Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

From the Cardinals’ perspective, hard-throwing Mark Littell was a younger, clean-cut, right-handed version of Al Hrabosky. So, when given the chance to swap Hrabosky for Littell, the Cardinals acted.

Forty years ago, on Dec. 8, 1977, the Cardinals traded their left-handed closer, Hrabosky, to the Royals for Littell and catcher Buck Martinez.

Littell, 24, was nicknamed “Country.” He had a low-key personality, an all-American look and he excelled at striking out batters with an impressive fastball.

Hrabosky, 28, was nicknamed “Mad Hungarian.” He was a high-strung showman who liked to grow a Fu Manchu, performed self-psyching theatrics on the field and he excelled at striking out batters with an impressive fastball.

Both relievers had become available on the trade market for different reasons.

Littell slumped in the second half of the 1977 season and lost the closer role.

Hrabosky feuded throughout the year with Cardinals manager Vern Rapp and openly defied franchise owner Gussie Busch on the club’s facial hair ban.

Made in Missouri

Littell was born in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and grew up in the town of Gideon in the southeast corner of the state. “Population 800,” Littell told The Sporting News. “Soy beans, cotton and wheat.”

His father was a farmer and his mother was a nurse. Littell worked on his father’s farm and developed strength. “I plowed, planted and loaded soy beans _ 60-pound sacks, 500 or 600 a day,” Littell recalled. “I liked farm work.”

When he was 9 and 10 years old, Littell went to Cardinals games in St. Louis with his family. Among the players who made the most memorable impression on him were Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Curt Simmons, Minnie Minoso and Bill White.

“We used to come to see the Cardinals six, maybe 10, times a year,” Littell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… I saw Musial get a game-winning hit with two out in the ninth inning … I can still visualize him hitting that ball. He went the opposite way with it, between shortstop and third base.”

Ups and downs

At age 20, Littell debuted in the major leagues with the Royals in 1973.

Littell became their closer in 1976. The Royals won the American League West Division title that year under manager Whitey Herzog. Littell was 8-4 with 16 saves and a 2.08 ERA.

With the score tied 6-6 in the decisive Game 5 of the 1976 AL Championship Series, Littell yielded a ninth-inning home run to Chris Chambliss that clinched for the Yankees their first pennant since 1964.

Littell recovered from that setback. He was dominant in the first half of 1977, posting a 2.59 ERA with 12 saves.

He struggled, however, in the second half of the season. Littell had a 5.20 ERA and no saves after the all-star break. Doug Bird replaced him as the closer.

“I just wasn’t as consistent,” Littell said. He also was slowed by back muscle spasms and a sore rib cage.

Still, in 104.2 innings, Littell struck out 106 batters and yielded 73 hits.

“His ratio of strikeouts and hits to innings pitched is remarkable,” said Cardinals general manager Bing Devine.

Quality swap

At the 1977 baseball winter meetings in Honolulu, the Royals were seeking a left-handed power pitcher to pair with Bird, a right-hander, in the bullpen. The Cardinals were willing to trade Hrabosky, who was 6-5 with 10 saves and a 4.38 ERA for them in 1977.

“I talked to all the National League managers and they told me Hrabosky was messed up last season because of his troubles with Rapp,” Herzog said. “They told me he still is an outstanding pitcher. We think he is.”

When the Royals offered Littell for Hrabosky, the Cardinals agreed.

“Now we have a left-hander coming out of the bullpen who can blow people away,” Herzog said. “We didn’t go to Hawaii with an idea of trading Mark Littell, but we knew the Cards liked him.”

Admitting he and Rapp “definitely had personality conflicts,” Hrabosky said of the trade, “The only sad thing about the whole thing is I’m leaving St. Louis as a bad guy.”

Asked his reaction to the deal, Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons told columnist Dick Young, “In the past, when there was a personality difference, this team would unload a man for a song and a prayer. This time we at least got value for Hrabosky.”

Said Devine of Littell: “If we need a strikeout, he’s the man to bring in.”

Results are in

Littell requested uniform No. 17 from the Cardinals, but the club had retired that number in honor of Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean. Littell took No. 32 instead.

In 1978, Littell was 4-8 with 11 saves and a 2.79 ERA for the Cardinals. He struck out 130 batters in 106.1 innings. He also was second in the NL in appearances (72).

Hrabosky was 8-7 with 20 saves and a 2.88 ERA for the 1978 AL West champion Royals.

In 1979, Littell was 9-4 with 13 saves and a 2.19 ERA for the Cardinals. Hrabosky was 9-4 with 11 saves and a 3.74 ERA for the Royals.

After that, the careers of both pitchers declined.

Hrabosky ended his playing days with the Braves, totaling seven saves in three years (1980-1982).

Littell had four total saves in his final three seasons (1980-1982) with the Cardinals.

Overall, in five years with St. Louis, Littell was 14-18 with 28 saves, a 3.31 ERA and 233 strikeouts in 261 innings.

Previously: How Al Hrabosky stood up to Gussie Busch

Previously: 100 Ks: Mark Littell, Trevor Rosenthal, Seung Hwan Oh

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Though knowing Gerry Staley was committed to a stint in the Army during World War II, the Cardinals went ahead and acquired him anyway. The investment paid a significant dividend when Staley emerged as the ace of the Cardinals’ staff in the early 1950s.

Seventy-five years ago, in 1942, Staley was in his second season as a pitcher for the Boise (Idaho) Pilots of the Class C Pioneer League. Boise wasn’t affiliated with any major-league organization.

In September 1942, Staley, 22, was inducted into the Army. Two months later, on Nov. 24, the Cardinals selected Staley in the minor-league draft and assigned him to their Columbus (Ga.) Red Birds farm club in the Class B South Atlantic League.

By then, Staley was deep into military service. He would spend three years in the Army. Most of that time, he was stationed in the South Pacific.

The Cardinals, though, didn’t forget him.

Military veteran

A native of Brush Prairie, Wash., Staley was working in an aluminum plant and playing sandlot baseball when he was signed by Boise in 1941, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

A right-handed pitcher, Staley quickly developed into a standout for Boise. He was 22-8 with a 2.79 ERA in 1941 and 20-10 with a 2.73 ERA in 1942.

St. Louis had a farm club, the Pocatello (Idaho) Cardinals, in the Pioneer League. Pocatello and Boise were matched in the league championship series in 1942. Staley won Game 2 of the series just before reporting to the Army. He impressed the Cardinals with his ability.

When the minor-league draft was held, the Cardinals chose Staley and assigned him to Columbus for the 1943 season, The Sporting News reported.

Staley never got to pitch for Columbus. Still in the Army as a sergeant with an evacuation hospital on Bougainville Island of New Guinea, the Cardinals assigned him to their Class AAA Sacramento Solons farm club in the Pacific Coast League in 1944, according to The Sporting News.

Staley continued his active duty in the military in 1945. When the war ended and he was discharged, Staley, 25, reported to Sacramento for the 1946 season.

Impressive return

By then, Sacramento no longer was a Cardinals affiliate. Local owners had purchased the franchise from the Cardinals. Though independent of any big-league affiliation, Sacramento maintained a working agreement with the Cardinals.

Staley got off to a strong start in the 1946 season. On April 18, he pitched a three-hitter and singled in the winning run in Sacramento’s 2-1 triumph over Oakland.

His best performance occurred on May 28 at Portland, Ore., just across the Columbia River from his home in Vancouver, Wash. Staley pitched all 14 innings and limited Portland to four hits in Sacramento’s 1-0 victory.

Under terms of the working agreement, the Cardinals had the right to purchase the contract of one of Sacramento’s returning servicemen for $5,000.

On Aug. 22, 1946, the Cardinals selected Staley (13-12 with a 2.94 ERA) and invited him to their spring training camp in 1947.

Making the grade

The Cardinals went to spring training in 1947 as the defending World Series champions. Staley, 26, wasn’t intimidated. He earned a spot on the Opening Day roster and made his major-league debut on April 20, 1947, with two innings of scoreless relief against the Cubs. Boxscore

Used exclusively in relief, Staley slumped during the summer and had a 5.54 ERA when the Cardinals sent him to their Class AAA Columbus (Ohio) Red Birds club in the American Association in late July.

Staley was 6-1 for Columbus and was called back to the Cardinals in September.

On Sept. 25, 1947, in the second game of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh, Staley got his first major-league start. He pitched a complete game and earned the win in the Cardinals’ 3-1 victory over the Pirates. Boxscore

Staley finished his rookie season with a 1-0 record and 2.76 ERA in 18 appearances for St. Louis. He was on his way to becoming a prominent member of the Cardinals’ staff.

Big winner

Staley pitched eight seasons (1947-54) for the Cardinals and was 89-76 with a 4.03 ERA during that time. He twice was all-star with the Cardinals (1952 and 1953).

In 1949, Staley ranked second in the National League in ERA at 2.73. He led the Cardinals in wins in 1951 (19) and 1952 (17) and was second in 1953 (18).

After a 1954 season when his wins total fell to seven, the Cardinals traded Staley, 34, and third baseman Ray Jablonski to the Reds for pitcher Frank Smith.

Staley eventually transformed himself into a top relief pitcher. In 1959, he helped the White Sox to an American League pennant, with eight wins, 15 saves and a 2.24 ERA in a league-leading 67 appearances.

He earned a save in Game 1 of the 1959 World Series against the Dodgers, but was the losing pitcher in Game 4 when he gave up a game-winning home run to Gil Hodges in the eighth inning.

Staley pitched 15 seasons in the major leagues for six clubs _ Cardinals, Reds, Yankees, White Sox, Athletics and Tigers. He has a career record of 134-111 with 61 saves and a 3.70 ERA.

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Besides being a principal player in a Cardinals classic, Roy Halladay also factored prominently in other games versus St. Louis.

Halladay, who died at age 40 in a plane crash on Nov. 7, 2017, will be best remembered by Cardinals fans as the Phillies pitcher who dueled St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter in the decisive Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

Carpenter and the Cardinals won that game, 1-0, on Oct. 7, 2011, extending a postseason run that led to a World Series championship.

Halladay, who shut out the Cardinals for seven innings after yielding a run in the first, was the hard-luck loser in that drama. He and Carpenter, both Cy Young Award winners, had been teammates on the Blue Jays from 1998-2002.

Usually, though, when Halladay pitched a gem against the Cardinals, he won.

Halladay made seven regular-season starts and two postseason starts against the Cardinals. His regular-season career record versus St. Louis is 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA. In the postseason, Halladay is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA against the Cardinals.

Here is a look at the games in which Halladay got decisions when facing St. Louis:

Swinging at sinkers

Halladay faced the Cardinals for the first time on June 13, 2005, at Toronto. He pitched a complete game in a 4-1 Blue Jays victory.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Halladay’s effort as “a dominant performance worthy of his resume.”

The Cardinals got five hits _ two apiece by David Eckstein and John Mabry, and one by designated hitter Scott Seabol. Mabry got the Cardinals’ lone extra-base hit _ a home run in the fourth inning.

“He’s out there throwing the ball 94 (mph) with a lot of sink,” Mabry said. “He’s using both sides of the plate, sinking and cutting it. His curveball is awesome. He makes it tough. You just try to stay on top of it.” Boxscore

Simply the best

Five years later, Halladay next faced the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. On May 6, 2010, Halladay pitched seven innings, yielding one earned run, and got the win in a 7-2 Phillies triumph at Philadelphia.

Skip Schumaker, who had two hits for the Cardinals, called Halladay “probably the best pitcher I’ve ever faced.” Boxscore

A breakthrough

On Sept. 19, 2011, Halladay lost to the Cardinals for the first time.

Playing at Philadelphia, Rafael Furcal hit Halladay’s first pitch for a double off the right-field wall. Furcal moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a groundout by Nick Punto. One out later, Lance Berkman followed with a home run, giving St. Louis a 2-0 lead.

The Cardinals won, 4-3, and advanced to within 2.5 games of the Braves for the wild-card spot in the playoffs. Halladay gave up eight hits and walked four in eight innings. Boxscore

Don’t get me mad

Two weeks later, on Oct. 1, 2011, the Cardinals and Phillies played Game 1 of the best-of-five NL Division Series at Philadelphia.

In the first inning, Furcal singled and Albert Pujols walked. With one out, Halladay threw Berkman a two-seam fastball intended to sink away from the left-handed batter. Instead, the pitch was “thigh-high and center cut. About as bad as you can put it,” Halladay told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Berkman connected for a three-run home run.

Halladay “got mad after he gave up the homer,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “That ticked him off and he got going.”

After Schumaker led off the second with a single, Halladay retired the next 21 batters in a row. In eight innings, he gave up three hits and three runs, getting the win in an 11-6 Phillies victory. Boxscore

Dog fight

In his column about Game 5 of the 2011 NL Division Series, Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch wrote, “Carpenter and Halladay, two alpha dogs, could have burned the hitters’ bats with the intensity of their glares.”

After scoring in the first, the Cardinals were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against Halladay. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Carpenter was better than Halladay, holding the Phillies scoreless for nine innings.

“You hate to lose in a one-run game,” Halladay said, “but you have to hand it to him (Carpenter). He was unbelievable.”

Furcal led off the game with a triple to center.

“He tried to come inside with a cutter,” Furcal said. “I got a good swing on it and the ball jumped off my bat.” Video

Said Halladay: “The ball was up.”

Schumaker followed with a run-scoring double to right on a curve after fouling off six pitches, including five with two strikes. Video

“I don’t think it was a terrible curveball,” Halladay said. “It was a very good at-bat.” Boxscore

It hurts

The next time Halladay faced the Cardinals was May 27, 2012, at St. Louis. Yadier Molina hit a grand slam in the first and Halladay departed after the second because of a sore shoulder. The Cardinals won, 8-3. Boxscore

Asked about Halladay’s ailment, Manuel said, “Worried? Yeah, definitely I’m concerned.”

Wily veteran

Soon after, Halladay went on the disabled list. When he returned, he made the adjustments needed to be effective again.

On Aug. 10, 2012, Halladay held the Cardinals to two hits in eight innings and got the win in a 3-1 Phillies victory at Philadelphia. A home run by Carlos Beltran accounted for the St. Louis run. Boxscore

“I don’t try to do what I used to do,” Halladay said. “I try to do what I need to do to be successful.”

Science of pitching

Halladay beat the Cardinals for the final time on April 19, 2013, at Philadelphia. He limited them to two hits _ home runs by Beltran and Matt Holliday _ over seven innings in an 8-2 Phillies victory. Boxscore

Halladay retired 14 batters in a row. “When I stay within myself and execute the mechanics the way it should be done, I feel good,” he said.

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The Cardinals took a chance on Jeff Brantley and lost.

Needing a closer, the Cardinals traded a prime prospect, Dmitri Young, to the Reds for Brantley, even though the pitcher had spent most of the previous season on the disabled list.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty made the deal 20 years ago, on Nov. 10, 1997, when he got assurances Brantley had recovered fully from surgery to repair injuries to his right shoulder and rotator cuff.

The Cardinals, though, should have been as skeptical as columnist Bernie Miklasz, who, at the time of the trade, wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The Jeff Brantley trade makes me nervous; a 34-year-old pitcher coming off shoulder surgery?”

Brantley flopped with the 1998 Cardinals. Claiming his arm hurt, Brantley pitched poorly, clashed with pitching coach Dave Duncan, was removed from the closer’s role and got traded after the season.

The Cardinals’ misjudgment of Brantley set back the organization in significant ways. The Cardinals had to continue to scramble to find a closer and they had to do so without one of their strongest trade chips. Young, who became a productive hitter, was given away to a division rival without St. Louis getting full value in return.

Price is right

When closer Dennis Eckerlsey opted for free agency after the 1997 season, the Cardinals went in search of a replacement.

Wanting to avoid getting involved in bidding for free agents, Jocketty looked to make a trade. He was willing to part with Young, a first baseman and outfielder, because the Cardinals had top talent at those positions. Mark McGwire was the first baseman and Ron Gant, Ray Lankford and Brian Jordan were the outfield starters.

Though Brantley, 34, had not pitched since May 19, 1997, he appealed to the Cardinals. Brantley had earned 44 saves for the Reds in 1996.

“We knew we had to act quickly because other clubs were interested in him,” Jocketty said to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Given orders by ownership to cut player payroll, Reds general manager Jim Bowden was eager to deal Brantley, who was under contract for salaries of $2.8 million over each of the next two years.

The Reds had another capable closer, Jeff Shaw, on their roster and he was paid less than Brantley.

The $5.6 million owed Brantley over 1998 and 1999 didn’t dissuade the Cardinals from pursuing a deal for him. “Guys who might be available in free agency would have cost twice as much,” Jocketty said.

Special hitter

When Jocketty offered Young, 24, to the Reds, Bowden accepted.

“This deal was made for financial reasons,” Bowden said to the Associated Press, “and is consistent with our commitment to get younger and cheaper.”

Asked by Jeff Horrigan of The Cincinnati Post about Young, Reds manager Jack McKeon replied, “He has a great attitude and a great upside … We might have something special here.”

Young, a switch hitter, was the top pick of the Cardinals in the 1991 amateur draft. He led the Class AAA American Association in batting average (.333) in 1996, producing 153 hits in 122 games.

Young debuted with the Cardinals in August 1996 and hit a key triple for them that fall in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves. In 1997, Young hit .258 in 110 games for St. Louis.

Projecting Young to be best-suited as a designated hitter, Jocketty said, “Dmitri is going to be a very good hitter. He’d be a good American League player.”

Regarding Young’s potential role with the 1998 Cardinals, manager Tony La Russa said, “There was a way to wedge him onto the team, but it was not a good fit.”

The acquisition of McGwire by St. Louis in July 1997 “kind of put a damper” on the Cardinals’ plans for him, Young told Mike Bass of The Cincinnati Post. “I didn’t have a clue what the Cardinals were going to do with me,” Young admitted.

Asked his reaction about joining the Reds, Young said, “The only thing I know about Cincinnati is the Isley Brothers are from there. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan, but I like their music.”

Not the same

Before the deal became official, the Cardinals sent Brantley to Birmingham, Ala., for an examination by Dr. James Andrews. With Cardinals trainer Barry Weinberg witnessing the exam, Andrews declared Brantley physically fit to pitch.

“I didn’t have any doubts that it wouldn’t be a problem,” Brantley said to the Post-Dispatch. “I’ve been throwing for over two months.”

Brantley told The Cincinnati Post that Andrews “gave me a 100 percent clean bill of health.”

Brantley, though, wasn’t effective. He was 0-5 with a 4.44 ERA for the 1998 Cardinals. He had 14 saves _ three after June 30. Booed by Cardinals fans, Brantley was especially bad in home games: a 6.38 ERA in 24 appearances at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals traded him to the Phillies after finishing in third place in the NL Central Division at 83-79.

Young was successful with Cincinnati. Primarily playing left field, he led the 1998 Reds in batting average (.310) and doubles (48) and tied with future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin for the club lead in hits (166).

In four seasons with the Reds, Young batted .304 and had an on-base percentage of .353.

Overall, in 13 big-league seasons with the Cardinals, Reds, Tigers and Nationals, Young had a .292 batting mark and an on-base percentage of .351.

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Needing an effective performance to show he belonged in the major leagues, Phillies rookie Mike Maddux broke through with an impressive effort against the 1986 Cardinals.

Maddux, 25, limited the Cardinals to one earned run in 6.1 innings and got the win in a 4-3 Phillies victory on Sept. 18, 1986, at Philadelphia.

That performance helped Maddux establish himself as a big-leaguer. He went on to pitch for 15 seasons (1986-2000) in the majors. After his playing days, he built a second career as a big-league pitching coach.

On Oct. 26, 2017, the Cardinals hired Maddux to be their pitching coach, replacing Derek Lilliquist.

Throwing darts

Chosen by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 1982 amateur draft, Maddux rose through the farm system until he was promoted to the big-league club in June 1986.

Placed in the Phillies’ starting rotation, Maddux struggled. After 13 starts, his record was 2-6 with a 6.05 ERA.

To some, he seemed to be regressing. On Sept. 8, Maddux yielded five runs in three innings against the Cubs. Five days later, he gave up three runs in the first and was lifted before recording an out against the Mets.

Maddux was trying to be perfect with his pitches and was aiming the ball. “He wasn’t a pitcher; he was a dart-thrower,” wrote Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Maddux’s ERA for the first inning of his 13 starts was 15.00.

“Something had to be done,” Maddux said to Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Maddux sought the advice of Phillies manager John Felske and pitching coach Claude Osteen. “I absorbed everything they said like a sponge,” Maddux said.

(Osteen had been Cardinals pitching coach from 1977-80.)

Wrote Stark: “They told him to think more about winning than about surviving the first inning.”

Different guy

In his next start, Maddux was matched against Greg Mathews of the Cardinals.

From the first pitch, when he made Vince Coleman skip away from a low delivery, Maddux was in command.

In the second inning, his confidence grew when he lined a RBI-single to right against Mathews. It was the first hit and first RBI in the big leagues for Maddux.

Maddux held the Cardinals to one hit _ a Terry Pendleton single _ over six innings.

Maddux struck out seven before he was relieved with one out in the seventh. Boxscore

“He went out tonight totally prepared to pitch,” Felske said. “He was a different guy out there. He was confident. He was determined to do well. He really threw some outstanding breaking balls.”

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I can see why they’re putting him out there.”

Herzog compared Maddux to the Cardinals’ Tim Conroy, “who has struggled but is considered to have a major-league arm,” wrote Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke, however, compared Maddux with Aaron Herr, 4-year-old son of St. Louis second baseman Tommy Herr.

Noting that the Cardinals weren’t swinging the bats well, Van Slyke said, “They could have put Aaron Herr out there and he could have held us to one hit for five innings.”

Lengthy career

Maddux, whose younger brother, Greg, became a Hall of Fame pitcher, played for nine clubs: Phillies, Dodgers, Padres, Mets, Pirates, Red Sox, Mariners, Expos and Astros.

Converted to a relief pitcher after he left the Phillies, Maddux has a career record of 39-37 with 20 saves and a 4.05 ERA in the big leagues.

His career record versus the Cardinals is 3-3 with a 5.24 ERA in 25 appearances. (On Aug. 11, 1988, Maddux started and pitched eight scoreless innings against the Cardinals, but got no decision. The Phillies won, 1-0, with a run in the ninth.)

Maddux was pitching coach for the Brewers (2003-08), Rangers (2009-15) and Nationals (2016-17) before joining the Cardinals.

He was the Rangers’ pitching coach in 2011 when Texas played the Cardinals in the World Series.

Previously: Cardinals tried making Greg Maddux a teammate

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During a season in which the Cardinals won a National League pennant and World Series championship, Don Lock found the key to success against their formidable pitching.

In 1967, Lock, in his first NL season as a center fielder for the Phillies, batted .382 (13-for-34) with 12 RBI in 11 games against the Cardinals.

A right-handed batter, Lock was especially effective against Cardinals left-handers. He hit four home runs against them in 1967.

Lock, a Kansas native who as an amateur had attracted the attention of the Cardinals, died Oct. 8, 2017, at 81.

Hit or miss

As a teen, Lock was a standout athlete in multiple sports. “The Cardinals were interested in signing Lock when he was playing American Legion baseball back home in Kingman, Kan.,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Instead, Lock attended Wichita State on a basketball scholarship and played for coach Ralph Miller, who would be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Lock earned varsity letters in baseball, basketball and track.

By then, other big-league organizations, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics and Dodgers, had joined the Cardinals in pursuit of Lock. According to his obituary, Lock accepted a $22,500 bonus to sign with the Yankees in 1958.

The Yankees’ deal “was $2,500 more than the next best, the one Boston offered. So I took it,” Lock told the Post-Dispatch. “I was just a kid out of college who had a wife and a kid and car payments to meet. I needed money.”

Lock played in the Yankees’ minor league system from 1958-62. He had 35 home runs in 1960 for the Class A Binghamton (N.Y.) Triplets and 29 home runs in 1961 for the Class AAA Richmond Virginians. Though he had established himself as a power prospect, Lock couldn’t find a spot on a Yankees roster that included sluggers such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Bill Skowron.

In July 1962, the Yankees traded Lock to the Senators. He became one of the American League’s premier power hitters, ranking among the top 10 in home runs in 1963 (27) and 1964 (28), but he also had more strikeouts than hits each year he played for Washington. He was second in the league in strikeouts in both 1963 (151) and 1964 (137).

Second chance

After the 1966 season, the Senators dealt Lock to the Phillies for pitcher Darold Knowles and cash. “Lock came to the Phillies with a reputation as one of baseball’s most inconsistent hitters,” wrote Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News. “His pattern was a short rash of homers followed by a long rash of strikeouts.”

Phillies manager Gene Mauch decided to utilize Lock and Johnny Briggs in a center field platoon in 1967.

On May 26 at Philadelphia, Lock hit a home run that beat the Cardinals.

In the eighth inning, with the score tied at 4-4, the Phillies had runners on second and third, two outs, with Lock at the plate against left-handed reliever Joe Hoerner. Cookie Rojas was on deck.

“The strategy with the score tied and the winning run on base would normally be to intentionally walk Lock and pitch to Rojas,” Conlin wrote.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst thought otherwise. He remembered that 10 days earlier, at St. Louis, Rojas had hit a home run against the Cardinals and Hoerner had struck out Lock.

Schoendienst wanted Hoerner to pitch to Lock rather than to Rojas.

If not for a misplay, it would have been the right decision.

Hoerner got Lock to hit a pop fly into foul territory, just beyond first base. Second baseman Phil Gagliano, who had the best angle for a catch, called off first baseman Orlando Cepeda, but misjudged the ball and it fell to the ground.

Given another chance, Lock swung at a low fastball and sent a laser over the left-field wall. “The ball was still rising when it ticked the front slope of the roof and bounced off a sign,” Conlin wrote.

Said Lock: “That’s as good as I can hit a ball, I guess.”

The three-run home run was the difference in a 7-4 Phillies victory. Boxscore

Special day

A month later, on June 25, the Phillies were in St. Louis for a doubleheader against the Cardinals.

Lock had what he called his best day in the major leagues. He produced six hits in eight at-bats and drove in six runs, leading the Phillies to a sweep.

Lock was 4-for-5 with three RBI in the first game and 2-for-3 with three RBI in the second game.

In the opener, Lock had a two-run home run and two singles in three at-bats against the Cardinals’ starter, left-hander Larry Jaster, helping the Phillies to a 6-4 victory. Boxscore

(A month earlier, Lock also was 3-for-3 _ two doubles and a single _ against Jaster. So, in two games against Jaster, Lock was 6-for-6.)

In the doubleheader nightcap, Lock hit a two-run home run against left-hander Al Jackson, propelling the Phillies to a 10-4 triumph. Boxscore

“I’ve shortened my stroke a little,” Lock said. “I’m not taking the bat back as far and I’m choking up about an inch-and-a-half.”

Lock also hit two home runs _ one in 1967 and the other in 1968 _ against Cardinals left-hander Steve Carlton.

Lock finished the 1967 season with 14 home runs in 112 games.

He was with the Phillies again in 1968 and ended his big-league career playing for both the Phillies and Red Sox in 1969.

Lock’s overall batting mark in eight major-league seasons is .238. His career batting average versus the Cardinals is .359 (23-for-64) with five home runs and 17 RBI in 22 games.

Previously: Epic showdowns: Jim Bunning vs. Bob Gibson

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