Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

When Hoyt Wilhelm joined the Cardinals, he was an accomplished relief pitcher who was headed on a path toward election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His stint with the Cardinals, however, turned out to be a detour rather than an avenue toward success.

hoyt_wilhelmSixty years ago, on Feb. 26, 1957, the Cardinals acquired Wilhelm from the Giants for Whitey Lockman, a first baseman and outfielder.

On the surface, it appeared to be a steal for St. Louis.

Wilhelm, 34, had produced a 42-25 record with 41 saves and a 2.98 ERA in five seasons (1952-56) with the Giants.

Lockman, 30, had batted .249 with no home runs in 70 games for the 1956 Cardinals. He didn’t fit into the Cardinals’ plans for 1957.

Help wanted

Wilhelm, a knuckleball specialist, had been a rookie sensation for the Giants in 1952 when he produced a 15-3 record, 11 saves and a 2.43 ERA. For the pennant-winning 1954 Giants, Wilhelm was 12-4 with seven saves and a 2.10 ERA.

Though his ERA increased to 3.93 in 1955 and 3.83 in 1956, Wilhelm still was regarded as a likely boon to the Cardinals’ bullpen. Larry Jackson, a converted starter, had been their top reliever in 1956.

Wilhelm became available because of the Giants’ need for help at first base and left field. Lockman could play both positions.

The Giants’ 1956 starters at those positions _ first baseman Bill White and left fielder Jackie Brandt _ were in military service in 1957. Initially, the Giants attempted to replace White with Jackie Robinson, who was acquired from the Dodgers in December 1956, but Robinson retired and the deal was voided.

Frank Lane, Cardinals general manager, told The Sporting News he doubted St. Louis could have obtained Wilhelm if Robinson had reported to the Giants.

Insider tips

Before making the trade, Lane asked Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson whether St. Louis had a catcher who could handle Wilhelm’s knuckleball. Hutchinson “assured Lane that Hal Smith could master the assignment,” The Sporting News reported.

Smith was the Cardinals’ starting catcher and Hobie Landrith was his backup. Lane and Hutchinson arranged for their catchers to have a dinner meeting with Tigers scout Rick Ferrell, who had caught five knuckleball pitchers while with the Senators, to get insights into how to deal with the elusive pitch.

Asked about the session with Ferrell, Landrith told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “He advised us not to crouch or squat as low when catching knuckleball pitchers as we would for others. He told us that from a half standing position … we could move laterally better and also drop on a knuckler falling off the table.”

Wilhelm was one of three pitchers with the 1957 Cardinals who threw a knuckleball. The others were Murry Dickson and Jim Davis.

“The thing about a good knuckler is that it’s tough to hit whether you’re hitting .300 or .200,” said the Cardinals’ best hitter, Stan Musial. “It jumps around like mercury in a bottle.”

Said Wilhelm: “The biggest factor in your knuckler is the wind condition. It’s a non-rotating pitch and therefore does better the more resistance it meets, meaning against the wind. When the wind is blowing in _ from behind the pitcher _ the knuckler seldom will do anything. Then it’s only a mediocre pitch and you’re a batting practice target.”

Disappointing results

After a good spring training _ “Wilhelm, working almost every other day, has looked like money in the bank,” The Sporting News opined _ Wilhelm had a poor start to the 1957 season. He didn’t earn his first save until May 24 when he lowered his ERA from 6.11 to 5.89.

Wilhelm had one stellar month _ six saves and a 1.88 ERA in June _ but he otherwise was unimpressive.

Though the Cardinals contended with the Braves for the 1957 National League pennant, Hutchinson lost confidence in Wilhelm, who made just two appearances for St. Louis in September.

Wilhelm said he needed to pitch regularly in order to regain effectiveness with his knuckleball. When Hutchinson stopped using him, Wilhelm had trouble controlling the knuckleball.

On Sept. 21, the Cardinals sent Wilhelm to the Indians for the waiver price. He had a 1-4 record, a team-leading 11 saves and a 4.25 ERA in 40 appearances for the Cardinals.

When Hutchinson informed Wilhelm that the Cardinals had dealt him, the pitcher shook hands with the manager and said, “It’s good to have been with you. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more.”

Wilhelm went on to pitch in 1,070 big-league games. The only right-handers who have pitched in more big-league games are fellow Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera (1,115) and Dennis Eckersley (1,071). Wilhelm was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985 and was the first reliever to earn the honor.

Previously: Enduring record: Stan Musial and his 5 homers in a day

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Looking to rebuild his reputation, Dave LaPoint returned to the organization where he felt the most comfortable and had enjoyed his greatest success.

dave_lapointThirty years ago, on Jan. 19, 1987, LaPoint, a free agent, signed with the Cardinals, who expected him to compete for a spot in their starting rotation.

At 27, his career was at a crossroads.

Five years earlier, LaPoint, a left-hander, had helped the Cardinals win the 1982 National League pennant and World Series championship.

After the Cardinals traded him in February 1985, LaPoint’s career spiraled. He pitched for three teams in two years, posting losing records at each stop, got traded twice and released once.

Out of shape and labeled a clubhouse jester, LaPoint said he was committed to rededicating himself to becoming a winner and was seeking a nurturing environment in which to attempt that comeback.

The 1987 Cardinals and manager Whitey Herzog provided the setting LaPoint sought.

Cards contributor

LaPoint’s tenure with the Cardinals began in December 1980 when he was acquired from the Brewers in a deal engineered by Herzog. The Cardinals traded Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich for Sixto Lezcano, David Green, Lary Sorensen and LaPoint.

LaPoint’s breakthrough year was 1982. He began the season as a reliever and joined the starting rotation in May. LaPoint appeared in 42 games, including 21 as a starter, for the 1982 Cardinals and had a 9-3 record and 3.42 ERA. He started Game 4 of the 1982 World Series against the Brewers, yielded one earned run in 6.1 innings and got no decision in a 7-5 Milwaukee victory.

LaPoint earned 12 wins for the Cardinals in both 1983 and 1984.

When the Cardinals, seeking a run producer to replace George Hendrick, had a chance to get Jack Clark before the start of the 1985 season, they sent LaPoint, Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich to the Giants.

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later reported the Cardinals parted with LaPoint because they “thought he might be influencing young players unduly.”

Hummel described LaPoint as a “leader in clubhouse revelry” and “a top consumer of the owner’s (Anheuser-Busch’s) product.”

Prodigal son

LaPoint had a 7-17 record for the 1985 Giants, who traded him to the Tigers after the season.

LaPoint and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson were a bad match. “I couldn’t get along with Sparky,” LaPoint told Hummel. After posting a 3-6 record and 5.72 ERA for the Tigers, LaPoint was traded to the Padres in July 1986. He was 1-4 for the Padres, who released him after the season.

It was then LaPoint decided to make changes. Weighing between 230 and 240 pounds, he dropped to 220.

The Expos and Giants wanted to sign LaPoint, but he chose the Cardinals, whose offer of a base salary of $125,000 was a cut from his $550,000 contract in 1986.

“It feels finally that I’m back where I belong,” LaPoint said. “… In talking to Whitey, he said he would use me like he did in ’82. That’s fine with me. It got me a World Series ring.”

Asked his reaction to LaPoint rejoining the Cardinals, center fielder Willie McGee said, “I like him … He’s kind of a clown, but that’s Dave LaPoint.”

It’s a reputation LaPoint said he was determined to change.

“I used to mess around during drills and I don’t do that anymore,” LaPoint said after reporting to Cardinals camp. “… It was time to put a stop to it.”

Redbird reliever

LaPoint had a successful spring training. He was 2-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched in Grapefruit League exhibition games.

The Cardinals opened the 1987 regular season with five left-handers: starters John Tudor and Greg Mathews and relievers Ricky Horton, Pat Perry and LaPoint. (Ken Dayley, another left-handed reliever, was on the disabled list.)

In his first appearance for the 1987 Cardinals, on April 10 against the Pirates at Pittsburgh, LaPoint took the loss when he yielded a two-out, RBI-double to Sid Bream in the bottom of the ninth. Boxscore

LaPoint was scheduled to make a start April 25 versus the Mets at New York, but that plan was scratched when the Cardinals called up Joe Magrane from the minors and put the rookie left-hander into the rotation.

LaPoint remained in the bullpen and largely was ineffective.

He got a win on April 18 against the Mets at St. Louis, but even then he didn’t perform well. In the 10th, LaPoint threw a wild pitch, enabling Al Pedrique to score from third with the go-ahead run. LaPoint was rescued when the Cardinals scored five times off Jesse Orosco in the bottom half of the inning. Tom Pagnozzi’s RBI-single tied the score at 8-8 and Tommy Herr’s grand slam made LaPoint the winner. Boxscore

On the road again

With his ERA at 6.75 after four relief appearances, LaPoint was demoted to Louisville on April 27. LaPoint had the option of declaring himself a free agent, but agreed to return to the minor leagues for the first time since 1981.

Placed in the starting rotation by Louisville manager Dave Bialas, LaPoint lost his first three decisions, but then found his groove. He completed four of his last five starts for Louisville and had a 5-5 record when he was recalled by the Cardinals on July 8.

“It was the best thing in the world for me,” LaPoint said of his stint in the minors. “… I’ve learned to pitch a little different style.”

LaPoint made two July starts for the Cardinals and got no decision in either.

On July 30, the Cardinals traded LaPoint to the White Sox for minor-league pitcher Bryce Hulstrom.

“LaPoint’s main problem has been control,” wrote John Sonderegger of the Post-Dispatch. “If he gets the ball up, he gets hammered. It usually takes him a couple of innings to find the strike zone and by then the game usually is out of control.”

After posting a 1-1 record and 6.75 ERA for the 1987 Cardinals, LaPoint was 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA for the 1987 White Sox.

The Cardinals, helped by a combined 30 wins from left-handed starters Mathews, Tudor and Magrane, finished 95-67 and won the NL pennant.

Previously: Trade for Jack Clark shook Cards from their slumber

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Three days after making his major-league debut with his hometown team, infielder Bob Sadowski was traded by the Cardinals for a player they thought could challenge Curt Flood for the center field job.

robert_sadowskiThe deal sent Sadowski on an odyssey during which he played for three big-league clubs in the next three years before returning to the minors, including a second stint in the Cardinals system.

Sadowski, 79, died Jan. 6, 2017 _ a week before his 80th birthday.

Talented infielder

Born and raised in St. Louis, Sadowski played baseball at Webster Groves High School and with the Maplewood American Legion team. A teammate on both clubs was future Cardinals outfielder Charlie James.

In 1955, when Sadowski was 18, he impressed the Cardinals at a tryout camp and they signed him to a contract.

A left-handed batter who could play multiple positions, especially third base and second base, Sadowski established himself as a prime prospect with a strong season for the Billings Mustangs of the Class C Pioneer League in 1957. Sadowski batted .302 and produced 20 doubles, 13 triples and 15 home runs for Billings.

Sadowski caught the attention of the Cardinals again in 1959 when he batted .290 with 24 doubles and 12 triples for Omaha of the Class AAA American Association.

Omaha manager Joe Schultz tabbed Sadowski as a player with a bright future. The Sporting News declared him “a talented infielder.” After the 1959 season, the Cardinals put Sadowski on their big-league roster.

Cardinals call

At Cardinals spring training camp in 1960, Sadowski developed astigmatism, making objects at a distance appear blurry or wavy, and eyeglasses were prescribed for him, The Sporting News reported.

He opened the 1960 season with the Cardinals’ affiliate at Rochester in the Class AAA International League. Batting .223 after 51 games, Sadowski was loaned to the White Sox Class AAA farm club in San Diego. He revived his career with the Pacific Coast League team, batting .340 in 64 games.

Impressed, the Cardinals promoted Sadowski to the big leagues in September 1960.

Debut at home

On Sept. 16, 1960, a Friday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Sadowski, 23, lived a dream by making his major-league debut for the Cardinals.

After five innings, in a game delayed an hour and 32 minutes by rain, the Giants led, 6-0. Cardinals manager Solly Hemus made several substitutions, including putting in Sadowski at second base to replace Julian Javier.

Sadowski led off the St. Louis half of the sixth against reliever Stu Miller, formerly of the Cardinals, and grounded out to third baseman Jim Davenport.

In the eighth, Orlando Cepeda reached on an error by Sadowski. In the Cardinals’ half of the inning, Sadowski reached on a walk. He was stranded when Miller struck out Bill White and got Stan Musial and Ken Boyer on pop-outs. Boxscore

That one game would be Sadowski’s lone appearance with the Cardinals.

Trade bait

With Javier at second and Boyer at third, the Cardinals were strong in the two positions Sadowski played best. What the Cardinals thought they needed was to bolster the center field position. Flood, the everyday center fielder, hit .237 for the 1960 Cardinals. Hemus was seeking better production from that position.

On Sept. 19, 1960, the Cardinals acquired center fielder Don Landrum from the Phillies for Sadowski and three players on their Rochester roster _ outfielder Jim Frey, second baseman Wally Shannon and pitcher Dick Ricketts.

Landrum, 24, had spent the 1960 season with the Phillies’ Class AAA farm club at Buffalo, where he batted .292 and led the International League in hits (178), doubles (35) and runs scored (112).

The Sporting News praised Landrum as being “a capable fly chaser who can also swing the bat.”

On the day of the trade, Landrum joined the Cardinals in time for their game that night against the Dodgers at St. Louis. He produced three singles and a stolen base. Two nights later, Landrum hit a home run and a triple off the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale.

Versatile prospect

Like the Cardinals, the Phillies had an established starter at second base in Tony Taylor. Sadowski was acquired to be a backup.

Under the headline “Phils Bolster Infield, Land Keystone Kid,” The Sporting News reported: “Because of his versatility, it is possible Sadowski might land a utility infield spot” with the 1961 Phillies.

Sadowski batted .130 in 16 games for the 1961 Phillies. He was traded to the White Sox after the season and hit .231 with six home runs for them in 79 games in 1962. Selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft, Sadowski hit .250 in 88 games for them in 1963.

Back where he began

Sadowski spent the rest of his playing days in the minor leagues. After starting the 1968 season with the Syracuse Chiefs, Sadowski rejoined the Cardinals’ organization and was assigned to the Class AAA Tulsa Oilers of the Pacific Coast League.

Playing for manager Warren Spahn, Sadowski, 31, filled a utility role and helped Tulsa to the league championship. “Sadowski’s hitting perked up the Oilers, especially over short stretches,” The Sporting News noted.

In 1969, his last season in organized baseball, Sadowski returned to the Angels’ organization as an infielder for the Class AA El Paso Sun Kings, who were managed by former Cardinals catcher Del Rice.

The Cardinals reacquired Sadowski in June 1969 and he finished the season with Class AA Arkansas and Class A Cedar Rapids.

Previously: Daryl Spencer followed in footsteps of Marty Marion

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As a youth in his native Kansas, Daryl Spencer was a Cardinals fan. His favorite player was Marty Marion, the shortstop on four pennant-winning Cardinals teams in the 1940s. Imagine then how special it was for Spencer when the Cardinals acquired him to play the position once held by his boyhood idol.

daryl_spencerSpencer, who became Cardinals shortstop in 1960, died Jan. 2, 2017, at 88. Decades before Edgar Renteria and Jhonny Peralta provided the Cardinals with home run threats at the position, Spencer, 6 feet 2, 190 pounds, was the prototype of the slugging shortstop.

Though his tenure with the Cardinals was short _ he played all of the 1960 season and part of 1961 _ Spencer was a prominent member of a lineup that featured Ken Boyer, Bill White, Curt Flood and Stan Musial.

Joining Giants

Spencer hailed from Wichita, Kan. “I was a Cardinals fan growing up and we’d listen to them on the radio,” Spencer told Bob Rives of the Society for American Baseball Research. “… My dad went to the World Series there in 1942 and had brought back some memorabilia for me that I really treasured.”

Inspired by Marion, who in 1944 became the first shortstop to win a National League Most Valuable Player Award, Spencer pursued a baseball career.

The Cardinals scouted Spencer, but it was the Giants who signed him after he’d had a successful season for the Pauls Valley Raiders, an independent team in the Class D Sooner State League in 1949.

Spencer made his big-league debut with the Giants in 1952 and hit 20 home runs for them in 1953. After two years (1954-55) in military service, Spencer was the Giants’ starting shortstop from 1956-58. He produced 17 home runs and 74 RBI for the 1958 Giants, but also committed the most errors (32) among NL shortstops.

In 1959, the Giants shifted Spencer to second base, but he preferred being a shortstop.

Ready to deal

The 1959 Cardinals finished next-to-last in the NL at 71-83. They ranked seventh in runs scored (641) and sixth in home runs (118).

Determined to add power _ Boyer was the only 1959 Cardinals player to hit 20 home runs _ general manager Bing Devine offered second baseman Don Blasingame and pitcher Larry Jackson to the Giants for Spencer and pitcher Johnny Antonelli, according to multiple published reports.

Loaded with power hitters (Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Willie Kirkland), the Giants were seeking defense and speed. Blasingame, who led the 1959 Cardinals in hits (178) and had 15 stolen bases, appealed to the Giants, but they were unwilling to trade Antonelli, who’d earned 19 wins in 1959.

Just when it appeared an agreement wouldn’t be reached _ “The deal somehow always moved away from us,” Giants owner Horace Stoneham said to The Sporting News _ Devine made a proposal that excluded Antonelli.

On Dec. 15, 1959, the Giants traded Spencer and outfielder Leon Wagner to the Cardinals for Blasingame.

Power source

“Blasingame will help the Giants at second base defensively and give them a leadoff man,” Cardinals manager Solly Hemus said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Spencer, bigger and stronger, will give us more punch.”

Hemus said he consulted with Musial and Boyer before the Cardinals made the trade. “They liked it,” Hemus said. “They felt we definitely were getting a plus. I respect their judgment.”

Hemus said Spencer would be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop in 1960 and Alex Grammas would shift from shortstop to second base.

Though Spencer, 31, was their primary target _ “Spencer is an aggressive guy whose desire to win won’t hurt,” Hemus said _ they were delighted to get Wagner.

Wagner, 25, hit 51 home runs for the minor-league Danville (Va.) Leafs in 1956 and combined for 30 home runs with Class AAA Phoenix (17) and the Giants (13) in 1958.

The Cardinals had attempted to acquire Wagner after the 1958 season, but he “was an untouchable,” Hemus told The Sporting News.

“We tried to get him instead of Bill White (whom the Cardinals acquired in March 1959 from the Giants),” Hemus said.

Key contributor

Spencer hit 16 home runs for the 1960 Cardinals. His on-base percentage (.365) ranked among the top 10 in the NL. He produced 131 hits and a team-high 81 walks in 148 games, but he also grounded into the most double plays (15) and committed 32 errors (31 at shortstop and one at second base).

Still, he helped the 1960 Cardinals improve in the standings. St. Louis finished in third place at 86-68, seven games ahead of the fifth-place Giants. The Cardinals _ even without much contribution from Wagner (four home runs) _ ranked third in the NL in home runs (138), but scored two fewer runs (639) than they had in 1959.

Moving on

The next year, Spencer had a spectacular start to the season. In the Cardinals’ 1961 opener against the Braves at Milwaukee, Spencer hit a 10th-inning home run off starter Warren Spahn, carrying St. Louis to a 2-1 victory. Boxscore

The Cardinals, however, stumbled thereafter and looked to rebuild.

On May 30, 1961, with their record at 18-20, the Cardinals dealt Spencer to the Dodgers for infielder Bob Lillis and outfielder Carl Warwick.

Spencer generated 33 hits and 23 walks (a .366 on-base percentage) for the 1961 Cardinals, but his batting average with runners in scoring position was .214.

In 185 games with St. Louis, Spencer batted .257 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI. He had 164 hits, 104 walks and a .365 on-base percentage.

“I had a lot of friends on the Cardinals and I liked St. Louis, but L.A. is a good club to go to,” Spencer told the Post-Dispatch.

After stints with the Dodgers and Reds, Spencer continued his playing career in Japan. In seven seasons with the Hankyu Braves, Spencer batted .275 with 152 home runs and a .379 on-base percentage.

Previously: Jhonny Peralta tops home run mark of Edgar Renteria

Previously: Kolten Wong, Don Blasingame: Similar 2nd sackers

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Phil Gagliano, not Ernie Broglio, could have been the key player involved in one of the most lopsided trades in favor of the Cardinals.

phil_gaglianoIn spring 1964, Bing Devine, Cardinals general manager, offered Gagliano, a second baseman, to the Cubs for outfielder Lou Brock. The Cubs were seeking a second baseman to replace Ken Hubbs, 22, who died in a plane crash in February 1964.

“The Cardinals tried to lure Brock away for Phil Gagliano,” Jack Herman reported in The Sporting News.

At the time, Gagliano, 22, was a highly regarded prospect and would have been a potential fit to replace Hubbs, who won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1962. Brock, meanwhile, had underachieved with the Cubs, but he appealed to the Cardinals, who were seeking a left fielder to replace the retired Stan Musial.

The Cubs turned down the Cardinals’ offer and instead acquired second baseman Joey Amalfitano, 30, from the Giants in a cash transaction in March 1964.

Three months later, in June 1964, the Cubs, needing pitching, agreed to deal Brock to the Cardinals, who, this time, were offering Broglio, an established starter.

The trade of Brock and pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth to the Cardinals for Broglio, reliever Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens generally was considered then to be a steal for the Cubs until Brock developed into a Hall of Fame player who sparked St. Louis to three NL pennants and two World Series titles.

Gagliano didn’t develop into the standout that Brock became, but he was a part of those Cardinals championship clubs as a utility player.

Gagliano, who died Dec. 19, 2016, at 74, would play eight seasons (1963-70) with the Cardinals.

Six years after offering Gagliano for Brock, Devine did deal him to the Cubs in May 1970.

Terrific tutors

Gagliano was a friend and teammate of Tim McCarver at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis. Scouted by former big-league player Buddy Lewis, Gagliano and McCarver signed with the Cardinals as amateur free agents in 1959.

McCarver made his big-league debut with St. Louis that year and established himself as the Cardinals’ everyday catcher in 1963.

Gagliano debuted with the Cardinals in 1963. He could play all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots, but he fit best at second base and third base.

At the Cardinals’ Florida Instructional League camps in 1962 and 1963, Gagliano, a right-handed batter, caught the attention of instructors Joe Schultz, Eddie Stanky, Grover Resinger, Harry Walker and George Kissell.

“That’s where I learned to hit,” Gagliano told The Sporting News. “I learned to handle the bat in the Instructional League. I learned how to handle the outside pitch and I learned the strike zone there.”

Before the 1964 season, Gagliano was named by Cardinals writers as the hardest worker in spring training camp.

In May 1965, George Silvey, Cardinals scouting director said, “Phil moved up faster than we expected because he always had so much poise.”

Red’s guy

Gagliano had his most productive season with the 1965 Cardinals. Filling in for starting second baseman Julian Javier, who broke his right hand in June when struck by a pitch from the Pirates’ Vern Law, Gagliano was batting .273 entering August before he tailed off. Overall, Gagliano batted .240 with eight home runs and 53 RBI in 122 games, including 48 starts at second base.

Red Schoendienst, the former second baseman who became Cardinals manager in 1965, liked Gagliano. “This kid is a tremendous player,” Schoendienst said of Gagliano in April 1965.

Said Gagliano: “I like to hit the way Red Schoendienst wants me to. He says to go up and swing the bat _ don’t be a defensive hitter.”

New York calling

In spring 1967, Gagliano again almost was traded. This time, it was Devine who tried to acquire him.

The 1967 Mets were seeking a second baseman. Devine, who had been fired by the Cardinals in August 1964, was the Mets’ president. He contacted Musial, the Cardinals’ general manager, and inquired about Gagliano or infielder Jerry Buchek, according to a report by Jack Lang in The Sporting News.

“Gagliano is the man the Mets want,” Lang wrote. “The Cards, however, want to wait.”

On April 1, 1967, the Cardinals traded Buchek, pitcher Art Mahaffey and infielder Tony Martinez to the Mets for shortstop Eddie Bressoud, outfielder Danny Napoleon and cash.

Buchek became the Mets’ starting second baseman. Gagliano remained a valued backup to Javier at second base and, especially, to Mike Shannon at third. Shannon had converted from right field to third base after the Cardinals acquired Roger Maris from the Yankees.

Mentored by Schoendienst on fielding, Gagliano said, “I’ve been working mostly on the double play, getting my body in the proper position to throw. I had been throwing off balance too much. Red has worked hard with me and I feel I’ve improved a lot on the pivot.”

On April 11, in the Cardinals’ 1967 season opener against the Giants at St. Louis, Gagliano, replacing an ailing Shannon, hit a solo home run off Juan Marichal, supporting Bob Gibson’s shutout in a 6-0 triumph. Boxscore

Though Gagliano hit just 14 home runs _ all for St. Louis _ in a 12-year big-league career with the Cardinals, Cubs, Red Sox and Reds, three of those came against future Hall of Famers: two off Marichal and one off Jim Bunning.

Devine intervention

Gagliano appeared in the 1967 and 1968 World Series for the Cardinals but was hitless in four at-bats.

On May 29, 1970, Devine, back for a second stint as Cardinals general manager, dealt Gagliano to the Cubs for Ted Abernathy, 37, a relief pitcher.

“It’s a shock … but I have no regrets,” Gagliano said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The next day, May 30, 1970, Gagliano made his Cubs debut and produced a two-run pinch-hit single off Dave Roberts, helping Chicago to an 8-7 victory over the Padres at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

Previously: Use of Daniel Descalso recalls Julian Javier, Bo Hart

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Seeking a backup to Tim McCarver, the Cardinals acquired a catcher who ranked among the top sluggers at the position and considered himself an everyday player.

johnny_romanoThe Cardinals envisioned Johnny Romano as a key contributor when they obtained him from the White Sox 50 years ago on Dec. 14, 1966. Romano, 32, had led all American League catchers in home runs (15) in 1966.

However, though he spent the entire regular season with a Cardinals club that won the 1967 National League pennant and World Series title, Romano seldom played and, when he did, he rarely produced a hit.

His most important contribution to the 1967 Cardinals occurred off the field: It was Romano who provided the tip that enabled Lou Brock, the Cardinals’ catalyst, to end a slump.

Catcher with clout

Romano debuted in the big leagues with the 1958 White Sox. He hit 15 or more home runs in six of seven seasons in a stretch from 1960-66 with the Indians and White Sox. An AL all-star in 1961 and 1962, Romano achieved career highs in home runs (25) and RBI (81) with the 1962 Indians.

In 1966, Romano still was a starting catcher and power hitter. He produced six home runs and 11 RBI during an eight-game White Sox winning streak from Aug. 3-12.

Asked by The Sporting News to explain his hot hitting, Romano, foreshadowing his failures with the Cardinals, said, “Don’t forget the importance of playing regularly. When you play every day, you feel more comfortable at the plate. Timing and confidence are the answers to batting success and you can’t have it if you don’t play.”

On Aug. 17, Romano hit his 14th home run of the 1966 season and was batting .266. Hampered by a bruised left hand, he hit just one more home run that season and his batting average fell to .231. Still, Romano finished second on the White Sox in home runs (15) and slugging percentage (.404) _ only Tommie Agee was better _ and he ranked third among AL catchers in fielding percentage (.993).

The White Sox, though, were grooming Duane Josephson to become their everyday catcher. Romano also had clashed with White Sox manager Eddie Stanky, who wanted him to hit behind the runner instead of swinging for the fences.

A proposed trade of Romano to the Red Sox was discussed, but the talks ended when the White Sox sought outfielder Carl Yastrzemski, The Sporting News reported.

New role

Meanwhile, the Cardinals wanted a backup catcher who could reduce the workload of their starter, McCarver, and generate offense against left-handed pitching.

McCarver, who caught in 148 games, had 19 doubles, 13 triples and 12 home runs for the 1966 Cardinals, but his batting average against left-handers (.238) was 50 points lower than against right-handers (.288). His backup, Pat Corrales, batted .181 overall and hit no home runs.

A week after acquiring another AL slugger, Roger Maris, from the Yankees, Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam got Romano and pitcher Leland White from the White Sox for reliever Don Dennis and outfielder Walt Williams, who had won the Pacific Coast League batting title in 1966.

“Romano likes to hit against left-handers (.255 in 1966) and he will give McCarver a chance to rest once in a while,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said.

Said Howsam: “Romano should give us some right-handed power.”

Bob Broeg, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, concluded that “the Cardinals appeared to help themselves … at no sacrifice” when they acquired Romano.

The Sporting News, however, noted that Romano “understandably sounded upset when informed that he would be a No. 2 catcher.”

Tough task

At spring training in 1967, the combination of McCarver and Romano received praise.

Cardinals coach Joe Schultz said St. Louis’ catchers “could be the best in the league, offensively and defensively.”

Asked to rank the catching staffs in the NL, Astros manager Grady Hatton said, “I’d have to rate McCarver and Romano as No. 1.”

In its April 1, 1967, edition, The Sporting News again cautioned that “Romano isn’t overly delighted with his second-fiddle rating,” but added, “It’s inconceivable that the sturdy right-handed swinger still doesn’t have some thunder left in his big bat.”

When the season got under way, Romano struggled to adapt to being a reserve. He produced two hits in his first 25 at-bats. Romano was 1-for-16 in April and 2-for-18 in May.

“It’s tough when you don’t get to play often,” Romano said.

By June, Dave Ricketts took over as the backup catcher and Romano spent most of his time warming up pitchers in the bullpen.

Batting coach

In mid-June, the Pirates offered to trade outfielder Manny Mota, catcher Jim Pagliaroni and pitcher Al McBean to St. Louis for outfielder Curt Flood, pitcher Hal Woodeshick and Romano, but the Cardinals rejected it, The Sporting News reported.

In July, Brock, the Cardinals’ leadoff batter, went into a hitting funk. On June 21, Brock’s batting average was .318. On July 21, it was .275.

As the slump continued, Brock became more rigid at the plate. Romano detected the flaw. “I noticed that Lou was locking his elbows before he swung and he was fouling off a lot of good pitches to left field,” Romano said. “I remind Lou every game about locking his elbows.”

Brock “applied Romano’s tip and went on a long-awaited surge,” The Sporting News reported. “Starting July 24, he went on a 24-for-56 binge, a .429 clip, and he hit safely in 13 straight games through Aug. 6.”

With Brock igniting the offense _ he generated 113 runs, 206 hits and 52 stolen bases _ the Cardinals cruised to a championship.

Romano, who batted .121 (7-for-58) with no home runs and two RBI for the 1967 Cardinals, was left off their World Series roster. The Cardinals, who clinched the title with four wins in seven games against the Red Sox, voted Romano a full World Series share of $8,314.81, according to The Sporting News.

On Oct. 20, 1967, the Cardinals released Romano. When no other teams showed interest, he retired.

Previously: Cardinals helped Walt Williams return to majors

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