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

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. A right-handed slugger, he began the 1969 season as a backup outfielder for the Cardinals.

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 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.

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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J.W. Porter began his major-league career with the St. Louis Browns and ended it with the St. Louis Cardinals.

He was a highly regarded prospect who experienced personal tragedy soon after he got to the majors.

Primarily a catcher, Porter spent six seasons in the big leagues and played for the Browns (1952), Tigers (1955-57), Indians (1958), Senators (1959) and Cardinals (1959).

Prime prospect

When Porter was born in Shawnee, Okla., in 1933, his father wanted to name him James William and his mother preferred initials, so they settled on J.W., according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

The family moved to California when Porter was 10 and he became a standout youth baseball player in Oakland. One of his American Legion teammates was Frank Robinson, who was two years younger than Porter. “Frank always could hit hard,” Porter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We all knew he would become a great ballplayer.”

Pro scouts expected the same from Porter. He was a strong-armed catcher and a right-handed batter who hit for power. With red hair, freckles and green eyes, Porter resembled Red Schoendienst or Huckleberry Finn, the Post-Dispatch noted.

White Sox scout Hollis Thurston told the Saturday Evening Post, “I’m so sold on him that I’m willing to say without reservation that if he doesn’t make stardom then I see no point in the whole scouting system. Porter is just one of those naturals.”

Before the 1951 baseball season, Porter signed with the White Sox for $65,000, but he never would play a game for them in the majors.

Brought to Browns

In 1952, Porter was with the White Sox’s farm club in Colorado Springs and learning to play outfield. The manager was Don Gutteridge, former infielder for the Cardinals and Browns. Gutteridge told the Post-Dispatch, “I have one outfielder who can’t miss. He’s certain to be playing big-league ball. His name is J.W. Porter.”

On July 28, 1952, Porter, batting .340 for Colorado Springs, was traded by the White Sox to the Browns with Ray Coleman for Jim Rivera and Darrell Johnson.

Two days later, on July 30, 1952, at St. Louis, Porter made his big-league debut. Pinch-hitting against the Senators’ Bob Porterfield, Porter was called out on strikes. Boxscore

After the game, Porter, 19, spoke by phone with his wife of seven months, Patricia, 18, who had stayed in Colorado Springs after Porter got traded. Patricia’s father, Walter Singleton, had joined her, and together they planned to drive home to Oakland while Porter played out the season. According to the Post-Dispatch, Patricia was pregnant.

Devastating deaths

The next day, July 31, 1952, Patricia and her father were beginning their journey to Oakland when they were killed in a head-on car crash near Gunnison, Colo. Porter learned of the deaths from Browns owner Bill Veeck.

Devastated, Porter, accompanied by Browns assistant trainer Bob Spackman, returned home to Oakland, The Sporting News reported.

“I hope the boy will be able to shake off the terrible shock,” Veeck said to the Post-Dispatch. “He’s at liberty to take all the time he wants to take care of his affairs at home.”

After the funerals, Porter rejoined the Browns. He was a pinch-hitter against the Indians on Aug. 9, and started in left field versus the White Sox on Aug. 12.

“Porter may make it, but he’s too young to be counted right now as anything but a good prospect,” Browns manager Marty Marion told the Post-Dispatch.

“I’ve hit Porter a lot of fungoes during the brief spell he’s been with the club and I can’t say he’s a good outfielder, but he has the physical requirements,” Marion said. “He can run well, he has a strong arm and practice should develop his defensive play. As a hitter, he looks great. He has a fine, natural swing, good power and apparently sharp eyes.”

Porter made 24 starts in center field for the 1952 Browns and hit .250 for them. He had a four-hit game against the Senators on Aug. 19. Boxscore

After the season, it was learned Porter would be drafted into the Army. Soon after, on Dec. 4, 1952, the Browns traded Porter, Bob Nieman and Owen Friend to the Tigers for Virgil Trucks, Johnny Groth and Hal White.

“I hate to lose title to Porter, who is a fine prospect,” Veeck told the Post-Dispatch, “but he’s 19 years old and headed for two years in the armed services and the Browns can’t wait for him to be available again.”

Reserve role

Porter was inducted into the Army in February 1953 and he remarried in 1954. After a two-year Army hitch, Porter reported to Tigers spring training in 1955. When Ferris Fain got hurt, Porter became the Opening Day first baseman for the 1955 Tigers. Boxscore

Mostly, though, Porter filled a utility role for the rest of his career.

His first major-league home run was hit in June 1957 against the Yankees’ Don Larsen. Boxscore

In May 1958, when he was with the Indians, Porter batted for Roger Maris and hit a home run versus the Orioles. Boxscore.

Cards come calling

Porter began the 1959 season as the backup catcher for the Senators. On July 25, 1959, the Cardinals acquired him on waivers to be the backup to starting catcher Hal Smith.

Porter, 26, played in 23 games for the 1959 Cardinals and hit .212. He made nine starts at catcher. In two of those starts, rookie Bob Gibson was the Cardinals’ starting pitcher.

On Aug. 8, 1959, with Gibson pitching and Porter catching, Porter hit a home run against the Phillies’ Taylor Phillips. The ball landed “far up in the left-center field bleachers” at Busch Stadium, the Post-Dispatch reported. Boxscore

Two months after acquiring Porter, the Cardinals called up a catching prospect, 17-year-old Tim McCarver. The Cardinals ticketed Porter for the minors in 1960. The Braves acquired him and he played in their farm system from 1960-66.

In 1969 and 1970, Porter managed Expos farm teams in West Palm Beach and settled in the area. When the Cardinals opened a spring training facility in nearby Jupiter, Fla., in 1998, Porter became a stadium usher at their exhibition games.

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Richie Allen provided a bat, but the Cardinals wanted a glove.

Fifty years ago, on Oct. 5, 1970, the Cardinals traded Allen to the Dodgers for second baseman Ted Sizemore and backup catcher Bob Stinson.

The deal was controversial because some thought the Cardinals gave up too soon on Allen, who spent one season with them, and didn’t get enough in return for a proven power hitter. Allen, who played first base, third base and left field, produced 34 home runs and 101 RBI in 1970, even though a hamstring injury kept him sidelined for most of the last seven weeks of the season.

Official reason for the trade was the Cardinals wanted a lineup better suited for the artificial playing surface at Busch Memorial Stadium. They liked how Sizemore fielded and hit on AstroTurf.

The unofficial reason was the Cardinals became convinced Allen was prone to injury and didn’t dedicate himself to healing quickly enough.

Looking to move Allen while his value was at a premium, the Cardinals went after players they thought filled needs.

Mix and match

In 1970, the first season grass was replaced by AstroTurf in Busch Memorial Stadium, the Cardinals finished with an overall record of 76-86, including 34-47 at home. Management determined the lineup needed to be altered with agile players who could maneuver on the artificial surface.

“Part of our problem the past season was we weren’t stable,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Devine and manager Red Schoendienst agreed the first place to start was second base. Julian Javier, the Cardinals’ second baseman since 1960, was 34, had back problems and was “undeniably slowed,” according to the Post-Dispatch.

To get a younger, proven second baseman of the quality of Sizemore, the Cardinals decided to offer Allen. Moving him would open a spot at first base for Joe Hague, who had power potential.

First base was Hague’s best position, but in 1970, when Allen shifted from third to first, Hague went to right field. Thus, the 1970 Cardinals played many games with a slowing Javier at second, a limited fielder, Allen, at first, and a right fielder, Hague, who was out of position. The defense suffered and, in turn, the liabilities had a negative impact on pitching, Cardinals management concluded.

“The club wasn’t balanced enough,” Devine told the Associated Press. “The vital aspect was defense.”

In addition, Joe Torre, who the Cardinals wanted at third base, had been doing a lot of catching when Ted Simmons wasn’t available. The Cardinals wanted Torre focused on playing third base in 1971, so acquiring Stinson to back up Simmons seemed to the Cardinals to be a solution.

Best available

The Cardinals and Dodgers completed the deal four days after the end of the regular season. The Cardinals were motivated to act because the Dodgers were talking to the Senators about acquiring slugger Frank Howard. If the Dodgers got Howard, they wouldn’t need Allen.

The Dodgers were in the market for a power hitter because they hit the fewest home runs (87) in the majors in 1970.

Devine wanted Sizemore, 25, because of his all-around play. Converted from catcher to second baseman, Sizemore won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1969. Though limited to 96 games in 1970 because of thigh and wrist injuries, he hit .306. In games against the 1970 Cardinals, Sizemore batted .323, including .500 (8-for-16) at St. Louis.

In 1969, Ken Boyer, in his last season as a player, was Sizemore’s teammate, and “helped me a lot,” Sizemore told The Sporting News. Boyer, who became a Cardinals coach, lobbied for the club to acquire Sizemore.

“Sizemore was the best and most desirable infielder available,” Devine told the Post-Dispatch. “Sizemore can do anything at second base. He has a chance to become one of the best second basemen in the league. He fits well in our park. He’s a spray hitter and should be helped even more by AstroTurf.”

Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch wrote, “Sizemore is a pesky, hustling performer who should get on base more often than Javier and contribute to the desire to get more smart hitters into the lineup, players able to make contact and hit behind the runner.”

Looking for answers

The Cardinals also needed relief pitching, and Devine tried to get the Dodgers to include Jim Brewer in the deal, but he wasn’t available, the Post-Dispatch reported. A week before the trade, the Cardinals did claim reliever Fred Norman from the Dodgers on waivers. Norman said he would have been included in the trade for Allen if he hadn’t been claimed on waivers.

Critics of the deal said the Cardinals got too little for Allen.

_ Frank Dolson of the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Baseball men knew Allen was on the trading block, but they thought the block was in a higher rent district than Ted Sizemore and Bob What’s-his-name.”

_ Melvin Durslag of The Sporting News: “Outwardly, Allen was no problem in St. Louis, which leads people in the sport to wonder why the Cards would trade a batsman of this quality for two lesser players.”

Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh said when he was told of the deal, “I thought they were kidding.”

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat suggested the trade was made because Allen wore out his welcome. “Twenty-four players followed one set of rules and Allen his own, reporting late at times to the park and generally doing as he pleased,” the Globe-Democrat reported. “He became something of a morale factor.”

Allen and Cardinals management disputed the notion he had been a problem.

“I never had rough words with any of the other players,” Allen said to the Associated Press. “We got along fine in the clubhouse, on the planes and on the buses.”

He told the Post-Dispatch, “I even kept away from the race tracks. All season on the road, I went to the track only two times.”

In remarks to The Sporting News, Devine said, “Allen did everything we could hope for and more. If there was any major problem of morale, I was not aware of it, and I’m sure I’d have been aware of it if there was. I can’t find fault with him. He was acquired to do a job, and he did it.”

In his book, “Red: A Baseball Life,” Schoendienst said Allen “played hard for me.”

Injury concerns

After Allen injured his right hamstring on Aug. 14, he appeared in only five games for the 1970 Cardinals. Schoendienst told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Our doctor said he could have played if we were in the running for the pennant. We weren’t, so we let him rest.”

Others said the Cardinals were not enamored of Allen’s rehabilitation efforts.

Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote, “Allen’s medical track record had more to do with the trade to Los Angeles than his effect on club morale. In seven big-league seasons, Allen has avoided major injuries in only three of them.”

Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch proclaimed, “Allen minded his ways with the Cardinals,” but “one thing he didn’t do was to tend to the pulled leg muscle as earnestly as he might have when he was in drydock.”

In the book “The Spirit of St. Louis,” author Peter Golenbock declared, “Allen had lived the season without controversy, but after the injury he insisted on getting his treatment in Philadelphia. The Cards wanted him to recuperate in St. Louis. Allen, who lived in a hotel room in St. Louis, insisted on going home.”

For his part, Allen said to The Sporting News, “I enjoyed my one year with the Cardinals, although I feel I could have done a little more for them.”

End results

Though plans went awry for the Cardinals in 1971, they did improve. Because of an injury to shortstop Dal Maxvill, the Cardinals opened the season with Javier at second and Sizemore at short. When Maxvill returned to the lineup, Sizemore shifted to second base. He batted .264 for the season.

On the strength of stellar performances from Joe Torre (.363, 137 RBI) and pitcher Steve Carlton (20-9), and steady hitting from Lou Brock (.313), Matty Alou (.315) and Ted Simmons (.304), the Cardinals finished at 90-72.

Allen, who began the 1971 season as the Dodgers’ left fielder before moving to third base to replace Steve Garvey, hit .295 and led the Dodgers in home runs (23) and RBI (90). Like the Cardinals, the Dodgers finished in second place in their division. Their record was 89-73.

After the 1971 season, Allen was on the move again. The Dodgers dealt him to the White Sox, his fourth team in four years.

Sizemore played five seasons for St. Louis, hit .260 and, as a patient No. 2 batter in the lineup, helped Lou Brock establish a record for most stolen bases in a season in 1974.

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