Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Nine months after they got him from the Cardinals, the Phillies considered trading Steve Carlton, even though he was the dominant pitcher in the National League.

Multiple teams made offers for Carlton after the Phillies said they might deal him in exchange for five or six premium players.

The Dodgers came closest to making a trade, but the tempting offer fell through when the Phillies countered with a demand for Don Sutton.

Fitting with Phillies

Carlton was acquired by the Phillies from the Cardinals in February 1972 for pitcher Rick Wise. Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, angry because Carlton didn’t give in to contract terms, ordered general manager Bing Devine to trade him.

A left-hander who was 77-62 in seven seasons with St. Louis, Carlton pitched phenomenally for the Phillies in 1972. He led the league in wins (27), ERA (1.97), complete games (30), innings pitched (346.1) and strikeouts (310). He was a unanimous choice for the Cy Young Award.

After losing six of his first 11 decisions in 1972, Carlton won 15 in a row and finished with a 27-10 record for the last-place Phillies (59-97). Carlton accounted for 46 percent of the club’s wins. In four starts versus the Cardinals, Carlton was 4-0 with an 0.50 ERA. He allowed them two runs in 36 innings, making Busch pay a price greater than salary for his foolishness.

With the 1972 Phillies, Carlton started every fourth day, a schedule he said he liked.

With the Cardinals, Carlton started every fifth day. “That was because everything revolved around Bob Gibson,” Carlton told The Sporting News. “He was the ace of the staff and Gibby required four days rest between starts. So, to set up a rotation, the rest of the staff had to give way. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but that’s the way it was.

“Just working every fourth day was a big help. I was able to develop a high rate of consistency. I was able to keep my rhythm.”

Headline grabber

Soon after the 1972 season ended, Carlton and three other big-league players, Tim McCarver, Joe Hoerner and Pat Jarvis, were on a hunting trip to Montana when they were ordered off their commercial flight.

Frontier Airline officials said the four players refused a flight attendant’s request to turn off a tape recorder they were playing and stop drinking liquor they brought onboard, United Press International reported.

The pilot landed the plane in Casper, Wyoming, and the four ballplayers were removed for refusing to observe federal regulations. According to United Press International, the group chartered a plane and continued on to Montana.

Carlton made more headlines when columnist Dick Young reported in The Sporting News that the Pirates were pursuing a trade with the Phillies. According to Young, the Pirates were ready to offer second baseman Dave Cash, outfielder Gene Clines, catcher Milt May and pitcher Luke Walker for Carlton. Another version had the Pirates offering May, pitcher Dock Ellis and second baseman Rennie Stennett, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente confirmed to the Associated Press that the Pirates were negotiating with the Phillies for Carlton.

Explaining what it would take for a team to get Carlton, Phillies general manager Paul Owens told the Philadelphia Daily News, “Just to start with, I’d have to have two pitchers capable of winning 25 games between them. From there, I think we’d have to wind up with five or six players we feel can help us.”

Owens’ comment seemed to scare off the Pirates, whose general manager Joe Brown said, “We’d be interested in Carlton … but we won’t tear apart our club to land him.”

Several other clubs, though, showed serious interest.

Ready to deal

During the baseball winter meetings at Honolulu in late November, a headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer declared: “Carlton figures to be ex-Phil before end of week.”

“Carlton represents the Phillies’ only real bargaining power if they decide to make the sweeping changes that would be necessary for them to become a contender,” the Inquirer explained.

Though Owens conceded trading Carlton would be unpopular with Phillies fans, he said, “If I thought I could make a trade for Steve that would help us become a pennant contender, and if I didn’t do it, then I might as well admit I’m in the wrong job. It’s going to take a certain amount of guts to trade Steve Carlton. I’m not necessarily saying I’m going to trade him, but I am saying I have the guts to do it.”

The Athletics, Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Red Sox made offers for Carlton at the winter meetings. According to the Inquirer, the Giants’ offer included outfielder Bobby Bonds and first baseman Willie McCovey, and the Athletics’ bid featured pitcher Ken Holtzman and first baseman Mike Epstein.

The only one that interested Owens came from the Dodgers.

Tempting offer

“You wouldn’t believe the deal the Phillies turned down for Steve Carlton,” Dick Young wrote in The Sporting News.

The Dodgers offered pitchers Claude Osteen and Bill Singer, outfielders Willie Crawford and Bobby Valentine, and second baseman Lee Lacy. “A hell of a package,” the Philadelphia Daily News declared.

Owens countered by asking for Don Sutton to be one of the pitchers the Dodgers dealt. “The deal would have been made if Sutton’s name had replaced Singer or Osteen,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“We made a valid, honest offer, but trading Sutton was out of the question,” Dodgers general manager Al Campanis said. “He’s our ace, with youth and a great future ahead of him. We wanted Carlton to form a one-two punch like Drysdale and Koufax.

“I can’t criticize Owens for failing to make the deal. It’s going to take a lot of courage for him to make any deal for Carlton, but I think what we offered snapped some eyebrows to attention. We made them sit down and do a lot of soul-searching.”

A few hours after the Phillies rejected the Campanis offer, the Dodgers acquired pitcher Andy Messersmith and third baseman Ken McMullen for Singer, Valentine, outfielder Frank Robinson, infielder Billy Grabarkewitz and pitcher Mike Strahler.

Carlton stayed with the Phillies and helped them win two pennants and a World Series championship. He and Sutton both got elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Read Full Post »

Stan Javier seemed destined to become a Cardinals player, but although he had the name, pedigree and skills, it didn’t happen.

Forty years ago, on March 26, 1981, Javier signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent.

Stan was the son of Julian Javier, a second baseman who helped the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series championships in the 1960s.

Julian named his son in honor of Stan Musial, who was Julian’s Cardinals teammate from 1960-63.

An outfielder and first baseman who batted from both sides, Stan Javier went on to play 17 seasons in the majors for eight teams, but not the Cardinals.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch aptly noted, “Stan Javier would have been an ideal Cardinals player, a switch-hitter who can run and play more than one position.”

A good name

Stan Javier was born on Jan. 9, 1964, and raised in the Dominican Republic. He was one of five children of Julian and Ynez Javier. Stan’s older brother, Julian Jr., became a doctor.

Asked why he named a son Stan, Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch, “I wanted my son to be like Stan Musial. Stan Musial is a gentleman.”

Musial was playing in his last season in 1963 when Julian Sr. told him that Ynez was pregnant and the child would be a boy. “He said, ‘Why don’t you name him after me?’ ” Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch. “I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ Stan’s a good name for him.”

In 1990, Stan Javier said of Stan Musial, “I don’t know him that well, but I knew who he was and knew all about him when I was growing up in the Dominican.”

When Stan Javier was a toddler, he spent some summers visiting his father in St. Louis and went with him to Busch Memorial Stadium. In 1988, Stan Javier told the Post-Dispatch, “I remember the stadium, the clubhouse, the players _ Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.”

Making an impression

Stan Javier developed into a talented youth baseball player in the Dominican Republic. In 1981, soon after Stan turned 17, he and his father showed up at Cardinals spring training camp in Florida. Julian Sr. wanted the Cardinals to take a look at his son and offer him a contract.

Impressed, the Cardinals signed Stan and told him to report in June to their farm team in Johnson City, Tenn., following his graduation from high school in the Dominican Republic.

Stan hit .250 in 53 games for Johnson City in 1981. At home after the season, he worked with his father to improve his game. “He pitched batting practice to me a lot and worked on my stance,” Stan said to The Sporting News.

When Stan reported to Johnson City in 1982, he hit “with authority,” said director of player development Lee Thomas.

Wearing No. 6, the same as Musial had, and playing on a Johnson City team with Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton, Stan hit .276 in 57 games. “Stan definitely is a major-league prospect,” Johnson City manager Rich Hacker told The Sporting News.

All business 

On Jan. 24, 1983, the Cardinals and Yankees traded minor leaguers. The Cardinals sent Javier and infielder Bobby Meacham to the Yankees for outfielder Bob Helson and pitchers Steve Fincher and Marty Mason.

The Post-Dispatch reported the deal was to appease Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who held hard feelings toward the Cardinals for sending him an injured player, Bob Sykes, in exchange for Willie McGee 15 months earlier.

In 1988, looking back on the deal, Stan Javier told the Post-Dispatch, “That trade was the hardest thing for me … I really was just starting to learn how to play.”

The Yankees brought Stan to the majors in April 1984. Eight months later, he was part of a package sent by the Yankees to the Athletics for Rickey Henderson.

Be yourself

Stan became a role player for the Athletics under manager Tony La Russa.

In 1988, Julian Sr. told the Post-Dispatch, “My son has been playing good ball and he’ll be a good player, but not like Stan Musial.”

“I wish I could hit like Stan Musial and catch the ball like Julian Javier,” Stan Javier said to reporter Dave Luecking. “That would be nice. I admire those players, but there’s no way I can be those two. You have to be your own person. If you try to be like someone else, you’re in trouble. I hit like Stan Javier and catch like Stan Javier.”

Stan got to play in two World Series (1988 and 1989) with the Athletics. According to the Post-Dispatch, Julian and Stan Javier were the third father and son to get World Series hits. The others were Jim and Mike Hegan, and Bob and Terry Kennedy.

Happy homecoming

In May 1990, the Athletics traded Stan to the Dodgers for Willie Randolph. When the Dodgers went to St. Louis that month for a series against the Cardinals, Stan got to play at Busch Memorial Stadium for the first time as a major leaguer. He hadn’t been to the ballpark since he was a child.

On May 26, he entered the game as a substitute and hit a three-run triple against Scott Terry. Boxscore

The next night, Stan, starting in center field and batting second, was 4-for-6 against the Cardinals. He scored three runs and drove in one. Boxscore

For the series, Stan was 5-for-8 with four RBI.

“It felt gratifying to have a good game here,” Stan told the Post-Dispatch.

Swing and miss

After La Russa left the Athletics to manage the Cardinals, he and general manager Walt Jocketty tried to acquire Stan.

The Cardinals had “considerable interest” in making a trade with the Giants for Stan in November 1998, the Post-Dispatch reported, but the Astros got him instead.

When Stan became a free agent after the 1999 season, the Post-Dispatch predicted the Cardinals would “go hard after Stan.”

“I think he can play a lot and protect us in the outfield,” Jocketty said.

Instead, Stan signed with the Mariners and finished his playing days with them. Video

Stan produced 1,358 career hits. He batted .270 against left-handers and .269 versus right-handers.

His career numbers against the Cardinals included a .366 on-base percentage and .271 batting average.

Read Full Post »

(Updated March 19, 2021)

From the first game he pitched in the National League to the last, Stan Williams had a significant connection to the Cardinals.

A right-hander with a reputation for intimidating batters, Williams played in the majors for 14 seasons. He died on Feb. 20, 2021, at 84.

Williams was 21 when he made his big-league debut for the Dodgers against the Cardinals at St. Louis in July 1958. He was 35 when he pitched his final National League game as a Cardinals reliever in September 1971.

Williams’ time with the Cardinals was brief, but successful. He made 10 relief appearances for them and was 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA.

Big and fast

Born in New Hampshire, Williams was a toddler when his family moved to Denver. He played organized baseball for the first time in high school and attracted scouts because of his fastball. “I was a Stan Musial fan and kept track of his hits every day,” Williams said in the book “We Played the Game.”

Williams was 17 when the Dodgers signed him in 1954 and sent him to the minors.

It was at Newport News in 1955, he said, that he got the reputation for being mean. The Dodgers taught pitchers “that when you got ahead of a hitter you kept him off the outside corner by pitching him in and knocking him back or down,” Williams told author Danny Peary.

“I just started rearing back and throwing it as hard as I could at their chins and let them get out of the way.”

Williams, who grew to 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, was imposing and erratic. In 242 innings for Newport News, he struck out 301, walked 158 and hit 16 batters.

After a teammate, catcher Bob Schmidt, taught him to throw a slider during winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Williams progressed. He was in his fifth season in the minors when he got called up to the Dodgers in 1958.

Joltin’ Joe

Williams made his debut in the majors on May 17, 1958, at St. Louis. Entering in the fifth, he worked two scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the seventh. Joe Cunningham hit a two-run home run against him. Boxscore

A left-handed hitter, Cunningham battered Williams throughout his career. In 36 plate appearances versus Williams, Cunningham had 13 hits, eight walks and twice was hit by pitches _ an on-base percentage of .639. His career batting average against Williams was .500.

That’s entertainment

Two months after his debut versus the Cardinals, Williams had a noteworthy encounter with them. 

On Aug. 15, 1958, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Williams, 21, was matched against the Cardinals’ Sal Maglie, 41, a former Dodger nicknamed “The Barber” for the close shaves he gave batters with pitches.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals were “highly irritated” by the amount of time Williams was taking to deliver pitches. When Williams came to bat in the fourth, Maglie “took off his shoe, emptied it of dirt and slowly put it on again, tying his laces with much care.”

As the crowd roared, Williams backed out of the box and “kicked some imaginary mud from his cleats,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

Then Williams stepped back in and hit Maglie’s first pitch over the high screen in left for a home run, his first in the majors. Boxscore

Teddy bear

“Nobody in the league has a better fastball than Stan Williams,” Cardinals slugger Ken Boyer told the Los Angeles Times in 1960.

As part of a Dodgers rotation that featured Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, Williams’ signature pitch was the knockdown.

“In all the years I played, he was the only guy who ever scared me _ and he was on my team,” Ron Fairly, a first baseman for the Dodgers and Cardinals, told the San Francisco Examiner. “The thing about Stan, he was so big and strong, and he threw as hard as Koufax. The difference was Sandy was not mean. Stan was very mean.”

Roger Craig, a former Dodgers and Cardinals pitcher, said, “He was the meanest pitcher I ever saw. Everyone thought Drysdale was so mean, but Stan was far worse.”

One year, Williams had a clause in his contract calling for a $500 bonus if he kept his season walk total to less than 75. According to the San Francisco Examiner, as he neared the mark, he plunked a batter when the count got to ball three rather than risk a walk.

“It was a game of intimidation in those days,” Williams said. “I was never a headhunter. I never pitched with the idea of hurting anyone. I don’t think I’ve ever been mean. What I had was a very competitive streak. That helped give me an edge. So I took advantage of it.”

Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson could relate. In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “Guys like Don Drysdale, Stan Williams and Sandy Koufax raised the level of competition by claiming their territory and daring you to take it from them.

“The fact is,” said Gibson, “knockdowns were commonplace in my day, and guys like Drysdale and Stan Williams employed them more liberally than I did.”

Big hurt

In August 1960, Williams was matched against Lew Burdette of the Braves. “Burdette used to dig a hole in front of the mound” with his foot, Williams told The Sporting News. “To avoid it, I pitched from the side of the rubber. On a pitch to Lee Maye, I slipped and my back went one way and my arm the other. I felt something snap.”

Williams said he thinks he tore a muscle in his right arm or shoulder, but he kept pitching. He had win totals for the Dodgers of 14 in 1960, 15 in 1961 and 14 in 1962, but he said the pain got progressively worse.

“I pitched with tears running down my cheeks many a time after I hurt my arm in 1960,” Williams told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The Dodgers traded Williams to the Yankees after the 1962 season, but “there were times when I couldn’t raise my arm, so I started throwing from the hip,” he said. 

The Yankees shipped Williams to the Indians in March 1965. He spent most of that season and all of 1966 in the minors.

Williams was with Class AAA Portland in 1967 “when the adhesions popped again and I regained my strong arm.”

Called up to the Indians in July 1967, Williams posted six wins and a 2.62 ERA. The next year, he won 13 and had a 2.50 ERA.

The Twins acquired Williams after the 1969 season and made him a reliever. He was 10-1 with 15 saves and a 1.99 ERA in 1970, helping them win a division title.

Perfect record

On Sept. 1, 1971, the Twins traded Williams to the Cardinals for outfielder Fred Rico and pitcher Danny Ford.

Cardinals scout Joe Monahan, who recommended Williams, told the Post-Dispatch, “He’s not going to be overwhelmed by a pennant race.”

On Sept. 7, 1971, Williams got a win against the Phillies in the completion of a game suspended from Aug. 1. Boxscore

He also got relief wins against the Cubs and Mets. Boxscore and Boxscore

The Cardinals released Williams in April 1972. He surfaced in the American League with the Red Sox and pitched his final three games in the majors.

Coach and dad

Williams was a coach for pennant-winning Red Sox (1975) and Yankees (1981) clubs, and the 1990 World Series champion Reds. 

When Williams was the Reds’ pitching coach, they developed a trio of intimidating relievers called the “Nasty Boys.”

In 1976, Williams’ son, Stan Jr., a high school pitcher and outfielder, was chosen by the Cardinals in the 11th round of the amateur baseball draft. Stan Jr. opted to attend the University of Southern California. He signed with the Yankees after they drafted him in the 38th round in 1981 and pitched for two seasons in their farm system.

Read Full Post »

An injury to Tommy Herr opened a path to the big leagues with the Cardinals for Rafael Santana.

Forty years ago, on Feb. 16, 1981, the Cardinals purchased the contract of Santana, a minor-league infielder, from the Yankees on a conditional basis. The Cardinals wanted to take a look at Santana in training camp before deciding whether to keep him or send him back to the Yankees.

After choosing to retain Santana and assigning him to their farm system, the Cardinals agreed to give the Yankees a player to be named as compensation.

Santana remained in the minors the next two seasons and wasn’t prominent in the Cardinals’ plans when spring training began in 1983, but that changed when Herr, their second baseman, got sidelined because of a knee injury.

Santana made the 1983 Cardinals’ Opening Day roster as a backup infielder. A year later, he replaced Jose Oquendo as Mets shortstop. He still was the starter at that position in 1986 when the Mets became World Series champions.

Minor prospect

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Santana was 18 when he signed with the Yankees in 1976. He spent four seasons (1977-80) in their farm system, with Class AA being the highest level he reached.

When the Cardinals acquired Santana in 1981, they sent him to their Class AA club at Arkansas. He played shortstop and batted .233 for the season.

For a while that year, it seemed the Cardinals had gotten the worst of the deal.

Go figure

On June 7, 1981, four months after they got Santana, the Cardinals sent pitcher George Frazier, who was with their Springfield, Ill., farm team, to the Yankees as the player to be named, completing the transaction.

The move got little attention. A right-hander, Frazier was 3-11 with three saves in parts of three seasons (1978-80) with the Cardinals.

“I had three trials and I really had not done a magnificent job,” Frazier told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was getting to a stagnant situation.”

The Yankees sent him to their farm team in Columbus, Ohio. “I thought I was going from one graveyard to another,” Frazier said.

After Yankees minor-league coach Sammy Ellis changed Frazier’s delivery and taught him to throw a forkball, he thrived. In 27 appearances for Columbus, Frazier was 4-1 with nine saves.

In August 1981, when closer Goose Gossage developed shoulder soreness, the Yankees called up Frazier and he gave the bullpen a boost. In 16 relief appearances for the Yankees, Frazier had three saves and a 1.63 ERA. He also won Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Athletics.

The storybook run from Cardinals reject to Yankees standout skidded to a halt in the 1981 World Series. Frazier was the losing pitcher in Games 3, 4 and 6 versus the Dodgers.

Getting a chance

With Class AAA Louisville in 1982, Santana primarily played third base and also made starts at shortstop and second. A right-handed batter, he impressed the Cardinals by learning to hit to the opposite field. His .286 batting mark was the best he produced since becoming a professional.

When Santana went to spring training in 1983, “it was unlikely” he would make the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster, the Post-Dispatch reported. The defending World Series champions were set at the three positions Santana played. Starters were Herr at second, Ozzie Smith at short and Ken Oberkfell at third. Mike Ramsey was the backup at second and short. Jamie Quirk could fill in at third.

When Herr injured his left knee and needed arthroscopic surgery in March, Ramsey took over at second and the Cardinals sought a backup. The candidates were a pair of rookies: Santana and Kelly Paris.

Santana, 25, emerged as the favorite. One reason: he was out of options. If the Cardinals sent Santana to the minors, he would have to clear waivers before they could recall him. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog also rated Santana “a better infielder defensively” than Paris, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“What he’s really done is grow up a lot,” Herzog said of Santana. “He’s more mature than he was when we got him.”

The Cardinals opened the 1983 season with Ramsey at second, Herr on the disabled list and Santana as the backup middle infielder.

Coming through

On April 29, 1983, Herr was reinstated to the roster but the Cardinals kept Santana. That night, Santana got his first big-league hit, a single against the Giants’ Jim Barr. Boxscore

Two weeks later, the Cardinals played the Giants again. In the top of the ninth, with the Cardinals trailing by a run, Santana made his fourth plate appearance in the majors, batting with the bases loaded and two outs.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Santana told the Post-Dispatch. “I’m never nervous in this game.”

Santana blooped a two-run single against Gary Lavelle, putting the Cardinals ahead. “I didn’t hit it good,” Santana said. “It was off the end of the bat, but there was nobody there to catch it.”

The Giants rallied for two runs versus Bruce Sutter in the bottom half of the inning and won. Boxscore

On June 16, Ramsey went on the disabled because of a back ailment. When he returned in July, Santana was shipped to Louisville.

Santana played in 30 games for the 1983 Cardinals, made one start at second base and hit .214. At Louisville, he mostly played third and batted .281.

Big Apple adventures

As a veteran of six seasons in the minors, Santana was eligible to become a free agent. Unable to keep him, the Cardinals released him on Jan. 17, 1984.

“He’s not flashy, but he’s always consistent, always makes the plays,” Cardinals director of player development Lee Thomas told the New York Daily News. “That son of a gun made a good hitter out of himself. He wasn’t as good a hitter when we got him as he was when we let him go.”

The Dodgers, Mets and Tigers made Santana offers. “I picked the Mets because I thought I had a better chance with this organization as a utility player,” Santana told the Daily News. “When I signed, I didn’t dream I could become the regular shortstop.”

Jose Oquendo was the Mets’ shortstop, but he fell into disfavor with manager Davey Johnson. “Oquendo can be a great shortstop, but right now he doesn’t know how to play shortstop,” Johnson said to the Daily News. “He has a great arm, but doesn’t know how to use it. Rafael Santana knows how to play shortstop.”

Santana replaced Oquendo as the Mets’ shortstop in July 1984. Nine months later, Oquendo was traded to the Cardinals.

In 1986, Santana’s fielding was a factor in the Mets’ success. He fielded flawlessly in the National League Championship Series versus the Astros and made one error in 58 innings against the Red Sox in the World Series.

After the 1987 season, Santana was traded to the Yankees and he was their shortstop in 1988. After sitting out the 1989 season following elbow surgery, Santana closed his playing career in a brief stint with the Indians.

Santana played in the infield with first baseman Keith Hernandez for three franchises: Cardinals (1983), Mets (1984-87) and Indians (1990).

Read Full Post »

During his time in the Cardinals’ organization, Tommy Sandt won a labor grievance, played in the same infield with Tony La Russa and Jim Riggleman, and got traded for a pitcher who became a World Series hero.

Though he never played in the majors for the Cardinals, Sandt was in their farm system after being acquired from the Athletics.

It was an unconventional adventure.

Hanging in there

Sandt was chosen by the Athletics in the second round of the 1969 amateur baseball draft. He said he almost quit in 1973 when he was demoted from Class AA Birmingham to Class A Burlington, but Burlington manager Rene Lachemann convinced him to keep trying. “He saved my career,” Sandt told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Sandt hit .301 for Burlington and began to advance again. In 1975, his seventh season in the minors, Sandt was called up to the Athletics in June, made his debut in the majors as a defensive replacement at second base in a game against the Angels, and was sent back down. He hit .309 for Class AAA Tucson in 1975.

At spring training in 1976, Sandt was considered a longshot to earn a spot with the Athletics until he caught the attention of manager Chuck Tanner during a baserunning drill.

“The A’s wore white shoes then and I didn’t have any, so someone loaned me some new white shoes,” Sandt told the Pittsburgh Press. “I wore them to run the bases and came up with blisters. They started bleeding and Chuck told me to go in and change my shoes. I told him I’d gut it out. I didn’t know it, but Chuck told me later I made the club right there.”

Tanner confirmed to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, “Tommy made my club that day. I figured if a guy will do that, he must want it bad.”

Sandt spent the 1976 season with the Athletics as a backup to second baseman Phil Garner and shortstop Bert Campaneris, played in 41 games and hit .209.

Instead of it being the start to a playing career in the majors, it turned out to be the end.

Money matters

Though Jack McKeon had become Athletics manager after cash-strapped club owner Charlie Finley traded Tanner to the Pirates, Sandt figured to be back with the team in 1977.

At spring training, Sandt got into a contract squabble with Finley. Rather than negotiate, Finley invoked a clause to renew Sandt’s contract and cut his salary by more than 20 percent. Under baseball’s labor agreement with the players’ union, Finley had the right to renew Sandt’s contract but the maximum he could cut a salary was 20 percent.

Sandt filed a grievance. Finley retaliated by selling Sandt’s contract to the Cardinals on March 26, 1977.

Off and on

The Cardinals assigned Sandt, 26, to their Class AAA New Orleans farm club. New Orleans opened its season with a double-play combination of Tony La Russa at second and Sandt at shortstop. In a game against Iowa, Sandt and La Russa each hit a home run.

La Russa, in his final season as a player before embarking on a Hall of Fame managing career, also was serving as a coach for New Orleans manager Lance Nichols. Ken Oberkfell eventually took over at second base. La Russa managed New Orleans for five games while Nichols was treated for lymphoma.

In the book, “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission,” Oberkfell recalled a lesson he learned from La Russa and Sandt after Oklahoma City baserunner Lonnie Smith upended him on a slide into second.

“I guess it was kind of a cheap shot, but I didn’t really know any better and I didn’t think anything about it,” Oberkfell said. “I got to the bench after the inning and Tony and Tommy Sandt came up to me and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get him for you.’ I was like, ‘Get who for what?’ That was a part of the game I really didn’t know much about.”

On May 28, 1977, an arbitrator who reviewed Sandt’s grievance against Finley ruled in favor of Sandt, declared the contract invalid and made him a free agent.

Sandt left the New Orleans club and went home, hoping to field offers. The Cardinals showed the most interest, and on June 18, 1977, they signed Sandt and sent him back to New Orleans.

The Cardinals also promoted Jim Riggleman from Class AA to be the New Orleans third baseman. Riggleman, a future Cardinals coach and big-league manager, and Sandt provided pop in the lineup. Four times, they combined to hit home runs in the same game.

Sandt was called up by the Cardinals when rosters expanded in September 1977, but never played in a game for them.

Moving ahead

The Cardinals were loaded with infielders at the major-league and Class AAA levels in 1978, so they loaned Sandt to the Blue Jays. Sandt was assigned to Class AAA Syracuse, a club managed by Vern Benson, a former Cardinals player and coach. Sandt played second base next to the shortstop, basketball’s Danny Ainge.

With his path to the Cardinals blocked by better prospects, Sandt was traded to the Pirates on Jan. 25, 1979, for a minor-league pitcher, John Stuper.

Stuper got called up to the Cardinals in 1982, became a member of the starting rotation and earned a complete-game win in Game 6 of the World Series, positioning them to clinch the championship the next night.

After three more seasons as a player in the Pirates’ farm system, Sandt became a minor-league manager for them in 1982. He managed for five seasons, including at Hawaii, where he was named manager of the year in the Pacific Coast League and helped a promising prospect, Barry Bonds.

In 1987, Sandt became a coach on the staff of Pirates manager Jim Leyland. Sandt was a Pirates coach for Leyland from 1987-96. Leyland kept Sandt on his coaching staff when he managed the Marlins (1997-98) and Rockies (1999). Sandt also was a Pirates coach for managers Gene Lamont (2000) and Lloyd McClendon (2001-02).

On Twitter, Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown called Sandt “a brilliant baseball man and as humble as they come.”

Asked by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette what three words described him best, Sandt replied, “Fun-loving, emotional, dedicated.”

As a coach, Sandt developed a reputation for being a master at using the fungo stick to hit balls to players during fielding drills.

Another coach, Rich Donnelly, told the Miami Herald, “There’s no one better with a fungo. If the fungo was a sand wedge, Tommy Sandt would be Tiger Woods.”

Read Full Post »

The emergence of Albert Pujols as a big-league prospect enabled the Cardinals to swap third baseman Fernando Tatis for the left-handed reliever they needed.

On Dec. 14, 2000, the Cardinals acquired pitchers Steve Kline and Dustin Hermanson from the Expos for Tatis and pitcher Britt Reames.

Hermanson was projected as a starter to join a Cardinals rotation with Darryl Kile, Matt Morris and Andy Benes, “but the player they really want is Kline,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported

A reliever who led National League pitchers in appearances in 1999 (82) and 2000 (83), Kline was a durable, effective left-hander.

A lack of reliable left-handed relief limited the late-inning maneuvering Cardinals manager Tony La Russa could do in 2000. Jesse Orosco and Scott Radinsky both had health issues and hardly played. Their replacements were Jason Christiansen (5.40 ERA), Mike Mohler (9.00) and Mike Matthews (11.57).

“Kline is the left-handed reliever the Cardinals have been seeking for years,” columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Stock drop

To get Kline, the Cardinals had to give up Tatis, a right-handed power hitter, but they were confident they had a replacement in Pujols. Though he had one season of experience as a professional, Pujols, 20, looked to the Cardinals to be on the cusp of reaching the majors.

Tatis, acquired by the Cardinals from the Rangers in July 1998, had a breakout season in 1999 when he became the first player to hit two grand slams in an inning. Tatis hit .298 in 1999 and had an on-base percentage of .404. He scored 104 runs, drove in 107, slugged 34 home runs and had 21 stolen bases.

He appeared headed for another big season in 2000 when he hit .375 in April and drove in 28 runs in 21 games, but on April 29 he suffered a tear of his left groin and was sidelined for two months.

When he returned on June 30, Cardinals management noticed Tatis wasn’t applying himself to conditioning and workouts.

“Tatis had issues a lot of guys face after having big years,” La Russa said to the Post-Dispatch. “They forget how hard they worked. I didn’t think he prepared himself as well.”

Tatis hit .183 in August and .186 in September. La Russa benched him in the National League Division Series versus the Braves.

After the season, the Post-Dispatch reported, “There apparently is some indecision in the organization whether to trade Tatis, but on the horizon is Albert Pujols.”

Playing primarily third base, Pujols hit .314 with 41 doubles and 96 RBI in the Cardinals’ farm system in 2000.

“Fast-rising Albert Pujols is not figured to be far away” from being ready for the majors, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Assessing value

After deciding to trade Tatis, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty tried to convince the Expos to take a player other than Reames in the deal. Reames debuted with the Cardinals in August 2000 and was 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA. He also got the win in the decisive Game 3 of the NL Division Series.

The Expos wouldn’t make the trade without Reames included.

“I know Walt tried as hard as he could to get him out of the deal,” La Russa said. “He even offered three or four players instead of Britt.”

When the trade was announced, Bernie Miklasz noted, “Some fans are freaking out” about the departure of Tatis.

“That’s understandable,” Miklasz wrote. “Baseball has become a homer-crazy game and we’ve developed a homer-crazy mentality.

“Jocketty was absolutely correct to go out and reinforce his pitching staff, even if it meant sacrificing Tatis,” Miklasz concluded. “Jocketty wouldn’t have made the deal unless the organization was confident Albert Pujols is the real deal. Pujols could be a Cardinal next year.”

Tatis told Miklasz, “I was surprised to be traded. I was disappointed. If I didn’t get hurt last season, with the numbers I would have put up, they wouldn’t have traded me.

“I thought I’d be in St. Louis for a long time.”

Loopy lefty

Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette offered, “If there is a part of this deal that causes real pain in Montreal, it’s the loss of Kline.”

Kline had a reputation for being a free spirit. “He’s a lefty, and all lefties are crazy,” Hermanson told the Post-Dispatch. “You want those guys in the bullpen, not scared to do anything.”

Born in rural Sunbury, Pa., about 55 miles north of the state capital of Harrisburg, Kline said, “I’m weird. I am a goofy left-hander. They called me a groundhog when I was a kid. Nothing but dirt.

“My brothers were electrocuting me when I was a kid. I was ratting everyone out to my mom, so they tied me up to a fence and they shocked me to teach me a lesson. I learned quick.”

Kline said he threw sinkers to right-handed batters and sliders to left-handers, and he enjoyed pitching as often as possible.

“I get paid to pitch,” he said. “I’m not getting paid to sit there.”

One-sided deal

The deal worked out well for the Cardinals.

Kline established a Cardinals franchise record for most games pitched in a season, making a league-leading 89 appearances in 2001. The only others to pitch in 80 or more games in a season for the Cardinals are Ray King (86 in 2004) and Kevin Siegrist (81 in 2015).

Left-handed batters hit .150 versus Kline in 2001 and none hit a home run against him.

Hermanson was 14-13 in 33 starts for the 2001 Cardinals.

Pujols opened the 2001 season as the Cardinals’ left fielder. He also made starts at third base, first base and right field. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .329, scoring 112 runs and driving in 130.

In four seasons (2001-2004) with the Cardinals, Kline was 12-11 with 21 saves and a 2.69 ERA. In 13 postseason games for St. Louis, Kline was 0-1 with two saves and an 0.96 ERA. He became a free agent after the 2004 season and signed with the Orioles.

Hermanson was traded to the Red Sox for prospects after the 2001 season. He rejoined the Cardinals in 2003 and got released in June. Two years later, he had 34 saves as the closer for the World Series champion White Sox.

In three years with the Expos, Tatis hit .225. He never again approached the kind of success he had with the Cardinals.

Reames also played three seasons with the Expos and was 5-12 with a 5.53 ERA.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »