Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

In seeking a third consecutive pennant, the Cardinals traded six players to get a No. 5 starter for their rotation.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 3, 1968, the Cardinals acquired pitcher Dave Giusti from the Padres for infielder Ed Spiezio, outfielder Ron Davis, catcher Danny Breeden and pitcher Philip Knuckles.

Two months earlier, on Oct. 11, 1968, the Cardinals got Giusti and catcher Dave Adlesh from the Astros for catchers Johnny Edwards and Tommy Smith, but three days later the Padres selected Giusti in the National League expansion draft.

The Cardinals, who won league championships in 1967 and 1968, were determined to add Giusti to a 1969 starting rotation with Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Nelson Briles and Ray Washburn, but the payoff didn’t match the price.

In exchange for Edwards, Smith, Spiezio, Davis, Breeden and Knuckles, the Cardinals got a pitcher who earned three wins in his lone season with them.

Houston calling

Giusti was a successful college pitcher at Syracuse and nearly signed with the Cardinals when he turned pro in June 1961. The Cardinals and Houston Colt .45s each offered Giusti a signing bonus of $35,000 and Giusti was leaning toward choosing St. Louis, partly because his former Syracuse roommate, Doug Clemens, was a Cardinals outfielder.

“If the Cardinals had hurried just a bit at that point, they undoubtedly would have landed Giusti,” The Sporting News reported.

Giusti opted for the Colt .45s, who were entering the National League as an expansion club in 1962, because he said “it would be the fastest way to the big leagues.”

Giusti made his major-league debut in April 1962 and developed into a durable starter for the club, which was renamed the Astros in 1965. In each of three consecutive seasons (1966-68), Giusti reached double digits in wins and topped 200 innings pitched.

During the off-seasons, Giusti, who earned a master’s degree in physical education, was a substitute teacher in a Syracuse suburb.

Giusti was delighted when the Cardinals acquired him from the Astros. With Dal Maxvill at shortstop, “I’ll have more experience behind me at that spot than I’ve had before,” Giusti said, and with an outfield of Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Vada Pinson to chase down drives “you don’t have to worry about making the perfect pitch all the time.”

Come and go

To help stock the rosters of the expansion Expos and Padres, the National League held a draft on Oct. 14, 1968, consisting of six rounds. The Expos and Padres each were allowed to select five players per round from the existing National League franchises.

Each existing team initially could protect 15 players. A team could protect three more players each time one was taken from its list of unprotected.

After the Cardinals got Giusti from the Astros, he asked general manager Bing Devine whether he’d be protected and Devine “didn’t say yes or no,” Giusti said.

The Cardinals wavered until the last minute before protecting Washburn instead of Giusti, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The Cardinals would have protected Giusti in the second round if another one of their players was chosen in the first round, according to the Post-Dispatch, but Giusti was the first Cardinals player drafted. The Padres selected Giusti with their second pick in the first round.

“I’m very disappointed,” Giusti said. “Nobody in St. Louis told me this was going to happen. I wanted to work for a championship club.”

Let’s make up

Trade offers for Giusti poured in to the Padres from the Reds, Orioles, Astros and Cardinals. The Reds were offering shortstop Leo Cardenas or outfielder Hal McRae, The Sporting News reported.

Devine came up with the package of four players at positions the Padres were looking to fill. “We needed numbers and the Cards wanted the proven starting pitcher,” said Padres president Buzzie Bavasi.

Devine called to inform Giusti he’d been reacquired by the Cardinals and said, “You can stop being mad at me. We’ve got you back.”

In addition to a fastball and slider, Giusti threw a palmball, which is similar to a changeup. “The difference is the pitcher grips the ball back in the palm rather than with the fingertips,” the Post-Dispatch explained.

“Learning to throw the palmball was a matter of survival,” Giusti said. “I found out early that the hitters up here can hit the fastball. I had to come up with another pitch.”

Said Cardinals pitching coach Billy Muffett: “He can throw the palmball over the plate just about any time he wants. He’s not afraid to throw it no matter what the situation. He never tips off the pitch.”

Starter to closer

In his first regular-season appearance for the Cardinals, on April 12, 1969, Giusti pitched a shutout and scored the lone run in a 1-0 victory over the Mets. The run came in the third inning when Giusti doubled and scored on Flood’s double against Don Cardwell. Boxscore

Giusti pitched a three-hitter against the Cubs for his second Cardinals win. Boxscore.

His season began to unravel in late May when he wrenched his back while fielding during batting practice. He was on the disabled list for a month and in his absence Chuck Taylor and Mike Torrez won spots in the rotation. Giusti was relegated to long-inning relief in August and September as the Cardinals faded from contention.

He finished the season at 3-7 with a 3.61 ERA in 22 appearances.

On Oct. 21, 1969, the Cardinals traded Giusti and catcher Dave Ricketts to the Pirates for outfielders Carl Taylor and Frank Vanzin. Pirates general manager Joe Brown made the deal on the recommendation of outfielder Roberto Clemente, who told him Giusti “always had good stuff and he is a tough competitor.”

The Pirates converted Giusti into a closer and in 1971 he led the National League in saves (30) for the World Series champions. Giusti pitched 5.1 scoreless innings against the Orioles in the 1971 World Series and earned a save in Game 4 when he retired all six batters he faced. Boxscore

In seven seasons (1970-76) with the Pirates, Giusti was 47-28 with a 2.94 ERA and 133 saves.

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Bo Belinsky, a playboy pitcher with a powerful left arm, a playmate wife and penchant for publicity, appealed to the Cardinals as a possible answer to a bullpen need.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 2, 1968, the Cardinals selected Belinsky in the Rule 5 draft of unprotected players.

Because of the departures of Wayne Granger to the Reds in a trade and Larry Jaster to the Expos in the expansion draft, the two-time defending National League champion Cardinals were seeking another left-hander to join Joe Hoerner in the bullpen.

Belinsky was a surprising and controversial choice. He’d spent the entire 1968 season in the minors after a subpar year with the Astros in 1967 and he maintained a legendary reputation for off-field carousing and feuds with baseball management.

As Bob Broeg noted in a column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Belinsky had let “a loose tongue and 10-cent brain offset the potential brilliance in a million-dollar arm.”

Going Hollywood

Belinsky spent six seasons in the minors before getting a chance in the big leagues with the 1962 Angels. On May 5, 1962, Belinsky pitched a no-hitter for the Angels against the Orioles, boosting his record to 4-0 and rocketing him to the top among sports celebrities in image-conscious Los Angeles. Boxscore

A pool hustler who craved fame and fun, Belinsky was drawn to the Hollywood nightlife and became a fixture on Sunset Strip.

“He tooled around town in a candy-apple Cadillac convertible burning more midnight oil than he drank, squiring some of the long-stemmed beauties of Hollywood,” Broeg observed.

Belinsky dated actresses Ann-Margret, Tina Louise, Connie Stevens and Juliet Prowse and was engaged for a few months to Mamie Van Doren, who told the New York Times, “Our life was a circus.”

While Belinsky’s partying peaked, his pitching plummeted. In three seasons with the Angels, his record was 21-28 and he was traded to the Phillies on Dec. 3, 1964.

Happy in Hawaii

Belinsky floundered with the Phillies. He was 4-9 with a 4.84 ERA in 1965 and 0-2 in 1966, but he was effective against the Cardinals. In five starts versus St. Louis in 1965, Belinsky was 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA.

On May 17, 1965, Belinsky pitched a five-hitter in a 2-1 Phillies victory at St. Louis (Boxscore). A month later at Philadelphia, he pitched a six-hitter in a 7-1 triumph over the Cardinals (Boxscore).

The Astros claimed Belinsky in the Rule 5 draft in November 1966 and he was 3-9 with a 4.68 ERA for them in 1967. When Belinsky went to spring training with the Astros at Cocoa, Fla., in 1968, he was visited by Jo Collins, a Playboy magazine playmate of the year. Belinsky asked the club for permission to stay out with Collins after the midnight curfew, but the Astros refused his request and Belinsky left camp, The Sporting News reported.

By mutual request, the Astros sent Belinsky to the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League for the 1968 season. Belinsky, who developed a screwball to go with a formidable fastball, pitched better for Hawaii than his 9-14 record indicated. He threw three shutouts, including a no-hitter, struck out 181 batters in 176 innings and posted an ERA of 2.97.

Taking a chance

Cardinals scout Bill Sayles was impressed by Belinsky’s pitching and said in his report to the club, “This guy is a big-league pitcher. He has the best arm I’ve seen all year and he has the stuff to go with it.”

Warren Spahn, the former big-league ace who was manager of the Cardinals’ Tulsa farm club, supported Sayles’ assertions and St. Louis scouting supervisor Harrison Wickel also watched Belinsky and liked what he saw.

After the 1968 season, the Hawaii club returned Belinsky to the Astros and they assigned him to their Oklahoma City affiliate, making him eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine and manager Red Schoendienst agreed they’d select Belinsky at the cost of $25,000.

“We felt we might as well take a chance on someone who has a good arm,” Schoendienst said to the Post-Dispatch.

Asked about Belinsky’s reputation, Devine told The Sporting News, “His off-field activities don’t bother me … Sure, he’s a character and he likes girls, but he’s single and I’d say that’s a reasonably normal situation.”

Actually, Belinsky and Collins quietly had married in Hawaii three months earlier in September 1968, the Post-Dispatch and The Sporting News later reported, and she was pregnant. Belinsky and Collins were together in Venezuela, where Bo was pitching winter baseball, when the Cardinals called to tell him they’d drafted him.

Belinsky’s stay in Venezuela ended in a dispute when he refused to pitch in a game, saying his arm was sore. The club suspended him and Belinsky returned to the United States with Collins, saying he would sue to recover withheld pay.

Bo and Jo

At Cardinals spring training camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., Belinsky told Broeg, “I’m broke and if I don’t make it with the Cardinals, a good ballclub, I’ll be hurting.”

Reflecting on his life, Belinsky said, “I had a hell of a good time, but I burned the candle at both ends,” then added, “Though I don’t believe I’ve ever quite fit the portrayal of a finger-snapping, gum-cracking, girdle-snapping cool cat.”

“I think I’d have been better off in baseball in the Babe Ruth era when this wasn’t such a fragile game,” Belinsky said. “I like baseball, but maybe I haven’t had the temperament to be a truly dedicated player.”

Belinsky, 32, and his wife Jo, 23, arrived in Florida toting a .32-caliber automatic pistol and a .22-caliber rifle because they “like to go target shooting,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Smoking a Tiparillo, a thin cigar popular in the 1960s, Jo told the Post-Dispatch, “I’m not really the typical baseball player’s wife. I’m not the domestic type.”

For instance, Jo said, she hadn’t cooked a meal since she married Bo and didn’t intend to. “It ruins the whole mood when you have to get up and cook,” she said.

“Bo and Jo like room service,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “They like having a maid bring their food and a valet to take care of their clothes. They like living in hotels and have done so since they were married last September.”

Jo also complained about the drivers in St. Petersburg. “This is an old folks town … They ought to take away their licenses when they’re 50,” she said.

Aloha, Bo

Belinsky posted a 1.92 ERA in spring training, but he walked 16 batters in 12.2 innings. “He’s been too wild,” Schoendienst said. “He’s gone to 3-and-2 counts on everybody.”

Between appearances, Belinsky avoided workouts as much as possible, prompting Cardinals physical fitness director Walter Eberhardt to teasingly present him a certificate for “his remarkable ability to perform strenuous exercises without exerting a single muscle.”

The Cardinals decided to keep journeyman Mel Nelson rather than Belinsky as the second left-handed reliever.

On March 31, 1969, the Cardinals offered the Astros the chance to take back Belinsky for half the $25,000 price the Cardinals paid for drafting him, but they declined. The Cardinals placed Belinsky on waivers, but there were no takers.

Belinsky complained of feeling “suppressed” by lack of work in spring training games and said, “I feel the Cardinals cheated themselves and that I was cheated, too.”

The next night, on April 1, 1969, Belinsky collapsed from nervous exhaustion and was taken to a hospital, the Post-Dispatch reported. “I felt as though I was going to die,” Belinsky said.

Unsympathetic, Cardinals trainer Bob Bauman said, “He did most of his training in the clubhouse, talking to the press. That’s where he got his fatigue, from talking too much.”

On April 3, 1969, the Cardinals did Belinsky a favor, returning him to the Hawaii Islanders for $10,000. “Bo was too good a bargain to pass up,” said Hawaii general manager Jack Quinn.

Almost four months later, on July 30, 1969, Belinsky got back to the big leagues when the Pirates purchased his contract from Hawaii.

On Sept. 10, 1969, Belinsky started for the Pirates against the Cardinals in the second game of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh. Belinsky faced seven batters, gave up two hits, walked three, allowed two runs and was lifted with two outs in the first inning (Boxscore).

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After an accidental shooting ended his major-league pitching career, Monty Stratton made a courageous comeback to professional baseball, inspired an Oscar-winning movie and experienced more personal tragedy.

Eighty years ago, on Nov. 28, 1938, Stratton had his right leg amputated above the knee because of a bullet wound inflicted when his pistol discharged in its holster.

Stratton, 26, was a starting pitcher for the White Sox who earned 15 wins in each of the previous two seasons.

Determined to play competitively again, Stratton taught himself to pitch, hit and field on a prosthetic wooden leg. In 1946, eight years after the accident, he accomplished his goal, pitching a full season in the minor leagues and compiling 18 wins.

Hollywood came calling and three years later, in 1949, “The Stratton Story,” starring Jimmy Stewart, was released in movie theaters.

After that, Stratton led a mostly peaceful life on his Texas farm until another tragic incident occurred.

Rise and fall

Monty Franklin Pierce Stratton was born in 1912 in the east Texas prairie community of Wagner, near Greenville. His parents were farmers who produced cotton and grain. After his father died, Stratton, who was a teen, helped his mother run the farm. He also played for local semi-pro baseball teams, became a professional in 1934 when he joined a minor-league club and got signed by a White Sox scout.

A 6-foot-5 right-hander, Stratton made his major-league debut with the White Sox in June 1934. He came to prominence in 1937 when he was named an American League all-star and posted a 15-5 record and 2.40 ERA. Stratton followed that with a 15-9 mark in 1938.

On Sunday, Nov. 27, 1938, Stratton, his wife Ethel and their son Monty Jr. visited his mother at her farmhouse. In the afternoon, Stratton took his .32-caliber automatic pistol and went out alone into the nearby woods “with the promise he’d bring back some rabbits, or, failing in that, would at least get some practice in marksmanship,” The Sporting News reported.

After taking a shot at a rabbit, Stratton put the pistol in a belt holster and was walking along a thicket, about a half-mile from the house, when the gun discharged. The bullet entered below his right hip, severed an artery and lodged near his knee. Stratton, weak from blood loss, crawled to within about 250 yards of the house. Ethel heard his shouts, got him into their car and rushed him to a hospital, the Chicago Tribune reported.

After receiving a series of blood transfusions, Stratton showed “great improvement,” but the next day, Nov. 28, 1938, gangrene set in and doctors determined amputation was imperative, the Tribune reported. The day of the amputation also was the birthday of 1-year-old Monty Jr.

On Dec. 2, 1938, Stratton, in his first interview since the accident, said from his hospital bed, “It’s been tough lying here, knowing that my baseball career is over, but I’m alive and have my wife and youngster and friends. What more could a man want?”

Moving on

Stratton’s misfortune was major news and stunned baseball fans. Cubs trainer Andy Lotshaw cautioned, “The only shooting a baseball player should do is in a 26 dice game and then only when the company is congenial.”

The White Sox and Cubs agreed to play an exhibition benefit game to raise funds to help with Stratton’s medical bills. White Sox owner J. Lou Comiskey told Stratton he would have a job with the club as long as he wanted.

The benefit game was played May 1, 1939, at Comiskey Park. The White Sox won, 4-1, beating Dizzy Dean before 25,594 spectators. Stratton delivered the ceremonial first pitch. “It was apparent, however, he couldn’t put his weight behind his pitches without losing balance,” the Tribune reported.

More than $29,000 was raised, according to the Tribune.

“Stratton still has aspirations to continue as a pitcher when he becomes accustomed to the artificial limb,” The Sporting News reported.

Stratton spent the next two years, 1940 and 1941, as a White Sox coach and sometimes pitched batting practice. A second son, Dennis, was born in 1940.

In 1942, Stratton became manager of the minor-league Lubbock Hubbers but quit after 10 days because the bus rides were too difficult on his leg, The Sporting News reported.

Comeback trail

Stratton spent another two years, 1942 and 1943, working on his pitching. Ethel was his catcher. When she was unavailable, he pitched to a target painted on the side of a barn and had his sons retrieve the balls, according to The Sporting News.

Ready to pitch competitively again, Stratton organized a semi-pro team in Greenville and pitched in games in 1944 and 1945.

In 1946, Stratton, 34, contacted the owner of the minor-league Greenville Majors of the East Texas League and asked for a chance to play, but the owner wanted him as a manager, not a pitcher. Stratton wrote to the other seven clubs in the league and heard from Art Willingham, owner of the Sherman Twins, who signed him to pitch.

On April 30, 1946, Stratton pitched a one-hitter in a 6-1 win against Greenville.

When he faced the Texarkana Bears, seven batters attempted bunts in the first six innings. Three of them struck out. The other four bunted, but Stratton fielded all flawlessly, throwing out three from a prone position.

“He can and does field bunts, even though he topples over easily,” The Sporting News observed. “Stratton believes that the more bunts attempted against him, the better he will be able to field them.”

In a rematch against Greenville, Stratton batted with a runner on first, two outs, and singled to center. As the throw went to second, Stratton “set out with that peculiar hop-skip he used and was about two-thirds of the way to first when he fell,” The Sporting News reported.

The crowd gasped and the infielder, seeing what happened, fired the ball to first. “When Monty fell, he started crawling,” writer D.A. Blocker observed. “The ball beat his last desperate lunge by an eyelash. Monty got up, brushed himself off and went on out to the mound to receive an ovation that lasted for at least 10 minutes. There was hardly a dry eye in the whole park.”

Stratton was visited that summer by screenwriter Douglas Morrow and signed a deal to give Morrow the movie rights to his life story.

Stratton finished the 1946 season with an 18-8 record and pitched 218 innings in 27 starts.

Lights, cameras

MGM agreed to make a movie based on Morrow’s screenplay. Sam Wood was hired to direct and filming was scheduled to begin in 1948. Wood had directed two Marx Brothers hits, “A Night at the Opera” (1935) and “A Day at the Races” (1937) as well as dramas such as “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1939), “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942) and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943).

Stratton pitched one more minor-league season, posting a 7-7 record for the 1947 Waco Dons, before heading to Hollywood in 1948 to be the movie’s technical advisor.

MGM chose Van Johnson to play the role of Stratton and hired retired big-leaguers Harry Danning, Bob Meusel and Red Ruffing to coach him on how to be a ballplayer, but they “found it more difficult to teach Van to pitch and handle a bat than to balance peas on a knife,” The Sporting News reported.

MGM wanted Robert Taylor to replace Johnson, but Taylor declined. Ronald Reagan reportedly sought the role, but the studio preferred Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck. Stewart got the part and MGM cast June Allyson as Stratton’s wife. Agnes Moorehead as Stratton’s mother and Frank Morgan as a scout who signed and mentored Stratton. Morgan had played the roles of The Wizard and Professor Marvel in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

Several former and active major-leaguers appeared in the film. Indians pitcher Gene Bearden, retired catcher Bill Dickey, Cubs coach Merv Shea and former White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes got credited parts. Among the ballplayers making uncredited appearances were Gene Mauch and Hank Sauer.

Stratton was delighted by Stewart’s portrayal. “They’ll be sending him a contract after scouts get a squint at him in action,” Stratton said.

Said Dykes: “Stewart is doing an excellent job as a pitcher for an actor.”

The film opened in theaters in June 1949 and was a box-office success. Trailer

Daily Variety called it a “human drama as all-American as the sport which motivates it.”

The Hollywood Reporter surmised the film “touches the heart to just the same degree that it entertains.”

The movie fictionalized many key events, showing Stratton using a rifle instead of a pistol in the accident scene, and substituting an All-Star Game for the 1939 charity game, for instance.

Morrow won an Oscar for best writing, original story.

More misfortune

Stratton briefly played for minor-league teams in 1949, 1950 and 1953 before settling onto the family farm. He helped start the Greenville Little League program, according to the Greenville Herald-Banner.

Tragedy struck in June 1964 when Stratton’s youngest son, Dennis, 23, died. Dennis was found dead by his wife in the kitchen of their home, United Press International reported. A judicial officer ruled Dennis killed himself with a shotgun.

On Sept. 29, 1982, Monty Stratton, a longtime cigarette smoker, died of cancer at 70. Notified of Stratton’s death, Jimmy Stewart told United Press International, “We have exchanged Christmas cards ever since I did the picture … He was a very nice man who lived the sport of baseball and was a great credit to it.”

Ethel worked at a dress shop in Greenville and volunteered at a local hospital. She died in 2006 at age 90 at the home of a granddaughter.

Their eldest son, Monty Jr., served in the U.S Air Force and was 74 when he died on Oct. 18, 2012.

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Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott forever are linked as teammates, friends, road roommates, Hall of Famers and, tragically, by a bizarre twist of fate.

Thirty years ago, on Nov. 21, 1988, Hubbell, 85, died in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital from injuries suffered in a car accident two days earlier.

Hubbell’s death occurred 30 years to the day Ott died under eerily similar circumstances. On Nov. 21, 1958, Ott, 49, died in a New Orleans hospital from injuries suffered in a car accident a week earlier.

Hubbell was the ace pitcher and Ott the home run slugger who spent their entire major-league playing careers with the Giants.

Ott, 17, debuted with the Giants in 1926 and Hubbell, 25, joined them in 1928. They roomed together on road trips from the time Hubbell arrived with the Giants until he pitched his last game in 1943, according to the Associated Press. Both men had low-key personalities and friendly demeanors and genuinely liked one another.

Hubbell was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947 and Ott was inducted four years later in 1951.

When Ott died, Hubbell told the New York Daily News, “I’m heartsick. Mel was one of my closest friends.”

Perfect pitch

Hubbell was born in Carthage, Mo., and grew up on a cotton and pecan farm near Meeker, Okla.

In 1924, when he turned 21, Hubbell signed with a minor-league club in Oklahoma and taught himself to throw a pitch known as a “reverse curve” or “fadeaway.”

When right-handers Christy Mathewson of the Giants and Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Cardinals threw the “reverse curve,” it broke in to right-handed batters and away from left-handed ones. As a left-hander, Hubbell’s version broke in to left-handed batters and away from right-handed ones.

In 1925, when Hubbell was tossing the pitch in warmups, the catcher said, “That’s the screwiest thing I ever saw,” and the “reverse curve” became known as a screwball, according to The Sporting News.

Hubbell’s success with the pitch attracted the interest of major-league scouts and in August 1925 the Tigers acquired him from the Oklahoma City club in the Western League.

The Tigers invited Hubbell to spring training in 1926 and 1927 but returned him to the minor leagues both times. According to the Associated Press, a Tigers coach, believing Hubbell would hurt his arm throwing a screwball, told him, “Don’t fool with that. Forget it.”

“So I forget it,” said Hubbell, “and Detroit forgot me.”

The Tigers sold Hubbell’s contract to a minor-league club in Beaumont, Texas, in April 1928. Giants scout Dick Kinsella liked what he saw from Hubbell there and on July 12, 1928, the Giants purchased his contract. Two weeks later, Hubbell made his big-league debut.

Big winner

Hubbell’s most celebrated performance came in the 1934 All-Star Game when he struck out five future Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, in succession. Boxscore

“My style of pitching was to make the other team hit the ball, but on the ground,” Hubbell told writer John P. Carmichael. “It was as big a surprise to me to strike out all those fellows as it probably was to them.”

The all-star feat got the glory, but in games that counted in the standings Hubbell’s most impressive outing occurred against the Cardinals.

On July 2, 1933, in the opener of a Sunday doubleheader at the Polo Grounds in New York, Hubbell pitched an 18-inning shutout in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Cardinals.

Hubbell held the Cardinals to six hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out 12. He retired 20 batters in a row from the seventh inning to the 13th and only one Cardinals runner reached third.

Cardinals starter Tex Carleton nearly matched Hubbell, pitching 16 scoreless innings before he was relieved by Jesse Haines. In the 18th, with Giants runners on first and third, two outs, Hughie Critz “shot a single past Haines’ left ear,” scoring Jo-Jo Moore, the St. Louis Star-Times reported. When Moore touched the plate, “a deafening roar went up and straw hats, torn programs and other debris rained upon the turf,” according to the New York Daily News. Boxscore

Hubbell pitched 16 seasons (1928-43) for the Giants and had a record of 253-154 with a 2.98 ERA. He twice won the National League Most Valuable Player Award (1933 and 1936), pitched in three World Series (1933, 1936 and 1937) and was a nine-time all-star.

Hubbell earned 21 wins or more in five consecutive seasons (1933-37) and in 1933 he led the league in wins (23), ERA (1.66), shutouts (10) and innings (308.2). He won 24 consecutive regular-season decisions over a two-year period (1936-37). Flagstaff Film clip of Hubbell vs. Cardinals on July 21, 1938.

Throwing the screwball eventually took a physical toll on him. When Hubbell’s left arm was at rest, his palm faced out instead of in. “I couldn’t get over Hubbell’s hand,” writer Roger Angell observed. “It was like meeting a gladiator who bore scars inflicted at the Colosseum.”

Eye for talent

Following his retirement as a player after the 1943 season, Hubbell became Giants farm director and rebuilt their sagging minor-league system. Among the prospects the Giants developed under Hubbell were Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.

Hubbell made all decisions on which prospects the Giants would draft and which of the organization’s minor-league players got promotions, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

He was Giants farm director for 34 years until a stroke forced him to give up the job in 1977 at age 74. The stroke “left him unable to walk for a while and caused slurred speech,” according to the Arizona Republic. Hubbell had a second stroke in 1984, but continued to do scouting for the Giants in Arizona.

Hubbell lived in an apartment in Mesa, Ariz., not far from the Giants’ spring training base. “I get along all right,” Hubbell said to the New York Daily News in 1987. “When I can get to the car, I go to the post office, the bank, different places you have to go. There’s nothing wrong with the car. Only me.”

He ate breakfast at the counter of a Mesa restaurant every other morning and that’s where he was headed on Nov. 19, 1988, when he lost control of his car and hit a metal pole after suffering an apparent stroke, according to police reports.

Hubbell, who was alone in the car, was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. He died of head and chest injuries two days later. He was survived by two sons and two grandchildren. His wife, Lucille, whom he married in 1930, died in 1967.

In citing his “consistency of excellence” as a pitcher, the New York Times noted, “Hubbell’s businesslike demeanor on and off the pitching mound contrasted with more colorful, eccentric pitchers of his era, like Lefty Gomez of the Yankees and Dizzy Dean of the Cardinals. Hubbell won respect and attention solely from on-field performances.”

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Ricky Bottalico was acquired by the Cardinals to be a setup reliever, became the closer instead and didn’t perform well enough to keep the job.

Twenty years ago, on Nov. 19, 1998, the Cardinals got Bottalico and pitcher Garrett Stephenson from the Phillies for outfielder Ron Gant and pitchers Jeff Brantley and Cliff Politte. The Cardinals also agreed to pay $6 million toward Gant’s salary over the next two years and Brantley’s salary in 1999.

With an 0-5 record, eight blown save chances and a 4.44 ERA, Brantley was a bust as Cardinals closer in 1998 and he relinquished the role to Juan Acevedo over the last two months of the season. Acevedo responded with 15 saves and the Cardinals were convinced he’d be their closer in 1999. “Our people have (Acevedo) ranked among the top five in the National League,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

What the Cardinals wanted were established setup relievers to protect late-inning leads before turning to Acevedo in the ninth. They thought they’d acquired an ideal tandem in Bottalico, a right-hander, and Scott Radinsky, a left-hander they signed as a free agent after he posted a 2.63 ERA and 13 saves for the 1998 Dodgers.

Quick study

Bottalico was a catcher in college at Florida Southern and Central Connecticut, but wasn’t selected in the major-league draft. The Phillies signed him as an amateur free agent in July 1991 and projected him to be a pitcher.

“I knew I threw the ball hard, but I really didn’t have even a windup at that point,” Bottalico said. “I was throwing more like a catcher, straight from the ear.”

Bottalico was sent to the low levels of the Phillies farm system and was used as a starter. “I learned more about pitching in the first week of minor-league baseball than in the whole rest of my life,” Bottalico said.

After making 11 starts in 1992, he was converted into a closer and began a quick ascension through the farm system. “The Phillies saw my intensity level,” Bottalico said. “Once they saw that, I was labeled for a closer’s role.”

Bottalico debuted in the big leagues with the Phillies in 1994 and he had 34 saves for them in each of two seasons, 1996 and 1997.

In April 1998, Bottalico had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right elbow. He sat out two months, returned in July and “struggled to regain his control and velocity,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Left-handed batters hit .375 against Bottalico in 1998. He had an 11.68 ERA in August and a 5.59 ERA in September.

Something is amiss

The Cardinals approached the Phillies in November 1998 and suggested trading Gant for Bottalico, Phillies manager Terry Francona said. “We were dying for a 30-homer guy like Gant,” said Phillies general manager Ed Wade.

To sweeten the deal, the Cardinals said they’d include Brantley and Politte and would pay portions of the remainder of Gant’s and Brantley’s contracts, Francona said.

The Phillies included Stephenson in the package because he’d filed a grievance against them, claiming he was sent to the minors while injured, and “wore out his welcome here,” Wade said.

Though Bottalico was 1-5 with a 6.44 ERA for the 1998 Phillies, Jocketty called him “a guy we’ve liked for a long time” and said Cardinals doctors were convinced the pitcher’s arm was sound. “My arm hasn’t felt this good in years,” Bottalico said.

Early in the 1999 season, Bottalico pitched well for the Cardinals and Acevedo didn’t. Bottalico had a 1.46 ERA in 11 appearances in April. By mid-May, Acevedo had a 6.75 ERA, so the Cardinals made Bottalico the closer.

Though Bottalico had stretches of success, he faltered in the final two months of the season. His ERA in August was 9.72 and in September it was 7.84.

Meanwhile, Radinsky injured his elbow and didn’t pitch for the Cardinals in August and September.

The relievers who began the season as the Cardinals’ top three all produced poor results:

_ Acevedo, 4-5, 5.06 ERA, four saves as a reliever.

_ Bottalico, 3-7, 4.91 ERA, 20 saves and eight blown save chances.

_ Radinsky, 2-1, 4.88 ERA, three saves.

Bottalico had “too many walks, too many late-inning home runs, too little confidence” during the second half of the season, the Post-Dispatch surmised.

The pitcher who turned out to provide a boost was the throw-in from the Phillies deal. Stephenson, sent to the minors early in spring training, was called up to the Cardinals in June 1999 and won his first five decisions. He finished 6-3 with a 4.22 ERA. In 2000, he was a 16-game winner for the Cardinals.

One and done

The Cardinals were 75-86 in 1999 and they vowed to make moves to improve.

On Nov. 16, 1999, the Cardinals acquired reliever Dave Veres from the Rockies and projected him to be their closer in 2000.

Soon after, the Cardinals offered to deal Bottalico and outfielder Eric Davis to the Dodgers for starting pitcher Ismael Valdez and second baseman Eric Young, the Post-Dispatch reported. When the Dodgers balked at taking Davis, talks continued about a swap of Bottalico for Young.

On Dec. 12, 1999, the Dodgers got what they considered a better offer and dealt Valdez and Young to the Cubs for pitchers Terry Adams, Chad Ricketts and Brian Stephenson. A week later, the Cardinals got second baseman Fernando Vina for Acevedo, catcher Eliezer Alfonzo and pitcher Matt Parker.

Unable to trade Bottalico and unwilling to pay him the $2.2 million salary he got in 1999, the Cardinals decided they wouldn’t offer him a contract for 2000, making him a free agent. “I had a feeling this is what they might do,” Bottalico said.

In January 2000, Bottalico signed a one-year contract with the Royals, bringing his short, unfulfilling stint with the Cardinals to an official end.

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Mort Cooper was a talented Cardinals pitcher with a troubled soul whose life was shortened by too much booze.

Sixty years ago, on Nov. 17, 1958, Cooper died at 45 in an Arkansas hospital. Death was caused by cirrhosis of the liver and a staph infection, according to published reports.

In the 1940s, Cooper was a Cardinals ace, a three-time 20-game winner and recipient of the 1942 National League Most Valuable Player Award. The right-hander was the top pitcher for pennant-winning Cardinals clubs in 1942, 1943 and 1944. His records those seasons were 22-7 in 1942, 21-8 in 1943 and 22-7 in 1944.

Off the field, Cooper was a carouser who drank to excess, wasted his earnings and resorted to petty crime.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bob Broeg described Cooper as “a great pitcher and pathetic figure, a simple fun-loving man for whom life became all too complicated and all too short.”

Climbing up

Mort Cooper was born in 1913 in Atherton, Mo. He and his younger brother, catcher Walker Cooper, played amateur baseball in the Ban Johnson League in Kansas City.

In 1933, Mort turn pro, played in the minors at the Class A level Western League and caught the attention of a Cardinals scout, who recommended him to club executive Branch Rickey. Mort signed with the Cardinals, who followed his suggestion and signed Walker, too.

Mort made his major-league debut with the Cardinals on Sept. 14, 1938, and two years later Walker joined him.

In June 1941, Mort had surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow, but he recovered and became the Cardinals’ premier pitcher.

Cooper led the National League in wins (22), ERA (1.78) and shutouts (10) in 1942. He also was the league leader in wins (21) in 1943 when he pitched consecutive one-hitters and in shutouts (seven) in 1944.

“Except for Dizzy Dean, probably no pitcher ever had three more successful consecutive seasons in a Cardinals uniform than Mort Cooper,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Among Cooper’s highlights were two World Series wins.

On the morning of Oct. 6, 1943, Mort and his brother were informed of the death of their father, but both decided to play that afternoon in Game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Mort pitched a six-hitter and the Cardinals won, 4-3. Boxscore

The next year, Mort pitched a shutout with 12 strikeouts in Game 5 of the 1944 World Series versus the Browns. Boxscore

Even with his success, Cooper’s right elbow continued to bother him and he “chewed aspirin like peppermint to dull the physical distress during key games,” according to the Post-Dispatch.

Trials and tribulations

Meanwhile, Cooper experienced a series of personal troubles.

In 1936, his wife Mary was killed in a car accident, according to a report by the Society for American Baseball Research. Soon after, on Oct. 14, 1936, Cooper married Bernadine, 19, but his drinking strained the relationship.

As Bob Broeg slyly noted in the Post-Dispatch, Cooper’s career was a tribute to “his own private brand of courage. Usually, any brand was just fine with Mort.”

Cooper spent money freely and frivolously. “In many ways, Cooper never grew up,” the Associated Press surmised. “He used to spend a lot of money each month in gadget shops, buying odd things like water guns. He laughed fate in the face.”

On May 23, 1945, amid a contract dispute, the Cardinals traded Cooper to the Braves for pitcher Red Barrett and $60,000. Three months later, Cooper had a second operation on his right elbow.

Cooper’s elbow “had more chips than a gambling casino and sounded at times like dice thrown on a marble floor,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

On Nov. 6, 1945, Cooper’s second wife filed for divorce, claiming he had a violent temper and drank too much.

Hard road

Cooper married his third wife, Viola, in 1946 and had his last good season in the big leagues, posting a 13-11 record for the Braves.

In June 1947, the Braves traded Cooper to the Giants and he was 1-5 with a 7.12 ERA for them. Severely overweight, he announced his retirement during spring training in 1948.

A few months later, in October 1948, Cooper was arrested in St. Louis for passing bogus checks. Former Cardinals owner Sam Breadon came to his rescue, posting $2,000 in bonds for Cooper’s release. Soon after, charges against Cooper were dismissed by a St. Louis judge on the recommendation of the prosecuting attorney when Breadon made restitution on the $270 worth of bad checks, the St. Louis Star-Times reported.

“Mort is such a good-hearted fellow,” Breadon told The Sporting News. “When he was pitching for the Cards, he was probably the smartest pitcher in the business, but when it came to outside interests involving money he was just like a little child. He never did have any sense of business or of handling money.”

Breadon revealed Cooper “doesn’t have a cent of his baseball earnings left. He’s been a free spender.”

“I know he’s not a criminal,” Breadon said. “He wouldn’t harm anyone. On the contrary, he’d give you the shirt off his back.”

On Breadon’s recommendation, the Cubs gave Cooper a chance to make a comeback in 1949, but he pitched in one regular-season game for them, gave up a three-run home run to Duke Snider without retiring a batter and was released.

In his 11 seasons in the major leagues, Cooper posted a record of 128-75, including 105-50 with the Cardinals.

Life after baseball

Cooper eventually settled in Houston, worked as a security guard for a steel company and operated a small bar called “The Dugout.”

In August 1958, Bert West, a correspondent for the Victoria Advocate, visited Cooper at the bar and reported, “His various escapades on the personal life side apparently left him a lonely, but not bitter, man. He said that I was the first newspaperman he had seen in a long time and he had no contact with former players, except his brother, in several years.”

Two months after that, Cooper was traveling in Arkansas, where he reportedly intended to relocate, when he was admitted to a hospital on Oct. 31, 1958. He died there three weeks later. Cooper was survived by his wife, son, mother and several siblings, including his brother Walker.

About 150 people, including former Cardinals teammate Johnny Hopp, attended the funeral in Independence, Mo., according to United Press International.

In a column for the Chicago Tribune, David Condon concluded, “Mort never was one of fortune’s favorite children.”

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