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Byron Browne, who had thunder in his bat and holes in his swing, intrigued the Cardinals as a power-hitting prospect.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 12, 1969, the Cardinals purchased the contract of Browne from the Astros and assigned him to their farm club at Tulsa.

Browne battered baseballs with his right-handed slugging stroke, but he struck out a lot. The Cardinals wanted to see him make more contact before giving him a chance to return to the big leagues.

Working with instructors Joe Medwick and Tom Burgess, Browne hit consistently well for Tulsa and earned a promotion to the Cardinals.

Big chance

Browne was born and raised in St. Joseph, Mo., a town known as the starting point for the Pony Express and the place where outlaw Jesse James was killed.

In September 1962, Browne, 19, signed as an amateur free agent with the Pirates, played in their farm system and was chosen by the Cubs in the minor-league draft in December 1963.

On Sept. 9, 1965, Browne made his major-league debut for the Cubs, starting in left field, on the night Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game at Dodger Stadium. Browne lined out to center, grounded out to short and struck out. It also was the debut game for Cubs center fielder Don Young. Boxscore.

At spring training in 1966, Browne impressed Cubs manager Leo Durocher, who told the Chicago Tribune, “I’m going to give this boy a good, long look in center field.”

On April 21, 1966, the Cubs acquired Adolfo Phillips from the Phillies. Scouts told Durocher the only center fielders better than Phillips were Willie Mays of the Giants and Curt Flood of the Cardinals.

Durocher put Phillips in center, moved Browne to left and kept Billy Williams in right. “I possibly may have the fastest outfield in the league,” Durocher said.

Tough on Cards

Three of Browne’s best games in 1966 were against the Cardinals.

On May 26, 1966, Browne hit a two-run home run against Bob Gibson “well up into the bleachers beneath Gussie Busch’s dancing beer sign” at the new Busch Stadium, the Tribune reported. Boxscore

Two months later, on July 18, 1966, Browne hit two home runs off Larry Jaster at St. Louis. His two-run home run in the second struck the yellow foul pole in left and his three-run homer in the eighth went into the seats in left-center. Boxscore

On Sept. 18, 1966, at Chicago, Browne had three hits, including a bloop double down the right-field line against Ron Piche to drive in the winning run and end the Cardinals’ seven-game winning streak. Boxscore

Browne batted .308 in 13 games against the Cardinals in 1966, but overall his season wasn’t nearly so good. He hit 16 home runs but batted .243 and struck out a league-high 143 times.

“He’s going to be a good one someday, but he’s going to have to work … and I mean work very hard,” Durocher said.

Lord Byron

Browne spent most of the 1967 season in the minors and on May 4, 1968, the Cubs traded him to the Astros for outfielder Aaron Pointer.

Browne hit .231 in 10 games for the Astros before being sent to the minors by manager Harry Walker, who wanted him to alter his hitting approach. “I’m just not a punch-and-judy hitter,” Browne said.

The Cardinals were set in the outfield for 1969 with Lou Brock in left, Flood in center and Vada Pinson in right, so when they acquired Browne from the Astros it was with the intent he open the season at Tulsa and position himself for a promotion if needed.

Browne responded to the instruction given by Medwick, who was a Hall of Fame slugger for the Gashouse Gang Cardinals of the 1930s. Medwick told him, “Get up to the plate. You’re standing too far back in the box.”

The results were immediate. Browne had two home runs, a double and five RBI in Tulsa’s season opener.

After 14 games, Browne was batting .416 with six home runs and 25 RBI.

“Browne is a big, strong guy and he can take those short, quick strokes and hit the ball out of the country,” said Tulsa manager Warren Spahn.

Browne batted .340 with 106 hits and 79 RBI in 84 games for Tulsa.

On July 12, 1969, the Cardinals traded utility player Bob Johnson to the Athletics and called up Browne, 26, to take his spot.

Clemente’s catch

Browne played his first game for the Cardinals on July 15, 1969, against the Phillies. Starting in left field in place of Brock, who had leg cramps, Browne had a hit, a run, a RBI and three walks. Boxscore

On Sept. 11, 1969, Browne was in the starting lineup for the Cardinals in a game at Pittsburgh. The Pirates started pitcher Bob Veale, who dated Browne’s sister when Veale attended Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., across the Missouri River from Browne’s home in St. Joseph, Mo.

In his first three at-bats versus Veale, Browne struck out looking each time. According to The Pittsburgh Press, Veale set him up with fastballs and slipped sliders past him for the third strikes.

In the ninth, Veale was protecting a 3-2 lead when Browne came up with one out and a runner on first. “I tried to get cute,” Veale said. He changed his pattern, throwing a slider on the first pitch, and Browne lined it to deep right-center.

Right fielder Roberto Clemente raced toward the wall and caught the ball a step or two in front of an iron gate 435 feet from home plate.

“It would have been an inside-the-park home run because the ball would have hit the bottom of the iron gate if Clemente hadn’t made that great catch,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Clemente: “I did not look at the ball at all. All I do is run to the spot where I think it will be because I know it is over my head from the sound. If I do not do that, I never catch it.” Boxscore

Big deal

Browne finished the 1969 season with a couple of highlights against the Expos. On Sept. 27, 1969, he hit a home run against Jerry Robertson, helping Jerry Reuss win his major-league debut. Boxscore. A day later, in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, Browne tripled against Bill Stoneman, scoring Gibson from second, and scored on Joe Torre’s single. Boxscore

In 22 games for the 1969 Cardinals, Browne batted .226 with 12 hits and 14 strikeouts.

On Oct. 7, 1969, the Cardinals traded Browne, Flood, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Phillies for Richie Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. When Flood refused to report, the Cardinals sent Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to complete the deal.

Browne had the only four-hit game of his major-league career for the Phillies against the Cardinals on June 27, 1970, at St. Louis. Boxscore

On Dec. 18, 1972, the Phillies traded Browne back to the Cardinals for outfielder Keith Lampard. Browne spent the 1973 season at Tulsa, batting .259, and played in Mexico in 1974 and 1975.

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The Pirates came close to convincing the Cardinals to send them Stan Musial, but settled instead for Murry Dickson.

Seventy years ago, on Jan. 29, 1949, the Cardinals sold the contract of Dickson, a starting pitcher, to the Pirates for $125,000.

The Pirates were willing to pay almost three times as much if the Cardinals included Musial in the deal. The purchase price would have been $310,000 _ $250,000 for Musial, the reigning National League batting champion, and $60,000 for Dickson, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

One of the Cardinals’ owners was willing but the other wasn’t, so Musial remained with St. Louis.

Right stuff

Dickson was born in Tracy, Mo., a town along the Platte River in the western part of the state. He was 20 when he signed with the Cardinals in 1936.

A right-hander with a slight build, Dickson began his professional career with Grand Island of the Nebraska State League in 1937 and worked his way through the Cardinals’ system.

After posting a 22-15 record for Houston of the Texas League in 1939, Dickson was rewarded with a promotion to the Cardinals and made his major-league debut on Sept. 30, 1939, with 3.2 scoreless innings of relief against the Cubs at Chicago. Boxscore

Dickson made another September appearance with the Cardinals in 1940 after posting a 17-8 record for Columbus, Ohio. He spent all of 1941 in the minors and stuck with the Cardinals in 1942.

The Cardinals won National League pennants in 1942 and 1943. Dickson was 6-3 in 1942, 8-2 in 1943 and made a relief appearance in the World Series versus the Yankees before entering the Army.

Dickson was assigned to a reconnaissance unit in Europe during World War II, achieved the rank of sergeant and earned four battle stars. General George S. Patton wanted Dickson to be his driver, but Dickson asked to be assigned elsewhere, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

After two years of military service, Dickson returned to the Cardinals in 1946, achieved a record of 15-6 with a 2.88 ERA and helped them win another pennant. In the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox, Dickson started Game 3 and Game 7. He was the losing pitcher in Game 3 and got no decision in Game 7, though the Cardinals won.

Pursuing a deal

In his book, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said Dickson “liked to experiment with pitches. He had the widest assortment I ever saw _ fastball, curve, slider, knuckler, sinker, screwball _ and a remarkable arm.”

Dickson was 13-16 in 1947 and 12-16 in 1948, when he gave up 39 home runs, but Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer liked him and wanted him in the starting rotation.

The Pirates liked Dickson, too. He was 0-5 against them in 1948, but with a 2.17 ERA, and the Pirates were convinced he’d improve their starting staff.

After the 1948 season, the Pirates began a “relentless pursuit” of Dickson, according to The Pittsburgh Press.

Pirates majority owner and president Frank McKinney was a friend of Cardinals president Robert Hannegan, who co-owned the St. Louis club with Fred Saigh. McKinney and Hannegan were powerful figures in the national Democratic Party and confidantes of President Harry Truman.

While attending the 1948 World Series, McKinney met with Hannegan to discuss a deal for a pitcher. Hannegan offered a choice of four _ Dickson, Red Munger, Howie Pollet and Ted Wilks, The Pittsburgh Press reported.

“Dickson was the pitcher we wanted,” McKinney said.

McKinney said he and Hannegan continued to negotiate, including when they were in Washington, D.C., for Truman’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1949.

“I worked on this deal for a long time,” McKinney said.

Wait a minute

At some point, the trade talks between McKinney and Hannegan focused on Musial.

In a column headlined “Bucs Almost Had Musial,” Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams reported McKinney “had just about convinced Robert Hannegan to sell him Musial and Murry Dickson in one package.”

While at Truman’s inauguration, Hannegan, who suffered from hypertension, said he was advised by his doctor to sell his share of the Cardinals because of the stress the job was causing him. Hannegan planned to sell his share to Saigh.

McKinney’s $310,000 bid for Musial and Dickson was appealing to Hannegan, who “wanted to get back the money he invested in Cardinals stock and get out of baseball because of ill health,” the Post-Gazette reported.

When Saigh was told of the proposed Pirates deal, he objected to Musial being included. “Saigh would have blown his top had such a deal gone through,” the Post-Gazette reported, “and no one could blame him. The move would have wrecked the St. Louis club.”

On Jan. 26, 1949, Hannegan called McKinney, told him Musial wasn’t available and the price for Dickson had gone up to $125,000. “(He) told me to make up my mind within an hour,” McKinney said to The Pittsburgh Press.

McKinney called Pirates manager Billy Meyer, who said, “Get Dickson.”

Hannegan and McKinney made the deal but agreed to keep it quiet because the next day, Jan. 27, 1949, Hannegan announced he sold his shares to Saigh, who gained control of the franchise.

Two days later, it was Saigh who announced Dickson’s contract was sold to the Pirates.

Pinpoint control

Dickson was 12-14 for the 1949 Pirates, but 5-3 versus the Cardinals, who finished a game behind the pennant-winning Dodgers.

Musial said Dickson liked to pitch from behind in the count and get overeager batters to chase pitches. “He had such great control that instead of coming in there with a fat one, he could catch a corner with a pitch that looked good, but wasn’t,” Musial said.

In five seasons with the Pirates, Dickson was 66-85. He went to the Phillies in 1954 and they traded him back to the Cardinals on May 11, 1956, with Herm Wehmeier for Harvey Haddix, Stu Miller and Ben Flowers.

Dickson was 13-8 for the Cardinals in 1956 and 5-3 in 1957 before he hurt his right shoulder and was released.

He pitched for the Athletics and Yankees in 1958, making two relief appearances for New York in the World Series against the Braves, and for the Athletics again in 1959 when he was 43.

Dickson’s career record in the big leagues was 172-181, including 72-54 for the Cardinals.

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

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

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

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

Moving up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skills test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stiff competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down on the farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Born and raised near Pittsburgh, John Stuper wanted to pitch for the hometown Pirates, went to the Cardinals instead and became a World Series winner as a rookie.

Forty years ago, on Jan. 25, 1979, the Pirates traded Stuper to the Cardinals for infielder Tommy Sandt.

The minor-league move turned into a big deal for the Cardinals, but not before Stuper had to revive a career headed in reverse.

Hometown hopeful

A native of Butler, Pa., 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, Stuper was a baseball and basketball standout in high school. In three seasons as a college pitcher, he had a 34-3 record. The right-hander was 25-3 in two years at Butler County Community College and 9-0 for Point Park College in downtown Pittsburgh.

The Pirates chose Stuper in the 18th round of the June 1978 amateur draft, offered a $2,500 bonus and signed him that night.

“It’s been my lifelong dream to be a professional baseball player,” Stuper said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I know the odds are against making it to the majors, but I’m not thinking about that now.”

Years later, asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch why he wasn’t drafted in a higher round, Stuper replied, “The rap on me in high school and later in college was I labored too much and didn’t have a smooth enough delivery.”

Stuper was assigned to the Pirates’ Class A club at Charleston, S.C., and posted a 4-8 record and 5.33 ERA.

“He still has a few mechanical problems he has to correct,” said Pirates farm director Murray Cook.

Said Stuper: “I learned a lot. It was an adjustment getting used to being away from home and playing against better talent.”

Climbing the ladder

Four months after his first professional season ended, Stuper was called at home by Cook, who told him of the trade to the Cardinals.

“I was a little disappointed when I was traded, but my friends encouraged me to think positively that the Cardinals wanted me, not that the Pirates didn’t,” Stuper said to The Pittsburgh Press.

In the Cardinals’ minor-league system, Stuper had ERAs of 2.71 in 1979 and 2.41 in 1980. After the 1979 season, he enrolled at LaRoche College in McCandless, Pa., and earned a degree in English. After the 1980 season, he pitched winter baseball in Mexico.

When Stuper got to Cardinals spring training camp in 1981, he was “in midseason form,” he later told the Post-Dispatch, because of his work in Mexico.

Stuper impressed the Cardinals, who conceded he pitched well enough to deserve a role on the Opening Day roster, but they sent him to Class AAA Springfield, Ill., so he could pitch regularly as a starter.

“He’s going to be a good pitcher,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog. “He’s been awfully impressive.”

A step back

Stuper struggled at Springfield and couldn’t get untracked. When the major-league players went on strike in June 1981, Herzog said he intended to go to Springfield “to see what’s wrong with Stuper,” who had lost seven of nine decisions.

Turns out the toll of pitching in Mexico, followed by a spring training workload, left Stuper out of sorts during the 1981 season. He finished with a 6-14 record and 4.92 ERA.

“In the long run, pitching in the winter hurt me,” Stuper said. “My arm was very fatigued all season.”

Stuper went home and worked to get his arm in shape, but he had a poor spring training in 1982 and the Cardinals sent him to Class AAA Louisville in mid-March.

A year after being the surprise of spring training camp, Stuper went to Louisville knowing he needed a good showing to get back in the Cardinals’ plans.

Mission accomplished

“One of my goals this year is to show that last season was a fluke,” Stuper said to the Associated Press.

After taking the loss on Opening Night, Stuper won seven consecutive decisions for Louisville and was 7-1 with a 1.46 ERA when he was called up to the Cardinals on May 28, 1982.

“I was shooting for September,” Stuper said to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I would have been happy with that, so obviously I’m elated with this.”

Stuper made his major-league debut on June 1, 1982, in a start against the Giants at St. Louis. He pitched eight innings, allowing three runs, tripled against Atlee Hammaker and scored the tying run, but the Giants prevailed, 4-3, in 11. Boxscore

Giants first baseman Reggie Smith, a former Cardinal, said, “I liked the young guy’s guts. He challenges you.”

Said Stuper: “I thought my stuff was OK, but I wasn’t real sharp. I was getting behind on too many hitters. My location wasn’t as good as I like it to be.”

Homeward bound

Stuper won four of his first five decisions with the Cardinals.

On Aug. 14, 1982, Stuper pitched in Pittsburgh for the first time as a big-leaguer, getting the start against the Pirates. He yielded one run in 7.1 innings, earning the win in a 4-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t kind of special. Very special,” Stuper said. “I always dreamed about coming here to pitch for the Pirates. The day I got traded, I started dreaming about coming here to pitch against them.”

Stuper finished his rookie season with a 9-7 record and 3.36 ERA, helping the Cardinals win the National League East Division title.

In the postseason, he made three starts and the Cardinals won all three, though he didn’t get a decision in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves or in Game 2 of the World Series versus the Brewers.

Stuper did win Game 6 of the 1982 World Series, pitching a four-hitter in a 13-1 Cardinals victory and setting up a decisive Game 7 won by St. Louis.

Stuper was 12-11 for the Cardinals in 1983 and 3-5 in 1984 before he was traded to the Reds for outfielder Paul Householder.

In 1989, Stuper earned a master’s degree in English from Slippery Rock University. He was a Cardinals minor-league pitching instructor in 1991 and 1992 before becoming head baseball coach at Yale in 1993.

Stuper was entering his 27th season as head coach at Yale in 2019.

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Six months after he damaged his personal reputation, Vince Coleman got a chance to extend his baseball career because he maintained a valued professional reputation.

Twenty-five years ago, on Jan. 5, 1994, the Royals traded one problem player, Kevin McReynolds, to the Mets for another, Coleman.

McReynolds was a bust in two seasons with the Royals, who got him from the Mets after the 1991 season, and they were glad to send him back. McReynolds was an underachiever, but, unlike Coleman, he didn’t get in trouble with the law for injuring people.

Coleman disgraced himself when, as a prank, he tossed an explosive device similar to a grenade toward a group of baseball fans, injuring three. He was charged with a felony and the Mets wanted no part of him.

The Royals took a public relations risk in acquiring Coleman, but justified the move because of their need for a premier leadoff batter.

Big trouble

Coleman made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in 1985, established a rookie record with 110 stolen bases, sparked the club to a pennant and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He led the league in stolen bases in each of his six seasons with St. Louis (1985-90).

After the 1990 season, Coleman became a free agent and signed with the Mets.

On July 24, 1993, Coleman tossed a M-100, described by authorities as a military device used to simulate grenades, into a Dodger Stadium parking lot where people gathered to seek autographs from players. The M-100, which packed the equivalent power of a quarter-stick of dynamite, exploded and injured a 2-year-old girl, an 11-year-old boy and a 33-year-old woman, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A month later, on Aug. 26, 1993, the Mets cut their connection to Coleman. Club co-owner Fred Wilpon said Coleman “will not play here again as a Met” regardless of the legal outcome of the case.

On Nov. 5, 1993, Coleman pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possession of an explosive device, a misdemeanor. A one-year jail term was suspended. He was given three years of probation and assigned 200 hours of community service. He also agreed to make restitution to the people he injured.

Limited market

After the plea bargain was reached, the Royals contacted the Mets about a trade, the New York Daily News reported. Felix Jose and Brian McRae were the Royals’ primary leadoff batters in 1993 but both were better suited for other spots in the order. The Royals saw Coleman, 32, as being similar to Willie Wilson, the leadoff man for their pennant-winning clubs in 1980 and 1985.

Until the Royals got interested in Coleman, “I didn’t think we would be able to trade him,” Mets general manager Joe McIvaine said to the Los Angeles Times.

Coleman’s former Cardinals manager, Whitey Herzog, who was in charge of baseball operations with the Angels, explored the possibility of acquiring him, but the Royals were more aggressive.

The Royals wanted the Mets take McReynolds, who was described by Kansas City Star columnist Jonathan Rand as a “sluggish underachiever” and “a player who didn’t seem to care how he looked on the field.”

When he played for the Mets from 1987-91, McReynolds was booed by fans and criticized by media. Before he was dealt to the Royals as part of a package for pitcher Bret Saberhagen, McReynolds, an Arkansas native, said New Yorkers “like to kick someone when they’re down.”

Eager to rid themselves of Coleman, the Mets agreed to take back McReynolds.

Opinions and explanations

Media mocked the trade. A headline in the New York Daily News called it, “Slop Swap,” and the New York Post countered with, “Tradin’ Fools.”

Daily News columnist Vic Ziegel declared the Mets got the best of the deal “because McReynolds will not have to spend the coming season splitting his time between the playing field and visits to his probation officer.”

“The Royals are the last organization in baseball you should have expected to obtain Coleman,” Jonathan Rand observed in the Kansas City Star. “Ever since their drug scandal of 1983, they have bent over backward to avoid problem players, and Coleman has the worst reputation of any player in the major leagues.”

Royals general manager Herk Robinson and vice president of baseball operations George Brett met with Coleman and talked with people who knew him before making the deal.

“We cannot condone Vince’s past conduct off the field, but George and I have spent a lot of time with Vince,” Robinson said. “We’re convinced Vince can be a solid citizen on the field and make a contribution in the community. We strongly believe he deserves an opportunity.”

Coleman “recognizes what he did was stupid and is genuinely sorry about it and highly motivated to resume his career,” Robinson said.

“We were convinced Vince Coleman is not a bad person,” Robinson said. “I think there’s a difference between somebody who’s a bad person and someone who made a mistake.”

Brett told The Sporting News, “If the reports had come back negative, I don’t think we would have made the trade.”

Coleman said, “What I did was wrong and I’m very sorry.”

At home in KC

Cardinals fans saw irony in Coleman landing with the Royals. During the 1985 National League Championship Series, an automatic tarpaulin at Busch Stadium in St. Louis accidently rolled over Coleman’s left leg and chipped a bone. The injury prevented Coleman from playing in the 1985 World Series against the Royals, who won four of seven from the Cardinals.

“I think if he’d have been healthy in the ’85 Series, we would have lost,” Brett said to the Kansas City Star on the day the Royals acquired Coleman.

The Royals opened the 1994 season with two games at Baltimore before playing their home opener on April 8 versus the Indians. Coleman “received a hearty welcome” from the 38,496 in attendance, according to the Kansas City Star.

Cheers grew louder in the fifth inning when Coleman got a single, his first hit as a Royal, and stole second base. In the eighth, Coleman hit a home run against Derek Lilliquist. Boxscore

“It was very special to hear the response from the fans,” Coleman said. “The way they cheered, it was all very motivating. Even when I was in left field, they were shouting encouraging things.”

Coleman batted .240 for the 1994 Royals and ranked second in the American League in both triples (12) and stolen bases (50) in the strike-shortened season.

McReynolds batted .256 with four home runs for the Mets in 1994, his final season as a player.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in the family

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

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

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

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

Cardinals connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New roles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversial comments

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

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

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

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