Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

In the year he won the National League Cy Young Award, Mike McCormick did his part to try to enable the Giants to keep pace with the Cardinals in the pennant race, but he didn’t get enough help from a pair of future Hall of Famers on the pitching staff.

McCormick, a left-handed pitcher who played 16 years in the major leagues, died June 13, 2020, at 81. He had his best season in 1967 when he was 22-10 with a 2.85 ERA for the Giants.

Relying on a screwball to keep batters off stride, McCormick was 3-0 in three starts against the 1967 Cardinals.

The Cardinals finished with a 101-60 record, 10.5 games ahead of the second-place Giants (91-71). One reason the Giants couldn’t catch the Cardinals was the performances of two starters destined for Cooperstown, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Marichal was 0-2 versus the Cardinals in 1967 and Perry was 0-5.

ERA leader

A baseball standout from Alhambra, Calif., McCormick was 17 when he signed with the Giants for $50,000 in August 1956. He went directly to the majors and made his debut with a scoreless inning of relief versus the Phillies on Sept. 3, 1956. “He could really throw when I first saw him,” Giants second baseman Red Schoendienst told The Sporting News.

McCormick’s first decision in the big leagues was a loss to the Cardinals in a start on Sept. 15, 1956, at the Polo Grounds in New York. Al Dark, who became McCormick’s manager with the 1961-62 Giants, hit a home run against him. Boxscore

The Giants moved from New York to San Francisco after the 1957 season. At their Bay Area home, McCormick and his wife became collectors of antique clocks. “I specialize in school and railroad clocks from the period between 1860 and 1880,” McCormick told The Sporting News.

In 1960, McCormick led the National League in ERA at 2.70. The runner-up was the Cardinals’ Ernie Broglio (2.74). Hall of Fame left-hander Carl Hubbell, the Giants’ farm director, told the Sporting News, “McCormick has a lot of what I call pitching instinct. He doesn’t have a set pattern for pitching to any particular hitter, but he senses what to throw next. Mike amazes me with his poise and control.”

Two years later, the Giants won the National League pennant, but McCormick, who developed a left shoulder injury, was limited to 98.2 innings and had a 5-5 record. He didn’t pitch in the World Series against the Yankees.

After the season, the Giants traded him to the Orioles. “He had a sore arm, a hot temper and a fastball he thought he could throw past any batter,” The Sporting News noted.

Continuing to experience shoulder pain, McCormick was 6-8 for the Orioles in 1963 and 0-2 in 1964 before he was demoted to the minors. In April 1965, the Orioles dealt McCormick to the Senators and he was 19-22 for them over two seasons before being traded back to the Giants in December 1966.

“We think he can help us in relief and as a spot starter,” said Giants general manager Chub Feeney.

Pitching lessons

No longer a power pitcher, McCormick, 29, relied on control and changing speeds in his second stint with the Giants.

It wasn’t an easy transition. Because of rainouts and days off, he made a mere two starts in April 1967. At the end of May, his record was 3-2 with a 4.64 ERA and manager Herman Franks sent him to the bullpen. One of McCormick’s relief appearances came June 16, 1967, against the Cardinals. He pitched 4.1 innings and allowed one run. Boxscore

Returned to the starting rotation, McCormick won seven consecutive decisions from June 19 to July 15. One of those wins was June 27, 1967, a shutout versus the Cardinals at St. Louis. McCormick scattered seven hits and walked none. In contrast, Cardinals starter Steve Carlton walked six in 4.2 innings and gave up four runs. Boxscore

Cardinals hitting coach Dick Sisler said batters made the mistake of trying to pull McCormick’s screwball.

“You can’t play long ball against a screwball,” Sisler told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You’ve got to hit to the opposite field.”

Doing his part

On Aug. 10, 1967, the Giants opened a four-game series against the Cardinals at St. Louis. The Giants were nine games behind the first-place Cardinals and needed to win the series if they were going to challenge for the pennant. “If anybody can catch them, it’s us,” McCormick said.

Hoping to set the tone, McCormick prevailed in the opener, limiting the Cardinals to six hits in a 5-2 victory.

“When he makes you hit his pitch, he’s got you,” Sisler said. “When he wins, I’d say that nine out of 10 batters swing at bad pitches.” Boxscore

Unfazed, the Cardinals won the final three games of the series, beating Gaylord Perry and two former Cardinals, Lindy McDaniel and McCormick’s road roommate, Ray Sadecki. The Giants left St. Louis 11 games behind with 47 left to play.

Top of his game

McCormick faced the Cardinals for the final time in 1967 on Aug. 23 at San Francisco and beat them again, pitching another shutout. His ERA versus the Cardinals for the season was 0.86. Boxscore

“McCormick has done about all he can to stall the Cardinals’ pennant express,” declared the Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals outfielder Roger Maris: “He’s always on the borderline with his pitches. He’s on the inside corner or the outside corner, or right on the borderline high or low, but he never has thrown me a pitch down the middle of the plate.”

In games not started by McCormick, the Giants were 4-11 versus the Cardinals in 1967.

McCormick led the league in wins (22) and became the first Giants left-hander with 20 in a season since Johnny Antonelli in 1956. In winning the Cy Young Award, McCormick got 18 of 20 votes from the baseball writers.

McCormick followed the 1967 season with 12 wins for the Giants in 1968 and 11 in 1969 before he was traded to the Yankees in 1970. His last season in the majors was 1971 with the Royals. He finished with a career record of 134-128.

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Mike Morgan delivered a special performance for the Cardinals at a special time in his life.

Twenty-five years ago, on July 3, 1995, Morgan came close to pitching a no-hitter. He held the Expos hitless until giving up an infield single with one out in the ninth at Busch Memorial Stadium.

Morgan’s gem capped a life-altering three-week stretch for him in which he became a father for the first time and got traded from the Cubs to the Cardinals.

Trial and tribulation

A right-handed pitcher, Morgan was 18 when he was selected by the Athletics in the first round of the 1978 amateur baseball draft. He went directly from high school in Las Vegas to the big leagues and made his debut with the Athletics in a start against the Orioles on June 11, 1978.

Morgan embarked on an odyssey, pitching for the Athletics (1978-79), Yankees (1982), Blue Jays (1983), Mariners (1985-87), Orioles (1988), Dodgers (1989-91) and Cubs (1992-95). The Cardinals were the eighth of 12 teams he pitched for in the majors.

The most successful seasons Morgan had were 1991 with the Dodgers (14-10, 2.78 ERA) and 1992 with the Cubs (16-8, 2.55).

His most trying year was 1994. His mother had stomach surgery, his father developed a brain aneurysm and his wife suffered a miscarriage. Morgan was the Cubs’ Opening Day starter, went on the disabled list three times for multiple physical ailments as well as emotional stress, and finished the strike-shortened season with a 2-10 record and 6.69 ERA.

When the 1995 season began, Morgan was on the disabled list again with an injured rib cage, but his outlook brightened in late May. Morgan’s wife, who got pregnant again in October, was progressing encouragingly and Morgan returned to the Cubs’ rotation.

After winning two of his three decisions for the 1995 Cubs, Morgan told The Sporting News, “If I’m healthy, I can pitch with anyone, and right now I’m healthy.”

The Cubs came close to dealing Morgan to the Phillies, prompting him to say, “I don’t want to go anywhere. Four years are the longest I’ve been with one club. These are my friends. They’re great dudes.”

Big changes

On the morning of June 16, 1995, Morgan was with his wife, who had gone into labor, at a hospital near their home in Utah. Soon after his wife gave birth to their first child, a girl, Morgan got a phone call from the Cubs. Expecting congratulations, Morgan instead was told he’d been traded to the Cardinals with two minor-league prospects for first baseman Todd Zeile. Morgan also learned the Cardinals had fired manager Joe Torre.

Morgan said goodbye to his wife and daughter, and dutifully reported to St. Louis, where two days later, June 18, 1995, he started for the Cardinals and took the loss against the Giants. Boxscore

He earned a complete-game win versus the Phillies in his second start and lost to the Astros in his third, giving him a 1-2 mark and 4.19 ERA with the Cardinals.

Taking control

Morgan, 35, made his fourth start against the Expos on a Monday night in St. Louis.

The Cardinals got a run in the first and five in the eighth, including John Mabry’s first home run in the big leagues, while Morgan kept the overeager Expos from getting a hit, enticing them to chase pitches.

“This is precisely the kind of guy who gives an undisciplined team like ours trouble,” Expos manager Felipe Alou told the Montreal Gazette.

The Expos didn’t get a ball out of the infield until Darrin Fletcher lined out to left in the eighth. Fletcher described Morgan’s pitches as “a little cutter away, a sinker away, a little harder sinker. Nothing inside.”

Rondell White, one of the Expos’ top hitters, said, “You get anxious because he’s not doing anything but throwing the ball to the outside. You’re up there hoping you get that fastball, just one of them, but it never comes.”

White hit a groundball in the eighth between first and second. Ranging to his left, second baseman Geronimo Pena gloved the ball, spun and threw blindly to first. The throw was wide and low, pulling first baseman Danny Sheaffer off the bag.

Official scorer Jack Herman gave an error to Pena. “I thought he had time to make a good throw,” Herman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He also admitted to the Montreal Gazette, “I might have scored it differently if it wasn’t a no-hitter.”

Alou called the ruling “an insult.” Morgan said, “Let’s face it, that ball gets hit like that in Montreal and it’s scored a hit.”

The next batter, Jeff Treadway, hit a drive to deep center. Brian Jordan raced to the wall and made a twisting catch.

Tough play

In the ninth, after Curtis Pride led off and flied out to left, Tony Tarasco drew a walk and Wil Cordero came to the plate.

Cordero hit a grounder down the third-base line. Scott Cooper grabbed the ball with his bare hand and fired a low throw to Sheaffer, who scooped it out of the dirt as Cordero streaked across the bag for a single.

Umpire Wally Bell told the Post-Dispatch, “I don’t think he would have beaten it out if the throw was good.”

Sheaffer said, “He had it beat, no question.”

Said Morgan: “Cooper did everything he could.”

With the no-hit bid gone, Jeff Parrett, a former Expo, relieved Morgan and secured the win, striking out David Segui and getting Moises Alou to ground out. Boxscore

Morgan lost his next four decisions and didn’t win again until Aug. 25. He was 5-6 with a 3.88 ERA for the 1995 Cardinals.

In 1996, Morgan was 4-8 with a 5.24 ERA for the Cardinals before he was released in August. He went on to pitch for the Reds (1996-97), Twins (1998), Cubs again (1998), Rangers (1999) and Diamondbacks (2000-2002).

With the 2001 Diamondbacks, Morgan, 42, got to the World Series for the first and only time. He made three relief appearances versus the Yankees and held them scoreless over 4.2 innings.

Morgan finished his career in the majors with a 141-186 record.

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In his short stay with the Cardinals, Bobby Locke pitched a total of two innings in one game and faced four future Hall of Famers.

A right-handed pitcher, Locke played in nine seasons in the majors leagues, primarily with the Indians, Phillies and Angels. He died June 4, 2020, at 86.

His time with the Cardinals consisted of three weeks in April 1962 when he made one appearance for them. It came against the Cubs, the team that traded him to the Cardinals. Locke pitched two scoreless innings in relief and faced nine batters, including the four who would make it to Cooperstown, Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams.

Though Locke had a good outing, he and the Cardinals weren’t a good fit.

Unused and unhappy, Locke wanted to pitch more and the Cardinals responded by dealing him to the Phillies.

Pitching prospect

After excelling as a high school athlete in Republic, Pa., about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, Locke briefly attended Arizona State on a football scholarship, returned home and signed a baseball contract with the Indians in 1953.

After four seasons (1953-56) in the Indians’ farm system, Locke spent two years in military service. He returned to baseball in 1959 with the Indians’ farm club at San Diego, posted a 1.63 ERA and was promoted to the majors in June.

Used as a reliever and spot starter, Locke was 3-2 for the Indians in 1959, 3-5 in 1960 and 4-4 in 1961. He also had a total of six saves.

Coveted by the Cubs

Locke threw a sinking fastball and it caught the attention of the Cubs, who traded second baseman Jerry Kindall for him in November 1961.

“I was surprised by the Kindall deal,” Locke told the Philadelphia Daily News. “Hell, I thought I could hit better than Kindall and I’m a pitcher.”

Before trading for Locke, the Cubs rejected a Braves offer of starting pitcher Bob Buhl for reliever Don Elston and Kindall, The Sporting News reported. Braves general manager John McHale said, “It’s kind of hard to understand. Buhl can win 15 games a year for just about anybody and Locke is pretty much an unknown.”

In its assessment of Locke, The Sporting News declared, “There are times when he appears to be the world’s greatest. At other times, you wonder if he isn’t traveling incognito.”

The Cubs projected Locke, 27, to join a 1962 starting rotation with Don Cardwell, Glen Hobbie and Dick Ellsworth. Locke “was virtually handed the No. 4 starting berth on a platter,” The Sporting News noted.

Elvin Tappe, designated as Cubs head coach in a system featuring multiple coaches as field leaders instead of a manager, said, “Locke is exactly the type of pitcher who is most successful at Wrigley Field. He’s a hard thrower with a good, sinking fastball.”

Regarding his fastball, Locke said, “I’ll match it against anyone’s.”

Conform or else

The relationship between Locke and Cubs management began to deteriorate soon after he arrived at spring training camp in Arizona. The Cubs gave him a manual on fundamentals and Locke disregarded it, saying he knew how to play. They also gave him a jump rope. “Everybody got a rope to skip with in their spare time, but I didn’t see much sense in it,” Locke told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Regarding Locke’s relationship with the coaches, his “clubhouse conversation and independence disenchanted them quickly,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Locke also disliked the Cubs’ system of a board of coaches, who took turns being head coach, in place of a manager. The issue flared into a controversy on March 6, 1962, during an intrasquad scrimmage. Locke walked off the mound and headed to the training room without consulting any of the coaches. The head coach, Elvin Tappe, wasn’t at the game because he was attending a civic luncheon in Phoenix.

“My arm was tight and I didn’t think I should pitch any more,” Locke told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but the pitching coach wasn’t around and the others were involved in some kind of argument on the field and weren’t in the dugout when I came in. So I just went into the clubhouse.”

Locke added, “With this all-coach system, I just didn’t know who to talk to.”

One of the coaches, Vedie Himsl, said, “Bobby just has to get used to doing things our way.”

According to Himsl, “Bobby apologized for the public defection,” but Locke stayed deep in the Cubs’ doghouse.

“After that,” wrote Philadelphia Daily News columnist Larry Merchant, “a leper would have become more at home with the Cubbies than Locke.”

Locke said, “Nobody talked to me for two weeks after that incident, honest. Even the players shied away from me. Maybe they could feel I was an outcast with the front office.”

Odd man out

On April 7, 1962, before he had a chance to pitch in a regular-season game for the Cubs, Locke was traded to the Cardinals for a minor-league outfielder, Allen Herring, and cash.

Locke’s arrival gave the Cardinals five right-handed relievers. Getting enough work for Locke, John Anderson, Ed Bauta, Lindy McDaniel and Paul Toth was a challenge for manager Johnny Keane.

Locke was a Cardinal for two weeks before he got into the game against the Cubs. He entered in a mop-up role in the seventh inning with the Cubs ahead, 11-5.

After retiring the first two batters, Locke gave up a single to pitcher Dick Ellsworth before getting Lou Brock to ground to second for a forceout. In the eighth after retiring the leadoff batter, Locked walked Ron Santo, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Ernie Banks grounded out, Billy Williams walked, but Locke escaped unscathed when he got Bob Will to fly out to center. Boxscore

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Locke told the Cardinals he’d just as soon move on if they weren’t going to pitch him more often.

“They had a lot of big stars over there and I knew I wouldn’t get much of a chance,” Locke said. “I want to pitch.”

On the move

On April 28, 1962, the Cardinals traded Locke to the Phillies for Don Ferrarese, a left-handed reliever who had been in the majors since 1955 and was Locke’s teammate with the Indians in 1959.

Ferrarese finished his big-league career with the 1962 Cardinals and was 1-4 with one save and a 2.70 ERA in 38 appearances for them.

In his first appearance for the Phillies, on April 29, 1962, Locke held the Mets to one hit in 4.2 innings of relief and got the win. He also contributed a run-scoring single. Boxscore

A happy Locke said, “With the Cardinals, everyone went separate ways. Here, everyone is on the same level.”

The good vibes faded quickly. Locke yielded runs in each of his next four appearances and was sent to minor-league Buffalo, his fifth club since October.

After pitching in parts of three seasons (1962-64) for the Phillies, Locke pitched for the Reds (1965) and Angels (1967-68).

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For the second time in five years, the Cardinals in June got a future Hall of Fame pitcher who helped them become champions.

Ninety years ago, on June 16, 1930, the Cardinals acquired Burleigh Grimes from the Braves for pitchers Bill Sherdel and Fred Frankhouse.

A spitball specialist whose dark stubble gave him a menacing look on the mound, Grimes, 36, had a reputation as an intimidating competitor and consistent winner.

With the Cardinals, he was 13-6 in 1930 and 17-9 in 1931, and they won National League pennants both years. In the 1931 World Series, Grimes, pitching in pain caused by an inflamed appendix, started and won the deciding Game 7.

Like Grimes, Grover Cleveland Alexander, a right-hander destined for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was acquired by the Cardinals in a June transaction. The Cardinals claimed Alexander, 39, on waivers from the Cubs in 1926 and he helped them win pennants in 1926 and 1928. His strikeout of the Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in Game 7 was the iconic moment in the Cardinals’ first World Series championship.

Winning formula

Grimes, 23, made his debut in the majors with the Pirates in 1916. After posting a 3-16 record in 1917, Grimes was sent to the Dodgers in a trade involving outfielder Casey Stengel and it revived his career. Grimes was 19-9 in 1918, the first of 14 consecutive seasons of double-digit wins.

In February 1920, baseball outlawed the spitball, but exempted pitchers who threw the pitch in the majors before then. Grimes was one of those exempted and was permitted to throw the spitball the remainder of his career. He chewed slippery elm bark for the substance used for the pitch.

Grimes four times had 21 or more wins in a season for the Dodgers, including 1920 when he was 23-11 for the National League champions.

“No pitcher in baseball history was a more determined fighter,” The Sporting News reported.

Off the field, Grimes was talkative and thoughtful. He studied and analyzed pitching techniques and willingly shared his views. On the field, he was intense.

“There was only one man standing between me and more money, and that was the guy with the bat,” Grimes said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, “When pitching, he is a snarling hard-to-get-along-with personality. He glares at an infielder who makes an error behind him and sneers at umpires who fail to meet his approval in their decisions.”

Bust with Braves

In 1928, Grimes was with the Pirates and was 25-14. The next year, he was 16-2 and on pace for 30 wins when he was struck on the right thumb by a ball off the bat of the Giants’ Bill Terry in July. Boxscore

Sidelined a month, Grimes won once the rest of the 1929 season and finished at 17-7.

A holdout in spring training in 1930, Grimes was traded to the Braves in April when the Pirates rejected his demand for a two-year contract. Rushed into the season without any spring training, Grimes struggled to a 3-5 record and 7.35 ERA for the 1930 Braves, who sought to unload his contract.

When the Cardinals offered Sherdel (3-2, 4.64 ERA) and Frankhouse (2-3, 7.32) for Grimes, the Braves agreed. The year before, Frankhouse was 7-2 for the Cardinals. Sherdel had been with them since 1918 and eight times had seasons of double-digit wins. His best year was 1928 when he was 21-10 for the National League champions.

Sherdel told the Post-Dispatch, “I’ll be pulling for the Cardinals except when I pitch against them.”

Said Frankhouse, “I was hoping we’d land Grimes, but I didn’t even think I might be sent away.”

The Boston Globe concluded, “The Braves cannot be any worse off with Sherdel and Frankhouse. In fact, they should benefit for all the good the high-priced Burleigh Grimes was to them.”

Braves manager Bill McKechnie, who managed the Cardinals to the 1928 pennant, had a different viewpoint, telling the Globe there was no doubt Grimes would win a lot of games for St. Louis.

Making a difference

Grimes joined a Cardinals rotation of Bill Hallahan, Syl Johnson, Jesse Haines and Flint Rhem.

“We have made a deal that will make us a more dangerous pennant contender,” said Cardinals manager Gabby Street. “Grimes is a great pitcher.”

According to the Post-Dispatch, Grimes told club owner Sam Breadon, “You didn’t make any mistake when you got me. There’s nothing the matter with my arm.”

On the day the Cardinals got Grimes, they lost to the Dodgers and their record dropped to 26-28.

The addition of Grimes, along with the return to the lineup of two ailing future Hall of Famers, second baseman Frankie Frisch (spike wound) and left fielder Chick Hafey (sinuses), eventually helped propel the Cardinals higher in the standings.

After posting losing records in June and July, the 1930 Cardinals surged to 23-9 in August and 21-4 in September. Grimes had a significant role. He was 5-2 in August and 4-1 in September.

When Grimes shut out the Pirates on Sept. 25, 1930, it enabled the Cardinals to keep a three-game lead over the Cubs with three to play, assuring at least a share of the pennant. Boxscore

The Cardinals clinched the next day and faced the Athletics in the World Series.

Grimes was 12-4 with a 3.13 ERA as a starter for the 1930 Cardinals and 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA as a reliever. He pitched a pair of five-hitters in the 1930 World Series, but was the loser in both. The Athletics won four of six versus the Cardinals.

In the 1931 World Series rematch, Grimes was 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA. He beat Lefty Grove in Game 3 and George Earnshaw in Game 7.

Field manager

Two months after his World Series success, Grimes, 38, was traded by the Cardinals to the Cubs for outfielder Hack Wilson and pitcher Bud Teachout.

The Cardinals reacquired Grimes in July 1933 after he was released by the Cubs. He pitched in four games for the Cardinals in 1933 and four more in 1934. Grimes also pitched for the Yankees and Pirates in 1934, his last season as a big-league pitcher, and finished with a career record of 270-212.

In 1935, he became manager of a Cardinals farm club in Bloomington, Ill.

In 1937, 20 years after he was traded for Casey Stengel, Grimes replaced Stengel as Dodgers manager. Grimes managed the Dodgers for two seasons before Leo Durocher took over the role.

Grimes managed for several more seasons in the minors, including 1945 and part of 1946 with the Cardinals’ Rochester farm team.

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The 1970 Cardinals found the closer they needed, but, following a familiar pattern, gave up on him too soon.

Fifty years ago, on May 29, 1970, the Cardinals acquired reliever Ted Abernathy from the Cubs for infielder Phil Gagliano.

A right-hander, Abernathy, 37, threw underhanded with a delivery described as submarine style.

At 6 feet 4, he was a formidable presence when he whipped his right arm down low to the ground and sent the ball zipping toward the plate.

The Cardinals needed quality relief and Abernathy provided it. He made 11 appearances for them and was 1-0 with a save and 2.95 ERA.

Inexplicably, a month after the Cardinals acquired Abernathy, general manager Bing Devine dealt him to the Royals for pitcher Chris Zachary, who was assigned to the minor leagues.

Abernathy went on to pitch in 36 games for the 1970 Royals and was 9-3 with 12 saves and a 2.59 ERA for them. He joined Wayne Granger (Reds), Dave Giusti (Pirates), Joe Hoerner (Phillies) and Mudcat Grant (Athletics and Pirates) as premier relievers dealt by Devine during his second stint with the Cardinals.

In 1970, when the Cardinals ranked last in the league in saves (20) and their team leader was Chuck Taylor (eight), Granger, Giusti, Hoerner and Grant had a combined record of 32-16 with 94 saves.

Adapt and adjust

Abernathy threw overhand until he injured his right shoulder as a high school freshman and switched to a sidearm delivery.

After signing with the Senators in 1952, Abernathy made his major-league debut with them in 1955.

Near the end of the 1956 season, Abernathy hurt his right elbow. Trying to compensate for the pain, he put pressure on his shoulder and damaged it again. Weakened, Abernathy was 2-10 with a 6.78 ERA for the Senators in 1957.

Except for two appearances for the Senators in 1960, Abernathy spent the next five seasons (1958-62) in the minors. After undergoing shoulder surgery in 1959, he adopted the submarine delivery.

In 1963, Abernathy, 30, made it back to the majors with the Indians and experienced a career rebirth. With his arm strength restored and his submarine delivery perfected, Abernathy became a durable, effective big-league reliever.

“His delivery was sweeping so low it swept him to the top as a relief pitcher,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

Late bloomer

Abernathy was the National League leader in saves twice (31 for 1965 Cubs and 28 for 1967 Reds). He also led the league in games pitched three times (84 for 1965 Cubs, 70 for 1967 Reds and 78 for 1968 Reds).

Reliyng on a sinking fastball, curve and knuckleball he used as a changeup, Abernathy thrived on work. The more often he pitched, the better the results.

“If I don’t have to work more than a couple of innings, I can go for seven or eight days in a row, take a rest, and do it again,’ Abernathy told The Sporting News.

In 1970, during his second stint with the Cubs, Abernathy began the season as the setup reliever to closer Phil Regan.

On May 16, 1970, Abernathy relieved Cubs starter Ken Holtzman in the ninth inning of a game at St. Louis. With the Cubs ahead, 3-1, Abernathy was brought in to face slugger Richie Allen with the bases loaded and two outs.

With the count at 2-and-1, Abernathy needed to throw a strike, but his pitch sailed toward Allen. Though he tried to turn away, the ball struck Allen in the back of the head.

“I was surprised Allen didn’t get out of the way,” Abernathy told the Post-Dispatch. “I yelled to him, but I guess he didn’t hear me.”

Allen’s advancement to first allowed the runner from third to score, carrying the Cardinals to within a run at 3-2, but Regan came in and got Joe Torre to line out to center, ending the game. Boxscore

Come and gone

Two weeks later, the Cubs traded Abernathy to the Cardinals. Though Abernathy had a 2.00 ERA and a save in 11 games for the 1970 Cubs, manager Leo Durocher had lost confidence in him.

“The Cardinals were the only team who wanted Abernathy,” Durocher told the Chicago Tribune. “They needed relief pitching and were willing to take the chance. Maybe he’ll help them. I don’t know. All I know is that every time I put him in a game this year he was getting bombed.”

Before the Cardinals acquired Abernathy, five pitchers, Chuck Taylor, Tom Hilgendorf, Jerry Johnson, Sal Campisi and Billy McCool, earned saves for them in 1970. A week before Abernathy arrived, the Cardinals got another closer candidate, Frank Linzy, from the Giants.

“What they’re doing, of course, is indulging in a bit of wishful thinking when they claim anything in sight with a toeplate,” Bob Broeg wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

On May 30, 1970, Abernathy made his Cardinals debut at St. Louis against the Dodgers and pitched 3.1 innings in relief of starter Santiago Guzman. Boxscore

Abernathy got a save a week later in a game Bob Gibson won against the Padres at St. Louis. Boxscore

On June 27, 1970, in his last Cardinals appearance, Abernathy worked out of a bases-loaded jam he inherited and got the win versus the Phillies at St. Louis. Boxscore

Four days later, he was traded to the Royals.

Royal gift

“I was pitching well for the Cardinals,” Abernathy said. “At least I thought I was pitching pretty well. I asked Bing Devine (about the trade) and he told me, ‘That’s baseball. You move around.’ ”

When Abernathy reported to the Royals, he said to manager Bob Lemon, “I need work.” Lemon replied, “You came to the right place.”

Abernathy pitched five times in his first six days with the Royals and was 3-0 with a save and 0.96 ERA. In his first 9.1 innings, he allowed a run and struck out 13.

“Christmas has come a little early,” Lemon said.

Lemon, an ace for the Indians when Abernathy debuted in the American League 15 years earlier, knew how to utilize his reliever. Abernathy was 5-3 with four saves in July, 2-0 with four saves in August and 2-0 with four saves in September. Right-handed batters hit .202 against him.

Abernathy’s combined 1970 record with the Cubs, Cardinals and Royals was 10-3 with 14 saves and a 2.60 ERA.

Abernathy pitched for the Royals again in 1971 and 1972, ending his 14 years in the majors with a 63-69 record and 149 saves.

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A stint with the Cardinals enabled Matt Keough to share a championship season with his father.

Keough died May 1, 2020, at 64. A right-hander who pitched in the majors for nine years, he endured an epic losing streak and survived being struck in the temple by a foul ball.

His father, Marty Keough, was a big-league outfielder who became a scout for the Cardinals. Marty scouted for the Cardinals from 1980 to 2018. Matt’s uncle, Joe Keough, also was an outfielder in the majors.

In September 1985, Matt Keough returned to the big leagues with the Cardinals after two seasons in the minors. The move put Matt and Marty in the same organization for the first time. While Marty was looking for talent to keep the Cardinals successful, Matt was looking to help them win a division title.

Changing positions

Matt Keough was a baseball standout at Corona del Mar High School near Newport Beach, Calif., just as his father Marty was years earlier in Pomona, Calif. A prized prospect of the Red Sox, Marty played 11 years in the majors.

In 1973, Matt, 18, signed with the Athletics after he was chosen in the seventh round of the amateur baseball draft. In his first three seasons (1974-76) in the minors, he played shortstop and third base. His manager in each of those years was Rene Lachemann, a future Cardinals coach.

Lachemann was a Keough booster. Though Keough threw well, he was an inconsistent hitter. When he struggled to hit at spring training in 1977, the Athletics made him a pitcher. “To me, it was make or break,” Keough told The Sporting News.

At Class AA Chattanooga in 1977, Keough led Southern League pitchers in strikeouts (153). He made the jump from Class AA to the majors in September.

Hitting the skids

The next year, Keough was named to the 1978 American League all-star team managed by the Yankees’ Billy Martin. In the All-Star Game at San Diego, Keough relieved Jim Palmer in the third inning and gave up a single to the Cardinals’ Ted Simmons, loading the bases with two outs, before escaping the jam by getting Rick Monday to fly out. Boxscore

A season of promise ended badly when Keough lost his last four decisions and finished at 8-15.

His personal losing streak carried over to the 1979 season. Keough lost his first 14 decisions, giving him 18 consecutive losses over two seasons. His 0-14 record in 1979 tied Joe Harris of the 1906 Red Sox for most losses to start a season. Keough’s 18 consecutive losses were one short of the league record of 19 in a row by Bob Groom of the 1909 Senators and John Nabors of the 1916 Athletics.

The skid ended on Sept. 5, 1979, when Keough got the win against the Brewers at Oakland, pitching a five-hitter before 1,772 spectators, including his uncle Joe. Boxscore

“I’m 1-0 now,” Keough said. “That’s how I’m looking at it. Everything else is behind me.”

Keough finished the 1979 season at 2-17.

Different approach

In the winter after the 1979 season, Keough played in Puerto Rico for a team managed by his former minor-league mentor, Rene Lachemann, who worked to restore the pitcher’s confidence.

Another positive development for Keough was a management change in Oakland. Two years after managing Keough in the All-Star Game, Billy Martin was named Athletics manager in 1980 and his sidekick, Art Fowler, became pitching coach.

“The main thing with Martin and Fowler is the confidence they give you,” Keough told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “They make you believe.”

According to some American League hitters, including Reggie Jackson and Jim Rice, Martin and Fowler also taught Keough to throw a banned pitch, the spitball.

Keough called the accusations “sour grapes.” Fowler said, “It’s nothing but a little sinker. They just turn the fastball over a little and throw strikes.”

In explaining the pitch to Gannett News Service, Keough said, “Fowler can take you down to that bullpen and show you how to throw the fastball without seams.”

Keough was 16-13, with 20 complete games, for the 1980s Athletics, and the starting staff made the cover of Sports Illustrated the following spring.

Going backward

Keough won his first six decisions of 1981 before feeling pain in his right shoulder. Some suggested Martin overworked him, but Keough said he hurt the shoulder when he slipped on the mound in Baltimore. Keough was 10-6 in 1981 and 11-18 in 1982.

In 1983, Martin returned to New York to manage the Yankees, who made a deal to acquire Keough. Experiencing persistent shoulder pain, Keough was 3-4 with a 5.17 ERA for them.

After the season, Keough agreed to go to the minor leagues in 1984 to try to develop a knuckleball. He was assigned to the Class AA Nashville team because the pitching coach was knuckleball master Hoyt Wilhelm.

After posting a 6.75 ERA in seven starts for Nashville, Keough was diagnosed with a partial tear of the rotator cuff and put on the disabled list. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in October 1984 and the Yankees released him.

Comeback trail

On April 23, 1985, the Cardinals signed Keough to a minor-league contract and sent him to extended spring training in Florida. In 19 innings, Keough had a 1.93 ERA and the Cardinals assigned him to Class AAA Louisville.

Keough, 30, had a 3.35 ERA in 19 starts for Louisville manager Jim Fregosi. “He’s gotten better and better since he’s been with us,” Fregosi told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I really think he can pitch in the big leagues again.”

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said, “He always had a good spitball at Oakland.”

On Sept. 9, 1985, the Cardinals, in first place by a half game ahead of the Mets, called up Keough from Louisville. He made his Cardinals debut that night, pitching four scoreless innings in relief of Kurt Kepshire in a 3-1 win over the Cubs at St. Louis. Boxscore

Five days later, Keough relieved Kepshire again and pitched two scoreless innings against the Cubs in a 5-4 Cardinals win at Chicago. Boxscore

Herzog yanked Kepshire from the rotation and gave Keough a start on Sept. 19 against the Phillies, but he gave up five runs before being lifted in the third inning and the Phillies won, 6-3. Boxscore

“I was pitching 2-and-1 and 2-and-0 on everybody and I usually don’t do that,” Keough told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Keough’s last appearance for the Cardinals came Sept. 24 when he worked two scoreless innings in relief of Ricky Horton in a game the Cardinals won, 5-4, versus the Pirates. Boxscore

Keough was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA as a Cardinal, but in three relief stints he allowed no runs and struck out eight in eight innings.

Checkered past

The 1985 Cardinals went on to win the National League pennant. Keough was ineligible to pitch in the postseason because he joined the club too late, but the Cardinals gave him a championship ring. Granted free agency, he signed with the Cubs and split the 1986 season, his last in the majors, with them and the Astros.

Keough made one appearance against the Cardinals. Filling in for scheduled starter Dennis Eckersley, who developed back spasms, Keough pitched four innings, gave up a two-run single to Ozzie Smith and took the loss in a 4-3 Cardinals win over the Cubs at St. Louis on June 5, 1986. Boxscore

Like his father Marty, who finished his playing career in Japan in 1968, Matt went to Japan and pitched for four years (1987-90) with the Hanshin Tigers.

Keough, who had a big-league career record of 58-84, tried a comeback with the Angels at spring training in 1992. While seated in the dugout during a game at Scottsdale, Ariz., Keough was hit in the temple by a foul ball off the bat of the Giants’ John Patterson. Marty Keough, scouting the game for the Cardinals, watched as medical personnel attended to his son. Matt developed a blood clot in his brain and needed surgery.

Keough recovered and went on to scout for the Angels and Rays. He also served as special assistant to the general manager of the Athletics.

In April 2005, Keough was involved in a car accident in California, injuring a pedestrian. He pleaded guilty to felony charges of driving under the influence after he crashed his vehicle into another at a red light, pushing the vehicle into a man walking his bike across the street, police said to the Orange County Register. The injured man was admitted to a hospital.

In December 2007, Keough was arraigned on charges he was binge drinking at a bar in violation of his probation, authorities told the Orange County Register. The arrest came less than a week after Keough was released from the Newport Beach lockup, where he spent seven weeks as a jail trustee washing patrol cars and cleaning the facility after he was caught violating parole.

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