Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

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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In his first spring training as a big-league player, Stan Musial felt the pressure of high expectations, went into a slump and nearly lost a starting spot in the Cardinals outfield.

stan_musial32Seventy-five years ago, in 1942, Musial, 21, reported to spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., as the favorite to join veterans Terry Moore and Enos Slaughter as outfield starters.

A year earlier, Musial had faced an uncertain baseball future when he converted from pitcher to outfielder at the Cardinals’ minor-league spring training camp. The transformation was a spectacular success, with Musial rapidly rising through the Cardinals system and reaching the big leagues in September 1941.

Based on his strong but brief trial _ .426 batting average (20-for-47) in 12 games with the 1941 Cardinals _ Musial was firmly in the club’s plans entering spring training in 1942.

The Natural

The 1942 Cardinals were seeking to fill a gap at first base created by the departure of slugger Johnny Mize, who was traded to the Giants in December 1941.

The Cardinals entered 1942 spring training expecting Johnny Hopp and rookie Ray Sanders to compete for the first base job. Hopp had platooned in left field with Don Padgett and Coaker Triplett in 1941. With Hopp shifting to first base, the Cardinals pegged Musial to take over in left field.

“We lost a little strength in Mize, to be sure, but Johnny Hopp, Stan Musial and others will help to make it up,” Cardinals executive Branch Rickey told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in its Feb. 22, 1942, edition.

Musial reported to Cardinals camp on Feb. 27. The next day, the St. Louis Star-Times reported, “You can take it from Billy Southworth, who manages the St. Louis Cardinals and has been in organized baseball for 30 years, that Stan Musial … is the best-looking young left-handed batter to come up to the major leagues since Paul Waner jumped from San Francisco to Pittsburgh in 1926.”

Southworth told Sid Keener of the Star-Times that Musial “is destined to become the rookie of the year” in the National League in 1942.

“He does everything well and looks like he’s been doing it for years the way he runs the bases,” Southworth said. “What is even more amazing is the fact that only a year ago he was a pitcher, just out of the Class D ranks. He hits straightaway like a seasoned veteran.”

In the groove

Musial did well at the start of the Grapefruit League exhibition season. In the opener, on March 6 against the Yankees, Musial hit an inside-the-park home run off Hank Borowy and also produced a RBI-double and a single. Four days later, Musial had two singles and a RBI against the Reds.

Analyzing Musial’s batting stroke, J. Roy Stockton of the Post-Dispatch observed:

“He has an impressive style at bat. He keeps that left arm stiff and swings in a flat arc, which undoubtedly accounts for the fact that he hits so many line drives. Occasionally, he will get under the ball, driving it over the right-field barrier … Musial seems to take a short swing, but his timing is so excellent and his coordination so good that he gets unexpected distance with his drives. His swing reminds you of the drives of a golfer whose game is well-grooved.”

Said Southworth: “Much depends this year on Stan Musial. I’d say he already was one of our key men.”

Facing a challenge

Musial, however, went into a skid the last three weeks of March and his batting average dropped to .194.

In his 1964 book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said he had trouble adjusting to the poor hitting background at Florida ballparks.

While Musial struggled, another rookie left fielder, Harry Walker, 23, hit consistently well for the Cardinals that spring. Unlike Musial, Walker didn’t have the burden of high expectations and the pressure that came with it.

Entering April, the Cardinals conceded Walker was a contender for the starting left field job. “Walker seems to have found himself,” Southworth said. “He has quit pressing and is just about a 100 percent better ballplayer than he was last spring.”

In his book, Musial said, “If I hadn’t come up to the Cardinals in the fall of 1941 and hit so hard, I’m convinced I would have been sent down in the spring of 1942 because I hit so softly … I was a lemon in the Grapefruit League.”

Blessing from boss

On April 3, near the end of the Cardinals’ time in Florida, Musial broke out of his slump with an inside-the-park home run and a single against the Tigers.

Soon after, when the Cardinals left Florida to return to St. Louis for a set of exhibition games against the Browns before opening the regular season at home, Southworth approached Musial and said, “Don’t worry, Stan. You’re my left fielder. You can do it.”

Said Musial: “Billy had a way with young players. His confidence when I was hitting under .200 helped.”

Musial was the 1942 Cardinals’ Opening Day left fielder. He went on to have a strong first full season in the big leagues, batting .315 with 147 hits in 140 games. Musial produced 32 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs and had a on-base percentage of .397.

Musial was a key contributor to a Cardinals club that clinched the NL pennant with a 106-48 record and went on to win four of five against the Yankees in the World Series.

Previously: Why Cardinals traded Johnny Mize to Giants

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In his bid to join the Cardinals, Red Schoendienst had no trouble with the baseball skills part of the challenge. It was the hassle of everyday life that proved to be his biggest obstacle to becoming a professional player.

red_schoendienst12Seventy-five years ago, in 1942, Schoendienst impressed the Cardinals at a tryout camp and earned a contract, launching him on a career that would lead to election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and special status as a beloved franchise icon.

Displaying the tenacity that enabled him to spend eight decades in the big leagues as a player, manager, coach and advisor, Schoendienst overcame a series of roadblocks _ from serious to annoying _ to give himself a chance to receive an offer from the Cardinals.

Damaging accident

Schoendienst was born and raised in Germantown, Ill., about 40 miles from St. Louis. In 1939, at 16, Schoendienst quit high school and got a job in the Civilian Conservation Corps. He played amateur baseball after work and on weekends.

While on the job, Schoendienst and a friend, Joe Linneman, were building fences.

In the 1998 book “Red: A Baseball Life,” Linneman recalled: “We would stretch the wire as tight as we could get it and then use a hammer to drive a staple into a dry hedge post, which was almost as hard as a piece of steel.”

As Linneman slammed the hammer into a post, a staple caromed off the hardwood and into Schoendienst’s left eye.

“It was,” said Schoendienst, “the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”

Doctors wanted to remove the eye, but Schoendienst objected. Under treatment, Schoendienst’s sight gradually improved.

Three years later, he felt confident enough in his vision to pursue a career with the Cardinals.

Big city

In 1942, Schoendienst and Linneman noticed a newspaper item about a Cardinals tryout camp to be held at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Anyone attending the camp would be admitted for free to a Cardinals game against the Dodgers that week.

Neither Schoendienst nor Linneman had been to a big-league game, so they decided to take part in the camp. “I don’t think either one of us went to that tryout camp thinking we had it made,” Schoendienst said in his book.

Lacking a car or the money for bus fare, Schoendienst, 19, and Linneman hitched a ride on a dairy truck and were dropped off about a mile and a half from the ballpark. They walked the rest of the way.

Schoendienst and Linneman were among the players who performed well enough at the daylong camp to get an invitation to return for more workouts the next day.

Linneman planned to spend the night at the home of an aunt in suburban St. Louis. He invited his friend to come along, but Schoendienst didn’t want to impose.

Possessing 25 cents, Schoendienst went to a diner and spent 10 cents on a hot dog. A sympathetic waitress brought the freckle-faced teenager a glass of milk on the house.

Afterward, Schoendienst went to the train terminal at Union Station and planned to spend the night on a bench. When he was ushered out by security, he found a bench in a nearby park.

Then it rained.

With his remaining 15 cents, a tired, soaked Schoendienst rented a room at a flophouse. He awoke the next morning covered in insect bites.

“When I got to the ballpark, they gave me some lotion to put on the bites, but I think that was part of the reason I moved so fast that day,” Schoendienst said. “I made up my mind I was going to swallow my pride and stay with Joe’s aunt the next night _ and I did.”

Impressive prospects

Schoendienst’s tryout lasted a week. Near the end, Cardinals executive Branch Rickey drove Schoendienst and two other standouts from the camp _ Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola _ to Forest Park for a workout because there wasn’t enough room at the ballpark.

“He was a terrible driver,” Schoendienst said of Rickey. “That car ride was scary. He was talking and driving like there was nobody else on the road.”

During the workout, Schoendienst, Berra and Garagiola took turns hitting against one another. (Garagiola would sign with the Cardinals but Berra went with the Yankees.)

When the training camp ended, Schoendienst hitchhiked back to Germantown. Soon after, Cardinals scout Joe Mathes asked Schoendienst to return to St. Louis _ again he hitched a ride on a dairy truck _ and signed him to a contract for $75 per month.

Rise through ranks

The Cardinals assigned Schoendienst to their Union City, Tenn., team in the Class D Kitty League. After Schoendienst played six games at shortstop for Union City, batting .407 (11-for-27), the Kitty League folded and he was sent to Albany, Ga., of the Class D Georgia-Florida League. His teammate there was his friend, Linneman, who had been signed by the Cardinals as a pitcher.

With his weak left eye causing him problems against right-handed pitchers, Schoendienst became a switch hitter. He batted .269 in 68 games for Albany in 1942, but also committed 27 errors at shortstop.

From there, Schoendienst made a meteoric rise through the organization.

In 1943, a year after his tryout with the Cardinals, Schoendienst, a shortstop for manager Pepper Martin’s Class AA Rochester, N.Y., team, was named Most Valuable Player of the International League. Though he committed 48 errors at shortstop, Schoendienst batted .337 with 187 hits and 20 stolen bases in 136 games.

Schoendienst “showed poise and an instinct for doing the right thing,” The Sporting News reported, and added he “gets a good jump on a ball, owns a good pair of hands and strong arm.”

In October 1943, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Schoendienst “is a great prospect, but needs experience.”

Two years later, in 1945, Schoendienst, 22, debuted with the Cardinals and primarily played left field. He shifted to second base in 1946 and was named an all-star that season.

Previously: How Bill Bergesch got Bob Gibson to Cardinals

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