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In a classic clash of individual free will versus organizational authority, Al Hrabosky challenged the rules of manager Vern Rapp, creating a controversy that threatened to divide the Cardinals during spring training in 1977.

al_hrabosky3Forty years ago, Rapp, the Cardinals’ first-year manager, had declared no Cardinals player could have a beard, moustache, long sideburns or long hair. Hrabosky, the Cardinals’ top relief pitcher, had earned the nickname “Mad Hungarian,” in part, because of an intimidating look that featured a Fu Manchu moustache.

Bristling at what he considered unnecessarily rigid rules and convinced a clean-shaven look hampered his effectiveness as a pitcher, Hrabosky ripped Rapp in comments to media.

For Rapp, who never had been in the big leagues until replacing the popular Red Schoendienst as manager, Hrabosky’s outburst was a critical test of his ability to command the respect of the team.

Spirit of St. Louis

A St. Louis native, Rapp was a catcher in the Cardinals’ system from 1946-50 and from 1953-54. He was a Cardinals minor-league manager from 1965-68 before moving to the Reds organization.

After the Cardinals fired Schoendienst, they hired Rapp because of a no-nonsense reputation.

Before leaving for 1977 spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., Rapp, 48, revealed his edict on hair.

“Rapp’s tonsorial order took priority over a lot more important matters among St. Louis fans,” The Sporting News reported. “The two daily newspapers were swamped with letters, most of them in favor of the manager.”

In explaining why he implemented the ban, Rapp told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I’ve had those codes on teams I’ve managed since 1965. It’s to give the players a feeling of being responsible to the profession they’re in. The dress and hair codes reflect their character and personality to the public. It’s a big way they can start developing pride.”

Rapp’s rules

Most Cardinals players reported to spring training clean-shaven and with haircuts. Third baseman Ken Reitz “was asked by the manager to get his hair trimmed and did, but not enough to suit Rapp,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“There are a couple of others who still didn’t get their hair trimmed enough at the sides, but they will,” Rapp said.

The first player to challenge the rule was outfielder Bake McBride, who attempted to keep a goatee.

When Rapp ordered McBride to shave, McBride responded, “You’re going to make enemies.”

Said Rapp: “I didn’t come down here to win friends.”

Hrabosky, ever the showman, invited the media to film and photograph him as he shaved his Fu Manchu and beard.

The hair code wasn’t the only change introduced by Rapp. He issued daily step-by-step mimeographed instructions to the players, gave them identical team exercise suits to wear, required them to attend a demonstration by coach Sonny Ruberto on how uniforms should be worn and scheduled workouts before and after lunch.

After the Cardinals were beaten, 10-0, by the Mets in their spring training opener, “Rapp sent his players on a 15-lap tour from first to home,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Hate mood

Hrabosky initially tried to use his unhappiness with the hair code as motivation to pitch well.

“I want to prove to Rapp that I’m his No. 1 relief pitcher,” Hrabosky said. “I want to be his No. 1 stopper. I wanted to be in a hate mood and Rapp put me there by taking away my beard and moustache. But, look, I super-like Vern. I want to help him, help the ballclub and help myself. He has aroused something in me to fight back.”

A few days later, though, Hrabosky directed his frustration at Rapp.

Al apologizes

On March 20, Hrabosky told the Associated Press: “My mental outlook is atrocious. There’s more dissension on this club than I’ve ever seen.”

That same day, Hrabosky told United Press International his teammates were being stifled by Rapp. “The guys are just standing still,” Hrabosky said. “The reason is they’re afraid to move.”

Informed of Hrabosky’s comments, Rapp told the Post-Dispatch, “I just don’t understand it.”

Before the Cardinals left for their March 21 exhibition game against the Red Sox at Winter Haven, Fla., Rapp called a team meeting.

“I wanted to get everything out in the open,” Rapp said. “I wanted the players to know that I am the manager of this team. They fully realize this and they are willing to accept it.”

Hrabosky stood up at the meeting and apologized.

“I’m man enough to admit I was wrong … I’m going to keep my mouth shut and do what I have to do,” Hrabosky told the Post-Dispatch. “I offended Vern. I feel I threatened his helm. As a team member, I felt I had no right to say what I did.”

Catcher Ted Simmons, the only other player to speak at the meeting, urged his teammates to conduct themselves professionally. Said Simmons of Rapp: “He is the manager and that’s that. If he wants you to stand on your head, then you should do it.”

Family feud

The Cardinals opened the regular season on April 7 and beat the Pirates, 12-6, at Pittsburgh. Hrabosky pitched 2.1 innings and helped protect the win for starter John Denny.

Afterward, a jubilant Hrabosky was asked by The Sporting News to reflect on his spring training criticism of Rapp. “Maybe I was a little selfish and a little childish about the matter,” Hrabosky said. “I accept it now.”

Peace, though, wasn’t long-lasting.

In May, Rapp suspended Hrabosky for insubordination after the pitcher refused the manager’s request to meet.

In June, McBride, who remained unhappy with Rapp, was traded to the Phillies.

In July, with Hrabosky beginning to grow facial hair and threatening to file a grievance with the players’ union, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch ordered Rapp to discontinue the hair code.

Hrabosky led the 1977 Cardinals in saves (10) and games pitched (65) but his ERA was 4.38. After the season, he was traded to the Royals.

Rapp was fired in April 1978 and replaced by Ken Boyer.

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

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When Hoyt Wilhelm joined the Cardinals, he was an accomplished relief pitcher who was headed on a path toward election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His stint with the Cardinals, however, turned out to be a detour rather than an avenue toward success.

hoyt_wilhelmSixty years ago, on Feb. 26, 1957, the Cardinals acquired Wilhelm from the Giants for Whitey Lockman, a first baseman and outfielder.

On the surface, it appeared to be a steal for St. Louis.

Wilhelm, 34, had produced a 42-25 record with 41 saves and a 2.98 ERA in five seasons (1952-56) with the Giants.

Lockman, 30, had batted .249 with no home runs in 70 games for the 1956 Cardinals. He didn’t fit into the Cardinals’ plans for 1957.

Help wanted

Wilhelm, a knuckleball specialist, had been a rookie sensation for the Giants in 1952 when he produced a 15-3 record, 11 saves and a 2.43 ERA. For the pennant-winning 1954 Giants, Wilhelm was 12-4 with seven saves and a 2.10 ERA.

Though his ERA increased to 3.93 in 1955 and 3.83 in 1956, Wilhelm still was regarded as a likely boon to the Cardinals’ bullpen. Larry Jackson, a converted starter, had been their top reliever in 1956.

Wilhelm became available because of the Giants’ need for help at first base and left field. Lockman could play both positions.

The Giants’ 1956 starters at those positions _ first baseman Bill White and left fielder Jackie Brandt _ were in military service in 1957. Initially, the Giants attempted to replace White with Jackie Robinson, who was acquired from the Dodgers in December 1956, but Robinson retired and the deal was voided.

Frank Lane, Cardinals general manager, told The Sporting News he doubted St. Louis could have obtained Wilhelm if Robinson had reported to the Giants.

Insider tips

Before making the trade, Lane asked Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson whether St. Louis had a catcher who could handle Wilhelm’s knuckleball. Hutchinson “assured Lane that Hal Smith could master the assignment,” The Sporting News reported.

Smith was the Cardinals’ starting catcher and Hobie Landrith was his backup. Lane and Hutchinson arranged for their catchers to have a dinner meeting with Tigers scout Rick Ferrell, who had caught five knuckleball pitchers while with the Senators, to get insights into how to deal with the elusive pitch.

Asked about the session with Ferrell, Landrith told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “He advised us not to crouch or squat as low when catching knuckleball pitchers as we would for others. He told us that from a half standing position … we could move laterally better and also drop on a knuckler falling off the table.”

Wilhelm was one of three pitchers with the 1957 Cardinals who threw a knuckleball. The others were Murry Dickson and Jim Davis.

“The thing about a good knuckler is that it’s tough to hit whether you’re hitting .300 or .200,” said the Cardinals’ best hitter, Stan Musial. “It jumps around like mercury in a bottle.”

Said Wilhelm: “The biggest factor in your knuckler is the wind condition. It’s a non-rotating pitch and therefore does better the more resistance it meets, meaning against the wind. When the wind is blowing in _ from behind the pitcher _ the knuckler seldom will do anything. Then it’s only a mediocre pitch and you’re a batting practice target.”

Disappointing results

After a good spring training _ “Wilhelm, working almost every other day, has looked like money in the bank,” The Sporting News opined _ Wilhelm had a poor start to the 1957 season. He didn’t earn his first save until May 24 when he lowered his ERA from 6.11 to 5.89.

Wilhelm had one stellar month _ six saves and a 1.88 ERA in June _ but he otherwise was unimpressive.

Though the Cardinals contended with the Braves for the 1957 National League pennant, Hutchinson lost confidence in Wilhelm, who made just two appearances for St. Louis in September.

Wilhelm said he needed to pitch regularly in order to regain effectiveness with his knuckleball. When Hutchinson stopped using him, Wilhelm had trouble controlling the knuckleball.

On Sept. 21, the Cardinals sent Wilhelm to the Indians for the waiver price. He had a 1-4 record, a team-leading 11 saves and a 4.25 ERA in 40 appearances for the Cardinals.

When Hutchinson informed Wilhelm that the Cardinals had dealt him, the pitcher shook hands with the manager and said, “It’s good to have been with you. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more.”

Wilhelm went on to pitch in 1,070 big-league games. The only right-handers who have pitched in more big-league games are fellow Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera (1,115) and Dennis Eckersley (1,071). Wilhelm was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985 and was the first reliever to earn the honor.

Previously: Enduring record: Stan Musial and his 5 homers in a day

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Looking to rebuild his reputation, Dave LaPoint returned to the organization where he felt the most comfortable and had enjoyed his greatest success.

dave_lapointThirty years ago, on Jan. 19, 1987, LaPoint, a free agent, signed with the Cardinals, who expected him to compete for a spot in their starting rotation.

At 27, his career was at a crossroads.

Five years earlier, LaPoint, a left-hander, had helped the Cardinals win the 1982 National League pennant and World Series championship.

After the Cardinals traded him in February 1985, LaPoint’s career spiraled. He pitched for three teams in two years, posting losing records at each stop, got traded twice and released once.

Out of shape and labeled a clubhouse jester, LaPoint said he was committed to rededicating himself to becoming a winner and was seeking a nurturing environment in which to attempt that comeback.

The 1987 Cardinals and manager Whitey Herzog provided the setting LaPoint sought.

Cards contributor

LaPoint’s tenure with the Cardinals began in December 1980 when he was acquired from the Brewers in a deal engineered by Herzog. The Cardinals traded Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich for Sixto Lezcano, David Green, Lary Sorensen and LaPoint.

LaPoint’s breakthrough year was 1982. He began the season as a reliever and joined the starting rotation in May. LaPoint appeared in 42 games, including 21 as a starter, for the 1982 Cardinals and had a 9-3 record and 3.42 ERA. He started Game 4 of the 1982 World Series against the Brewers, yielded one earned run in 6.1 innings and got no decision in a 7-5 Milwaukee victory.

LaPoint earned 12 wins for the Cardinals in both 1983 and 1984.

When the Cardinals, seeking a run producer to replace George Hendrick, had a chance to get Jack Clark before the start of the 1985 season, they sent LaPoint, Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich to the Giants.

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later reported the Cardinals parted with LaPoint because they “thought he might be influencing young players unduly.”

Hummel described LaPoint as a “leader in clubhouse revelry” and “a top consumer of the owner’s (Anheuser-Busch’s) product.”

Prodigal son

LaPoint had a 7-17 record for the 1985 Giants, who traded him to the Tigers after the season.

LaPoint and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson were a bad match. “I couldn’t get along with Sparky,” LaPoint told Hummel. After posting a 3-6 record and 5.72 ERA for the Tigers, LaPoint was traded to the Padres in July 1986. He was 1-4 for the Padres, who released him after the season.

It was then LaPoint decided to make changes. Weighing between 230 and 240 pounds, he dropped to 220.

The Expos and Giants wanted to sign LaPoint, but he chose the Cardinals, whose offer of a base salary of $125,000 was a cut from his $550,000 contract in 1986.

“It feels finally that I’m back where I belong,” LaPoint said. “… In talking to Whitey, he said he would use me like he did in ’82. That’s fine with me. It got me a World Series ring.”

Asked his reaction to LaPoint rejoining the Cardinals, center fielder Willie McGee said, “I like him … He’s kind of a clown, but that’s Dave LaPoint.”

It’s a reputation LaPoint said he was determined to change.

“I used to mess around during drills and I don’t do that anymore,” LaPoint said after reporting to Cardinals camp. “… It was time to put a stop to it.”

Redbird reliever

LaPoint had a successful spring training. He was 2-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched in Grapefruit League exhibition games.

The Cardinals opened the 1987 regular season with five left-handers: starters John Tudor and Greg Mathews and relievers Ricky Horton, Pat Perry and LaPoint. (Ken Dayley, another left-handed reliever, was on the disabled list.)

In his first appearance for the 1987 Cardinals, on April 10 against the Pirates at Pittsburgh, LaPoint took the loss when he yielded a two-out, RBI-double to Sid Bream in the bottom of the ninth. Boxscore

LaPoint was scheduled to make a start April 25 versus the Mets at New York, but that plan was scratched when the Cardinals called up Joe Magrane from the minors and put the rookie left-hander into the rotation.

LaPoint remained in the bullpen and largely was ineffective.

He got a win on April 18 against the Mets at St. Louis, but even then he didn’t perform well. In the 10th, LaPoint threw a wild pitch, enabling Al Pedrique to score from third with the go-ahead run. LaPoint was rescued when the Cardinals scored five times off Jesse Orosco in the bottom half of the inning. Tom Pagnozzi’s RBI-single tied the score at 8-8 and Tommy Herr’s grand slam made LaPoint the winner. Boxscore

On the road again

With his ERA at 6.75 after four relief appearances, LaPoint was demoted to Louisville on April 27. LaPoint had the option of declaring himself a free agent, but agreed to return to the minor leagues for the first time since 1981.

Placed in the starting rotation by Louisville manager Dave Bialas, LaPoint lost his first three decisions, but then found his groove. He completed four of his last five starts for Louisville and had a 5-5 record when he was recalled by the Cardinals on July 8.

“It was the best thing in the world for me,” LaPoint said of his stint in the minors. “… I’ve learned to pitch a little different style.”

LaPoint made two July starts for the Cardinals and got no decision in either.

On July 30, the Cardinals traded LaPoint to the White Sox for minor-league pitcher Bryce Hulstrom.

“LaPoint’s main problem has been control,” wrote John Sonderegger of the Post-Dispatch. “If he gets the ball up, he gets hammered. It usually takes him a couple of innings to find the strike zone and by then the game usually is out of control.”

After posting a 1-1 record and 6.75 ERA for the 1987 Cardinals, LaPoint was 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA for the 1987 White Sox.

The Cardinals, helped by a combined 30 wins from left-handed starters Mathews, Tudor and Magrane, finished 95-67 and won the NL pennant.

Previously: Trade for Jack Clark shook Cards from their slumber

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Given a choice of facing Del Ennis or Stan Musial with runners in scoring position and the game on the line, Warren Spahn did what no other big-league pitcher had done before him: He opted to pitch to Musial.

warren_spahnIt was the only time in Musial’s illustrious 22-year Cardinals career that a pitcher intentionally walked a batter in order to get to Musial.

It happened 60 years ago on a Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17, 1957, in a game between the Cardinals and Braves at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Pennant race

The slumping Cardinals, who had lost nine in a row, were fighting to remain in the 1957 National League pennant race when they went to Milwaukee for a four-game series in August. The Braves, riding a 10-game winning streak, were in first place, 7.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and Dodgers, who were tied for second.

St. Louis won the series opener, 6-2, behind the slugging of Ennis, who hit a three-run home run off Juan Pizarro.

Game 2 of the series matched Larry Jackson of the Cardinals against Lew Burdette.

The Cardinals jumped ahead with three runs in the first, but the Braves came back with two runs in the sixth and one in the eighth, tying the score at 3-3.

Managerial moves

Don McMahon, a rookie, relieved Burdette in the ninth. After Eddie Kasko grounded out, Jackson, the pitcher, hit a broken-bat pop fly to right that fell safely in front of Bob Hazle for a single. The next batter, Ken Boyer, reached base when shortstop Felix Mantilla booted a grounder for an error.

With Wally Moon at the plate, McMahon’s first pitch to him eluded catcher Del Crandall for a passed ball. Jackson advanced to third on the play and Boyer to second.

Braves manager Fred Haney lifted McMahon and brought in Spahn, a left-hander, to face Moon, a left-handed batter, with the count at 1-and-0.

Two nights earlier, on Aug. 15, Spahn had started against the Reds at Cincinnati and pitched a complete game in an 8-1 Braves victory. With one day of rest, the Braves ace was making his fourth and final relief appearance of the season.

Unforgettable ploy

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson countered by bringing in Ennis, a right-handed batter, to hit for Moon.

Ennis, batting .275 with 17 home runs, was a threat, but he was no Musial. At 36, Musial was having a sensational season. He was batting .333 and would finish the year at .351, earning his seventh NL batting crown.

Still, with first base open, Spahn issued an intentional walk to Ennis, loading the bases with one out and bringing Musial, a left-handed batter, to the plate.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said the sight of Spahn walking Ennis to face him is one “I’ll never forget.”

Musial fared well versus Spahn in his career _ .318 batting average and .412 on-base percentage _ but on this day the Braves pitcher won the showdown of future Hall of Famers.

Musial rapped a Spahn pitch on the ground to the second baseman _ Musial’s friend and former teammate, Red Schoendienst.

Schoendienst fielded the ball and flipped it to Mantilla for the force of Ennis at second. Mantilla’s relay throw to first baseman Frank Torre was in time to retire Musial, completing the inning-ending double play.

“He’s the only pitcher ever to walk a batter to face me,” Musial confirmed.

Back and forth

The drama wasn’t over. Another future Hall of Famer, Braves center fielder Hank Aaron, had a large role to play in the outcome.

In the 11th, with Spahn pitching, Don Blasingame led off for the Cardinals and stretched a routine single into a hustling double. Kasko grounded out to second, advancing Blasingame to third.

Jackson was due up next, but Hutchinson sent Walker Cooper, 42, to hit for the pitcher. Cooper lifted a long sacrifice fly to left, scoring Blasingame and giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.

Billy Muffett, a rookie, was Hutchinson’s choice to pitch the bottom half of the inning. Muffett retired the first batter, Schoendienst, on a pop-up.

The next batter, Frank Torre, hit a low line drive to left. Ennis lumbered in, got a glove on the ball and dropped it. Torre, credited with a single, was replaced by pinch-runner Hawk Taylor.

Eddie Mathews followed with a single to center. Boyer, playing center field, hesitated on his throw, enabling Taylor to reach third.

That brought Aaron to the plate.

Hank hammers

Aaron was angry. In the ninth, Jackson had moved Aaron off the plate with a high, tight pitch. Aaron, in comments to the Associated Press, accused Jackson of “trying to stick one in my ear.”

“It’s on purpose,” Aaron said. “I can tell when they’re throwing at me.

“If that’s the only way they can win a ballgame, they ought to get other jobs. I don’t mind being brushed back _ you expect that _ but I don’t like them balls aimed at my head. We don’t knock Stan Musial down, so why do they do it to me?”

Aaron hit Muffett’s first pitch to him into right-center for a double. Taylor trotted home from third, tying the score at 4-4. Racing from first, Mathews headed toward the plate and barely beat Blasingame’s relay throw, giving the Braves a 5-4 victory and making a winner of Spahn. Boxscore

The Braves went on to clinch the pennant, finishing eight games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals.

Previously: Del Ennis provided power in Cardinals lineup

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In a union of legendary rivals who represented baseball at its best, Stan Musial hired Warren Spahn to be a manager in the Cardinals organization.

spahn_musialFifty years ago, on Feb. 25, 1967, a month after he was named Cardinals general manager, Musial bypassed Sparky Anderson and selected Spahn to be manager of the Class AAA Tulsa Oilers.

Anderson had managed the Cardinals’ Class A St. Petersburg club to a league championship in 1966 and reportedly was the top internal candidate for the Tulsa opening.

Spahn, who never had managed, was the recommended choice of Tulsa owner A. Ray Smith.

Though Cardinals executives such as farm director George Silvey had input, Musial, as general manager, had the final decision regarding who to hire as manager for the Cardinals’ top affiliate.

Matchup of marvels

In Spahn, Musial chose the candidate who had been his respected nemesis during their Hall of Fame playing careers.

Spahn, who pitched 21 seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the Braves, is the all-time leader in career wins (363) among left-handers. Musial, who played 22 seasons in the major leagues, all with the Cardinals, is the all-time leader in total bases (6,134) among left-handed batters.

Their matchups spanned the 1940s to 1960s. Musial has a career .318 batting average and .412 on-base percentage against Spahn, according to the Web site retrosheet.org. Musial has more hits (104), doubles (23), triples (6) and walks (50) versus Spahn than any other player. Only Willie Mays (18) hit more home runs against Spahn than Musial (17) did.

In his 1964 book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial called Spahn “the best National League pitcher of my era.”

“Spahnie was more than a student of pitching,” Musial said. “He was a scientist.”

Musial concluded: “It was a great challenge to hit against this cunning guy … and I’m proud to have done well.”

Pressure on Stan

If not for Bob Howsam’s departure, Musial and Spahn might never have worked together and Anderson might not have left the Cardinals.

On Jan. 22, 1967, Howsam resigned as Cardinals general manager and became executive vice president and general manager of the Reds. Musial, a Cardinals vice president, took on the additional role of general manager.

One of Howsam’s cronies was Tulsa manager Charlie Metro, who was waiting in the wings in case Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst faltered. Metro followed Howsam to the Reds, accepting a job as a scout.

With spring training close to opening, Musial and the Cardinals had to scramble to find a replacement for Metro in Tulsa.

Spahn, 45, was residing on his 2,800-acre cattle ranch in Hartshorne, Okla., about 120 miles from Tulsa. He made it known he wanted to get back into baseball. Smith was thrilled by the possibility of having a baseball icon manage his club, so the Oilers owner went to work on trying to convince Musial to make it happen.

On Feb. 20, 1967, Musial said Smith’s request was under review and that he hoped to announce a choice soon, The Sporting News reported.

Smith told the Associated Press that Musial had been pressured to select a candidate from within the Cardinals’ organization, “but we fought a hard fight” for Spahn.

Though Anderson was “first choice for the position,” according to The Sporting News, Spahn got the Tulsa job. Anderson was assigned to manage the Cardinals’ Class A club at Modesto, Calif.

Rookie manager

Spahn’s hiring was announced by Smith at a news conference at Tulsa’s prestigious Southern Hills Country Club.

“The Oilers and Tulsa are mighty lucky to get a man of Spahn’s caliber,” Smith said.

Said Spahn: “I’ve always wanted an opportunity to manage. The ranch is great, but it’s more like a plaything. I’d like to manage in Tulsa for 10 years. Naturally, I’m for a major-league job someday, but first I’ve got to earn that.”

Tulsa opened the 1967 season with a roster that included pitchers Tracy Stallard and Wayne Granger; catchers Pat Corrales and Sonny Ruberto; infielders Elio Chacon, Bobby Dews and Coco Laboy; and outfielder Danny Napoleon.

Other managers in the Pacific Coast League that season included Chuck Tanner of the Seattle Angels, Whitey Lockman of the Tacoma Cubs, Bob Skinner of the San Diego Padres and Mickey Vernon of the Vancouver Mounties.

Under Spahn, Tulsa had a dismal 1967 season (65-79), though he did receive high marks for helping to develop starting pitchers Mike Torrez (10 wins) and Hal Gilson (15 wins). Silvey noted that Spahn “must have helped Torrez quite a bit. Mike has added a curve and he’s faster.”

Meanwhile, Anderson led Modesto to a 79-61 record and a league championship in 1967. After the season, Anderson joined the Reds as manager of their Class AA Asheville club.

Anderson “was so upset at being bypassed (for the Tulsa job) that he quit the Cardinals organization,” The Sporting News reported.

Two years after leaving the Cardinals, Anderson was named manager of the Reds and went on to build a Hall of Fame career.

Ups and downs

In 1968, Spahn took Tulsa from worst to first. The Oilers finished 95-53 and won the league championship.

Spahn managed Tulsa in 1969 (79-61), 1970 (70-70) and 1971 (64-76) before he was fired by Cardinals general manager Bing Devine.

“Devine said I had been here five years and there were young prospective managers in the organization who needed to move up,” Spahn said.

Though Spahn went on to work as a coach and instructor with other organizations, Tulsa would be the only team he would manage.

Previously: How Charlie Metro miffed Stan Musial

Previously: Cardinals boosted managing career of Sparky Anderson

Previously: Warren Spahn and his Cardinals connection

Previously: Why the Cardinals fired Warren Spahn

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(Updated Jan. 18, 2017)

Brian Jordan produced his most important hit for the Cardinals against one of the all-time best relief pitchers.

brian_jordanFacing Trevor Hoffman in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1996 National League Division Series, Jordan slugged a two-run home run, breaking a 5-5 tie and lifting the Cardinals to their first postseason series championship in nine years.

Hoffman by that time had established himself as an elite reliever. With 42 saves _ the first of his nine seasons with 40 or more _ and nine wins, the right-hander had factored in 55 percent of the 92 regular-season victories achieved by the 1996 Padres.

Hoffman would go on to build a distinguished 18-year career in the big leagues. His 601 saves rank second all-time behind only the 652 by Mariano Rivera of the Yankees.

Hoffman generally is considered a strong candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2017, he received votes on 74 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America ballots. A candidate needs to be chosen on 75 percent of the ballots to earn election.

In a career filled with successes, one of Hoffman’s earliest and most glaring stumbles was in his first postseason against the Cardinals.

Key catch

After winning the first two games at St. Louis, the Cardinals were in position to clinch the best-of-five NL Division Series with a victory against the Padres in Game 3 at San Diego on Oct. 5, 1996.

The Padres led 4-1 after five innings, but the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, taking a 5-4 lead.

In the eighth, Ken Caminiti connected off Cardinals reliever Rick Honeycutt for his second home run of the game, tying the score. The Padres had a runner on second with two outs when Jody Reed launched a line drive to the gap in right-center. Jordan, the right fielder, dived and made an inning-ending catch. Video

“I think that was the most important play of the ballgame,” Jordan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If that ball gets by me, they’re going to score.”

Bruce Bochy, the Padres’ manager, brought in Hoffman to pitch the ninth.

Hoffman got Ozzie Smith to line out to left.

Ron Gant drew a walk.

“I was high in the zone to Gant,” Hoffman told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be.”

Up next was Jordan.

Delivering a dagger

Jordan led the 1996 Cardinals in RBI, with 104. He hit .367 with runners on base.

As a result of his diving catch the previous inning, Jordan’s neck and left shoulder stiffened when he got back to the dugout, but a quick massage from trainer Gene Gieselmann got Jordan ready to face Hoffman in the ninth.

After working the count to 3-and-2, Jordan lined a pitch foul down the left-field line.

Jordan expected the next delivery to be a fastball. Hoffman threw a slider.

Hoffman: “I hung it right over the middle.”

Jordan: “He threw me a slider up and I kept my hands back.”

Hoffman: “It wasn’t a high hanger. Brian had to go down and get it.”

Jordan: “If I miss that, I’m throwing my hat and my helmet down.”

Timing it right, Jordan swung _ “It looked like he hit one-handed,” Hoffman said _ and lofted the ball over the left-field wall. Boxscore

Bob Costas, calling the game on television for NBC, described the home run as “a dagger through the heart” of the Padres. Video

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, rated Jordan’s jolt “the biggest St. Louis home run” since Jack Clark’s pennant-clinching shot against the Dodgers in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 NL Championship Series.

“I’ve always wanted to play in pressure situations,” Jordan said. “… To see that ball come down, over the fence, it was satisfying.”

Said Hoffman: “On 3-and-2, he’s looking to drive the ball and I gave him a pitch to do it … It was the right pitch in that situation. Unfortunately, the execution wasn’t quite there and I got bit in the butt.”

Previously: Cardinals dealt Trevor Hoffman first defeat

Previously: How Tony Gwynn tormented Dennis Eckersley

Previously: Why Jack Clark got chance to put Cards in World Series

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