Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

Vince Coleman was so fast he made it to the major leagues much sooner than the Cardinals expected.

On Aug. 18, 2018, Coleman will be inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. Coleman led the National League in stolen bases in each of his six seasons with St. Louis (1985-90) and three times swiped more than 100 bases _ 110 in 1985, 107 in 1986 and 109 in 1987.

In 1985, Coleman won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, capping a year in which he scored 107 runs for the Cardinals and sparked them to a pennant.

When the 1985 season began, however, Coleman was with Louisville and both he and the Cardinals agreed he needed to spend more months in the minors before he was ready for the big leagues.

The plan changed in April when the Cardinals called up Coleman to fill in for a pair of injured outfielders, Willie McGee and Tito Landrum. Coleman was supposed to stay a couple of days, but his speed created headaches for opponents and opportunities for the Cardinals. When McGee and Landrum got healthy, Coleman remained as the Cardinals’ leadoff batter and left fielder.

Multiple talents

Coleman was raised in Jacksonville by his mother, Willie Pearl Coleman, a single parent who worked as a dietitian at a hospital. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Florida A&M, earned spots on the football and baseball teams, and was granted an athletic scholarship.

Coleman was a punter and placekicker for the football team, following the lead of his cousin, Greg Coleman, who was a punter for 10 seasons in the NFL, primarily with the Minnesota Vikings.

One of Vince Coleman’s baseball teammates at Florida A&M was Lary Aaron, son of home run king Hank Aaron. In his sophomore year, Coleman broke his wrist and sat out the baseball season. As a junior in 1981, Coleman batted .383 with 65 stolen bases in 66 games. He hit .407 his senior season and had 42 steals in 28 games.

The NFL’s Washington Redskins invited Coleman to a minicamp in May 1982 and urged him to become a wide receiver, but Coleman was hesitant to try. The next week, Coleman was selected by the Cardinals in the 10th round of baseball’s amateur draft and he signed with them.

Coleman was a baseball fan of the Angels because they had his favorite player, Rod Carew, “but I was glad the Cardinals drafted me because I knew (manager) Whitey Herzog likes to have a running team,” Coleman said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Fast track

The Cardinals assigned Coleman to their rookie league club at Johnson City in 1982 and he had 43 stolen bases in 58 games.

Coleman went to Class A Macon in 1983 and established a professional single-season record with 145 stolen bases. Coleman accomplished the feat in 113 games after sitting out most of June because of a broken right hand. “I think I’m the fastest man in baseball,” Coleman said.

The 1983 season also was when Coleman became a switch-hitter. A natural right-hander, he hit .350 right-handed and .357 left-handed for Macon.

The Cardinals brought Coleman to St. Louis on Sept. 3, 1983, to be honored in a pre-game ceremony for his stolen base record. After that, he reported to the Springfield, Ill., farm club to help against Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League playoffs.

From there, Coleman reported to the Cardinals’ Florida Instructional League to focus on hitting curves and sliders.

Coleman skipped the Class AA level and opened the 1984 season with Class AAA Louisville. “I’d be delighted if Vince could hit .250 or .260 after jumping all the way to Triple A,” Louisville manager Jim Fregosi said to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It’s a natural thing for him to struggle.”

Coleman batted .257 with 101 stolen bases in 152 games for Louisville, but the Cardinals didn’t bring him to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September. “I’m a little down about not going up,” Coleman said.

Learning curve

Coleman reported to the Cardinals’ major-league spring training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., for the first time in 1985. Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith tried to arrange a $5,000 match race between Coleman and McGee to find out who was fastest. When third baseman Terry Pendleton learned of the plan, he asked to be included in the race, even though he lacked speed. “If they both slip, I could win,” Pendleton told the Post-Dispatch.

McGee wanted no part of the race and Herzog told Coleman, “You should never race. Somebody would have to lose. This way, nobody will ever know. It will be a mystery.”

Herzog called Coleman “the best prospect in baseball,” but Coleman flailed at breaking balls out of the strike zone, batted .138 (4-for-29) in spring training games and was re-assigned to Louisville.

“When I started out, I figured it would take four or five years to get to the major leagues,” Coleman said. “If I don’t make it (this year), I won’t be disappointed.”

Said Herzog: “He’s as good a worker as I’ve ever had in one of my camps. You might see him up here before the year is over.”

The Cardinals opened the 1985 season with an outfield of Lonnie Smith in left, McGee in center and Andy Van Slyke in right, with Landrum the backup.

Coleman batted .143 (3-for-21) in five games with Louisville, but, when Landrum went on the disabled list because of a pulled abdominal muscle and McGee was shelved for a few days because of a strained thigh muscle, the Cardinals called up Coleman on April 17.

Best of class

In his debut game, on April 18, 1985, against the Expos at St. Louis, Coleman had a single, walk and two stolen bases. Boxscore

The next night, April 19, Coleman had four hits, including a RBI-triple in the eighth against John Candelaria, in a 5-4 Cardinals victory over the Pirates. Boxscore

“He’s a cocky little son of a gun, isn’t he?” Herzog said. “It’s amazing what a spark like that can do for a ballclub.”

Coleman credited Cardinals coaches Johnny Lewis and Dave Ricketts for his success. “They were the ones who were with me when I became a switch-hitter three years ago,” Coleman said. “They basically know me as a hitter. They know what I should do and what not to do.”

When McGee returned to the lineup, Coleman remained and Lonnie Smith was traded to the Royals in May. “I would venture to say there’s never been a better defensive outfield than Van Slyke, McGee and Vince,” Herzog said. “For speed, arms and defense, you can’t get much better than that.”

Coleman went on to shatter the major-league rookie stolen base record of 72 established by Juan Samuel of the 1984 Phillies. Coleman’s 110 steals in 1985 are surpassed only by Rickey Henderson of the Athletics (130 in 1982) and Lou Brock of the Cardinals (118 in 1974).

Coleman was the first unanimous choice for the National League Rookie of the Year Award since Orlando Cepeda of the 1958 Giants and the fourth Cardinals player to win the award, joining outfielders Wally Moon (1954), Bill Virdon (1955) and Bake McBride (1974).

Read Full Post »

Mike Shannon was a divine prospect in baseball and football, but when the time came for him to choose a career path in one of the sports, it put the Devines at odds with one another.

Sixty years ago, on June 11, 1958, Shannon passed on a football future at the University of Missouri and signed a professional baseball contract with the Cardinals.

Missouri head coach Dan Devine was upset with the Cardinals and their general manager, Bing Devine, for taking a gifted quarterback away from college football.

“I’m bitterly disappointed and disillusioned by the mechanics of the signing for reasons I don’t want to discuss publicly,” Dan Devine said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The next day, Bing Devine called Dan Devine to discuss the matter and the conversation ended on “an amicable note,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Cardinals courtship

Thomas Michael Shannon, called Mike, was born in St. Louis on July 15, 1939. He was the son of Tom and Elizabeth Shannon. Mike Shannon’s father was a police officer before earning a law degree and becoming a prosecuting attorney for the city of St. Louis.

Mike Shannon was a multi-sport athlete at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis. He was the quarterback on the football team and his running back was Dick Musial, son of the Cardinals’ Stan Musial.

In 1957, Shannon accepted a football scholarship to the University of Missouri. The freshman played quarterback in Missouri’s intrasquad spring game in April 1958 and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass. Dan Devine had big plans for Shannon in his sophomore season.

When Shannon returned home to St. Louis for the summer, he joined a baseball team in the Ban Johnson League for top amateurs. The hometown Cardinals were well aware of Shannon since his high school days and kept track of him.

On June 8, 1958, a part-time Cardinals scout, George Hasser, watched Shannon in a game at Heman Park in St. Louis and filed a glowing report to full-time Cardinals scout Joe Monahan.

The next night, Monahan, Hasser and Cardinals farm director Walter Shannon (no relation) went to see Mike Shannon play in a game at Scott Air Base. He worked out for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on June 10. The next day, Shannon signed a $50,000 contract with them.

Special talent

Before the deal was announced, Bing Devine called Missouri athletic director Don Faurot to inform him Shannon wouldn’t be returning to school. “I told Don that I know Missouri can’t score touchdowns with our expressions of regret, but baseball is our business,” Bing Devine told the Post-Dispatch.

Missouri’s athletic department was stung by baseball’s ability to lure top athletes away from the school before their college athletic eligibility expired. Shannon was the second football player to leave Missouri and sign with the baseball Cardinals in 1958. Running back Charlie James was the other. Also, soon after Shannon turned pro, Missouri basketball player Sonny Siebert signed a baseball contract with the Indians.

Dan Devine said Shannon had “the greatest potential of any back we had on our squad … He showed me more ability in the spring than any kid I ever worked with … Potentially one of the greatest.”

Dan Devine and Bing Devine were not related, but Dan caustically referred to “cousin Bing” when talking to Missouri booster groups about how the Cardinals wooed Shannon.

Shannon, who turned 19 a month after signing with the Cardinals, was assigned to their Class D minor-league team in Albany, Ga., in June 1958 and batted .322 with 54 RBI in 62 games as an outfielder.

In February 1959, Shannon married Judith Ann Bufe and they began raising a family.

Shannon spent four more seasons (1959-62) in the minor leagues until getting promoted to the Cardinals in September 1962. He was an outfielder and third baseman for them until a kidney ailment caused him to quit playing in August 1970. In 21 games in three World Series with the Cardinals, Shannon produced 19 hits, including three home runs.

In 1972, Shannon began a successful second career as a Cardinals broadcaster.

Tim Shannon followed in his father Mike’s football footsteps and was a defensive back for the University of Southern California Trojans in 1981.

Read Full Post »

Confident in their ability to get a deal done, the Cardinals made a bold decision to pursue outfielder J.D. Drew.

Twenty years ago, on June 2, 1998, the Cardinals, with the fifth overall pick, chose Drew in the first round of baseball’s draft.

Drew was a top talent but his hardball contract demands made him a risky selection. The Phillies drafted him in 1997 with the second overall pick of the first round, but were unable to sign him.

The Cardinals, though, made him their prime draft target in 1998.

“He may be the best player to come out of the last two drafts,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He has a chance to be a franchise player.”

Phooey on Philly

While at Florida State in 1997, Drew won the Golden Spikes Award given to the nation’s best amateur baseball player. Drew became the third NCAA Division I player all-time to produce 100 hits, 100 RBI and 100 runs in a season.

After the Tigers chose pitcher Matt Anderson with the first pick of the 1997 June draft, the Phillies took Drew. Represented by agent Scott Boras, Drew wanted $10 million to sign. The Phillies offered $2.6 million. When the sides couldn’t reach a compromise, Drew signed with the St. Paul Saints, an independent team. Drew batted .341 in 44 games for St. Paul in 1997.

Drew’s rejection of the Phillies “made him about as popular locally as road construction on I-95,” wrote Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News.

In 1998, Drew returned to St. Paul. Because he hadn’t played for a team affiliated with organized baseball, Drew was able to re-enter the June draft. Giving no indication he’d concede on his contract demands, most teams determined using a high pick on Drew was a gamble.

The first four picks of the 1998 draft were outfielder Pat Burrell to the Phillies, pitcher Mark Mulder to the Athletics, outfielder Corey Patterson to the Cubs and pitcher Jeff Austin to the Royals.

Go for it

The Cardinals were delighted Drew was available when it became their turn to pick. Scouting director Ed Creech watched Drew play for St. Paul and recommended the Cardinals sign him.

“Drew was the No. 1 guy on our draft board,” Jocketty said. “We know he might be tough to sign, but we feel we’ve got a lot to sell here in St. Louis.”

Said manager Tony La Russa: “It’s an aggressive call.”

Unimpressed, Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote, “If the Cardinals don’t sign No. 1 draft choice J.D. Drew, that’s their problem, and their fault, and I’ll have no sympathy. The Cardinals know Drew’s holdout history. They know Drew’s financial demands. They know his agent, Scott Boras. Let the buyer beware.”

Boras was an infielder in the Cardinals’ minor-league system in the 1970s before becoming an agent for players. Among his clients was Rick Ankiel. In 1997, Ankiel was considered the best left-handed high school pitcher in the draft, but he wasn’t chosen in the first round because it was believed he wanted between $5 million and $10 million to sign. The Cardinals snatched him in the second round and negotiated with Boras on a deal Ankiel signed for $2.5 million.

The Cardinals and Boras had setbacks as well. In February 1998, Andy Benes, who wanted to stay in St. Louis, was declared a free agent and went to the Diamondbacks after Jocketty and Boras failed to reach a timely contract agreement for the pitcher.

Risk rewarded

On July 3, a month after he was drafted, Drew, 22, signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals for a guaranteed $7 million. The deal included incentive clauses that positioned Drew to net an additional $2 million.

“I believe this organization has unique insight on talent,” Boras said. “The decisions they make are not conventional, but you win in this game by being unconventional.”

Said Jocketty: “We take risks because we have a high regard for talent.”

In Philadelphia, Drew’s signing was mocked and criticized. “This signing is going to have a negative effect on the industry,” Phillies general manager Ed Wade said to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Labeling Boras as the “sports world’s top-ranked terrorist,” Inquirer columnist Jayson Stark snarked, “So, the great J.D. Drew got his money. Yippee for him.”

Looking ahead to when the Cardinals and Phillies would play in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Daily News declared, “Here’s an idea for the Phillies’ promotions department: Boo Drew Night.”

Said Drew: “I hope once everyone gets to know me as a person and as a player, they will accept me for what I am.”

Hot start

The Cardinals assigned Drew to their Class AA club in Arkansas. In his first game, he singled and doubled. In his second game, he hit two home runs.

After batting .328 in 19 games for Arkansas, Drew was promoted to Class AAA Memphis and hit .316 in 26 games.

In September 1998, the Cardinals called up Drew to the big leagues and he batted .417 (15-for-36) with five home runs.

The dazzling start heightened expectations to dizzying heights and Drew strained to deliver. Albert Pujols, not Drew, developed into the Cardinals’ franchise player.

In six seasons with St. Louis, Drew batted .282 and had an on-base percentage of .377. His best year for the Cardinals was 2001 when he hit .323 with 27 home runs in 109 games.

On Dec. 13, 2003, the Cardinals dealt Drew to the Braves for pitchers Adam Wainwright, Jason Marquis and Ray King.

Read Full Post »

At 17, Ray Sadecki already threw with as much velocity as anyone on the Cardinals’ major-league pitching staff.

An amateur free agent, Sadecki was pursued by nearly every big-league team. Cardinals scout Runt Marr, who followed Sadecki for two years, recommended the club invest in the left-handed pitcher from Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sixty years ago, on June 1, 1958, Sadecki signed with the Cardinals for a bonus of $50,000 and a three-year contract totaling another $18,000.

High interest

Sadecki was an exceptional prospect. At 16, he pitched four no-hitters _ two in high school and two in Ban Johnson League summer games. In his senior season at Ward High School, Sadecki was 9-0 and pitched another no-hitter. Marr said Sadecki averaged two strikeouts per inning over two high school seasons and twice struck out 21 batters in seven-inning games.

At the state high school baseball tournament at Eldorado, Kansas, in 1958, 12 of the 16 major-league teams sent scouts to watch Sadecki. Marr was joined by Cardinals minor-league director Walter Shannon. They saw Sadecki win the state championship game, capping a 17-0 season for Ward High School.

After graduating, Sadecki met with representatives from the Athletics, Pirates and Yankees. He worked out for the Orioles in Kansas City and went to Cleveland to throw for the Indians, who offered a $50,000 bonus. Sadecki returned home briefly before heading to St. Louis for a workout with the Cardinals.

Frank Sadecki, Ray’s father, asked bidders for a “$55,000 trust fund or insurance type deal that would provide a salary for life,” according to United Press International.

Hard thrower

The Cardinals announced Sadecki’s signing while he was pitching on the sidelines in a workout at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson, who pitched 10 years in the big leagues, compared Sadecki with Cardinals ace Sam Jones, who led the National League in strikeouts in 1958.

“He’s very smooth,” Hutchinson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We won’t have to do a thing with his delivery. We’ll have to develop a curveball. He throws as hard as Sam Jones does.”

In The Sporting News, Bob Broeg wrote Sadecki “has the potential of developing into one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game.”

After receiving mentoring from Cardinals pitching coach Al Hollingsworth in St. Louis, Sadecki was assigned to the Winnipeg Goldeyes, a Class C affiliate of the Cardinals in the Northern League.

Wild thing

On June 19, 1958, Sadecki made his professional debut with Winnipeg, pitching a four-hitter in a win against St. Cloud. He struck out 11, walked 10 and hit a two-run home run.

Games with high totals of strikeouts and walks were commonplace for Sadecki in 1958. On July 21, he pitched a three-hitter in a win over Duluth-Superior, striking out 14 and walking 11. Facing Minot on July 29, Sadecki won a four-hitter, striking out 13 and walking nine.

Sadecki finished the 1958 season with a 9-7 record, 3.34 ERA and 11 complete games for Winnipeg. In 132 innings, he struck out 174 and walked 129.

Though he’d pitched a full schedule of high school and minor-league baseball that year, the Cardinals sent Sadecki to their Florida Instructional League for more work in October 1958.

On Oct. 15, in his debut for the Florida Instructional League Cardinals, Sadecki combined with teammates Roland Passaro and Jerry Lock on a no-hitter against the Athletics.

A month later, Cardinals pitching instructor Johnny Grodzicki said Sadecki “could be one of the game’s great left-handers. Control is his only problem.”

The Post-Dispatch called Sadecki “one of the best prospects, but he also is one of the wildest.”

VIPs impressed

On Dec. 6, with Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, manager Solly Hemus and talent evaluator Eddie Stanky in attendance, Sadecki pitched a no-hitter against the Florida Instructional League Yankees at St. Petersburg. Sadecki struck out 12, walked nine and hit a batter in a 3-0 victory.

“We won’t rush him no matter how good he looks … but we do believe that Sadecki, with his unusual speed and fine curve, can make it a quick trip to the majors,” Devine said.

Hemus, who had replaced Hutchinson as Cardinals manager, said Sadecki “throws hard and gets a lot of stuff on the ball for a boy of his age.”

Sadecki finished the Florida Instructional League season with a 5-3 record and 2.50 ERA. In 72 innings, he struck out 89, yielded 36 hits and averaged seven walks per game.

Soon after Sadecki turned 18 on Dec. 26, 1958, the Cardinals invited him to their 1959 major-league spring training camp.

Fast track

Cardinals pitching coach Howie Pollet liked what he saw from Sadecki at spring training.

“We won’t try to change Sadecki’s delivery in any way,” Pollet said. “Whoever taught the boy taught him well. He has one of the finest basic, or fundamental, styles of pitching I’ve ever seen … Wherever Sadecki pitches the coming season, we’ll impress on his manager never to try to change the boy’s style. Just concentrate on having the boy practice spot control.”

In four innings pitched in Cardinals spring training games, Sadecki yielded no earned runs, two hits, two walks and struck out four.

Hemus said Sadecki “has the equipment to be a great pitcher.”

On March 26, 1959, the Cardinals sent Sadecki to their minor-league training camp at Daytona Beach, Fla., and he was assigned to Class AAA Omaha in the American Association.

Sadecki was 13-9 with a 4.06 ERA for Omaha in 1959. He had 175 strikeouts and 145 walks in 193 innings.

In May 1960, Sadecki, 19, made his major-league debut with the Cardinals. He went on to earn 135 wins in 18 big-league seasons, including eight years (1960-66 and 1975) with the Cardinals.

Sadecki was 68-64 for St. Louis and his best year was 1964 when he led the Cardinals in wins (20) during their run to a National League pennant. He also earned a win in Game 1 of the World Series against the Yankees.

Read Full Post »

Dick LeMay was a pitcher who impressed Carl Hubbell, earned a complete-game win in his first major-league start against Bob Gibson and was the ace on Cardinals minor-league teams managed by Warren Spahn.

Unlike Hubbell, Gibson and Spahn, who were Hall of Fame pitchers, LeMay was a journeyman. Though he pitched in the big leagues for the Giants and Cubs, LeMay spent a significant portion of his playing career in the Cardinals’ system.

LeMay, who died March 19, 2018, at 79, pitched for Cardinals Class AAA clubs during a five-year period (1964-68) when the major-league team won three National League pennants.

Screwball specialist

A Cincinnati native, LeMay, 19, received an offer to begin his professional career with the Reds, but he chose to sign with the Giants as an amateur free agent in 1958 because they offered the most money, a $12,000 signing bonus.

LeMay was toiling in the Giants’ system when, in 1961, Hubbell, the organization’s director of player development, scouted him and filed a favorable report. Like Hubbell, who had been a Giants ace in the 1930s, LeMay was left-handed and threw an effective screwball.

“When I looked at LeMay, I discovered he had a good forkball and screwball, wasn’t too fast, but could consistently get his breaking ball over,” Hubbell told The Sporting News.

Backed by Hubbell’s endorsement, LeMay was promoted to the Giants and he made his major-league debut for them on June 13, 1961, with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief against the Dodgers. After two more scoreless relief stints, LeMay got his first big-league start on June 24, 1961, versus the Cardinals at St. Louis.

The game matched LeMay against Gibson, who was in his third big-league season and starting to emerge as a consistent winner.

LeMay shut out the Cardinals until the ninth, when he yielded a run-scoring single to Carl Warwick. Powered by home runs from Orlando Cepeda (a three-run shot off Gibson) and Willie McCovey, the Giants prevailed, 6-1. LeMay got the complete-game win. Gibson went five innings and gave up five runs. Boxscore

Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported LeMay threw “soft breaking stuff with a big motion, using a screwball and forkball more than he did a fast one.”

Appearing with Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray on a post-game radio show, LeMay said he hoped Giants manager Al Dark “lets me get back in the bullpen. You get in more games that way.”

Ups and downs

After LeMay was shelled for seven runs in 5.2 innings in a start against the Cardinals on July 8, he returned to the bullpen. He got a win against the Cardinals on July 20, with 3.1 innings in relief of starter Sam Jones. LeMay gave up a bases-loaded double to Bill White in the sixth (two of the runs were charged to Jones), but shut out the Cardinals over the last three innings. With the score tied at 6-6 in the eighth, LeMay sparked a four-run rally against Lindy McDaniel by drawing a walk on five pitches. Boxscore

LeMay posted a 3-6 record with three saves and a 3.56 ERA for the 1961 Giants.

He made nine relief appearances for the 1962 Giants and was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA. The loss came against the Cardinals on Sept. 20 when LeMay was unable to protect a 4-3 lead in the ninth. Boxscore

Upset by the loss, Dark “knocked a box containing three dozen hardboiled eggs off a table and scattered them about the clubhouse,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

After the 1962 season, the Giants traded LeMay to the Colt .45s. Toward the end of spring training in 1963, the Colt .45s (who later became the Astros) dealt LeMay to the Cubs. The Cubs loaned LeMay to the Atlanta Crackers, a Class AAA affiliate of the Cardinals, and he was 3-3 with a 2.22 ERA for that club before being called up by the Cubs. LeMay made nine appearances, three versus the Cardinals, for the 1963 Cubs and was 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA.

Stuck in minors

The Cubs cut loose LeMay and he signed with the Cardinals, who invited him to their 1964 major-league spring training camp as a non-roster player. When the season began, LeMay was assigned to the Class AAA Jacksonville Suns and he did well for them (12-7 record, 2.81 ERA). The Cardinals rewarded LeMay by placing him on their 40-man big-league winter roster, putting him in the mix to earn a relief job in 1965.

Before the start of spring training in 1965, The Sporting News said of the defending World Series champion Cardinals, “The bullpen shapes up pretty well, with Barney Schultz and Ron Taylor as the bellwethers and such men as Bob Humphreys, Mike Cuellar, Fritz Ackley and Dick LeMay available.”

The Cardinals, however, returned LeMay to Jacksonville for the 1965 season and he again did well (17-11, 3.19) for the Suns.

Though he was excelling at the highest level of their farm system, LeMay wasn’t prominent in the Cardinals’ plans. Left-handers such as Steve Carlton and Larry Jaster surpassed LeMay as premier prospects. LeMay, who turned 28 in 1966, spent that season with the Tulsa Oilers, a Cardinals Class AAA club, and was 14-13 with a 4.35 ERA.

In 1967, Spahn, who retired as the all-time leader in wins among left-handed pitchers, became manager of the Oilers. LeMay was Spahn’s most durable starter in 1967 (13-18, 3.48) and 1968 (16-10, 3.29).

After that, LeMay went back to the Cubs organization, pitched two more seasons at the Class AAA level, retired from playing and managed the Class A Quincy (Ill.) Cubs of the Midwest League in 1971 and 1972.

LeMay pitched in 45 major-league games, nine versus the Cardinals. He was 2-1 with a 5.13 ERA against St. Louis. His overall career mark in the big leagues is 3-8 with a 4.17 ERA.

Read Full Post »

Jack Hamilton was a hard-throwing Cardinals pitching prospect who left the organization after four seasons and went on to experience his best major-league moments against them.

Hamilton, who died Feb. 22, 2018, at age 79, is most remembered as the pitcher who in 1967 beaned Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro, fracturing his cheekbone, dislocating his jaw and severely damaging his left eye.

Though wildness plagued him throughout his professional baseball career, Hamilton was capable of dominating a game. With the Mets in 1966, he pitched a one-hitter against the Cardinals. A year later, he surprised the Cardinals with his bat, hitting a grand slam.

Wild Thing

Hamilton, 18, attended a Cardinals tryout camp at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 1957 and impressed. “There were a lot of kids there, but I believe only two of us signed contracts,” Hamilton said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals gave Hamilton a $4,000 bonus and assigned him to Wytheville, Va., a Class D club in the Appalachian League. Hamilton posted a 7-0 record for Wytheville and pitched a no-hitter in a game scheduled for seven innings.

After that, though, he was erratic in pitching for other Cardinals farm clubs. Hamilton was 12-16 for Keokuk, Iowa, in 1958 and 6-10 for York, Pa., in 1959.

Assigned to the Class AA Memphis Chickasaws in 1960, Hamilton was chosen by manager Joe Schultz to be the Opening Day starter against Nashville. “He shut them out for four innings and then he went wild,” Schultz said. “He kept hitting the backstop and a couple of balls almost hit my catcher, Tim McCarver, on the head.”

The Cardinals demoted Hamilton to the Class B Winston-Salem Red Birds and he was 6-9 with a 4.33 ERA. Despite an exceptional fastball _ “He could throw a ball through a brick wall,” said Cardinals icon Red Schoendienst _ Hamilton wasn’t protected on the St. Louis roster and he was chosen by the Phillies in the November 1960 minor-league draft.

“Jack always could throw hard, but he was too wild,” Schultz said.

Beware the bunt

Hamilton, a right-hander, got to the major leagues with the Phillies in 1962 and the rookie led the National League that season in walks (107) and wild pitches (22).

After stints with the Phillies (1962-63) and Tigers (1964-65), Hamilton landed with the Mets in 1966.

On May 4, 1966, Hamilton started for the Mets against the Cardinals at St. Louis and was opposed by Ray Sadecki. Hamilton and Sadecki became friends when both were in the Cardinals’ minor-league system.

Hamilton held the Cardinals to one hit over nine innings in an 8-0 Mets triumph. The lone St. Louis hit was a bunt single by Sadecki with two outs in the third inning.

With the count at 1-and-1, Sadecki pushed a bunt toward the third-base side of the infield. “A bunt was the furthest thing from my mind in the third inning,” said Mets third baseman Ken Boyer, the former Cardinal.

Hamilton told The Sporting News, “He (Sadecki) caught me flat-footed.”

After the game, Sadecki came into the Mets’ clubhouse and congratulated Hamilton. “Ray and I … were old buddies,” Hamilton said. “He told me he was sorry he got the hit. I ribbed him about that, telling him how much money he cost me by preventing me from pitching a no-hitter.” Boxscore

Hard to believe

A year later, on May 20, 1967, Hamilton, a .107 career hitter in the big leagues, hit his only home run, a grand slam off the Cardinals’ Al Jackson in the second inning. Hamilton, however, yielded four runs in three innings and the Cardinals came back for an 11-9 victory over the Mets at New York. Boxscore

“We get the Cardinals games clear on radio from St. Louis to our home in Burlington, Iowa,” Hamilton said, “and my wife said right after I hit the home run she must have got 10 phone calls asking if it was really true.”

A month later, the Mets traded Hamilton to the Angels. He was 9-6 with a 3.24 ERA for the 1967 Angels, but his peformance was marred by the beaning of Conigliaro in August that year.

Hamilton, often accused by opponents of throwing a spitball, finished his major league career in 1969 with the Indians and White Sox. His big-league totals include a 32-40 record, 20 saves and almost as many walks (348) as strikeouts (357).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »