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Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

Roster shuffles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buchek, 24, seemed a promising candidate.

Betting on potential

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

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

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

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

Life’s journey

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

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

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

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

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

New homes

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

Two days later, the trade was announced.

Bressoud and Buchek were the key players.

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

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

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

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

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

Bench player

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously: Mike Shannon and the spring training intrigue of 1967

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

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

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

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

Giant troubles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope rekindled

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

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

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

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

Bad audition

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

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

The Cardinals didn’t pitch him much after that.

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

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

Right fit

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

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

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

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

Old wounds

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

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

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

Series drama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously: How Doug Clarey became Cinderella Man of Cardinals

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

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

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

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

Bench’s blast

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

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

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

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

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

Neither team scored in the eighth and ninth.

Heavy lumber

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

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

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

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

Big swat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carroll pitched three hitless innings to earn the win. Boxscore

Championship caliber

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

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

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

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

Experience matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3-for-1

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Two years after he made his big-league debut against St. Louis as a winner in a game that ended Bob Gibson’s career, Buddy Schultz surprised the Cardinals by becoming one of their most effective relievers.

buddy_schultzForty years ago, on Feb. 28, 1977, Schultz was traded by the Cubs to the Cardinals for minor-league pitcher Mark Covert.

A left-hander, Schultz, 26, was acquired to pitch for the Cardinals’ top farm club.

When given a chance to fill in for an injured pitcher early in the Cardinals’ season, Schultz capitalized on the opportunity and gained the confidence of manager Vern Rapp.

On a staff with established talent such as Bob Forsch, John Denny and Al Hrabosky, it was Schultz who emerged as the Cardinals’ leader in earned run average that season.

Name game

Charles Budd Schultz was born Sept. 19, 1950, in Cleveland. “The middle name was for my Uncle Bud and they fancied it up by adding the extra ‘d,’ ” Schultz told Dick Kaegel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Schultz received a baseball scholarship from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts.

In a game for Miami against Wright State, Schultz struck out 26, establishing a NCAA record.

The Cubs selected Schultz in the sixth round of the June 1972 amateur free-agent draft.

Win vs. Gibson

Schultz made his big-league debut for Chicago on Sept. 3, 1975, at St. Louis. In the sixth inning, with the score tied at 6-6, Schultz relieved Tom Dettore and got Bake McBride to ground out to second, ending the inning.

In the seventh, the Cubs struck for five runs off Gibson, who had relieved Ron Reed. Pete LaCock, batting for Schultz, hit a grand slam off Gibson, giving the Cubs an 11-6 lead. Paul Reuschel shut out the Cardinals over the last three innings, preserving the win for Schultz. Boxscore

Gibson, 39, never pitched in a big-league game again, putting a sour ending to a Hall of Fame career as the Cardinals’ all-time best pitcher.

A week later, on Sept. 10, 1975, Schultz pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in relief of Steve Stone and got his second win in the Cubs’ 7-5 triumph over the Cardinals at Chicago. Boxscore

In two seasons (1975-76) with the Cubs, Schultz was 3-1 with a 6.14 ERA in 35 games.

Getting a break

On the eve of spring training in 1977, Schultz got into a contract squabble, prompting the Cubs to make him available. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine took a chance on Schultz, signed him to a minor-league contract and instructed him to report to the Class AAA New Orleans Pelicans.

“Devine asked me what I wanted and I told him and I signed in one minute,” Schultz said. “Maybe I should have asked for more.”

On March 31, 1977, Schultz worked a scoreless eighth inning in a 2-1 Cardinals spring training victory over the Mets. He caught Rapp’s attention by retiring all three batters he faced, striking out two. “You had to like what Schultz did,” said the Cardinals manager.

Still, when the 1977 big-league season opened, the Cardinals kept rookie relievers John Urrea and Johnny Sutton on the roster. Schultz stayed behind at the minor-league camp in Florida.

On April 9, two days after the Cardinals’ season opener, pitcher John D’Acquisto injured his right calf and was placed on the disabled list. Schultz was called up to replace him.

Good stuff

Mixing a slider with a fastball and palmball, Schultz pitched consistently well in long relief for the Cardinals.

On May 12, 1977, he combined with D’Acquisto and Hrabosky on a one-hitter against the Reds at St. Louis. Relieving D’Acquisto, who started and pitched four hitless innings, Schultz held the Reds hitless until Ken Griffey doubled with two outs in the eighth.

“The fastball Griffey hit was up in his eyes,” Schultz said.

Hrabosky pitched a hitless ninth, preserving the win for Schultz, who was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Boxscore

A month later, the Cardinals made a series of moves that blindsided Schultz.

Strikeout artist

On June 15, 1977, the Cardinals acquired a starter, Tom Underwood, from the Phillies and a reliever, Rawly Eastwick, from the Reds.

Eastwick joined three other high-profile veterans _ Hrabosky, Clay Carroll and Butch Metzger _ in the St. Louis bullpen. Needing to open a roster spot for the newcomers, the Cardinals demoted Schultz (3-1, 1.41 ERA) to New Orleans, with instructions to use him as a starter.

Stunned, Schultz took out his frustration on American Association batters.

In his first start for New Orleans, on June 18, 1977, Schultz struck out 15 in a 9-3 victory over Denver. Schultz also contributed a double, single and RBI. “Maybe they sent me down here to work on my hitting,” he said to The Sporting News.

In his second start, Schultz struck out 10 before a blister developed on a left finger, causing him to depart in the sixth.

Over two starts for New Orleans, Schultz had struck out 25 in 14.2 innings.

When John Denny pulled a hamstring and was placed on the disabled list, the Cardinals recalled Schultz to replace him.

Triumphant return

On June 28, 1977, the Cardinals gave Schultz his first big-league start in the opener of a doubleheader against the Pirates at St. Louis. Schultz, who held the Pirates to a run over 7.1 innings in a 6-1 Cardinals victory, departed to a standing ovation.

“With that, he suddenly produced a two-arm victory thrust and yelled, ‘I’m back,’ ” Neal Russo of the Post-Dispatch reported.

Before he could make a second start for St. Louis, Schultz pulled a leg muscle and was placed on the disabled list. When he returned, the Cardinals utilized him primarily as a reliever.

“He’s much too valuable to take out of the bullpen,” said Cardinals pitching coach Claude Osteen.

Schultz finished the 1977 season with a 6-1 record and a team-leading 2.32 ERA.

Previously: Bob Gibson and his final days with Cardinals

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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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