Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

Decades after he pitched for the Cardinals as a member of the Gashouse Gang, Dizzy Dean was involved in a federal investigation of a gambling gang.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 24, 1970, a grand jury indictment named Dean, 60, as a co-conspirator in a gambling scandal.

Dean, who placed bets for a friend and also made payoffs for him, testified as a witness for the government in the case and wasn’t charged with a crime.

Biloxi blues

Dean was the ace of the 1930s Cardinals clubs known as the Gashouse Gang, a feisty, aggressive group featuring Pepper Martin, Joe Medwick and Leo Durocher.

Dean achieved 30 regular-season wins in 1934 and two more in the World Series against the Tigers. He led National League pitchers in strikeouts for four consecutive seasons (1932-35).

After his playing career, Dean was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was broadcaster on Cardinals and Browns games in the 1940s and national baseball telecasts in the 1950s.

In retirement, Dean made his home in Bond, Miss. A friend, trucking executive Howard Sober of Lansing, Mich., asked Dean to place illegal bets for him with bookmakers in Biloxi, Miss. Dean agreed to place the bets and be the go-between for receiving and making payouts.

On Jan. 1, 1970, Dean was in Las Vegas when he was questioned and searched by authorities, the Associated Press reported. Dean wasn’t arrested and federal officials said he was cooperating with them.

Dean “is furnishing information,” a U.S. attorney in Detroit said to the New York Times.

According to the Associated Press, a document in federal district court in Detroit alleged Dean delivered a $6,000 gambling payoff for Howard Sober.

Suspended Tigers pitcher Denny McLain, the first big-leaguer since Dean with 30 wins in a season, met with federal attorneys to cooperate in the investigation, the Associated Press reported.

Give info, avoid charges

Ten people, arrested in Detroit and Biloxi, were indicted by the federal grand jury on one county of conspiring to use interstate commerce for illegal gambling.

Dean “was named as a co-conspirator but not as a defendant in the indictment,” the Associated Press reported. Because Dean “is named only as a co-conspirator and not a defendant, he is not charged with any crime.”

According to the indictment, the 10 defendants and six co-conspirators used telephones for “unlawful gambling purposes” from April 1969 to January 1970.

The indictment charged three of the defendants, all from Biloxi, “would knowingly accept bets from unindicted co-conspirators” Dizzy Dean and his nephew, Paul Dean Jr., “on behalf of unindicted co-conspirator Howard Sober.” Paul Dean Jr., was the son of Dizzy’s brother and Cardinals teammate, pitcher Paul Dean Sr.

Dizzy Dean’s “very helpful” information led to several arrests in the case, United Press International reported.

U.S. attorney James Brickley said being cited as a co-conspirator meant “the grand jury believed the person was involved,” but not to a sufficient degree to be indicted.

Favor for a friend

On Feb. 25, 1970, an emotional Dizzy Dean met with reporters and said, “I am happy and pleased I was not arrested, indicted and charged. I am sad for my family and friends all over the United States because I was accused of a lot of things. There is not a bit of truth to it.”

Dean said, “I have never been involved in big-time gambling.” He told United Press International he met the Biloxi defendants “through a friend (Howard Sober) who asked me to make wagers for him and I did. I was later told it was the wrong thing to do and I quit. I never received one dime, not a penny.”

Three years later, on June 20, 1973, two of the Biloxi defendants, Frank Duvic and Salvatore “Sammie” Sicuro, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Detroit They were fined and placed on probation.

Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean Jr. and Howard Sober appeared as witnesses for the government and were excused from the subpoenas after Duvic and Sicuro pleaded guilty, an Internal Revenue Service spokesman told the Associated Press.

Duvic said he accepted wagers from the Deans while working at a Biloxi club, the Associated Press reported.

“Duvic told the court he knew Dizzy Dean was placing bets for Howard Sober, who phoned them to Dean from Michigan,” according to the Associated Press. “Duvic said he accompanied Dean to a bank” and was given a check to cover Sober’s bets.

Sicuro testified he knew Dizzy Dean was placing bets for Howard Sober, the Associated Press reported. Sicuro said Dizzy Dean appeared every Monday to settle the gambling account.

Read Full Post »

Babe Didrikson, who won Olympic medals in track and field before she became one of America’s top golfers, was the starting pitcher for the Cardinals in a spring training game.

On March 22, 1934, Didrikson pitched for the Cardinals against the Red Sox at Bradenton, Fla.

A relentless self-promoter, Didrikson’s performance helped develop her reputation as America’s premier woman athlete.

Diamond dandy

A daughter of Norwegian immigrants, Didrikson was born in Port Arthur, Texas, and grew up in nearby Beaumont, where she excelled in multiple sports.

At 21, she was a member of the U.S. Olympic track and field team. At the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Didrikson won two golds (hurdles and javelin) and a silver (high jump).

With America in the grip of the Great Depression, opportunities for women in professional sports were limited. Didrikson sought to earn income in several sports, including basketball, billiards and baseball.

In 1934, Didrikson joined the House of David barnstorming baseball team. Promoter Ray Doan arranged for Didrikson to have a training session with Cardinals pitcher Burleigh Grimes in Hot Springs, Ark.

According to the Associated Press, Didrikson “would be one of the best prospects in baseball if she were a boy,” said Grimes.

The Associated Press also noted, “The Babe has mastered somewhat of a curve.”

Timely fielding

The Athletics and Cardinals each agreed to let Didrikson pitch an inning in a spring training game.

On March 20, 1934, at Fort Myers, Fla., Didrikson started for manager Connie Mack’s Athletics against manager Casey Stengel’s Dodgers before a Tuesday afternoon gathering of 400 spectators.

Didrikson walked the first batter, Danny Taylor, and hit the next, Johnny Frederick, with a pitch.

The No. 3 hitter, Joe Stripp, lined the ball. Second baseman Dib Williams caught it for the first out and tossed to shortstop Rabbit Warstler, who tagged second to double up Taylor, who had headed for third. Warstler threw to first baseman Jimmie Foxx to nip Frederick, who couldn’t get back to the bag in time, and complete a triple play.

According to the book “Diz,” a biography of Dizzy Dean, Stengel shook his head in mock sorrow and said, “My little lambs just couldn’t get to her.”

“The Babe was wildly cheered as she left the premises,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Didrikson, a right-hander, stood between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-7 and weighed between 115 and 145 pounds, according to varied sources. She “looked like a slightly built boy except for a few stray feminine locks that stuck from under her black baseball cap,” the Fort Myers News-Press reported. “She possessed a slow curve but had some difficulty in finding the plate.”

With her inning of work done, Didrikson was lifted and the Dodgers won, 4-2.

Tough break

Two days later, before a Thursday afternoon crowd again estimated at 400, Didrikson made her start for manager Frankie Frisch’s Cardinals against manager Bucky Harris and the Red Sox.

Didrikson “is gaining experience and improving her pitching,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “Under the tutelage of Burleigh Grimes, Dizzy Dean and others, she has learned to stand on the rubber, wind up like a big-leaguer and throw a rather fair curve.”

Joining Didrikson and Frisch, who played second base, in the Cardinals’ starting lineup were first baseman Rip Collins, shortstop Burgess Whitehead, third baseman Pepper Martin, left fielder Joe Medwick, center fielder Buster Mills, right fielder Jack Rothrock and catcher Spud Davis.

After Red Sox leadoff batter Max Bishop grounded out to second, Didrikson allowed singles to Bill Cissell and Ed Morgan, putting runners on second and first.

Cleanup hitter Roy Johnson grounded to Frisch, who threw to Whitehead, covering the bag at second, for the force on Morgan.

With two outs and runners on third and first, rookie Moose Solters faced Didrikson next. Didrikson got two strikes on Solters and threw a curve. Solters watched it go into the catcher’s mitt. To press box observers, the pitch was strike three, which should have ended the inning, but the umpire called it a ball.

Solters hit the next pitch for a two-run double.

Didrikson “deserved a better fate than she received,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. “A hit followed what could have been called a third strike and the third out.”

The St. Louis Star-Times declared Didrikson would have escaped with a scoreless inning “but for a questionable decision by the umpire.”

On the links

After Solters doubled, Dusty Cooke reached on an error by Rip Collins. Rick Ferrell singled, scoring Solters and giving the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. Didrikson got the next batter, Bucky Walters, to fly out to left.

The Red Sox “would have been scoreless if it had not been for loose fielding and what the Cards described as the plate umpire’s failure to see a third strike as a strike,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals rallied for three runs in the bottom of the first against Fritz Ostermueller. Whitehead, the eighth-place batter, made the last out of the inning, depriving Didrikson of a plate appearance.

Bill Hallahan relieved Didrikson in the second and pitched four innings. Dean, who told Didrikson he’d show her some “real chucking,” pitched the last four, held the Red Sox hitless and the Cardinals won, 9-7. Said Dean: “I had them swinging like ham on a hook.”

“Well, our Red Sox managed to get three runs in one inning off Babe Didrikson, the girl athlete,” the Boston Globe declared. “So perhaps later on they will be able to play ball with the boys.”

Columnist L.C. Davis of the Post-Dispatch concluded, “As a pitcher, Babe is an outstanding field and track athlete. Babe may be a drawing card, but a woman’s place is on the bench.”

Three days later, Didrikson pitched two scoreless innings for the minor-league New Orleans Pelicans against the Cleveland Indians.

Didrikson eventually focused on golf. At the 1938 PGA Tour Los Angeles Open, where she competed against the men, Didrikson met professional wrestler George Zaharias. Eleven months later, in December 1938, they married in St. Louis and she became Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

A founding member of the LPGA Tour, Babe Didrikson Zaharias won 41 titles, including 10 majors. She was a three-time winner of the Women’s U.S. Open, including in 1954 after she underwent surgery for colon cancer.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias was 45 when she died of cancer in 1956.

Read Full Post »

Roger Kahn, who gained prominence for his work about the Dodgers, wrote extensively about the Cardinals as well.

Kahn, 92, died on Feb. 6, 2020. A newspaper and magazine journalist, Kahn wrote 20 or so books, including the 1972 classic “The Boys of Summer” about his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers.

After covering sports for the New York Herald Tribune, Kahn wrote for magazines such as Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post and Sports Illustrated.

Kahn was respected by colleagues and the baseball people he covered. In February 1954, he called former Cardinals and Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, who had moved to the front office of the Pirates, at his spring training base in Fort Pierce, Fla., and was “offered a job,” The Sporting News reported.

When Kahn asked Rickey how long it would take him to do for the Pirates what he did for the Cardinals and Dodgers, Rickey replied, “I need help. If you know how to help a tail end ballclub, come down here. I’ll pay you more than you’re making. I don’t care what it is.”

Lane explains

In May 1956, Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider was the subject of a controversial Kahn article in Collier’s titled, “I Play Baseball For Money, Not Fun.”

A month later, in The Saturday Evening Post, Kahn wrote about Cardinals general manager Frank Lane in a piece titled, “I’m Here To Win A Pennant.” Lane was in his first season with the Cardinals and created a ruckus by trading players such as Red Schoendienst, Harvey Haddix and Bill Virdon.

“I didn’t come to St. Louis to raise red roses or tell after-dinner stories or take the tenor lead in ‘Hearts and Flowers,’ ” Lane told Kahn. “I came here to win a pennant and that’s exactly what I intend to do any way I can.

“I’ve got a program here to keep the club growing and improving,” Lane said. “I want to tell the other general managers around the National League that, with our fine farm clubs, and with the tough core we’ve welded, I’m not going to have to jump at every little offer for a trade. If I see something good, though, they’d better be ready.”

Lane lasted two seasons with the Cardinals and didn’t win a pennant.

Prideful struggle

Four years later, in September 1960, Kahn wrote a story on Stan Musial for Sports Illustrated titled, “Benching of a Legend.”

Musial, 39, was hitting .250 when he was benched by Cardinals manager Solly Hemus. Musial was kept out of the starting lineup from May 27 through June 23. His season batting average fell to .229 on June 25, but Musial recovered by hitting .352 in July and finished the year at .275 with 17 home runs.

Musial “intends to end his career with dignity and with base hits,” Kahn wrote. “Neither comes easily to a ballplayer several years past his peak, and so to Musial, a man accustomed to ease and to humility, this has been a summer of agony and pride.”

Regarding Musial’s struggles in the first part of the season, Kahn concluded, “Athletes, like chorus girls, are usually the last to admit that age has affected them, and Musial appeared to be following the familiar unhappy pattern.”

In an interview with Kahn, Hemus said, “What’s my obligation as manager? It’s not to a friendship, no matter how much I like a guy. My obligation is to the organization that hired me and to 25 ballplayers. I have to win. Stan was hurting the club. He wasn’t hitting and balls were getting by him at first base.”

Kahn reported, “Musial hated the bench. He confided to a few friends that he wouldn’t mind being traded to a club that would play him every day.”

After returning to the starting lineup, Musial told Kahn, “Maybe my wheels are gone, but I’ll be able to hit like hell for a long time.”

Musial went on to play three more seasons for the Cardinals, including 1962 when he hit .330, before retiring at 42.

High praise

When “The Boys of Summer” came out in February 1972, it received a glowing review from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which called Kahn’s work “a magnificent sports volume” and “a book which is redolent of dream and magic and which finds a common ground between one boyhood in a big city and lots of boyhoods in many other places.”

In September 1972, when Kahn was in St. Louis for a Cubs-Cardinals series, columnist Jerome Holtzman wrote in The Sporting News, “A half-dozen ballplayers got into line to meet and shake hands with Roger Kahn, who was in town promoting his bestselling ‘Boys of Summer.’ I had never seen players line up to meet a writer, and Kahn said it was a big thrill for him.”

Pitching lessons

In 2000, Kahn’s book, “The Head Game,” was published. It focused on pitchers, including two who were prominent with the Cardinals, Bob Gibson and Bruce Sutter.

Gibson told Kahn, “Pitching is inexact. It begins as a craft, working with your hands, but the longer you go, if you know how to think, the more it becomes an art.”

To illustrate, Gibson cited how he threw fewer knockdown pitches as he gained experience.

“As the art, the thinking, takes over, I’ve come to realize not everyone is bothered by knockdowns and some of them are afraid of my fastball, whether I throw at them or not,” Gibson said.

Like Gibson, Sutter won head games with batters. A Cardinals closer, Sutter did it with an innovative pitch, the split-fingered fastball.

“It was some time before I could control the splitter the way I had to,” Sutter told Kahn. “After a while, I found out I did best throwing for the top of the catcher’s mask. That became my target. If I used a wide finger split, the ball would end up in the dirt. If I split the fingers a little less, it would be a strike at the knees.

“Once in a while,” said Sutter, “maybe one pitch in 10, to cross them up, I’d play real dirty. I’d throw a straight fastball that didn’t drop at all.”

Read Full Post »

The election of outfielder Larry Walker to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020 qualifies him as the top Canadian to play for the Cardinals.

Here’s a look at the five best Canadian Cardinals:


Acquired from the Rockies on Aug. 6, 2004, Walker, 37, hit .280 in 44 games for the 2004 Cardinals. With a .393 on-base percentage, the right fielder helped the Cardinals win a division title.

In the 2004 postseason, Walker hit six home runs: two in the National League Division Series versus the Dodgers, two in the NL Championship Series against the Astros and two in the World Series versus the Red Sox.

In Game 1 at Fenway Park in Boston, Walker, appearing in a World Series for the first time, was 4-for-5, including two doubles and a home run, and two RBI. Boxscore

The Associated Press noted, “He hasn’t allowed the atmosphere to overwhelm him. He said he was most excited about seeing Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, who sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ standing a few feet away from him.”

Born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Walker became the second Canadian to hit a home run in a World Series game. The first was George Selkirk for the 1936 Yankees against the Giants.

In 2005, his final season, Walker hit .289 for the Cardinals. His .384 on-base percentage helped them qualify for the postseason again.


A right-handed pitcher who could start and relieve, Taylor was 19-12 with 20 saves in three seasons (1963-65) with the Cardinals. His best pitches were a sinking fastball and slider.

Acquired from the Indians on Dec. 15, 1962, the Toronto native was a prominent member of the Cardinals’ staff in 1964 when they won a World Series title.

“As long as we have him in the bullpen, we’ll be well-fortified,” Cardinals consultant Branch Rickey told The Sporting News.

In the 1964 World Series against the Yankees, Taylor allowed no hits in 4.2 scoreless innings of relief.

Five years later, in the 1969 World Series for the Mets versus the Orioles, Taylor allowed no hits in 2.1 scoreless innings of relief.

His career statistics in the World Series: seven innings pitched, no hits, no runs and two saves.

Taylor, who earned a degree in engineering from the University of Toronto in 1961, enrolled in medical school after his playing career, graduated in 1977 and became the team physician of the Blue Jays in 1979.


Born in Swift Current, Canada, the pitcher was 17 when he signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in August 1965.

He made his Cardinals debut with a start against the Phillies on Oct. 1, 1969.

Cleveland lost his first six big-league decisions before outdueling Juan Marichal and beating the Giants at San Francisco on April 20, 1971.

Cleveland’s best season with the Cardinals was 1973 when he was 14-10 with a 3.01 ERA in 32 starts.

Though he threw right-handed, Cleveland used his left hand to eat, write and play other sports such as bowling and billiards.

“If somebody gave me a million dollars, I still couldn’t pitch left-handed,” Cleveland told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In five seasons with the Cardinals, Cleveland was 40-41 with eight shutouts and 27 complete games.


A left-handed pitcher, Cormier was chosen by the Cardinals in the sixth round of the amateur draft in 1988 when he was a member of the Canadian Olympic team.

A native of Moncton, Canada, he spent college summers working as a lumberjack.

Cormier played for the Cardinals for four seasons (1991-94). Appearing in 87 games, including 68 as a starter, he was 24-23.

His best Cardinals season was 1992 when he won his last seven decisions in a row and finished 10-10 in 30 starts. The winning streak was a relief for Cormier after he lost 10 of his first 13 decisions. He told the Post-Dispatch, “My wife and I were talking. She said we could be back in Canada chopping wood.”


A native of Burnaby, Canada, O’Neill went to high school in Larry Walker’s hometown of Maple Ridge. In 1975, O’Neill’s father was named Mr. Canada for winning the nation’s bodybuilding championship.

O’Neill, who played the piano as a youth, is a power-hitting outfielder who bats right-handed.

Selected by the Mariners in the third round of the 2013 amateur draft, O’Neill was acquired by the Cardinals for pitcher Marco Gonzales on July 21, 2017.

In two seasons (2018-19) with the Cardinals, O’Neill batted .258 and had far more strikeouts (110) than hits (70), but the club remained intrigued by his slugging potential.

In 2018, O’Neill hit 26 home runs in 238 at-bats for the Memphis farm club and nine home runs in 130 at-bats for the Cardinals.

“I get overanxious and I swing at stuff I shouldn’t swing at,” O’Neill told the Post-Dispatch in January 2020. “When I’m in my groove, I’m not chasing nearly as much and I have the ability to play in this league and excel in this league.”


_ Tip O’Neill: A native of Springfield, Canada, the outfielder never played for the Cardinals but he did play for their predecessors.

O’Neill spent seven seasons (1884-89 and 1891) with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association, a major league at the time. The American Association Browns were unrelated to the St. Louis Browns of the American League. In 1892, the American Association Browns joined the National League and eventually were renamed the Cardinals.

O’Neill, a right-handed batter, hit .344 during his St. Louis years, with an on-base percentage of .406.

_ Dave McKay: The Vancouver native was a Cardinals coach for 16 seasons (1996-2011) and helped them win three pennants and two World Series titles. His son, Cody McKay, also a Canadian, was a Cardinals utility player in 2004.

_ Stubby Clapp: A native of Windsor, Canada, Clapp became a Cardinals coach in 2019 after a successful stint as a manager in their farm system. Clapp managed Memphis to consecutive Pacific Coast League titles in 2017 and 2018.

His big-league playing career consisted of 23 games as a utility player for the Cardinals in 2001.

_ April 14, 1969: The Cardinals faced the Expos at Montreal in the first regular-season big-league game played outside the United States.

Read Full Post »

After Jesse Haines transformed into a knuckleball pitcher, the Cardinals transformed into a National League powerhouse.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 1, 1970, Haines, 76, was rewarded for his achievements when he got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Haines pitched 18 seasons (1920-37) for the Cardinals. When he joined them after pitching one game for the Reds, the Cardinals were perennial losers. He helped them become perennial contenders.

Haines pitched for five pennant-winning Cardinals clubs and three World Series champions. The right-hander remains the Cardinals’ all-time leader in games pitched (554) and ranks second in wins (210), complete games (209) and innings pitched (3,203.2).

Down on the farm

Haines was born and raised in Ohio farm country near Dayton. He excelled at baseball as a youth and became a professional at age 20 when he joined an independent minor-league team in Saginaw, Mich.

In July 1918, Haines was pitching for another minor-league club in Hutchinson, Kan., when his contract was purchased by the Reds. On July 20, 1918, two days before his 25th birthday, Haines made his major-league debut, allowing one run in five innings of relief versus the Braves at Cincinnati. Boxscore

The Reds, managed by Christy Mathewson, released Haines soon after his debut, but he revived his career by posting a 21-5 record for a minor-league team in Kansas City in 1919.

Multiple major-league teams, including the Cardinals, were interested in Haines. The cash-strapped Cardinals finished 54-83 in 1919 and 51-78 the year before. Manager Branch Rickey, whose farm system wasn’t in place yet, was desperate for talent and was determined not to let Haines get away. Rickey borrowed $10,000 from banks in order to purchase Haines’ contract from the Kansas City club.

Perfect pitch

Haines turned 27 in his first season with the Cardinals. Relying primarily on a fastball, he earned 13 wins in 1920 and 18 in 1921. With Haines leading the pitching staff and Rogers Hornsby producing runs, the 1921 Cardinals were 87-66.

At spring training in 1922, Haines, looking to add a pitch, approached Athletics knuckleballer Eddie Rommel before an exhibition game and asked for a lesson.

“Eddie would dig his fingernails into the cover of the ball and just use the front knuckles,” Haines told the Dayton Daily News. “I tried it, but couldn’t control the ball that way.”

Haines worked throughout the 1922 season to find a comfortable grip for throwing the knuckler. Haines said he settled on “using the first and middle fingers and pressing the two knuckles down between the seams. I put my thumb down under and it worked fine.”

Haines unveiled his knuckleball in 1923 and earned 20 wins for the Cardinals. The knuckler became his signature pitch.

“When I threw sidearm, it broke down and away,” Haines said. “When I threw overhand, it broke straight down. I knew exactly what the pitch would do.”

Haines threw his pitch much harder than other knuckleballers.

“He must have had exceptionally strong fingers, which he used like talons,” syndicated columnist Red Smith observed. “He gripped the ball with the very tips, went up high on his toes in the middle of his delivery and came over the top with a furious motion.

“Because of the way he gripped a baseball and the way he threw it,” Smith wrote, “it was a common occurrence for him to finish a game with his fingertips bleeding.”

Determined to win

Haines was a fierce competitor who flashed a temper when he lost.

“He could be kind, gentlemanly, considerate and philosophical, except when he pitched,” Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted. “He was the darndest hard loser.”

In 1935, when Haines was 42 and called “Pops” by his teammates, he surprised rookie outfielder Terry Moore by tearing up the clubhouse in Cincinnati after a loss to the Reds.

“I never forgot how much Haines expected of himself and of others,” Moore said.

Among Haines’ top performances for the Cardinals:

_ On July 17, 1924, Haines pitched a no-hitter against the Braves at St. Louis. Casey Stengel made the last out on a grounder to Hornsby at second. Boxscore

_ On Oct, 5, 1926, Haines pitched a shutout and hit a home run in Game 3 of the World Series versus the Yankees. It was the first World Series game played at St. Louis. Boxscore

_ Exactly four years later, on Oct. 5, 1930, Haines pitched a four-hitter and outdueled Lefty Grove to win Game 4 of the World Series against the Athletics at St. Louis. Haines also drove in a run with a single. Boxscore

Game 7 winner

Haines was overshadowed in the biggest win of his career.

On Oct. 10, 1926, Haines got the start in Game 7 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Throwing mostly hard knuckleballs, Haines was effective but the effort took a toll on his fingers.

In the seventh inning, with the Cardinals ahead, 3-2, a big blister developed on a finger Haines used to grip the knuckler. Struggling to control the pitch, Haines yielded a single and two walks. With the bases full of Yankees and two outs, Hornsby, the Cardinals’ player-manager, made a mound visit.

“When I showed the blister to Hornsby, he decided to take me out,” Haines told United Press International.

Grover Cleveland Alexander, who started and won Game 6, relieved Haines, struck out Tony Lazzeri to escape the bases-loaded jam and shut out the Yankees over the last two innings, clinching the Cardinals’ first World Series championship.

“I went straight to the clubhouse and didn’t see Alex strike out Lazzeri,” Haines said.

Haines was the winning pitcher but Alexander became the legend. Boxscore

Magic moment

Haines was 44 when he pitched his last game for the Cardinals in 1937. He was 210-158 for them in his career. He also was 3-1 in four World Series.

After his baseball career, Haines was a county auditor in Ohio.

When informed of his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Haines said, “I’d hoped that if I ever was going to get into the Hall it would come before I passed on. Now it’s happened. I’m kind of broke up about it.”

The Veterans Committee considered candidates who had been out of the game for 20 years or more. Among the committee members were Haines’ Cardinals teammate, Frankie Frisch, and retired Post-Dispatch journalist J. Roy Stockton.

“Haines is a worthy, worthy man,” Frisch told the Associated Press. “He was a great competitor, a fine fellow on and off the field. Any club would want a fellow like him.”

Read Full Post »

The Cardinals gave Ed Sprague a chance to become a professional ballplayer and make a connection with Sparky Anderson.

Sprague died Jan. 10, 2020, at 74. A right-hander, he pitched for eight seasons in the major leagues with the Athletics, Reds, Cardinals and Brewers.

It took a series of career turns before Sprague pitched in a big-league game for the Cardinals in his second stint with them.

Good advice

Sprague was born in Boston and went to high school in Hayward, Calif., about 15 miles south of Oakland. He didn’t play prep sports because he had a job after school at a furniture store.

In March 1964, Sprague, 18, enlisted in the Army. While stationed in Mainz, Germany, as a paratrooper, he joined the military base fast-pitch softball team as a catcher. Sprague had a strong arm and an Army colleague, former minor-leaguer Dick Holland, encouraged him to pursue a baseball career, The Sporting News reported.

After his discharge from the Army in March 1966, Sprague, 20, enrolled at a baseball school in West Palm Beach, Fla., run by big-league infielder Dick Howser.

Four days later, the school held a tryout camp attended by big-league scouts. “About 100 kids tried out that day,” Spague told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals scout Tommy Thomas made an offer and Sprague signed. “I didn’t get a bonus,” he told The Sporting News.

Fast learner

Relyng exclusively on a fastball, Sprague pitched in 13 games for two farm clubs in 1966 and posted a 2.66 ERA.

In 1967, Sprague, 21, was assigned to Modesto, a California League team managed by Sparky Anderson.

“He was so raw and inexperienced then that he didn’t even know how to stand correctly on the pitching rubber,” Anderson told The Sporting News. “You almost had to lead him to the mound.”

Throwing with a sidearm delivery, Sprague learned quickly and had an 11-7 record and 3.12 ERA for league champion Modesto.

After the season, Anderson joined the Reds as a minor-league manager and Sprague reported to the Cardinals’ 1967 fall Florida Instructional League team. Playing for manager George Kissell, Sprague had a 1.74 ERA in 11 starts.

Left off the Cardinals’ 40-man winter roster, Sprague was selected by the Athletics with the first pick in the Nov. 28, 1967, minor-league draft. Athletics executive vice president Joe DiMaggio made the announcement at the baseball winter meetings in Mexico City.

Finding his footing

Sprague pitched well at spring training in 1968 and earned a spot on the Athletics’ Opening Day roster. The Athletics moved from Kansas City to Oakland after the 1967 season, meaning Sprague would begin his big-league career with a team located a 15-minute drive from where he went to high school.

“He throws a sidearm pitch with considerable speed,” The Sporting News noted. “It sinks.”

On April 16, 1968, in his second major-league appearance, Sprague got the win with three scoreless innings in relief of starter Catfish Hunter at Yankee Stadium.

The outing started ominously when Sprague lost his balance on the second pitch he threw and fell off the mound.

“I don’t know what happened,” Sprague told The Sporting News. “All of a sudden, there I was flat on my face and everyone was laughing at me.”

Sprague regained his composure and finished the inning by getting Mickey Mantle to fly out to left.

In the ninth, the Yankees had a runner at second with two outs when Sprague sealed the win by getting his baseball school operator, Dick Howser, to ground out. Boxscore

Come and go

Sprague pitched for the Athletics in 1968 and 1969, but spent the 1970 season in the minors. The Reds, who won the National League pennant in 1970 in Sparky Anderson’s first season as manager, acquired him after the World Series.

In 1971, Sprague was assigned to the Reds’ top farm club at Indianapolis. The manager, Vern Rapp, had been in the Cardinals’ system when Sprague was there. Rapp taught Sprague how to throw a changeup and the pitch helped him achieve nine wins and five saves for Indianapolis.

The Reds called up Sprague for the last month of the 1971 season and he allowed no earned runs in 11 innings. “It’s pretty well known there are some among the Reds brass who think highly of Ed Sprague,” The Sporting News reported.

In 1972, when the Reds won the pennant, Sprague was 3-3 in 33 games. The Reds played the Athletics in the World Series, but Sprague didn’t pitch.

The next year, he was 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA when the Reds traded him to the Cardinals on July 27, 1973, for infielder Ed Crosby and catcher Gene Dusan. The Cardinals also got a player to be named, first baseman Roe Skidmore.

“My arm is fine,” Sprague told the Post-Dispatch. “My trouble has been lack of work.”

In his first appearance for the Cardinals, on July 29, 1973, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at Chicago, Sprague relieved starter Rich Folkers with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh.

Jose Cardenal hit Sprague’s first pitch on the ground. “It looked like an easy out,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The ball took a high hop and bounced over the head of third baseman Ken Reitz for a fluke single, tying the score at 4-4. The Cubs won, 5-4. Boxscore

“I did what I set out to do, make him hit the ball on the ground,” Sprague said.

Sprague made eight appearances for the Cardinals and was 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA when they sent him to the minor leagues, preferring to go with a left-hander, John Andrews, as a reliever.

In the genes

After three appearances with Class AAA Tulsa, Sprague’s contract was sold by the Cardinals to the Brewers on Sept. 4, 1973.

Sprague had his best big-league season in 1974 with the Brewers. He was 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 starts and 0-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 relief appearances.

Sprague pitched eight seasons in the majors and was 17-23 with nine saves and a 3.84 ERA.

His son Ed Sprague Jr., was a big-league third baseman for 11 seasons, mostly with the Blue Jays, and played in two World Series with Toronto.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »