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Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

The Cardinals couldn’t figure out Ramon Hernandez when he pitched for them any better than they could when he pitched against them.

Fifty years ago, on March 31, 1970, the Cardinals released Hernandez, a left-handed reliever who went to spring training as a member of their major-league roster.

The Cardinals would come to regret the move.

Hernandez and another ex-Cardinal, Dave Giusti, anchored a dependable bullpen for the Pirates and helped them become the dominant club in the National League East.

The Cardinals, who finished runner-up to the Pirates in 1971 and 1974, consistently were baffled by the effective relief work of Hernandez.

Traveling man

Hernandez was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the same hometown as future teammate Roberto Clemente, who was six years older.

Hernandez was 18 when the Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent. In 1960, his second season in their farm system, the Pirates sent Hernandez from the Class C level to Class D. Miffed by the demotion, Hernandez sat out the 1961 season, according to the Pittsburgh Press.

In December 1961, the Pirates sold Hernandez’s contract to the Angels. He played five seasons (1962-66) in the Angels’ farm system and had his best year in 1966 when he posted a 2.16 ERA for an El Paso team managed by Chuck Tanner.

The Braves selected Hernandez in the Rule 5 draft in November 1966 and he made their Opening Day roster in 1967. Hernandez “might turn out to be the surprise hurler of the year,” The Sporting News predicted.

Hernandez made 46 appearances for the 1967 Braves and was 0-2 with five saves and a 4.18 ERA. One of his losses came against the Cardinals on July 23, 1967, at St. Louis. The winning rally began when Mike Shannon hit a smash toward the mound “which caromed off Hernandez’s glove, a play which didn’t exactly establish the Braves’ reliever as a Golden Glove candidate,” the Atlanta Constitution reported. Boxscore

Left off the Braves’ winter roster, Hernandez was chosen by the Cubs in the November 1967 Rule 5 draft at the request of manager Leo Durocher, who planned to pair Hernandez with right-hander Phil Regan as the club’s top relievers in 1968. “I didn’t draft Hernandez to send him to Siberia,” Durocher told the Chicago Tribune.

Said Cubs pitching coach Joe Becker: “I just hope he’s as good as they say he is because we need a consistent lefty for emergency calls. The day in baseball is gone when you expect a starter to finish.”

The Cubs’ faith in Hernandez went unrewarded. He appeared in eight games for them and had a 9.00 ERA.

Wrong fit

On June 14, 1968, the Cubs sold the contract of Hernandez to the Cardinals, who assigned him to their Class AAA Tulsa farm team.

Warren Spahn, who as a pitcher was baseball’s career leader in wins (363) by a left-hander, was Tulsa’s manager, but he and Hernandez clashed.

“Hernandez admitted he had differences with Warren Spahn,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the Pittsburgh Press, Hernandez said Spahn “impeded his return to the majors by sending unfavorable reports back to St. Louis.”

Miserable at Tulsa, Hernandez was 2-5 with a 6.19 ERA. The Cardinals demoted him to Class AA Arkansas for 1969. At 28, his career appeared to be in decline.

On the outs

Playing for Arkansas manager Ray Hathaway, a former pitcher known for his instructional skills, Hernandez improved.

Used primarily as a starter, he was 10-10 with a 2.40 ERA. Among the wins was a no-hitter against El Paso on Aug. 17, 1969. “What else could you call it but a masterpiece?” Hathaway said. “The guy works fast, has great control and, when he really has it, like he did today, he makes this a simple business.”

Hernandez had 133 strikeouts and 38 walks in 184 innings for Arkansas. Impressed, the Cardinals put him on their winter roster and planned to give him a long look in spring training.

Cardinals director of player procurement George Silvey said, “Hernandez throws a screwball and has great control. He’s the kind of guy who maybe has to work every other day (to be effective).”

The good vibes the Cardinals had for Hernandez quickly faded at spring training in 1970 when “there were such problems as reporting late for practice sessions and not going all out in workouts,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the Pittsburgh Press, the Cardinals “didn’t think he was putting out enough in the team running drills.”

Roberto Clemente later said, “Every place he went, they said he had a problem. I guess they didn’t understand him. The first tendency is to say that he is lazy.”

Hernandez allowed two earned runs in three exhibition game innings for the Cardinals before he was released.

Regarding the decision by Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, Hernandez, 29, told The Sporting News, “He thought I was too old.”

Finding a home

Hernandez signed with the Mexico City Reds of the Mexican League and pitched for them in 1970 before going home to Puerto Rico to play winter baseball. Pirates infielder Jose Pagan saw Hernandez pitch in Puerto Rico and was impressed.

“I can’t understand why some big-league club doesn’t give him a chance,” Pagan said.

At Pagan’s urging, the Pirates sent a career minor-league pitcher, Danny Rivas, 35, to Mexico City in exchange for Hernandez on Feb. 10, 1971.

The Pirates assigned Hernandez to the minors, but in June 1971, facing a shortage of pitchers because of injuries and military commitments, he was called up for a weekend series versus the Cardinals at St. Louis.

On June 12, 1971, in his first Pirates appearance, Hernandez gave up a scratch single to the first batter he faced, Lou Brock. Boxscore

The Cardinals wouldn’t get another hit against Hernandez the rest of the season.

The next day, Hernandez earned a save against the Cardinals. Boxscore

As planned, he was returned to the minors but got called up again in September. With the Pirates and Cardinals battling for the division title, Hernandez faced the Cardinals twice and got saves both times.

For the season, Hernandez had three saves in four appearances versus the Cardinals and yielded no runs. He faced 19 batters and retired 18.

The Pirates finished seven games ahead of the second-place Cardinals in the East Division, won the pennant against the Giants in the National League Championship Series and prevailed in the World Series versus the Orioles.

Hernandez had seven saves and an 0.73 ERA in 10 appearances for the 1971 Pirates.

Working the angles

Hernandez became one of the National League’s top relievers, helping the Pirates win four division titles in a five-year span, and was especially effective against the Cardinals.

In 1972, he was 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 14 saves, including four versus the Cardinals. In 1974, he was 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA against them.

Regarding his success with the Pirates, Hernandez told the Pittsburgh Press, “I do it with a bunch of garbage.”

Said Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi: “His motion has a lot to do with it. It’s very deceptive.”

Hernandez threw a variety of pitches from three different angles _ overhand, three-quarters and sidearm _ and at varying speeds.

Dave Giusti, his bullpen mate, said of Hernandez, “The best I’ve ever seen at getting out left-handers _ and I mean ever.”

Left-handed batters hit .224 versus Hernandez in the majors. In six seasons (1971-76) with the Pirates, Hernandez was 23-12 with 39 saves and a 2.51 ERA.

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Convinced center fielder Jim Edmonds would depart for free agency, the Angels were willing to deal him for the right offer.

Twenty years ago, on March 23, 2000, the Cardinals capitalized on the opportunity, trading pitcher Kent Bottenfield and second baseman Adam Kennedy to the Angels for Edmonds.

Bottenfield and Kennedy filled two holes in the Angels’ lineup, but Edmonds provided much more to the Cardinals.

With Edmonds producing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center and a power bat from the left side, the Cardinals became perennial contenders. They qualified for the postseason in six of the eight years Edmonds played for them, won two National League pennants (2004 and 2006) and earned a World Series championship (2006) for the first time in 24 seasons.

Angels fan

Edmonds grew up in the California town of Diamond Bar, 27 miles from where the Angels played in Anaheim. He was an Angels fan and admired Rod Carew.

Edmonds was about to turn 18 when he was chosen by the Angels in the seventh round of the 1988 amateur draft. An eye test revealed he had 20-15 vision, meaning he could see things at 20 feet that people with normal vision could see only at 15 feet, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Five years later, in September 1993, Edmonds made his major-league debut with the Angels.

Carew, a Hall of Famer and seven-time American League batting champion, was the Angels’ hitting coach and he and Edmonds bonded. In 1995, Edmonds had a breakout year, hitting .290 with 33 home runs and 107 RBI for the Angels. He twice won an American League Gold Glove Award (1997-98).

In 1999, Edmonds missed most of the season after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder while weightlifting. He had surgery in April and didn’t play until August.

Edmonds hit .250 with five home runs in 55 games for the 1999 Angels. He also was criticized for having a care-free attitude and lacking dedication. “Let’s just say he never would have been voted the most popular player on the team,” the Orange County Register reported.

Desire to deal

At spring training in 2000, Edmonds was heard telling Angels teammates about the clubs he expected to get offers from when he planned to enter free agency after the season.

Angels general manager Bill Stoneman was willing to trade Edmonds, but found his market value limited. The Yankees wanted Edmonds but wouldn’t part with the two players Stoneman sought, pitcher Ramiro Mendoza and second baseman Alfonso Soriano, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Talks between the Cardinals and Angels about a deal involving Edmonds stalled, the Los Angeles Times reported. According to the Post-Dispatch, the Angels wanted a pitching prospect, Rick Ankiel or Chad Hutchinson, but the Cardinals were unwilling.

Later, Bob Gebhard, an assistant to Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty, was scouting Edmonds in Arizona and told Stoneman the Cardinals might be willing to include Kennedy with Bottenfield for Edmonds.

Stoneman called Jocketty and the deal was made.

“It became apparent we might be able to fill two needs,” Stoneman said. “It made so much sense that we had to do it.”

Bottenfield, an 18-game winner for the 1999 Cardinals, gave the Angels a potential staff ace. Stoneman was in the Expos’ front office when Bottenfield began his pro career with them.

“He could throw to a dime and hit it,” Stoneman said. “He understands pitching and has great control.”

The Orange County Regster concluded, “He might never win 18 games again but he is still so far above anything else in the Angels’ rotation at the moment that it doesn’t matter.”

Kennedy, a first-round selection by the Cardinals in the 1997 amateur draft, made his major-league debut with them in August 1999. The Angels projected him as their second baseman in 2000.

High marks

While the Angels viewed Bottenfield and Kennedy as solutions, the Cardinals saw them as players who didn’t fit their plans. Bottenfield was expendable because the Cardinals wanted to open a spot in the starting rotation for Garrett Stephenson, who allowed one earned run in 15 spring training innings. Concerned about Kennedy’s defense, the Cardinals had acquired Fernando Vina from the Brewers during the winter to play second base.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals “didn’t think Kennedy would ever be their everyday second baseman” and “they doubted whether Bottenfield was more than a one-year wonder.”

Acquiring Edmonds enabled the Cardinals to move J.D. Drew from center to right and use Eric Davis as a role player.

“We added a player who is a major-league plus as a defensive outfielder with a major-league plus throwing arm, a guy who has been a productive major-league hitter,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “It seems to me we really helped our club.”

Said Jocketty: “He plays hard every day and he’ll sacrifice his body to play hard. That’s something St. Louis fans will enjoy. He’s as close to a five-tool outfielder as you will find.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz praised the Cardinals for making a deal “to stabilize the outfield and upgrade the offense.”

Return on investment

In May 2000, Edmonds agreed to a $57 million, six-year contract extension with the Cardinals, keeping him from becoming a free agent after the season.

Though he set a franchise record by striking out 167 times, Edmonds led the 2000 Cardinals in home runs (42), RBI (108), runs (129) and walks (103). He hit .295 with an on-base percentage of .411 and a slugging percentage of .583. The center fielder also won the first of six consecutive Gold Glove awards with the Cardinals.

Bottenfield, 31, went 7-8 with a 5.71 ERA for the Angels before they dealt him to the Phillies in July 2000 for another ex-Cardinal, outfielder Ron Gant.

Kennedy, 24, became the Angels’ second baseman in 2000 and was with them for seven seasons. In 2002, he hit three home runs in the pennant-clinching Game 5 of the American League Championship Series versus the Twins and helped the Angels prevail against the Giants for their only World Series crown. He returned to play for the Cardinals in 2007 and 2008.

Edmonds hit 241 home runs as a Cardinal. Only Stan Musial (475), Albert Pujols (445) and Ken Boyer (255) hit more as Cardinals.

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In assessing Joe McEwing’s value to the club as a utility player, the Cardinals placed a premium on productivity instead of popularity.

Twenty years ago, on March 18, 2000, the Cardinals traded McEwing to the Mets for reliever Jesse Orosco.

The deal was disliked by Cardinals fans who rooted for McEwing when he unexpectedly emerged as an overachieving underdog to become the team’s second baseman in 1999.

Nicknamed “Super Joe” for his all-out hustle, McEwing established a Cardinals rookie record with a 25-game hitting streak in 1999. The feat earned him another tag, “Little Mac,” in relation to his slugging teammate, Mark McGwire, who was “Big Mac.”

Though McEwing endeared himself to the Cardinals, sentiment was shoved aside the following spring when he struggled in a bid to earn a role as a utility player.

Job search

McEwing, chosen by the Cardinals in the 28th round of the 1992 amateur draft, was in his seventh season in their farm system when he earned a call to the big leagues in September 1998.

Placido Polanco was the Cardinals’ Opening Day second baseman in 1999, but McEwing eventually emerged from the bench to replace him. A right-handed batter, McEwing hit .275 with 28 doubles for the 1999 Cardinals, splitting time between second base and the outfield.

After the 1999 season, the Cardinals acquired second baseman Fernando Vina from the Brewers and made him their leadoff batter in 2000. McEwing, 27, went to spring training as a candidate for a utility role.

The competition for bench spots was intense. McEwing hit .143 in spring training and was outperformed by fellow utility players Shawon Dunston, Craig Paquette and Polanco.

When left-handed reliever Scott Radinsky developed elbow trouble, the Cardinals went searching for a replacement and made the swap of McEwing for Orosco.

“It would have been tough for Joe to make the club based on what we’ve seen this spring and the other candidates,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

When McEwing left the Cardinals’ clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla., he wrote on a message board, “I love you guys, Joe Mac.”

Fond farewell

Most were sorry to see McEwing depart.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he planned to keep a pair of McEwing’s cleats in his office “to remind me of what a professional ballplayer is supposed to be.”

Jocketty said when he got home after making the trade he found a McEwing baseball card belonging to his son, Joey, on a table. “I’m not popular with my son,” Jocketty told the Post-Dispatch.

Columnist Bernie Miklasz called McEwing “one of my favorite St. Louis athletes ever” and wrote, “Trading Joe McEwing is like being mean to a kitten.”

Miklasz concluded, “I didn’t want to admit it at first, but this trade makes sense.”

Warranty expires

Orosco, who turned 43 a month after joining the Cardinals, was a standout with the Mets in 1986 when they were World Series champions. In 1999, he pitched in 65 games for the Orioles.

He told the Post-Dispatch he was glad to be with the Cardinals. “Hopefully, I’m the piece to that puzzle that they needed in the bullpen,” Orosco said.

Before becoming a Cardinal, Orosco pitched in 1,090 major-league games and never was on the disabled list.

“Maybe he’s just got elastic bands for rotator cuffs,” said Cardinals pitcher Paul Spoljaric.

Turns out, the elastic was ready to snap.

Orosco pitched in three April games for the Cardinals, hurt his elbow and went on the disabled list. He returned in June, pitched in three more games, went back on the disabled list, had surgery to repair a torn elbow tendon and was done for the season.

Orosco faced a total of 16 batters for the Cardinals. He became a free agent after the season, signed with the Dodgers and continued to pitch in the majors until 2003 with the Twins at age 46. His 1,252 games pitched, including six with the Cardinals, are a major-league record

Switching sides

With Melvin Mora and Kurt Abbott in utility roles for the Mets, McEwing began the 2000 season in the minors. In mid-May, he got called up to the Mets and was in their lineup as an outfielder for all three games of a series May 26-28 against the Cardinals at St. Louis.

“I’m excited to come back,” McEwing told the Post-Dispatch before adding, “I’m a Met now. I’m happy to be a Met.”

Helped by McEwing and another ex-Cardinal, Todd Zeile, the Mets swept the three-game series. McEwing was 4-for-12 with one RBI and was warmly greeted by Cardinals fans. Zeile was 5-for-13 with three home runs and seven RBI and was booed.

After teasing McEwing about the fan reactions, Zeile told the New York Daily News, “I get excited to play back here. With every at-bat, the fans booed me a little louder and it motivated me a little more. I don’t think there’s any animosity though.”

McEwing hit .222 for the 2000 Mets, who won the pennant by prevailing against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

McEwing played five season (2000-2004) with the Mets before finishing his career in the majors with the Royals (2005) and Astros (2006). He played every position in the majors except pitcher and catcher.

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A trade to the Cardinals gave Omar Olivares the chance to start his major-league career with the same franchise his father did.

Thirty years ago, on Feb. 27, 1990, the Cardinals acquired Olivares, a right-handed pitcher, from the Padres for outfielder Alex Cole and left-handed reliever Steve Peters.

Six months later, when Olivares made his big-league debut, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Ed Olivares, an outfielder and third baseman who got to the majors with the Cardinals in 1960.

Ed and Omar Olivares became the first father and son to play for the Cardinals.

Family ties

A native Puerto Rican, Ed Olivares appeared in 24 games for the Cardinals from 1960-61.

Omar Olivares was born in Puerto Rico in 1967, a year after his father finished his pro playing career in the farm system of the Tigers.

Ed Olivares became a sports and recreation director in Puerto Rico and helped his son develop baseball skills.

“He taught me everything I know,” Omar Olivares told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s the one who thought about making me a pitcher. He knew I had a nice and loose arm, and he knew I was going to never get hurt. I was 16 years old. So I changed from an outfielder to a pitcher.”

In September 1986, Omar Olivares, 19, signed with the Padres. He earned 16 wins in the minors in 1988 and 12 at Class AA in 1989.

Special talent

Olivares caught the attention of Cardinals personnel, who urged general manager Dal Maxvill to acquire him.

“Six of our people had seen him pitch and they all liked him,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog. “That’s unusual. The only other player that all our people had good reports on before we got him was Willie McGee.”

Though Olivares was assigned to start the 1990 season with the Cardinals’ top farm club at Louisville, Herzog was impressed by what he saw in spring training and considered him a special talent.

“He’s a great athlete,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch. “I’d like to make an outfielder out of him. He could pitch every fifth day and play the outfield the other four.”

Herzog resigned in July 1990 before he could test his idea, but Olivares remained in the Cardinals’ plans. Cardinals director of player development Ted Simmons said Olivares was “a legitimate pitching prospect, make no mistake.”

During a visit to Louisville, Cardinals minor-league pitching instructor Bruce Sutter noticed Olivares had stopped throwing a forkball and asked him about it.

“I threw it the other night and the guy hit it for a homer,” Olivares replied.

Said Sutter: “If he hit your fastball for a homer, would you quit throwing your fastball?”

Olivares got the message and returned the forkball to his arsenal of pitches.

“I wasn’t too happy about it, but I kept throwing the forkball after that,” Olivares told the Post-Dispatch. “One night, I had 14 strikeouts and that’s the best I’d had my forkball. They told me they wanted me to throw it at least 20 times a game. I’ve got much better control of it than I used to have.”

Welcome to the bigs

in August 1990, Joe Torre replaced Herzog as Cardinals manager. Soon after, John Tudor went on the disabled list because of left shoulder pain. Olivares, with a 2.82 ERA in 23 starts for Louisville, was called up to take Tudor’s spot in the rotation.

“When they told me, I called home right away,” Olivares said. “My dad wasn’t there but my mother (Edna) was … She’s more excited than I am, and I’m pretty excited.”

Torre never had seen Olivares, but he got good reports from those who had.

“He started learning that forkball because he needed another pitch,” said Cardinals pitcher Bob Tewksbury. “He’s got good mechanics and a good, live arm. He’s a good athlete. He swings the bat pretty good. He’s a good kid, too.”

On Aug. 18, 1990, Olivares, 23, made his major-league debut with a start at St. Louis and limited the Astros to a run and three hits in eight innings.

With the Cardinals ahead, 2-1, Torre lifted Olivares for closer Lee Smith, who gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Franklin Stubbs, in the ninth, depriving Olivares of a win. The Astros prevailed, 3-2, in 11. Boxscore

“You have to go with your best,” Olivares said, defending Torre’s decision. “I’m not angry at all.”

Making his mark

According to the Post-Dispatch, Olivares was the first major-league player with the initials O.O. since Oswald Orwoll, a pitcher and first baseman for the 1928-29 Athletics. In 1993, Olivares switched to uniform No. 00 with the Cardinals.

Olivares got his first major-league home run before he got his first major-league win.

On Sept. 8, 1990, Olivares hit a solo home run and a two-run double versus Rick Sutcliffe of the Cubs at Wrigley Field, but didn’t get the decision. Boxscore

His first win came in his next start, on Sept. 13, 1990, against the Expos at Montreal. Boxscore

Olivares finished 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA for the 1990 Cardinals. His best St. Louis season was 1991 when he was 11-7.

Olivares pitched five seasons for the Cardinals and was 29-24 with a 4.02 ERA. He batted .229 with three home runs.

The Cardinals released him in April 1995 and he signed with the Rockies two days later.

In 12 seasons in the majors, Olivares was 77-86, including a combined 15-11 for the Angels and Athletics in 1999.

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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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The Cardinals gave Ed Sprague a chance to become a professional ballplayer and make a connection with Sparky Anderson.

Sprague died Jan. 10, 2020, at 74. A right-hander, he pitched for eight seasons in the major leagues with the Athletics, Reds, Cardinals and Brewers.

It took a series of career turns before Sprague pitched in a big-league game for the Cardinals in his second stint with them.

Good advice

Sprague was born in Boston and went to high school in Hayward, Calif., about 15 miles south of Oakland. He didn’t play prep sports because he had a job after school at a furniture store.

In March 1964, Sprague, 18, enlisted in the Army. While stationed in Mainz, Germany, as a paratrooper, he joined the military base fast-pitch softball team as a catcher. Sprague had a strong arm and an Army colleague, former minor-leaguer Dick Holland, encouraged him to pursue a baseball career, The Sporting News reported.

After his discharge from the Army in March 1966, Sprague, 20, enrolled at a baseball school in West Palm Beach, Fla., run by big-league infielder Dick Howser.

Four days later, the school held a tryout camp attended by big-league scouts. “About 100 kids tried out that day,” Spague told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals scout Tommy Thomas made an offer and Sprague signed. “I didn’t get a bonus,” he told The Sporting News.

Fast learner

Relyng exclusively on a fastball, Sprague pitched in 13 games for two farm clubs in 1966 and posted a 2.66 ERA.

In 1967, Sprague, 21, was assigned to Modesto, a California League team managed by Sparky Anderson.

“He was so raw and inexperienced then that he didn’t even know how to stand correctly on the pitching rubber,” Anderson told The Sporting News. “You almost had to lead him to the mound.”

Throwing with a sidearm delivery, Sprague learned quickly and had an 11-7 record and 3.12 ERA for league champion Modesto.

After the season, Anderson joined the Reds as a minor-league manager and Sprague reported to the Cardinals’ 1967 fall Florida Instructional League team. Playing for manager George Kissell, Sprague had a 1.74 ERA in 11 starts.

Left off the Cardinals’ 40-man winter roster, Sprague was selected by the Athletics with the first pick in the Nov. 28, 1967, minor-league draft. Athletics executive vice president Joe DiMaggio made the announcement at the baseball winter meetings in Mexico City.

Finding his footing

Sprague pitched well at spring training in 1968 and earned a spot on the Athletics’ Opening Day roster. The Athletics moved from Kansas City to Oakland after the 1967 season, meaning Sprague would begin his big-league career with a team located a 15-minute drive from where he went to high school.

“He throws a sidearm pitch with considerable speed,” The Sporting News noted. “It sinks.”

On April 16, 1968, in his second major-league appearance, Sprague got the win with three scoreless innings in relief of starter Catfish Hunter at Yankee Stadium.

The outing started ominously when Sprague lost his balance on the second pitch he threw and fell off the mound.

“I don’t know what happened,” Sprague told The Sporting News. “All of a sudden, there I was flat on my face and everyone was laughing at me.”

Sprague regained his composure and finished the inning by getting Mickey Mantle to fly out to left.

In the ninth, the Yankees had a runner at second with two outs when Sprague sealed the win by getting his baseball school operator, Dick Howser, to ground out. Boxscore

Come and go

Sprague pitched for the Athletics in 1968 and 1969, but spent the 1970 season in the minors. The Reds, who won the National League pennant in 1970 in Sparky Anderson’s first season as manager, acquired him after the World Series.

In 1971, Sprague was assigned to the Reds’ top farm club at Indianapolis. The manager, Vern Rapp, had been in the Cardinals’ system when Sprague was there. Rapp taught Sprague how to throw a changeup and the pitch helped him achieve nine wins and five saves for Indianapolis.

The Reds called up Sprague for the last month of the 1971 season and he allowed no earned runs in 11 innings. “It’s pretty well known there are some among the Reds brass who think highly of Ed Sprague,” The Sporting News reported.

In 1972, when the Reds won the pennant, Sprague was 3-3 in 33 games. The Reds played the Athletics in the World Series, but Sprague didn’t pitch.

The next year, he was 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA when the Reds traded him to the Cardinals on July 27, 1973, for infielder Ed Crosby and catcher Gene Dusan. The Cardinals also got a player to be named, first baseman Roe Skidmore.

“My arm is fine,” Sprague told the Post-Dispatch. “My trouble has been lack of work.”

In his first appearance for the Cardinals, on July 29, 1973, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at Chicago, Sprague relieved starter Rich Folkers with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh.

Jose Cardenal hit Sprague’s first pitch on the ground. “It looked like an easy out,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The ball took a high hop and bounced over the head of third baseman Ken Reitz for a fluke single, tying the score at 4-4. The Cubs won, 5-4. Boxscore

“I did what I set out to do, make him hit the ball on the ground,” Sprague said.

Sprague made eight appearances for the Cardinals and was 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA when they sent him to the minor leagues, preferring to go with a left-hander, John Andrews, as a reliever.

In the genes

After three appearances with Class AAA Tulsa, Sprague’s contract was sold by the Cardinals to the Brewers on Sept. 4, 1973.

Sprague had his best big-league season in 1974 with the Brewers. He was 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 starts and 0-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 relief appearances.

Sprague pitched eight seasons in the majors and was 17-23 with nine saves and a 3.84 ERA.

His son Ed Sprague Jr., was a big-league third baseman for 11 seasons, mostly with the Blue Jays, and played in two World Series with Toronto.

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