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In their 1982 opener, the Cardinals beat Nolan Ryan, setting the tone for a championship season.

Forty years ago, on April 6, 1982, the Cardinals scored six runs against Ryan, knocking him from the game after three innings, and rolled to a 14-3 victory over the Astros at Houston.

After losing their next three games, the Cardinals won 12 in a row. The fast start provided them an important boost in a season that resulted in a National League pennant and World Series championship.

A dilly of a delivery

A right-hander who overpowered hitters for more than a quarter of a century, Ryan ranks as baseball’s all-time leader in strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (seven). He had 324 career wins, but was 10-13 versus the Cardinals. Ryan was 4-3 against them with the Mets and 6-10 with the Astros.

In 1968, when he was 21, Ryan’s reputation rocketed with a dazzling stint for the Mets against the Cardinals in a March 26 spring training game. He struck out six, including Orlando Cepeda, Johnny Edwards and Mike Shannon in succession, in four scoreless innings.

According to The Sporting News, Cepeda called Ryan “the best young pitcher I have seen since I came into the major leagues.” Cepeda’s teammate, Lou Brock, said Ryan “blew me away from the plate. He made me strictly a defensive hitter the second time up.”

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The kid threw harder than any pitcher I’ve ever seen.”

Ryan literally experienced a blistering start to the 1968 regular season. Blisters developed on the fingers of his right hand and threatened to derail him until Mets trainer Gus Mauch came to the rescue. Mauch went to a New York delicatessen and asked for the brine from the sourest dill pickles available. He instructed Ryan to soak his fingers in the juice and, before long, the brine toughened the skin and the blisters healed.

Ryan “never is without his pickle brine,” The Sporting News reported. “He dips his fingers while sitting in his hotel room, while watching television and before he goes to bed at night. He even dips them in a plastic bottle of brine on the dugout bench between innings.”

“I can smell the brine when I’m pitching,” Ryan said.

Ryan faced the Cardinals for the first time in the regular season on May 7, 1968, at St. Louis. He pitched a three-hitter in a 4-1 victory for his first complete game in the majors. The Cardinals’ hits were singles by Curt Flood, Mike Shannon and Bobby Tolan.

“He’s faster than Sandy Koufax and he’s the fastest I’ve seen in the major leagues,” Shannon said to the Associated Press.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Ryan threw 125 pitches _ 98 fastballs and 27 curves. “He threw more good curves against the Cardinals tonight than he had all year,” said Mets manager Gil Hodges. Boxscore

Playing like champs

Ryan was 35 when he started the 1982 season opener, his first for the Astros, against the Cardinals inside the Astrodome. The year before, Ryan led National League pitchers in ERA (1.69).

Making their Cardinals debuts were center fielder Lonnie Smith and shortstop Ozzie Smith.

The Cardinals acquired Lonnie Smith to ignite the offense, and he did the job in his first plate appearance in the first inning of the first game. Awarded first base after a Ryan fastball grazed his jersey, Smith swiped second and continued to third when catcher Alan Ashby’s rushed throw bounced into the outfield.

After Tommy Herr struck out, Keith Hernandez drew a walk. Ryan got ahead of the count, 0-and-2, on the next batter, Darrell Porter.

“I was looking for a fastball and I was going to adjust to everything else,” Porter told the Post-Dispatch,

Ryan threw a curve. “A hanger, very much a hanger,” said Porter. “I knew he might throw me a curveball, but I didn’t expect it to be there saying, ‘Hit me.’ “

Porter hit it over the wall in right for a three-run home run.

George Hendrick followed with a single and moved to third on Dane Iorg’s double.

Swinging at a 3-and-0 pitch, Steve Braun got the Cardinals’ fourth consecutive hit, a single, scoring Hendrick and advancing Iorg to third. Ozzie Smith’s grounder forced out Braun at second, but scored Iorg, giving the Cardinals a 5-0 lead.

“After I hung the curve to Porter, I started over-striding,” Ryan told the Associated Press.

The Cardinals added another run in the second. Lonnie Smith singled, stole second and scored on Herr’s double.

For his career, Lonnie Smith hit .500 (12-for-24) versus Ryan. He also twice was hit by Ryan pitches and drew five walks against him. Smith’s on-base percentage versus Ryan is .613.

Ryan gave up singles to Ozzie Smith and Lonnie Smith in the third, but the Cardinals didn’t score. In the bottom half of the inning, Ryan was removed for pinch-hitter Danny Heep.

Ryan’s totals: 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts, 1 batter hit by pitch.

“This was the worst I’ve ever been with the Astros,” Ryan told the Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

A force in his 40s

The last time Ryan faced the Cardinals in a regular-season game was Sept. 3, 1988, when he was 41. He limited the Cardinals to four hits in seven innings and got the win. The Cardinals’ hits were a Steve Lake double and singles by Luis Alicea, Rod Booker and ex-Astro Denny Walling.

“He’s just unbelievable … He’s got the best arm ever,” Walling told the Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Ryan’s 61 shutouts rank seventh all-time, but in 26 starts against the Cardinals he never pitched a shutout.

In 1969, when the Mets became World Series champions, Ryan had more than one win in a season versus the Cardinals for the only time. He was 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA against them that year.

Two years later, Ryan was the starter when the Cardinals’ Joe Torre had a 22-game hitting streak snapped. Ryan’s last start for the Mets came in the game in which Steve Carlton also made his last start for the Cardinals.

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A trade for a minor-league pitcher gave the Cardinals a lift in their quest for a World Series championship.

Forty years ago, on April 1, 1982, the Cardinals acquired Jeff Lahti and another minor-league pitcher, Oscar Brito, from the Reds for big-league pitcher Bob Shirley.

Called up to the Cardinals two months later, Lahti added valuable depth to a bullpen featuring Bruce Sutter, Jim Kaat and another ex-Red, Doug Bair.

Promising prospect

Born and raised in Oregon, Lahti was taken by the Reds in the fifth round of the 1978 amateur baseball draft. A right-hander, he became a reliable reliever in the minors, posting ERAs of 2.67 in 1979, 2.77 in 1980 and 2.97 in 1981.

“Lahti has very good ability, and he has that intangible _ competitiveness,” Reds manager John McNamara told the Dayton Journal Herald in 1981.

After watching Lahti pitch for Class AAA Indianapolis in 1981, Cardinals scout Mo Mozzali recommended him.

A chance to acquire Lahti came during spring training in 1982 when left-hander Dave LaPoint earned a position on the Cardinals’ pitching staff as a spot starter and reliever.

LaPoint’s performance made left-hander Bob Shirley expendable. For the Cardinals in 1981, Shirley was 6-4, including 2-0 against the Reds. Including his four seasons with the Padres before being dealt to the Cardinals, Shirley had a 12-7 record and two saves versus the Reds.

When the Reds learned Shirley was available, they agreed to send Lahti and Brito, another right-hander, to the Cardinals.

“This was a big decision for us to make to give up two young prospects like this,” Reds general manager Dick Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Brito is one of the highest-regarded prospects in the game, period. They were very important to us. It was a tough decision.”

Fired up

The Cardinals assigned Lahti and Brito to Class AAA Louisville to begin the 1982 season. In June, Lahti was called up when reliever Mark Littell accepted a demotion to Louisville.

Lahti, 25, brought a rookie’s enthusiasm that was embraced by the contending Cardinals. Between pitches, he “stomps around the mound like a bull protecting a pasture,” Hal McCoy wrote in the Dayton Daily News.

“I try to keep myself pumped up, but I’m not conscious of my actions,” Lahti told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Maybe it’s my second being. They say there are two sides to everybody. Maybe that’s my second side. On the mound, I’m a monster.”

On July 16, 1982, in a game Shirley started for the Reds, Lahti won for the first time in the majors, pitching 3.1 innings in relief of Steve Mura before Bruce Sutter came in to close.

In the ninth, when Sutter got Paul Householder to ground into a double play, Lahti raced from the dugout onto the field. “He was halfway to the foul line before realizing there were only two outs,” the Dayton Daily News reported.

Lahti called his first big-league win “the thrill of my life.”

“I never thought my first victory would be against the Reds,” he said. “I always thought it would be for them.” Boxscore

Getting it done

On Aug. 9, 1982, Lahti pitched six scoreless innings in relief of Dave LaPoint for a win against the Mets. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog told the Post-Dispatch, “I like him because he comes in and gets after people. He’s a good jam pitcher.” Boxscore

From then on, according to the Cardinals media guide, Herzog referred to Lahti as “Jam Man” for his ability to work out of tight situations.

A month later, on Sept. 18, Lahti again pitched six innings of relief for a win versus the Mets. Boxscore

In his last five regular-season appearances, totaling 4.1 innings, Lahti yielded one run, helping the Cardinals secure a division title for the first time.

Lahti was 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 33 games for the 1982 Cardinals. Excluding his one start, his season ERA as a reliever was 3.04.

Key contributor

Bob Shirley finished 8-13 in 1982, his lone season with the Reds. He went on to pitch for the Yankees and Royals.

Oscar Brito never made it to the big leagues.

Despite persistent shoulder pain, Lahti pitched well for the Cardinals from 1982 through 1985. He led them in saves (19) and ERA (1.84) in 1985, and was the winning pitcher in the pivotal Game 5 of the National League Championship Series which ended on Ozzie Smith’s iconic walkoff home run. Boxscore

After apearing in four games in 1986, Lahti underwent shoulder surgery. “The surgeon found a torn rotator cuff, with which Lahti had pitched for several years, and also bone chips that no one had detected before,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The shoulder never regained full strength and Lahti’s pitching career was finished.

His career numbers with the Cardinals: 17-11 record, 20 saves and a 3.12 ERA. Against the Reds, Lahti was 4-1 with a save and a 1.66 ERA.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Lahti returned to Hood River Valley in Oregon, operated a bottling company, owned an apple orchard and coached baseball.

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When it came time to select a team to sign with, the Cardinals were the first choice of teen pitching prospect Ralph Terry. Instead of beginning his baseball career with them, though, Terry ended up with the Yankees.

Terry’s heart may have been with the Cardinals, but he went on to pitch in five World Series with the Yankees and was involved in two of the most dramatic Game 7 finishes.

He also pitched against the Cardinals in the 1964 World Series and narrowly missed having a pivotal role in the crucial Game 4.

A right-hander who in 12 seasons in the majors had a 107-99 record, including 78-59 with the Yankees, Terry died on March 16, 2022, at 86.

Deadly arm

Terry was born in Big Cabin, Okla., and raised in the nearby town of Chelsea in the northeastern section of the state.

According to the New York Times, “As the story goes, Terry first tested his pitching arm on his grandmother’s farm. He started throwing corncobs, then switched to rocks. One day, he killed grandma’s pet rooster with a rock. The next day, she gave him a baseball. After that, he terrorized only schoolboy batters.”

Terry excelled in sports for the Chelsea High School Green Dragons and in amateur baseball leagues.

In November 1953, when he was 17, Terry said he decided to accept an offer from Cardinals scout Fred Hawn, The Sporting News reported. The Yankees continued their pursuit, prompting a series of arguments between Hawn and Yankees scout Tom Greenwade. according to the New York Times.

On Nov. 19, 1953, Greenwade persuaded Terry to choose the Yankees. Greenwade prepared a telegram of acceptance to send to Yankees general manager George Weiss in New York. Terry signed it, but because he was younger than 18, the agreement needed the signature of a parent to be official.

According to J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Terry said Greenwade had him sign his mother’s name to the telegram.

Weiss said he received the telegram, saw the signatures of Terry and his mother, and immediately sent back a confirmation of the acceptance, the New York Daily News reported.

“Confirmation by telegraph is an accepted way of doing business,” Weiss told United Press.

Dazed and confused

That night, Terry said, he changed his mind about joining the Yankees. He met with Hawn and Cardinals minor-league manager Ferrell Anderson in Joplin, Mo., and signed a Cardinals contract. Accompanied by Hawn, Terry went home to Chelsea, where his mother also signed the agreement, The Sporting News reported.

According to United Press, Terry’s mother denied she or her son had come to terms with the Yankees.

Terry told the wire service, “I definitely want to play with the Cardinals. I was confused for a time. There was a lot of fast talk on both sides, but I feel I’d be better off with the Cardinals.”

With both the Yankees and Cardinals claiming Terry, baseball commissioner Ford Frick was asked to settle the dispute.

“We’ll welcome any investigation,” Cardinals vice-president Bill Walsingham told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “We signed him first.”

To the Post-Dispatch, Walsingham said, “We are sure we are not only within our rights signing Terry, but also that the actions of our scout (Hawn) were entirely honest and above board.”

After meeting with Yankees and Cardinals officials, Frick ruled in favor of the Yankees, saying Terry accepted their terms before signing with the Cardinals.

Referring to Terry apparently forging his mother’s signature on the Yankees telegram at the suggestion of Greenwade, the Post-Dispatch dryly noted Frick’s ruling “surprised some observers,” but Cardinals vice-president John Wilson said, “Although we’re sorry and disappointed to lose Terry, there’s nothing to be done about it.”

Hype and hope

Noting that Greenwade was the scout who signed another prized prospect from Oklahoma, Mickey Mantle, the New York Daily News headline announcing Terry’s arrival with the Yankees declared, “Second Mickey?”

Terry, who turned 18 in January 1954, came to Yankees spring training camp a month later and dazzled manager Casey Stengel.

“I think he’s the greatest pitching prospect I’ve laid eyes on since I’ve been in baseball,” Stengel, 63, said to Dan Parker of the New York Daily Mirror.

Terry, 20, got to the majors with the Yankees in August 1956. They traded him to the Athletics in June 1957 and reacquired him in May 1959.

Goat and hero

In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the score was tied at 9-9 when Bill Mazeroski led off for the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth against Terry, working in relief.

After the first pitch, catcher Johnny Blanchard went to the mound and said, “This guy is a high-ball hitter. Get the ball down,” Terry said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Mazeroski walloped the next pitch, a slider, for a home run, clinching the championship.

“I knew it was high when I let it go,” Terry told the Post-Gazette. “I thought it might be hit off the wall for a double.” Boxscore and Video

Two years later, Terry again was pitching for the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series. With the Yankees ahead, 1-0, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Terry, a 23-game winner during the season, faced Willie McCovey with two outs and runners on second and third.

“The first pitch was down the middle and it surprised me and I pulled it foul,” McCovey told the New York Times. “I figured it was a mistake, but the second was another strike.”

McCovey scorched a line drive at second baseman Bobby Richardson. If the ball rose, Richardson said, he would have been in trouble, but instead it started to sink and it landed with a thud into his mitt for the final out. Boxscore and Video.

Terry, who started and won Games 5 and 7 after losing Game 2, was named most valuable player of the 1962 World Series.

“I am a very lucky fellow,” Terry told the New York Times. “You don’t often get another chance to prove yourself in baseball or in life.”

Different story

The Cardinals were desperate for a win in Game 4 of the 1964 World Series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won two of the first three games, and a win in Game 4 would put them in a commanding position.

With the Yankees ahead, 3-0, in the sixth inning, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, one out, against starter Al Downing. Dick Groat hit a grounder that had the look of an inning-ending double play. Bobby Richardson gloved the ball, but his toss to shortstop Phil Linz, who was moving toward the bag at second, was late and off target. All runners were safe, loading the bases, and Richardson was charged with an error.

“If Groat gets a clean hit, then I’d have to pull Al Downing and go with Ralph Terry,” Yankees manager Yogi Berra told the Post-Dispatch.

Because Downing had induced a grounder that should have produced an out, Berra felt compelled to let Downing, a left-hander, pitch to Cardinals cleanup hitter Ken Boyer, who batted right-handed.

“Terry still was in the bullpen when Downing threw a waist-high changeup to Boyer,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

Boyer hit it over the fence in left for a grand slam and the Cardinals went on to a 4-3 victory, evening the Series. Boxscore and Video.

If Berra had brought in Terry to face Boyer, it’s impossible to say whether the result would have been different, but Terry did pitch two scoreless innings in the eighth (when he got Boyer to ground into a double play) and ninth.

National Leaguer

That was the last game Terry pitched for the Yankees. He went to the Indians and Athletics before finishing his career with the Mets.

Terry’s first appearance in the National League was a start against the Pirates at Forbes Field on Aug. 11, 1966. Facing Terry for the first time since the World Series home run, Mazeroski flied out in the first, singled in the third and popped out in the fifth. Boxscore

According to Dick Young of the New York Daily News, a month later, when Terry saw his 1960 Yankees manager, Casey Stengel, now retired, in Los Angeles, he said, “Hey, Casey, I got Mazeroski out. I pitched him low.”

Stengel replied, “It’s about time.”

During his stint with the Mets, Terry faced the Cardinals once and it didn’t go well for him.

On Aug. 14, 1966, the Mets led the Cardinals, 3-1, in the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis. With two outs and none on, reliever Jack Hamilton walked Curt Flood and yielded a single to Tim McCarver.

Orlando Cepeda hit a pop foul near the Cardinals’ dugout. The ball tipped off the mitt of Mets catcher Jerry Grote. Instead of a game-ending out, Cepeda got to continue the plate appearance and walked, loading the bases.

Mets manager Wes Westrum brought in Terry to face Mike Shannon. With the count 2-and-2, Terry threw a pitch low and away. Shannon reached out and stroked a two-run single, tying the score at 3-3.

“The ball I hit was a hell of a pitch,” Shannon said. “I don’t know whether the pitch would have been a strike or not, but I couldn’t take the chance.”

The next batter, Charlie Smith, hit Terry’s first pitch for a single, driving in pinch-runner Bob Gibson with the winning run. Boxscore

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Adam Wainwright may be the last pitcher to produce a pinch-hit for the Cardinals.

With the designated hitter being used in the National League for the first time in 2022, it may be a while before the Cardinals pick a pitcher to be a pinch-hitter. Even if a pitcher was needed to bat, the odds would be against him getting a hit after a long layoff as a batter.

According to researcher Tom Orf, the last time a Cardinals pitcher got a hit as a pinch-hitter was April 8, 2017, when Wainwright did it in a game against the Reds at St. Louis.

Late in the game, Wainwright did “significant lobbying” for a chance to pinch-hit, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In the eighth inning, with one out, none on, and the Cardinals ahead, 9-3, Matheny sent Wainwright to bat for pitcher Jonathan Broxton. Wainwright singled to left against Drew Storen. Boxscore

Explaining why hitting was “something serious” to him, Wainwright told Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch, “You can win one or two games a year if you get a key hit, a key bunt.”

Big thrill

Wainwright, who hit a home run in his first plate appearance in the majors, is the last Cardinals pitcher to produce a RBI as a pinch-hitter, according to Orf.

It happened on June 10, 2016, at Pittsburgh. With the score tied at 3-3 in the 12th inning, the Cardinals had Matt Carpenter on first, two outs, Aledmys Diaz at the plate and Jonathan Broxton on deck.

Because the Cardinals had no more position players on the bench, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle ordered pitcher Juan Nicasio to give an intentional pass to Diaz, moving Carpenter into scoring position. Hurdle decided he’d rather have a pitcher at the plate than Diaz, the Cardinals’ rookie shortstop.

“I really struggle with having Diaz given an opportunity to beat us there when we figured Wainwright would be hitting next,” Hurdle told the Post-Dispatch.

Sent by Matheny to bat for Broxton, Wainwright hit a double to left-center, scoring Carpenter and Diaz and giving the Cardinals a 5-3 lead. The Cardinals scored six runs in the inning and won, 9-3. Boxscore and Video

Asked about Hurdle’s strategy, Wainwright told Rick Hummel, “I get it. I’m a pitcher and the odds are probably a lot less that I’m going to get a hit than Aledmys.”

Wainwright, who had 75 career RBI, called the two-run double as a pinch-hitter “one of the highlights of my career.”

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Wainwright said. “Winning the World Series is about the only time I could be happier than I am now.”

For his career with the Cardinals, Wainwright had five hits in 21 at-bats as a pinch-hitter, with three RBI.

His teammate, pitcher Jason Marquis, had six hits as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. Playing for manager Tony La Russa, Marquis was 3-for-9 as a pinch-hitter in 2005 and 3-for-10 in 2006, but he had no RBI.

The last Cardinals pitcher to hit a home run as a pinch-hitter was Gene Stechschulte in 2001. It came against Armando Reynoso of the Diamondbacks in Stechschulte’s first plate appearance in the big leagues.

Take that

Pitcher Bob Gibson had three hits in 11 career at-bats as a Cardinals pinch-hitter. He totaled 144 RBI, three as a pinch-hitter.

Gibson’s first RBI as a pinch-hitter came on Aug. 8, 1965, at St. Louis. Batting for pitcher Barney Schultz, Gibson, 29, doubled to left against Warren Spahn, 44, scoring Mike Shannon from second. Boxscore

Gibson hit .269 (7-for-26) versus Spahn in his career.

Nine months later, on April 17, 1966, the Cardinals played the Pirates at Pittsburgh. In the fifth inning, with Roberto Clemente at bat, Cardinals starter Nelson Briles “hummed a high fastball past Roberto’s left ear” and Clemente “hit the dirt to escape being clipped,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

When Clemente got up, he glared at Briles and then at the Cardinals’ dugout. Gibson yelled at him, “I’d do the same thing to you.”

According to the Post-Gaztette, after the inning ended, Gibson shouted in the direction of Clemente and the Pirates’ dugout, “If you want a piece of me, you know where to come.”

Two innings later, manager Red Schoendienst sent Gibson to bat for reliever Ray Sadecki with the bases loaded. Facing Bob Veale, Gibson singled to right, where Clemente was stationed, and drove in two runs. Boxscore

As the Pirates took the field in the eighth, Gibson went to the clubhouse via the Pirates’ dugout. “No one said a word to him,” the Post-Gazette reported.

(A year later, Clemente hit a ball that struck Gibson, fracturing his leg.)

Gibson hit .538 (7-for-1) versus Veale in his career.

Both Spahn and Veale threw left-handed. A right-handed batter, Gibson hit .222 against left-handers and .199 versus right-handers.

Postscript

One of the most remarkable seasons by a Cardinals pitcher was achieved by Curt Davis in 1939. He had a 22-16 record and hit .381 (40-for-105) that year. As a pinch-hitter in 1939, Davis batted .357 (5-for-14) with no RBI.

Two of the Cardinals’ best-hitting pitchers, Dizzy Dean and Bob Forsch, were hitless as pinch-hitters.

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In December 1960, the Cardinals made a bid to acquire catcher Elston Howard from the Yankees. While they were at it, they tried for pitcher Whitey Ford, too.

It was an audacious attempt, coming two months after a World Series in which Howard hit .462 and Ford pitched a pair of shutouts, but Cardinals general manager Bing Devine indicated the Yankees gave him reason to try.

The Cardinals offered pitchers Larry Jackson and Ron Kline, plus catcher Hal Smith, for Ford, Howard and pitcher Ryne Duren.

The Yankees said no _ and, as it turned out, were mighty glad they did so.

Local connection

The Cardinals were in the market for a power hitter because in 1960 only one player, Ken Boyer, hit more than 17 home runs for them. Howard hit for power and played multiple positions _ catcher, outfield and first base.

“Anybody who can play two or three positions capably is going to be able to write his own ticket, and Howard can do that,” Devine told Bob Burnes of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “He’s probably the best catcher in the American League, but can do almost as well in the outfield or at first base.”

Born and raised in St. Louis, Howard did well in a tryout with the Cardinals after he graduated from Vashon High School in the late 1940s, but the club wasn’t signing black players then and never made him an offer.

When Howard reached the big leagues in 1955 at 26, he was the first black Yankees player _ eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers and one year after the first black, Tom Alston, played for the Cardinals.

In 1960, Howard was an American League all-star for the fourth consecutive season. Devine “tried hard to land him,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Connecting the dots

After losing to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, the Yankees replaced manager Casey Stengel with Ralph Houk and general manager George Weiss with Roy Hamey.

The Yankees had three catchers, Howard (31), fellow St. Louisan Yogi Berra (35) and Johnny Blanchard (27), and Houk was considering moving Berra to the outfield, the Globe-Democrat reported.

According to The Sporting News, “The Cardinals had heard reports that, because of the rapid development of Johnny Blanchard, the Yankees might be willing to trade Howard.”

If that was so, Devine figured, Cardinals catcher Hal Smith, a defensive specialist, might appeal to the Yankees as an experienced backup to Blanchard.

Also, reliever Ryne Duren, who had 67 strikeouts in 49 innings for the 1960 Yankees, appeared obtainable to the Cardinals because of reports he “was in the doghouse with Houk,” The Sporting News reported.

The Yankees had expressed interest in Cardinals pitcher Ron Kline, according to The Sporting News.

Devine approached Hamey with an offer of Smith and Kline for Howard and Duren. The Yankees wanted more, and that’s how Larry Jackson and Whitey Ford got mentioned, The Sporting News noted.

Expanding the offer

Ford (32) was the Yankees’ ace, but he experienced shoulder problems during the 1960 season and finished 12-9, his lowest winning percentage (.571) since entering the majors in 1950. Before he shut out the Pirates in Games 3 and 6 of the World Series, the Yankees talked to the Giants about a swap of Ford for pitcher Johnny Antonelli, the Associated Press reported.

That gave Devine the idea Ford may be obtainable in exchange for another quality starter. In order to expand the deal for Howard, Devine offered Larry Jackson, an 18-game winner for the Cardinals in 1960, if the Yankees would swap Ford.

On Dec. 5, 1960, a headline in the Globe-Democrat declared, “Redbirds May Land Ford, Howard.”

“The possibility of a Cardinals-Yankees trade, involving major athletes on both sides, picked up steam,” Jack Herman reported in the Globe-Democrat. “One thing that’s been established is the fact that Ford is on the block.”

According to John Fox, sports editor of the Binghamton (N.Y.) Press and Sun-Bulletin, the Cardinals said “the offer stood only if Ford was inspected first by a physician of their naming.”

Ford told the Associated Press, “I don’t know if I’d quit or not if I were traded. It all depends on where I was traded.”

Howard said, “I don’t want to be traded. I’m happy where I am.”

No deal

On Dec. 6, 1960, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Yankees co-owner Dan Topping “turned thumbs down” on the Cardinals’ proposal. “We won’t deal Howard,” he said.

Though Houk told The Sporting News that “talk of our considering any offer which included Ford was based on hot air,” the Binghamton newspaper reported the reason the proposal was rejected “was not the idea of including Duren or Ford, but the request for Howard.”

The Cardinals’ chances for a deal also were hampered by the entrance of the Dodgers into trade talks for Howard. “We got a better proposition from the Dodgers,” Houk told The Sporting News. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers offered pitcher Johnny Podres and outfielder Duke Snider for Howard.

If the Yankees added rookie pitcher Bill Short to the package, the deal with the Dodgers would have been made, United Press International reported.

Instead, the Yankees stayed pat, and got rewarded.

In 1961, Ford was 25-4, got two more wins in the World Series against the Reds and received the Cy Young Award. Howard batted a career-high .348 with 21 home runs. Two years later, he won the 1963 American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Hal Smith developed a heart ailment and had to quit playing in June 1961. Larry Jackson had four fewer wins (14) in 1961 than he had the year before, and Ron Kline got sent to the Angels.

 

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A surprising aspect of the Cardinals’ 1982 season was they succeeded without a big contribution from a pitcher considered a key to the starting rotation.

In March 1982, the Cardinals were counting on right-hander Andy Rincon to be a consistent winner.

Instead, he spent much of the season in the minors and wasn’t with the Cardinals when they won the National League pennant and the World Series championship.

Ticketed for majors

Born and raised in California, Rincon played high school baseball in Santa Fe Springs, near Los Angeles, and was a teammate of Mike Gallego.

The Cardinals chose Rincon, 18, in the fifth round of the 1977 June amateur draft.

In 1980, Rincon pitched for Class AA Arkansas, earning 10 wins during the regular season and two in the playoffs for the Texas League champions. After the final game, he left Little Rock to drive home to California.

Cardinals general manager Whitey Herzog, who scouted the Arkansas team, wanted Rincon to join the Cardinals for the final month of the season. Herzog said “it looked like Andy had the best arm in the organization,” interim Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Hoping to contact Rincon before he got to California, the Cardinals alerted authorities in Texas to be on the lookout for him, The Sporting News reported.

Rincon was stopped for speeding in El Paso, Texas, and immediately brought to traffic court. According to the Post-Dispatch, when Rincon gave his name in court, the judge replied, “Oh, you’re the guy we’ve been looking for,” and told him to call the Cardinals.

Herzog informed Rincon to take a flight from El Paso to Philadelphia and join the team there. Rincon paid a $23 traffic fine, parked at the El Paso airport and boarded a plane. “All my stuff is in the car,” he told the Post-Dispatch.

From Philadelphia, the Cardinals went to Chicago and Rincon, 21, made his debut for them there, pitching a five-hitter in a win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

“Who is he, anyway?” Cubs shortstop Ivan DeJesus asked the Post-Dispatch.

Rincon made three more starts for the 1980 Cardinals and finished 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA.

Bad break

Herzog, who returned to managing the Cardinals in 1981, had Rincon in the starting rotation to begin the season. After four starts, he was 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA. Rincon was the “Cardinals’ best pitcher in the first month of the season,” The Sporting News declared.

On May 9, 1981, in a start at St. Louis, Rincon was cruising to his third win. He shut out the Pirates for seven innings, drove in three runs and had a 13-0 lead.

In the eighth, Phil Garner led off and hit a line drive that struck Rincon in the throwing arm. The ball caromed to third baseman Julio Gonzalez, who fielded it and threw out Garner at first base. Rincon suffered a hairline fracture of the right forearm. Boxscore

Rincon (3-1, 1.77 ERA) was placed on the disabled list. Two days before the players went on strike on June 12, Rincon received medical clearance to resume pitching, The Sporting News reported. “He was throwing the hell out of the ball,” Herzog said. “I couldn’t see anything wrong with him.”

The Cardinals sent Rincon to their Class AAA Springfield (Ill.) farm club so that he could pitch during the strike, but it was too much too soon and he strained his right shoulder.

“Being weak in my forearm put more strain on my shoulder,” Rincon told The Sporting News. “If I’d just backed off and been more patient, things might have been better.”

In eight starts for Springfield, Rincon was 1-3 with a 6.55 ERA. Instead of helping the Cardinals after the strike ended in August, Rincon was reassigned to Arkansas and was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts there.

“We wanted him to pitch, but he wasn’t worth a damn down there,” Herzog said to the Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez criticized Rincon for not working hard enough to come back from the injury and help the club in 1981, The Sporting News reported.

“He might be right,” Rincon said. “I feel like I did let the guys down.”

Missing out

Despite the setbacks encountered in 1981, Rincon was viewed by Herzog as “the key to the pitching staff” entering 1982 spring training, The Sporting News reported.

After working daily during the winter on a Nautilus machine and in aerobic exercises, Rincon, 23, reported to spring training fit and healthy. “I feel great,” he said. “I want to be the stopper of our staff. I want to pitch the tough games.”

The Cardinals entered the 1982 season with a starting rotation of Rincon, Bob Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, Steve Mura and John Martin.

“Rincon potentially is the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher,” The Sporting News declared.

In his first start of the season, Rincon pitched a three-hitter to beat Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs at Wrigley Field, but his performances unraveled after that. Boxscore

Lacking command, he had more walks (25) than strikeouts (11). In his last start, against the Dodgers, Rincon “incurred Herzog’s displeasure for failing to hold runners on” and “missing a hit-and-run sign,” The Sporting News reported.

Rincon (2-3, 4.73 ERA) and Martin were sent to the minors, and John Stuper and Dave LaPoint replaced them in the Cardinals’ rotation.

At Class AAA Louisville, Rincon was 5-8 with a 5.09 ERA. When it came time to call up players to help the contending Cardinals, Louisville manager Joe Frazier told Herzog he didn’t think Rincon merited a chance.

“What Frazier said is good enough for me,” Herzog told The Sporting News.

Without Rincon, the Cardinals went on to win their first World Series championship in 15 years.

Still trying

Rincon never got back to the majors.

At spring training with the Cardinals in 1983, Herzog became unhappy with the number of runners stealing bases against Rincon and wanted him to change his pitching delivery. “I could steal on him, and I’m 51 years old,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch.

Eric Rasmussen, 31, edged Rincon for the final pitching spot on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster.

Rincon reported to Louisville, experienced elbow pain and was limited to 31 innings pitched in 1983. Granted free agency after the season, he signed with the Pirates and spent 1984 in their farm system, pitching a no-hitter for Hawaii.

Rincon went to spring training with the Orioles in 1985, but, when his arm didn’t respond, he went home. He sat out the 1985 and 1986 seasons, had shoulder surgery late in 1986, and was sidelined again in 1987.

In 1988, Rincon pitched in Mexico, then joined Fresno, an unaffiliated Class A club that had become a refuge for former big-leaguers seeking comebacks.

Cardinals scout Fred McAlister saw Rincon pitch at Fresno and signed him to a minor-league contract for 1989. “It’s a chance,” Rincon told the Post-Dispatch. “That’s all I want.”

Assigned back to Class AA Arkansas, from where he first made the leap to the majors nine years earlier, Rincon, 30, ended his playing days with a 1-0 record and 4.21 ERA in 11 relief appearances in 1989.

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