Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Weakened by injuries that stripped him of his power and reduced his mobility, Roger Maris appeared unwanted and was considering retiring after the 1966 season, five years after he hit 61 home runs for the Yankees and broke Babe Ruth’s major-league record. Unexpectedly, the Cardinals took a chance on him.

roger_maris3Fifty years ago, on Dec. 8, 1966, in a deal made by Bob Howsam and sealed by Stan Musial, the Cardinals acquired Maris from the Yankees for third baseman Charlie Smith.

Though Maris was a marquee name, he no longer was a marquee player. His diminished skills, along with a reputation for surliness, caused some to wonder why the Cardinals wanted him.

Damn Yankees

In 1965, Maris, who’d broken the hamate bone in his right hand, hit .239 with eight home runs in 46 games. The hand still was weak when he returned in 1966. Then he injured his left knee in a collision at home plate with Tigers catcher Bill Freehan. Maris hit .233 with 13 home runs in 119 games for the 1966 Yankees.

Unhappy in New York and embarrassed by his declining performance, Maris planned to assess his future during the off-season and make a decision about whether to continue playing.

At 32, Maris was “almost positive” he would retire, according to the book “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero.”

In November 1966, Yankees general manager Lee MacPhail called Maris and asked about his plans. Maris said he wanted to wait until spring training to declare his intentions, then added, “If you’re going to trade me, tell me now and I’ll send in my retirement papers to you right away.”

MacPhail told Maris the Yankees didn’t intend to trade him.

Let’s make a deal

A month later, at the baseball winter meetings in Columbus, Ohio, Howsam, the Cardinals’ general manager, was having lunch when he was approached by Yankees manager Ralph Houk, who had managed the Denver Bears in the 1950s when Howsam was the minor-league club’s top executive.

“I started to kid Ralph and said, ‘Hey, when are we going to make a trade?’ ” Howsam told Neal Russo of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Houk then said, ‘Would you be interested in Maris?’ I told him that I’d have to think it over. When I got on the plane heading back to St. Louis, I figured we might be able to use Maris.”

In St. Louis, Howsam met with Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst and asked him whether he’d like to have Maris on the club. Replied Red: “Who wouldn’t?”

Mike Shannon, the Cardinals’ right fielder, had worked in Florida during the off-season on learning to play third base. Howsam and Schoendienst were certain Shannon could make the move to third, opening right field for Maris.

Healthy outlook

Maris learned of the trade from a news photographer who showed up at the Maris house in Independence, Mo., to get reaction shots.

Contacted by the Post-Dispatch, Maris said, “I wouldn’t say I’m overjoyed about the trade.”

In an article for the Post-Dispatch, Joe McGuff, a Kansas City journalist who knew Maris well, explained, “Maris is concerned about his physical condition and he doesn’t want to play if he feels he can’t give the Cardinals a good effort … At this stage, pride is more important to Maris than money. It would mean a great deal to Maris to bow out with a big year.”

McGuff added: “If Maris decides to play for the Cardinals, he will be a definite asset. If he is sound physically, he could bring them a pennant.”

Johnny Keane, who had managed the 1964 Cardinals to a World Series championship before becoming Maris’ manager with the 1965-66 Yankees, told Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg, “If Roger is interested, if he’ll be aroused by this challenge, he could do a big job for the Cardinals.”

Said Schoendienst: “Maris is a real threat. He’ll help in more ways than one. He’s a good outfielder and has good judgment on the bases.”

The reaction in New York, though, was that Maris was through.

In his syndicated column, Red Smith wrote of Maris, “More surprising than yesterday’s deal and the modest price accepted was the fact that the Yankees found a club willing to accept their damaged goods. There was no secret about the guy’s being marked disposable … When Lee MacPhail dropped his name into conversations at the recent winter meetings, people walked away.”

Smith concluded, “He could have owned New York. Now he’s gone and won’t be missed. He was a demigod. Now he is a line in the record book, with an asterisk.”

Cardinal Way

Soon after the trade, Howsam left the Cardinals to join the Reds. Musial, who had become a team vice president after ending his illustrious playing career in 1963, replaced Howsam. One of Musial’s first moves as general manager was to invite Maris and his wife, Pat, to St. Louis for lunch with Stan and his wife, Lil.

When Maris returned home, he received in the mail from Musial a 1967 contract for $75,000, an increase from what the Yankees had paid him.

Maris, though, still was in no rush to commit. Musial didn’t pressure him. Impressed, Maris told Musial in early February he’d report to the Cardinals.

At spring training, Maris gained the trust of Cardinals players by working hard and selflessly on the field and interacting happily and humbly off the field.

Wrote Russo: “He meshed well with his new teammates, joining them in barbecues and chatting and joking often with them at the club’s motel.”

With defense, hustle, smart baserunning and solid fundamentals, Maris’ value to the Cardinals transcended statistics. They won two National League pennants and a World Series title in his two seasons with the club.

Maris produced 18 doubles, seven triples, nine home runs, 55 RBI and hit .261 in 125 games in 1967. In the World Series against the Red Sox, Maris hit .385 (10-for-26) with three walks, a home run and seven RBI.

Maris played in 100 games in 1968 and had 18 doubles, five home runs, 45 RBI and hit .255.

Previously: With last homer, Roger Maris helped Cards clinch title

Read Full Post »

Seeking an upgrade at first base, the Cardinals gambled on Andres Galarraga, hoping he wasn’t an out-of-shape retread who couldn’t handle the slider and instead still was an elite hitter who just needed a nurturing environment and a stretch of good health.

andres_galarragaThe Cardinals, it turned out, were correct about Galarraga, but, in a cruel twist, it was the Rockies, not St. Louis, who benefitted from his best work.

Twenty-five years ago, on Nov. 25, 1991, the Cardinals traded pitcher Ken Hill to the Expos for Galarraga.

The trade was controversial because some thought the Cardinals should have signed a free-agent first baseman, kept Hill and avoided the risk of investing in Galarraga, who had experienced a subpar 1991 season after having established himself as a premier first baseman.

Glory days

Galarraga averaged 23 home runs and 88 RBI each year from 1988 to 1990 with the Expos. He also won Gold Glove awards for his fielding in 1989 and 1990.

When Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog selected Galarraga for the 1988 National League all-star team, he called him “one of the best righthanded-hitting first basemen in this league since Gil Hodges and a sure Hall of Famer unless he has a career-threatening injury,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In 1988, Galarraga led the NL in hits (184), doubles (42) and extra-base hits (79).

The biggest negative was he struck out too much. Galarraga struck out the most of any NL batter in each of three consecutive seasons: 1988 to 1990.

By 1991, his performance declined significantly. Plagued by a pulled groin muscle and coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, Galarraga batted .219 with nine home runs in 95 games for the 1991 Expos. He was booed often by fans in Montreal. “He’s a sensitive guy,” said Expos teammate Tim Wallach, “and you could tell he was hurting a lot.”

Potential trouble

The Cardinals, meanwhile, were in the market for a first baseman. Pedro Guerrero, who held the position in 1991, was 35 and the Cardinals wanted a younger replacement with better fielding skills.

Among the available free agents were Wally Joyner, Bobby Bonilla and Danny Tartabull. However, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, “We have decided we are not going to bid on any major free agents.”

Instead, the Cardinals pursued a trade for Galarraga. “We’ve been trying to make this deal for two months,” Maxvill said.

Dan Duquette, Expos general manager, wanted Cardinals pitcher Rheal Cormier, a native Canadian, for Galarraga. “We talked long and hard about Cormier,” Duquette said. “They told me they would not give up Cormier.”

Hill, 25, was a good consolation prize. He was 11-10 with a 3.57 ERA in 30 starts for the 1991 Cardinals and led the staff in strikeouts (121). He yielded only 147 hits in 181.1 innings, but also issued a team-high 67 walks.

“At times, Hill pitches like Don Drysdale and at other times he pitches like Don Knotts,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Dan O’Neill. “… Hill is still young but patience is wearing thin.”

Said Cardinals manager Joe Torre: “It’s tough to give up an arm like Kenny Hill, but he’s been inconsistent.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, though, thought the Cardinals made a bad deal.

“The Cardinals are taking a risk, sending Hill’s live arm to Montreal for Galarraga’s dead bat,” Miklasz opined.

Noting that Hill is “capable of rolling up a sequence of monster seasons,” Miklasz said, “This is the danger: Hill is still on the way up. Galarraga has been on the way down.”

Of Cardinals management, Miklasz concluded, “They prefer to part with prospects instead of profits.”

Tough break

Galarraga raised hopes for a comeback season with a strong spring training showing in 1992. He batted .314 with 12 RBI in exhibition games.

On April 6, as Galarraga came to bat for the first time in the season opener against the Mets at St. Louis, George Grande said to Cardinals broadcast partner Jack Buck, “I think fans will like him in St. Louis, don’t you, Jack?”

Replied Buck: “If he hits.”

Hopes for a hot start for Galarraga crumbled in Game 2 of the season. In the fourth inning, Galarraga suffered a broken right wrist when hit by a pitch from Mets reliever Wally Whitehurst.

Galarraga returned to the lineup May 22, but he pressed at the plate and went into a deep funk. Galarraga entered July with a .185 batting average and no home runs.

Though he performed better in the second half, it still was a dismal season for Galarraga. He hit .243 with 10 home runs in 95 games and had almost as many strikeouts (69) as hits (79). He batted .191 with runners in scoring position and had an abysmal overall on-base percentage of .282.

Hill, meanwhile, was 16-9 with a 2.68 ERA in 33 starts for the 1992 Expos, who finished in second place, four games ahead of the Cardinals, in the NL East Division.

Rockies revival

After the 1992 season, Cardinals hitting coach Don Baylor became Rockies manager and Galarraga became a free agent.

Baylor encouraged the expansion club to sign Galarraga. In the second half of the 1992 season, Baylor had convinced Galarraga to stop pulling the ball and hit to right field. Galarraga batted .301 in his final 146 at-bats with the Cardinals from July 24 to Oct. 4.

With Baylor continuing to work with him, Galarraga was the 1993 NL batting champion, hitting .370 for the Rockies. He also produced 22 home runs, 98 RBI and a .403 on-base percentage in 120 games.

Despite bouts with cancer, Galarraga went on to a productive playing career that lasted until 2004. He finished with 2,333 hits, 399 home runs and 1,425 RBI.

Previously: The unproductive reunion of Ken Hill, Cardinals

Read Full Post »

Larry Dierker was one of the most popular, personable and productive pitchers to play for the Astros. He was as smooth a fit for Houston as oil, aerospace and barbecue. Imagine then the shockwaves when he was traded to the Cardinals.

larry_dierkerSeeking a veteran leader for their starting rotation with a proven record of delivering double-digit wins, the Cardinals acquired Dierker and infielder Jerry DaVanon from the Astros for catcher Joe Ferguson and outfielder Bob Detherage 40 years ago, on Nov. 23, 1976.

It appeared at the time to be a masterful move by Cardinals general manager Bing Devine.

Dierker, 30, had produced nine seasons with double-digit win totals for the Astros, including 1969 when he became the first Houston pitcher to earn 20 and 1976 when he had a no-hitter versus the Expos among his 13 wins.

When he joined the Cardinals, Dierker ranked fifth among active National League pitchers in career NL wins, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Only future Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Steve Carlton and Phil Niekro had more.

“Every good pitching staff needs a stabilizer and I think he’ll help our staff,” Cardinals manager Vern Rapp said.

Dierker’s stay with the Cardinals, though, turned out to be short and unsatisfying.

Youth movements

Planning to enter the 1977 season with four starting pitchers ages 27 or younger _ Bob Forsch, John Denny, Eric Rasmussen and Pete Falcone _ the Cardinals sought a successful veteran to anchor the rotation.

The Astros also were flush with young starting pitchers such as Joaquin Andujar and Floyd Bannister. The Astros’ needs were a reliable catcher and a power hitter. Joe Ferguson could do both roles.

Ferguson (and Detherage) had been acquired by the Cardinals in the June 1976 trade that sent outfielder Reggie Smith to the Dodgers. The Cardinals, though, had Ted Simmons at catcher, making Ferguson expendable.

Though Ferguson had been a bust with the Cardinals, batting .201 with four home runs in 71 games, he had displayed power with the Dodgers, hitting 25 home runs in 1973 and 16 in 1974.

With other teams inquiring about Ferguson, the Astros offered Dierker to enhance their chances of making a deal.

“We feel he’s the best of all possible available acquisitions,” Astros general manager Tal Smith said to the Associated Press of Ferguson. “There were at least nine clubs in the market for a top-notch catcher and we feel fortunate to get him.”

Smith said he regretted having to deal Dierker, but told United Press International, “If we were going to fill a void, we had to satisfy the other club. In this case, the price was a real quality pitcher.”

Astros ace

Dierker had made his big-league debut with Houston on Sept. 22, 1964, his 18th birthday. Facing the Giants, he struck out Willie Mays in the first inning.

In 13 years (1964-76) with Houston, Dierker had a 137-117 record and 3.28 ERA. (In 2016, Dierker still is the Houston franchise leader in career innings pitched, games started, complete games and shutouts.)

Dierker, who never had played in the postseason with Houston, accepted his trade to the Cardinals, saying, “It seems kind of like a new beginning.”

“I’m still confident I can pitch and I’m not going to be afraid for my job until I know I can’t compete with the youngsters anymore,” Dierker said to The Sporting News. “… I like to feel the Cardinals are getting a pretty good pitcher.”

Injury woes

The high expectations for Dierker were set back on March 3, 1977, when he broke his left ankle while running wind sprints in the outfield at the Cardinals’ spring training camp in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Dierker opened the 1977 season on the disabled list. In May, he began an injury rehabilitation program in St. Petersburg.

On May 22, 1977, Dierker made his Cardinals debut with a start against the Giants at St. Louis. He worked five innings, yielded two runs and took the loss. Boxscore

Placed in the rotation, Dierker was 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA after five starts. In June, he developed right shoulder problems.

The Cardinals asked Dierker to go to the minor leagues to work his arm into shape, but he turned down the request, according to The Sporting News.

After missing a start on July 12 at Philadelphia because of shoulder woes, Dierker was shelled in a start on July 16 at Montreal, yielding three runs and being lifted before completing the first inning. He didn’t appear in another game for the Cardinals until working an inning of relief on Oct. 1.

New careers

In an assessment of the 1977 Cardinals, Neal Russo of The Sporting News wrote that Dierker “was useless most of the season.”

Rapp said Dierker was someone “that you figured would win 15.”

Instead, Dierker had a 2-6 record and 4.58 ERA in 11 appearances for the 1977 Cardinals.

Dierker went to spring training with the 1978 Cardinals. He said he “was feeling great,” but he struggled with command of his pitches. In 17 exhibition game innings, Dierker yielded 21 hits and eight walks and posted a 4.76 ERA.

At the end of spring training, the Cardinals released Dierker, “a development he expected and accepted with grace,” according to Dick Kaegel in The Sporting News.

In February 1979, Dierker joined the Astros’ front office as director of community relations and ticket sales. He was an Astros broadcaster from 1979-96.

In 1997, Dierker replaced Terry Collins as Astros manager and led the club to four division titles in five seasons.

Previously: From the start, Cards vs. Houston rivalry was special

Previously: Willie Crawford and his super season for Cardinals

Read Full Post »

In a bid to bolster their offense, the Cardinals acquired one of the top run producers of the 1950s. The move helped them become contenders again.

del_ennisSixty years ago, on Nov. 20, 1956, the Cardinals got outfielder Del Ennis from the Phillies for outfielder Rip Repulski and infielder Bobby Morgan.

At the time, the only active major leaguers with more career RBI than Ennis were Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Vernon and Enos Slaughter, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane said.

The deal was a steal for the Cardinals.

Placed in a batting order with Musial and Ken Boyer, Ennis hit .286 with 24 home runs and 105 RBI for the 1957 Cardinals.

St. Louis, which had finished in fourth place in the National League at 76-78 in 1956, placed second at 87-67 in 1957. It was the Cardinals’ first finish of second or higher since 1949 and their first winning season since 1953.

Ennis had a lot to do with that turnaround.

High expectations

A Philadelphia native, Ennis had played 11 seasons (1946-56) with the Phillies, batting .286 and producing 1,812 hits and 1,124 RBI. He six times had seasons of 100 or more RBI with the Phillies. In 1950, when the Phillies won the pennant, Ennis led the NL in RBI with 126, eight ahead of the Pirates’ Ralph Kiner.

The Cardinals had interest in Ennis for several years. In 1949, Cardinals owner Fred Saigh offered Phillies owner Bob Carpenter $200,000 for Ennis, according to Ed Pollock of the Philadelphia Bulletin.

“We have the fellow you want, but we won’t take money for him,” Carpenter said to Saigh. “You can have Ennis and we’ll take Musial.”

That ended the discussion.

Still, despite his success, Ennis was “a favorite target of abuse for the Phillies’ bleacher fans,” who expected even more from the hometown player, The Sporting News reported.

Ennis told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I don’t think I’ve been helped either by the boos back there (in Philadelphia) because, though I’ve tried to accept them and shrug them off, I believe maybe I’ve tried too hard.”

Ennis added, “I’ll confess there were times I would have liked to have gone into the stands to get a particularly vicious heckler.”

Younger model

During the 1956 World Series, Lane met with Phillies general manager Roy Hamey to discuss a trade. The Phillies wanted Repulski. They saw Repulski, 28, as a younger version of Ennis, 31.

Repulski’s best season with the Cardinals was 1954 when he produced 175 hits, 39 doubles, 19 home runs and 79 RBI. In 1955, he had 23 home runs and 73 RBI. In 1956, slowed by a hairline wrist fracture, Repulski was limited to 112 games, producing 11 home runs and 55 RBI.

To sweeten the deal, Lane included Morgan, whom the Phillies had dealt to the Cardinals in May 1956 for infielder Solly Hemus. Lane knew the Phillies liked Morgan as a utility player.

The 1956 Cardinals had ranked fourth in the NL in runs (678) and sixth in home runs (124).

Said Lane: “Our crying need has been for power … and we feel Ennis ought to help provide the punch … Ennis is a good whacker.”

Some were surprised the Cardinals were able to acquire Ennis.

“I don’t think Repulski is going to drive in as many runs as Ennis,” Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella said to The Sporting News. “That guy drives them in pretty good every year and he’s been doing it for a long time.”

Del delivers

Ennis started slowly for the 1957 Cardinals. He was batting .225 at the end of May. He heated up with the summer, hitting .317 in June, .308 in July and .357 in September. Overall, Ennis hit .299 with runners in scoring position.

His 105 RBI for the 1957 Cardinals ranked second in the NL, trailing only Hank Aaron of the Braves at 132. Musial had 102 RBI. Ennis and Musial became the first Cardinals teammates to produce 100 or more RBI in a season since Musial (126) and Ray Jablonski (104) in 1954.

Musial (29), Ennis (24) and Wally Moon (24) also gave the 1957 Cardinals three players with 20 or more home runs in a season for the first time since Musial (30), Steve Bilko (21) and Jablonski (21) in 1953.

The 1957 Cardinals ranked third in the NL in runs with 737 _ 59 more than they’d scored in 1956.

Repulski had 20 home runs and 68 RBI for the 1957 Phillies, who finished in fifth place at 77-77.

In 1958, Ennis’ production tailed off. He hit .261 with three home runs and 47 RBI for the Cardinals. After that season, he was traded to the Reds.

Previously: Frank Lane and his tumultuous stint as Cardinals GM

Read Full Post »

As a utility player with the Cardinals, Tito Francona was thinking about his future. The idea of becoming a manager appealed to him.

tito_franconaIn its July 2, 1966, edition, The Sporting News wrote that Francona “explained that he had learned a lot on the sidelines that should help him in his hoped for career as a manager.”

Francona, who played 15 seasons in the big leagues, including two (1965 and 1966) with the Cardinals, never did get to fulfill his dream of becoming a manager. After 1970, his final season as a player, Francona returned to his native Pennsylvania and became a parks and recreation director in Beaver County, according to his biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

It was Francona’s son, Terry, who would become a manager, winning World Series championships with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and an American League pennant with the Indians in 2016.

Like his father, Terry also was a big-league player, primarily a first baseman and outfielder, who played 10 years (1981-90) in the major leagues, mostly with the Expos.

Terry was 5 years old when his father was acquired by the Cardinals from the Indians in a cash transaction on Dec. 15, 1964, two months after St. Louis had won the World Series championship.

Introducing Tito Francona to Cardinals fans in The Sporting News, writer Neal Russo reported that being a referee of high school and college basketball games during the winter kept Francona in good physical condition. “So do his two youngsters, son Terry, nearly 6 years old, and daughter Amy, as frisky a 3-year-old as any you’ll see at the Kentucky Derby,” Russo wrote.

Bound for Browns

John Francona was born in Aliquippa, Pa., about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh, in 1933 and was nicknamed Tito _ which, in Italian, means Giant _ by his father.

In 1952, at 18, Francona signed an amateur free-agent contract with the St. Louis Browns. “They were at the bottom (of the American League) and I figured I’d have a better chance of moving up fast with them,” Francona told The Sporting News in 1964.

Francona never made it to St. Louis with the Browns. The franchise relocated to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Orioles. Francona made his big-league debut with the 1956 Orioles.

In 1959, Francona had his best big-league season, batting .363 with 145 hits in 122 games for the Indians. In 1961, his lone season as an all-star, Francona batted .301 and had career highs of 178 hits and 85 RBI for the Indians.

A left-handed batter, Francona sprayed the ball to all fields. The Indians, though, were seeking more power from a corner outfielder. After the 1964 season, in which he hit .248 in 111 games, Francona was put on the trading block.

The Indians offered to trade Francona, catcher John Romano and pitcher Gary Bell to the Twins for catcher Earl Battey, pitcher Dick Stigman and outfielder Jimmie Hall, The Sporting News reported, but the proposal was rejected. The Indians also talked with the Cubs about a deal involving Francona and others for outfielder Billy Williams, but that also fell through.

Unable to package Francona in a major trade, the Indians sold his contract to the Cardinals for cash. After nine seasons in the American League, Francona would be playing in the National League for the first time.

Quality move

The Cardinals envisioned Francona, 31, as a pinch-hitter and backup to Mike Shannon in right field and to Bill White at first base. His acquisition generally was seen as a shrewd move by general manager Bob Howsam.

“Tito’s not too old and the St. Louis ballpark was made for good left-handed hitters,” said Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning.

Said Phillies first baseman Roy Sievers: “Tito can do a lot of things well. He’s agile. He can do a good job in the outfield and he’s an excellent backup man for Bill White at first base … The short porch in right field at Busch Stadium will help him a lot.”

Francona hit .259 in 81 games for the 1965 Cardinals. He batted .265 as a pinch-hitter.

Used in the same role by the Cardinals in 1966, Francona hit .212 in 83 games. He hit .171 as a pinch-hitter.

Goodbye to good guy

In spring training 1967, Bobby Tolan, 21, beat out Francona, 33, for the role of left-handed pinch-hitter and backup outfielder and first baseman.

On April 10, a day before the Cardinals opened the 1967 regular season, Stan Musial, in one of his first transactions as general manager, sold Francona’s contract to the Phillies.

Noting that the Cardinals received an amount greater than the $20,000 waiver price in the deal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, “The indication is that the Cardinals felt Francona had to play regularly to be of help with his bat and the Redbirds have several younger ballplayers to move in at first or the outfield.”

In 1969 and 1970, Francona played for an Athletics team that included infielder Tony La Russa and catcher Dave Duncan. In 2004, La Russa was manager and Duncan was pitching coach of a Cardinals team that played in the World Series against manager Terry Francona’s Red Sox.

La Russa told the Post-Dispatch then that he and Tito Francona had roomed together on road trips with the Athletics.

“Some guys treated me like I shouldn’t be there … but not Tito,” said La Russa, who was a light-hitting reserve infielder. “He was just a terrific roommate and a very, very helpful guy.”

Previously: George Kernek: Cardinals’ choice to replace Bill White

Read Full Post »

Initially perceived as a marginal player in an unimportant trade, Tony Scott replaced Bake McBride in center field for the Cardinals and was their most prominent starter at that position until Willie McGee claimed the role.

tony_scottThough Scott got his chance with the Cardinals because of his connections to Vern Rapp, it was under another manager, Ken Boyer, with whom Scott had his best St. Louis season.

Forty years ago, on Nov. 8, 1976, the Cardinals traded pitchers Bill Grief and Angel Torres and outfielder Sam Mejias to the Expos for pitcher Steve Dunning, infielder Pat Scanlon and Scott.

Underwhelmed by the transaction, Dick Kaegel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote, “On the surface, it looks like one of those meaningless exchanges of baseball bodies, a deal that could hurt both clubs.”

Rapp’s guys

Dunning, Scanlon and Scott all had played in 1976 for Rapp, who managed Denver, the Class AAA club of the Expos.

In comments to The Sporting News, Scott said of Rapp, “He handles players right. He always gives people a fair shot. He made a winner out of everybody. It was a great experience to play for him.”

After the 1976 season, Rapp was chosen by the Cardinals to replace Red Schoendienst as manager.

On Rapp’s recommendation, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine made the trade for Dunning, Scanlon and Scott.

Devine said the key player for St. Louis was Dunning, a right-handed reliever who had been a first-round choice of the Indians in the 1970 draft. Dunning, 27, split the 1976 season between the Expos (2-6, 414 ERA) and Denver (3-0, 2.74 ERA).

The Cardinals hoped Scanlon could provide pop as a pinch-hitter. Scanlon, 24, hit .308 with 18 home runs for Denver in 1976.

Odd fit

Scott, 25, seemed the least likely to fit in with the 1977 Cardinals, who were flush with outfielders such as McBride, Lou Brock, Hector Cruz, Jerry Mumphrey and Mike Anderson.

McBride, who won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1974, had been limited to 64 starts in center field for the 1976 Cardinals because of knee surgery, but he was expected to be recovered in 1977.

Scott, a switch-hitter, had batted .182 with the 1975 Expos after having spent parts of the 1973 and 1974 seasons with them. At Denver in 1976, Scott batted .311 with 21 doubles, 18 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .361.

Regarding Scott’s play in center, Rapp said, “Denver has one of the larger fields in baseball. Tony had a lot of room to run and he did a good job.”

Unimpressed, Ian MacDonald of The Sporting News wrote, “The Expos were in the market for a good defensive outfielder and they feel that they may have their man in Mejias.”

Job won

Scott played in the Puerto Rican Winter League after his trade to the Cardinals and established a single-season record with 25 stolen bases, including three steals of home.

After a strong spring training, Scott opened the 1977 season as a Cardinals reserve outfielder. The starters were Brock in left, McBride in center and Cruz in right.

Neither Dunning nor Scanlon would play for the Cardinals.

Scott sizzled from the start. He batted .357 (10-for-28) in April and .355 (27-for-76) in May.

Meanwhile, McBride, hampered by a shoulder injury, was feuding with Rapp, who had banned his players from growing long hair or facial hair.

In The Sporting News, Neal Russo wrote, “Rapp was not on the greatest of terms with McBride. It was Bake who became the first to defy the new manager on his hair code.”

On June 15, 1977, the Cardinals traded McBride to the Phillies and made Scott the center field starter. McBride, who had hit .300 or better in each of his first four seasons (1973-76) with the Cardinals, was batting .262 when traded. Scott had a .331 batting average.

Redbird regular

Scott finished the 1977 season with a .291 batting mark, 16 doubles and 13 stolen bases in 95 games.

Scott opened the 1978 season as the Cardinals’ starting center fielder. In April, Rapp was fired and replaced by Boyer. A month later, the Cardinals acquired George Hendrick from the Padres and made him their everyday center fielder. Scott hit .228 in 96 games.

In 1979, Boyer moved Hendrick to right field and reinserted Scott at center field. Scott responded with a solid season: .259 batting average, 152 hits in 153 games, 22 doubles, 10 triples, 68 RBI (including eight sacrifice flies) and 37 stolen bases. Scott also ranked first among NL center fielders in assists (13) and third in putouts (398).

Scott again was the Cardinals’ starting center fielder in 1980 _ he ranked first among NL center fielders in fielding percentage at .997 _ and at the beginning of 1981.

On June 7, 1981, the Cardinals traded Scott to the Astros for pitcher Joaquin Andujar. The following year, McGee emerged as the Cardinals’ everyday center fielder. McGee and Andujar played prominent roles in helping the 1982 Cardinals to a World Series championship.

In five seasons (1977-81) with the Cardinals, Scott batted .255.

Previously: How Hub Kittle got Joaquin Andujar to Cardinals

Previously: Tom Underwood was key in major Cardinals trades

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »