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Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Seeking a power bat for a lineup struggling to score, the Cardinals got the slugger they wanted but paid a hefty price, dealing a player who would win the National League batting title.

When the Cardinals traded outfielder Harry Walker, 28, and pitcher Freddy Schmidt, 31, to the Phillies for outfielder Ron Northey 70 years ago on May 3, 1947, the swap appeared to favor them.

Northey, 27, was an established left-handed pull hitter whose swing appeared tailored to take advantage of the short distance (310 feet) down the line from home plate to the right field wall at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

Walker, also a left-handed batter, lacked Northey’s power and was struggling to hit for a high average.

“Walker, a great fielder and fast man, wasn’t hitting far enough or long enough to suit” the Cardinals, The Sporting News reported.

The Cardinals, though, didn’t know Walker was close to mastering a revamped swing that would lead to a breakthrough.

Seeking a groove

After winning the 1946 World Series championship, the Cardinals had a dreadful start to the 1947 season. The Cardinals lost 10 of their first 12 games, including the last eight in a row. They scored two runs or less in five of those 10 losses.

St. Louis began the season with a starting outfield of Dick Sisler in left, Walker in center and Enos Slaughter in right, with Stan Musial at first base.

Walker had debuted in the big leagues with the 1940 Cardinals. He had his best year for St. Louis in 1943, batting .294 with 166 hits.

After that season, Walker joined the Army, serving with General George Patton’s unit in Europe, and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

When Walker returned to the Cardinals in 1946, he platooned with Terry Moore in center field. Trying to hit for power, Walker became a pull hitter but was unsuccessful. He batted .237 with 27 RBI.

During that season, Walker sought the advice of his brother, Dodgers outfielder Dixie Walker, who urged his sibling to close his batting stance and spray the ball to all fields.

During the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox, Walker began to see positive results from the change. He batted .412 (7-for-17) with six RBI, including the double that drove in Slaughter from first base with the winning run in Game 7.

However, when Walker started slowly in 1947, batting .200 with no RBI in 10 games, the Cardinals stepped up efforts to acquire Northey.

Rough on righties

Northey had debuted in the big leagues with the 1942 Phillies. The stocky outfielder had a strong throwing arm and a power stroke.

He also had an ear problem. In his freshman year at Duke University, Northey was beaned by a pitch and experienced a buzzing in his ears ever since, according to The Sporting News.

“It is so annoying that Northey often is forced to rattle papers to keep his mind off the buzz,” The Sporting News reported. “When he goes to bed, he falls asleep with his radio on.”

Northey had his best year with the Phillies in 1944 when he batted .288 with 35 doubles, 22 home runs and 104 RBI.

He pounded right-handed pitchers and was vulnerable against left-handers. In 1946, Northey batted .266 with 16 home runs versus right-handers and .159 with no home runs against left-handers.

In 1947, Northey reported late to spring training after unsuccessfully holding out for more pay. He also clashed with Phillies manager Ben Chapman.

Walker was in New York with the Cardinals and about to board a train for their trip to Boston when he was informed he and Schmidt had been dealt to the Phillies for Northey.

Schmidt, a right-hander, had experienced a breakout season with the 1944 Cardinals, posting a 7-3 record and 3.15 ERA in 37 appearances. He was 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in 1946.

Let ‘er rip

In reporting the trade, The Sporting News described Northey as a “robust Pennsylvanian who swings from his heels.”

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon told the St. Louis Star-Times, “Harry Walker is a fine defensive outfielder, but what we need right now is punch and I think Northey has it.”

Northey joined the Cardinals in Boston for their series with the Braves and was placed in the lineup for a Sunday doubleheader on May 4. He singled and scored in the opener, a 4-3 Braves victory that extended the St. Louis losing streak to nine.

In the second game, Northey went 3-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored, sparking St. Louis to a 9-0 triumph. He produced a two-run home run off starter Mort Cooper, the former Cardinal ace, in the fourth, a solo home run against Glenn Elliott in the sixth and a RBI-single off Dick Mulligan in the seventh. Boxscore

Hot hitting

Walker went on a tear as soon as he joined the Phillies, getting 10 hits in his first 24 at-bats. He had perfected the batting style his brother had suggested.

In 130 games for the 1947 Phillies, Walker batted .371 with 181 hits, including 28 doubles and a league-leading 16 triples.

Even with his 5-for-25 effort for the Cardinals added to his season total, Walker easily won the NL batting crown at .363. The runner-up, Bob Elliott of the Braves, hit .317.

Walker also placed second in the NL in on-base percentage at .436. Only the Reds’ Augie Galan (.449) did better.

Northey batted .293 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI in 110 games for the 1947 Cardinals. True to form, he hit .313 versus right-handers and .154 against left-handers.

The Cardinals ended the 1947 season in second place at 89-65, five behind the Dodgers.

Northey played two more seasons for St. Louis, batting .321 with 13 home runs in 1948 and .260 with seven home runs in 1949.

Walker batted .292 for the 1948 Phillies, was traded to the Cubs and then shipped to the Reds.

After the 1949 season, in a classic example of what goes around comes around, the Cardinals sent Northey and infielder Lou Klein to the Reds to reacquire Walker.

Previously: Tribute to Freddy Schmidt, star rookie for 1944 Cards

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Desperate for a quality shortstop, the Cardinals turned to Ruben Amaro and gave him his first opportunity to play in the major leagues. Amaro fielded splendidly but didn’t hit well enough and the Cardinals quickly gave up on him.

Amaro, who died March 31, 2017, at 81, played one season for the Cardinals. Traded to the Phillies after the 1958 season, he went on to have a long career as a player, coach and scout.

Though Amaro’s time with the Cardinals was relatively short, it covered a lot of ground, beginning in Mexico and ending in Japan.

Career choice

Born in Mexico in 1936, Amaro was the son of Santos Amaro, a powerful hitter who played baseball in Cuba in winter and in Mexico in summer.

As a teen-ager, Ruben Amaro caught the attention of the Cardinals when he played for the Mexican team in the Central American Games. The Cardinals offered him a contract in 1954.

At the time, Amaro, 18, was considering a career in engineering and his older brother, Mario, wanted to be a doctor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Amaro saw baseball as a way to help pay for his brother’s education.

“All the time my father played baseball, he didn’t make much money,” Amaro told Jack Rice of the Post-Dispatch. “Maybe I can. I play baseball, Mario goes to medical school.”

The Cardinals sent Amaro to their Class C team in Mexicali, a city situated on the border of Mexico and the United States. Amaro played two seasons for the Mexicali Eagles, batting .285 in 1954 and .305 with 18 home runs in 1955.

Racial prejudice

Impressed, the Cardinals promoted Amaro to the Class AA Houston Buffaloes in 1956.

Amaro “arrived in Houston with the reputation of being one of the finest fielders in baseball. Possessing a great arm, sure hands and fine speed, Amaro has not disappointed,” The Sporting News reported.

Playing shortstop for manager Harry Walker, Amaro batted .266 with 64 RBI in 1956.

The Cardinals assigned Amaro to Houston again in 1957. When Houston went to Shreveport, La., for a series in May, Amaro wasn’t allowed to play “because of the Louisiana racial law,” The Sporting News reported.

Humiliated, Amaro considered quitting baseball but decided to stick it out after a talk with his father, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

Climbing the ladder

Houston won the 1957 Texas League championship and faced Atlanta, the Southern Association champion, in the Dixie Series.

Though Amaro hit .222 during the season, he provided the key hit in the Dixie Series. His two-run home run off Don Nottebart in the seventh inning lifted Houston to a 3-1 series-clinching victory in Game 6.

In 1958, Amaro was assigned to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. St. Louis that season primarily started Eddie Kasko at shortstop. In July, when Kasko’s batting average dropped to .195, the Cardinals benched him and called up Amaro, even though he was batting .200 for Rochester.

Stan lends a hand

Amaro arrived in St. Louis on July 15 and was placed in the starting lineup by manager Fred Hutchinson for that night’s game against the Braves. “His name was in the lineup card as soon as his foot was in the door,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

The newspaper cautioned that Amaro “is well known to the Cards as a strong fielder but a weak hitter. His batting is the sorrow of his father, Santos Amaro.”

Sports editor Bob Broeg suggested Amaro’s arrival to play shortstop “provides just another chapter in the club’s almost constant trouble at the key defensive position.” With the exception of Marty Marion in the 1940s, the Cardinals “rarely have known satisfaction at a post which ranks second to none in defensive importance,” Broeg wrote.

In his book “Stan Musial: An American Life,” author George Vecsey said the Cardinals issued Amaro a pair of uniform pants at least two sizes too big. When Musial saw the rookie looking awkward in the baggy uniform, he said to clubhouse attendant Butch Yatkeman, “Would you get this young man a pair of pants so he can play like a major leaguer?”

When Amaro stepped onto the Busch Stadium field for the first time, he timidly watched the Cardinals take batting practice. Musial called out to the players, “He’s playing today. Let him have some swings.”

Amaro was forever grateful to Musial for his kindness.

Good glove

Starting at shortstop and batting eighth that night, Amaro went hitless in two at-bats against the Braves’ Joey Jay before being lifted for pinch-hitter Wally Moon, but his fielding impressed.

“After two easy fielding chances, his third was a hard-hit ball that made him range far toward third base and deeply,” the Post-Dispatch observed. “It is a testing place for a shortstop’s arm and he met the test well.” Boxscore

The next night, Amaro got his first big-league hit, a double off future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. Boxscore

Amaro produced six hits in his first 18 at-bats (a .333 batting average) for the Cardinals, but struggled after that.

In 40 games, including 21 starts at shortstop, Amaro batted .224 for the 1958 Cardinals. He hit .364 (8-for-22) against left-handed pitchers and .167 (9-for-54) versus right-handers.

Strong resume

After the 1958 season, Amaro took part in a series of exhibition games the Cardinals played on a goodwill tour of Japan.

When the Cardinals returned home, they traded Amaro to the Phillies for outfielder Chuck Essegian on Dec. 3, 1958. “I cried when they traded me,” Amaro said.

After a season in the minors, Amaro played for the Phillies from 1960-65. He won a NL Gold Glove Award in 1964. Amaro also played for the Yankees (1966-68) and Angels (1969).

After his playing career, Amaro was a scout, minor-league manager, executive and big-league coach.

His son, Ruben Amaro Jr., a Stanford University graduate, played in the big leagues for eight years (1991-98) as an outfielder with the Angels, Phillies and Indians. He was general manager of the Phillies from 2009-2015.

Previously: Why Cardinals were keen on Gene Freese

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With his big-league career in rapid freefall, Lee Tunnell got an unexpected boost from a veteran scout and grabbed hold of an opportunity presented by the Cardinals. Six months later, Tunnell was pitching in the World Series.

During spring training in 1987, Cardinals scout Rube Walker was following the Pirates to assess whether catcher Tony Pena was a player St. Louis should acquire.

Walker, 60, had been a big-league catcher with the Cubs and Dodgers. He was the pitching coach for the Mets when they won the 1969 World Series championship and 1973 National League pennant and for the Braves when they won the 1982 NL West title. Walker joined the Cardinals in 1986 as special assignment scout.

While scouting Pena, Walker got to see Tunnell pitch in spring training with the Pirates.

Walking the plank

Tunnell, a right-hander, was 21 when he made his major-league debut with the 1982 Pirates. The next season, he was 11-6 with Pittsburgh.

Then his career skidded. He was 1-7 with the Pirates in 1984 and 4-10 in 1985. Tunnell spent the 1986 season in the minor leagues with Hawaii and was 4-11 with a 6.01 ERA.

“My career has been on a downhill slope, but (in 1986) it was pretty steep,” Tunnell said.

When he reported to spring training in 1987, the Pirates told Tunnell, 26, he no longer was in their plans and they would try to deal him. Tunnell handed the Pirates a list of places he’d like to pitch. St. Louis was one of those.

Scout’s honor

On April 1, 1987, the Pirates traded Pena to the Cardinals for outfielder Andy Van Slyke, catcher Mike LaValliere and pitcher Mike Dunne.

The Pirates also talked to the Cardinals about Tunnell. “We weren’t real interested in him because his record had been pretty weak,” Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Maxvill had a change of heart when he talked with Walker. The scout told Maxvill that Tunnell had an effective fastball and breaking pitch. After reading Walker’s scouting report, Maxvill met with Lee Thomas, director of player development for the Cardinals.

“We talked it over again and decided to go for him,” Maxvill said.

Thirty years ago, on April 6, 1987, the Cardinals purchased Tunnell’s contract from the Pirates and assigned him to their Class AAA minor-league affiliate at Louisville.

Rapid rise

Pitching for Louisville manager Mike Jorgensen, Tunnell regained his form and validated Walker’s endorsement. “This was just a time in my career where I needed a new start with somebody else,” said Tunnell.

In six starts for Louisville, Tunnell was 4-1 with a 3.41 ERA.

On May 15, 1987, the Cardinals placed outfielder Jim Lindeman on the disabled list and called up Tunnell. Two days later, Tunnell got a start against the Reds in place of Joe Magrane, who had sprained an ankle.

The May 17 game between the Reds and Cardinals at St. Louis was a matchup of pitchers seeking to revive their careers. Starting for the Reds was Jerry Reuss, 37, a St. Louis native and former Cardinal who had joined the Reds after being released by the Dodgers.

Cardinals contributor

Pitching in a big-league game for the first time in two years, Tunnell showed he wasn’t washed up. He held the Reds to two runs in seven innings and got the win in his Cardinals debut. Tunnell also singled and drove in a run in a 10-2 Cardinals victory. Reuss yielded 10 hits, two walks and seven runs in 4.2 innings. Boxscore

Tom Pagnozzi, who caught Tunnell’s gem and contributed a grand slam off Reds reliever Guy Hoffman, said of the Cardinals starter, “His fastball was running in and out. He had a good slider and an outstanding curveball. He kept it down all game and they kept swinging and missing.”

Pena, watching from the Cardinals bench while on the disabled list, said of his former Pirates teammate: “He pitched today like he did in 1983. The Pirates lost confidence in him and then he lost his confidence. Sometimes it’s good to make a change. It was the right move and he’s excited about being here.”

Tunnell won three of his first four decisions with the Cardinals.

In August 1987, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a shoulder ailment. “Anytime I put effort into my fastball, it felt like my shoulder was coming out of its socket,” Tunnell said.

Big stage

The rest enabled Tunnell to regain strength in the shoulder. On Aug. 29, he pitched effectively in a rehabilitation start for Class A Springfield, Ill. Three days later, he was reactivated by the Cardinals.

Utilized as a reliever, Tunnell pitched 8.2 scoreless innings in eight September appearances for the Cardinals, helping them clinch the NL East title.

His regular-season record: 4-4 with a 4.84 ERA.

For the NL Championship Series versus the Giants, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog opted to keep just eight pitchers on the postseason roster, leaving no room for Tunnell.

After the Cardinals won the pennant, Herzog determined injured first baseman Jack Clark wouldn’t be able to play in the World Series against the Twins, so he replaced Clark on the roster with Tunnell.

Tunnell appeared in relief in two World Series games, posting a 2.08 ERA by yielding one earned run in 4.1 innings.

In 1988, Tunnell spent the season at Louisville and was 6-8 with a 3.86 ERA. The Cardinals released him in October 1988.

In August 2012, Tunnell became Brewers bullpen coach. He has held that role each year since.

Previously: Cardinals deal for Tony Pena not as lopsided as thought

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Though it was no blockbuster, the first trade made by Stan Musial as general manager brought to the Cardinals the infield insurance they needed.

Seeking a player who could fill in for shortstop Dal Maxvill and provide late-inning defensive help at third base for converted outfielder Mike Shannon, Musial turned to a friend: Bing Devine.

Devine, president of the Mets, had been general manager of the Cardinals from 1957 until replaced by Bob Howsam in 1964. Musial succeeded Howsam in January 1967.

Fifty years ago, on April 1, 1967, the Cardinals acquired infielder Eddie Bressoud, outfielder Danny Napoleon and cash from the Mets for second baseman Jerry Buchek, pitcher Art Mahaffey and infielder Tony Martinez.

Though seldom used, Bressoud capped his playing career by spending the entire season with a Cardinals club that won the National League pennant and World Series championship.

Roster shuffles

The 1967 Cardinals entered spring training with no reliable backup at shortstop. The options were Buchek, Phil Gagliano and Jimy Williams.

Gagliano had big-league experience, but his best position was second base. Williams was a prospect but had played only 13 games in the majors.

Buchek had been the Opening Day shortstop for the 1966 Cardinals, but his fielding was erratic _ “He just doesn’t cover the ground, field cleanly enough or throw accurately at shortstop,” wrote Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch _ and by June that year Maxvill regained the starting role.

Buchek seemed best equipped for second base, but the Cardinals had Gagliano to back up starter Julian Javier.

Meanwhile, the 1967 Mets entered spring training with a plan to platoon Bressoud and Chuck Hiller at second base.

Bressoud had started 110 games for the 1966 Mets: 73 starts at shortstop, 24 at third base, eight at second base and five at first base. “He’s one of the nicest gentlemen you’ll ever meet,” Mets manager Wes Westrum said to The Sporting News. “He’s done everything ever asked of him.”

Devine, however, decided the Mets would be better off with a starter younger than either Bressoud, 34, or Hiller, 32, at second base to pair with shortstop Bud Harrelson, 22.

Buchek, 24, seemed a promising candidate.

Betting on potential

Buchek, a graduate of McKinley High School in St. Louis, received a $65,000 bonus when he signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1959.

He had a breakout season as starting shortstop for the Cardinals’ Class AAA Atlanta Crackers in 1963, batting .287 with 33 doubles, 11 triples, 10 home runs and 92 RBI.

However, in parts of five seasons (1961 and 1963-66) with the Cardinals, Buchek batted .221 and had more strikeouts (158) than hits (127).

Devine thought a fresh start with another organization would help Buchek and he knew the Cardinals needed a player like Bressoud.

Life’s journey

Bressoud debuted in the big leagues as a shortstop with the 1956 Giants and formed a keystone combination with their second baseman, Red Schoendienst.

Two years later, in 1958, Bressoud’s wife Eleanor, 25, died of a brain tumor, leaving him with two sons ages 2 and 3. A year later, Bressoud remarried.

During the baseball off-seasons, Bressoud pursued his education. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a master’s degree in physical education from San Jose State. He supplemented his income by teaching at high schools in the winter.

Acquired by the Red Sox in November 1961, Bressoud hit 40 doubles and 14 home runs for Boston in 1962, 20 home runs in 1963 and 41 doubles and 15 home runs in his lone all-star season, 1964.

With the 1966 Mets, Bressoud batted .225 in 133 games.

New homes

During a March 30, 1967, spring training game between the Mets and Cardinals, Musial and Devine sat together and discussed their rosters.

Two days later, the trade was announced.

Bressoud and Buchek were the key players.

(Danny Napoleon, the outfielder with the famous surname, never would play for the Cardinals. He may be best remembered for delivering a three-run, pinch-hit triple with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Mets to a 7-6 victory over the Giants on April 24, 1965. Afterward, Mets manager Casey Stengel “pranced past the open door of the quiet Giants clubhouse, thrust up his arm and croaked, ‘Viva, La France,’ ” according to Broeg.)

The trade reunited Bressoud with Schoendienst, manager of the 1967 Cardinals.

“I’m going to a club that seems to want me … I’m ready to play anywhere Red wants me to,” Bressoud said.

Said Schoendienst: “Bressoud has a good arm and he gets rid of the ball well. He’s what we really needed, a proven utilityman who can fill in for Maxvill.”

Buchek, happy to get a chance to be a Mets starter, said, “It would have been another wasted year with the Cardinals.”

Bench player

With Maxvill providing steady play at shortstop and Shannon driving in runs as the third baseman, Bressoud didn’t play often for the 1967 Cardinals. He went hitless in his first 23 at-bats before getting a single off the Astros’ Larry Dierker on June 8, 1967.

“It’s been tough,” Bressoud said. “You replay every at-bat. You go home and punish yourself. You try to put up a false front, but if something like this doesn’t bother you, you don’t belong in the game.”

Bressoud hit his only Cardinals home run on Aug. 9 off future Hall of Famer Don Drysdale of the Dodgers.

Mostly, though, Bressoud served as a sort of player-coach.

“Eddie had some good ideas for me on playing shortstop _ and for playing second base, too,” Maxvill said. “Eddie knew how to play certain hitters and he had me make adjustments.”

Said Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson: “Eddie Bressoud has a good arm and he’s quick. He gets in front of a lot of balls that other infielders don’t even get to, but he’s not sharp enough at times because he doesn’t play enough.”

Bressoud played in 52 regular-season games, making 18 starts at shortstop, for the 1967 Cardinals and batted .134 (9-for-67). He appeared in two World Series games as a defensive replacement.

After the World Series, Bressoud retired as a player and became head baseball coach at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif. He also was a scout for the Angels.

Previously: Mike Shannon and the spring training intrigue of 1967

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In his spring training stint with the Cardinals, Mike Caldwell appeared to be a pitcher whose career was in decline. Shelled early and often, Caldwell showed no signs of developing into what he would become: a 20-game winner who would torment the Cardinals in the World Series.

Caldwell’s five-month stint as a Cardinal is a tale of a late bloomer who was in the wrong organization at the wrong time.

Forty years ago, in March 1977, Caldwell, 28, a veteran of six big-league seasons, was considered a leading candidate to fill a role in the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Instead, Caldwell was traded before he got a chance to appear in a regular-season game for St. Louis.

Giant troubles

Caldwell, a left-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1971 Padres. He had a 13-25 record in three seasons with them, then was traded to the Giants for slugger Willie McCovey.

In 1974, his first year with the Giants, Caldwell had a breakout season, posting a 14-5 record and 2.95 ERA.

After the season, Caldwell had surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow. When he returned, he struggled. “I lost some movement on my best pitch, the sinker, and I tightened up some and came sidearm at times,” Caldwell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

By 1976, Caldwell was having troubles in the Giants clubhouse as well as on the mound. “I didn’t get along with a couple of the coaches and they took it personally,” Caldwell said.

The Giants’ pitching coach was the former catcher, Buck Rodgers.

Caldwell reached a low point on April 28, 1976, when Doug Clarey hit a home run, the lone hit of his big-league career, against him in the 16th inning, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory.

Caldwell finished 1-7 with a 4.86 ERA for the 1976 Giants. “I lost my confidence, tried too hard _ overthrew, I guess you’d say _ and I didn’t do very well,” Caldwell said.

Hope rekindled

On Oct. 26, 1976, the Giants traded Caldwell, pitcher John D’Acquisto and catcher Dave Rader to the Cardinals for pitcher John Curtis, outfielder Willie Crawford and utility player Vic Harris.

“I’m just glad to get away from a bad situation,” Caldwell said of leaving the Giants.

The Cardinals slotted Caldwell for the bullpen. “It’s common knowledge that the problem with the Cardinals last year was that middle relief and late relief, except for Al Hrabosky, couldn’t get the other clubs out,” said St. Louis manager Vern Rapp.

Said Caldwell: “I have no illusions. I’ve got to prove I’m good enough to make the staff.”

Bad audition

On March 12, in the Cardinals’ 1977 spring training opener against the Mets, Caldwell pitched two innings and gave up four runs.

Three days later, Caldwell pitched an inning against the Dodgers and yielded three runs.

The Cardinals didn’t pitch him much after that.

On March 29, the Cardinals traded Caldwell to the Reds for pitcher Pat Darcy. In eight spring training innings, Caldwell yielded nine earned runs.

“Rapp called me in and told me, ‘Don’t get mad. You’re going to a contender,’ ” Caldwell said. “I wasn’t mad about that. I just thought he should’ve had some respect for me as a pitcher. That’s all I wanted: Throw me out there to see what I can do.”

Right fit

The Reds weren’t much more impressed with Caldwell than the Cardinals had been. Three months after they’d acquired him, the Reds dealt Caldwell to the Brewers.

In 1978, Caldwell got a break when the Brewers named George Bamberger their manager. Under Bamberger, who had been a pitching coach for the Orioles, Caldwell fulfilled his potential. He was 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA and 23 complete games for the 1978 Brewers.

“Lots of people had given up on me,” Caldwell said to The Sporting News, noting he was traded by four clubs, including the Cardinals. “Maybe the people who gave up on me were responsible in an indirect way for my coming back. I knew I could pitch and I hope those who gave up on me will say now, ‘Well, he had the guts to battle back and win.’ ”

The third-base coach for Bamberger’s Brewers was Buck Rodgers, with whom Caldwell had feuded in his last season with the Giants. In 1980, Rodgers replaced Bamberger as Brewers manager.

Old wounds

Early in the 1982 season, Caldwell had a run-in with Rodgers aboard a plane, The Sporting News reported. In June that year, Rodgers was fired and replaced by hitting coach Harvey Kuenn. Rodgers said disgruntled players had “tried to stab me in the back.”

Kuenn led the Brewers to the 1982 American League pennant and a matchup against St. Louis in the World Series.

Five years after he’d been dealt by the Cardinals, Caldwell would be facing them on baseball’s biggest stage.

Series drama

Caldwell, nicknamed “Mr. Warmth” by teammate Gorman Thomas because of his sometimes grumpy nature, was Kuenn’s choice to start Game 1.

Caldwell responded with a three-hit shutout in a 10-0 Brewers victory. Boxscore

Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez said he thought Caldwell was throwing a spitter, an illegal pitch. “He might have been throwing me screwballs, but I never saw a screwball drop like that,” Hernandez said.

Caldwell said he threw “natural sinkers.” Regarding the spitball accusation, Caldwell replied, “I look at it as a compliment. If the ball drops so much that they’re accusing me of throwing a spitter, I’ve got pretty good stuff.”

With the Series deadlocked at 2-2, Caldwell started Game 5 and again was the winning pitcher. He yielded 14 hits and two walks in 8.1 innings, but the Cardinals stranded 12 and the Brewers won, 6-4. Boxscore

The Cardinals won Game 6, setting up a deciding Game 7.

Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the eighth, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, two outs, when Kuenn lifted Moose Haas and replaced him with Caldwell.

Darrell Porter and Steve Braun responded with RBI-singles, stretching the St. Louis lead to 6-3, before Caldwell got Willie McGee to ground out.

Bruce Sutter set down the Brewers in order in the ninth, clinching the championship for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Previously: How Doug Clarey became Cinderella Man of Cardinals

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Though relief pitcher Clay Carroll was successful in his lone season with St. Louis, his most significant Cardinals connection came as an opponent.

clay_carrollCarroll, who played 15 seasons in the major leagues, had a career batting average of .130.

On May 30, 1969, in what The Sporting News aptly described as a storybook feat, Carroll hit the only home run of his big-league career. The improbable shot was struck against Bob Gibson in the 10th inning and it carried the Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis.

Eight years later, Carroll was traded to the Cardinals and excelled for them as a consistently reliable reliever.

Bench’s blast

Carroll, a right-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1964 Braves. He was traded to the Reds in June 1968.

His home run against Gibson occurred in the opener of a series between the Reds and Cardinals. The Reds were riding a seven-game winning streak. The Cardinals, two-time defending National League champions, were 21-23 and looking to get on track.

The Cardinals scored twice off Reds ace Jim Maloney in the first inning and added a run in the sixth against former teammate Wayne Granger for a 3-0 lead.

In the seventh, in a showdown of future Hall of Famers, Reds catcher Johnny Bench tied the score with a three-run home run. It was Bench’s first career hit against Gibson.

Carroll relieved Granger in the eighth and the game became a duel between Carroll and Gibson.

Neither team scored in the eighth and ninth.

Heavy lumber

Gibson retired the first two batters in the 10th. With Carroll pitching well, Reds manager Dave Bristol decided to let the reliever bat against Gibson, who had won five consecutive decisions.

Usually, Carroll used pitcher Tony Cloninger’s bat. This time, he borrowed the bat of outfielder Alex Johnson, a former Cardinal.

Johnson’s bats, Carroll explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “have a lot more wood in them than the one I had been using.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that Johnson’s bats “normally are about as heavy as any in baseball _ some weighing as much as 40 ounces.”

Big swat

With the count 3-and-2, Gibson delivered a high fastball. Carroll swung and lifted a towering fly ball to left field.

“I don’t want to brag, but when I hit the ball I knew it was gone,” Carroll said to United Press International. “Did you see it take off?”

The ball hit the top of the fence at Busch Stadium and bounced over the wall, giving the Reds a 4-3 lead.

“I was just swinging, trying to get on,” said Carroll. “Usually when I face Gibson, I just chop at the ball. That’s about all you can do against him.”

Said Bristol: “You should have seen the smile on Carroll’s face when he returned to the dugout. It looked like a cut watermelon.”

Bristol sent Carroll back out to pitch the bottom half of the 10th. He got Joe Hague to fly out, then walked Lou Brock. Curt Flood grounded out, moving Brock into scoring position at second. Vada Pinson, Carroll’s former Reds teammate, lined out to shortstop, ending the game.

Carroll pitched three hitless innings to earn the win. Boxscore

Championship caliber

Carroll was an important contributor to Reds teams that won NL pennants in 1970, 1972 and 1975.

In 14 World Series appearances for the Reds, Carroll was 2-1 with a save and a 1.33 ERA over 20.1 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, shutting out the Red Sox for two innings.

Dealt to the White Sox in December 1975, Carroll produced a 4-4 record, six saves and a 2.56 ERA for them in 1976.

Forty years ago, on March 23, 1977, the Cardinals acquired Carroll from the White Sox for pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.

Experience matters

The 1977 Cardinals were seeking an experienced reliever to set up closer Al Hrabosky. Carroll, 35, filled the need.

“This is obviously what we’ve been after _ consistency and experience from a right-handed reliever, a guy who’s been under fire in championship play,” said manager Vern Rapp. “We had nobody on our staff who fit those qualifications.”

Said Carroll: “I want to work as often as possible because the more I work the more consistent I am. I like the Cardinals, especially because they’re an aggressive team at bat and on the bases.”

Carroll reported to camp at 215 pounds, according to the Post-Dispatch. Rapp wanted him to be at 200 pounds when the season began. He instructed Carroll to run extra laps each day during spring training.

A master at locating his pitches, Carroll delivered for the 1977 Cardinals.

In its Aug. 20 edition, The Sporting News wrote, “When Carroll wasn’t saving games, he at least was dousing huge blazes to keep the Cardinals in the games. The tighter the situation, the more (Carroll) seemed to enjoy it.”

Noting how Carroll got batters to swing at pitches out of the zone, Dave Bristol, manager of the 1977 Braves, said, “Carroll would rather eat a green fly at home plate than throw a strike.”

One batter who did feast on Carroll’s pitches in 1977 was the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey, who hit two grand slams off him.

Still, Carroll produced a 4-2 record with four saves and a 2.50 ERA in 51 appearances for the 1977 Cardinals.

Then, on Aug. 31, they traded him back to the White Sox.

3-for-1

The trade created “a lot of eyebrow raising” because Carroll had been the Cardinals’ most consistent reliever, The Sporting News wrote.

The Cardinals were 10 games out of first place with about a month remaining in the season when the deal was made. The White Sox wanted Carroll because they were in contention for a division title, two games behind the first-place Royals.

St. Louis got three players in the deal: pitchers Silvio Martinez and Dave Hamilton and outfielder Nyls Nyman.

Carroll was disappointed to leave the Cardinals. “I thought I did a good job,” he said. “I guess they’re planning to go with a younger pitching staff next year.”

Previously: Like Shelby Miller, Silvio Martinez was special for Cards

 

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