the pennant, finishing at 99-63. The Cardinals placed second at 93-69.

Perranoski pitched in three World Series for the Dodgers. He also pitched for the Twins, Tigers and Angels, leading the American League in saves in 1969 and 1970.

Perranoski was Dodgers pitching coach from 1981-94. Among the pitchers he helped develop were Orel Hershiser, Rick Sutcliffe and Fernando Valenzuela.

He also mentored reliever Tom Niedenfuer. According to the Los Angeles Times, Perranoski “sort of adopted him.”

“Possibly the greatest thing Perranoski did for Niedenfuer was tell him to throw with the same motion as Goose Gossage,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In 1985, Niedenfuer led the Dodgers in saves, but in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series he gave up a walkoff home run to the Cardinals’ Ozzie Smith. In the next game, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda ordered Perranoski to tell Niedenfuer to pitch to Jack Clark with two on, two outs and a base open, and Clark hit a home run, carrying the Cardinals to the pennant.

Read Full Post »

In 1964, the year he revived his baseball career, Jim Owens nearly derailed the Cardinals’ pennant chances. He also struck out Lou Brock in his first at-bat for the Cardinals.

A right-handed pitcher with a reputation as a carouser, Owens died on Sept. 8, 2020, at 86.

Once a prized Phillies prospect, Owens clashed with the club’s management and created havoc as part of a group of hard-drinking pitchers dubbed the Dalton Gang.

The Phillies finally gave up on him, and so did his next team, the Reds.

With his career headed in reverse, Owens, 30, got a lifeline from the Houston Colt .45s in 1964, and made the most of the opportunity. Used as a reliever and spot starter, Owens was most effective against the Cardinals. His record against them in 1964 was 4-0 with one save and a 2.51 ERA.

Only the Mets had a worse record than the Colt .45s in the National League in 1964, but the Cardinals were unable to take full advantage. Partly because of Owens’ success against them, it took the Cardinals until the final day of the season to clinch the National League pennant.

Great expectations

Owens was born in Gifford, Pa., near the New York state border. The Phillies were the defending National League champions when he signed with them at age 17 in 1951.

It didn’t take long for Owens to rise through the Phillies’ farm system. He was a 22-game winner in 1952, and he won 22 again in 1953 for Terre Haute, a team managed by Hub Kittle.

“Owens was the finest pitching prospect this club ever had, and that includes Robin Roberts,” Phillies owner Bob Carpenter told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Owens got to the majors with the Phillies in 1955, but lost his first six decisions. He didn’t get a win for them until 1958. Owens finally began to fulfill expectations in 1959, when he was 12-12 with 11 complete games, but it also was the year he joined the Dalton Gang.

Gang’s all here

Turk Farrell, Jack Meyer, Seth Morehead and Owens were the Phillies pitchers in 1959 who formed the Dalton Gang. According to Sports Illustrated, Phillies coach Tom Ferrick gave the group its name because of their outlaw antics. The real Dalton Gang robbed banks and trains in the late 1800s, primarily in the Kansas and Oklahoma territories.

Sports Illustrated described the Phillies’ Dalton Gang as “a group of wild-living, fun-loving, hell-raising players” who shared a “common love of the fast, loose life _ hard drinking, frequent fighting, late hours and casual friendships.”

Si Burick of the Dayton Daily News called the gang “a hard-riding, after-hours” group, and cited Owens for being “known as an athlete of questionable off the field habits, one who has been especially indiscreet in the drinking league.”

Asked about Owens, Phillies manager Gene Mauch told Burick, “There are people in baseball who drink as much as he does, maybe more, but they don’t get into trouble like him.”

Farrell and Owens were road roommates for one year in the minors and four years with the Phillies. During the 1960 season, in an effort to stop the shenanigans, Mauch split up the pair, rooming Farrell with coach Ken Silvestri and Owens with coach Peanuts Lowrey.

“Silvestri would go to bed at 10 o’clock,” Farrell told The Sporting News. “I’d keep the TV set on until 4 and order up some beer. Jim did the same thing in his room. We kept this up for 10 days and finally Silvestri and Lowrey went to Mauch and begged him to change his mind. So Mauch roomed me and Owens back together.”

One year, the Phillies offered Owens a $500 bonus if he promised to behave. According to Sports Illustrated, he “didn’t even make it through spring training. He got involved in a barroom brawl in Florida, lost the bonus and was fined an extra hundred to boot.”

In 1961, when Owens stormed out of Phillies training camp because of a disagreement with Mauch and threatened to quit, Larry Merchant of the Philadelphia Daily News described him as “a magnificent pitcher from the eyebrows down” and said the reason for Owens’ sulking was “as clear as a head full of vodka stingers.”

Not done yet

After the 1962 season, the Phillies traded Owens to the Reds for infielder Cookie Rojas. Owens pitched poorly for the 1963 Reds and in July they sent him to their San Diego farm club.

The demotion apparently was a wakeup call for Owens. He was 4-2 with a 2.21 ERA for the Reds’ farm team. The Colt .45s claimed him in the December 1963 minor-league draft, and Owens went to pitch winter ball in Venezuela in order to prepare to make a bid for a return to the majors in spring training.

In Venezuela, facing lineups stocked with major leaguers, Owens was the league’s best pitcher. He was 8-2 with an 0.72 ERA. All was going splendidly until on Jan. 29, 1964, when Owens was taken to a hospital for treatment of a leg wound.

According to The Sporting News, multiple variations were reported of how Owens cut his leg. Two newspaper reporters said Owens “had been stabbed during a Valencia barroom argument.” Valencia police said Owens “attempted to act as peacemaker on behalf of a friend during a fight and was cut in the right thigh” by someone wielding a knife. The president of the Valencia ballclub said Owens was injured in a swimming pool mishap. Owens said he slipped in a bowling alley and fell on top of a glass tumbler.

Old pro

Stitched up, Owens reported to the Colt .45s and “was the surprise of spring training,” The Sporting News reported. He earned a spot in the starting rotation and was reunited with his Dalton Gang buddy, Turk Farrell, who also was a Colt .45s starter.

“I always thought Jim was a good pitcher,” Farrell said. “He got the shaft in Philadelphia. Everybody tried to tell him how to pitch and how to live and he never got to pitch enough. If they would have left him alone, he’d have been all right.”

On April 26, 1964, Owens started against the Cardinals and got his first win for the Colt .45s, beating his former Phillies teammate, Curt Simmons. Boxscore

Two months later, on June 15, Owens relieved, retired all nine batters he faced, and got the win against the Cardinals. Brock, acquired earlier in the day from the Cubs, appeared as a pinch-hitter and struck out on three pitches from Owens. Boxscore

Owens also got relief wins versus the Cardinals on June 24 and Aug. 19, and earned a save against them on Aug. 8.

“Although Owens has been haunted in his career by a reputation for off the field hijinks, he has been a model of good deportment on the Colt .45s,” The Sporting News reported. “It is plain Jim would like to live down the playboy label of his youth.”

Owens was called “Bear” by his teammates because he had “the square build and somewhat lumbering gait of a medium-sized grizzly,” The Sporting News noted.

The nickname also fit his demeanor. According to The Sporting News, Owens “stays to himself as much, or more, than any other player on the Houston club. He is quiet, seldom smiles and does not engage much in small talk. On the mound, he acts like a man in a bad temper. He scowls as he pitches, and when he takes a throw from his catcher, he jerks at the ball in a short, angry gesture.”

Owens finished with an 8-7 record, six saves and a 3.28 ERA for the 1964 Colt .45s. The next year, the team became the Astros, and Owens again was tough versus the Cardinals, with a 1-0 record, a save and 2.08 ERA against them.

In June 1967, Owens made his last appearance as a pitcher, giving up a three-run home run to Orlando Cepeda in a relief stint versus the Cardinals. Boxscore

In a reversal of roles, the one-time baseball bad boy joined management, becoming an Astros coach for the remainder of 1967, and stayed in the job until 1972.

“He knows more about pitching than anybody on this club,” Astros manager Grady Hatton told The Sporting News.

Read Full Post »

Hank Aaron was the recipient of a special delivery from Bob Gibson.

On July 28, 1970, Gibson threw a knuckleball in a game for the first time. The batter he threw it to was Aaron.

The unlikely pitch from a premier fastball pitcher to a premier fastball hitter occurred in a game between the Cardinals and Braves at Atlanta.

Mighty matchups

Aaron, 36, and Gibson, 34, still were at the top of their games in 1970. Aaron would finish the season with 38 home runs and 118 RBI. Gibson would finish at 23-7 and win his second National League Cy Young Award.

The two future Hall of Famers faced each other often. Aaron completed his career with 163 at-bats against Gibson. Only Billy Williams (174) batted more times versus Gibson.

Aaron batted .215 versus Gibson for his career. He had 35 hits, including eight home runs, and struck out 32 times.

In his book, “Sixty Feet, Six Inches,” Gibson said, “There are very few guys who can consistently hit that 95 mph fastball that’s up above the belt. Hank Aaron could. Aaron swung down on the ball. He’d get backspin on it and hit line drives that would start off close to the ground and just keep going unless the fence got in the way.”

“I’d avoid throwing Hank Aaron a fastball over the plate if there was any possible way I could get around it,” Gibson said. “That man did not miss a fastball.”

In Gibson’s first two starts against the 1970 Braves, Aaron tagged him for five hits in eight at-bats.

Entering their third and final matchup of the season on a hot, humid night in Georgia, Gibson had a surprise for Hammerin’ Hank.

Ready or not

Before the game, Gibson told catcher Joe Torre he wanted to throw a knuckleball.

“I’ve been fooling around with that pitch on the sidelines for what, three, four years?” Gibson said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I figured I finally had enough guts to throw it in a game. I just wanted to see what would happen.”

In the first inning, the Braves had a runner on second, one out, and Aaron at the plate. When the count got to 2-and-2, Gibson decided to unveil the knuckleball.

“I got it over and it went down pretty good,” Gibson said.

Aaron swung at it and popped out to second baseman Julian Javier.

In his book, Gibson recalled, “As he ran back to the dugout, he yelled to me, ‘What the hell was that?’ I laughed and told him, all proud, ‘That was my knuckleball.’ ”

Gibson knew Aaron sometimes could be coaxed into chasing tantalizingly slow pitches. Five years earlier, in 1965, the Cardinals’ Curt Simmons threw a high, floating changeup to Aaron, who hit the ball over the wall but was called out by the umpire for stepping out of the batter’s box.

Gibson said he tried a knuckleball as a substitute for a changeup.

“Knuckleballs, incidentally, aren’t thrown with your knuckles,” Gibson said in his book. “They’re thrown with your fingernails. The reason they call it a knuckleball is because that’s what the hitter sees when you dig your fingernails into the seam.”

Encore in ninth

Gibson retired 12 of the first 13 Braves batters, and the Cardinals built a 6-0 lead against Jim Nash and Bob Priddy.

According to the Atlanta Constitution, Braves manager Lum Harris said Gibson “was bringing it up there in a hurry. I wondered if we’d get any runs off him.”

In the sixth, Aaron drove in a run with a single and the Braves scored three times in the inning. “I pitched dumb,” Gibson said of his sixth-inning effort. “I just tried to get by on nothing but fastballs, and I was getting tired.”

The Braves added another run in the seventh, getting within two at 6-4.

In the ninth, the Braves brought in the master knuckleball specialist, 48-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm, to pitch, and he retired the Cardinals in order. “Old Hoyt was something,” Harris marveled.

After retiring Felix Millan in the bottom half of the inning, Gibson again faced Aaron, who popped out to second base for the third time in the game.

“I got Aaron on that pop-up in the ninth on a knuckler,” Gibson told the Atlanta Constitution.

Torre said to the Post-Dispatch, “In the ninth, when Henry popped up, it looked as if he had a good ball to hit, but just when Henry got the bat around to where the pitch was, the ball sailed out. Henry never had a chance. All Henry said was, ‘Son of a bitch.’ ”

Gibson struck out the next batter, Rico Carty, to complete the game and earn the win, boosting his record to 13-5. His totals for the game: 9 innings, 12 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts. Boxscore

“Twelve hits are a lot to give up and still win, but I’m not complaining,” said Gibson.

In his book, Gibson said he rarely threw another knuckleball.

“Every time I threw a changeup, somebody would whack it over some fence, or in between the outfielders,” Gibson said. “Unfortunately, my knuckleball wasn’t much better.”

Read Full Post »

When Warren Spahn managed in the St. Louis system, he helped Fred Norman develop the skills to become a consistent winner in the big leagues, but it was the Reds, not the Cardinals, who benefited.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 28, 1970, the Cardinals acquired Norman on waivers from the Dodgers. The move was made to get a jump on building a bullpen for the following season.

Norman looked good in spring training in 1971 and began the regular season as one of the Cardinals’ relievers. After a couple of rough outings, he was sent to their Tulsa farm club, where Spahn was the manager.

Norman was a left-handed pitcher and Spahn, the career leader in wins among left-handers, was an ideal mentor. As Tulsa manager, Spahn taught Norman how to become adept at throwing the screwball.

The results were impressive.

Rocket arm

Norman was born in San Antonio and grew up in Miami. He excelled in diving, but his best sport was baseball. Norman threw with uncommon speed for his size. Though listed at 5 feet 8, Norman admitted to Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News he was 5 feet 7. McCoy responded, “Make him stand on the tops of his toes and mark him down for 5 feet 6.”

“People always felt somebody my size couldn’t make it,” Norman said. “If you get people out, what does it matter if you’re 6 feet 7 or 5 feet 7?”

In three varsity seasons for Miami Jackson High School, Norman posted ERAs of 0.92, 0.82 and 0.87, according to the Miami Herald.

Norman and Steve Carlton opposed one another as high school pitchers in Miami. “Freddie struck me out with a nasty curve,” Carlton told The Sporting News.

Major-league scouts deemed Norman a top prospect. He said eight teams made offers. The best came from the Kansas City Athletics. He signed with them for $40,000 on June 10, 1961, the day after his high school graduation. He used the money to buy his parents a house.

“I thought I’d be with Kansas City forever,” Norman told the Dayton Daily News. “Little did I know.”

On the move

Norman, 18, reported to the Athletics’ Shreveport farm club and lost seven of eight decisions. “I knew nothing about pitching,” Norman said. “Rear back and throw. I was short on control and, frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing on the mound.”

The next year, 1962, Norman got called up to the Athletics in September and made two relief appearances. He struck out 258 batters in 198 innings for Binghamton in 1963, got brought up to the Athletics again in September and was 0-1 in two starts.

Norman said Athletics pitching instructor Bill Posedel, a former Cardinals coach, showed him the screwball, but before he could learn to master the pitch he was traded to the Cubs in December 1963 for outfielder Nelson Mathews, father of future Cardinals reliever T.J. Mathews.

Norman began the 1964 season in the Cubs’ rotation, but was 0-4 in five starts and got demoted.

The Cubs wouldn’t let Norman throw the screwball because “they thought it might hurt my arm,” he told The Sporting News, and he spent most of the next two seasons in the minors.

Traded to the Dodgers in April 1967, Norman’s arm ached from tendinitis and his career stalled.

In 1968, Norman’s manager at Albuquerque, former Cardinals pitcher Roger Craig, told him he needed to change his approach.

“Craig told me, ‘This is where you learn how to pitch,’ and that’s what happened,” Norman said to the Miami Herald. “I had to try to put the ball here and there.”

When the Dodgers assigned Norman to Spokane in 1969, “I thought about quitting,” Norman told the Dayton Daily News, “but Tom Lasorda was my manager and he saved my career. He believed in me and helped.”

Norman was 13-6 with a 2.62 ERA for Spokane in 1969, and the performance gave him a chance to earn a spot with the 1970 Dodgers.

Back in the bigs

At Dodgers spring training in 1970, Norman “looked as good as any pitcher we have,” manager Walter Alston told The Sporting News.

Norman, 27, made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster as a reliever, appeared in 30 games during the 1970 season and was 2-0 with a save. After beating the Cubs on Aug. 14, Norman’s ERA was 3.74, but several poor outings followed and he was made available to the Cardinals.

Norman got into one game for the 1970 Cardinals, pitched a scoreless inning and headed into the off-season as a bullpen candidate for 1971.

Screwball mechanics

At Cardinals spring training in 1971, Norman competed with Frank Bertaina for a left-handed relief spot. Manager Red Schoendienst initially opted to keep Bertaina, but changed his mind. “Bertaina couldn’t get ready to pitch often enough” out of the bullpen, Schoendienst told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“You can give Norman the ball almost any day and know he’ll be ready to go out to the mound,” Schoendienst said to The Sporting News.

Norman made four appearances for the 1971 Cardinals, gave up five runs and was sent to Tulsa.

It didn’t take long for Spahn to show Norman how to make the screwball an effective pitch. In his first start for Tulsa, Norman pitched a four-hitter and struck out 15 Iowa batters.

“Spahn taught me the mechanical part of the screwball,” Norman told the Miami Herald. “He taught me the main release area.”

On June 5, 1971, Norman pitched a no-hitter against Indianapolis. He retired 24 batters in a row until Sonny Ruberto led off the ninth with a walk.

“Fred could pitch in the majors right now,” Spahn told The Sporting News. “He’s the stabilizer on my staff, the kind of a pitcher that when you put him out there, you know you’re going to get a good game.”

Said Norman, “Spahnie helped me with my screwball. It’s given me the other pitch I needed. It makes my fastball just that much more effective.”

On June 11, 1971, six days after his no-hitter, Norman was 6-1 with a 2.18 ERA for Tulsa when the Cardinals traded him and outfielder Leron Lee to the Padres for pitcher Al Santorini.

“I was going to a place, finally, that needed me, a place where I could start,” Norman said.

Two years later, in July 1973, the Reds acquired Norman. He achieved double-digit wins in all seven seasons with them and was a combined 24-11 in 1975-76 when they won World Series championships.

Read Full Post »

In a preview of what was to come during a Hall of Fame career with the Cardinals, a confident Dizzy Dean dazzled in his debut game in the major leagues.

Ninety years ago, on Sept. 28, 1930, the last day of the regular season, Dean pitched a three-hitter and got the win in a 3-1 Cardinals triumph against the Pirates before an estimated 22,000 spectators at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. The game was completed in one hour, 22 minutes.

Dean’s dominant performance in his first big-league game capped a glorious season for the Cardinals, who clinched the National League pennant two days earlier and were headed to the World Series to face the Athletics.

Covering the season finale for the St. Louis Star-Times, Red Smith noted, “Dean wrote a brilliant first chapter in the story of his major-league career … If a single performance in a single, meaningless game can be taken as a criterion, then Dean is destined for stardom.”

Fast rise

A right-hander who was pitching semipro baseball in San Antonio, Dean, 20, signed with the Cardinals before the start of the 1930 season and was assigned to the minors. He was an immediate success, earning 25 wins. Dean was 17-8 for St. Joseph (Mo.) of the Western League and 8-2 for Houston of the Texas League.

The Cardinals called up Dean on Sept. 7, 1930, and he joined them for their final road trip of the season to New York, Boston, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Dean watched from the bench as the Cardinals won 12 of 15 games on the trip and took command of the pennant race.

Returning to St. Louis to complete the season with a series versus the Pirates, the Cardinals clinched the pennant with a win on Sept. 26, giving them a three-game lead over the second-place Cubs with two to play.

On the last day of the regular season, Sunday, Sept. 28, Cardinals manager Gabby Street gave the start to Dean, who’d been pestering him for a chance to pitch since joining the club three weeks earlier.

Speed and poise

For his debut, Dean wore cleats borrowed from pitcher Burleigh Grimes because he’d misplaced his own, according to the biography “Diz” by author Robert Gregory.

Dean was matched against Pirates starter Larry French, who’d defeated the Cardinals three times in 1930. The Pirates’ lineup featured two future Hall of Famers, Pie Traynor and Paul Waner.

In the first inning, two of the first three batters, Gus Dugas and George Grantham, reached on walks and Traynor drove in Dugas with a single.

Dean settled down and the Cardinals came back with two runs in the third. Dean contributed to the rally with a single and scored from third on a forceout.

Traynor got a leadoff single in the fourth but the Pirates didn’t get another hit, their last, until Ben Sankey singled in the seventh.

“All the time he was beating the Pirates’ ears, he was complaining his fastball wasn’t working,” Cardinals pitcher Bill Hallahan told the Star-Times.

Said Burleigh Grimes: “He was as unconcerned as if he was tossing rocks at a mud turtle on a log in the Meramec River.”

In the eighth inning, Grimes said, Dean “turned to me and said, ‘The Cardinals’ business office thinks I’m a dumb guy. My salary stops today and (traveling secretary) Clarence Lloyd had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to make the trip to Philadelphia for the World Series. He said the club would pay my expenses. I asked him would I draw dough for going and he said no. He thought he could put that over on me. I may be dumb, but I’m not that dumb.”

Star quality

Throughout the game, Dean had the crowd “showering him with applause as he gyrated deceptively, flaunting a triple windup,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. “Besides poise, he had tremendous speed, a fast curve and, lo and behold for a youngster, a change of pace which he employed smartly.”

In the Star-Times, Red Smith wrote, Dean “showed burning speed, a wide, sweeping curve, a clever change of pace and, best of all, unusual control for a rookie.”

Describing Dean as a “tall, gangling youth with large hands that dangle from grotesquely long arms,” Smith observed, “He wheels his right arm around his head like the lash of a whip, then throws with a sweeping sidearm motion, baffling to the batter and amusing to the crowd.”

“That delivery may earn him the name of Dizzy,” Smith concluded, “but it seems likely, too, to earn him the title of star.”

The Cardinals extended their lead to 3-1 with a run in the sixth and Dean did the rest, shutting down the Pirates. Boxscore

According to Red Smith, manager Gabby Street called Dean “the nearest thing to Walter Johnson I ever saw.”

Burleigh Grimes, like Walter Johnson, a future Hall of Famer, said of Dean, “I’ll predict that two years from now that kid will be the sensation of the National League.”

Rather than accept the Cardinals’ invitation to travel with them to Philadelphia for the start of the World Series, Dean headed home to San Antonio. On the way there, he stopped at St. Joseph, Mo., and told friends, “I was fed up on baseball, so I didn’t go to the World Series. I just told (club executive) Branch Rickey I’d wait until next year and then win three games in the first Series I ever attended.”

After spending the 1931 season in the minors at Houston, winning 26 games, Dean stuck with the Cardinals in 1932. As Grimes predicted, two years after Dean made his Cardinals debut, he was a sensation in 1932, leading National League pitchers in strikeouts.

Dean proved to be a good predictor, too. In his first World Series, in 1934, he didn’t win three games, but he did win two, including a shutout in the decisive Game 7, against the Tigers.

Read Full Post »

In his last appearance of the 1970 season, Steve Carlton survived a beanball battle and avoided becoming the first Cardinals pitcher in 50 years to lose 20 games.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 26, 1970, Carlton pitched a three-hitter and got the win in a 7-2 Cardinals triumph versus the Expos at Montreal. A left-hander and future Hall of Famer, Carlton finished 10-19 in 1970.

The last Cardinals pitcher with 20 losses in a season was another future Hall of Famer, Jesse Haines, who was 13-20 in 1920.

No Cardinals left-hander has had a 20-loss season.

The most losses by a Cardinals pitcher in one season is 25. Stoney McGlynn was 14-25 for the 1907 Cardinals and Bugs Raymond was 15-25 for the 1908 Cardinals.

Head games

Carlton reported late to spring training in 1970 because of a contract dispute and struggled throughout most of the regular season. He was 1-2 in April and 1-4 May. Carlton didn’t have a winning record in any of the first five months of the season and entered September at 7-18.

After winning two of three decisions in September, Carlton went into his last start looking to end on a positive note against the Expos, who had beaten him twice during the season.

He was matched against Expos starter Bill Stoneman, who had angered the Cardinals by throwing at them.

On Aug. 9, Stoneman threw a pitch close to the head of the Cardinals’ Richie Allen. Cardinals pitcher Jerry Reuss retaliated by plunking Stoneman with a pitch on the peak of his batting helmet. Boxscore

A month later, on Sept. 5, Stoneman hit the Cardinals’ Joe Torre with a pitch. Boxscore

Stoneman hit 14 batters with pitches, the most in the major leagues in 1970. Expos manager Gene Mauch claimed the reason Stoneman hit so many was because the batters leaned in toward the plate in anticipation of his breaking pitches, The Sporting News reported.

Law and order

Trouble started early in the late September showdown between Carlton and Stoneman.

In the second inning, Stoneman hit Jose Cruz with a pitch.

Carlton retaliated by brushing back Stoneman with a pitch in the third. “You can’t let a pitcher go after your hitters,” Carlton told The Sporting News. “I’ve got to protect my guys.”

Hoping to defuse the tension, umpires issued an warning to both teams. Mauch stormed onto the field, objecting to the warning, and was ejected.

In the fourth, a defiant Stoneman hit Torre with a pitch and was ejected.

“That guy throws at six or seven guys every game,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the Montreal Gazette. “That’s his best pitch.”

Expos catcher John Bateman, miffed about the ejections of Mauch and Stoneman, expressed his frustrations to the umpires in the fifth inning and was tossed, too.

Win some, lose some

The Cardinals broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the eighth. Torre hit a two-run triple against Dan McGinn and Ted Simmons drove in Torre with a single versus Claude Raymond.

In the ninth, Carlton was hit in the rump by a pitch from Mike Wegener. “I don’t understand him hitting me,” Carlton said. “I thought everything was settled by that time.”

Players from both teams swarmed onto the field, but “nobody swung. They just jabbered and looked tough,” the Montreal Gazette reported.

After the Cardinals scored three times in the top of the ninth, the Expos added a run in the bottom half of the inning on a leadoff home run by Gary Sutherland before Carlton retired the next three batters, completing the win. Boxscore

Though he avoided a 20-loss season for the Cardinals, Carlton wasn’t so fortunate three years later with the Phillies. In 1973, Carlton lost six of his last eight decisions and finished with a record of 13-20. The 20th loss came against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Boxscore

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »