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Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

The wet pitches of Bill Doak left batters high and dry.

In 1922, Doak pitched a pair of one-hitters for the Cardinals.

A lean, almost frail, right-hander, Doak’s signature pitch was a spitball. He started throwing the spitter in 1913, his first season with the Cardinals. Big-league baseball banned the spitball in 1920, but allowed 17 pitchers, including Doak, who regularly threw the pitch before then to continue using it for the remainder of their careers.

Adapt and innovate

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Doak reached the majors with the Reds, pitching in one game for them, against the Pirates, in 1912.

The Cardinals purchased Doak’s contract in 1913. Manager Miller Huggins suggested Doak try the spitball, and it turned around his career, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Doak was 19-6 for the 1914 Cardinals and led the National League in ERA (1.72). He told Baseball Magazine the spitter was “the easiest ball in the world to pitch.”

“The spitter is thrown with the same arm motion as the fastball, only you don’t have to put as much stuff on it to fool the batter,” Doak said.

In 1920, Doak earned 20 wins for the Cardinals. He also was credited with designing the modern fielding glove. It was his idea to put webbing between a glove’s thumb and first finger. Rawlings introduced the Bill Doak model in 1920, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Doak led the league in ERA (2.59) for a second time in 1921.

Beating the best

After posting 87 wins and finishing third in the league in 1921, the Cardinals, managed by Branch Rickey, were expecting to contend again in 1922.

Doak, 31, helped them to an 18-12 start, winning his first six decisions. The most impressive win in that stretch was a one-hitter against the reigning World Series champion Giants on Thursday afternoon May 11 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

The first batter of the game, shortstop and future Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft, got the only Giants hit, a bunt single along the first-base line. He then was caught attempting to steal second.

The Giants, who had future Hall of Famers High Pockets Kelly, Ross Youngs and Bancroft in their starting lineup, and used another, Frankie Frisch, to pinch-hit, were hitless the rest of the game, a 2-0 Cardinals victory.

Doak, who walked four and struck out two, was the first pitcher to shut out the Giants in 1922. Boxscore

(In its game report, the New York Daily News noted, “The Cardinals are wearing a flossy home uniform this season. Across the breasts of their monkey suits are embroidered baseball bats, on each end of which are perched cardinal birds. The supposition is that two birds on a bat are worth one in a bush.”)

Infield hits

Two months later, on Thursday afternoon July 13 at Sportsman’s Park, Doak pitched another one-hitter against the Phillies.

Leading off the seventh inning, Curt Walker hit “an ordinary infield bounder” to the right of first baseman Jack Fournier, who gloved the ball about 20 feet from the bag, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Expecting Doak to cover first, Fournier looked to toss to him for the out, but Doak “was standing there on the hill apparently contented with himself and life in general,” the Philadelphia Inquirer wryly noted.

The grounder, described by the Post-Dispatch as “an out 999 times out of a thousand,” resulted in a single, depriving Doak of a no-hitter. The Cardinals won, 1-0. Boxscore

It was the second time Doak’s failure to cover first base cost him a no-hitter.

Two years earlier, on Tuesday afternoon Aug. 10, 1920, at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, Doak pitched a one-hitter versus the Phillies. In the seventh, Cy Williams hit a grounder to the right side. Fournier and second baseman Rogers Hornsby both pursued it. Hornsby got to it, but Doak again was frozen on the mound, allowing Williams to reach base safely with a single. Boxscore

(According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Doak had a bad back and that might have been the reason he failed to cover first base on those plays.)

High achiever

After his second one-hitter of 1922, Doak had a 10-6 record. but he lost his next seven decisions. He finished the season with an 11-13 mark and 5.54 ERA. The Cardinals went 85-69, eight games behind the champion Giants.

Doak continued to pitch in the majors until 1929 when he was 38.

In 13 seasons with the Cardinals, Doak was 144-136 with a 2.93 ERA.

He ranks second among Cardinals pitchers in career shutouts (30). Only Bob Gibson (56) pitched more shutouts for the Cardinals.

Doak also ranks sixth among Cardinals pitchers in both career wins (144) and innings pitched (2,387). He is fifth in starts (320) and ninth in strikeouts (938).

In 16 seasons with the Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers, Doak was 169-157 with a 2.98 ERA.

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In a year of turmoil in his personal life, pitcher Chuck Finley experienced satisfying success in his professional life when he joined the Cardinals.

On July 19, 2002, the Cardinals acquired Finley from the Cleveland Indians for minor-league first baseman Luis Garcia and a player to be named. Three weeks later, the Cardinals sent another prospect, outfielder Coco Crisp, to the Indians, completing the deal.

Though Crisp went on to produce 1,572 hits and 309 stolen bases in 15 seasons in the American League, the Cardinals got a double benefit from obtaining Finley. He was the starting pitcher they needed to replace Daryl Kile, who died a month earlier. The trade also kept the Cardinals’ closest competitor, the Reds, from getting Finley.

Bright lights

Born and raised in Monroe, La., Finley attended Louisiana Tech for a year, dropped out and went to work for his family’s nursery and landscaping businesses, planting trees and tilling soil, according to Sports Illustrated.

A year later, he enrolled at Northeast Louisiana University (now named University of Louisiana Monroe). A left-handed pitcher, he lacked command but had an exceptional fastball. The Angels drafted him in January 1985 and sent him to their farm system to be a reliever.

Finley developed a curve to go with his fastball, and in May 1986 he made the jump from Class A Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa, to the majors.

The Angels were home at Anaheim Stadium when Finley made his big-league debut in relief of future Hall of Famer Don Sutton. “I got to the mound and I couldn’t believe how bright it was,” Finley recalled to Sports Illustrated. “A night game in A ball, you turn on the porch lights.” Boxscore

In 1988, Finley joined the Angels’ starting rotation. Adding a split-fingered pitch, or forkball, to his arsenal, he posted double-figure win totals in 10 of his 12 seasons as an Angels starter.

After Finley had back-to-back 18-win seasons in 1990 and 1991, Angels executive Whitey Herzog rewarded him with a four-year $18.5 million contract, largest in franchise history. Sports Illustrated declared Finley “the best left-handed pitcher in baseball.”

Match game

In November 1997, Finley married actress Tawny Kitaen. She appeared with Tom Hanks in the 1984 movie “Bachelor Party.” Cast as the fiancee of Hanks’ character, Kitaen played the part “fetchingly,” according to the New York Times review.

She also performed in music videos for the British hard-rock band Whitesnake. Kitaen married band member David Coverdale in 1989 and they divorced in 1991.

After Finley married Kitaen, he told Paul Gutierrez of Sports Illustrated in 1998, “I found a great girl that put up with me. I couldn’t be with anybody better. We’re so much alike it’s incredible.”

Finley earned 14 consecutive wins for the Angels from July 1, 1997, to April 27, 1998. Granted free agency after the 1999 season, he signed a three-year $27 million contract with the Indians. Finley remains the Angels’ franchise leader in career wins (165), innings pitched (2,675) and starts (379).

Domestic violence

In 2002, the Indians opened the season at Anaheim, giving Finley a chance to be at home in Newport Beach with Kitaen and their two children.

On April 1, Finley and Kitaen argued while having dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Irvine, according to the Los Angeles Times. When they got home, Finley said, “his wife hit, kicked and scratched him and then called 911 before hurling a telephone through the window of their car,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police said, when they arrived, they saw cuts and bruises on Finley, the Associated Press reported. Kitaen was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors _ corporal injury on a spouse, and battery.

In exchange for her pleading guilty and after completing a counseling program, the case was dismissed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Finley and Kitaen soon divorced. She died in May 2021 at age 59.

Cost factors

On the morning of July 19, 2002, the Cardinals were atop their division, 3.5 games ahead of the second-place Reds. Though Finley, 39, was 4-11 with a 4.44 ERA for the 2002 Indians, both the Cardinals and Reds envisioned him as a starter who could tip the balance of the title chase.

According to The Cincinnati Post, the Indians agreed in principle to trade Finley to the Reds for minor-league pitcher Josh Hall. 

Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. volunteered to defer $1 million of his 2002 salary to clear payroll room for the $2 million still to be paid Finley for the season, The Cincinnati Post reported. Reds general manager Jim Bowden thought he had a done deal, but the club’s chief operating officer, John Allen, vetoed the trade. “We can’t add payroll,” Allen told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

According to ESPN.com, the Reds were close to sending outfielder Brady Clark and three prospects to the Red Sox for the cash to pay Finley, but that also fell through.

The Indians then turned to the Cardinals.

“We went back and forth,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This morning, I didn’t think it was going to happen. This afternoon, it fell back into our laps.”

With Woody Williams sidelined by injury, Finley joined a rotation of Matt Morris, Andy Benes and Jason Simontacchi.

“The Cardinals addressed their most pressing problem” and got a starter “who may alter the balance of power within a depleted division,” Joe Strauss wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds, who had been Finley’s teammate with the Angels: “He’s the ultimate workhorse. He’s one of the best professionals I’ve ever seen. When you play a big game, you want him to have the ball.”

Getting it done

Finley made his first Cardinals start on July 21, 2002, at Pittsburgh. With Mike Matheny as his catcher, Finley got the win, striking out eight in six innings.

His pitching was only part of the story. Finley doubled to left off Josh Fogg in the fourth and scored the go-ahead run on Fernando Vina’s single. The double was Finley’s first hit in 27 big-league at-bats. Boxscore

“I like what I’ve seen of this team in the two days I’ve been here,” Finley said. “When you look around and see very good players all around you, it really picks you up.”

Finley also won his second Cardinals start, beating the Cubs at St. Louis. Boxscore and Video

Three days later, Jocketty swung a deal for Scott Rolen, acquiring the third baseman, along with pitcher Doug Nickle and cash, from the Phillies for infielder Placido Polanco and pitchers Mike Timlin and Bud Smith.

The Cardinals, who entered July 2002 tied with the Reds for first place in the Central Division, closed July with a five-game lead over second-place Cincinnati.

On Aug. 27, Finley shut out the Reds on a two-hitter and Rolen hit a three-run home run in the game. Boxscore

With Finley and Rolen, the Cardinals were 17-14 in August and 21-6 in September, finishing 13 games ahead of the runner-up Astros. The Reds limped in at 78-84.

Finley finished 7-4 in 14 regular-season starts for the 2002 Cardinals, giving him a career record of 200-173.

In his last game of a 17-year big-league career, Finley started and won Game 3 of the 2002 National League Championship Series at San Francisco. Boxscore

 

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A rookie from Comanche, Texas, felt right at home in upper Manhattan.

On June 19, 1932, Tex Carleton got his first win for the Cardinals with a two-hit shutout of the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds.

A lanky right-hander with a sidearm delivery, Carleton pitched seven years in the minors before earning a spot with the reigning World Series champion Cardinals. The win against the Giants was the first of 100 for him in an eight-year career in the big leagues.

Prime prospect

Born and raised in Comanche, about 150 miles west of Dallas, James Otto Carleton moved with his family to Fort Worth when he was 11. Nicknamed “Tex” by a newspaper reporter, he pitched for Texas Christian University before leaving in his sophomore year, 1925, to begin a professional baseball career.

His breakout season occurred in 1931. Though sidelined a month because of a broken finger on his throwing hand, Carleton was 20-7 with a 1.90 ERA for the Houston Buffaloes.

In the book “The Gashouse Gang,” author Robert E. Hood noted, “His money pitch was a sinking fastball that was hard to hit solidly. It puzzled right-handed batters because it seemed to be heading right at them, only to break down and in at their knees. It made batters long for the shade of the dugout.”

At spring training  in 1932, Carleton was “the most consistent of the Cardinals’ pitchers,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. Of the 28 innings he pitched in exhibition games, 26 were scoreless. “Players think he will be one of the stars of the big show,” The Sporting News declared.

Carleton joined a starting rotation with Dizzy Dean, Paul Derringer, Bill Hallahan and Syl Johnson. When the season started, Carleton put pressure on himself and struggled. “I was always worried about losing the game,” he told Hood.

In his major-league debut, a start against the Cubs, Carleton walked nine in eight innings. In his next start, he issued seven walks to the Pirates in five innings.

“Wildness has made him an uncertain gamble,” wrote Red Smith in the St. Louis Star-Times.

Two months into the 1932 season, Carleton was 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA.

Under control

The start against the Giants on Sunday afternoon June 19 marked a turnaround for Carleton. Pitching with command and changing speeds, “Carleton had the Giants bewildered from start to finish,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Facing a lineup with future Hall of Famers Freddie Lindstrom, Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Travis Jackson in the third through sixth spots, Carleton retired the first 11 batters before Lindstrom reached on an error by Jimmie Reese. Shanty Hogan got the Giants’ first hit, a single, with two outs in the fifth. The other hit was a single by Eddie Moore. Carleton walked none in nine innings.

“His control was perfection itself,” wrote Red Smith. “You could see the sparks of his fastball. His sweeping sidearm curves made pretzels on the way up to the plate.”

Future Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley, benched after hitting .158 in April, made his first start of the month at first base for the Cardinals and slugged two home runs in support of Carleton.

After retiring Mel Ott for the last out in the 7-0 Cardinals triumph, Carleton “carefully removed a paper sack of chewing tobacco and secreted in his hip pocket the ball that Ott missed,” Jimmy Powers wrote in the New York Daily News. “Then he and (teammate) Pepper Martin waddled about awkwardly in a strange little war dance. They hollered loudly once or twice, then went dog-trotting out to the clubhouse, their arms draped over each other’s shoulders.” Boxscore

All about winning

Carleton finished 1932 with a 10-13 record. He was second on the club in shutouts (three) and strikeouts (113).

During the winter, Giants player-manager Bill Terry met with Cardinals executive Branch Rickey in St. Louis for trade talks. Terry “is especially hopeful of obtaining Tex Carleton, whom he believes is one of the coming hurling stars of the National League,” The Sporting News reported.

Negotiations broke off without a deal because the Cardinals “wanted too much,” Terry told the New York Daily News.

In 1933, Carleton again gave another stellar performance against the Giants at the Polo Grounds. On July 2, he and the Giants’ Carl Hubbell each pitched 16 scoreless innings. Carleton was removed for a pinch-hitter in the 17th, and Hubbell won with an 18-inning shutout. Boxscore

Carleton told author Robert Hood he thought Hubbell, not Dizzy Dean, was the best pitcher in baseball at that time.

During the 1933 season, Carleton lost weight and the club worried about his health. According to the Gashouse Gang book, team physician Dr. Robert Hyland offered an unusual remedy.

“He recommended two or three highballs before dinner each night to stimulate my appetite,” Carleton said. “I used to get prescription whiskey _ it still being Prohibition _ and carry it with me on the road.”

Though he finished the season with a 17-11 record, Carleton said he thought he could have done better. “Proud and sensitive, he felt he should win 20 games every year,” Hood wrote in the Gashouse Gang book.

Carleton was 16-11 for the 1934 Cardinals, who won a World Series title, but afterward he was traded to the Cubs for $50,000 and two pitchers, Bud Tinning and Dick Ward, neither of whom would win a game for St. Louis.

Carleton helped the Cubs win National League pennants in 1935 and 1938. He pitched a no-hitter for the Dodgers against the Reds in 1940, but, plagued by shoulder ailments, it was his last season in the majors. He finished with a career mark of 100-76.

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Being a Little League phenom is no guarantee of success at the professional level. The Cardinals made that costly discovery with Art Deras.

An exceptional Little League, Pony League and high school player, Deras was signed by the Cardinals, who outbid multiple teams with the intention of grooming him to replace Ken Boyer at third base.

A right-hander who threw hard and hit with power, Deras played five seasons in the Cardinals’ system, but never reached the majors. He died on June 5, 2022, at 75.

Super powers

When Deras grew up in Hamtramck, Mich., near Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s, the town was a Polish-American enclave. His Polish grandmother nicknamed him Pinky. “I never did learn how she picked the name Pinky, but it stuck,” Deras said to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1959, when he turned 13, Deras led Hamtramck into the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Against San Juan, Puerto Rico, in Game 1, Deras pitched a one-hitter and struck out 17 in a 5-0 victory. In Game 2, Deras played shortstop and hit a grand slam in Hamtramck’s 8-1 triumph versus Kailua, Hawaii.

For the Game 3 championship final, Deras pitched a three-hitter, struck out 14 and hit a three-run home run in Hamtramck’s 12-0 rout of Auburn, Calif. Among those in attendance were Baseball Hall of Famers Frank “Home Run” Baker and Frankie Frisch.

In the two six-inning games Deras pitched in the Little League World Series, 31 of the 36 outs he recorded were strikeouts. He allowed four total hits and no runs.

The Sporting News described him as “this super boy from Hamtramck.”

For the season, Deras pitched 10 no-hitters, including five in a row, struck out 296 in 108 innings, and had 18 wins, including 16 shutouts, The Sporting News reported. Video

Soon after the Little League World Series, Chrysler Corporation arranged for the team to be flown to California for an appearance on The Lawrence Welk Show. Michigan-based Chrysler was a sponsor of the television program.

“They introduced us, and at the end of the show I danced with the champagne lady,” Deras recalled to the Detroit Free Press. “Can you imagine that? Twelve years old and dancing with the champagne lady. Where do you go from there?”

The beat goes on

Deras advanced to Pony League and in 1961 he led Hamtramck to a national title. One of his teammates was Tom Paciorek, who went on to hit .282 during 18 seasons (1970-87) in the majors.

In an interview with the Free Press, Paciorek described Deras as “very, very talented. A tremendously gifted athlete. At his age level, from 12 to 14, I doubt if there is any question that he was the finest athlete in the country.”

Deras continued having success in high school sports. In addition to his pitching and hitting in baseball, he was a standout running back in football. In April 1964, he signed a letter of intent to play football at Michigan State.

Big-league baseball scouts had other plans for him.

Highest bidder

“Claimed by many to be the greatest natural hitter ever to come off the Detroit sandlots,” Deras received interest from at least 10 big-league teams, the Free Press reported.

Cardinals scout Mo Mozzali recommended the club go all-out to sign Deras. Knowing it would take a substantial offer to outbid others, the Cardinals sent their 82-year-old consultant, major-league legend Branch Rickey, to Hamtramck to see the 17-year-old amateur legend and determine whether he was worth the cash.

Rickey arrived at the Hamtramck high school ballfield in a black limousine and was escorted to a roped-off area behind home plate, according to the Free Press. Rickey was impressed with what he saw, and endorsed the Cardinals’ effort to pursue Deras.

On June 1, 1964, the Cardinals came to Detroit to play the Tigers in an exhibition game to benefit amateur baseball. Wearing a Cardinals uniform, Deras worked out with the team before the game at Tiger Stadium, the Free Press reported.

Two weeks later, on June 10, Deras graduated from high school. Attending the family graduation party that night at the home of Deras’ parents were the Cardinals’ scout, Mo Mozzali, and scouts for the Red Sox and Yankees. The hometown Tigers dropped out of the chase when Deras asked for $50,000.

According to the Free Press, Deras’ father was a security guard at General Motors. Deras’ mother worked in an auto supply factory. Deras saw a big-league signing bonus as a chance to help his parents, and decided to go with the team that made the highest offer.

On June 15, 1964, the same day the Cardinals traded for Lou Brock, Deras signed with them for $80,000, $20,000 more than the other finalist, the Red Sox, offered, the Free Press and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Attending the signing ceremony were Mozzali and Cardinals director of scouting George Silvey. Deras “has the talent to reach the majors in two years,” Mozzali told the Post-Dispatch.

Cavorting with champions

Though he primarily was a pitcher in high school, the Cardinals wanted Deras to play every day because of his bat. He hit .478 his senior season.

“The Cardinals have high hopes for him at third base” as the eventual replacement for all-star Ken Boyer, the Free Press reported.

The Sporting News designated Deras and Ed Spiezio as “the best bets as eventual successor to Ken Boyer.”

Assigned to Class A Rock Hill, Deras hit .208 in 51 games in 1964. He did better at the fall Florida Instructional League, attacking pitches the way the Cardinals hoped he would, and was invited to join the big-league club at spring training in February 1965.

Placed on the 40-man winter roster, Deras, 18, joined the reigning World Series champions at their St. Petersburg, Fla., training camp. He posed for pictures with club executive Stan Musial, took batting practice from Bob Gibson, and played cards with Mike Cuellar. “He used to cheat,” Deras told the Free Press. “Whenever you’d call him on it, he’d pretend he didn’t speak English.”

Deras returned to Class A in 1965 and hit .260 with 18 stolen bases, but the Cardinals decided to move him to the outfield. “We would have preferred to keep him at third base,” farm director Sheldon Bender told The Sporting News, “but the throwing from there to first base was bothering him.”

Peaked too soon

After two seasons at Class AA Arkansas, Deras was demoted to Class A Modesto in 1968. While Deras, 21, was on the way down, his Modesto teammate, Ted Simmons, 18, another Michigan high school standout who was signed by Mo Mozzali, was on the way up.

Deras hit .269 for Modesto, then walked away from the Cardinals. “I didn’t tell them I was retiring, and they didn’t ask why,” Deras told the Free Press. “I guess they knew.”

In five seasons in the Cardinals system, Deras hit .243 with 32 home runs.

Deras had invested part of his signing bonus in a Hamtramck sporting good store, but the business collapsed, according to the Free Press. In 1974, he joined the Warren, Mich., police force. He retired as a detective in 2001.

Looking back at Deras’ time in the Cardinals’ organization, the Free Press concluded, “It was never a question of ability. It was a question of desire _ and it was gone.”

Deras said, “By the time I was 21, I had already had a full career _ playing every day, two amateur championships, a room full of trophies. I should have been reaching my prime, and I was exhausted. Looking back on it, I guess it was just a problem of getting too much too soon.”

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Two of the Cardinals’ savviest competitors, a pair of future Hall of Famers, got picked off base on successive plays.

The pitcher who nabbed them was a 22-year-old Padres right-hander, facing the Cardinals for the first time.

On June 9, 1972, Bill Greif picked off Bob Gibson at second base. Then he picked off Lou Brock at first base.

Premier prospect

A standout in multiple sports in high school at Austin, Texas, Greif passed up a scholarship offer to the University of Texas to sign with the Astros when he was 18. He made his big-league debut with the Astros in July 1971 and was traded to the Padres with two other prospects for pitcher Dave Roberts after the season.

“We hated to give up Greif,” Astros general manager Spec Richardson told The Sporting News. “He throws hard and has a fine sinker. He could be an outstanding pitcher.”

The Padres had finished in last place each year since joining the National League in 1969 and were headed there again in 1972. Greif looked to be one of their top talents and earned a starting rotation spot.

Padres pitching coach Roger Craig, the former Cardinal, said Greif was one of the most mature and intelligent young pitchers he had coached, the Associated Press reported. “All Greif needs is 200 innings under his belt and he’ll be quite a pitcher,” Craig predicted.

Greif told the Society for American Baseball Research, “Roger was an excellent tactician. We talked a lot about setting pitches up and which pitch to throw in each situation. It was situational pitching and that was very helpful to me.”

Greif entered his start against the Cardinals with a 3-8 record. The Padres totaled nine runs in his eight losses.

Craig, who with the Mets had 24 losses in 1962 and 22 in 1963, understood what it was like to pitch for a bad team and used that experience to try to guide Greif.

“I’ve learned more from Roger in three months than I learned all the rest of my career,” Greif told The Sporting News. “He helps a pitcher in so many ways, especially in keeping up his confidence.”

Right moves

Greif was matched against Gibson for the Friday night series opener at San Diego. Greif was 9 when Gibson got his first win in the majors in 1959.

In the third inning, the game was scoreless and the Cardinals had one out and none on when Gibson doubled. Before pitching to Brock, Greif, a rangy 6 feet 4, whirled around and fired the ball to shortstop Enzo Hernandez, who was covering the bag at second. Hernandez tagged out Gibson, who had strayed too far.

Brock followed with a single. In 1972, Brock would lead the National League in stolen bases for the sixth time, but Greif wasn’t intimidated. As Brock took his lead, Greif whipped a throw to first baseman Nate Colbert, who applied a tag before Brock could reach the bag.

“Many pitchers have been improving on their moves,” Brock told The Sporting News. “The pitchers are much more responsible for base steals than catchers.”

The Padres scored twice in the fourth, snapping Gibson’s scoreless inning streak at 25, but the Cardinals came back against Greif in the sixth. Brock led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. After Bernie Carbo popped out, Matty Alou crushed a home run, merely his second of the season, to tie the score at 2-2.

In the ninth, Joe Torre led off with a home run against Greif. “He has great stuff,” Torre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He just got a curve in too much. I’m sure he didn’t want to put the ball there. He’s so big that it looks as if he’s reaching out to touch you when he lets go. He’s big enough to scare you.”

Gibson sealed the victory, retiring the side in the bottom half of the inning. It was Gibson’s 210th career win, tying him with Jesse Haines for the Cardinals’ franchise lead. Boxscore

“I was studying Gibson and marveling at the stuff this man has and the way he challenges the hitters,” Greif told the Associated Press.

By dueling with Gibson into the ninth, “At least I know now that I can pitch in the majors,” Greif said, “and that’s something I didn’t know this spring.”

Mind over matter

The remainder of the 1972 season had more lows than highs for Greif. He finished with a 5-16 record and 5.60 ERA.

In five seasons with Padres, he was 29-61.

In May 1976, Greif, 26, was traded to the Cardinals for outfielder Luis Melendez. In 47 relief appearances for the Cardinals that season, his last in the majors, Greif was 1-5 with six saves.

Expressing an interest in experimental psychology, Greif attended college during the baseball off-seasons. He earned a degree in psychology from the University of Texas and a master’s from Texas State University.

He told the Austin American-Statesman, “Pitchers, in particular, might be an interesting study _ how a pitcher can program his brain to release a certain pitch the same way time after time.”

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Diego Segui brought much-needed relief to the Cardinals.

On June 7, 1972, the Cardinals bought the contract of Segui from the Athletics.

A right-hander whose best pitch was a forkball, Segui gave the Cardinals a quality closer. Before acquiring him, the 1972 Cardinals totaled one save. The year before, their save leader had eight.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, Segui “arrived to breathe life into a bullpen that had been horrible.”

From ranch to diamond

Segui was born and raised in southeastern Cuba near the seaport city of Santiago. His father was a ranch foreman who taught his son to rope horses and cattle. “I was pretty good with a lasso,” Segui told the Post-Dispatch.

The work strengthened his hands and helped Segui become a pitcher able to grip a variety of pitches.

He was 20 and pitching for the Tucson Cowboys of the Arizona-Mexico League when the Kansas City Athletics signed him on the recommendation of their scout, former big-league outfielder Al Zarilla. Segui entered their farm system in 1959 and reached the majors with the Athletics in 1962.

While with Kansas City, Segui met the woman he married, Emily. They were introduced by the mother of Athletics catcher Joe Azcue.

Segui developed a forkball, so named because the ball was held in the fork of the hand, between the forefinger and middle finger.

“A pitcher must have reasonably long and flexible fingers to throw the forkball, which is one reason it is not a common pitch,” the Kansas City Star noted. “The forkball is thrown with the same motion as a fastball, but the velocity is much slower and the ball breaks down as it reaches the plate.”

Segui pitched at a deliberate pace. As the Oakland Tribune observed, “He rubs up the ball between every pitch _ even during intentional walks _ straightens out the Virgin Mary medallion he wears around his neck, counts his fielders, steps off the mound to blow on his hand, and smooths the dirt in front of the rubber.”

Come and go

Segui pitched for Kansas City from 1962-65, got traded to the Senators, spent 1966 with them and was reacquired by the Athletics.

After two more seasons with the Athletics, Segui was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the American League expansion draft, pitched in their first regular-season game and finished the season with 12 wins and 12 saves. Boxscore

The Athletics, who had relocated to Oakland, reacquired him again, and Segui posted a 2.56 ERA, best in the American League, for them in 1970.

Rich with starting pitching (Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman) and relievers (Rollie Fingers, Bob Locker, Darold Knowles) in 1972, their first of three consecutive World Series championship seasons, the Athletics didn’t have enough work for Segui, prompting the deal with the Cardinals.

When informed he’d be leaving the Athletics for the third time, Segui told the Oakland Tribune, “Maybe I’ll get a chance to pitch for St. Louis, but I would rather have stayed on this club and not pitched.”

Good impression

Segui’s perspective changed after he experienced immediate success with the Cardinals. In his National League debut, he pitched three scoreless innings against the Giants and got the win. Boxscore

“He has a hard slider that breaks at the last second,” Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons told the San Francisco Examiner. “His forkball is murder on a left-handed batter, dropping off the table.”

Two nights later, Segui got his first Cardinals save with 1.2 scoreless innings versus the Padres. Boxscore

“When a guy can throw strikes and has an out pitch like his forkball, you’re in business,” Simmons told the Post-Dispatch. “Segui has a fantastic forkball. It looks like a fastball to the batter, and before you know it, wham, the ball is by you.”

Orioles scout Jim Russo told columnist Bob Broeg, “In Segui, they’ve got one of their best pickups of late. He’s a nice guy, a good man on a club, and he knows how to pitch.”

Segui, who turned 35 two months after joining the Cardinals, finished the 1972 season as the team leader in saves (nine) and relief outings (33). He was 3-1 with a 3.07 ERA. Batters hit .184 against him with runners in scoring position. Video at 30-second mark

Say hey, Segui

Segui followed up with a strong season for St. Louis in 1973. He led the club in saves (17) and games pitched (65), posting a 7-6 record and 2.78 ERA. He struck out 93 in 100.1 innings and allowed a mere 78 hits.

“You wish you had 25 men like him,” Cardinals player personnel director Bob Kennedy told the Post-Dispatch. Kennedy was Segui’s manager with the 1968 Athletics.

“You couldn’t ask for a better guy,” Kennedy said. “He’s one of the finest men I’ve known in baseball.”

Segui had a couple of interesting matchups in 1973 with Willie Mays, 42, who was with the Mets in the final season of his Hall of Fame career.

On July 26 at St. Louis, with the Cardinals ahead, 2-1, in the ninth, the Mets had a runner on base, two outs, when Segui struck out Mays on a forkball to end the game. Boxscore

A week later, on Aug. 3 at New York, Mays, batting .207 for the season, faced Segui in the seventh, with two on, two outs and the Mets ahead, 4-3. Mays got a low inside fastball from Segui and hit it over the wall in center for a three-run home run. Boxscore

“I was just looking for something fast, and there it was,” Mays said to the Associated Press.

The home run was the 659th of Mays’ career. He hit his last, No. 660, two weeks later against Don Gullett of the Reds.

Family and fishing

After the season, the Cardinals swapped Segui, pitcher Reggie Cleveland and infielder Terry Hughes to the Red Sox for pitchers John Curtis, Mike Garman and Lynn McGlothen.

“Segui really did a job for us,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the Boston Globe, but he said Segui became expendable with the emergence of Al Hrabosky as a potential closer.

Segui pitched in a World Series with the Red Sox in 1975.

His final season in the majors was in 1977 with the expansion Seattle Mariners. Segui, who turned 40 that year, was their Opening Day starting pitcher. Naturally, he was called the “Ancient Mariner.” Boxscore

Segui is the only player to appear in games for both the Seattle Pilots and Seattle Mariners.

He continued to pitch professionally until 1984, when he turned 47 and earned 10 wins for Leon, a Mexican League team managed by ex-Cardinal Benny Valenzuela.

Diego and Emily Segui raised four children. One of them, David, played 15 seasons in the majors, just like his father did. Primarily a first baseman, David hit .291 for his career.

When David was a youngster, his father played baseball all year, including winters in the Caribbean. To fill the void, Emily would “play catch in the backyard and hit fungoes to David to help him work on his defensive skills,” the New York Times reported.

“All the credit must go to my wife,” Diego told the New York Daily News. “If my wife never takes him to play, and hitting ground balls, he would never be what he is.”

After seven years as a minor-league pitching coach for the Giants, Diego Segui retired in Kansas City and pursued his lifelong passion for fishing. He became an accomplished bass fisherman who excelled in local tournaments.

“In March, I won $2,200 for catching one fish,” Segui told the Kansas City Star in 1998. “When I broke into the big leagues, I made $6,000 a year. I made more in one cast than I would make in four months back in those days.”

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