Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

The Cardinals had the right idea, but the wrong position in mind, when they acquired strong-hitting Cecil Cooper from the Red Sox.

Fifty years ago, on Nov. 30, 1970, the Cardinals chose Cooper in the Rule 5 draft. Cooper, 20, was the Midwest League batting champion in 1970, but the Red Sox didn’t put him on their 40-man major-league winter roster, leaving him eligible to be drafted by another organization.

The Cardinals took advantage of the opportunity to obtain a left-handed hitter who was tailored for the AstroTurf and spacious dimensions of Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

Cooper ran well and consistently hit line drives to all fields, but his best position was first base. The Cardinals wanted him for the outfield.

Cards call

A standout high school player in Texas, Cooper was 18 when he was selected by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the June 1968 amateur draft. Assigned to a Class A farm club in Jamestown, N.Y., Cooper impressed, batting .452 with 38 hits in 26 games.

Though he continued to hit well, Cooper stayed in Class A the next two seasons. He hit .297 as the first baseman for Greenville, S.C., in 1969 and .336 for Danville, Ill., in 1970. Cooper primarily played first base for Danville but he also appeared in the outfield in 47 games.

The Cardinals were looking for backup outfielders for the 1971 season. When Cooper was left unprotected, the Cardinals paid the required $25,000 fee to draft him and put him on their 40-man major-league winter roster as an outfielder.

Either the Cardinals thought Cooper had a good chance to make the leap from Class A to the major leagues, or they figured the Red Sox wouldn’t want him back. Under the rules of baseball, if a player claimed in the Rule 5 draft is not kept on the major-league roster throughout the following regular season, he must be offered back to the team that lost him for $12,500.

Plenty of competition

The Cardinals went into 1971 spring training with a starting outfield of Lou Brock in left, Matty Alou in center and Jose Cardenal in right. Seven other players listed as outfielders on the big-league roster were competing for backup spots. In addition to Cooper, others in the mix were Jim Beauchamp, Bob Burda, Jose Cruz, Leron Lee, Luis Melendez and Jorge Roque.

Of the backup outfielder candidates, Burda, Cooper, Cruz and Lee batted from the left side. Another left-handed batter, Joe Hague, was the starting first baseman. Beauchamp, Burda and Cooper could back up Hague as well as play the outfield, but only Cooper lacked big-league experience.

“The Cardinals tried to make an outfielder out of me,” Cooper told The Sporting News.

When the Cardinals began playing intra-squad games, Cooper swung “a pretty stout bat,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In a game with eight position players in the field and batters taking their cuts against a pitching machine, Cooper hit a three-run triple. In an intra-squad game versus pitchers, he had a triple against Santiago Guzman and a double off George Lauzerique. He also substituted for Alou in center field.

“I’m very happy to get this shot with St. Louis and I hope to make the most of it,” Cooper told the Post-Dispatch. “I’ve got to work on my fielding and my throwing.”

Cooper didn’t fare so well in Grapefruit League exhibition games. He had one hit in 11 at-bats. He also walked and scored a run against the Reds. Meanwhile, his competition hit much better: Beauchamp, .408, and Burda, .438.

The Cardinals opened the 1971 season with Beauchamp, Burda, Lee and Melendez in reserve roles. Cruz and Roque were sent to the minors. Cooper was offered back to the Red Sox.

If the Red Sox had said no thanks, the Cardinals could have kept Cooper and assigned him to the minors, but the Red Sox paid the $12,500 to get him back.

Hot hitting

To his dismay, Cooper was assigned by the Red Sox to Winston-Salem, a Class A team, though he already had proven he could play at that level.

“That got me mad, depressed and frustrated,” Cooper said. “I told them, ‘I’m going home,’ and stayed away for five days. I wasn’t going to quit, but I wanted to get away and think. They told me I was lazy, that I didn’t want to play.”

Cooper took out his frustrations on opposing pitchers. He hit .379 in 42 games for Winston-Salem and got promoted to Class AA Pawtucket. In his first six games for Pawtucket, Cooper had 14 hits in 23 at-bats. He went on to hit .343 for Pawtucket, and in September, five months after the Cardinals rejected him, the Red Sox brought him to the major leagues.

“They aren’t likely to let him get away again,” The Sporting News declared. “Cooper is a hitter of promise.”

Cooper’s first hit in the big leagues was noteworthy, It came on Sept. 11, 1971, against Joe Coleman of the Tigers. Coleman held the Red Sox hitless until Cooper singled to lead off the eighth. Swinging at the first forkball he’d ever seen, Cooper tapped the ball toward third. Aurelio Rodrigeuz tried to make a backhand scoop, but the ball rolled under his glove and was ruled a hit. “I thought it would be an error the way I hit it,” Cooper told the Boston Globe. Boxscore

Cooper hit .310 for the Red Sox in 1971 and figured to be their first baseman in 1972, but they traded for Danny Cater and gave him the job. In 1973, Carl Yastrzemski moved from the outfield to first base and he remained the Red Sox’s first baseman through 1976, relegating Cooper to the role of backup and designated hitter.

“Boston never gave me a chance to show what I could do,” Cooper told The Sporting News. “I feel the Red Sox did me an injustice.”

Everyday excellence

In December 1976, the Red Sox traded Cooper to the Brewers for George Scott and Bernie Carbo. Given the chance to play every day, Cooper thrived as the first baseman. He was named to the American League all-star team five times and twice won a Gold Glove Award for fielding. In 1980, he led the league in total bases (335) and RBI (122). He was the RBI leader again in 1983 (126), and twice topped the league in doubles: 44 in 1979 and 35 in 1981.

The Brewers got to the World Series for the only time in 1982 and faced the Cardinals. Though the Cardinals won the championship in seven games, Cooper hit .286 with six RBI.

In Game 5, with the Brewers clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, two outs, in the seventh when Darrell Porter hit a ball sharply to the right side of the infield. Cooper dived, snared the ball and threw to pitcher Mike Caldwell covering first to retire Porter. The Brewers went on to a win, their third of the Series. Boxscore

“That play changed the whole game,” Cardinals second baseman Tommy Herr told the Post-Dispatch. “Cooper has played great first base the whole Series.”

Cooper batted .298 with 2,192 hits and 1,125 RBI in 17 seasons in the majors.

He became Astros manager late in the 2007 season, and managed them in 2008 (86-75) and 2009 (70-79).

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Concerned the Cardinals had become complacent, manager Tony La Russa wanted to add infielder Ryan Theriot to the team as much for his attitude as his skills.

Ten years ago, on Nov. 30, 2010, the Cardinals traded pitcher Blake Hawksworth to the Dodgers for Theriot.

The Cardinals projected Theriot to be their 2011 shortstop, replacing Brendan Ryan, and bat leadoff.

“One of the things we wanted to do was find someone who fit in very well with the club, someone who played hard, and I think Theriot represents those characteristics,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Though Theriot eventually got shifted from shortstop to second base by the Cardinals, he and another key acquisition, outfielder Lance Berkman, helped change the club vibe in a 2011 season that concluded with a World Series title.

Cardinals rival

Theriot played for 2000 College World Series champion Louisiana State and was chosen by the Cubs in the third round of the 2001 June amateur baseball draft. 

A right-handed batter who hit for average, Theriot made his debut in the majors in September 2005 with the Cubs. Two years later, he became their starting shortstop, replacing Cesar Izturis.

Playing for manager Lou Piniella, Theriot helped the Cubs reach the postseason in 2007 and 2008. He had 30 doubles in 2007, and he hit .307 in 2008.

Theriot remained the Cubs’ shortstop when they opened the 2010 season, but in May he was shifted to second base and rookie Starlin Castro took over at short. On July 31, 2010, the Cubs traded Theriot to the Dodgers and he finished the season as their second baseman.

Culture change

Theriot preferred to play shortstop and the Cardinals were in the market for one. The Cardinals, who failed to qualify for the postseason in 2010, wanted a shortstop to replace Brendan Ryan, “whose defensive wizardry failed to compensate for what manager Tony La Russa and the Cardinals’ front office saw as maddening inconsistency,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Ryan hit .223 in 2010.

When the Dodgers signed free-agent infielder Juan Uribe in November 2010, Theriot became expendable.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals had been in talks with the Rays about acquiring their shortstop, Jason Bartlett, but the Rays wanted a package of prospects and Mozeliak was more agreeable to dealing a player, such as Hawksworth, from the big-league roster.

Mozeliak described Theriot as “a winning-type player, someone who understands the game, who can be used in a variety of roles and who has the ability in a lot of different places in the lineup.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz noted La Russa “coveted” Theriot’s “fierce competitiveness to sharpen the team’s edge.”

“La Russa wanted Theriot’s hard-wired personality, and the Cardinals believed they’d receive enough offense from Theriot to make up for his shaky defense,” Miklasz wrote.

A week after acquiring Theriot, the Cardinals signed Berkman, a free agent, to bolster a club that had missed the postseason in three of the past four years.

Mozeliak said, “Last season, if we were down, 4-2, in the seventh inning, the game was over. We thought Berkman and Theriot could help us change the culture.”

Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols called Theriot a “smart player” and someone “who knows how the game should be played.”

That’s a winner

Theriot, 32, signed for $3.3 million to play shortstop for the 2011 Cardinals. “For me, shortstop is the most comfortable,” Theriot said. “It’s what I grew up playing.”

Theriot hit .322 for the Cardinals in April, but he made errors in his first two games. When he made a couple of more errors early in May, giving him eight after one month of play and dropping his fielding percentage to .927, skeptics wondered whether Theriot was right for the job.

Responding to the criticism, La Russa told the Post-Dispatch, “I look at the whole player. He plays his butt off every day. Overall he’s been a significant plus for us. So, he’s made some errors … I’ve equated him a lot to David Eckstein in the way he never takes a day off, never takes an inning off, never takes an at-bat off. Those kinds of guys over six months will do a lot of extra things for you.”

Theriot went on a 20-game hitting streak from May 15 to June 7, raising his batting average for the season to .298.

A month later, he went into a slump, with one hit in 27 at-bats, and his batting average dropped to .263 on July 28. Theriot’s on-base percentage also plummeted to .311, poor for a leadoff batter.

On July 31, the Cardinals acquired Rafael Furcal from the Dodgers and made him the shortstop and leadoff batter. Theriot was shifted to second base, platooning with left-handed batter Skip Schumaker.

Furcal was a catalyst in the Cardinals’ late run to qualify for a postseason berth as a wild-card entry.

Theriot finished the regular season with 26 doubles and a .271 batting mark. He hit .310 against left-handers and .281 from the leadoff spot. He made 87 starts at shortstop and 17 at second base.

In the 2011 National League Division Series, Theriot had six hits in 10 at-bats versus the Phillies. He batted .077 in the World Series against the Rangers, but he did drive in a run in the 10th inning of the Cardinals’ comeback classic in Game 6. Boxscore

After the season, Theriot became a free agent and signed with the Giants. He was the Opening Day second baseman for the 2012 Giants, but eventually was supplanted by Marco Scutaro, who hit .500 (14-for-28) against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

The 2012 Giants went on to become World Series winners. Theriot, who started 81 games at second base for the Giants and hit .270 for the season, got World Series championship rings in each of his last two seasons in the majors.

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During his year in the Cardinals’ farm system, Jim Hicks was the best hitter in the Pacific Coast League.

A right-handed slugger who began the 1969 season as a backup outfielder for the Cardinals, Hicks died Oct. 29, 2020, at 80.

Though he hit for power and average in the minors, Hicks primarily was a reserve player in brief stints in the majors with the White Sox, Cardinals and Angels.

His best season was 1968 when he played for the Cardinals’ Tulsa farm team and earned the Most Valuable Player Award in the Pacific Coast League. Hicks led the league in hitting (.366) and helped Tulsa win the 1968 championship. In 117 games played, Hicks had 149 hits, including 32 doubles and 23 home runs, scored 100 runs and drove in 85.

Thanks, coach

According to the Chicago Tribune, Hicks grew up in a section of East Chicago, Indiana, “where you either eat or get eaten up.”

His father was a steel mill foreman, according to The Sporting News.

When he went East Chicago Roosevelt High School, “I guess you could say I was on the road to becoming a hoodlum at the time,” Hicks told The Sporting News.

Hicks excelled in baseball, basketball and football, and credited a coach, Pete Rucinski, with changing his life. “He’s the greatest man I’ve known because he took me out of the streets and made me an athlete,” Hicks said.

Rucinski told the Chicago Tribune, “Jim wasn’t a bad kid, but he was unsettled.”

In 1958, Hicks got an athletic scholarship to the University of Illinois, but during his freshman year he signed a baseball contract with the White Sox when they offered him $15,000.

Seeking a break

Hicks spent nine seasons (1959-67) in the White Sox farm system. He hit home runs with an upper-cut swing, but also struck out a lot. He got called up to the White Sox for stints as a reserve in 1964, 1965 and 1966.

Limited to 19 at-bats with the White Sox in 1965 and 26 at-bats with them in 1966, Hicks told The Sporting News, “You can’t play one day and sit out two weeks and expect to do any good. You have to play regularly.”

In 1967, when White Sox manager Eddie Stanky assigned Hicks to the minors during spring training and told him to work on becoming a first baseman, Hicks said, “I was discouraged.”

Hicks, married with children, had gotten a degree in business at the Gary branch of Indiana University, and considered quitting baseball when he failed to make the White Sox’s Opening Day roster in 1967.

After thinking it over and determining he’d give the sport another try, Hicks reported to the White Sox’s farm club at Indianapolis, became the first baseman and produced 20 doubles, 12 triples and 21 home runs.

The Cardinals took notice. In October 1967, right after the Cardinals won the World Series championship, general manager Stan Musial made a trade, swapping first baseman George Kernek for Hicks.

Hicks, 27, was ticketed to play outfield for the Cardinals’ Tulsa affiliate in 1968.

“Even though I’d been up and down with the Sox and really had not had a chance to play regularly, I didn’t look forward to joining a St. Louis farm club,” Hicks told The Sporting News.

Hicks explained the Cardinals were stocked with “good, young outfielders like Curt Flood, Lou Brock and Bob Tolan” and he didn’t see much chance of getting to play regularly if he got to St. Louis.

Happy days

At spring training in 1968, Hicks bonded with Tulsa manager Warren Spahn and quickly adapted to being part of the Cardinals’ organization. When the regular season began, he was a terror against Pacific Coast League pitching.

“This is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he told The Sporting News. “I found this is a friendly organization in which there was none of the secret cloak and dagger stuff I encountered with the White Sox. I was relaxed from the outset and had more confidence. I give Warren Spahn considerable credit. He told me to take it easy, not to press.”

Spahn said Hicks “has good power to all fields and he has poise and balance at the plate.”

The Cardinals might have called up Hicks in June 1968 when they were seeking a backup outfielder, but he instead got called to serve a two-week stint for military reserve training. With Hicks unavailable, the Cardinals made a trade with the Astros for outfielder Ron Davis.

When he returned to Tulsa, Hicks continued to compile hits, but the Cardinals, on their way to winning a second consecutive National League pennant, didn’t ask him to join them.

Short stay

After Hicks’ successful 1968 season for Tulsa, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said he “had quite a few inquiries about Hicks” from potential trade partners, but the Cardinals opted to keep him.

Hicks “figures to get a good shot at an outfield reserve job in addition to drawing a big part of the pinch-hitting assignments” with the 1969 Cardinals, The Sporting News reported.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said, “Anybody who hits .366, even in a cow pasture league, is worth giving a good look.”

The Cardinals went into the 1969 regular season with Hicks and Joe Hague as backup outfielders to Brock, Flood and Vada Pinson.

On May 6, 1969, Hicks got the start in right field against the Giants at St. Louis and was credited with two assists in one inning.

It happened in the fifth. The Giants’ Hal Lanier was on first with one out when Bobby Bonds singled to right. Hicks quickly threw to second. When Lanier overran the bag and got caught in a rundown, Bonds broke for second and was tagged out. Ron Hunt followed with a single to right and Hicks’ one-hop throw to the plate nailed Lanier for the third out. Boxscore

Two weeks later, Hicks had five hits, including a home run versus Gaylord Perry, in two games against the Giants at San Francisco. Boxscore 1 and Boxscore 2

“He swings the bat with authority,” Giants coach Wes Westrum told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He has a quick swing and he’s learned to lay off the high, inside pitch.”

Though Hicks had two triples and a home run for the 1969 Cardinals, he also had more strikeouts (14) than hits (eight) in 44 at-bats.

On May 30, 1969, the Cardinals traded Hicks to the Angels for outfielder Vic Davalillo.

Hicks had four hits, three for home runs, in 48 at-bats for the 1969 Angels. He got four more at-bats for the Angels in 1970 and spent the rest of his playing career in Hawaii and Japan.

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To bolster a bullpen rated a laughingstock, the Cardinals added a practical joker.

Fifty years ago, on Nov. 30, 1970, the Cardinals acquired reliever Moe Drabowsky from the Orioles for infielder Jerry DaVanon.

Drabowsky, 35, was a notorious prankster nearing the end of his pitching career.

To some, he was a fading journeyman. To the desperate Cardinals, he became a bullpen ace.

Little relief

The 1970 Cardinals had 20 saves, fewest in the National League. The league champion Reds, led by former Cardinal Wayne Granger, had 60, and the East Division champion Pirates, led by former Cardinal Dave Giusti, had 43.

Slow to recognize the growing importance of a closer and deep bullpen, the 1970 Cardinals finished at 76-86, 13 games behind the Pirates. Inadequate relief pitching wasn’t the sole reason for the poor record, but it was a factor.

The Cardinals’ best reliever, Chuck Taylor, had eight saves in 1970. Frank Linzy, who the Cardinals got from the Giants, contributed two saves, but yielded more hits (66) than innings pitched (61.2) and more walks (23) than strikeouts (19).

Looking to add a veteran reliever to join Taylor and Linzy in 1971, the Cardinals landed Drabowsky.

On the move

A right-hander who began his big-league career with the Cubs, Drabowsky was known best to Cardinals followers as the pitcher who gave up career hit No. 3,000 to Stan Musial in 1958. After injuring his elbow, Drabowsky went from the Cubs to the Braves, Reds and Athletics.

His manager with the 1963 Athletics was Eddie Lopat, the former Yankees pitcher whose ability to change speeds and throw from a variety of motions and deliveries made him a consistent winner.

Lopat changed Drabowsky’s approach to pitching, convincing him to focus on five c’s: comfortable grip, confidence, challenging the batter, control, concentration.

“I give Ed Lopat all the credit in the world for helping me,” Drabowsky told The Sporting News. “Actually, he saved me.”

Working on methods Lopat taught him, Drabowsky found his form during a return to the minors. He was 8-2 with a 2.44 ERA for the Athletics’ Vancouver farm club in 1965. The Cardinals purchased his contract after the season, but the Orioles selected Drabowsky in the November 1965 Rule 5 draft before he had a chance to pitch for St. Louis.

The Cardinals’ loss was a significant gain for the Orioles. Drabowsky was 6-0 with six saves for the 1966 Orioles and helped them win the American League pennant. In Game 1 of the World Series versus the Dodgers, Drabowsky relieved Dave McNally and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings for the win. Drabowsky struck out 11, including six in a row. His performance sparked the Orioles to a sweep. Boxscore

Fun and games

The Royals selected Drabowsky in the American League expansion draft in October 1968, but the Orioles reacquired him on June 15, 1970.

Joe McGuff of the Kansas City Star wrote, “Drabowsky will be missed. In addition to his pitching ability. Drabowsky was a leader on the Kansas City team. The young pitchers looked up to him and he was always ready to help them in any way he could.”

Orioles general manager Harry Dalton told the Baltimore Sun, “We know Moe as not only a good relief pitcher, but one of the most popular players to play here.”

The Sun described Drabowsky as a “peerless practical joker” and an “instigator and target of matchless fun and levity.”

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Drabowsky, during his first stint with the Orioles, planted live snakes in uniforms hung in the lockers of three teammates. Another time, while in the Orioles’ bullpen, he called the visiting Athletics’ bullpen and, impersonating the voice of their manager, Al Dark, ordered pitcher Lew Krausse to start throwing. One of his favorite stunts was to tie a $10 bill to a long, thin string, find cover and yank the money away from unsuspecting persons who reached for it.

Teammates enjoyed trying to turn the tables on Drabowsky. When he went to his locker for the first time after he rejoined the Orioles, “instead of a uniform, he found a white groundkeeper’s suit, plus yellow raincoat and rain hat for use in tending the field when the weather is inclement,” the Sun reported. Stuffed in the locker were rakes, shovels and brooms for infield manicuring.

Drabowsky was a good fit on and off the field for the Orioles, who won the 1970 American League pennant. He was 4-2 with one save, and right-handed batters hit .177 against him. In the World Series versus the Reds, Drabowsky appeared twice, pitched a total of 3.1 innings and yielded one run.

Cardinals card

Figuring they’d gotten want they wanted from Drabowsky, the Orioles were willing to deal, and the Cardinals were first in line to take him.

Initially, it looked like a bad move. Drabowsky was terrible in spring training, posting an 11.25 ERA in Grapefruit League games, but the Cardinals put him on the 1971 Opening Day roster.

Drabowsky was a different pitcher in the regular season. A win versus the Dodgers on June 23, 1971, gave him a 5-0 record and 3.31 ERA for the season. He also lived up to his reputation as a prankster.

When the Cardinals were in Cincinnati, Drabowsky hid a large, rubber snake in a towel in teammate Ted Simmons’ locker. When Simmons saw it, “he let out a scream and broke the Olympic high jump record,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

After Drabowsky discovered the bullpen phone at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis was hooked up to the main switchboard, he began making calls out. One night, Drabowsky called a movie studio in Hollywood and learned Sophia Loren was on location in Europe. He reached her at a hotel and said, “Is this Sophia? This is Drabo.”

“Drabowsky went on to explain he was a great fan of hers,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “They talked for about 10 minutes.”

Another time, Drabowsky called a restaurant in Hong Kong, said he was in St. Louis and asked if he could place a take-out order. According to the Post-Dispatch, the answer was no.

Drabowsky was all business on the mound. He led the 1971 Cardinals in saves (eight) and appearances (51) and was 6-1 with a 3.43 ERA. Right-handed batters hit .191 against him.

In 1972, he was 1-1 with two saves and a 2.60 ERA in 30 appearances when the Cardinals, who had dropped from contention, released him in August. The White Sox signed him and he finished his playing career with them.

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Curt Flood needed money. Bob Short needed customers.

Fifty years ago, on Nov. 3, 1970, in an attempt to fulfill their needs, Flood signed a contract to return to baseball as center fielder for the Washington Senators, who were owned by Short.

Flood hadn’t played in a game since Oct. 2, 1969, with the Cardinals. Five days later, the Cardinals traded Flood to the Phillies, but he refused to report. He filed an antitrust lawsuit against baseball, challenging its reserve clause, which bound a player to a team.

After sitting out the 1970 season while his case went to court, Flood reached an unnerving conclusion: Baseball was his legal adversary, but it also was his best benefactor.

Bob Short saw an opportunity to capitalize.

Cash poor

After rejecting the Phillies’ offer of a $100,000 contract, Flood moved from the United States to Denmark in 1970 and pursued business interests. He was a portrait artist and, according to the Associated Press, he also got involved in a restaurant venture in Copenhagen.

Flood discovered he couldn’t earn nearly as much as an artist as he did playing baseball, and he lost money in the restaurant investment.

“I’m paying alimony and I’ve got five kids to support,” Flood told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s enough to drive any man back into the game.”

While Flood was seeking a financial backer, Short was seeking ways to boost fan interest in the Senators, who finished 70-92 in 1970 and averaged about 10,000 fans per home game.

If the Senators couldn’t attract customers with their play, Short figured they might do it with personalities. He already had manager Ted Williams and slugger Frank Howard. Looking for more, Short, in October 1970, acquired pitcher Denny McLain. Next, he wanted Flood.

“If you sat at as many ballgames as I did this year looking at guys who can’t hit, and you knew somewhere there was somebody not playing who can hit, you’d go after him, too,” Short said.

Pay now

The Phillies retained the rights to Flood, even though he never played for them. Short sought and received permission from the Phillies to negotiate with Flood.

According to The Sporting News, Short offered Flood a one-year contract for $110,000, $20,000 more than he got from the 1969 Cardinals, and agreed to let Flood collect salary as soon as he signed, not when the baseball season started. It also was agreed Flood would continue with his legal challenge against baseball. A federal district judge ruled against Flood, but he appealed.

Flood’s contract included the reserve clause, binding him to the Senators.

All that remained to seal the deal was for Short to get the Phillies to agree to compensation.

Phillies negotiate

Short offered the Phillies a choice of either Mike Epstein, Rick Reichardt or Ed Stroud, the Washington Post reported. All were big-league players. General manager John Quinn said no.

“Epstein can’t hit left-handers,” Quinn said. “He can’t do anything but swing a bat. The only place he can play is first base and we’re up to our ears in first basemen. Reichardt? Our fellows think he’s overrated all the way. Stroud isn’t as good as our John Briggs or Ron Stone.”

The Phillies wanted the rights to the Senators’ No. 1 pick in the 1971 amateur draft, but trading a draft position wasn’t permissible in baseball.

The Phillies settled on a package of Greg Goossen, Gene Martin and Jeff Terpko, a group the Philadelphia Daily News described as “three uniforms filled with air.”

None of the three would ever play for the Phillies.

Still suing

When Flood signed with the Senators, he said, “I’ve had some business reverses and I need the money. I still think the reserve clause stinks.”

Players’ union executive director Marvin Miller said Flood’s return wouldn’t damage the legal challenge to the reserve clause.

“This case involves an issue, not just one man,” Miller said.

Shaky spring

Flood agreed to go to the Senators’ Florida Instructional League team, managed by former Cardinals catcher Del Wilber, and sharpen his skills. “I don’t believe it’s going to be any problem getting in stride again,” Flood said.

Four months later, at spring training, Flood, 33, hit .200 in exhibition games and didn’t play at the level he had with the Cardinals.

“I find my mind wandering all over the place,” Flood said.

Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray observed, “Curt is playing for the sheer money of it. He is as apprehensive as a guy going down a dark cellar to investigate a growl.”

Back in business

The Senators opened the regular season at home on April 5, 1971, against the Athletics. Ted Williams started Flood in center and batted him second. It was Flood’s first regular-season game in 18 months.

“I was jumpy,” Flood said. “I couldn’t sit down. I paced like a caged lion, but after the first time at bat I felt like I’d never been away.”

Flood produced a bunt single and walked twice, but he told United Press International, “I’m not out of the woods yet. I need to feel a little more comfortable at the plate and get acclimated in the outfield.” Boxscore.

Flood totaled three singles in his first 20 at-bats, and Williams benched him against right-handers.

“I told Curt we needed runs and we’re not scoring them with him in there,” Williams said. “He has a great attitude. He understands. He’ll be back.”

Flood’s road roommate, Elliott Maddox, added, “As for his benching, he told me that’s all right as long as we’re winning.”

Flood made his last start on April 20, and followed with a couple of appearances as a pinch-hitter. He hit .200 in 13 games.

Before an April 25 game against the Brewers, Flood was shagging fly balls when he told teammate Mike Epstein, “Things are closing in on me.”

That’s enough

Two days later, on April 27, Flood checked out of his room at the Anthony House hotel in Washington and took a flight to New York. When he didn’t show for the Senators’ home game that night, club officials checked his room and discovered he was gone.

“He never mentioned quitting to me or to anyone else,” Williams said.

When Flood got to New York’s Kennedy Airport, he sent a telegram to Short. It read: “I tried. A year and a half is too much. Very severe personal problems are mounting every day. Thanks for your confidence and understanding.” It was signed: Flood.

The Senators contacted the commissioner’s office in New York, and publicity director Joe Reichler was dispatched to the airport to try to persuade Flood to change his mind. Reichler found Flood at an airport bar.

“I told him he shouldn’t be discouraged, that fans didn’t expect him to come back and hit .400,” Reichler said. “For a while, I thought I had convinced him. He told me, ‘I know I owe Bob Short a great deal. He stuck his neck out for me.’ Then, suddenly, he said, ‘No, no. I’m not going to do it. I’ve reached the end. I’ll go crazy if I don’t get out.’ “

Flood boarded a Pan-Am flight to Spain and never played again.

His friend, St. Louis police lieutenant Fred Grimes, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that, in addition to the alimony and child support payments, Flood was distressed because his father had terminal cancer and a younger brother was in jail.

“He’s running away from himself, so don’t be hard on him,” Grimes said. “This man’s personal life is as unpleasantly involved as a soap opera.”

Senators executive Joe Burke said Flood received about half of his $110,000 salary. Payments started Nov. 1, 1970, and he was paid through April 15, 1971.

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A day at the beach turned deadly for Cardinals outfielder Herman Hill.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1970, Hill, 25, drowned while swimming in the sea in Venezuela.

Fourteen years earlier, on Nov. 27, 1956, another Cardinals outfielder, Charlie Peete, also was the victim of a fatal accident in Venezuela. Peete, 27, his wife and three children were passengers in an airplane that crashed into a mountain top in Venezuela. All 25 people onboard perished.

Both Hill and Peete batted left-handed and intrigued the Cardinals with their talents.

Peete made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in July 1956, four months before his death. Hill made his debut in the majors with the Twins in 1969, but never got to play for the Cardinals, who acquired him in a trade two months before his death.

Special speed

Hill was born in Tuskegee, Ala., and raised in Farmingdale, N.J. A standout athlete in high school in Freehold, N.J., he attended Yankees games and followed his favorite player, Mickey Mantle, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Jack McKeon, a scout for the Twins before he became a big-league manager, signed Hill in 1966.

In the Twins’ farm system, Hill’s speed distinguished him. He hit .292 with 58 stolen bases for Orlando in 1967 and had a 26-game hitting streak.

At spring training with the Twins in 1968, Hill was noticed “for his creativity and originality in baserunning,” the Star-Tribune reported, and he earned the nickname “Beep-Beep” because of “his roadrunner speed and posture.”

On March 15, 1968, in an exhibition game versus the Cardinals, Hill drove in a run with a single against Jim Cosman.

Though the Twins sent him back to the minors for the 1968 season, Hill said his experience at spring training convinced him he’d have success as a base-stealing threat in the majors.

“I’ve seen these pitchers and catchers now,” Hill said. “I could steal on them if they let me get a little jump. I could steal quite a few.”

In the majors

Hill had his best season in 1969 when he hit .300 with 31 stolen bases for Denver. He was called up to the Twins in September and made his big-league debut as a pinch-runner for Harmon Killebrew in a game versus the Indians. Boxscore

Hill got into 16 games, 13 as a pinch-runner, for the 1969 Twins.

In 1970, Hill began the season with the Twins’ farm club in Evansville. He’d been timed running 100 yards in 9.5 seconds, and he went from home to first in 3.4 seconds, The Sporting News reported. Hill said he set a goal of hitting .340 with 70 stolen bases for the season.

Hill was hitting .276 for Evansville when he got called up by the Twins in June 1970, replacing Charlie Manuel on the roster.

On June 29, 1970, Hill got his first major-league hit, a single versus the Royals’ Dick Drago. Boxscore

According to the Star-Tribune, the Twins talked to the Red Sox about a trade of Dave Boswell, Dick Woodson, Brant Alyea and Hill for Reggie Smith and Sparky Lyle, but the proposal was rejected.

In July 1970, Hill was returned to Evansville. The Twins brought him back in September and he was used mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

Terror and tragedy

The Cardinals had installed AstroTurf at Busch Memorial Stadium in 1970 and were looking to build a lineup featuring speed and defense. Hill was a prospect who appealed to them.

“Our scouts, Fred McAlister and Mo Mozzali, liked him a lot and figured he’d be able to take advantage of the AstroTurf with his speed,” Cardinals director of player procurement George Silvey told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He had to learn things like hitting more to the opposite field and making contact more consistently.”

Twins owner Calvin Griffith tried to get the Cardinals to deal pitcher Steve Carlton, but was turned down, the Star-Tribune reported. On Oct. 20, 1970, the Twins settled for a swap of Hill and minor-league outfielder Bob Wissler to the Cardinals for pitcher Sal Campisi and infielder Jim Kennedy.

Hill was placed on the Cardinals’ major-league roster and they were eager to see him in spring training after he fulfilled a commitment to play winter ball in Venezuela for the Magallanes Navigators, a team based in Valencia.

On Dec. 14, 1970, a Monday, the Navigators had a day off. Hill and three Navigators teammates, Indians catcher Ray Fosse, Brewers pitcher John Morris and Dale Spier, a minor-league pitcher in the Yankees’ system, decided to go to the beach in Puerto Cabello on Venezuela’s north coast.

Hill was swimming in the Caribbean Sea when a large wave swept him away from shore, The Sporting News reported.

While Hill struggled to stay afloat, his teammates tried to rescue him. According to The Sporting News, Morris grabbed hold of Hill, who flailed to keep from sinking. Morris had three teeth knocked out in the desperate thrashing. Fosse saved Morris from going under, The Sporting News reported.

Three days later, on Dec. 17, Hill’s body was recovered, according to United Press International.

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