Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

At Florida State, James Ramsey was compared with Tim Tebow, but, like his University of Florida counterpart, the Cardinals prospect learned success in professional baseball requires more than faith.

On Jan. 7, 2019, Ramsey was hired to be the hitting coach for the Georgia Tech baseball team.

Seven years earlier, on June 4, 2012, Ramsey was selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the amateur draft.

The Cardinals in 2012 had two first-round picks followed by three supplemental selections before the start of the second round. Pitcher Michael Wacha, outfielder Stephen Piscotty and third baseman Patrick Wisdom made it to the major leagues. Ramsey and catcher Steve Bean did not.

Moving up

Ramsey, an outfielder who batted left-handed, was a standout high school athlete in suburban Atlanta. His father Craig and mother Mary were Florida State alumni and both played sports in college. Craig was a baseball player and Mary played tennis.

James followed his parents to Florida State and excelled at baseball. After his junior season, Ramsey was selected in the 22nd round of the 2011 amateur draft by the Twins, who wanted to convert him into a second baseman, but he rejected their offer of $500,000.

Ramsey spent the summer of 2011 playing in the Cape Cod League on the same team with Piscotty and batted .314.

In 2012, his senior season at Florida State, Ramsey hit .378 with an on-base percentage of .513 and was named Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. He also earned a degree in finance.

Based on his Cape Cod League performance in 2011 and his Florida State success in 2012, Ramsey raised his ranking as a pro prospect in the 2012 draft.

“He was considered the top senior hitter in the draft,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Skills test

The Cardinals had the 19th pick in the first round as compensation for the Angels’ signing of free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols and also had the 23rd selection. Wacha was their first choice and Ramsey their second.

After 30 total picks were made in the first round, a supplemental round of 30 more picks was held to provide further compensation to clubs losing free agents.

The Cardinals chose Piscotty 36th overall for the loss of Pujols, Wisdom 52nd overall for the loss of Octavio Dotel to the Tigers and Bean 59th overall for the loss of Edwin Jackson to the Nationals.

Scouts were split on whether Ramsey, 6 feet, 190 pounds, should remain an outfielder or move to second base.

Ramsey “doesn’t appear to possess any off-the-chart skills,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “He is considered to have above-average speed, but with an average arm and average power.”

After the Cardinals chose him, Ramsey told the Orlando Sentinel, “I am not going to be the sexiest prospect that comes along. I am not going to be the 6-foot-5, 220-pound guy, but I am a winner and that’s the kind of guy they want in their organization.”

Ramsey was captain of his college team and, according to the Post-Dispatch, “Scouts have called Ramsey the Tim Tebow of Florida State baseball for his leadership and strong Christian faith.”

Tebow, the former Florida quarterback, tried professional baseball after his NFL career and batted .244 in the minor leagues. Tebow, 31, entered 2019 still seeking a call to the majors.

Stiff competition

The Cardinals gave Ramsey a $1.6 million signing bonus in June 2012 and assigned him to Class A Palm Beach, where he hit .229 in 56 games as a center fielder.

In 2013, Ramsey played for three teams in the Cardinals’ system, but he primarily was with Class AA Springfield, Mo., whose manager was Mike Schildt. Ramsey’s overall statistics for 2013 included a .256 batting mark, 16 home runs and a .373 on-base percentage.

Ramsey was back with Springfield in 2014 and played again for Schildt, who, four years later, would become manager of the Cardinals.

“I can improve in a lot of facets in my game, but one thing I’ve been trying to focus on is the mental side,” Ramsey said to MiLB.com in May 2014. “If I can be the most relentless competitor everyday when I show up to the field, I’m going to give myself a good chance to succeed.”

Ramsey hit .300 with 13 home runs and a .389 on-base percentage in 67 games for Springfield in 2014, but he was unable to break through to Class AAA because the Cardinals had higher-rated outfield prospects such as Piscotty, Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk and Charlie Tilson.

Of those, Tilson was the most like Ramsey. “There’s no question Tilson’s emergence made Ramsey more expendable,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz observed. “Ramsey’s path to Busch Stadium was clogged.”

Down on the farm

On July 30, 2014, the Cardinals traded Ramsey to the Indians for pitcher Justin Masterson.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak called it “dealing from an area of depth,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said Ramsey “has a good approach at the plate with a little bit of power and he’s a guy we think will contribute at the major-league level,” according to the Akron Beacon-Journal.

The Indians gave Ramsey a chance at Class AAA and he hit .243 with 12 home runs for their Columbus club in 2015.

In April 2016, the Indians sold Ramsey’s contract to the Dodgers, who assigned him to a farm team. Four months later, the Dodgers dealt Ramsey to the Mariners, who also kept him in the minors.

On April 9, 2017, Ramsey was released by the Mariners and sat out the season. The Twins signed him in December 2017 and he played for two of their farm teams in 2018 before getting released on June 27, 2018.

At 28, Ramsey’s professional playing career was done without getting a chance to play a big-league game.

Florida State hired Ramsey as an assistant baseball coach in August 2018 and he worked there until getting the Georgia Tech offer.

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The Cardinals considered hometown shortstop Jerry Buchek the finest baseball prospect in the St. Louis area in 1959 and thought he could be another Marty Marion.

Buchek was a standout athlete at McKinley High School and excelled in amateur baseball leagues in St. Louis.

On Sept. 10, 1959, Buchek, 17, signed with the Cardinals for $65,000.

Cardinals scouts Joe Monahan and George Hasser recommended Buchek, who was pursued by several other major-league organizations.

“In our opinion, he is the best prospect in the area,” Cardinals minor-league director Walter Shannon said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“He has one of the really outstanding throwing arms in all baseball, an arm like Marty Marion’s was,” Shannon said.

Marion was the shortstop on four pennant-winning Cardinals clubs in the 1940s and was the first National League shortstop to win a Most Valuable Player Award. Marion didn’t hit for power, though, and Buchek did.

“The combination of his ability to field well with ability to hit the ball out of the park makes him desirable,” Monahan said.

Rushed to Wrigley

Buchek spent the 1960 season with Cardinals farm clubs at the Class AA and Class AAA levels and had as many strikeouts (104) as hits (104). The Cardinals assigned him to the Portland Beavers, their Class AAA team in the Pacific Coast League, in 1961.

Soon after he hit home runs in three consecutive games for Portland at Salt Lake City, Buchek, 19, was called up to the Cardinals. He joined them on June 30, 1961, in Chicago, 30 minutes before their afternoon game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, and was put in the starting lineup by manager Solly Hemus.

In the eighth inning, with the bases loaded and one out, Buchek got his first big-league RBI when he was hit by a pitch from Don Elston. When Bob Lillis followed with a double, clearing the bases, Buchek scored his first run in the majors, helping the Cardinals to an 11-4 triumph. Boxscore

“We shouldn’t expect too much from Jerry Buchek right now,” Hemus cautioned, “but I do believe he’ll lend a little power.”

Plans change

The Cardinals were a mess when Buchek joined them. The win they got in Buchek’s debut gave them a 31-38 record.

Daryl Spencer opened the 1961 season as the Cardinals’ shortstop, but he was traded to the Dodgers on May 30 for Lillis and outfielder Carl Warwick. Lillis took over at shortstop, but was shifted to second base in mid-June. Hemus tried rookie Julio Gotay and veteran Alex Grammas before the Cardinals decided to give Buchek a shot as the shortstop.

On July 5, 1961, five days after Buchek’s debut, the Cardinals fired Hemus and promoted coach Johnny Keane to replace him. Keane continued to play Buchek as the starting shortstop, but the rookie struggled to hit.

Keane’s support of Buchek drew criticism on July 16, 1961, in a game against the Braves at St. Louis. In the fourth inning, with the Braves ahead 3-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out before Buchek bounced into a double play. Two innings later, with two on and two outs, Buchek struck out, ending another Cardinals threat. He also committed an error and the Braves won, 9-1. Boxscore

After the game, Keane defended Buchek and said he’d remain the everyday shortstop.

Four days later, on July 20, 1961, the Cardinals changed their plan. Buchek, batting .128 after 16 starts at shortstop, was sent back to Portland.

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said he and Keane and the coaches agreed to demote Buchek and call up pitcher Ed Bauta, who had a 9-1 record and 1.95 ERA as a Portland reliever.

“We are confident Buchek will become a great shortstop for us,” Devine said, “but we feel he can benefit just as much by playing daily for Portland.”

Years later, in an interview with Mark Simon for the Society for American Baseball Research, Buchek said, “I got a little nervous playing in my hometown.”

Ups and downs

Buchek played well in his return to Portland and when the Pacific Coast League season ended on Sept. 10 he was brought back to the Cardinals and reinserted into the starting lineup.

On Sept. 11, 1961, in his first game back as the starting shortstop, Buchek made three good plays against the Braves, the Post-Dispatch reported. He ranged to his left to snare a shot by Hank Aaron and made a strong throw to get him at first. He went behind the bag at second to start a double play and he made a “brilliant grab” of a smash by Joe Torre. Boxscore

Eight days later, on Sept. 19, 1961, Buchek made a play Keane said he’d never seen before. In the eighth, with a runner on first and two outs, Charlie Smith of the Phillies hit a fly to shallow center. Outfielder Curt Flood and second baseman Julian Javier collided attempting a catch. The ball bounced off Flood and caromed off Javier’s glove, but Buchek, racing over from the shortstop spot, dived and snared the ball before it reached the ground.

“Buchek deserves a lot of credit for being out there,” said Keane. “He didn’t just stand around.”

Buchek made 14 starts in September and October, but continued to struggle at the plate. He batted .133 for the 1961 Cardinals and made 10 errors in 30 starts at shortstop.

“It would be extremely unwise to expect him to play shortstop regularly next season,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bob Broeg.

Buchek spent all of 1962 and most of 1963 in the minors. He played for the Cardinals from 1964-66, singled against Jim Bouton of the Yankees in his lone World Series at-bat in 1964 and was the Opening Day shortstop in 1966 before being replaced as the starter by Dal Maxvill two months later.

On April 1, 1967, in the first trade made by Cardinals general manager Stan Musial, Buchek was dealt to the Mets as part of a package for infielder Eddie Bressoud, outfielder Danny Napoleon and cash.

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Jim Campanis was ready to leave the Dodgers and Al Campanis was ready to make it happen.

On Dec. 15, 1968, Jim, a catcher, was traded by the Dodgers to the Royals for cash. The Royals also agreed to loan two players to the Dodgers’ minor-league club in Spokane.

The deal was made by Jim’s father, Al, the Dodgers’ director of player personnel.

Jim had been in the Dodgers’ system since 1962, no longer was prominent in their plans and had said during the 1968 season his best chance for an extended shot at the big leagues probably was with another organization.

Al, longtime Dodgers scouting director, took over the duties of general manager in November 1968 and did his son a favor by sending him to the Royals, who were entering the American League as an expansion team in 1969 and seeking experienced players.

However, because the transaction was the first made by Al in his new role and because it featured his son, it created a media sensation.

The Los Angeles Times headline blared, “Campanis Peddles Son, Jim, to KC,” and The Sporting News featured a headline of, “No Room For Sentiment _ A Daddy Sells His Son.”

The trade was “further evidence supporting the premise that baseball and sentiment are not synonymous,” the Los Angeles newspaper reported.

All in the family

Al Campanis was born in 1916 in Kos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and came to New York City with his family as a youth. After graduating from New York University, he joined the Dodgers as an infield prospect in 1940 and played briefly for the big-league club in 1943. Al was the second baseman for the Dodgers’ minor-league club at Montreal in 1946 when Jackie Robinson was the shortstop.

Al became Dodgers scouting director in 1960 and two years later, in 1962, when his son, Jim, was graduating high school, the Dodgers were one of the clubs in pursuit of the prospect. According to The Sporting News, when Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley asked whether the club was likely to sign Jim, Al responded, “I think I have a good chance. I’m pretty close to his mother.”

O’Malley approved a $10,000 bonus offer and Jim accepted.

Jim made his major-league debut with the Dodgers on Sept. 20, 1966.

Cardinals connections

In 1967, Jim began the season as a backup to Dodgers starting catcher John Roseboro. On April 24, 1967, Jim got his first big-league hit, a double down the left-field line against Cardinals reliever Joe Hoerner in the 13th inning at Los Angeles. The hit sparked a comeback by the Dodgers, who erased a 5-4 deficit and won, 6-5. Boxscore

“The kid saved our necks,” Dodgers manager Walter Alston said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Four months later, on Aug. 9, 1967, Jim was a central figure in a bizarre ending to a game against the Cardinals at St. Louis.

In the eighth inning, batting for Don Drysdale, Jim hit a solo home run high over the Busch Stadium wall in left against Larry Jaster, tying the score at 2-2, and stayed in the game as the catcher.

In the 11th, after the Cardinals loaded the bases with none out against Phil Regan, Eddie Bressoud popped out to first baseman Wes Parker. Mike Shannon, the runner on third, bluffed an advance toward the plate. Parker should have held the ball and run toward Shannon until he retreated to third. Instead, Parker lobbed a throw to Campanis.

“I was off balance … I didn’t trust myself to get set,” Parker said.

Said Alston: “Instead of throwing the ball like an old woman, he should have put something on it.”

The ball bounced in front of the plate, skidded between the legs of Campanis and rolled away. Shannon hesitated before making a dash to the dish and scored the winning run. Boxscore

“The catcher should not have let such an easy roller get away from him,” Alston scolded.

New roles

Campanis batted .161 for the 1967 Dodgers. Before the 1968 season, the Dodgers dealt Roseboro to the Twins and acquired Tom Haller from the Giants to be the starting catcher. Campanis spent most of the 1968 season in the minor leagues. At 24, he acknowledged he was looking ahead to the November 1968 National League expansion draft when the Padres and Expos would stock their rosters with players from existing franchises.

“Although I would like to play on a winner like the Dodgers, I would just be happy to be in the big leagues with any club,” Jim told The Sporting News in May 1968.

Asked whether his father being Dodgers scouting director was a help or hindrance, Jim replied, “I know it’s slowed me down. I know a couple of times I feel I should have gone to a higher classification, but didn’t because I don’t think they wanted it to look like they were showing favoritism.”

In June 1968, Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi left to become president of the Padres. The Dodgers promoted farm director Fresco Thompson to replace him. Five months later, Thompson, 66, died. O’Malley gave Al Campanis the title of player personnel director and assigned him the same responsibilities of a general manager.

Jim wasn’t chosen in the expansion draft, but Royals director of player procurement Charlie Metro rated him a prospect and contacted Al to propose a deal.

“I said this was a very difficult situation for me to be involved in,” Al responded.

Al discussed it with O’Malley and they agreed the trade should be made because it would give Jim “an opportunity to go to a club he can play for regularly,” Al told the Los Angeles Times.

Jim was playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic for a team managed by Cardinals second baseman Julian Javier when Al called and told him of the trade. “He was pleased,” Al said. “He has been told he’ll get a shot at being the first-string catcher.”

The transaction was the first one Al made in his new role, according to The Sporting News. “If it means the boy is going to get a chance, this is one time I won’t mind too badly if the Dodgers made a bad deal,” Al said.

Controversial comments

Jim made the 1969 Royals’ Opening Day roster as the backup to catcher Ellie Rodriguez. In the franchise’s first regular-season game, April 8, 1969, versus the Twins at Kansas City, Jim batted for pitcher Tom Burgmeier in the sixth inning and delivered a RBI-single. Boxscore

Jim played for the Royals in 1969 and 1970 and ended his major-league career with the 1973 Pirates. He batted .147 in six big-league seasons.

Al remained the top executive of Dodgers baseball operations until April 1987 when he resigned under pressure for making insensitive racial comments during an interview with Ted Koppel of the ABC News show “Nightline.”

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(Updated Dec. 28, 2018)

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

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

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

Multiple talents

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

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

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

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

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

Fast track

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning curve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of class

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coleman, who scored 107 runs, was the first unanimous choice for the National League Rookie of the Year Award since Orlando Cepeda of the 1958 Giants and the fourth Cardinals player to win the award, joining outfielders Wally Moon (1954), Bill Virdon (1955) and Bake McBride (1974).

Coleman led the National League in stolen bases in each of his six seasons with St. Louis (1985-90) and three times swiped more than 100 bases _ 110 in 1985, 107 in 1986 and 109 in 1987.

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(Updated June 17, 2019)

When the time came for Mike Shannon to choose a career path in either baseball or football, it put Bing Devine and Dan Devine at odds with one another.

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

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

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

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

Cardinals courtship

Thomas Michael Shannon, called Mike, was born in St. Louis on July 15, 1939. His father, Tom, was a police officer who earned a law degree and became a prosecuting attorney for the city of St. Louis.

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

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

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

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

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

Special talent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two of Shannon’s sons, Tim Shannon and Michael Shannon, followed in their father Mike’s football footsteps. Tim played for the University of Southern California and Michael played for Indiana State.

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

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

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

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

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

Phooey on Philly

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

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

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

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

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

Go for it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk rewarded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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