Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

In his 11 seasons with the Braves and Dodgers, shortstop Rafael Furcal reached the playoffs nine times, but never got to a World Series. When the chance came to join the Cardinals, Furcal sensed they might get him where he wanted to go.

Ten years ago, on July 31, 2011, the Cardinals acquired Furcal from the Dodgers for outfielder Alex Castellanos. As a player with 10 years or more of big-league service, including at least five with the same team, Furcal’s permission was needed to make the deal.

Furcal gave his approval, and both he and the Cardinals benefitted. Taking over the leadoff spot in the batting order and providing consistent defense, Furcal reached the World Series for the only time, helping the 2011 Cardinals win the championship.

Premier player

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Furcal was 22 when he debuted in the majors with the Braves in 2000. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, finishing ahead of Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel.

In 2003, Furcal turned an unassisted triple play against the Cardinals. He also achieved double-digit totals that season in doubles (35), triples (10) and home runs (15) and was named to the National League all-star team for the first time.

Furcal had a career-high 46 steals in 2005 and again got to double digits in doubles (31), triples (11) and home runs (12). 

After six seasons (2000-2005) with the Braves, he became a free agent and joined the Dodgers. In 2006, Furcal had a career-high 196 hits and scored 100 runs for the fourth consecutive year.

Furcal twice opposed the Cardinals in the playoffs, with dissimilar results. He hit .091 against them in the 2000 National League Division Series and .500 in the 2009 Division Series.

Time is right

In 2008, Furcal had back surgery. He twice was on the disabled list in 2010 and spent two more stints there with the Dodgers in 2011.

Soon after he came off the disabled list for the second time in July 2011, the Cardinals sent scouts Marty Keough and Bill Gayton to follow him for a week.

“One of the more animated players in the clubhouse, Furcal also was the Dodgers’ offensive spark when healthy,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

The Cardinals were in the market for a shortstop to replace Ryan Theriot, who went into a batting slump in July 2011.

The scouts liked what they saw from Furcal. The Dodgers, who wanted to create an opening for shortstop prospect Dee Gordon, were willing to deal.

Furcal told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “It’s part of my dream to win a World Series ring. I think it’s time to do it.”

Contributing to the cause

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz endorsed the trade, calling Furcal a “winning player.”

The Cardinals hoped Furcal would play as well for them as he had against them. He hit .344 versus the Cardinals in his career.

On the day of the deal, the Cardinals (57-50) were in second place in their division, 1.5 games behind the Brewers. With Furcal’s arrival, Theriot shifted to second and shared playing time with Skip Schumaker.

In September, Furcal contributed to the Cardinals’ successful surge.

On Sept. 9, in the opener of a three-game series versus the Braves at St. Louis, Furcal had three walks, a hit and scored two runs, including the tying one in the ninth, in a 4-3 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Two weeks later, on Sept. 19, Furcal had three hits, including two doubles, and scored a run, helping the Cardinals beat Phillies ace Roy Halladay for the first time. The 4-3 win moved the Cardinals to within 2.5 games of the Braves for the wild-card spot. Boxscore

The Cardinals were 18-8 in September and got into the playoffs. Furcal had 50 hits in 50 regular-season games for them and scored 29 runs.

“You saw how much better our club was when he was on our team,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said to the Post-Dispatch. “He really solidified our defense up the middle.”

In a January 2012 interview, Cardinals broadcaster and former pitcher Rick Horton told me, “Defense matters. It’s an absolute fact that if you can’t catch the ball better than the rest, you’re going to lose games you shouldn’t lose … The Cardinals became better up the middle when they had Furcal at shortstop.”

Making an impact

Furcal had a prominent role in each of the Cardinals’ decisive games of the 2011 postseason.

In the finale of the National League Division Series versus the Phillies, Furcal led off the game with a triple against Roy Halladay and scored on Skip Schumacher’s double. Chris Carpenter pitched a shutout and the Cardinals won, 1-0. Boxscore

When the Cardinals clinched the pennant with a win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Brewers, Furcal hit a home run. Boxscore

Furcal batted leadoff in every game of the Division Series and League Championship Series, and in the first six games of the World Series versus the Rangers.

For Game 7 of the World Series, manager Tony La Russa put Theriot in the leadoff spot and dropped Furcal to seventh. Furcal responded with two hits. He also was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth, scoring Albert Pujols from third.

The Cardinals won, 6-2, and were World Series champions. Boxscore

Knockout blow

Eligible to become a free agent, Furcal signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Cardinals in December 2011.

He was selected to the National League all-star team in 2012 and was the starting shortstop. In the fourth inning against the Rangers’ Matt Harrison, Furcal tripled and scored on Matt Holliday’s single. Boxscore

Furcal’s season ended on Aug. 30, 2012, when he suffered a ligament tear in his right elbow. Pete Kozma replaced him and helped the Cardinals return to the playoffs.

At spring training in 2013, Furcal injured the elbow again while making a sidearm throw. He had Tommy John surgery to repair the torn ligament and was sidelined the entire season.

Furcal briefly played for the Marlins in 2014.

In 14 big-league seasons, Furcal batted .281 with 1,817 hits and 314 stolen bases. Highlights video

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Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus lost his place in the starting lineup when he lost the confidence of manager Tony La Russa. Then Rasmus lost his spot on the club.

Ten years ago, on July 27, 2011, Rasmus was the marquee name in a multi-player trade the Cardinals made with the Blue Jays. The Cardinals dealt Rasmus and pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters for pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson.

Rasmus underachieved with the Blue Jays. The trio of pitchers acquired for him all earned wins in the 2011 postseason, helping the Cardinals become World Series champions.

Family feud

A left-handed batter, Rasmus was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, within the Cardinals’ organization, Rasmus became known as “Luhnow’s boy” because he was the first draft pick of scouting director Jeff Luhnow. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. became enamored of Luhnow, a data-driven analyst who clashed with general manager Walt Jocketty, and put him in charge of the Cardinals’ player development group.

Rasmus was 22 when he debuted in the majors with the Cardinals in 2009. He hit .251 with 16 home runs as a rookie.

In July 2010, La Russa and Rasmus had a heated exchange in the dugout. Rasmus requested a trade on more than one occasion. The Cardinals kept him and he batted .276 with 23 home runs for the season, but with more strikeouts (148) than hits (128). No other player on the 2010 Cardinals struck out 100 times.

The relationship between Rasmus, La Russa and the coaches deteriorated in 2011. La Russa said coaches Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete offered to help Rasmus but were rejected. Rasmus instead took instruction from his father, Tony Rasmus, a high school coach who played three seasons in the Angels’ farm system.

“It’s just a fact,” La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. “He was listening to someone else about his hitting.”

Colby Rasmus told Toronto’s National Post, “My dad coached me all the way growing up. He has a big interest in my baseball, wants me to play good and knows my swing pretty well.”

Tony Rasmus was discovered in the Busch Stadium clubhouse video room after working with his son in an indoor batting cage, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Rasmus struggled to make consistent contact. In mid-July, his batting average dropped to .241. Fed up, La Russa benched him and started Jon Jay in center.

Time to act

Concerned Rasmus was becoming what the Post-Dispatch described as “an eroding asset,” the Cardinals made him available for trade.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak “believed he had to cash in Rasmus now or risk seeing the trade chip lose more value idling on the bench,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz noted.

The Blue Jays, White Sox and Rays showed the most interest.

The Cardinals talked to the White Sox about pitchers Edwin Jackson and Matt Thornton. The Rays offered pitchers Jeff Niemann, J.P. Howell and a prospect, but lost interest when Mozeliak wanted another pitcher, Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Blue Jays became front-runners for Rasmus when they acquired Edwin Jackson from the White Sox, and packaged him with Dotel, Rzepczynski and Patterson.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos “has long coveted Rasmus, and he moved heaven, earth and a passel of players to get him,” the National Post reported.

On the day of the trade, the Cardinals (55-48) were in first place, a half-game ahead of the Brewers (55-49) in the National League Central Division.

“The soap opera triangle between Tony La Russa, Colby Rasmus and Tony Rasmus is gone, along with whatever distractions it caused,” declared the Post-Dispatch.

In announcing the deal, Mozeliak said, “This is a window to win.”

Miklasz noted, “In dealing Rasmus, the Cardinals should have secured a No. 2 starter and an elite prospect. This deal has short-term value. It makes sense for 2011.”

In conclusion, Miklasz wrote, “The Cardinals clearly wanted to get Colby and his daddy as far away as possible.”

Anthopoulos told the National Post, “We think we’re getting a player who has a chance to be part of this core. They’re hard to add.”

In three seasons with St. Louis, Rasmus batted .259 and had 330 hits and 320 strikeouts. “I might not have done as well as some people wanted me to, but I played hard and, looking back on it, that’s all I can say,” Rasmus said. “I’m happy with what I did.”

Tony Rasmus went on Toronto radio programs and criticized La Russa and the Cardinals. In response, Miklasz advised that Colby Rasmus “already has a reputation for letting his father control him and fight battles for him. By going off on Toronto radio shows, Tony Rasmus is only reinforcing the opinion that Colby is immature and in need of protection by daddy.”

Return on investment

Rasmus batted .173 for the 2011 Blue Jays and had more strikeouts (39) than hits (23).

The 2011 Cardinals surged in September, posting an 18-8 record for the month and finishing at 90-72. Though they placed second in their division and fourth overall in the league, the Cardinals qualified for the playoffs.

In the National League Division Series, Edwin Jackson, who was 5-2 for the Cardinals in the regular season, started and won Game 4 against the Phillies. Boxscore

Octavio Dotel, who had three wins and a save for the Cardinals in September, had two wins in the playoffs. He beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the Division Series Boxscore and won Game 5 against the Brewers in the National League Championship Series. Boxscore

Marc Rzepczynski was the winning pitcher in the pennant-clinching Championship Series Game 6 versus the Brewers. Boxscore. He also pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in four appearances in the World Series against the Rangers.

Rasmus went on to play four seasons with the Blue Jays, batting .234 with far more strikeouts (447) than hits (342).

He also played for the Astros, Rays and Orioles. He was 31 when he played his last game in the majors.

Though he never played in a World Series or got named an all-star, Rasmus received $47.4 million in salary during his career in the majors, according to baseball-reference.com. In 10 seasons, he batted .241 with 891 hits and 1,106 strikeouts. Video of career highlights

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Al Santorini was a pitcher who confounded the Cardinals with his up-and-down performances for them.

Fifty years ago, on June 11, 1971, the Cardinals acquired Santorini from the Padres for outfielder Leron Lee and pitcher Fred Norman.

A right-hander, Santorini’s three seasons with the Cardinals were highlighted by the three shutouts he pitched in 1972, but frustrations too often overshadowed the successes. Overall with the Cardinals, Santorini was 8-13.

Prized prospect

A son of a truck driver for Ballantine beer, Santorini was born in Irvington, N.J., and excelled at high school athletics in Union Township, N.J.

Santorini was a standout prep quarterback and bowler, but his best sport was baseball. As a pitcher, his high school record was 35-1. A high school teammate, Elliott Maddox, also went on to play in the majors.

Santorini, 18, was considered a prime prospect entering the June 1966 amateur baseball draft. The Cardinals, with the seventh selection in the first round, drafted Leron Lee. The Phillies had the ninth pick in the first round and their scout, Paul Owens, hoped they’d take Santorini.

“I scouted Santorini quite a bit,” Owens told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He had a great fastball and looked so good that I recommended we select him as No. 1.”

Instead, the Phillies used their first-round pick to draft Mike Biko, a pitcher who never reached the majors.

With the 11th pick in the first round, the Braves chose Santorini and assigned him to the minors. The next year, he underwent an operation on his right elbow.

After posting a 2.68 ERA for Class AA Shreveport in 1968, Santorini was called up by the Braves and made his major-league debut in a start against the Giants on Sept. 10 at Atlanta. The Braves’ starting catcher, Walt Hriniak, also was playing his first game in the majors. The regular catcher, Joe Torre, shifted to first base.

Santorini held the Braves scoreless for two innings, but gave up four runs in the third. The big blow was Willie McCovey’s decisive three-run home run. McCovey never got another hit versus Santorini, finishing 1-for-17 against him in his career. Boxscore

A month later, the Braves failed to protect Santorini in the National League expansion draft and he was picked by the Padres.

Fun and games

In three seasons with the Padres, Santorini was 9-24. He was 0-1 against the Cardinals but with a 2.86 ERA in 28.1 innings.

On May 26, 1971, Santorini started both games of a doubleheader for the Padres against the Astros at San Diego.

In Game 1, Padres manager Preston Gomez thought he would outmaneuver the Astros, who started a lineup of mostly left-handed batters. As Santorini warmed up in the Padres’ bullpen before the game, left-hander Dave Roberts secretly got loose in the San Diego Chargers’ football clubhouse.

“When they saw Santorini warming up, they had all those left-hand hitters ready to hit against him,” Gomez said to the Associated Press.

After Santorini retired leadoff batter Roger Metzger, Roberts relieved. He pitched the remainder of the game, but the Astros won, 2-1. Boxscore

In Game 2, Santorini started, went six innings and gave up four runs. His counterpart, Larry Dierker, pitched a one-hitter and the Astros prevailed, 8-0. Boxscore

Two weeks later, Santorini was dealt to the Cardinals.

Hard to win

Used as both starter and reliever, Santorini was 0-2 with two saves and a 3.81 ERA for the 1971 Cardinals. He had a 2.10 ERA in 14 relief appearances and a 5.62 ERA in five starts. In his first start for the Cardinals, Santorini lost, 1-0, to Don Gullett and the Reds. Boxscore

With the Cardinals, Santorini was reunited with Joe Torre, his former Braves teammate. Helped by weight loss, Torre won the National League Most Valuable Player Award with the Cardinals in 1971. He urged Santorini to lose weight, too.

Santorini went from 202 pounds to 190 after the 1971 season. He and Torre shared an apartment in north St. Louis County at the start of the 1972 season.

“Every time Joe caught me having a high-calorie soft drink or eating anything, he’d call me things like fatso or slob,” Santorini told the Post-Dispatch. “Joe is like a guy who gave up smoking finally and then can’t stand to see anyone else smoking.”

Santorini began the 1972 season as a reliever and spot starter. On April 17, 1972, with his parents in attendance at Philadelphia, Santorini got his first Cardinals win in a relief stint versus the Phillies. Boxscore

The win snapped a streak of 12 consecutive losses for Santorini, dating back to April 1970. “It was beginning to get to me,” Santorini told The Sporting News. “It has to make you wonder some.”

Throwing zeroes

On July 4, 1972, Cardinals starting pitcher Scipio Spinks injured a knee in a plate collision with Reds catcher Johnny Bench and was sidelined for the rest of the season. Santorini (4-6) replaced Spinks in the rotation.

Santorini pitched the first of his three Cardinals shutouts on Aug. 6, 1972, in a 6-0 victory against the Phillies. He told the Philadelphia Daily News his arm stiffened in the sixth inning, “but you don’t want to come out when you’re pitching a shutout.” Boxscore

On Sept. 16, Santorini shut out the Pirates in a 4-0 win. A key moment occurred in the seventh when, with two outs and runners on second and third, Santorini struck out Richie Zisk, a former New Jersey prep rival, on three pitches. “Those were the three hardest pitches I threw all day,” Santorini told the Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Two weeks later, on Wednesday afternoon Sept. 27 in the Cardinals’ final home game of the season, 3,380 spectators, the smallest crowd to attend a Cardinals game since Busch Memorial Stadium opened in May 1966, watched Santorini spin a shutout in a 4-0 triumph over the Mets.

Santorini threw 149 pitches and struck out a career-high 12 batters, extending his scoreless innings streak to 20.

“My buddies back in New Jersey were probably watching the game on TV, just off the golf course and drunk,” Santorini said to the Post-Dispatch. “They don’t work.” Boxscore

Santorini finished 8-11 with a 4.11 ERA for the 1972 Cardinals.

The next year, he had a 5.50 ERA in six relief appearances when the Cardinals traded him to the Royals for pitcher Tom Murphy on May 8, 1973.

Santorini spent the rest of the 1973 season in the minors. In 1974, he was in the Phillies’ system, but was released in July.

Santorini called the Cardinals and they signed him to pitch for their Tulsa affiliate. “I was lucky to latch onto a club for the remainder of the season,” Santorini told The Sporting News. “I feel I still can do the job in the major leagues as a reliever.”

After posting a 5.57 ERA for manager Ken Boyer’s Tulsa team, Santorini was bypassed when the Cardinals called up players in September. At 26, his pitching career was finished.

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Two years after being named an American League all-star, Richie Scheinblum became a Cardinals pinch-hitter, closing out his big-league playing career.

A switch-hitting outfielder, Scheinblum was acquired by the Cardinals to help in their quest for a division title late in the 1974 season. Scheinblum was adept at pinch-hitting and the Cardinals wanted him solely for that role.

Scheinblum never got to play in the postseason. The Pirates edged out the Cardinals for the 1974 National League East title.

Scheinblum had six at-bats, all as a pinch-hitter, and produced two singles for the Cardinals. After the season, the Cardinals sold his contract to a team in Japan.

Known as much for his dry wit as for his baseball skills, Scheinblum hit .263 in eight seasons in the majors with the Indians, Senators, Royals, Reds, Angels and Cardinals. He died on May 10, 2021, at 78.

Live and learn

As Bob Broeg noted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Scheinblum was born in the same New York City hospital in which Babe Ruth died and in which scenes for “The Godfather” were filmed.

Describing his early childhood in the Bronx, Scheinblum told The Sporting News, “They tore down my neighborhood to build slums.”

Scheinblum moved with his family to Englewood, N.J. His Little League coach was a woman, Janet Murke, who taught him to hit from either side of the plate, The Sporting News reported.

After graduating from high school, Scheinblum played baseball at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University in Brookville, N.Y., and earned a degree in business administration.

Playing in the Central Illinois Collegiate Summer League, Scheinblum had a job with an ice cube manufacturer.

“We worked from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” Scheinblum told The Sporting News. “We were paid 80 cents an hour for making ice cubes for the Polar Bear Ice Cube Company. They’d wrap two of us in heavy clothes to keep us from freezing and put us in a room where the temperature was 30-below zero.”

Perennial prospect

Scheinblum was 21 when the Indians signed him in 1964 and sent him to the minors. A year later, he made the leap from Class A to the big leagues. Recalling Indians manager Birdie Tebbetts, Scheinblum told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “He used to tell me to go kneel in the on-deck circle until he could think of someone to send up to hit.”

Scheinblum spent most of the next three seasons (1966-68) in the minors. The Sporting News referred to him as “the perennial rookie.”

Lou Piniella also was an Indians outfield prospect. After the 1968 season, the Indians protected Scheinblum, rather than Piniella, from the American League expansion draft.

Scheinblum could hit and throw, but he was neither a graceful fielder nor fast. Asked what gave him the most trouble on defense, Scheinblum told the Kansas City Star, “Everything they hit at me.” Regarding his speed, Scheinblum said, “It takes me five steps to get out of the batter’s box.”

In the Indians’ 1969 spring training opener, Scheinblum “misjudged a fly ball into a triple and fell down fielding a single into a triple,” The Sporting News reported. “He hit an inside-the-park homer, but was called out at third for missing the bag.”

Improbably, Scheinblum began the 1969 season as the Indians’ Opening Day right fielder, batting third in the lineup.

“For four years I’ve been overawed,” he told The Sporting News. “Not anymore.”

He went hitless in his first 34 at-bats.

“The only good thing about playing in Cleveland is you don’t have to make road trips there,” Scheinblum said to Sports Illustrated.

Royal treatment

Demoted to the minors in 1970, Scheinblum hit .337 for Wichita and was dealt after the season to the Senators. Manager Ted Williams had Scheinblum on the 1971 Opening Day roster, but he hit .143 and was sent back to the minors.

“I’ve been sent down more than laundry in a chute,” Scheinblum said to the Los Angeles Times.

Playing for Denver, Scheinblum hit .388 in 106 games. It was the highest batting average in the American Association since Harry Walker hit .393 for the Cardinals’ Columbus farm club in 1951.

The Royals purchased Scheinblum’s contract and he opened the 1972 season with them as a reserve outfielder. In May, after Bob Oliver was traded, Royals manager Bob Lemon platooned Scheinblum and Steve Hovley in right field.

“At first, I was reluctant to go with Scheinblum because I didn’t think he was too good defensively,” Lemon told Sports Illustrated, “but we got to a point where we needed hitting. So I put him in.”

Scheinblum had an unorthodox way he batted. “I pull my head, swing up, and collapse my back leg _ things I shouldn’t do,” Scheinblum said.

The Indians and Senators had tried to change his style, but Royals hitting coach Charlie Lau left him alone. Scheinblum hit .386 in June and took over in right, joining an outfield with Amos Otis in center and former Indians teammate Lou Piniella in left.

“Amos covered everything,” Scheinblum told the Kansas City Star. “I was told to stand on the right field line and don’t move. Lou was told to stand on the left field line and don’t move. What our job was, when the ball was hit, we’d point.”

At the all-star break, the top three hitters in the American League were Scheinblum (.325), Piniella (.319) and Otis (.309). All three were named to the all-star team.

Scheinblum hit .300 for the season and his on-base percentage was .383. He was stunned when the Royals traded him and pitcher Roger Nelson to the Reds after the season for outfielder Hal McRae and pitcher Wayne Simpson.

Seeing red

The Reds were the reigning National League champions and were set in the outfield with Pete Rose, Cesar Geronimo and Bobby Tolan. “I’m probably the only guy in the history of baseball to hit .300, make the all-star team and not have a job the next year,” Scheinblum told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Scheinblum was miserable in the role of reserve outfielder with the 1973 Reds, but attempted to maintain a sense of humor. Asked by teammate Jack Billingham why he always was spitting in the dugout, Scheinblum replied, “That’s the way I keep my weight down.”

Hit king Pete Rose called Scheinblum “the king of the one-liners.”

Scheinblum hit .300 as a Reds pinch-hitter but .222 overall. After the Reds traded him to the Angels in June 1973, Scheinblum told The Sporting News, “They try to discount everything you do over there to hold salaries down …. For the talent they have, they have the most underpaid team in baseball.”

He also took a swipe at the Reds’ manager, saying, “Two pennants have gone to Sparky Anderson’s head.”

In a letter published by The Sporting News, Reds public relations director Jim Ferguson responded, “Scheinblum did more talking than hitting.”

Helping hand

Scheinblum hit .328 in 77 games with the 1973 Angels. At spring training the next year, Angels manager Bobby Winkles assigned coach Whitey Herzog to work daily with Scheinblum on fielding. “We don’t think he’s been as good a defensive outfielder as he can be,” Winkles told the Los Angeles Times.

In April 1974, the Angels traded Scheinblum back to the Royals. Four months later, on Aug. 5, Scheinblum’s contract was purchased by the Cardinals.

Scheinblum, 31, was assigned to Tulsa and hit .247 in 24 games. In September, he was called up to the Cardinals, who entered the month 2.5 games behind the division-leading Pirates.

In his six plate appearances as a Cardinals pinch-hitter, all against right-handers, Scheinblum’s highlights were singles against relievers Gene Garber of the Phillies Boxscore and Dave Giusti of the Pirates. Boxscore

Scheinblum also appeared in the Cardinals’ epic 25-inning game versus the Mets. Batting in the 13th, he flied out to left. Boxscore.

Scheinblum spent the 1975 and 1976 seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan.

His son, Monte Scheinblum, became a professional golfer and was the U.S. national long driving champion in 1992.

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Warren Spahn and Ferguson Jenkins, both destined for the Baseball Hall of Fame, had prominent links to Cardinals pitcher Chris Zachary.

Spahn managed Zachary in the minors and recommended him to the Cardinals.

Jenkins was the foe Zachary outdueled when he pitched the best game of his major-league career.

Fifty years ago, on May 27, 1971, Zachary pitched a two-hit shutout for the Cardinals against the Cubs. The gem was the highlight for Zachary during the season he spent as a member of the Cardinals’ starting rotation.

Welcome to The Show

Born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn., Zachary signed with the Houston Colt .45s after he graduated from high school in June 1962.

A right-hander, Zachary was 19 when he made his major-league debut on Thursday night April 11, 1963, against the Giants at Houston. Entering in the ninth, with the Giants ahead 4-1, the first batter Zachary faced was Willie Mays.

Colt Stadium had poor lighting and created dark spots on the field. Hoping to make Mays uncomfortable, catcher Jim Campbell said to him, “This kid is the wildest son of a gun I’ve ever caught,” The Sporting News reported.

As he settled into the batter’s box, Mays replied, “Man, are you putting me on?”

“No, that’s the truth,” Campbell said.

Mays stepped in front of the plate and yelled to Zachary, “Hey, kid, can you see me all right?”

Zachary had no trouble with his vision, but may not have believed what he was seeing: The first three batters he faced in the majors all were headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

After Mays drew a walk, Willie McCovey singled and Orlando Cepeda followed with a three-run home run. Boxscore

Trials and tribulations

From 1963-68, Zachary shuttled back and forth between Houston and the minors. He lost 16 of 22 decisions with Houston.

In 11 appearances, including four starts, for Houston against the Cardinals, Zachary was 1-2 with a 3.24 ERA. He held the Cardinals to a run in 5.1 innings and got the win on Sept. 6, 1966. Boxscore

The Astros were shut out in Zachary’s two losses to the Cardinals. Ray Sadecki and Hal Woodeshick combined for a shutout in 1965. Boxscore. Al Jackson pitched a one-hitter in 1967. Boxscore

Zachary was acquired by the Royals in October 1968. He spent most of the 1969 season in the minors and was back there again in 1970.

On July 1, 1970, the Cardinals traded reliever Ted Abernathy for Zachary and assigned him to their Tulsa affiliate. “I didn’t think it was a break because all I was doing was switching triple-A clubs,” Zachary said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Chance to shine

In April 1971, the Cardinals became disenchanted with starting pitcher Mike Torrez and sought a replacement. Tulsa manager Warren Spahn suggested Zachary, who was 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts for the farm club in 1971.

“Spahn said Zachary was as good as a lot of pitchers in the big leagues right now, and better than a lot of them,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch.

Zachary, 27, got his first win for the Cardinals on May 22, 1971, in a start against the Padres at St. Louis. Boxscore

It was his first win in the majors since 1967 when he beat the Mets as an Astro.

A week after the win over the Padres, the Chicago Tribune described Zachary as “sensational” in his shutout of the Cubs. He retired the first eight batters before Ferguson Jenkins doubled. The only other Cubs hit was a single by ex-Cardinal Chris Cannizzaro in the sixth. Zachary retired the last 12 batters “to finish a humiliating evening” for the Cubs, the Tribune reported. Boxscore

“I feel I finally know how to pitch after nine years,” Zachary told the Post-Dispatch. “I was just a thrower when I was with Houston. I’m just glad I got a second and third chance. Some guys don’t get those extra chances.”

The good vibes didn’t last long. Zachary was 0-4 with a 9.37 ERA for the month of June. His last win for the Cardinals came in relief against the Expos on July 23 at Montreal. Boxscore

Zachary finished 3-10 with a 5.32 ERA for the 1971 Cardinals. He was 2-8 with a 5.98 ERA in 12 starts and 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 11 relief appearances.

Time to go

After the season, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine informed Zachary the club intended to remove him from the big-league roster to make room for younger prospects. According to the Detroit Free Press, Zachary said he would prefer to be traded and Devine promised to try to make a deal.

In December 1971, the Cardinals traded Zachary to the Tigers for pitcher Bill Denehy. Zachary opened the 1972 season in the minors, but got called up to the Tigers in May and helped them win a division title. In 24 relief appearances, Zachary was 1-0 with a 0.81 ERA and one save. He also made a start and lost.

Zachary made one more stop in the majors, with the 1973 Pirates. After his playing career, he owned a miniature horse farm in Tennessee.

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Even when he was their teammate, Stan Rojek was battered and bruised by Cardinals pitching.

Seventy years ago, on May 17, 1951, the Cardinals, in need of a shortstop, acquired Rojek from the Pirates for outfielder Erv Dusak and first baseman Rocky Nelson.

Two years earlier, while with the Pirates, Rojek was hit by pitches twice in a game against the Cardinals. The second one struck him in the head and put him in the hospital.

After he got sent to the Cardinals, the danger didn’t dissipate. One of their pitchers plunked him during batting practice, cracking a shoulder blade and ending his season.

Pirate in pain

Born and raised in North Tonawanda, N.Y., near Buffalo, Rojek signed with the Dodgers in 1939 and made his big-league debut with them three years later, but he wasn’t going to displace Pee Wee Reese at shortstop.

In November 1947, the Dodgers dealt Rojek to the Pirates and he became their shortstop. Rojek batted .290 for the 1948 Pirates and ranked third in the National League in hits (186).

The next year, on April 27, 1949, in the Pirates’ first visit of the season to St. Louis, Rojek was hit in the back by a Gerry Staley pitch in the fifth inning. In the bottom half of the inning, while turning a double play, Rojek’s low, underhand toss to first came close to striking baserunner Red Schoendienst. The Cardinals accused Rojek of trying to hit Schoendienst, but Rojek laughed at the suggestion, according to the Pittsburgh Press.

In the seventh, Cardinals baserunner Joe Garagiola slid into Rojek at second and Rojek stepped on him with his spikes, The Sporting News reported.

When Rojek batted in the ninth, the first pitch from Ken Johnson was high and inside, brushing him off the plate.

“I didn’t think he’d try to knock me down a second time after brushing me back on the first pitch,” Rojek said, according to the Pittsburgh Press. “So I dug in for what I thought would be a pitch on the outside corner.”

Instead, Johnson’s second pitch headed toward Rojek’s head. “When I saw the ball coming at me, it was too late to duck out of the way,” said Rojek.

The ball hit Rojek flush on the left ear. He wore neither a batting helmet nor a protective lining in his cap.

According to The Sporting News, Rojek dropped his bat and staggered toward the first-base line “with blood coming out of his ear.” As Pirates rushed from the dugout to his aid, Rojek was a few feet from the plate when he fell into the arms of teammate Eddie Stevens, who gently laid him on the ground.

As the Pirates waited for a stretcher to arrive, they confronted Johnson and Garagiola, accusing the pitcher and catcher of conspiring to bean Rojek.

According to The Sporting News, Johnson replied, “I’m only the pitcher.” To some, his response indicated Garagiola called the pitch. Garagiola “was so nervous and afraid that he almost cried,” The Sporting News reported.

Rojek was taken into the clubhouse to await an ambulance. When the game ended, Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer went to see Rojek and said, “I’m sorry, Stan. I hope it’s nothing serious.”

According to the Pittsburgh Press, a groggy Rojek replied, “Thanks, Eddie.”

Some Pirates were unmoved and exchanged harsh words with Dyer. Outfielder Wally Westlake told Dyer, “Get the hell out of here with your apologies,” the Pittsburgh Press reported. Boxscore

Owning the plate

At the hospital, X-rays showed Rojek suffered a concussion, but no fracture. He had swelling under his ear and two stitches were required to close the wound.

Johnson called Rojek at the hospital the next morning and said he never intended to hurt him.

Some suggested Rojek put himself at risk because he had a batting stance “in which his head is almost over the inside corner of the plate,” the Pittsburgh Press noted.

Phillies pitcher Schoolboy Rowe told The Sporting News that Rojek “hogs the plate, leans over it as if he were trying to count the specks of dust on it.”

National League president Ford Frick said umpires determined Johnson was not throwing at Rojek. “They even pointed out that the ball was almost a strike, but because Rojek was crouched over the plate, it hit him in the head,” Frick said. “Stan just froze up there, they said.”

Rojek returned to the Pirates’ lineup a week later, on May 4. For the season, he hit .244.

In 1950, the Pirates platooned Rojek and Danny O’Connell at shortstop. The next year, at spring training, George Strickland won the shortstop job and Rojek was deemed expendable.

Bad break

The Cardinals needed help at shortstop in 1951. Marty Marion, who played the position from 1940-50, became their manager in 1951 and was unable to continue playing because of a knee ailment.

At spring training, reserve second baseman Solly Hemus volunteered to play shortstop. The Cardinals opened the season with him, but when he struggled to hit they sought an alternative.

The Cardinals acquired Rojek, 32, at Marion’s request.

Platooning with Hemus, Rojek took advantage of the opportunity, hitting safely in 13 of the first 14 games he played for the Cardinals.

Three months later, during batting practice on Aug. 8, Cardinals pitcher Red Munger hit Rojek with a pitch, cracking his left shoulder blade. Done for the season, Rojek was sent home. He hit .274 in 51 games for the Cardinals and .319 with runners in scoring position.

Hemus surged after Rojek departed and hit .281 for the season.

Projecting Hemus to remain their shortstop in 1952, the Cardinals sent Rojek to the Browns for the $10,000 waiver price in January 1952.

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