Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Johnny Mize barely missed out on being part of the Cardinals’ championship run of the early 1940s, but his timing was right with the Yankees.

Seventy years ago, on Aug. 22, 1949, the Giants sold Mize’s contract to the Yankees for $40,000.

The slugging first baseman played for the Yankees for five seasons, 1949-53, and they were World Series champions in each of those years.

Mize, one of the National League’s most feared sluggers when he played for the Cardinals and Giants, became a valued role player with the Yankees, platooning at first base and excelling as a pinch-hitter.

Cardinals clouter

In 1936, two years after the Gashouse Gang Cardinals won a World Series title against the Tigers, Mize made his major-league debut and replaced Rip Collins as the first baseman.

A left-handed batter nicknamed “The Big Cat,” Mize hit with consistent power. He was the first Cardinals player to hit three home runs in a game four times.

Mize had 100 or more RBI in five of his six St. Louis seasons. He established the Cardinals’ single-season home run record with 43 in 1940. The mark held until Mark McGwire, using performance-enhancing drugs, hit 70 for the Cardinals in 1998.

Mize batted .336 with 1,048 hits in 854 games as a Cardinal, but the club never won a pennant in any of his seasons with them.

On Dec. 11, 1941, the Cardinals traded Mize, 28, to the Giants for pitcher Bill Lohrman, first baseman Johnny McCarthy, catcher Ken O’Dea and $50,000.

The Cardinals went to the World Series in each of the next three years, winning championships in 1942 and 1944.

Differences with Durocher

After one season with the Giants, Mize joined the Navy and served for three years (1943-45) during World War II. He returned to the Giants in 1946 and twice led the league in home runs, hitting 51 in 1947 and 40 in 1948.

Leo Durocher became Giants manager in July 1948 and he was tough on his former Cardinals teammate. Mize’s “slowness afoot displeased Durocher,” the Associated Press reported, and, according to The Sporting News, Durocher tried to get Mize “to change his stance in order to pull outside pitches instead of poking them into left field.”

Mize “rebelled quietly at the harshness” of Durocher, the New York Daily News reported.

During spring training in 1949, the Dodgers inquired about Mize but lost interest when the Giants asked for $200,000 in return, the Associated Press reported.

The Tigers made a bid for Mize in July 1949, but it didn’t work out. According to the New York Daily News, the Tigers determined Mize, 36, was “too old and slow.”

Good move

In August 1949, the Giants placed Mize on waivers and none of the other seven National League teams put in a claim for him.

The Cardinals had first basemen Nippy Jones and Rocky Nelson, and club owner Fred Saigh said, “We’re in good shape at first base and didn’t need any more help.”

Said Phillies owner Bob Carpenter: “The fact all the clubs waived on him speaks for itself.”

Though past his prime, Mize still was an effective run producer, with 18 home runs and 62 RBI for the 1949 Giants.

By clearing waivers, Mize could be dealt to an American League team.

The first-place Yankees thought their closest pursuers, the Red Sox, “would take Mize if they didn’t,” the New York Daily News reported, and offered the most money for him. Acquiring Mize also enabled the Yankees to return Tommy Henrich, who was playing first base, to the outfield, his most natural position.

In five seasons with the Giants, Mize hit .299 with a .389 on-base percentage, but, like with the Cardinals, never played in a World Series for them.

Puffing on a cigar, Mize told United Press, “I wouldn’t say I’m glad to get away from the Giants. I got along all right with Leo Durocher, although I didn’t always agree with him.”

The Yankees were credited with making a shrewd move.

“Mize may turn out to be the longball-hitting first sacker the Yankees have been seeking ever since the immortal Lou Gehrig retired,” the Associated Press declared.

Sid Keener of the St. Louis Star-Times wrote, “The Yankees are playing table stakes with blue chips in their effort to bring the 1949 pennant to New York.”

Mize’s mother, Emma, immediately recognized the potential benefits for her son, telling United Press, “All my life I’ve wanted to see him in the World Series. Maybe he’ll make it at last.”

A lot left

In his second game for the Yankees, Mize hit a two-run home run against Bob Feller, sparking them to a victory. Boxscore

The 1949 Yankees went on to win the pennant and Mize got to play against the Dodgers in his first World Series.

In 1950, Mize produced 25 home runs and 72 RBI in just 90 regular-season games for the Yankees.

He was a standout of the 1952 World Series when he batted .400 and slugged three home runs against the Dodgers. He would have had a fourth home run, but Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo “leaped high, leaned back and robbed” Mize, catching a drive headed for the bleacher seats, The Sporting News reported.

Mize appeared in 18 World Series games for the Yankees and hit .286 with nine RBI.

In 1953, his final season, Mize, 40, was at his best as a pinch-hitter, batting .311 (19-for-61) in the role.

When Mize completed his career in the majors, his 359 home runs ranked sixth all-time. He finished with 2,011 hits, 1,337 RBI and a career batting average of .312.

Mize hit 20 or more home runs nine times and never struck out more than 57 times in any of those seasons. When he hit his career-high 51 home runs for the 1947 Giants, he struck out only 42 times.

Read Full Post »

Shortly before Al Hrabosky became prominent, another pitcher with a double-consonant start to his name, Joe Grzenda, was the Cardinals’ top left-handed reliever.

Grzenda died July 12, 2019, at 82. He pitched eight seasons in the major leagues for the Tigers (1961), Athletics (1964 and 1966), Mets (1967), Twins (1969), Senators (1970-71) and Cardinals (1972).

The Cardinals, seeking a reliever who could get out left-handed batters, acquired Grzenda from the Senators for infielder Ted Kubiak on Nov. 3, 1971, but it didn’t work out the way they’d hoped.

Nervous energy

Grzenda, a Polish-American, was born in Scranton, Pa. His father was a coal miner. Grzenda signed with the Tigers when he was 18 in 1955. He injured his arm in the minor leagues and developed a sidearm delivery, relying on a sinker.

After making his major-league debut with the Tigers in 1961, Grzenda was released in 1963 and joined the Athletics. According to Hardball Times, when Grzenda was in the Athletics’ farm system in 1964, his teammates “quickly took note of his habit of drinking two pots of coffee each day. They also noticed his chain-smoking, as he plowed through three packs of Lucky Strikes in a typical day. Sometimes Grzenda would light a cigarette and start smoking, leave it on the bench, and then work so quickly on the mound that he could return to the dugout and finish off the cigarette. A bundle of nervous energy fueled by cigarettes and coffee, he was in constant motion.”

In 1967, with Dave Duncan as his primary catcher, Grzenda was 6-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 52 appearances for the Birmingham club in the Athletics’ farm system. Mets president Bing Devine was impressed and purchased Grzenda’s contract on Aug. 14, 1967. Grzenda made 11 appearances with the 1967 Mets and had a 2.16 ERA.

Grzenda had his biggest successes in the major leagues with the 1969 Twins and 1971 Senators.

Playing for manager Billy Martin, Grzenda was 4-1 with three saves for the Twins, who won the 1969 American League West title.

In March 1970, the Twins traded Grzenda to the Senators, who were managed by Ted Williams.

In the book “Kiss It Goodbye,” Senators radio voice and author Shelby Whitfield noted, “Williams was the only one who saw potential in Grzenda.”

Getting a grip

During the 1970 season, Senators catchers told Grzenda “he was throwing the slider with more velocity than his fastball,” The Sporting News reported.

Seeking a remedy, Grzenda went to Senators pitching coach Sid Hudson, who suggested a grip change. Grzenda tried it and his fastball developed the action of a slip pitch. Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described the slip pitch as “a delivery that fades and falls like a screwball.”

“It serves not only as a changeup,” Broeg wrote, “but also as a good double-play pitch for right-handed hitters who try to pull it.”

Many pitchers can’t control a slip pitch, but for Grzenda it “was love at first sight,” according to Broeg.

Hudson said, “Now he has more confidence in what he is doing because he has more velocity and is throwing pitches with different speeds.”

Grzenda was 5-2 with five saves and a 1.92 ERA in 46 relief appearances for the 1971 Senators. He limited batters to 17 walks in 70.1 innings. Left-handed batters hit .226 against him.

Filling a need

Cardinals scout Joe Monahan was impressed and said Grzenda has “a good curve, his fastball is alive and he has excellent control. His fastball sinks and has the effect of a screwball against right-handed batters.”

After the 1971 season, the Senators moved from Washington, D.C., to Texas and were renamed the Rangers. The club was seeking a second baseman and Williams viewed Kubiak, a Cardinals utility infielder, as an ideal candidate.

“Ted Williams has been interested in Kubiak for a couple of years,” Rangers owner Bob Short told The Sporting News.

Williams contacted the Cardinals to inquire about Kubiak’s availability. Monahan “highly recommended” the Cardinals ask for Grzenda in exchange. Devine, who had left the Mets and was in his second stint as Cardinals general manager, was willing to acquire Grzenda a second time.

“We needed an experienced left-handed reliever so badly,” Devine said.

Devine figured Grzenda and Don Shaw would give the 1972 Cardinals a pair of quality left-handers in the bullpen. Shaw was 7-2 with a 2.65 ERA for the Cardinals in 1971 and left-handed batters hit .171 against him.

Slippery slope

The plan unraveled early in the 1972 season.

Shaw developed a shoulder ailment, made eight appearances for the Cardinals and was traded to the Athletics in May.

Grzenda’s slip pitch no longer was effective. He had a 6.75 ERA in April and an 8.59 ERA in May.

Grzenda and his road roommate, Moe Drabowsky, made unwanted headlines during a series in Houston in May when it was discovered their hotel room was extensively damaged. Devine described the damage as “pretty bad.” According to the Post-Dispatch, light bulbs and drinking glasses were smashed and a bed headboard was “sighted sailing down a corridor” of the hotel.

In June, when he turned 35, Grzenda had a turnaround. He didn’t allow an earned run in 6.1 innings over five appearances for the month. He also got a win with 1.1 innings of scoreless relief against the Giants on June 17. Boxscore

After that, the highlights were few. Grzenda had a 6.75 ERA in August and a 12.46 ERA in September.

The Cardinals, out of contention and headed for a 75-81 finish, used the last few weeks of the season to look at some prospects, including Hrabosky.

Grzenda made the most appearances (30) of any left-hander on the 1972 Cardinals and was 1-0 with a 5.66 ERA. He gave up 46 hits in 35 innings and walked more batters (17) than he struck out (15). Left-handed batters hit .436 against him.

The 1972 season was Grzenda’s last in the big leagues. His career mark in the majors: 14-13 with 14 saves and a 4.00 ERA.

Hrabosky, who had brief stints with the Cardinals from 1970-72, pitched in 44 games for them in 1973 and went on to become their top left-handed reliever from 1974-77 while developing a persona as the self-psyching “Mad Hungarian.”

Read Full Post »

Gary Kolb impressed Branch Rickey, stepped in for Stan Musial and got traded for Bob Uecker.

Kolb, who played seven seasons in the major leagues with the Cardinals (1960, 1962-63), Braves (1964-65), Mets (1965) and Pirates (1968-69), died July 3, 2019, at 79.

A left-handed batter with speed, Kolb primarily was an outfielder who also experimented with catching and playing infield in the hope his versatility would enhance his value to the Cardinals.

Rickey, the former general manager who came back to the club as a consultant, liked Kolb, and so did Musial, who tabbed Kolb and Mike Shannon as potential outfield successors.

Top prospect

Kolb was a standout in baseball, basketball, football and track at Rock Falls High School in Illinois. He enrolled at the University of Illinois and played on the freshman football, basketball and baseball teams.

As a college sophomore, Kolb, 6 feet and 190 pounds, gave up basketball, but played varsity football and baseball. The football Illini projected him as a starting running back as a junior, but he signed a professional contract with the Cardinals in the spring of 1960 after completing his sophomore baseball season.

“I thought I’d better get out of football before I got hurt,” Kolb said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Kolb, 20, played for two Cardinals farm clubs in the summer of 1960, produced 15 triples and was called up to the big-league club in September. He made his Cardinals debut on Sept. 7, 1960, as a pinch-runner. Kolb appeared in nine games, eight as a pinch-runner, for the 1960 Cardinals.

Kolb spent the next two seasons in the minors before getting another September call-up to the Cardinals in 1962. He hit .357 for them in 14 at-bats.

A month later, in October 1962, the Cardinals hired Rickey, 80, as a consultant and one of his first assignments was to assess their players in the winter Florida Instructional League. Kolb was there, playing shortstop, and he caught the attention of Rickey.

Rickey “indicated he considered Kolb one of the best prospects in the camp,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Batter up

In February 1963, shortly before the Cardinals opened spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., they arranged for six prospects, including Kolb, to attend a special five-day hitting session. Joining Kolb were Jerry Buchek, Duke Carmel, Doug Clemens, Phil Gagliano and Dal Maxvill.

Rickey proposed the extra workouts after he observed the players at the Florida Instructional League.

“All are good athletes with good reflexes and baseball instinct,” the Post-Dispatch reported, “but all have been disappointing at swinging a bat against major-league pitching.”

Cardinals manager Johnny Keane, coach Vern Benson and Rickey were the instructors for the sessions.

Rickey “had a special batting cage built in the center field corner of the Redbirds’ spring training park,” the Post-Dispatch observed. “Behind the batting cage is a platform about five feet above the ground from which Rickey watches the batters hit against a pitching machine.”

Rickey told the assembled prospects, “You’ll hit until you are weary. You’ll get blisters on your hands before we’re through, unless you wear the golf gloves we have here for you, gloves for both hands. You’ll swing as hard as you can and you’ll bunt. You’ll bunt for the sacrifice and you’ll bunt for base hits.”

On the rise

The extra work apparently helped Kolb because he had a good spring training camp with the 1963 Cardinals. Eddie Stanky, the Cardinals’ director of player development, said Kolb is “a bulldog and a versatile athlete whose ability to play both infield and outfield will help him make the big-league club.”

Near the end of spring training, Kolb, at Rickey’s urging, “strapped on the pads” and worked out as a catcher “to lend value to his versatile efforts,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

When the Cardinals sold the contract of outfielder Minnie Minoso to the Senators, it opened a spot for Kolb on the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder.

The Cardinals returned Kolb to the minors in May 1963, but he hit .318 for Tulsa and was brought back to the big-league club in July.

Keane gave Kolb a start in right field against the Braves on July 12, 1963, and he produced two hits, including his first major-league home run, against Tony Cloninger. The two-run homer carried onto the pavilion roof at Busch Stadium. Boxscore

Kolb was back in the starting lineup again the next day, July 13, 1963, and went 3-for-4 with two singles and another home run against the Braves’ Hank Fischer. Boxscore

Kolb made 19 starts in right field, mostly in July, for the 1963 Cardinals. He batted .327 with 18 hits and 12 walks in 19 July games.

Kind words

In September 1963, with the Cardinals challenging the Dodgers for the pennant, Kolb was used primarily as a pinch-runner, most often for Musial, who was 42 and in his last season. Kolb appeared nine times as a pinch-runner for Musial in 1963.

On Sept. 29, 1963, Musial was in the Busch Stadium clubhouse, preparing to play his final game, when Kolb and Shannon walked by his locker.

“Wait a minute,” Musial said, putting an arm around each of them.

As photographers and reporters closed in, Musial said, “These are my proteges. They’re going to take over for me, aren’t you?”

Kolb and Shannon blushed, according to the Post-Dispatch.

After Musial stroked a RBI-single in the sixth, Keane sent in Kolb to run. Kolb told his hometown news organization, Saukvalley.com of Sterling, Ill., that as Musial departed first base for the final time to a thunderous ovation, he turned to him and said, “They love you, kid.” Boxscore

Moving on

Kolb batted .271 in 119 plate appearances for the 1963 Cardinals. He generated 26 hits, including five triples, and 22 walks for a .403 on-base percentage.

Kolb hit .328 for the Cardinals versus right-handers in 1963 and overall he batted .500 (9-for-18) against the Braves.

After trading George Altman to the Mets, Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said in November 1963 he viewed Kolb, Shannon, Clemens and Johnny Lewis as candidates to start in right field in 1964.

The scenario changed in February 1964 when the Cardinals acquired outfielder Carl Warwick from the Houston Colt .45s. Warwick and Lewis performed best in spring training and Kolb became expendable.

On April 9, 1964, the Cardinals traded Kolb and catcher Jimmie Coker to the Braves for Uecker, who was viewed as a defensive upgrade as a backup to starting catcher Tim McCarver.

Kolb spent his final three seasons (1971-73) with the Pirates’ Class AAA farm club in Charleston, W.Va., and settled there after his playing career. His cousin, Dan Kolb, was a big-league relief pitcher from 1999-2007.

Read Full Post »

Eight months after striking out in their efforts to acquire Matt Holliday from the Rockies, the Cardinals got him from the Athletics, completing a series of transactions designed to boost their offense and bolster their chances of returning to the postseason after a two-year absence.

Ten years ago, on July 24, 2009, the Athletics dealt Holliday to the Cardinals for three prospects: corner infielder Brett Wallace, pitcher Clayton Mortensen and outfielder Shane Peterson.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa put Holliday in left field and batted him in the cleanup spot between Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick.

Holliday was the third prominent position player acquired by the Cardinals in a span of one month. On June 27, 2009, they got third baseman Mark DeRosa from the Indians for pitchers Chris Perez and Jess Todd, and on July 22, 2009, they acquired infielder Julio Lugo from the Red Sox for outfielder Chris Duncan.

“Tony pushes these guys to be successful,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “My job is to make sure he has the right players to do so.”

Aggressive suitor

The Cardinals’ pursuit of Holliday intensified in November 2008 at the general managers meetings at Dana Point, Calif.

Holliday won a National League batting title in 2007, hitting .340, and led the league in hits (216), doubles (50), RBI (137) and total bases (386) for the pennant-winning Rockies. He became expendable after the 2008 season because the Rockies couldn’t get him to commit to a long-term contract and he was eligible to become a free agent a year later.

“The Rockies arrived at the meetings intent on building momentum for a deal involving Holliday,” the Post-Dispatch reported, and the Cardinals were an “aggressive suitor.”

Mozeliak, who worked for the Rockies before joining the Cardinals after the 1995 season, acknowledged the pursuit of Holliday. “For me to say there were not serious discussions would be inaccurate,” he said to the Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals offered Ludwick for Holliday, the Post-Dispatch reported, but the Rockies also wanted utility player Skip Schumaker and pitcher Mitchell Boggs included in the deal.

According to the Post-Dispatch, “misgivings existed within some quarters of the organization about committing multiple players for Holliday” because he could depart as a free agent after the 2009 season.

Unable to come to terms with the Cardinals, the Rockies traded Holliday to the Athletics on Nov. 10, 2008, for outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and pitchers Huston Street and Greg Smith.

Big deal

The Athletics posted losing records in each of the first three months of the 2009 season and entered July in last place in the American League West. Out of contention and facing the likelihood Holliday could walk away after the season, the Athletics shopped him and the Cardinals made the best offer.

Wallace, the Cardinals’ 2008 first-round draft pick, was the “keystone of the deal” for the Athletics, Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch.

“Wallace is not the type of hitter you’re going to replace easily,” Mozeliak said.

Wallace hit a combined .337 for two Cardinals farm clubs in 2008 and .293 for Class AAA Memphis in 2009.

The Cardinals, who were 52-46 and in first place in the National League Central, 1.5 games ahead of both the Astros and Cubs, were willing to give up prospects for the opportunity to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Asked whether he was concerned Holiday would depart as a free agent, Mozeliak responded, “Let him get a taste of St. Louis.”

How big a deal was it for the Cardinals to get Holliday? “It’s as big as his biceps,” pitcher Adam Wainwright told the Post-Dispatch.

Loaded lineup

Holliday was informed of the trade the morning of July 24, 2009, by text at a hotel in New York, where the Athletics were staying for a series with the Yankees.

Accompanied by his wife and two sons, Holliday took a train from Manhattan to Philadelphia and joined the Cardinals in time for their night game against the Phillies.

La Russa posted a revamped batting order of Lugo at second base, DeRosa at third, Pujols at first, Holliday in left, Ludwick in right, Yadier Molina at catcher, Rick Ankiel in center, Brendan Ryan at short and pitcher Joel Pineiro.

At the time of the trade, Pujols had received 34 intentional walks on the season, or 21 more than any other major-league batter, according to Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.

“By getting Holliday to follow Albert Pujols in the lineup, the Cardinals clearly raised their profile as a National League contender,” the Philadelphia Inquirer observed.

Pujols called Holliday “a professional hitter” and said, “He’d make any lineup better.”

Holliday went 4-for-5 in his Cardinals debut, producing three singles and a double, with one RBI and a run scored in an 8-1 triumph over the Phillies. Boxscore

“I can’t imagine being a pitcher and having to pitch to Pujols and looking on deck and seeing Holliday,” Athletics infielder Mark Ellis said to the New York Daily News. “That’s incredible.”

Dodgers manager Joe Torre, taking a good-natured jab at La Russa, said to the Post-Dispatch, “That lineup is pretty deep now. Tony won’t have to bat the pitcher eighth anymore.”

Happy Holliday

After batting .286 with 54 RBI in 93 games for the 2009 Athletics, Holliday hit .353 with 55 RBI in 63 games for the 2009 Cardinals.

With Holliday, the Cardinals were 39-25 and won the 2009 division title with an overall mark of 91-71, finishing 7.5 games ahead of the second-place Cubs.

Holliday, 29, became a free agent after the season, but returned to the Cardinals. In 2010, he hit .312 with 45 doubles, 28 home runs and 103 RBI.

He played in the postseason in six of his eight years with the Cardinals, missing only in 2010 and 2016, and helped them to two National League pennants and a World Series title.

Holliday’s numbers as a Cardinal: .293 batting average, 1,048 hits, .380 on-base percentage.

Read Full Post »

The NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals may have rejected a chance to acquire running back Jim Brown.

On Feb. 4, 1961, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported the Cleveland Browns twice offered to trade Brown to the Cardinals for running back John David Crow, but were turned down.

The Cardinals confirmed the story and the Browns denied it.

In retrospect, the Cardinals should have done the deal if given the chance, but at the time the decision wasn’t so obvious.

First-round picks

The potential blockbuster featured two of pro football’s premier players.

Brown, who played college football at Syracuse, was selected by the Browns in the first round of the 1957 draft and went on to lead the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons.

Crow, the 1957 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the first round of the 1958 draft. He was the first Heisman Trophy winner to play for the Cardinals, who moved to St. Louis after the 1959 season.

Crow had a permanent scowl he “received upon birth when a midwife struggled to remove the 18-inch umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, resulting in nerve damage that prevented him from closing his left eye, even when sleeping,” the Houston Chronicle reported.

Laughing matter

In 1960, Brown, 24, led the NFL in rushing for the fourth consecutive season, gaining 1,257 yards on the ground in 12 games. Crow, 25, had a breakout season for the 1960 Cardinals, with 1,071 yards rushing in 12 games. He also made 25 catches for 464 yards and completed nine of 18 passes for two touchdowns.

Crow led the NFL in yards per carry (5.9) in 1960, edging Brown (5.8).

Two months after Crow completed the 1960 season by rushing for 203 yards on 24 carries against the Steelers, the Globe-Democrat broke the story of the proposed offer for Brown.

According to the Globe-Democrat, the Cardinals “refused” to trade Crow. Paul Brown, head coach and general manager of the Browns, proposed a Crow-for-Brown swap twice in 10 days, the Globe-Democrat reported. The first time was in person to Cardinals managing director Walter Wolfner at the NFL meetings and the second time was by telephone.

When contacted by the Associated Press about the report, Paul Brown replied, “Pardon me while I laugh.”

Paul Brown suggested the Globe-Democrat story was based on “jesting conversations” he had with Wolfner at the NFL meetings.

“We were talking about Crow not starting in the Pro Bowl game,” Paul Brown said. “Walter seemed put out about it and I asked him if he wanted to trade Crow. So he kept the kidding going by bringing up the name of Jim Brown.”

Paul Brown added, “Jim is not up for trade.”

Do or don’t

Walter Wolfner and his wife, Violet, the Cardinals’ majority owner, “still insist Paul Brown offered his great fullback, Jimmy Brown, for Crow, even up,” Bob Broeg reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

According to published reports, the Browns could have been shopping Jim Brown because he was unhappy in Cleveland.

Syndicated columnist Murray Olderman of the Newspaper Enterprise Association noted Jim Brown was discouraged by Paul Brown’s “robot system” of offense and was threatening to play out his option after the 1961 season. Jim Brown also failed to show at some public team functions and was challenging authority.

According to Philadelphia Daily News columnist Larry Merchant, Jim Brown “has warned the Browns he intends to play out his option” and “realizes his worth on the open market.”

(Years later, in the 1979 book “PB: The Paul Brown Story,” Paul Brown said, “Before the 1962 season, we were considering trading Jim, but all of us agreed we could never get comparable value for him.”)

Asked his opinion of the Cardinals’ rejection of a proposed deal, Chicago Bears quarterback Bill Wade told the Hagerstown (Md.) Daily Mail, “The Cardinals did the right thing. Brown is a great runner, but Crow is the better all-around player. I would say Crow is the complete football player who does everything well.”

At a sports banquet in Wilmington, Del., several NFL players were asked their reactions to the proposed trade. According to the Wilmington News Journal, the responses included:

_ Chuck Bednarik, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker: “They’re almost equally hard to tackle. Crow can run almost _ and I say almost _ as hard as Brown. He’s a terrific passer and a better blocker. I like Crow more because of his versatility.”

_ Ben Scotti, Washington Redskins defensive back: “Brown undoubtedly is the best ball carrier in the league, but Crow could do more things well. Crow is an excellent runner, better blocker and better pass receiver, and he can pass as well.”

_ Paul Hornung, Green Bay Packers running back: “I don’t believe they’d make such a trade. I think each team is satisfied with what it has.”

_ Nick Pietrosante, Detroit Lions running back: “I wouldn’t trade either. They’re too valuable in their particular type of offenses. Brown is the best runner. Crow is a great all-around player.”

Bad breaks

Crow told the Post-Dispatch he “was flattered” the Cardinals turned down an offer for Brown.

Crow was close to Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams, fueling speculation he might consider playing out his option and joining them, but he told the Post-Dispatch he didn’t want to leave the Cardinals.

“The Wolfners not only have treated me well, but the Cardinals are a great gang and I like St. Louis,” Crow said.

Crow broke his left leg in 1961 and was limited to eight games. He came back strong in 1962, scoring 17 touchdowns for the Cardinals, but underwent right knee surgery in 1963.

In January 1965, Crow, dissatisfied with the amount of playing time he got, asked to be traded, the Post-Dispatch reported. A month later, the Cardinals dealt him to the San Francisco 49ers for defensive back Abe Woodson. Crow played four years with the 49ers. Video highlights of Crow with Cardinals

Jim Brown remained with the Browns and went on to earn induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Read Full Post »

After failing to qualify for the postseason in 2007 and 2008, the Cardinals were determined to show they’d do whatever it took to give themselves a chance to return to the playoffs in 2009.

Ten years ago, on June 27, 2009, the Cardinals acquired third baseman Mark DeRosa from the Indians for reliever Chris Perez and a player to be named, pitcher Jess Todd.

The deal helped extinguish skepticism about management’s willingness to make moves to contend and inspired an array of other acquisitions. After getting DeRosa, the 2009 Cardinals traded for left fielder Matt Holliday from the Athletics and infielder Julio Lugo from the Red Sox, and signed pitcher John Smoltz.

Those moves sparked the 2009 Cardinals to a National League Central Division championship.

Wanted: Bat man

The Cardinals opened the 2009 season with a pair of utility players, Brian Barden and Joe Thurston, platooning at third base in place of Troy Glaus, who was projected to be sidelined for several months after having right shoulder surgery.

Without Glaus, who had 27 home runs and 99 RBI for the 2008 Cardinals, manager Tony La Russa wanted a proven run producer to join Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick in the heart of the batting order.

The Indians, who lost 16 of their first 25 games in 2009 and didn’t figure to contend, were shopping DeRosa, who was eligible to become a free agent after the season. In late May 2009, the Cardinals and Indians discussed a deal for DeRosa, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but couldn’t agree on terms.

DeRosa, who could play multiple infield and outfield positions, began his major-league career with the Braves in 1998. He reached his peak in a three-year stretch when he hit .296 with 74 RBI for the 2006 Rangers, .293 with 72 RBI for the 2007 Cubs and .285 with 87 RBI and 103 runs scored for the 2008 Cubs.

The Cardinals and Indians resumed trade talks on June 19 and set a deadline of June 28 to get a deal done.

Future is now

DeRosa, 34, cost the Cardinals two top pitching prospects.

Perez was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2006 amateur draft from the University of Miami and was projected as a closer. Perez was 3-3 with seven saves and 3.46 ERA in his rookie season with the Cardinals in 2008 and 1-1 with one save and a 4.18 ERA in 2009.

“His fastball is 93 to 95 mph and he has touched 98,” Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said to the Akron Beacon Journal. “He also has a swing-and-miss slider.”

Todd was the Cardinals’ second-round selection in the 2007 amateur draft from the University of Arkansas and was the franchise’s minor-league pitcher of the year in 2008. He made his major-league debut with the Cardinals on June 5, 2009, pitching 1.2 innings of relief versus the Rockies.

The Cardinals determined they could part with Perez and Todd because they were confident in their closer, Ryan Franklin, and were grooming Jason Motte to be his eventual successor. According to the Post-Dispatch, Cardinals coaches told general manager John Mozeliak they preferred to have Motte over Perez.

“Sometimes you do have to make short-term decisions,” Mozeliak said. “Sometimes you have to take off the visionary hat. I think that’s how you have to look at the deal.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote, “Acquiring DeRosa was the correct thing to do.”

Puzzle part

The Cardinals got a bad break when DeRosa injured his left wrist in his third game with them on June 30. He didn’t return to the lineup until July 18.

Hitless in his first nine at-bats before the injury, DeRosa was hitless in his first six at-bats after returning from the disabled list, making him 0-for-15 as a Cardinal, before he snapped the skid with a single against the Astros on July 20.

“I just want to be a piece of the puzzle,” DeRosa said to the Associated Press.

Mozeliak did the rest, swapping outfielder Chris Duncan for Lugo on July 22, trading three prospects for Holliday on July 24 and signing Smoltz on Aug. 19 after the Red Sox released him.

The Cardinals won 20 of 26 games in August on their way to clinching the division title.

DeRosa hit .228 with 10 home runs and 28 RBI in 68 games with the Cardinals. He made 58 starts at third base, two starts in the outfield and one at first base. He also played two games at second base as a substitute.

In the 2009 National League Division Series versus the Dodgers, DeRosa hit .385, but the Cardinals didn’t advance.

Short stay

DeRosa, saying he wanted to test the open market, was granted free agency after the 2009 season. The Cardinals were interested in re-signing him, although Mozeliak said rookie David Freese should get first shot at earning the 2010 Opening Day third base job.

DeRosa “still intrigues the Cardinals, but may fit more neatly as an alternative in left field than at third base,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Holliday also became a free agent after the 2009 season and the Cardinals saw DeRosa as a Plan B in left field if Holliday didn’t return.

Unwilling to wait for the Cardinals to make up their minds, DeRosa signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Giants in December 2009. After that, the Cardinals reached a deal with Holliday.

DeRosa played four more seasons with three teams _ Giants, Nationals and Blue Jays. In 16 years in the big leagues, he batted .268. He was at his best in the postseason, batting .358 with 19 hits in 22 playoff games for the Braves, Cubs and Cardinals.

Perez had the most success of the two pitchers acquired by the Indians in the DeRosa deal.

In five seasons with the Indians, Perez had 124 saves and a 3.33 ERA. He was an American League all-star in 2011 and 2012. He spent his last season with the 2014 Dodgers.

Todd pitched in 24 games over two seasons for the Indians and was 0-1 with a 7.43 ERA. The Cardinals reacquired him in 2011 and he pitched for their Memphis farm club for two seasons.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »