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Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

Early in the 2007 season, the Cardinals had a plan to call up Rick Ankiel from the minor leagues in September to see what he could do. By mid-summer, when Ankiel continued to clout home runs at a consistent clip for Memphis, the plan changed and the Cardinals moved up their timetable.

Ten years ago, on Aug. 9, 2007, Ankiel returned to the big leagues with the Cardinals after a three-year absence.

When he had left, he was a pitcher.

He came back as an outfielder.

Arriving in St. Louis from Memphis late that Thursday afternoon, Ankiel was inserted in the starting lineup for that night’s game against the Padres.

It was a memorable return. Ankiel hit a three-run home run, signaling that his transformation from pitcher to slugger was no stunt.

Something to consider

In 2000, his first full season with the Cardinals, Ankiel was a starting pitcher. The left-hander earned 11 wins and struck out 194 in 175 innings. His career quickly unraveled, however, during the 2000 postseason when he suddenly lost the ability to pitch in the strike zone.

Frustrated by injuries and unhappy with his career path, Ankiel decided during spring training in 2005 to give up pitching and become an outfielder.

Assigned to the minor leagues, Ankiel played for two Cardinals farm clubs _ Quad Cities and Springfield, Mo., _ in 2005. His combined statistics that season included 21 home runs and a .275 batting average.

Injured, Ankiel sat out the 2006 season.

In 2007, the Cardinals assigned him to their top farm team, Memphis. He produced 104 hits in 102 games, with 32 home runs and 89 RBI.

Lineup upgrade

On Aug. 8, when asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Ankiel, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, “We’re talking about when is the right time” for a call-up.

The next day, Aug. 9, the Cardinals acted. A roster spot opened when Scott Spiezio went on leave to address a substance abuse problem.

Ankiel arrived at Busch Stadium at 4 p.m. La Russa put Ankiel in the lineup as the right fielder and batted him second in the order, behind David Eckstein and ahead of Albert Pujols.

“It’s very overwhelming,” Ankiel admitted.

Ankiel, 28, hadn’t appeared in a major-league game since Oct. 1, 2004.

“If I didn’t think having him in the lineup gives us a better chance to win, he wouldn’t be here,” La Russa said.

Home sweet home

Ankiel received a standing ovation when he stepped to the plate in the first inning. Facing Chris Young, the Padres’ 6-foot-10 pitcher, Ankiel popped out to shortstop.

Young struck out Ankiel in the second and again in the fifth.

In the seventh, the Cardinals led, 2-0, and had runners on second and third, two outs, when Ankiel came to bat against Doug Brocail.

“I just hope people have patience and realize he’s still not a polished major-league hitter,” Cardinals television broadcaster Al Hrabosky said to viewers.

Broadcast partner Dan McLaughlin replied, “Chance here to make an impression, though.”

On a 2-and-1 breaking pitch, Ankiel swung and pulled the ball over the right-field wall, thrilling the crowd and his teammates.

“Remarkable,” said McLaughlin.

In the dugout, La Russa beamed and applauded. As Ankiel reached first base, he raised his right fist in triumph. Video

“You make a mistake (pitch), he has that raw power,” Hrabosky said.

Ankiel got a curtain call from the crowd of 42,848. Boxscore

“I’m happy to be home,” Ankiel said.

Power supply

Declaring Ankiel’s home run the “best single moment in St. Louis sports in 2007,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz also wrote, “It was great theater and it moved anyone who witnessed it. Most of all, the homer gave us another indication of Ankiel’s strong, competitive character. He didn’t give up on himself after a barrage of misfortune that would have ruined many athletes. Ankiel deserved the joy and happiness that came his way.”

Jim Riggleman, the Cardinals’ minor-league field coordinator, said, “The moment he stopped pitching is the same moment he became the No. 1 power bat in the system.”

Ankiel had hit two home runs as a Cardinals pitcher in 2000. He became the first big-league player since Clint Hartung to hit his first big-league home run as a pitcher, return to the majors as a position player and hit a home run again. Hartung pitched for the Giants from 1947-50 and he was an outfielder for them in 1951 and 1952.

Before Hartung, the last major-league player to hit his first home run as a pitcher, change positions and hit a home run again was Babe Ruth.

On Aug. 11, two days after his dramatic return to the big leagues, Ankiel again dazzled. He hit two home runs _ a two-run shot off starter Derek Lowe and a solo blast off Roberto Hernandez _ in a 6-1 Cardinals triumph over the Dodgers at St. Louis.

In 47 games for the 2007 Cardinals, Ankiel produced 49 hits, with 11 home runs and 39 RBI.

The next year, Ankiel had his best season as a hitter, with 25 home runs and 71 RBI in 120 games for the 2008 Cardinals.

Previously: Pitching or hitting, Rick Ankiel was marvel and mystery

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Unwilling to part with Manny Aybar, the Cardinals almost didn’t make the trade for Mark McGwire.

Twenty years ago, in July 1997, the Cardinals went in search of a power hitter. They had discussions with the Blue Jays about Joe Carter and with the Tigers about Travis Fryman. The slugger they wanted most, though, was McGwire.

For the Cardinals to get him, the Athletics demanded a package that included Aybar, a top pitching prospect.

With the trade deadline of midnight July 31 fast approaching, the Cardinals held firm in their refusal to part with Aybar. As late as 6:30 p.m. on July 31, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said he thought the deal wouldn’t happen.

When the Athletics relented and settled instead for Eric Ludwick, the trade was made. The Cardinals got McGwire for three pitchers: T.J. Mathews, Blake Stein and Ludwick.

Thumbs up

On July 25, after losing to the Marlins at St. Louis, the Cardinals fell to 48-53, six games behind the first-place Astros in the National League Central Division.

Unwilling to concede, the Cardinals determined what they needed most was another run producer in a lineup that included Ray Lankford, Ron Gant and Gary Gaetti.

Two days later, on July 27, McGwire told reporters he strongly would consider a trade to the Cardinals.

McGwire was eligible to become a free agent after the 1997 season, so the Athletics were open to trading him if they could get a good return. Because McGwire was a 10-year veteran who had played five consecutive seasons with his current team, the Athletics needed his approval before they could deal him. That’s why it was significant when McGwire went public with his consent of a possible trade to St. Louis.

Art of the deal

Initially, the Athletics inquired about the availability of two of the Cardinals’ most promising starting pitchers, Alan Benes and Matt Morris.

When Jocketty made it clear neither would be traded, the Athletics set their sights on two prospects in the Cardinals’ minor-league system: Aybar and catcher Eli Marrero.

Jocketty didn’t want to trade them either.

On July 29, Jocketty rated the Cardinals’ chances of acquiring McGwire as 50-50, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Looking to keep options open, Jocketty spoke with the Blue Jays about Carter, but they wanted outfielder John Mabry. Jocketty said no.

The Tigers were willing to deal Fryman, but they wanted starting pitcher Todd Stottlemyre. Again, Jocketty said no.

McGwire remained the best option.

The Angels also had pursued McGwire, but when they dropped out of the bidding it left the Cardinals as the lone suitor and gave Jocketty leverage.

Holding firm

With their negotiating hand weakened, the Athletics ended their demand for Marrero _ they also has asked about two other prospects, pitcher Braden Looper and infielder Brent Butler _ but still insisted on Aybar being in the deal. Jocketty wouldn’t budge. “We couldn’t give up Aybar and Mathews,” he said.

Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson indicated to Jocketty the deal could be dead. “At one point,” Jocketty said, “I thought we weren’t going to be able to get it done.”

Faced with the likely prospect of getting nothing in return for McGwire if he departed as a free agent after the season, Alderson relented and took Ludwick instead of Aybar when he realized Jocketty wouldn’t change his stance.

“Sometimes free agency forces your decisions,” Alderson said.

Four days after talks began, the deal for McGwire was completed.

It takes a village

“We were determined to get a quality bat in the middle of our lineup and I think we got the best hitter we could,” Jocketty said.

McGwire twice had led the American League in home runs and three times was the league leader in slugging percentage.

“He’s probably the greatest power hitter of his time,” said Stottlemyre.

Said Cardinals coach Carney Lansford, who, like Stottlemyre, had been McGwire’s teammate with the Athletics: “Besides being one of the best players in the game, he’s a great person and a great leader in the clubhouse.”

Tony La Russa, who had managed McGwire with the Athletics before joining the Cardinals after the 1995 season, was happy to have the slugger on his team again, but cautioned that McGwire alone couldn’t lift the Cardinals into first place.

“The quality of everything else we do has to raise itself a couple of levels for us to win a lot of games,” La Russa said.

For McGwire to be most effective, La Russa said, “we have to get on base in front of (him).”

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, acknowledged McGwire “will provide entertainment” and “will be a menacing presence” in the lineup, but expressed concern that McGwire would depart as a free agent after the season. The Cardinals would have done better to trade for an emerging talent such as Jose Cruz, 23, of the Mariners, Miklasz wrote.

Slugging and scandal

Asked why he approved the trade, McGwire said, “I decided to do this because I needed a change and I needed a challenge.”

On Aug. 1, McGwire traveled from California to Philadelphia and joined the Cardinals 90 minutes before their game that night with the Phillies.

Inserted into the cleanup spot between Phil Plantier and Gant, McGwire was 0-for-3 with a walk against Garrett Stephenson and Ricky Bottalico.

McGwire went on to hit 24 home runs with 42 RBI in 51 games for the 1997 Cardinals. Still, St. Louis finished 73-89.

After the season, McGwire signed with the Cardinals. He hit 70 home runs with 147 RBI in 1998 and 65 home runs with 147 RBI in 1999, but the Cardinals failed to qualify for the postseason both years.

McGwire and the Cardinals got into the postseason in 2000 and 2001 but didn’t reach the World Series.

In five years with St. Louis, McGwire had 220 home runs and 473 RBI.

Though tainted by his subsequent admission of using banned performance-enhancing drugs, McGwire was elected by a majority of fan voters to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2017.

Previously: Mark McGwire had hot start to 1998 Cardinals season

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Every club in the major leagues knew Rick Ankiel was a pitching prospect worthy of being taken early in the 1997 draft. Many, though, thought it would cost too much to sign him. The Cardinals decided to take a chance.

Twenty years ago, on June 3, 1997, the Cardinals selected Ankiel in the second round. Ankiel, who had indicated he wanted a signing bonus of between $5 million and $10 million, signed two months later with the Cardinals for $2.5 million.

The move sent a clear signal that Cardinals ownership, in its second year under a group headed by Bill DeWitt, was committed to investing in talent.

Prep sensation

Ankiel, a left-hander, had been a standout pitcher at Port St. Lucie High School on Florida’s Treasure Coast. He had a three-year record of 30-4.

As a senior, Ankiel was 11-1 with an 0.41 ERA. He pitched three no-hitters and four one-hitters that season and struck out 162 batters in 74 innings.

“He went from being good his sophomore year to great his junior year and this year he became the best,” John Messina, baseball coach at Port St. Lucie High School, told the Palm Beach Post.

Said Marty Maier, Cardinals scouting director: “We think he’s the top left-handed high school pitcher in the draft.”

Ankiel also batted .359 with seven home runs and 27 RBI as a senior.

John DiPuglia, who scouted Ankiel for the Cardinals throughout the pitcher’s high school career, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “In Florida, I’ve never seen a left-handed pitcher with his type of composure and stuff on the mound.”

In March 1997, Ankiel had signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Ankiel and his adviser, Scott Boras, told major-league organizations it would take as much as $10 million, and no less than $5 million, to sign him, or else he would play college baseball for the Miami Hurricanes.

“A couple of teams said, ‘Will you take less than ($5 million)?’ and I told them no,” Ankiel said. “I was firm.”

Steal of a deal

No organization wanted to pay the price Ankiel was asking and few were willing to risk using a high draft choice on a player they might not be able to sign.

“He should have been drafted in the top 10,” said Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty.

Instead, Ankiel wasn’t selected in the first round. The top three picks were pitcher Matt Anderson by the Tigers, outfielder J.D. Drew by the Phillies and third baseman Troy Glaus by the Angels.

The Cardinals, with the 20th pick in the first round, took infielder Adam Kennedy.

Deep into the second round, Ankiel still was undrafted.

When it was the Cardinals’ turn to make their second choice, with the 72nd overall pick, they took Ankiel, not knowing whether they could sign him.

“We thought long and hard about it,” Jocketty said. “We took our time … Bill DeWitt was there with us.”

Wrote the Post-Dispatch: “The Cards might have taken a risk in the second round, but possibly got the steal of the draft.”

Boras, a former Cardinals prospect, had warned Ankiel he might slip past the first round because of his financial demands. “It was something that we talked about and we kind of knew in a way that it was going to happen,” Ankiel said.

Sales pitch

Two weeks after the Cardinals drafted Ankiel, Jocketty, Maier and two others from the front office _ Jerry Walker, vice president of player personnel, and Mike Jorgensen, player development director _ met with the pitcher and his parents for two hours at their home in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Jocketty said they talked about how the Cardinals develop pitchers and informed them about the history and philosophy of the organization. He said they didn’t discuss money.

When contract discussions eventually did get under way with Boras, both sides played hardball. “At one point,” Jocketty said, “we were prepared to go the other way and he was prepared to go to school. It was a tough negotiation, but not any tougher than most.”

On Aug. 25, a month after his 18th birthday and three days before he was to enroll at Miami, Ankiel agreed to a deal with the Cardinals. He signed the contract on Aug. 28 in St. Louis.

Though the $2.5 million signing bonus was much less than what he had said he wanted, Ankiel received more money than Kennedy, the first-round pick who signed two months earlier for what was reported to be about $1 million.

“We told (Ankiel) all along we would approach him like a first-round pick,” Jocketty said.

High hopes

The Cardinals, who in 1997 would fail to qualify for the postseason for the ninth time in 10 years, projected Ankiel to develop into a big-league starter.

“If he stays healthy and progresses like he should, he should move quickly through our organization,” Jocketty said to the Associated Press.

Said Ankiel: “I’m thinking I’ll make it to the big leagues in three years. My goal is to be here when I’m 21.”

Ankiel advanced ahead of schedule, making his Cardinals debut at age 20 in August 1999.

After an impressive season for the Cardinals in 2000 _ 11-7 record, 3.50 ERA, 194 strikeouts in 175 innings _ Ankiel had a meltdown in the postseason against the Braves and Mets, losing his ability to throw strikes consistently.

He gave up pitching after the 2004 season, transformed into an outfielder and made his big-league comeback with the 2007 Cardinals.

Ankiel played in the majors for 11 seasons, four as a pitcher and seven as an outfielder. He has a 13-10 pitching record and .251 batting average with 49 home runs.

Previously: Rick Ankiel and the decision that altered his career

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Harry Glenn was 28 and deep into a professional baseball career that included a stint with the Cardinals when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces during World War I. Soon after being assigned to the Aviation Mechanic Training School in St. Paul, Minn., Glenn contracted pneumonia and died, a month before the war ended.

On this Memorial Day weekend, Glenn is remembered as one of eight players who appeared in the major leagues and died while serving in the United States armed forces in World War I.

He is the only one of the eight who played for the Cardinals.

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the others, in alphabetical order, are Tom Burr, Harry Chapman, Larry Chappell, Eddie Grant, Newt Halliday, Ralph Sharman and Bun Troy.

Three Negro League players died while serving in the United States armed forces in World War I. In alphabetical order, they are Ted Kimbro, Norman Triplett and Pearl Franklyn Webster.

Career path

A native of Shelburn, Ind., near Terre Haute, Harry Glenn was 19 when he began his professional baseball career with the Vincennes (Ind.) Alices in 1910.

A left-handed batter and catcher, Glenn was 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. In 1913, the minor-league Akron Giants sold Glenn’s contract to the Cardinals, but he broke a leg soon after and sat out the season, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The Cardinals sent Glenn to the St. Paul (Minn.) Apostles of the American Association in 1914 and he batted .267 in 104 games.

In 1915, Glenn made the Opening Day roster of the Cardinals as a backup to starting catcher Frank Snyder.

The 1915 Cardinals had intended to start the season with Snyder and Mike Gonzalez as their catchers. On April 8, 1915, the Cardinals had dealt catcher Ivey Wingo to the Reds for Gonzalez, but the deal hit a snag and the players were in limbo while details were sorted out. That gave Glenn the opportunity to be the Cardinals’ reserve catcher.

In the lineup

On Opening Day, April 14, 1915, against the Cubs at Chicago, Snyder was hit on the right hand by a foul tip off the bat of Heinie Zimmerman and had to leave the game. Replacing Snyder, Glenn made his big-league debut and got his first hit, a single off starter Hippo Vaughn. The Cubs won, 7-2. Boxscore

With Snyder sidelined and Gonzalez still not cleared to join the Cardinals, Glenn started each of the next four games at catcher.

In his first start, April 15 against the Cubs, Glenn had a single, two walks and scored a run, helping the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory. The Cubs stole a base in their only attempt. Boxscore

The next day, April 16, the Cubs were successful in three stolen base attempts against Glenn and Cardinals pitcher Dan Griner. “The fault was evidently not wholly Glenn’s for (manager Miller) Huggins gave Griner … a calling for allowing the men too big a lead,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported. Glenn got his first RBI, but the Cubs won, 4-2. Boxscore

On April 17, the Cardinals won the finale of the four-game series, 7-4, and Glenn contributed two singles. Boxscore

The Cardinals then headed to Cincinnati to play the Reds.

Reds run wild

Glenn got the start against the Reds on April 18.

It was a disaster.

The Reds won, 6-2, and had seven stolen bases against Glenn and Cardinals ace Bill Doak. Boxscore

“After watching the woeful exhibition of Harry Glenn … the Cardinals are more anxious than ever to obtain (Gonzalez),” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch declared.

The Star-Times asked: “Was it the great base running of (the Reds) or was it the poor catching of Glenn?”

While acknowledging that the Reds’ rampage “looks especially bad for Glenn,” the Star-Times added, “The big fellow seems to possess all the qualifications for a good receiver and perhaps the finishing touches will come with a little more experience. His arm is as good as any, but he has not mastered the trick of getting rid of the ball with any great rapidity.”

Brief stay

Snyder returned to the Cardinals’ lineup the next day, April 19, and Glenn was relegated to the bench. The deal for Gonzalez was resolved and he made his Cardinals debut on May 6. Glenn got a pinch-hit appearance on May 12 and then was demoted to St. Paul.

Glenn batted .313 (5-for-16) with three walks in six games for the 1915 Cardinals, but base runners were successful on all 11 stolen base attempts against him.

With St. Paul in 1915, Glenn batted .296 in 63 games. He also spent the next three seasons, 1916-18, with St. Paul.

Glenn could have continued playing baseball, but with World War I raging, he enlisted in the mechanical branch of aviation late in the summer of 1918, according to The Indianapolis News.

Deadly disease

In October 1918, Glenn became ill and was admitted to a hospital. A victim of an influenza pandemic, Glenn developed pneumonia.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of deaths during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 were caused by bacterial pneumonia following influenza virus infection. The pneumonia developed when bacteria invaded the lungs on a pathway created when the virus destroyed cells that line the bronchial tubes and lungs.

Glenn was in the hospital for a week. His father, Thomas, left Indiana on a Thursday to be at his son’s bedside in Minnesota.

“A telegram was received Friday saying he was better and Saturday morning a telegram was received saying he was dead,” The Indianapolis News reported.

According to Stanford University, the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed between 20 million and 40 million people worldwide. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague of 1347-1351.

Glenn was survived by his parents, two sisters and a brother.

On Nov. 11, 1918, almost a month to the day Glenn died, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies, ending the fighting.

Previously: Mike Gonzalez became 1st Cuban manager in majors

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Looking to improve their offense, the St. Louis baseball Cardinals sought the help of a standout wide receiver who excelled at scoring with the St. Louis football Cardinals.

In 1961, the baseball Cardinals hired Sonny Randle to come to spring training and instruct major-league and minor-league players on how to run the bases better, with a special focus on teaching them to generate more speed from a standing start.

Four years later, in 1965, Randle was invited to come back and help the baseball Cardinals again.

Innovative idea

The 1960 Cardinals were sixth in the National League in runs scored, ahead of only the Cubs and Phillies. Several factors, including base running, contributed to that showing. Cardinals base runners too often failed to take an extra base, or were unable to score, on a hit.

That year, St. Louis had a NFL team for the first time. The football Cardinals had moved from Chicago to St. Louis for the 1960 season. One of their top players was Randle.

At the University of Virginia, Randle was a sprinter on the track team _ he ran the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds _ and was a wide receiver and kickoff returner on the football team.

Drafted by the football Cardinals, Randle debuted with them in 1959. He had a breakout season in 1960, with 62 catches, including 15 for touchdowns, in 12 games. His 15 touchdown receptions remain the single-season Cardinals franchise record.

Randle and Cardinals baseball general manager Bing Devine were at a banquet in the late fall of 1960 and got into a conversation about how a wide receiver, or split end as Randle’s position was known then, was able to generate speed. That’s when Devine got the idea to have Randle become a running instructor for the baseball club in spring training, according to Bob Broeg, sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

After receiving permission from the football Cardinals, Devine arranged for Randle, 25, to join the coaching staff of the baseball Cardinals for an early training camp at Homestead, Fla.

New game

The early training camp, which started Feb. 12, 1961, had 24 players from the 40-man winter roster, including Curt Flood, Julian Javier, Tim McCarver and Bill White. Manager Solly Hemus was there, along with coaches Johnny Keane, Howie Pollet, Harry Walker and Darrell Johnson.

Randle, given the title of special running instructor, admitted he was unfamiliar with baseball. He hadn’t played the game since the seventh grade, when he got hit in the head by a pitch and then “just laid down the bat and walked over to the track,” according to Broeg.

When Randle arrived at Homestead, Cardinals equipment manager Butch Yatkemen “had to show me how to put on a uniform,” Randle said.

The Feb. 16, 1961, edition of the Post-Dispatch had a photo showing Randle giving a tip to McCarver on how to get a fast start when running from a base.

“He really grows on you,” said Hemus. “The players were a lot more inclined to listen to an active football sprinter than to a veteran track coach, no matter how much more the old coach might know.”

When the early training ended and the 1961 Cardinals opened their big-league camp on Feb. 28 at St. Petersburg, Fla., Randle was with them.

Earning his keep

Hemus, a month shy of his 38th birthday, challenged Randle to a 60-yard sprint across the outfield grass. Randle gave Hemus a 25-yard head start and still won. “I know I never was fast, but you made me look like a sewing machine, running up and down in the same spot,” Hemus said to Randle.

After the Cardinals played their exhibition opener against the Yankees on March 11, Randle went back to Homestead to instruct the minor-league players for two weeks.

Wrote Broeg: “Sonny Randle impressed the baseball Cardinals … The feeling is the running technique of several players has been improved, notably (outfielder) Joe Cunningham and (catcher) Hal Smith.”

Randle said he noticed many Cardinals didn’t use their upper bodies and arms properly when breaking away from a base.

“You’ve got to explode from a standing start and you don’t do it with arms hanging loosely at your side,” Randle said. “You’ve got to use the arms as well as the legs. You can’t run your best with the torso straight up like a prim old lady seated in a car with her nose pointed to the sky. You’ve got to lean forward _ explode.”

Asked by Broeg to compare Cardinals baseball and football training camps, Randle said, “I don’t think baseball players work nearly as hard or as long … They stand around more, too.”

After his stint with the baseball Cardinals, Randle returned to St. Louis to help coach track at John Burroughs School _ its alumni include actor Jon Hamm _ and prepare for the 1961 NFL season.

In the baseball Cardinals’ 1961 season opener against Warren Spahn and the Braves, Smith tripled for the first time in two years. He credited Randle’s running tips with enabling him to reach third base on the hit. Boxscore

Return engagement

After the baseball Cardinals won the 1964 World Series championship, Randle was asked to be an instructor again during 1965 spring training.

Arthur Daley, columnist for the New York Times, visited Randle there and wrote, “He is an expert on quick starts and instant acceleration … His assignment is teaching Redbirds base runners how to get that extra little jump on the base paths.”

Said Randle: “The basic principles are identical for both sports _ the leg action and the arm action generate the same acceleration _ but where I drive straight ahead in football, base runners are facing sideways before they take off. Once they wheel around, though, they pick up speed the same way I do.”

Randle timed the Cardinals in 40-yard dashes. Lou Brock was the fastest at 4.3 seconds.

On March 24, Broeg reported from the minor-league camp that retired Cardinals standout Stan Musial was giving instruction on hitting and Randle was demonstrating running techniques. “It was something to see simultaneously on adjoining diamonds _ Musial at work on one, Randle on the other,” Broeg observed.

In 97 games over eight seasons with the football Cardinals, Randle had 60 touchdown catches among his 328 receptions. He ranks third all-time in touchdown receptions among Cardinals. Only Larry Fitzgerald (104) and Roy Green (66) have more.

Previously: From Bill White to Isaac Bruce: September specials

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Desperate for a quality shortstop, the Cardinals turned to Ruben Amaro and gave him his first opportunity to play in the major leagues. Amaro fielded splendidly but didn’t hit well enough and the Cardinals quickly gave up on him.

Amaro, who died March 31, 2017, at 81, played one season for the Cardinals. Traded to the Phillies after the 1958 season, he went on to have a long career as a player, coach and scout.

Though Amaro’s time with the Cardinals was relatively short, it covered a lot of ground, beginning in Mexico and ending in Japan.

Career choice

Born in Mexico in 1936, Amaro was the son of Santos Amaro, a powerful hitter who played baseball in Cuba in winter and in Mexico in summer.

As a teen-ager, Ruben Amaro caught the attention of the Cardinals when he played for the Mexican team in the Central American Games. The Cardinals offered him a contract in 1954.

At the time, Amaro, 18, was considering a career in engineering and his older brother, Mario, wanted to be a doctor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Amaro saw baseball as a way to help pay for his brother’s education.

“All the time my father played baseball, he didn’t make much money,” Amaro told Jack Rice of the Post-Dispatch. “Maybe I can. I play baseball, Mario goes to medical school.”

The Cardinals sent Amaro to their Class C team in Mexicali, a city situated on the border of Mexico and the United States. Amaro played two seasons for the Mexicali Eagles, batting .285 in 1954 and .305 with 18 home runs in 1955.

Racial prejudice

Impressed, the Cardinals promoted Amaro to the Class AA Houston Buffaloes in 1956.

Amaro “arrived in Houston with the reputation of being one of the finest fielders in baseball. Possessing a great arm, sure hands and fine speed, Amaro has not disappointed,” The Sporting News reported.

Playing shortstop for manager Harry Walker, Amaro batted .266 with 64 RBI in 1956.

The Cardinals assigned Amaro to Houston again in 1957. When Houston went to Shreveport, La., for a series in May, Amaro wasn’t allowed to play “because of the Louisiana racial law,” The Sporting News reported.

Humiliated, Amaro considered quitting baseball but decided to stick it out after a talk with his father, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

Climbing the ladder

Houston won the 1957 Texas League championship and faced Atlanta, the Southern Association champion, in the Dixie Series.

Though Amaro hit .222 during the season, he provided the key hit in the Dixie Series. His two-run home run off Don Nottebart in the seventh inning lifted Houston to a 3-1 series-clinching victory in Game 6.

In 1958, Amaro was assigned to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. St. Louis that season primarily started Eddie Kasko at shortstop. In July, when Kasko’s batting average dropped to .195, the Cardinals benched him and called up Amaro, even though he was batting .200 for Rochester.

Stan lends a hand

Amaro arrived in St. Louis on July 15 and was placed in the starting lineup by manager Fred Hutchinson for that night’s game against the Braves. “His name was in the lineup card as soon as his foot was in the door,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The newspaper cautioned that Amaro “is well known to the Cards as a strong fielder but a weak hitter. His batting is the sorrow of his father, Santos Amaro.”

Sports editor Bob Broeg suggested Amaro’s arrival to play shortstop “provides just another chapter in the club’s almost constant trouble at the key defensive position.” With the exception of Marty Marion in the 1940s, the Cardinals “rarely have known satisfaction at a post which ranks second to none in defensive importance,” Broeg wrote.

In his book “Stan Musial: An American Life,” author George Vecsey said the Cardinals issued Amaro a pair of uniform pants at least two sizes too big. When Musial saw the rookie looking awkward in the baggy uniform, he said to clubhouse attendant Butch Yatkeman, “Would you get this young man a pair of pants so he can play like a major leaguer?”

When Amaro stepped onto the Busch Stadium field for the first time, he timidly watched the Cardinals take batting practice. Musial called out to the players, “He’s playing today. Let him have some swings.”

Amaro was forever grateful to Musial for his kindness.

Good glove

Starting at shortstop and batting eighth that night, Amaro went hitless in two at-bats against the Braves’ Joey Jay before being lifted for pinch-hitter Wally Moon, but his fielding impressed.

“After two easy fielding chances, his third was a hard-hit ball that made him range far toward third base and deeply,” the Post-Dispatch observed. “It is a testing place for a shortstop’s arm and he met the test well.” Boxscore

The next night, Amaro got his first big-league hit, a double off future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. Boxscore

Amaro produced six hits in his first 18 at-bats (a .333 batting average) for the Cardinals, but struggled after that.

In 40 games, including 21 starts at shortstop, Amaro batted .224 for the 1958 Cardinals. He hit .364 (8-for-22) against left-handed pitchers and .167 (9-for-54) versus right-handers.

Strong resume

After the 1958 season, Amaro took part in a series of exhibition games the Cardinals played on a goodwill tour of Japan.

When the Cardinals returned home, they traded Amaro to the Phillies for outfielder Chuck Essegian on Dec. 3, 1958. “I cried when they traded me,” Amaro said.

After a season in the minors, Amaro played for the Phillies from 1960-65. He won a NL Gold Glove Award in 1964. Amaro also played for the Yankees (1966-68) and Angels (1969).

After his playing career, Amaro was a scout, minor-league manager, executive and big-league coach.

His son, Ruben Amaro Jr., a Stanford University graduate, played in the big leagues for eight years (1991-98) as an outfielder with the Angels, Phillies and Indians. He was general manager of the Phillies from 2009-2015.

Previously: Why Cardinals were keen on Gene Freese

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