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With his big-league career in rapid freefall, Lee Tunnell got an unexpected boost from a veteran scout and grabbed hold of an opportunity presented by the Cardinals. Six months later, Tunnell was pitching in the World Series.

During spring training in 1987, Cardinals scout Rube Walker was following the Pirates to assess whether catcher Tony Pena was a player St. Louis should acquire.

Walker, 60, had been a big-league catcher with the Cubs and Dodgers. He was the pitching coach for the Mets when they won the 1969 World Series championship and 1973 National League pennant and for the Braves when they won the 1982 NL West title. Walker joined the Cardinals in 1986 as special assignment scout.

While scouting Pena, Walker got to see Tunnell pitch in spring training with the Pirates.

Walking the plank

Tunnell, a right-hander, was 21 when he made his major-league debut with the 1982 Pirates. The next season, he was 11-6 with Pittsburgh.

Then his career skidded. He was 1-7 with the Pirates in 1984 and 4-10 in 1985. Tunnell spent the 1986 season in the minor leagues with Hawaii and was 4-11 with a 6.01 ERA.

“My career has been on a downhill slope, but (in 1986) it was pretty steep,” Tunnell said.

When he reported to spring training in 1987, the Pirates told Tunnell, 26, he no longer was in their plans and they would try to deal him. Tunnell handed the Pirates a list of places he’d like to pitch. St. Louis was one of those.

Scout’s honor

On April 1, 1987, the Pirates traded Pena to the Cardinals for outfielder Andy Van Slyke, catcher Mike LaValliere and pitcher Mike Dunne.

The Pirates also talked to the Cardinals about Tunnell. “We weren’t real interested in him because his record had been pretty weak,” Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Maxvill had a change of heart when he talked with Walker. The scout told Maxvill that Tunnell had an effective fastball and breaking pitch. After reading Walker’s scouting report, Maxvill met with Lee Thomas, director of player development for the Cardinals.

“We talked it over again and decided to go for him,” Maxvill said.

Thirty years ago, on April 6, 1987, the Cardinals purchased Tunnell’s contract from the Pirates and assigned him to their Class AAA minor-league affiliate at Louisville.

Rapid rise

Pitching for Louisville manager Mike Jorgensen, Tunnell regained his form and validated Walker’s endorsement. “This was just a time in my career where I needed a new start with somebody else,” said Tunnell.

In six starts for Louisville, Tunnell was 4-1 with a 3.41 ERA.

On May 15, 1987, the Cardinals placed outfielder Jim Lindeman on the disabled list and called up Tunnell. Two days later, Tunnell got a start against the Reds in place of Joe Magrane, who had sprained an ankle.

The May 17 game between the Reds and Cardinals at St. Louis was a matchup of pitchers seeking to revive their careers. Starting for the Reds was Jerry Reuss, 37, a St. Louis native and former Cardinal who had joined the Reds after being released by the Dodgers.

Cardinals contributor

Pitching in a big-league game for the first time in two years, Tunnell showed he wasn’t washed up. He held the Reds to two runs in seven innings and got the win in his Cardinals debut. Tunnell also singled and drove in a run in a 10-2 Cardinals victory. Reuss yielded 10 hits, two walks and seven runs in 4.2 innings. Boxscore

Tom Pagnozzi, who caught Tunnell’s gem and contributed a grand slam off Reds reliever Guy Hoffman, said of the Cardinals starter, “His fastball was running in and out. He had a good slider and an outstanding curveball. He kept it down all game and they kept swinging and missing.”

Pena, watching from the Cardinals bench while on the disabled list, said of his former Pirates teammate: “He pitched today like he did in 1983. The Pirates lost confidence in him and then he lost his confidence. Sometimes it’s good to make a change. It was the right move and he’s excited about being here.”

Tunnell won three of his first four decisions with the Cardinals.

In August 1987, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a shoulder ailment. “Anytime I put effort into my fastball, it felt like my shoulder was coming out of its socket,” Tunnell said.

Big stage

The rest enabled Tunnell to regain strength in the shoulder. On Aug. 29, he pitched effectively in a rehabilitation start for Class A Springfield, Ill. Three days later, he was reactivated by the Cardinals.

Utilized as a reliever, Tunnell pitched 8.2 scoreless innings in eight September appearances for the Cardinals, helping them clinch the NL East title.

His regular-season record: 4-4 with a 4.84 ERA.

For the NL Championship Series versus the Giants, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog opted to keep just eight pitchers on the postseason roster, leaving no room for Tunnell.

After the Cardinals won the pennant, Herzog determined injured first baseman Jack Clark wouldn’t be able to play in the World Series against the Twins, so he replaced Clark on the roster with Tunnell.

Tunnell appeared in relief in two World Series games, posting a 2.08 ERA by yielding one earned run in 4.1 innings.

In 1988, Tunnell spent the season at Louisville and was 6-8 with a 3.86 ERA. The Cardinals released him in October 1988.

In August 2012, Tunnell became Brewers bullpen coach. He has held that role each year since.

Previously: Cardinals deal for Tony Pena not as lopsided as thought

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Clearly a believer in the Mark Twain adage of “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story,” Bob Gibson told a terrific tale about the indignity of having Cardinals teammate Dal Maxvill pinch-hit for him. Problem is, it never happened.

Toward the end of an interview published in the March 11, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gibson was asked by Rick Hummel, “Worst experience in baseball?”

The Hall of Fame pitcher responded by spinning a story about the time manager Red Schoendienst called upon Maxvill, the light-hitting shortstop, to bat for Gibson.

“My worst experience in baseball was when Red had Maxvill pinch-hit for me,” Gibson said. “I was so mad. I sat on the bench and Maxie swung and missed a couple of pitches and then he popped up. I walked past Red and said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ I took a shower and went home.”

Either Gibson, a noted prankster, was playing a gag on Hummel, or the passage of time clouded the memory of the 81-year-old Cardinals legend.

Don’t blame Dal

The facts: Maxvill was not a successful pinch-hitter, but he never batted for Gibson in either a regular-season or postseason game.

Maxvill made 12 plate appearances as a big-league pinch-hitter, according to the reliable Web site retrosheet.org. He was 0-for-11, with a walk.

Gibson didn’t pitch in any of the 12 games Maxvill appeared as a pinch-hitter.

Maxvill made six pinch-hit appearances _ three in 1962 and three in 1963 _ when Johnny Keane was Cardinals manager. He made two pinch-hit appearances with the 1972 Athletics under manager Dick Williams.

Only four of his 12 pinch-hit appearances took place for the Cardinals when Schoendienst was manager. He had one in 1965, two in 1971 and one with the 1972 Cardinals before he was traded to the Athletics.

No Gibson sub

The four times Schoendienst sent Maxvill to pinch-hit resulted in:

_ Reached on an error as pinch-hitter for pitcher Ray Washburn on June 16, 1965. Boxscore

_ Grounded out to shortstop as pinch-hitter for pitcher Bob Chlupsa on June 4, 1971. Boxscore

_ Walked intentionally as pinch-hitter for pitcher Moe Drabowsky on June 8, 1971. Boxscore

_ Struck out as pinch-hitter for injured shortstop Dwain Anderson on Aug. 15, 1972. Boxscore

Only once did Maxvill pop out as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. That took place in his major-league debut on June 10, 1962, when Maxvill, batting for pitcher Bobby Shantz, hit a pop-up to Giants pitcher Billy O’Dell. Boxscore

This scenario fits

Perhaps Gibson was confusing Maxvill with Dick Schofield.

In 1968, Schofield was Maxvill’s backup at shortstop. Schofield, a .227 career hitter, batted .220 for the 1968 Cardinals.

On April 20, 1968, Schoendienst sent Schofield to bat for Gibson in the ninth inning.

Schofield popped out to third.

Gibson couldn’t have been happy. The Cubs won, 5-1, making Gibson winless in three starts. The Cardinals scored a total of seven runs in those three games.

Though he made 11 pinch-hit appearances for the 1968 Cardinals, Schofield never would bat for Gibson again.

Gibson would go on to have his most magnificent season in 1968, producing a 1.12 ERA and 28 complete games in 34 starts for the National League champions.

Gibson in a pinch

Maxvill has a career .217 batting average; Gibson, .206.

Gibson was more successful than Maxvill as a pinch-hitter.

In 14 career pinch-hit appearances for the Cardinals, Gibson produced three hits, two walks and a sacrifice bunt.

In 13 of those pinch-hit appearances, Gibson batted for a pitcher.

The exception was on May 27, 1966, when Gibson was Schoendienst’s choice to be a pinch-hitter for left fielder Bobby Tolan. Batting with a runner on third, one out and the Cardinals trailing by a run against the Reds, Gibson struck out against reliever Billy McCool. Boxscore

Previously: Relax, Jon Jay; you’re no Dal Maxvill as Series hitter

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Bill Hands, whose effective starting pitching helped transform the Cubs from losers to contenders under manager Leo Durocher, was a familiar opponent of the Cardinals in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His best performance against St. Louis came on a day when the Cardinals also had their hands full with a group of Wrigley Field Bleacher Bums whose behavior had gotten out of hand.

Hands, who died March 9, 2017, at 76, pitched 11 seasons (1965-75) in the major leagues. He had a career record of 111-110 with a 3.35 ERA.

A right-hander, Hands was best in a three-year stretch for the Cubs when he was 16-10 in 1968, 20-14 in 1969 and 18-15 in 1970.

Against the Cardinals, Hands was 14-12 with a 2.58 ERA in his career. He had more wins (14), innings pitched (205.2) and appearances (38) against the Cardinals than he did versus any other opponent.

After posting losing records in 13 of 14 seasons from 1953-66, the Cubs had 87 wins in 1967 and 84 in 1968. By 1969, they were a threat to the reign of the Cardinals, who had won consecutive National League pennants in 1967 and 1968.

Fired up

On June 28, 1969, the Cubs were in first place in the NL East at 46-26 entering a Saturday afternoon game with the Cardinals at Chicago. St. Louis was 35-37, 11 games behind the Cubs.

Looking to put a dagger into the St. Louis title hopes, the Cubs started Hands against Dave Giusti of the Cardinals.

The left field stands at Wrigley Field filled quickly that day with Cubs fans. Known as Bleacher Bums, the group was whipped into a frenzy by the early-season success of their hometown team and by the sight of the archrival Cardinals.

As Cardinals players appeared in the outfield to shag flies and play catch before the game, “bleacher fans showered the Redbirds players with flashlight batteries, quarters, paper cups, dry ice and other debris in pregame practice,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Cage match

Curt Flood, Cardinals center fielder, told the Chicago Tribune, “They were throwing steel ball bearings at me. If I turn and catch one in the eye, it’s bye-bye career. I can start carrying a lunch pail to work.”

Cardinals pitcher Mudcat Grant said he was hit in the mouth by a hard rubber ball thrown from the left-field bleachers. Someone also flung a hard hat at him. Teammate Bob Gibson picked up the hard hat and “played the conductor’s role in leading the Bleacher Bums as they jeered the Cardinals with chants,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Bleacher fans told the Tribune that Grant retaliated by hitting three of them with baseballs he threw into the stands.

“I just lobbed the ball,” Grant said to the Post-Dispatch. “They weren’t lobbing those nails and flashlight batteries and that helmet at me.”

Grant said he “scared” the fans by throwing two baseballs hard against the ivy-covered wall.

“You ought to put a cage over them,” Grant said of his tormenters.

The Bleacher Bums also taunted left fielder Lou Brock, a former Cub, with calls of “bush leaguer.”

“The thing that really bothers me about it is that they are showing you people (reporters) up,” Brock said to the Tribune. “You have glorified them and they show their gratitude by behaving like that. It’s not right.”

Bearing down

Once the game began, Hands became the story. He held the Cardinals to one hit _ a Tim McCarver single _ through five innings.

In the sixth, with the Cubs ahead, 1-0, Flood led off with a single to left. Brock stretched his hitting streak to 13 games with a double into the left-field corner, scoring Flood.

“Both the pitches they hit in that inning were mistakes,” Hands said. “Brock hit a fastball down the middle and Flood got a hanging slider.”

Reminding himself to bear down, Hands struck out Vada Pinson and Joe Torre _ “I got Pinson on a fastball on the corner and Torre missed a slider,” Hands said _ before McCarver flied out.

The Cubs went ahead, 2-1, when Willie Smith hit a home run off Giusti in the bottom half of the inning and they added a run in the seventh.

Hands retired the Cardinals in order in the last three innings, sealing the win and finishing with a three-hitter. Boxscore

Koufax impressed

It was the third consecutive complete game pitched by Hands.

“I knew Hands was a good pitcher, but I didn’t know he was that good,” said Sandy Koufax, the retired Dodgers ace who was broadcasting the game for NBC. “He really showed me something today.”

Said Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst: “He threw a good slider about 85 percent of the time to our right-handed batters. He had marvelous control of it _ low and away.”

The loss dropped the Cardinals 12 games behind the Cubs. “They’re far enough behind us that they’ve got to win almost every one of the (13) games left between us,” said Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger.

Though the Cardinals didn’t catch them, the Cubs couldn’t hold onto the division lead. The Mets would finish in first place at 100-62. The Cubs (92-70) placed second and the Cardinals (87-75) were fourth.

Previously: How Mike Shannon put brakes on Cubs title hopes

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Prompted by his wife, Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean confronted a critic and initiated an argument that escalated into a brawl inside a crowded hotel lobby.

The principals in what became known as the Battle of Tampa were Dean, teammate Joe Medwick and journalists Jack Miley of the New York Daily News and Irv Kupcinet of the Chicago Daily Times.

Though the fisticuffs were real, the biggest blows may have been those that inflicted bruises to the egos of the participants.

The melee occurred 80 years ago, on April 2, 1937, at the Tampa Terrace Hotel after the Cardinals lost to the Reds in a spring training game.

The seeds for the showdown were sown about a month earlier.

Money matters

Holding out for a more lucrative contract offer, Dean didn’t report when the 1937 Cardinals opened spring training camp at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Miley, a columnist, scolded the pitcher. According to The Sporting News, he wrote: “For a guy who was picking cotton for 50 cents a day a few years ago, Diz has an amusing idea of his own importance.”

While Dean stayed with his wife Patricia at their house in Bradenton, Fla., during the contract holdout, journalists camped out in the town, hoping for comments from the colorful Cardinals ace.

In “Diz,” a 1992 biography of Dean, author Robert Gregory wrote that when reporters cornered Dizzy and his wife at a post office, seeking an interview, Patricia “cursed them and stomped to the car, honking the horn every few seconds until he joined her.”

When Dizzy later agreed to pose for news photographers, Patricia kept the cameramen waiting five hours before allowing her husband to cooperate.

Miley went on the attack in his column. According to Gregory, Miley called Patricia “a plump, dominating cotton queen” and described Dizzy as a “hen-pecked, fat-between-the-ears sharecropper.”

Dizzy shrugged off such remarks, Gregory said, but Patricia vowed revenge.

War of words

When the Cardinals played the Reds at Tampa, Patricia spotted Miley at the ballpark.

After the game, the Cardinals went to the hotel and, still in uniform, gathered in the lobby, awaiting room keys. Most of the Cardinals carried their spikes to keep from tearing up the lobby carpets.

Dizzy and Patricia were the first from the Cardinals group to get a room key. As they entered the elevator, Patricia saw Miley in the lobby _ just as Miley and Kupcinet emerged from the hotel bar, according to Gregory _ and urged her husband to confront the writer.

In the lobby were 18 Cardinals, about 20 other hotel guests and some hotel employees.

Dean stepped out of the elevator and approached Miley.

In piecing together accounts written by Miley, Gregory, J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and George Kirksey of United Press, here is what happened next:

Dizzy: “Is your name Miley?”

Miley: “Yes.”

Dizzy: “I wish you would not write those things about me. You said some terrible things about me.”

As the conversation continued, about 10 of Dizzy’s teammates gathered around him.

Dizzy: “You $125-a-month writers make me sick. Don’t you never mention me and my wife in one of them damned columns of yours again.”

Miley: “That’s a pleasure. I hate to write about bush leaguers anyway.”

Dizzy: “Just remember what I told you. I warned you. That’s from the horse’s mouth.”

Miley: “I say it’s from a hillbilly horse’s ass. What are you going to do about it?”

Dizzy: “I’ll show you…”

Hit or miss

Kupcinet, a 6-foot, 195-pound former college quarterback at North Dakota, stepped between Dean and the rotund (5 feet 6, 250-pound) Miley.

“Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size,” Kupcinet said to the pitcher.

Dean replied: “Stay out of my way, you New York Jew.”

Dizzy unleashed a wild punch _ “a ladylike left hook,” Miley called it _ that either missed or grazed Miley’s head.

Mike Ryba, a Cardinals pitcher, reached over Dean’s shoulder and swung his spikes, cracking Miley in the forehead and opening a cut above his right eye. The blow knocked Miley to the floor.

As Kupcinet reached for Dean, Medwick landed a crunching punch to Kupcinet’s left cheekbone.

Kupcinet went sprawling into a potted palm tree “that swooshed backward and started a chain reaction, knocking down floor lamps, plants and four other palms,” Gregory wrote.

Dean scampered for cover under an overturned sofa.

As other players moved in on the fallen writers, Mike Gonzales, a Cardinals coach, stopped the brawl from continuing.

In the Post-Dispatch, Stockton said of the spectacle, “Cigar girls and bell boys were very much excited, but no serious harm had been done.”

Tough talk

As Dean strutted back to the elevator, he crowed, “There ain’t no doubt about it _ It’s still the Gas House Gang.”

Kupcinet shouted at Dean: “I’ll fight you any place, any time you want to. Just name it.”

Miley said to Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch: “What’s the matter, Francis, can’t you control those ballplayers of yours?”

Replied Frisch: “No, I can’t.”

Kupcinet told a colleague, “Dean started the whole trouble, but when the fight started he didn’t get in it himself. They’re the Gas House Gang all right, but they won’t fight unless they know they’ve got the edge on you.”

Post mortem

The Cardinals paid the hotel for the damages, Gregory reported.

Ford Frick, National League president, said he wasn’t inclined to take action because the fight didn’t occur on the baseball field.

Among media reaction:

_ Joe Williams, columnist for the New York World-Telegram, said of Patricia Dean: “There’s a lady for you, chums. I wouldn’t say she is hard-bitten, but Mr. Miley is lucky she wasn’t in there swinging.”

_ The Sporting News editorialized: “There is no defense for ganging up on a man. Only mobs, hysteria-crazed and cowards adopt that method … The Cardinals players who participated in that hotel scene have put themselves in the position of public scorn.”

A week later, Dizzy told the Associated Press he was “sorry” about the incident. “It’s the first time I ever had any trouble with a sports writer and you can take it from ol’ Diz it will be the last time,” he said.

In October 1937, The Sporting News reported, Miley left the New York Daily News “after a disagreement with Jimmy Powers, sports editor.” Miley joined King Features syndicate and then the New York Post.

Dean was traded to the Cubs in 1938. Kupcinet, still with the Chicago Daily Times, and Dean patched their differences, posed for a Page 1 photo and became friends, Gregory said.

In retelling the story, Dean denied he’d been in the fight and blamed Medwick for instigating it. In response, Medwick, in a letter to the Chicago Daily Times, wrote: “Dean’s right in one respect. He wasn’t in the fight once punches started to fly. He usually does a crawfish act when that happens.”

Kupcinet began writing a celebrity gossip column for the Chicago Daily Times in January 1943. It was widely read and he became an influential figure in Chicago. Kupcinet continued writing the column for the Chicago Sun-Times until the week he died at 91 in 2003.

Previously: How Dizzy Dean survived an armed robbery

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In his spring training stint with the Cardinals, Mike Caldwell appeared to be a pitcher whose career was in decline. Shelled early and often, Caldwell showed no signs of developing into what he would become: a 20-game winner who would torment the Cardinals in the World Series.

Caldwell’s five-month stint as a Cardinal is a tale of a late bloomer who was in the wrong organization at the wrong time.

Forty years ago, in March 1977, Caldwell, 28, a veteran of six big-league seasons, was considered a leading candidate to fill a role in the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Instead, Caldwell was traded before he got a chance to appear in a regular-season game for St. Louis.

Giant troubles

Caldwell, a left-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1971 Padres. He had a 13-25 record in three seasons with them, then was traded to the Giants for slugger Willie McCovey.

In 1974, his first year with the Giants, Caldwell had a breakout season, posting a 14-5 record and 2.95 ERA.

After the season, Caldwell had surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow. When he returned, he struggled. “I lost some movement on my best pitch, the sinker, and I tightened up some and came sidearm at times,” Caldwell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

By 1976, Caldwell was having troubles in the Giants clubhouse as well as on the mound. “I didn’t get along with a couple of the coaches and they took it personally,” Caldwell said.

The Giants’ pitching coach was the former catcher, Buck Rodgers.

Caldwell reached a low point on April 28, 1976, when Doug Clarey hit a home run, the lone hit of his big-league career, against him in the 16th inning, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory.

Caldwell finished 1-7 with a 4.86 ERA for the 1976 Giants. “I lost my confidence, tried too hard _ overthrew, I guess you’d say _ and I didn’t do very well,” Caldwell said.

Hope rekindled

On Oct. 26, 1976, the Giants traded Caldwell, pitcher John D’Acquisto and catcher Dave Rader to the Cardinals for pitcher John Curtis, outfielder Willie Crawford and utility player Vic Harris.

“I’m just glad to get away from a bad situation,” Caldwell said of leaving the Giants.

The Cardinals slotted Caldwell for the bullpen. “It’s common knowledge that the problem with the Cardinals last year was that middle relief and late relief, except for Al Hrabosky, couldn’t get the other clubs out,” said St. Louis manager Vern Rapp.

Said Caldwell: “I have no illusions. I’ve got to prove I’m good enough to make the staff.”

Bad audition

On March 12, in the Cardinals’ 1977 spring training opener against the Mets, Caldwell pitched two innings and gave up four runs.

Three days later, Caldwell pitched an inning against the Dodgers and yielded three runs.

The Cardinals didn’t pitch him much after that.

On March 29, the Cardinals traded Caldwell to the Reds for pitcher Pat Darcy. In eight spring training innings, Caldwell yielded nine earned runs.

“Rapp called me in and told me, ‘Don’t get mad. You’re going to a contender,’ ” Caldwell said. “I wasn’t mad about that. I just thought he should’ve had some respect for me as a pitcher. That’s all I wanted: Throw me out there to see what I can do.”

Right fit

The Reds weren’t much more impressed with Caldwell than the Cardinals had been. Three months after they’d acquired him, the Reds dealt Caldwell to the Brewers.

In 1978, Caldwell got a break when the Brewers named George Bamberger their manager. Under Bamberger, who had been a pitching coach for the Orioles, Caldwell fulfilled his potential. He was 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA and 23 complete games for the 1978 Brewers.

“Lots of people had given up on me,” Caldwell said to The Sporting News, noting he was traded by four clubs, including the Cardinals. “Maybe the people who gave up on me were responsible in an indirect way for my coming back. I knew I could pitch and I hope those who gave up on me will say now, ‘Well, he had the guts to battle back and win.’ ”

The third-base coach for Bamberger’s Brewers was Buck Rodgers, with whom Caldwell had feuded in his last season with the Giants. In 1980, Rodgers replaced Bamberger as Brewers manager.

Old wounds

Early in the 1982 season, Caldwell had a run-in with Rodgers aboard a plane, The Sporting News reported. In June that year, Rodgers was fired and replaced by hitting coach Harvey Kuenn. Rodgers said disgruntled players had “tried to stab me in the back.”

Kuenn led the Brewers to the 1982 American League pennant and a matchup against St. Louis in the World Series.

Five years after he’d been dealt by the Cardinals, Caldwell would be facing them on baseball’s biggest stage.

Series drama

Caldwell, nicknamed “Mr. Warmth” by teammate Gorman Thomas because of his sometimes grumpy nature, was Kuenn’s choice to start Game 1.

Caldwell responded with a three-hit shutout in a 10-0 Brewers victory. Boxscore

Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez said he thought Caldwell was throwing a spitter, an illegal pitch. “He might have been throwing me screwballs, but I never saw a screwball drop like that,” Hernandez said.

Caldwell said he threw “natural sinkers.” Regarding the spitball accusation, Caldwell replied, “I look at it as a compliment. If the ball drops so much that they’re accusing me of throwing a spitter, I’ve got pretty good stuff.”

With the Series deadlocked at 2-2, Caldwell started Game 5 and again was the winning pitcher. He yielded 14 hits and two walks in 8.1 innings, but the Cardinals stranded 12 and the Brewers won, 6-4. Boxscore

The Cardinals won Game 6, setting up a deciding Game 7.

Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the eighth, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, two outs, when Kuenn lifted Moose Haas and replaced him with Caldwell.

Darrell Porter and Steve Braun responded with RBI-singles, stretching the St. Louis lead to 6-3, before Caldwell got Willie McGee to ground out.

Bruce Sutter set down the Brewers in order in the ninth, clinching the championship for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Previously: How Doug Clarey became Cinderella Man of Cardinals

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Though relief pitcher Clay Carroll was successful in his lone season with St. Louis, his most significant Cardinals connection came as an opponent.

clay_carrollCarroll, who played 15 seasons in the major leagues, had a career batting average of .130.

On May 30, 1969, in what The Sporting News aptly described as a storybook feat, Carroll hit the only home run of his big-league career. The improbable shot was struck against Bob Gibson in the 10th inning and it carried the Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis.

Eight years later, Carroll was traded to the Cardinals and excelled for them as a consistently reliable reliever.

Bench’s blast

Carroll, a right-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1964 Braves. He was traded to the Reds in June 1968.

His home run against Gibson occurred in the opener of a series between the Reds and Cardinals. The Reds were riding a seven-game winning streak. The Cardinals, two-time defending National League champions, were 21-23 and looking to get on track.

The Cardinals scored twice off Reds ace Jim Maloney in the first inning and added a run in the sixth against former teammate Wayne Granger for a 3-0 lead.

In the seventh, in a showdown of future Hall of Famers, Reds catcher Johnny Bench tied the score with a three-run home run. It was Bench’s first career hit against Gibson.

Carroll relieved Granger in the eighth and the game became a duel between Carroll and Gibson.

Neither team scored in the eighth and ninth.

Heavy lumber

Gibson retired the first two batters in the 10th. With Carroll pitching well, Reds manager Dave Bristol decided to let the reliever bat against Gibson, who had won five consecutive decisions.

Usually, Carroll used pitcher Tony Cloninger’s bat. This time, he borrowed the bat of outfielder Alex Johnson, a former Cardinal.

Johnson’s bats, Carroll explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “have a lot more wood in them than the one I had been using.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that Johnson’s bats “normally are about as heavy as any in baseball _ some weighing as much as 40 ounces.”

Big swat

With the count 3-and-2, Gibson delivered a high fastball. Carroll swung and lifted a towering fly ball to left field.

“I don’t want to brag, but when I hit the ball I knew it was gone,” Carroll said to United Press International. “Did you see it take off?”

The ball hit the top of the fence at Busch Stadium and bounced over the wall, giving the Reds a 4-3 lead.

“I was just swinging, trying to get on,” said Carroll. “Usually when I face Gibson, I just chop at the ball. That’s about all you can do against him.”

Said Bristol: “You should have seen the smile on Carroll’s face when he returned to the dugout. It looked like a cut watermelon.”

Bristol sent Carroll back out to pitch the bottom half of the 10th. He got Joe Hague to fly out, then walked Lou Brock. Curt Flood grounded out, moving Brock into scoring position at second. Vada Pinson, Carroll’s former Reds teammate, lined out to shortstop, ending the game.

Carroll pitched three hitless innings to earn the win. Boxscore

Championship caliber

Carroll was an important contributor to Reds teams that won NL pennants in 1970, 1972 and 1975.

In 14 World Series appearances for the Reds, Carroll was 2-1 with a save and a 1.33 ERA over 20.1 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, shutting out the Red Sox for two innings.

Dealt to the White Sox in December 1975, Carroll produced a 4-4 record, six saves and a 2.56 ERA for them in 1976.

Forty years ago, on March 23, 1977, the Cardinals acquired Carroll from the White Sox for pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.

Experience matters

The 1977 Cardinals were seeking an experienced reliever to set up closer Al Hrabosky. Carroll, 35, filled the need.

“This is obviously what we’ve been after _ consistency and experience from a right-handed reliever, a guy who’s been under fire in championship play,” said manager Vern Rapp. “We had nobody on our staff who fit those qualifications.”

Said Carroll: “I want to work as often as possible because the more I work the more consistent I am. I like the Cardinals, especially because they’re an aggressive team at bat and on the bases.”

Carroll reported to camp at 215 pounds, according to the Post-Dispatch. Rapp wanted him to be at 200 pounds when the season began. He instructed Carroll to run extra laps each day during spring training.

A master at locating his pitches, Carroll delivered for the 1977 Cardinals.

In its Aug. 20 edition, The Sporting News wrote, “When Carroll wasn’t saving games, he at least was dousing huge blazes to keep the Cardinals in the games. The tighter the situation, the more (Carroll) seemed to enjoy it.”

Noting how Carroll got batters to swing at pitches out of the zone, Dave Bristol, manager of the 1977 Braves, said, “Carroll would rather eat a green fly at home plate than throw a strike.”

One batter who did feast on Carroll’s pitches in 1977 was the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey, who hit two grand slams off him.

Still, Carroll produced a 4-2 record with four saves and a 2.50 ERA in 51 appearances for the 1977 Cardinals.

Then, on Aug. 31, they traded him back to the White Sox.

3-for-1

The trade created “a lot of eyebrow raising” because Carroll had been the Cardinals’ most consistent reliever, The Sporting News wrote.

The Cardinals were 10 games out of first place with about a month remaining in the season when the deal was made. The White Sox wanted Carroll because they were in contention for a division title, two games behind the first-place Royals.

St. Louis got three players in the deal: pitchers Silvio Martinez and Dave Hamilton and outfielder Nyls Nyman.

Carroll was disappointed to leave the Cardinals. “I thought I did a good job,” he said. “I guess they’re planning to go with a younger pitching staff next year.”

Previously: Like Shelby Miller, Silvio Martinez was special for Cards

 

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