Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Records’ Category

In a game that brought together the three best National League hit producers _ Hank Aaron, Pete Rose and Stan Musial _ the most prominent catcher of the era started in center field.

On May 17, 1970, Johnny Bench was the Reds’ center fielder in the second game of a doubleheader against the Braves at Cincinnati. For Bench, the National League’s Gold Glove-winning catcher, it was the first time he played the outfield in a major-league game.

Bench fielded flawlessly and hit a home run, helping the Reds complete a doubleheader sweep, but the spotlight was on Aaron, who got his 3,000th career hit in the game. 

Musial, the retired Cardinals’ standout and the last player before Aaron to achieve 3,000 hits, was in the stands to witness the feat, and Rose, who would become baseball’s all-time hits leader, was in right field that day for the Reds.

Hot ticket

With Sparky Anderson in his first season as their manager, the Reds won 13 of their first 17 games in 1970. Entering the Sunday doubleheader on May 17, the Reds were 25-10 and five games ahead of the second-place Braves.

A combination of the Reds’ hot start and the chance to possibly see Aaron get his 3,000th hit generated a big turnout at Crosley Field. Swelled by 4,000 standing room-only tickets sold, the doubleheader drew 33,217 spectators, the Reds’ largest home crowd since 36,961 came out for a Sunday doubleheader versus the Pirates on April 27, 1947.

The Braves were playing at Crosley Field for the last time. When they next returned to Cincinnati to open a series on June 30, the Braves were the Reds’ first opponent in the new Riverfront Stadium.

Special support

Aaron got his 2,999th career hit on Saturday afternoon, May 16, at Crosley Field. Musial wanted to be present when Aaron got No. 3,000. Wearing a blue suit, Musial, 49, arrived at the Cincinnati airport at 10:48 on Sunday morning, May 17, stopped to get his shoes shined and headed to Crosley Field.

At 11:55 a.m., Aaron and Musial posed for pictures inside the clubhouse. “They laughed and swapped stories about baseball,” the Atlanta Constitution reported.

As Aaron headed to the field for batting practice, Musial took a front-row box seat next to Braves owner Bill Bartholomay.

In Game 1, Aaron went hitless in four at-bats against Jim Merritt. Bench caught all nine innings and had a RBI in the 5-1 Reds victory. Boxscore

Bold move

Bench, 22, entered Game 2 of the doubleheader with 10 home runs and 30 RBI for the young season. Wanting to keep Bench’s bat in the lineup but not wanting him to catch two games in one day, Sparky Anderson looked to shift Bench to another position in Game 2.

Bench had started three games at first base in place of an ailing Lee May in April, but the Braves were starting a left-hander, George Stone in Game 2, and Anderson wanted all of his right-handed sluggers, Bench, May and third baseman Tony Perez, in the lineup. The Reds’ regular center field, ex-Cardinal Bobby Tolan, batted left.

Bench’s favorite player as a youth was Yankees center fielder and fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle, so when Anderson suggested Bench play center field in Game 2, he got an enthusiastic response.

“This sort of fulfills a boyhood dream,” Bench told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Anderson said, “I believe Bench can play anywhere and do a major-league job. I was going to play him in right field, but he said he has trouble with balls curving away from him. In center, everything is hit straight at you, so he shouldn’t have any trouble.”

Magic moment

The Reds’ starting outfield in Game 2 was Hal McRae in left, Bench in center and Pete Rose in right. Ex-Cardinal Pat Corrales was their catcher. The Reds’ starting pitcher, rookie Wayne Simpson, was 5-1 with a 2.05 ERA.

Aaron, 36, got his 3,000th hit when he faced Simpson, 21, in the first inning. Aaron’s grounder was scooped on the shortstop side of second by second baseman Woody Woodward, who couldn’t make a throw. Felix Millan scored from second on the play. Video

As the crowd gave Aaron a standing ovation, Musial vaulted over the railing in front of his seat and joined him at first base. Photographers snapped pictures of the only living 3,000-hit players.

According to the Dayton Daily News, Musial said to Aaron, “It’s a thrill for me to be here and see this.”

Aaron replied, “I really appreciate your taking the time to come from St. Louis to Cincinnati for this.”

Musial was playing left field the night Aaron got his first hit in the majors. It came against the Cardinals’ Vic Raschi on April 15, 1954, at Milwaukee.

After witnessing Aaron get his 3,000th hit, Musial told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Right after I got my 3,000 hits (the milestone came in May 1958), I was playing against the Braves. I was standing around the batting cage and I told Henry he’d be the next man to reach 3,000. It wasn’t too hard to predict. He looked like a great hitter, he could run, and you could see he wasn’t the kind of player who would be injured often.”

Elite group

Hit No. 3,000 for Aaron came in the 2,460th game of his career.

Aaron was the ninth player with 3,000 hits. The others: Cap Anson, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Paul Waner and Musial.

Aaron was the first to get 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

Two innings after his 3,000th hit, Aaron hit his 570th home run, a two-run shot against Simpson.

“If he hits like this now,” Simpson said to the Dayton Daily News, “how did he hit 10 years ago? I’m glad I wasn’t pitching then.”

After the game, Aaron told the Atlanta Constitution that Willie Mays and Pete Rose were the most likely to next reach 3,000 hits.

Rose, who played his entire career in the National League, went on to become baseball’s all-time leader in hits (4,256). Cobb, an American Leaguer, is second at 4,189. Aaron ranks third (3,771) and Musial is fourth (3,630).

Aaron had 3,600 hits as a National League player with the Braves and 171 as an American Leaguer with the Brewers. Thus, the top three in career hits in the National League are Rose (a switch-hitter), Musial (who batted left) and Aaron (who batted right).

Versatile and durable

Almost overlooked in the drama surrounding Aaron was the play of Bench in center. He had no problems fielding the position, but in the ninth inning, with the score tied at 3-3, Bench went back to catching and Tolan took over in center.

After the Braves scored three times in the top of the 10th, the Reds rallied against Ron Kline, an ex-Cardinal. Tony Perez stroked his fifth hit of the game, and Bench and Lee May followed with home runs, tying the score at 6-6.

The game reached the 15th inning before 19-year-old rookie Don Gullet, who pitched two scoreless innings, drove in the winning run for the Reds with a single. Boxscore

Nine days later, against the Padres at San Diego, Bench started in center field for the second and last time. Boxscore

In 15 total innings as a center fielder, Bench made three putouts and no errors.

Bench made 17 outfield starts _ eight in left, seven in right and two in center _ in 1970, plus five starts at first base.

In 17 seasons in the majors, Bench made 1,627 starts at catcher, 182 at third base, 98 at first base and 96 in the outfield.

Read Full Post »

A four-game sweep by the Cardinals contributed to an epic losing streak by the Phillies.

Sixty years ago, in 1961, the Phillies lost 23 consecutive games _ the longest losing streak by a team since the American League joined the National League to form the majors in 1901.

Before then, two clubs deemed as major-league had longer losing streaks. The Cleveland Spiders of the National League lost 24 in a row in 1899. The Louisville Colonels of the American Association lost 26 straight in 1889.

Dim view

Managed by Gene Mauch, 35, the 1961 Phillies were not expected to be good. In its preview of the 1961 season, Sports Illustrated listed the Phillies’ weak spots as “pitching and hitting.”

In May, the Phillies traded one of their best pitchers, Turk Farrell, to the Dodgers for outfielder Don Demeter and third baseman Charlie Smith. By the end of June, the Phillies were 22-45 and out of contention.

The first of their 23 consecutive losses came on July 29 against the Giants. In the first inning, with Giants runners on second and third, one out, Mauch ordered an intentional walk to Willie Mays. Orlando Cepeda followed with a grand slam and the Giants won, 4-3. Boxscore

Wrong direction

The losing streak was at five when the Phillies went to St. Louis for a four-game weekend series with the Cardinals.

In the Aug. 4 opener, the Phillies trailed by a run in the ninth, but had runners on first and second, none out.

Tony Gonzalez hit a drive to deep right. Joe Cunningham leaped and caught the ball for the first out, but the runner on second, rookie George Williams, failed to tag and didn’t advance. The baserunning lapse prompted Mauch to stage “a helmet-throwing tantrum in the dugout,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The next two batters, ex-Cardinal Bobby Gene Smith and Lee Walls, struck out, and the Cardinals escaped with a 9-8 victory. Boxscore

In the clubhouse, Mauch “singed the entire team with a post-game lecture,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“It was building up, up, up,” said Mauch, who regretted the outburst.

On Aug. 5, the Cardinals won, 7-0, on a shutout by Curt Simmons, a former Phillie, and two home runs by Bill White. Boxscore

The next day, the Cardinals used the Polish power of Ray Sadecki and Carl Sawatski to win both games of a Sunday doubleheader .

In the opener, Sadecki hit a three-run double and pitched a four-hitter for a 3-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

In the second game, Sawatski, a former Phillie, drove in all three runs in a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

The Cardinals’ sweep stretched the Phillies’ losing streak to nine. “This team doesn’t act like a team that goes out to get beat,” Mauch told the Philadelphia Daily News. “They’re trying.”

That’s a winner

The Phillies had one extra-inning game during the streak and it resulted in their 20th consecutive loss, 7-6 to the Braves on Aug. 17. The Braves won in the 11th on a RBI by Philadelphia native Al Spangler. Boxscore

“The Phillies have had some inept clubs, but nothing to match this,” The Sporting News declared. “It was hard to assess more blame on the pitching than the hitting. Both were failing.”

Three days later, in a Sunday doubleheader at Milwaukee, the Braves won the opener, 5-2, on Warren Spahn’s five-hitter, giving them 10 consecutive wins and extending the Phillies’ losing streak to 23. Boxscore

Relief came in the second game. Clay Dalrymple had three hits, ex-Brave Wes Covington hit a home run and the Phillies prevailed, 7-4. Boxscore

The winning pitcher, John Buzhardt, went the distance and held Eddie Mathews and Joe Torre hitless.

“I had a feeling we were going to win,” Buzhardt told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I said, ‘Get me two runs and I’ll win.’ It’s a good thing they got me seven.”

Buzhardt was the lucky charm the Phillies had been seeking. He wore uniform No. 23, same number as the losing streak, and he was the winning pitcher in the Phillies’ last victory before the streak began.

“The kid probably felt like he was pitching in the seventh game of the World Series,” Mauch said to the Associated Press.

In the victorious Phillies clubhouse, the mood was more consolation than celebration.

“We were so embarrassed by then that we had no elation,” Mauch recalled to Sports Illustrated.

Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News observed, “If you think champagne corks popped or pheasant suddenly appeared out from under glass, think again. They had spare ribs, cheese and crackers, and beer in the clubhouse.”

Welcome home

The Phillies’ charter flight from Milwaukee arrived in Philadelphia at 1:10 a.m., 90 minutes late.

As the plane taxied to the gate, the Phillies saw a crowd of about 200 people waiting for them in a drenching rain.

Peering from his window seat, Phillies pitcher and funnyman Frank Sullivan shouted to his teammates, “They are selling rocks at $1.50 a pail. Leave the plane at five-minute intervals. That way, they can’t get us all with one burst.”

The fans had come to congratulate the team on snapping the losing streak, “and nobody threw anything more dangerous than confetti,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

As a band played “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” fans hoisted Mauch on their shoulders and staged an impromptu victory march through the airport.

Mauch told the crowd, “One day, we’ll come home after winning 23 out of 24, and they’ll have to build a new airport.”

Summing up the day, Frank Sullivan dead-panned, “Well, we gained a half-game on first-place Cincinnati.”

Bad numbers

The 1961 Phillies lost 19 of 22 games against the champion Reds and finished the season in last place at 47-107.

The Cardinals were 13-9 versus the Phillies. Curt Simmons (4-0, 1.52 ERA) and Bob Gibson (3-0, 0.67) did best against them.

Don Demeter led the Phillies in home runs (20) and RBI (68). Their top hitter was Tony Gonzalez (.277).

John Buzhardt finished with a 6-18 record. Frank Sullivan needed a sense of humor. He was 3-16. Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts was 1-10.

The Phillies placed last in the league in batting average (.243), on-base percentage (.310) and runs (584). Their staff ERA of 4.61 was worst in the league.

Read Full Post »

At his best, Bill White hit for average and distance.

Sixty years ago, in July 1961, White achieved an unprecedented slugging feat against the Dodgers, then tied a major-league base hit record held by Ty Cobb.

A left-handed batter and first baseman, White did the following:

_ On July 5, he became the first player to hit three home runs over the right-field fence in a game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

_ From July 17 to July 18, he totaled 14 hits in four games, equaling a record set by Cobb 49 years earlier for most hits in two consecutive doubleheaders.

Tough test

In 1961, White was a National League all-star and Gold Glove Award winner who was among the Cardinals’ leading hitters, but the club wanted him to produce more power. In each of the three previous seasons (1958-60), Ken Boyer was the only Cardinal to hit 20 home runs.

Heading into the game against the Dodgers at the Coliseum, White was hitting .294 with five home runs for the season.

The Coliseum seemed an unlikely place for White to go on a home run binge. The distance from home plate to the fence in right-center was 440 feet and it was 390 feet in straightaway right. Left-handed sluggers, such as the Dodgers’ Duke Snider, found those dimensions daunting.

The Coliseum was friendlier to right-handed pull hitters, with a distance of 251 feet down the line from home plate to the left field fence. Though a screen stretching 42 feet high was erected, routine fly balls reached the seats.

Adding to the degree of difficulty for White was the Dodgers’ choice of a starting pitcher, left-hander Johnny Podres. White hit for a higher average and with more power against right-handers than he did left-handers.

Pulling power

Batting second in the order in the last game managed by Solly Hemus, White grounded out his first time at the plate against Podres.

Leading off the third, White swung at an inside fastball from Podres and pulled it over the fence near the foul line for a home run.

An inning later, facing Roger Craig, White got a hanging changeup and drove it over the wall in right-center for a two-run home run.

The next time up, with two outs and a runner on second in the sixth, White was walked intentionally by Craig.

In the eighth, White led off against rookie Jim Golden and hit a slider into the seats in right-center for his third home run.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, White was the sixth Cardinals player with three home runs in a game. The others: Frank Shugart (1894), George Harper (1928), George Watkins (1931), Johnny Mize (1938 and 1940) and Stan Musial (1954).

Lee Walls of the 1958 Cubs and Don Demeter of the 1959 Dodgers also hit three home runs in a game at the Coliseum, with all carrying the short distance to left.

“I took extra batting practice last Monday determined to practice getting out in front of the ball,” White said to the Post-Dispatch. “I believe the club expects it of me.”

White had a chance to hit a fourth home run in the game when he faced Golden again in the ninth. He took a rip and lined a double to the base of the wall in right near the foul line.

Asked whether he was trying for a home run, White told the Los Angeles Times, “I wasn’t thinking so much about that as the fact that the first pitch might come pretty close to me. Then, when I did hit the ball, it looked for a second or two like it might hook in there for another homer.”

White’s road roommate, Bob Gibson, also contributed impressively to the 9-1 Cardinals triumph. Gibson pitched a four-hitter and slugged his first home run in the majors. Boxscore

Hot hitting

Two weeks later, with Johnny Keane managing the club, the Cardinals faced consecutive twi-night doubleheaders against the Cubs at St. Louis.

White produced 14 hits in 18 at-bats in the four games, all won by the Cardinals.

When Cobb achieved the mark while playing for the Tigers against the Athletics at Philadelphia in 1912, he was 14-for-19. Cobb had seven hits in 11 at-bats in the doubleheader played July 17 and, after an off day for the teams, he was 7-for-8 in the doubleheader played July 19.

In an eerie bit of serendipity, White’s record-tying performances occurred on almost the same exact July dates as when Cobb achieved the feat. In addition, Cobb died on July 17, 1961, the same day White played the first of the two doubleheaders.

White was 8-for-10 in the July 17 doubleheader against the Cubs.

In the first game, he was 4-for-5, getting three singles against starter Don Cardwell and another single versus Don Elston. Boxscore

White went 4-for-5 again in the second game. He had a double and a single against starter Jim Brewer and two singles versus Barney Schultz. Boxscore

Julian Javier also had eight hits, including seven in succession, for the Cardinals in the doubleheader.

The second game didn’t end until nearly 1 a.m. When White got home, he sat up with an ailing child and didn’t get any sleep, the Associated Press reported.

In the morning, White fulfilled a commitment to instruct youngsters at a baseball clinic at a local park from 10 a.m. to noon. According to the Post-Dispatch, White had lunch after the clinic, went to Busch Stadium and took a 45-minute nap in the trainer’s room before batting practice.

Showing no signs of fatigue, White was 3-for-4 in the opener of the July 18 doubleheader. He had two singles and a home run against starter Glen Hobbie. Boxscore

In the second game, White again was 3-for-4. He had a pair of triples, one against reliever Mel Wright and the other versus Don Elston. The hit that tied Cobb’s record was a double against Bob Anderson that “just escaped Ed Bouchee’s leap at first base,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Boxscore

Asked about tying the record, White told the Post-Dispatch, “It feels good to win two more ballgames.”

For the two doubleheaders, White had nine singles, two doubles, two triples and a home run.

White had a .417 on-base percentage in July 1961 and hit .331 for the month.

He finished the season with these numbers: .286 batting average, 28 doubles, 11 triples, 20 home runs and 90 RBI. Against the Cubs, he had 33 hits in 21 games and batted .371.

 

Read Full Post »

In a game of role reversals, Gene Stechschulte was up to the challenge.

Twenty years ago, on April 17, 2001, Stechschulte, a Cardinals relief pitcher, made his first plate appearance in the majors. Pinch-hitting against Diamondbacks starter Armando Reynoso, Stechschulte hit a two-run home run at Busch Memorial Stadium.

A reliever pinch-hitting in his first plate appearance wasn’t the only unusual occurrence in the game. Bobby Bonilla, a Cardinals first baseman and outfielder, made his first pitching appearance since high school, working the last inning in the 17-4 rout by the Diamondbacks.

College clouter

Stechschulte was a hitter before he became a pitcher. As a shortstop for Ashland University in Ohio, he set school records for total bases, home runs and RBI, leading the club to a NCAA Division II World Series appearance in 1995.

After Stechschulte graduated first in his class from Ashland’s school of business and economics with summa cum laude honors, he signed with the Cardinals in June 1996 and became a relief pitcher in their farm system.

A 6-foot-5 right-hander, Stechschulte had 33 saves for Peoria in 1998 and 26 for Memphis in 2000.

He only got to bat one time in the minors and when he did he cracked a double for Memphis.

Surprise swat

Stechschulte made his Cardinals debut in 2000 and was 1-0 in 20 relief appearances, shuttling back and forth between St. Louis and Memphis.

In 2001, he opened the season with the Cardinals and allowed only one run in his first five relief appearances.

On April 17, a Tuesday night at St. Louis, the Diamondbacks scored eight runs in three innings against Cardinals starter Dustin Hermanson and seven more versus reliever Chad Hutchinson.

In the sixth inning, with the Diamondbacks ahead, 15-1, the Cardinals had Albert Pujols on first, two outs, and reliever Mike James due to bat.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who had substituted liberally after the Diamondbacks built their lead, wanted a pinch-hitter, but his options were limited. He chose Stechschulte, even though he’d never batted in the big leagues.

Stechschulte swung at the first pitch and hit it over the wall in left-center for a two-run home run.

“One pitch, and whack!” broadcaster Jack Buck said on the air. “What a surprise that was.” Video

Stechschulte said it was his first home run since he was Ashland’s cleanup hitter in 1996.

“Most of the guys back home still think of me as a hitter and not a pitcher,” Stechschulte told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They’re probably more surprised that I’m pitching.”

In the ninth, La Russa had Bonilla pitch in a big-league game for the first time and he gave up two runs, including a home run to the first batter he faced. Boxscore

Special fraternity

Stechschulte was the fifth Cardinals player to hit a home run in his first big-league plate appearance. Since then, others have done it. The complete list:

_ Eddie Morgan, pinch-hitter, April 14, 1936, vs. Cubs.

_ Wally Moon, center fielder, April 13, 1954, vs. Cubs.

_ Keith McDonald, pinch-hitter, July 4, 2000, vs. Reds.

_ Chris Richard, left fielder, July 17, 2000, vs. Twins.

_ Gene Stechschulte, pinch-hitter, April 17, 2001, vs. Diamondbacks.

_ Hector Luna, second baseman, April 8, 2004, vs. Brewers.

_ Adam Wainwright, pitcher, May 24, 2006, vs. Giants.

_ Mark Worrell, pitcher, June 5, 2008, vs. Nationals.

_ Paul DeJong, pinch-hitter, May 28, 2017, vs. Rockies.

_ Lane Thomas, pinch-hitter, April 19, 2019, vs. Mets.

Stechschulte became the 16th major-league player to hit a home run on the first pitch in his first plate appearance. He also was the 13th big-league player to hit a pinch-hit home run in his first plate appearance.

Paid to pitch

A week later, on April 25, 2001, Stechschulte got his first big-league save, with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief against the Expos at St. Louis. Boxscore

“Getting this save was definitely more exciting than the home run because we won this game,” Stechschulte told the Post-Dispatch. “It feels better to contribute to a victory. Pitching like that is my role on this team. My role is not to hit.”

The next day, though, La Russa again sent Stechschulte to pinch-hit for Mike James. Stechschulte coaxed a walk from Expos pitcher Masato Yoshii. Boxscore

On May 10, Stechschulte pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the Pirates and produced a RBI-single versus Scott Sauerbeck. Boxscore

For the season, Stechschulte was 1-5 with six saves. He had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances.

The next year, 2002, was Stechschulte’s last in the majors. He had a 6-2 record for the Cardinals and was hitless in two at-bats.

Stechschulte became head baseball coach at Ohio Northern University in 2012. His teams set a school record with 79 victories from 2014-2016.

Read Full Post »

Batting for the Reds against the Cardinals, Wally Post boldly launched a baseball where none had gone before at the original Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Sixty years ago, on April 14, 1961, Post hit a home run that struck an Anheuser-Busch sign high atop the scoreboard in left.

If not for the obstruction, the ball would have carried nearly 600 feet, according to estimates.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called it the “most impressive, most powerful home run hit in Busch Stadium.”

Big bopper

A right-handed batter, Wally Post reached the majors with the Reds in September 1949 when he was 20.

At 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds, he wasn’t exceptionally large but he was exceptionally powerful. Post hit 40 home runs for the Reds in 1955 and 36 in 1956. In 21 games against the 1956 Cardinals, managed by Fred Hutchinson, Post produced nine home runs and 17 RBI.

In 1959, Post beat Hank Aaron in TV’s Home Run Derby. Video

“He was a fun guy who could hit the ball a ton and was a good fielder with a strong, accurate arm,” catcher Andy Seminick recalled in the book “We Played the Game.”

For 20 years, the folks at Siebler Clothing Store in Cincinnati offered a free suit to any player whose home run hit their advertising sign behind the left field wall at Crosley Field. The store gave away 176 suits. Post won the most, with 11.

The Reds traded Post to the Phillies for pitcher Harvey Haddix in December 1957 but reacquired him in June 1960 when Hutchinson was the Reds’ manager.

Having gotten thick around the middle, Post dropped weight and showed up at spring training in 1961 focused on beating out Gus Bell for a starting outfield spot. Getting trim enabled Post to swing the bat more freely and the results were impressive. He hit seven home runs in spring training games.

“It just shows what a fellow can do when he gets himself in shape and comes down here determined to win a job,” Hutchinson told The Sporting News. “Post’s power has been tremendous.”

We have liftoff

In the Reds’ season opener at home against the Cubs, Post started in right field and hit a three-run home run.

Three days later, the Reds were in St. Louis to play in the Cardinals’ Friday night home opener at Busch Stadium. Batting in the cleanup spot, Post had a triple and a walk in his first two plate appearances against starter Curt Simmons.

In the sixth, the Cardinals led, 3-0, when Post came up with one on and two outs. The first pitch from Simmons was to Post’s liking. As soon as he swung, the players knew it was something special.

Left fielder Stan Musial turned his head and watched the ball soar. “It was like a man in orbit,” Musial said to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Simmons told The Sporting News, “Usually I don’t watch homers, but this one I had to see.”

Applied science

The ball cleared the wall and rocketed over the bleachers. Behind the bleachers was the massive scoreboard. Attached to the top of the scoreboard was a rectangular Budweiser sign. Atop the Budweiser sign was a square sign showing a neon Anheuser-Busch eagle. The animated eagle flapped its wings when a Cardinal hit a home run.

Post’s projectile pounded high off the Anheuser-Busch sign near the eagle’s beak. “The ball almost made the eagle scream,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

In his book “Pennant Race,” Reds reliever Jim Brosnan wrote, “That’s about as high and hard as a ball can be batted by a human being.”

The Anheuser-Busch sign was about 90 feet from the ground. “That ball still had juice left in it when it hit the sign,” Hutchinson said.

Reds pitcher Jay Hook, pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Northwestern University, estimated the ball would have carried 569 feet if its path hadn’t been impeded.

“The ball carried about 150 feet a second,” Hook told the Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals outfielder Charlie James, who had an electrical engineering degree from the University of Missouri, agreed the ball would have gone nearly 600 feet.

Nothing like it

Musial, who two innings earlier hit a pitch from Hook over the pavilion roof in right and onto Grand Boulevard, told the Post-Dispatch, “Post’s shot made mine look like a bunt.”

In comments to The Sporting News, Musial said Post’s home run was “the most powerful I’ve ever seen.”

“I’ve seen some balls go halfway up on that scoreboard but never up there,” Musial told the Dayton Daily News.

Hutchinson said, “That’s the longest homer I ever saw.”

Cardinals manager Solly Hemus and broadcaster Harry Caray echoed Hutchinson’s comment.

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said, “Post’s ball has got to be the longest here” at Busch Stadium, formerly known as Sportsman’s Park.

Bill DeWitt Sr., who worked in the front offices of the Cardinals and Browns before becoming Reds general manager, said there was no doubt Post’s home run was a record for the ballpark.

“Paul Easterling of the Tigers hit one out of here at the top of the pavilion roof in center,” DeWitt told the Post-Dispatch. “Babe Ruth hit some long ones here, but they were into the center field seats.”

Scoreboard engineer Lou Adamie recalled Luke Easter of the Indians hitting a ball over the pavilion extremity in center, but agreed Post’s was the mightiest.

Cardinals outfielder Bob Nieman said Post’s home run would have gone at least as far as Mickey Mantle’s epic shot against Chuck Stobbs of the Senators at Washington’s Griffith Stadium in 1953. Mantle’s homer cleared the left field bleachers and was estimated to go more than 500 feet.

Cardinals crusher

Post, 31, told the Dayton Daily News that “everything was perfect” with his swing on the tape-measure home run.

“I only wish a sequence camera had recorded the swing so I could study what I did right,” Post said to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Boxscore

Post hit 20 home runs in 99 games for the 1961 Reds, who won the National League pennant. In 13 games versus the 1961 Cardinals, Post hit five home runs and batted .342. Ten of his 13 hits against the Cardinals were for extra bases.

In the World Series against the Yankees, Post hit a home run and batted .333.

Four years later, Jim Wynn of the Astros hit a home run that struck the Budweiser sign on the Busch Stadium scoreboard, a mammoth shot, but still short of where Post’s ball landed.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »