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Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

When the body of Cardinals scout Les Wilson was found bloodied and battered in a hotel room, police suspected murder. Turns out, the victim killed himself.

Seventy-five years ago, on Aug. 17, 1946, Wilson, 35, died after a hellish night of hallucinations and destructive drinking.

The demons that tormented him took a terrible toll.

Farm work

Edward Leslie Wilson was born in St. Louis on Aug. 15, 1911, according to baseball-reference.com. He relocated with his family from St. Louis to Fayetteville, Ark., when he was 8, the Associated Press reported.

Wilson excelled at baseball in high school in Fayetteville. A catcher and infielder, he went on to play multiple seasons in the minors.

He broke his hand when Dom Dallessandro, a future big-leaguer, accidently stepped on it during a play at first base, according to the Associated Press.

After the hand injury, Wilson returned to Fayetteville and ran a cab company, the Associated Press reported.

He attempted a comeback as a player, then became an umpire in the minors from 1938-41.

Wilson enlisted in the Army Air Forces on Dec. 12, 1941, five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Soon after his honorable discharge on Jan. 15, 1946, the Cardinals hired Wilson to be a scout.

At the Cardinals’ minor-league spring training camp at Albany, Ga., in 1946, Wilson worked with Wally Schang, manager of the Marion, Ohio, team, in selecting a roster, the Marion Star reported.

Early in the season, Wilson spent nearly a week in Marion, “helping shape the team,” according to the Marion newspaper.

Wilson “discovered and signed several of the players now on the active list, including catcher Vern Rapp,” the Marion Star reported. Rapp would manage the Cardinals in 1977 and 1978.

Mystery visit

After his work with Marion, Wilson’s other assignments included helping run Cardinals tryout camps in Canada, Nebraska and Missouri, according to the Ottawa Citizen and the Associated Press.

Eventually, Wilson was assigned to scout in Texas, United Press reported.

During the first week of August, Joe Mathes, head of the Cardinals’ farm and scouting systems, said he spoke to Wilson in Houston, the Associated Press reported. Mathes said he assigned Wilson to be in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the American Legion Tournament Aug. 11-14.

“He wasn’t supposed to be in Dallas,” Mathes told the Dallas Times-Herald.

Wilson checked in to a Dallas hotel on Aug. 13. The next night, Aug. 14, he was told to leave because he became intoxicated and destroyed several pieces of furniture in his room, the hotel manager told United Press.

Wilson was arrested on a charge of drunkenness on the night of Aug. 14 and spent his 35th birthday, Aug. 15, in jail. He was released the morning of Aug. 16 after paying a $10 fine.

Dark night

At 6:05 on the morning of Aug. 16, Wilson checked in to the Savoy Hotel and was given a room on the fourth floor, the Associated Press reported. United Press described it as “a third-rate Dallas hotel.”

That night, Wilson had a hotel porter, William Brown, bring him two bottles of whiskey and a bottle of wine, United Press reported. Brown said Wilson was alone in the room.

Hours later, at 3:15 a.m. on Aug. 17, another porter, Johnny Lee Joe, was summoned to Wilson’s room. The porter “found the room wildly disarranged” and Wilson was “bloody and battered,” United Press reported.

Wilson, alone in the room, wanted ice water. The porter asked Wilson if he needed help. “Wilson said no, he had hurt himself in a fall, but would be all right,” United Press reported.

About six hours later, at 9:45 a.m. on Aug. 17, housekeeper Opal Cooper entered the room and discovered Wilson dead.

Gruesome scene

“His blood-stained, bruised body was found in a sitting position, propped against the wall,” The Sporting News reported.

Police suspected Wilson “died in a desperate battle with robbers in his room,” United Press reported.

“The walls were splattered with blood from baseboards to shoulder height,” according to United Press. “Blood even was splattered on the ceiling. Furniture was broken and blood soaked the broken bed.”

The first physician on the scene saw gashes on Wilson’s head and shoulders and determined those were knife wounds, United Press reported.

“A coroner’s investigation disclosed Wilson had been slashed across the throat and stabbed in the head and shoulders by an unknown assailant,” according to United Press.

“Wilson’s body was a mass of bruises, indicating he also was engaged in a fistfight with his attacker before the fatal wounds were inflicted.”

According to the Associated Press, detective chief Will Fritz “said he believed Wilson had been knocked unconscious in a fight, regained his senses and staggered about the room in a dazed condition. He said that could explain blood stains on the wall.”

Detective Fritz estimated the time of death to be 5:30 a.m.

No weapons were found in the room. On the dresser was a wallet, but the only money found were a few scattered coins, United Press reported.

According to the Associated Press, “on the floor of the wrecked room police found fragments of a torn photograph of a woman.”

An empty whiskey bottle and one half-full were on a window sill when officers arrived, United Press reported.

“Police had not the slightest doubt they were confronted with a murder,” United Press noted. “It promised to be a murder mystery.”

According to the Associated Press, two men dressed in khakis were sought by police in connection with the murder. The men were seen walking down the hotel’s fourth-floor hallway with Wilson the afternoon of Aug. 16.

Police also held three persons for questioning: the late-night porter, and two hotel guests _ a 33-year-old man Detective Fritz said had been arrested many times, and a 30-year-old woman.

Drunken violence

The case took an unexpected twist after an autopsy was ordered by a justice of the peace.

The autopsy was conducted by two physicians at Parkland Hospital in Dallas: Dr. Morton Mason, a toxicologist, and Dr. Charles Ashworth, a pathologist.

Dr. Mason ruled cause of death was “acute alcoholism.”

Wilson “killed himself with alcoholic gluttony in a wild, all-night wrestle with whiskey-produced phantoms,” United Press concluded. “Not one of his many wounds, all evidently inflicted when he flung himself against the walls of his hotel room in pursuit of bottle demons, was sufficient to have caused death,” the doctors said.

Dr. Ashworth said Wilson suffered a smashed nose and swollen upper lip, International News Service reported.

Detective Fritz said Wilson lost considerable blood from nose bleeding, the Associated Press reported.

According to The Sporting News, friends attributed Wilson’s “mental condition to reaction from the war and the death of his father last year.”

Wilson, unmarried, was survived by a cousin and an aunt, both of St. Louis, the Associated Press reported.

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon authorized a Dallas mortician, Vernon O’Neal, to hold funeral services and burial in Dallas Aug. 20 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, according to the Associated Press.

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Stan Javier seemed destined to become a Cardinals player, but although he had the name, pedigree and skills, it didn’t happen.

Forty years ago, on March 26, 1981, Javier signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent.

Stan was the son of Julian Javier, a second baseman who helped the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series championships in the 1960s.

Julian named his son in honor of Stan Musial, who was Julian’s Cardinals teammate from 1960-63.

An outfielder and first baseman who batted from both sides, Stan Javier went on to play 17 seasons in the majors for eight teams, but not the Cardinals.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch aptly noted, “Stan Javier would have been an ideal Cardinals player, a switch-hitter who can run and play more than one position.”

A good name

Stan Javier was born on Jan. 9, 1964, and raised in the Dominican Republic. He was one of five children of Julian and Ynez Javier. Stan’s older brother, Julian Jr., became a doctor.

Asked why he named a son Stan, Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch, “I wanted my son to be like Stan Musial. Stan Musial is a gentleman.”

Musial was playing in his last season in 1963 when Julian Sr. told him that Ynez was pregnant and the child would be a boy. “He said, ‘Why don’t you name him after me?’ ” Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch. “I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ Stan’s a good name for him.”

In 1990, Stan Javier said of Stan Musial, “I don’t know him that well, but I knew who he was and knew all about him when I was growing up in the Dominican.”

When Stan Javier was a toddler, he spent some summers visiting his father in St. Louis and went with him to Busch Memorial Stadium. In 1988, Stan Javier told the Post-Dispatch, “I remember the stadium, the clubhouse, the players _ Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.”

Making an impression

Stan Javier developed into a talented youth baseball player in the Dominican Republic. In 1981, soon after Stan turned 17, he and his father showed up at Cardinals spring training camp in Florida. Julian Sr. wanted the Cardinals to take a look at his son and offer him a contract.

Impressed, the Cardinals signed Stan and told him to report in June to their farm team in Johnson City, Tenn., following his graduation from high school in the Dominican Republic.

Stan hit .250 in 53 games for Johnson City in 1981. At home after the season, he worked with his father to improve his game. “He pitched batting practice to me a lot and worked on my stance,” Stan said to The Sporting News.

When Stan reported to Johnson City in 1982, he hit “with authority,” said director of player development Lee Thomas.

Wearing No. 6, the same as Musial had, and playing on a Johnson City team with Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton, Stan hit .276 in 57 games. “Stan definitely is a major-league prospect,” Johnson City manager Rich Hacker told The Sporting News.

All business 

On Jan. 24, 1983, the Cardinals and Yankees traded minor leaguers. The Cardinals sent Javier and infielder Bobby Meacham to the Yankees for outfielder Bob Helson and pitchers Steve Fincher and Marty Mason.

The Post-Dispatch reported the deal was to appease Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who held hard feelings toward the Cardinals for sending him an injured player, Bob Sykes, in exchange for Willie McGee 15 months earlier.

In 1988, looking back on the deal, Stan Javier told the Post-Dispatch, “That trade was the hardest thing for me … I really was just starting to learn how to play.”

The Yankees brought Stan to the majors in April 1984. Eight months later, he was part of a package sent by the Yankees to the Athletics for Rickey Henderson.

Be yourself

Stan became a role player for the Athletics under manager Tony La Russa.

In 1988, Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch, “My son has been playing good ball and he’ll be a good player, but not like Stan Musial.”

“I wish I could hit like Stan Musial and catch the ball like Julian Javier,” Stan Javier said to reporter Dave Luecking. “That would be nice. I admire those players, but there’s no way I can be those two. You have to be your own person. If you try to be like someone else, you’re in trouble. I hit like Stan Javier and catch like Stan Javier.”

Stan got to play in two World Series (1988 and 1989) with the Athletics. According to the Post-Dispatch, Julian and Stan Javier were the third father and son to get World Series hits. The others were Jim and Mike Hegan, and Bob and Terry Kennedy.

Happy homecoming

In May 1990, the Athletics traded Stan to the Dodgers for Willie Randolph. When the Dodgers went to St. Louis that month for a series against the Cardinals, Stan got to play at Busch Memorial Stadium for the first time as a major leaguer. He hadn’t been to the ballpark since he was a child.

On May 26, he entered the game as a substitute and hit a three-run triple against Scott Terry. Boxscore

The next night, Stan, starting in center field and batting second, was 4-for-6 against the Cardinals. He scored three runs and drove in one. Boxscore

For the series, Stan was 5-for-8 with four RBI.

“It felt gratifying to have a good game here,” Stan told the Post-Dispatch.

Swing and miss

After La Russa left the Athletics to manage the Cardinals, he and general manager Walt Jocketty tried to acquire Stan.

The Cardinals had “considerable interest” in making a trade with the Giants for Stan in November 1998, the Post-Dispatch reported, but the Astros got him instead.

When Stan became a free agent after the 1999 season, the Post-Dispatch predicted the Cardinals would “go hard after Stan.”

“I think he can play a lot and protect us in the outfield,” Jocketty said.

Instead, Stan signed with the Mariners and finished his playing days with them. Video

Stan produced 1,358 career hits. He batted .270 against left-handers and .269 versus right-handers.

His career numbers against the Cardinals included a .366 on-base percentage and .271 batting average.

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Though the Cardinals put Lindy McDaniel on their team because they had to, he showed he deserved to be there.

A right-hander who developed into a quality reliever and pitched 21 seasons in the major leagues, McDaniel was 19 when he got to the big leagues with the Cardinals as a teammate of Stan Musial in 1955. He was 39 when he pitched his final game with the Royals as a teammate of George Brett in 1975.

In addition to Cardinals (1955-62) and Royals (1974-75), McDaniel pitched for Cubs (1963-65), Giants (1966-68) and Yankees (1968-73). 

McDaniel led the National League in saves three times: twice with the Cardinals (1959 and 1960) and once with the Cubs (1963). He had a career record in the majors of 141-119 with 174 saves.

One of his most important wins was his first. It came when he was 20 years old and it helped convince the Cardinals his spot on the club was warranted.

Prime prospect

McDaniel was 19 when he signed with the Cardinals for $50,000 on Aug. 19, 1955. Because of the amount he received, the Cardinals were required by a baseball rule at the time to keep McDaniel on the big-league club for at least the next two years.

The Cardinals signed McDaniel on the recommendation of scout Fred Hawn, who called him “the best pitching prospect, maybe the best player, I’ve ever scouted for the Cardinals.,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. “His fastball and his curve are alive and he gets them over the plate.”

An amateur baseball standout in Oklahoma, McDaniel had been pursued by the Cardinals since he was 16 in 1952. He attended the University of Oklahoma for a year, but left to join the Cardinals, “fulfilling a childhood ambition to play with Dizzy Dean’s old club and alongside his idol, Musial,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Phillies, Dodgers, Reds, Yankees, Indians and Red Sox also wanted to sign McDaniel, but “when I found out the Cardinals were interested, I told the others not to bother,” McDaniel said to The Sporting News. “They’re a team of the future with a young staff. I’ll get more chances to pitch with them than with other clubs.”

When Lindy and his father, Newell McDaniel, an alfalfa and cotton farmer, went to St. Louis for the contract signing, Lindy let his dad do most of the talking.

“He don’t talk much,” Newell said to the Post-Dispatch. “You won’t get much out of him. He concentrates on training. He’s one of those boys just born that way, not interested in girls or anything. Exercises every night before retiring. He’s a fanatic.”

According to The Sporting News, Lindy invested part of the signing bonus in purchasing a 160-acre farm near his home in Hollis, Okla., and turning it over to his father to tend.

Teen dream

McDaniel reported to the Cardinals on Sept. 1, 1955, and he made his debut in the majors the next day at Chicago. McDaniel, 19, entered in the seventh inning with the Cubs ahead, 11-1, and the second batter he faced, Walker Cooper, 40, hit a home run. McDaniel regrouped and didn’t allow another run over two innings. Boxscore

“That boy may never have to go down to the minors,” Cardinals manager Harry Walker told the Post-Dispatch.

On Sept. 19, 1955, McDaniel got his first start in the majors against the Cubs at St. Louis. He gave up a grand slam to Ernie Banks, making him the first player in the majors to hit five in one season. McDaniel gave up five runs, 10 hits and four walks in seven innings, but didn’t get a decision after the Cardinals rallied to win. Boxscore

McDaniel made four September appearances for the 1955 Cardinals and was 0-0 with a 4.74 ERA. According to The Sporting News, he “demonstrated he might be just more than ornamental in 1956.”

On his way

The Cardinals changed managers after the 1955 season, hiring Fred Hutchinson, a former pitcher, to replace Harry Walker.

McDaniel didn’t pitch much at spring training in Florida, but Hutchinson told The Sporting News, “I saw enough of him to know he had good stuff.”

As the Cardinals headed north from Florida to open the season, they were scheduled to play an exhibition game against the White Sox at Oklahoma City. McDaniel was supposed to pitch before a big crowd in his home state, but the game was canceled because of bad weather.

In the Cardinals’ final exhibition game at Kansas City two days before the season opener, McDaniel pitched two scoreless innings against the Athletics.

After losing two of their first three games of the regular season, the Cardinals were home to play the Braves on April 21, 1956, a Saturday afternoon.

With the Braves ahead, 5-3, McDaniel made his first appearance of the season, entering in the fifth inning in relief of starter Willard Schmidt.

Hutchinson “appeared to be taking a long gamble by bringing in a kid” whose “total professional experience consisted of 19 innings last September,” the Post-Dispatch reported, but Hutchinson “had been impressed with Lindy’s poise and potential.”

McDaniel rewarded his manager’s faith in him, retiring 12 of the 15 Braves batters he faced and pitching five scoreless innings. The Cardinals rallied for a 6-5 victory, giving McDaniel his first win in the majors.

A turning point came in the eighth inning. Eddie Mathews led off with a single and Hank Aaron walked, but catcher Bill Sarni made a snap throw to first baseman Wally Moon, picking off Aaron. McDaniel struck out Bobby Thomson and got Joe Adcock to ground out, ending the threat. He retired the side in order in the ninth.

“The kid did great,” Hutchinson said. Boxscore

Plate umpire Babe Pinelli told the Sporting News, “He showed one of the best curves I’ve ever seen and I’ve been in baseball 40 years. He doesn’t scare. He looks nerveless.”

Family affair

The win gave McDaniel a considerable boost. He was 4-0 with a 2.83 ERA entering June. Hutchinson tried him as a starter, but it didn’t work out. McDaniel finished the season at 7-6. He was 5-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 32 relief appearances and 2-4 with a 5.25 ERA in seven starts.

The next year, the Cardinals signed Lindy’s brother, Von McDaniel, 18, for $50,000 and he joined Lindy on the big-league club.

Von won his first four decisions with the 1957 Cardinals, finished 7-5 and flamed out.

Lindy was 66-54 with 66 saves in eight seasons with the Cardinals before he was traded with Larry Jackson and Jimmie Schaffer to the Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker on Oct. 17, 1962.

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Rich Hacker, a protege of Whitey Herzog, developed and coached players for championship Cardinals clubs.

Hacker managed teams in the St. Louis farm system for four years and was a big-league coach on Herzog’s staff for five seasons, including 1987 when the Cardinals were National League champions. Hacker also was a coach for the Blue Jays when they won consecutive World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

From boyhood in southern Illinois to his days as a big-league shortstop and later as a scout, manager and coach, Hacker was strongly influenced by Herzog.

Early learner

Hacker was born in Belleville, Ill., and raised in New Athens, Ill., Herzog’s hometown. Rich’s uncle, Warren Hacker, pitched in the majors for 12 seasons and was a 15-game winner for the 1952 Cubs.

Herzog was a big-league outfielder from 1956-63 and “when he would come home to New Athens, there would be a freckle-faced, redheaded kid waiting on his front porch, hoping for a game of catch. The kid’s name was Richie Hacker,” wrote Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We always knew when he was home,” Hacker recalled. “He drove this big, old Edsel and you couldn’t miss it. He’d bring home bats and balls for us to play with and we’d get a game up out in the street. We’d play pepper and the kid who caught the most balls got to take the bat and ball home.”

Hacker played baseball and basketball at New Athens High School. The Cardinals selected him in the 39th round of the 1965 amateur draft but he enrolled at Southern Illinois University. After his sophomore year, the Mets, whose director of player development was Herzog, took him in the eighth round of the 1967 draft and signed him.

Hacker fielded well but couldn’t hit much. On March 31, 1971, the Mets traded Hacker and Ron Swoboda to the Expos for Don Hahn. Hacker began the season at minor-league Winnipeg, but got called up to the Expos in late June when shortstop Bobby Wine went on the disabled list.

Reaching the top

On July 2, 1971, Hacker made his big-league debut, starting at shortstop in both games of a doubleheader versus the Phillies at Montreal. In the first game, Hacker went hitless against Rick Wise but played flawless defense for winning pitcher Dan McGinn. Boxscore

“Hacker is just a great shortstop,” McGinn told the Montreal Gazette. “He should find it a cinch here after fielding balls on the bumpy infield at Winnipeg.”

In the second game, Hacker got his first big-league hit, a double versus Woodie Fryman to drive in Coco Laboy from third, and “showed the fans why the Expos feel he has a major-league glove,” the Gazette reported. Boxscore

A few days later, when Wine returned, Hacker went back to Winnipeg with instructions to try switch-hitting.

Hacker rejoined the Expos in September. His last hit in the majors came Sept. 26, 1971, when he singled versus Cardinals reliever Dennis Higgins at St. Louis. Boxscore

After spending 1972 and 1973 in the minors, Hacker, 26, was finished as a player. “I knew I wasn’t a prospect anymore,” Hacker said.

Earning respect

Out of baseball for two years, Hacker wanted back in. He spent three seasons (1976-78) as head baseball coach at Southeastern Illinois College and two years (1979-80) as a Padres scout. In 1981, the Blue Jays hired him to scout and to manage their Gulf Coast League team.

Herzog, who joined the Cardinals in 1980, had the dual roles of general manager and manager, and his influence was substantial. The Cardinals hired Hacker to manage their farm club at Johnson City, Tenn., in 1982. Among the prospects at Johnson City were Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton.

Hacker managed three seasons at Johnson City and one at Erie, Pa.

In November 1985, Hacker was named to the Cardinals’ coaching staff, replacing Hal Lanier, who became Astros manager. Hacker got the job after rejecting a chance to be Astros director of player development, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Herzog regarded Hacker “as one of the brightest minds in the organization,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Herzog said. “I wouldn’t have made a guy coach just because he comes from New Athens. Otherwise, I would have brought the bartender in here. He was better to me than anyone else.

“Rich Hacker has a hell of a future in baseball,” Herzog said. “He was a smart player, a smart minor-league manager and a smart scout.”

Hacker was Cardinals first-base coach from 1986-88. When Nick Leyva left the Cardinals’ coaching staff to become Phillies manager, Hacker replaced him as third-base coach in 1989.

Accident victim

After Herzog abruptly quit in July 1990, Joe Torre became manager and wanted to bring in different coaches for 1991. Hacker departed and became third-base coach on the staff of Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. The Blue Jays won a division title in 1991 and a World Series championship in 1992.

In 1993, when the Blue Jays were on their way to a second straight World Series crown, Hacker made plans to visit his family at home in Belleville, Ill., during the all-star break.

On Sunday, July 11, 1993, Hacker took a flight to St. Louis and arranged to drive himself home. At about 11:45 p.m., Hacker was driving across the Martin Luther King Bridge from downtown St. Louis “when one of two speeding cars that were drag racing across the bridge from Illinois crashed into Hacker’s eastbound vehicle head-on,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Hacker suffered head injuries and a broken right ankle.

“He was wearing his seat belt,” said Dr. Marc Shapiro, director of trauma services at the St. Louis University Medical Center. “If Mr. Hacker was not wearing his seat belt, his injuries would be much more serious. We might not even be talking about him now.”

Hacker told the Post-Dispatch his condition “was touch and go for a while.” Regarding the accident, Hacker said, “I don’t remember a darn thing. I guess that is the body’s way of protecting us.”

Hacker was in a rehabilitation hospital until Sept. 3, 1993. Among his visitors were Blue Jays team doctor Ron Taylor, the former Cardinals pitcher, and Cardinals coach Red Schoendienst and his brother Elmer. When Elmer Schoendienst was a Cardinals prospect in 1948, he was injured and five teammates were killed when their team bus was hit head-on by a truck near St. Paul, Minn. “He’s been very kind to me,” Hacker told the Post-Dispatch.

On Oct. 8, 1993, Hacker threw the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Toronto.

With Hacker unable to work on the field, the Blue Jays, in a fitting twist, hired Leyva to replace him as third-base coach. Hacker remained on the Blue Jays’ coaching staff in 1994 and was given special assignment duties, including charting every pitch of each game from the press box, Toronto’s National Post reported.

Hacker was out of baseball in 1995, though the Blue Jays paid him his full salary of $75,000, the Post-Dispatch reported. In 1996, he became a Padres scout, a position he held until he retired after the 2003 season.

Several retired Cardinals players posted tributes to Hacker on his obituary page.

John Tudor called Hacker “a class act and great person” and said “he was such an unheralded part of those 1980s teams.”

Ozzie Smith said, “Rich was one of the nicest people I have ever met. We spent a lot of time talking baseball and him hitting me ground balls.”

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Jim Frey was the Texas League batting champion when the Cardinals acquired him and gave him a chance to compete for a spot on their Opening Day roster. Frey didn’t get to the majors as a player, but he did as a manager.

An outfielder who played in the minors for 14 years, including four in the Cardinals’ system, Frey managed the Royals to their first American League pennant in 1980 and led the Cubs to their first division championship in 1984.

A left-handed batter, Frey could hit, but a weak throwing arm kept him out of the big leagues. He played in the farm systems of the Braves, Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals and Pirates from 1950-63.

Looks deceive

As a student at Western Hills High School in Cincinnati, Frey and classmate Don Zimmer became lifelong friends. Western Hills was the alma mater of multiple major-league players, including Pete Rose, Russ Nixon and Zimmer. Frey, Zimmer, Rose and Nixon all managed in the majors.

In 1957, Frey, 26, was in his eighth season in the minors. Playing left field for Tulsa, a Phillies farm club, Frey batted .336, 28 points better than any other player in the Texas League. He also led the league in hits (198), runs (102), doubles (50), triples (11) and total bases (294).

The Cardinals purchased’s Frey contract and put him on their 40-man winter roster. At spring training in 1958, Frey was a candidate for a reserve outfielder spot with the Cardinals.

“We’ll take a long look” at him, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told The Sporting News.

Listed at 5 feet 9 and 170 pounds, Frey “actually looks smaller,” The Sporting News noted, “but doubts as to his ability are dispelled when he takes his turn at the plate. The little guy, who wears specs and resembles an oversized jockey rather than a big-leaguer, has an A-1 batting style.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Frey “swings a business-like bat. He wears glasses and looks more like a sophomore who leads his class in chemistry and mathematics than he resembles a ballplayer, but he hits the ball where it is pitched, instead of trying for home runs, and what a pleasure it is to see a player so intelligent.”

Have bat, will travel

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson “gave me a real shot” to make the club, Frey told the Kansas City Star. “I hit everything they tossed up that spring, but I couldn’t throw a ball from center to second base. My arm was dead after I banged my shoulder against the fence the year before.”

The Cardinals sent Frey and another outfield prospect, Curt Flood, to their Omaha farm club.

Frey “was handicapped by the fact he has only a mediocre throwing arm and the Cards already are well prepared with left-handed pinch-hitters, Joe Cunningham and Irv Noren,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

“I’ve always been overlooked,” Frey told The Sporting News.

Playing for manager Johnny Keane, Frey hit .283 for Omaha in 1958 and had a team-leading .382 on-base percentage, but the Cardinals kept him off the 40-man winter roster entering 1959.

Frey spent the 1959 and 1960 seasons with the Cardinals’ farm club at Rochester. He hit .296 with a team-leading .387 on-base percentage in 1959. In 1960, he was the International League batting champion, hitting .317. Frey tied Leon Wagner for the club lead in home runs (16) and again was the best on the team in on-base percentage at .381.

In September 1960, the Cardinals traded Bob Sadowski and four Rochester players, Frey, Dick Ricketts, Wally Shannon and Billy Harrell, to the Phillies for Don Landrum.

Frey played in the Phillies’ system in 1961 and 1962. He opened the 1963 season with a Pirates minor-league club, got released and was signed by the Cardinals, who sent him to their Atlanta farm team. Frey, 32, finished his playing career there that season.

Coach and manager

From 1970-79, Frey was an Orioles coach on the staff of manager Earl Weaver. Like Frey, Weaver never played in the majors but he spent multiple years in the Cardinals’ farm system. The Orioles won three American League pennants during Frey’s time as coach.

In October 1979, when Frey became Royals manager, he told The Sporting News, “I think of myself as a guy who helped Weaver win games, not as his protege.”

On replacing the popular and successful Whitey Herzog as manager of the Royals, Frey said, “The name is Frey, as in, ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire.’ ”

Four years later, when he was named manager of the Cubs, who played their home games at Wrigley Field, a ballpark then without lights, Frey said, “We’re going to try to win every night.”

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Herman Franks was a player, coach and manager in the major leagues for five decades and it all began with the Cardinals.

A catcher who batted left-handed, Franks made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in 1939 as a backup to Mickey Owen.

With Owen as the starter and prospect Walker Cooper waiting in the minors, Franks was unlikely to get much playing time.

Eighty years ago, on Feb. 6, 1940, the Cardinals sold Franks’ contract to the Dodgers, who were managed by Leo Durocher, the former Cardinals shortstop. Durocher would play a pivotal role in Franks’ career.

Divine intervention

Franks was born in Price, Utah, where his father, an Italian immigrant, and mother settled.

In high school, Franks excelled at multiple sports. He opted to pursue a baseball career. At 18, Franks signed with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League and played a few games for them in 1932 and 1933. Overmatched, Franks was advised by manager Ossie Vitt to go home.

“He didn’t think I’d ever be a good ballplayer,” Franks told The Sporting News.

Franks enrolled at the University of Utah and played amateur baseball for a Catholic Youth Organization team. The Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City recommended Franks to Cardinals scout Charley Barrett.

In the spring of 1935, Barrett invited Franks to a Cardinals tryout camp in Houston. Franks impressed Barrett and was signed. The Cardinals sent him to a farm team in Jacksonville, Texas, tomato capital of the world, in the West Dixie League and paid him $100 a month.

“I was just glad to make the club and be back in baseball,” Franks said.

Looking the part

Franks worked his way up the Cardinals’ system. At Sacramento in 1937 and 1938, Franks played for manager Bill Killefer, a former big-league catcher who managed the Cubs from 1921-25 and was a coach for the 1926 World Series champion Cardinals.

“Men in the Cardinals organization have a high regard for Killefer’s judgment,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

At spring training in 1939, Franks, 25, fulfilled expectations.

“Franks is built for catching, looks like he has been behind the plate all his life, throws accurately and easily and has the reputation of being a smart receiver,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals opened the 1939 season with Franks and Don Padgett as backups to Owen.

“Pitchers like to throw to Herman Franks.” the Post-Dispatch reported. “He chatters incessantly behind the plate, makes a fine target, isn’t afraid to assume responsibility and is said to be a good thrower.”

Twist of fate

Franks started for the first time in the majors on May 2, 1939, against the Braves at Boston. It was a bittersweet experience.

In the second inning, Franks drove in Johnny Mize from second base with his first big-league hit, a looping single to left against Danny MacFayden.

Moments later, Franks wrenched his left leg when he caught his spikes in the bag sliding back to first while eluding a pickoff throw, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. Franks departed and was replaced by Owen. Boxscore

Sidelined for three weeks, Franks seldom played when he returned.

Sad times

On July 4, 1939, Franks was saddened to learn Charley Barrett, the scout who gave him his big break, died of heart disease at 68.

After the Cardinals played a night game at Cincinnati on July 6, manager Ray Blades and four players, Franks, Owen, Don Gutteridge and Pepper Martin, returned to St. Louis for Barrett’s funeral service the next morning while the rest of the team went to Pittsburgh for a series against the Pirates.

Among the pallbearers were Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, executive Branch Rickey and Martin. According to the Globe-Democrat, “Martin was always considered by Barrett as the greatest player he ever discovered.”

The day after Barrett’s funeral, Franks was sent to a farm club in Columbus, Ohio, after the Cardinals tried to trade him.

“Wonder how much truth there is to the report that the Cardinals offered catcher Herman Franks and $30,000 to Kansas City (a Yankees farm club) for Joe DiMaggio’s brother, Vince,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Franks batted .297 for Columbus and was called up to the Cardinals in September. For the season, Franks had one hit in 17 at-bats for the Cardinals.

Dodgers days

Killefer, a coach on Durocher’s staff with the 1939 Dodgers, recommended the club acquire Franks.

The Dodgers opened the 1940 season with Babe Phelps as their starting catcher and a pair of former Cardinals, Franks and Gus Mancuso, as backups. In 1941, Owen, acquired from the Cardinals, was the Dodgers’ starting catcher, with Franks and Phelps in reserve.

The Dodgers won the 1941 National League pennant.

In Game 1 of the 1941 World Series at Yankee Stadium, Durocher lifted Owen for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. In the ninth, with the Yankees ahead, 3-2, the Dodgers had Joe Medwick on second, Pee Wee Reese on first and one out, with Franks due up. Durocher would have preferred to send a pinch-hitter, Augie Galan, but he couldn’t because Franks was their only available catcher.

On the first pitch from Red Ruffing, Franks grounded to second baseman Joe Gordon, who fielded the ball and flipped to shortstop Phil Rizzuto.

Rizzuto tagged the bag just before Reese arrived. Reese slid hard into Rizzuto, hurling him into the air, but not before Rizzuto made a throw to first to nab Franks and complete a game-ending double play. Boxscore

Career choices

Franks enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and served for four years. After his discharge in 1946, Franks, 32, played for the Dodgers’ Montreal farm club.

Rickey, who left the Cardinals for the Dodgers, made Franks the manager of the St. Paul farm team in 1947. In August, the Athletics, desperate for catching help, inquired about Franks.

“Mr. Rickey gave me my choice of staying on as a manager in St. Paul or going back to the big leagues again as a catcher,” Franks said.

Franks joined the Athletics for the last month of the 1947 season and was with them in 1948, too.

In 1949, Durocher, who became Giants manager, hired Franks to be a coach. Franks was a Giants coach for Durocher from 1949-55.

In his book, “The Echoing Green,” author Joshua Prager revealed Durocher’s Giants stole signs of opposing catchers. Franks used a telescope from a perch above the center field wall at the Polo Grounds to view the signs and relay them via a buzzer system, according to the book.

When the Giants fired manager Al Dark after the 1964 season, Franks replaced him. He managed the Giants for four seasons (1965-68) and finished in second place each year, including 1967 and 1968 when the Cardinals prevailed.

Franks also managed the Cubs from 1977-79.

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