Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Cardinals pitcher Alex Kellner understood the importance of control and precision in his work both on and off the field.

During the baseball season, Kellner relied on pinpoint command of his curveball to keep batters off balance. After the season, he relied on complete command of a different set of skills to capture a mountain lion.

Kellner, who pitched in the major leagues for 12 seasons, including 1959 with the Cardinals, was an avid outdoorsman who hunted for jaguars and bears, went spearfishing in the ocean and, according to several accounts, pursued mountain lions to capture for sale to zoos and circuses.

Meet me in St. Louis

Kellner was born in Tucson, Ariz., in 1924. His father was a cattle rancher and newspaper stenographer, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research.

In 1941, when he was 16, Kellner signed with the Reds and pitched in their minor-league system. Two years later, he enlisted in the Navy and served in the South Pacific during World War II. After his discharge, the Reds released Kellner and he signed with the Athletics.

Kellner, a left-hander, made his major-league debut with the Athletics in 1948 and earned 20 wins for them in 1949. He remained with the Athletics until he was claimed off waivers by the Reds on June 23, 1958. Kellner was 7-3 with a 2.30 ERA for the 1958 Reds, including 2-1 with an 0.65 ERA in three appearances against the Cardinals.

Sixty years ago, on Oct. 3, 1958, the Reds traded Kellner, first baseman George Crowe and shortstop Alex Grammas to the Cardinals for outfielder Del Ennis, shortstop Eddie Kasko and pitcher Bob Mabe.

Wild kingdom

While with the Reds, reports surfaced of Kellner’s wildlife adventures.

Kellner “rassles Arizona mountain lions in the off-season for pleasure and profit,” the Associated Press reported on July 16, 1958.

In its Oct. 8, 1958, edition, readers of The Sporting News learned Kellner had a “hazardous winter pursuit _ roping mountain lions in his native Arizona.” Kellner “sells the big cats to zoos and circuses,” The Sporting News reported.

Kellner, 34, made his regular-season debut with the Cardinals on April 25, 1959, earning a win with five scoreless innings of relief against the Dodgers at St. Louis. Boxscore

In his next appearance, April 30, 1959, Kellner got a start versus the Braves at Milwaukee and was matched against Warren Spahn. Hank Aaron hit a home run in the fourth, giving the Braves a 1-0 victory. Boxscore

“Kellner knows how to handle enemy batters as easily as he does jaguars and mountain lions,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Man vs. beast

Kellner used dogs to pursue mountain lions. When out of options during such a chase, a mountain lion’s natural inclination is to climb a tree because dogs cannot do the same. With the mountain lion in the tree and the dogs gathered below, Kellner would lasso a rope and attempt to capture the animal.

Kellner, assisted by two other men, including his brother Walt, “once took a mountain lion alive in the mountains of southern Arizona,” Post-Dispatch outdoors columnist James Kearns reported. “Dogs were used to tree the animal.”

In the book “Baseball Players of the 1950s,” Walt, who pitched briefly for the Athletics, said, “I was right there with Alex in the off-seasons hunting down mountain lions and bears for zoos and circuses.”

Kellner also “killed a 275-pound black bear in the western part of the state and wild pigs outside Tucson,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “A year ago, he made a 1,000-mile trip into Mexico and brought down a 141-pound jaguar in Nayarit. He got motion pictures of the animal as it took refuge in a tree, snarling and spitting at the pursuing dogs.”

“I tackle anything,” Kellner said.

King of the sea

Kellner, 6 feet, 215 pounds, indicated his most worrisome experience occurred while spearfishing in the Gulf of California near the Mexican town of Puerto Libertad.

“I was skin diving for fish about 200 yards from shore when this sea lion stuck his head out of the water a few feet away,” Kellner told the Post-Dispatch. “He was as big as I am. I looked him over and he looked me over. He circled me four times, making a survey from all angles. I never took my eyes off him.

“He disappeared beneath the water, but returned about five minutes later. I suppose he was just being playful, but I was glad when he left for good.”

Kellner pitched effectively for the Cardinals as a starter and reliever until June 23, 1959, when he started again against the Braves at Milwaukee. After retiring the first two batters, Andy Pafko and Eddie Mathews, in the first inning, Kellner was pitching to Aaron when he felt a searing pain in his left elbow.

Kellner, who suffered a muscle tear in the elbow, was removed from the game and never pitched again. Boxscore

His record for the 1959 Cardinals was 2-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 12 appearances, including four starts.

Kellner had a career mark of 101-112 with a 4.41 ERA for the Athletics (1948-58), Reds (1958) and Cardinals (1959).

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Seeking stability at shortstop, the Cardinals went back to the past in a bid to enhance their future.

Sixty years ago, on Oct. 3, 1958, the Cardinals acquired shortstop Alex Grammas, first baseman George Crowe and pitcher Alex Kellner from the Reds for shortstop Eddie Kasko, outfielder Del Ennis and pitcher Bob Mabe.

The key to the deal for the Cardinals was Grammas, who had been their starting shortstop in 1954 and 1955 after being acquired from the Reds.

After using eight players at shortstop in 1958, the Cardinals were eager to have someone they knew who could do the job consistently, if not spectacularly.

Moving around

Grammas played baseball for Mississippi State and earned a degree in business. After graduating in 1949, he signed with the White Sox and played in their minor-league system until he was traded to the Reds in June 1951.

The Reds kept Grammas in the minor leagues and in 1953 they loaned him to the Kansas City Blues, a Yankees farm club. Grammas produced his best season for the Blues, batting .307 with 179 hits in 140 games as the everyday shortstop.

The Reds, who had smooth-fielding Roy McMillan as their shortstop, traded Grammas to the Cardinals on Dec. 2, 1953, for pitcher Jack Crimian and $100,000.

Grammas proved ready as a rookie to replace Solly Hemus as the Cardinals’ starter in 1954. He batted .264 and ranked second among National League shortstops in fielding percentage at .966. Grammas continued his good glove work (.968 fielding percentage) in 1955, but his batting average dipped to .240.

Frank Lane, who as White Sox general manager had traded Grammas to the Reds in 1951, became Cardinals general manager after the 1955 season and wanted more run production from a shortstop than Grammas was able to give.

Grammas opened the 1956 season as the starter, but on May 16 he was traded with outfielder Joe Frazier to the Reds for utility player Chuck Harmon. A month later, Lane dealt second baseman Red Schoendienst to the Giants for Al Dark, who became the Cardinals’ everyday shortstop.

Anatomy of a deal

Dark provided the hitting Lane sought, but all did not end well. Lane clashed with Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, departed after the 1957 season and was replaced by Bing Devine. Dark lacked fielding range as a shortstop, got traded by Devine to the Cubs in May 1958 and was replaced by Kasko, who’d been the Cardinals’ starting third baseman as a rookie in 1957.

Kasko made 64 starts at shortstop, didn’t hit well and was benched. Besides Dark and Kasko, others who played shortstop for the 1958 Cardinals were Ruben Amaro, Ken Boyer, Gene Freese, Johnny O’Brien, Dick Schofield and Lee Tate.

As the 1958 season neared its end, Devine, under orders from Busch, reluctantly fired manager Fred Hutchinson and replaced him with Busch’s personal choice, Hemus. While attending the 1958 World Series between the Braves and Yankees, Devine and Hemus went searching for a shortstop.

During Game 1 at Milwaukee, Devine and Hemus sat in the stands near their Reds counterparts, general manager Gabe Paul and manager Mayo Smith. According to Si Burick of the Dayton Daily News, Devine said to Paul, “I’ll take Alex Grammas.” Paul demanded Ennis in return.

“Cincinnati did not want to give up Grammas, one of the top utility infielders of the game, though a weak hitter,” Burick reported.

At Game 2, the trade interest between Devine and Paul got serious and, in an attempt at being discreet, they passed notes to one another from their box seats. One of Devine’s notes to Paul read, “It’s Grammas or nobody.”

Devine and Paul agreed to meet again when the World Series shifted to New York and they made the deal around noon on Oct. 3.

Encore performance

“Whether Grammas will be an improvement over Kasko is a question,” Bob Broeg wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Neither can hit for average or distance. Grammas is considered by the Cardinals’ management to be steadier afield.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer declared, “Grammas, as everybody knows, is an excellent glove man, but an all-American out at the plate.”

Grammas was glad to be rejoining the Cardinals and told the Associated Press, “I like Solly Hemus. He helped me a lot with the Cards before, as much as a fellow ever did in baseball. If I was going to be traded, I couldn’t think of a place to go that I’d like better than St. Louis.”

Of the other two players acquired by the Cardinals from the Reds, Crowe was projected to be a pinch-hitter and backup first baseman and Kellner was expected to help as a left-handed reliever.

After the 1958 World Series was completed, the Cardinals went on a goodwill tour of Japan. Grammas was part of the entourage; Crowe and Kellner weren’t. The exhibition games against Japanese teams gave the Cardinals a chance to evaluate Grammas and he impressed.

Grammas, 33, opened the 1959 season as the Cardinals’ starting shortstop and he kept the job throughout the year, making 123 starts, batting .269 overall and ranking third in fielding percentage (.964) among National Leaguers at the position.

Crowe, 38, hit .301 in 103 at-bats for the 1959 Cardinals. He also played for them in 1960 and 1961, became a mentor to players such as Curt Flood, Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver, and stayed with the Cardinals as an instructor and scout after his playing days. Kellner, 34, was 2-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 12 appearances for the 1959 Cardinals before an elbow ailment ended his major-league pitching career.

After the 1959 season, the Cardinals obtained power-hitting shortstop Daryl Spencer from the Giants. Grammas opened the 1960 season as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman and held that job until the end of May, when he was replaced by rookie Julian Javier.

Grammas was a Cardinals utility player for the remainder of 1960, all of 1961 and part of 1962 before he was traded with outfielder Don Landrum to the Cubs for infielder Daryl Roberston and outfielder Bobby Gene Smith on June 5, 1962.

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The 1943 Cardinals figured they had plenty of quality left-handed pitching. What they needed most was cash.

Seventy-five years ago, in September 1943, the Cardinals traded a top left-handed pitching prospect, Preacher Roe, to the Pirates for pitcher Johnny Podgajny, outfielder Johnny Wyrostek and “a big bundle of cash,” The Sporting News reported.

The Cardinals received “in the neighborhood of $25,000,” according to The Pittsburgh Press. They needed the money to offset financial losses in their minor-league system, The Sporting News reported.

Roe was well-regarded, but the Cardinals were stocked with left-handed pitchers such as Al Brazle, Harry Brecheen, Max Lanier and Ernie White and had another, Howie Pollet, in military service.

Several clubs made bids for Roe, but the Pirates won out because they offered the Cardinals the best combination of cash and players.

Name game

Elwin Roe was born in Ash Flat, Ark., and his father, Charles Roe, was a physician who played and coached semi-pro baseball.

When Elwin was 3 years old, he told an uncle he thought he should have a new name.

“What do you think it should be?” the uncle asked.

“Preacher,” replied the boy, who admired a local minister and his wife who took Roe for rides in their horse-driven buggy.

From then on, he was known as Preacher Roe, United Press reported.

Roe showed skill as a ballplayer and his father initially steered him toward being an outfielder. “I wanted to pitch,” Roe said, “but Dad wouldn’t let me until I was 16. I think that saved my arm and gave me the strength to throw my fast one.”

Roe eventually enrolled at Harding College in Searcy, Ark., and became a pitcher, posting a 24-4 career record there. In 1938, when Roe was 10-1, he struck out 27 in a 13-inning game. “It shows he has grasped the general idea of the fundamentals of pitching,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch somberly proclaimed.

Speedy trial

Roe attracted the attention of the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Indians and Cardinals, according to the St. Louis Star-Times.

On July 25, 1938, Cardinals scout Frank Rickey, brother of club executive Branch Rickey, convinced Roe to sign with the Cardinals for $5,000. “It’s understood he rejected offers from the Yankees and Tigers,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Roe, 22, was placed on the big-league roster, joined the Cardinals in New York and spent the next few weeks watching and learning.

On Aug. 19, 1938, Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch gave Roe the start in an exhibition game against the semi-pro Belleville Stags at Athletic Park in Belleville, Ill. Roe pitched a three-hitter, striking out 11 and issuing no walks, in a 4-1 Cardinals victory.

Three days later, on Aug. 22, 1938, Roe made his major-league debut, pitching 2.2 innings of relief and yielding four runs to the Reds at St. Louis. Boxscore

That was Roe’s lone major-league appearance for the Cardinals.

Pirates prize

After the 1938 season, the Cardinals sent Roe to the minor leagues and he spent the next five years (1939-43) pitching for their farm clubs without getting another chance to return to the big leagues.

In 1943, Roe, 27, had his best minor-league season, posting a 15-7 record and 2.37 ERA for the Columbus (Ohio) Redbirds.

“The Preacher has speed, a fine curveball that he can operate on more than one speed and he flanks these orthodox offerings with a dandy screwball,” The Sporting News reported.

On Sept. 15, 1943, the Pirates obtained Roe from the Cardinals. Frisch, fired by the Cardinals in September 1938, was the Pirates’ manager and recommended they acquire Roe.

The Pirates got “one of the gems of the year,” The Pittsburgh Press reported. “Scouts believe he can’t miss in the majors this time.”

“In getting one of the real prize packages of the minors, Preacher Roe, the Pirates strengthened their pitching staff for next season,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette declared.

Big chance

Roe reported to spring training in 1944 at Muncie, Ind., where the Pirates were based because of wartime travel restrictions, and fulfilled expectations. Frisch gave the rookie the Opening Day start against the Cardinals in St. Louis on April 18, 1944.

“Frisch knows nothing would give the Preacher more pleasure than to show the Cardinals they made a mistake by letting him get away,” The Pittsburgh Press reported.

Roe limited the two-time defending National League champions to one hit in the first five innings. He also got the Pirates’ first hit, a single in the third. According to the Post-Dispatch, Roe “happened to meet a pitch with a feeble swing very much on the push side and the ball looped to center field.”

The Cardinals scored in the sixth and eighth innings and won, 2-0, behind Max Lanier’s two-hitter. Roe pitched a complete game, yielding seven hits, walking three and striking out two.

Roe’s father attended the game and Frisch told the physician, “Your boy certainly did a fine job this afternoon, but the breaks did not go his way.” Boxscore

Down, not out

Roe was 13-11 with a 3.11 ERA for the Pirates, who finished second to the champion Cardinals in 1944. He followed that with a 14-13 mark in 1945.

In February 1946, Roe was coaching a team in a high school basketball game in Arkansas when he was slugged by a referee during an argument. Roe’s head hit the floor and he fractured his skull. When he was able to pitch again, he no longer could throw a fastball with consistent effectiveness.

After posting records of 3-8 in 1946 and 4-15 in 1947, the Pirates soured on Roe. Again, the Rickeys played a pivotal role in Roe’s career. Branch Rickey, who’d left the Cardinals to join the Dodgers, acquired Roe after the 1947 season.

Determined to revive his career with the Dodgers, Roe began throwing a spitball and the illegal pitch worked wonders for him. He’d use ruses while on the mound to make batters think he was wetting the ball even when he wasn’t.

“I had a wet one and three fake wet ones,” Roe said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “You don’t have to throw it … Just make them think you’re going to throw it.”

Among Roe’s best seasons with the Dodgers were 1951 (22-3 record), 1952 (11-2) and 1953 (11-3). He earned World Series wins for the Dodgers against the Yankees in 1949 and 1952.

Roe achieved a 28-20 career mark against the Cardinals, even though he couldn’t fool Stan Musial, who hit .387 with 12 home runs against him.

Roe finished his 12-year major-league career with a 127-84 record and 3.43 ERA.

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Dean Stone earned a save in his Cardinals debut, flirted with a no-hitter in his lone start for them and was the victim of a rare hitting feat.

A left-hander, Stone pitched in 18 games for the Cardinals in 1959, spent the next two seasons in their minor-league system and did well enough to earn a return to the majors with the Houston Colt .45s when the National League expanded from eight teams to 10 in 1962.

Stone, who died Aug. 21, 2018, at 87, pitched eight seasons in the big leagues with the Senators (1953-57), Red Sox (1957), Cardinals (1959), Colt .45s (1962), White Sox (1962) and Orioles (1963), composing a 29-39 record, 12 saves and a 4.47 ERA.

He was 0-1 with a save and a 4.20 ERA for the 1959 Cardinals.

All-star quality

Stone had his best major-league season in 1954 with the Senators and was named to the American League all-star team.

In the eighth inning of the All-Star Game at Cleveland on July 13, 1954, the National League led 9-8 and had Red Schoendienst of the Cardinals on third base and Al Dark on first with two outs and Duke Snider at the plate. Stone was brought into the game by manager Casey Stengel to face Snider, a left-handed batter.

As Stone was about to throw his third pitch to Snider, Schoendienst broke from third and attempted a steal of home. Stone made a quick throw to catcher Yogi Berra, who applied the tag on Schoendienst for the third out. National League coaches Leo Durocher and Charlie Grimm claimed Stone committed a balk in his rush to throw home, but umpire Bill Stewart rejected their argument.

In the bottom half of the inning, the American League rallied for three runs and an 11-9 lead. Virgil Trucks pitched a scoreless ninth, earning the save, and Stone was credited with a win, even though he didn’t retire a batter. Boxscore

Stone finished the 1954 season with a 12-10 record, 3.22 ERA and 10 complete games. He slipped to 6-13 in 1955 and 5-7 in 1956 and was dealt by the Senators to the Red Sox on April 29, 1957.

After posting a 1-3 record and 5.27 ERA for the Red Sox in 1957, Stone spent all of 1958 with their farm club at Minneapolis and was 13-10 with a 3.18 ERA and three shutouts.

Meet me in St. Louis

Minneapolis was in the American Association and so was Omaha, the Cardinals’ affiliate managed by Johnny Keane. When Keane became a Cardinals coach on manager Solly Hemus’ staff in 1959, he recommended Stone to general manager Bing Devine.

On March 14, 1959, the Cardinals traded pitcher Nelson Chittum to the Red Sox for Stone.

The Boston Globe described the trade as a “transaction of no great magnitude.” Devine agreed and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “It’s not a sensational move, of course, but any time we get a chance to look at a pitcher who might augment our left-handed staff we’ve got to consider it … Johnny Keane thought he might help us.”

Stone, 28, was assigned to Omaha where he was managed by Joe Schultz. After losing his first three decisions, Stone won nine of his next 12 and had a 9-6 record and 3.87 ERA in 121 innings when he got called up to the Cardinals in July 1959.

Positive impression

Stone made his National League debut on July 11, 1959, pitching 3.2 scoreless innings in relief of starter Marshall Bridges in a 4-3 Cardinals victory over the Phillies at Philadelphia. Stone yielded two hits, walked none, struck out five and got a save in what the Post-Dispatch described as “a brilliant relief job.” Boxscore

Stone used an “overpowering fastball” against the Phillies, the Sporting News reported.

“Funny thing, when we talked about bringing up Dean from Omaha, Joe Schultz said he had the stuff to help, but questioned his ability to relieve because of only one thing _ control,” Cardinals business manager Art Routzong said.

Stone yielded one run over his first 10 innings of relief work for the Cardinals and after five appearances had an ERA of 0.90.

No mercy

When Cardinals starter Vinegar Bend Mizell developed an aching back, Hemus gave Stone a start against the Braves on July 31, 1959, at Milwaukee.

Stone held the Braves hitless for five innings and was locked in a scoreless duel with Braves starter Bob Buhl.

In the sixth, Del Crandall led off with the Braves’ first hit, a double. After Buhl struck out, Bobby Avila walked and Felix Mantilla dribbled a grounder past shortstop Alex Grammas and into left field for a single, scoring Crandall and advancing Avila to third. Grammas told the Post-Dispatch he should have fielded the ball. “I couldn’t make up my mind whether to backhand the ball,” Grammas said. “I don’t know whether I could have thrown him out, but I should have stopped the ball.”

Hank Aaron followed with a weak single to left, scoring Avila with the second run and moving Mantilla to second. “By this time, Stone couldn’t have been expected to keep holding off the mighty Braves any more than Custer was expected to keep cutting down the Indians,” the Post-Dispatch wrote.

Joe Adcock followed with a three-run home run, capping the Braves’ five-run sixth. Stone went seven innings, giving up five runs on five hits and two walks, and Buhl pitched a shutout in a 6-0 Braves triumph. Boxscore

Ups and downs

Two days later, on Aug. 2, 1959, Bill Bruton of the Braves hit a pair of bases-loaded triples, one against Mizell and the other off Stone. Bruton became the second big-league batter since 1900 to hit two three-run triples in a game, according to The Sporting News. Boxscore

After the 1959 season, the Cardinals removed Stone from their roster and assigned him to Rochester. He was 9-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 130 innings for Rochester in 1960 and 12-8 with a 2.73 ERA in 178 innings for the Cardinals’ affiliate in San Juan and Charleston, W.Va., in 1961.

On Nov. 27, 1961, the Colt .45s selected Stone in the Rule 5 minor-league draft. He opened the 1962 season in their starting rotation and pitched 21.1 consecutive scoreless innings, including back-to-back shutouts versus the Cubs, before the Cardinals scored four runs against him in the fourth inning on April 25. Boxscore

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Johnny Lewis, a prospect considered to have more potential than Lou Brock, overcame personal tragedy, rebounded from setbacks in his playing career and became a pioneering coach for the Cardinals.

Lewis, who died July 29, 2018, at 78, was an outfielder with a strong throwing arm, speed and a powerful hitting stroke. He got to the major leagues with the Cardinals in 1964 and was given prominent playing time in right field the first two months of the season, but by June he was back in the minor leagues.

Traded to the Mets two months after the Cardinals won the 1964 World Series championship, Lewis played three more seasons in the major leagues before returning to the Cardinals and building a second career with them as an administrator, coach, manager and instructor.

Heavy heart

Lewis was born in Greenville, Ala., and moved to Pensacola, Fla., as a toddler. At 19, he entered the Cardinals’ organization in 1959.

Advancing through the St. Louis system, Lewis played his best for manager Whitey Kurowski, a former Cardinals third baseman. Lewis played for Kurowski at Winnipeg in 1960 and at Tulsa in 1961 and 1962. In 1960, Lewis hit .299 with 23 home runs and 104 RBI for Winnipeg and he followed that with a .293 batting mark, 22 home runs and 85 RBI for Tulsa in 1961.

While in the minor leagues, Lewis got married and he and his wife, Ola Mae, began raising a family. In the winters, Lewis played baseball in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Lewis, 22, was in Venezuela when his wife was killed in an automobile crash in the United States.

“My wife went to a church convention and on the way back the car she was in got into an accident and all five people in it were killed,” Lewis said to Milton Gross of the North American Newspaper Alliance. “I came back from Venezuela and there I was with two little babies, one wasn’t a year old, and I said to myself, ‘What do I do now?’

“I wasn’t going to quit baseball, get a job, stay home and take care of the babies, but my mother said she’d take care of them. She’s a good woman, my mother, and I got to keep remembering that my babies are with somebody who loves them.”

Spring sensation

In 1964, Lewis, 24, reported to spring training with the Cardinals and competed with several other prospects, including Mike Shannon, for an outfield spot. Lewis played splendidly in the exhibition games, hitting .333, and was named the Cardinals’ top prospect in a poll of writers and broadcasters.

Stan Musial, who became a club executive after retiring as a player, called Lewis the Cardinals’ “best outfield prospect since Bill Virdon,” who won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1955.

The Sporting News described Lewis’ success as “the Cinderella epic of the spring.”

“I haven’t seen anybody like him in the last 10 years,” Cardinals manager Johnny Keane said.

Lewis “rates high in all five categories. He can run, throw, field, hit and also hit for power,” Keane said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

According to Keane, the five-tool players in the National League in 1964 were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Roberto Clemente.

Learning curve

Lewis was shy and quiet and his teammates nicknamed him “Gabby” because he said so little, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Cardinals first baseman Bill White, who became Lewis’ mentor, said, “What we got to do is make Lewis think more aggressively, but it will take time. He knows nothing but Florida, where he’s lived, and Alabama, where he was born. Where could he have learned anything else?”

As the season neared, Keane decided to platoon Lewis and Carl Warwick in right field. Lewis, a left-handed batter, would play against right-handed pitchers and Warwick, who batted right-handed, would play against left-handers.

Though Lewis had the talent, some offered caution.

“Lewis has all the potential, but the boy has an inferiority complex,” Cardinals senior consultant Branch Rickey told The Sporting News. “I wish he’d believe in himself as much as all of us believe in him.”

Said third baseman Ken Boyer: “The kid should be a good player. I just hope they don’t expect him to break down the fences the first few years.”

Short stay

On April 15, 1964, Lewis got his first big-league hit, a RBI-single against Don Drysdale of the Dodgers. Boxscore Three days later, on April 18, Lewis slugged his first big-league home run, a solo shot against Bobby Bolin of the Giants. Boxscore

Lewis hit .207 in April and .278 in May. On June 10, he injured an ankle and had to leave the game. Three days later, on June 13, the Cardinals acquired outfielder Bob Skinner from the Pirates and sent Lewis to their Jacksonville farm team. Lewis hit .234 in 40 games for St. Louis, making 28 starts in right field.

On June 15, the Cardinals made another trade, getting outfielder Lou Brock from the Cubs.

“We hope Brock will fill the category of one of our regular outfielders until someone in the future, perhaps Johnny Lewis, comes along,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said to The Sporting News.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch, Devine said, “I feel Lewis probably has more potential than Brock. He fields better and he throws better.”

Brock, however, took hold of the left field job and Shannon, recalled from the minors, became the right fielder. Meanwhile, Lewis floundered at Jacksonville until an X-ray on Aug. 6 revealed he had a hairline fracture of his ankle. Lewis “had been bothered by the ankle for some time,” The Sporting News reported.

In September, after Lewis returned to the lineup and helped Jacksonville win the International League championship, he was called up to the Cardinals but didn’t get into a game. The Cardinals clinched the National League pennant on the last day of the season and won four of seven games against the Yankees in the World Series.

Meet the Mets

The Cardinals tried converting Lewis into a switch-hitter at the Florida Instructional League in October 1964, but the experiment failed. On Dec. 7, 1964, the Cardinals traded Lewis and pitcher Gordon Richardson to the Mets for pitcher Tracy Stallard and infielder Elio Chacon. Devine, fired by the Cardinals in August 1964, had joined the Mets as assistant to president George Weiss and advocated for Lewis.

“Playing with the Cardinals, it was a case of making good instantly or you were gone,” Lewis said. “I don’t blame them for that. They were pennant contenders and they couldn’t afford to wait, but for me it meant I always was more conscious of making mistakes. I couldn’t take chances. I was constantly tight.”

Lewis hit .245 with 15 home runs in 148 games for the 1965 Mets. On June 14, 1965, he broke up a no-hit bid by the Reds’ Jim Maloney with a home run in the 11th inning at Cincinnati. Boxscore

After the 1965 season, Lewis remarried. However, while his personal life improved, his playing career declined. He played parts of two more seasons with the Mets, batting .193 in 1966 and .118 in 1967, and finished with a year in the minors in 1968.

Second career

By 1970, Devine was back with the Cardinals as general manager and he gave Lewis a chance to return to St. Louis, too. Lewis was hired to be Cardinals assistant promotions and sales director and he spent two years (1970-71) in the role.

In 1972, Lewis became administrative coordinator of player development and scouting for the Cardinals.

After a year in that job, Lewis became the first African-American to serve on the Cardinals’ coaching staff. Lewis was the Cardinals’ first-base coach on manager Red Schoendienst’s staff for four seasons (1973-76).

For the next five years (1977-81), Lewis was a Cardinals’ minor-league manager at Calgary (1977-78), Gastonia (1979) and Johnson City (1980-81). Among the future major-leaguers managed by Lewis were pitchers Danny Cox and outfielders Curt Ford and Stan Javier.

From 1982-84, Lewis was a Cardinals’ minor-league hitting instructor.

In 1985, Lewis became the hitting coach for the Cardinals and was a special mentor to rookie speedster Vince Coleman. Lewis was the hitting coach on manager Whitey Herzog’s staff for five seasons (1985-89) and the Cardinals won two National League pennants in that time. Another Lewis pupil, Willie McGee, won the NL Most Valuable Player Award and the league batting title in 1985.

From 1990-98, Lewis was a Cardinals minor-league hitting instructor. He finished his career as the minor-league hitting coordinator for the Astros from 1999-2001.

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Tony Cloninger, a prominent National League starting pitcher in the 1960s, was given an opportunity by the Cardinals to extend his major-league career as a reliever in the 1970s, but it didn’t work out.

Cloninger, who died July 24, 2018, at 77, was acquired by the Cardinals from the Reds for second baseman Julian Javier on March 24, 1972.

A right-hander, Cloninger pitched well for the Reds in 1971, posting a 3.33 ERA in 20 relief appearances and a 3.88 ERA overall, but he didn’t fit into their plans in 1972 and the Reds made him available.

The Reds showcased Cloninger, 31, in a spring training start against the Cardinals on March 23, 1972, and he delivered, yielding one hit in six innings. The next day, the Cardinals, seeking relief help, made the deal for him.

Reliable starter

The trade reunited Cloninger with his friend, Cardinals third baseman Joe Torre. They were teammates with the Braves from 1961-68 and Torre was Cloninger’s catcher during the pitcher’s heyday. Torre caught more of Cloninger’s games, 141, than any other catcher.

Cloninger signed with the Braves as an amateur free agent in May 1958 and, when he made his major-league debut with them at age 20 on June 15, 1961, in a start against the Giants at Candlestick Park, Torre was his catcher. Boxscore

A month later, on July 13, 1961, at St. Louis, Cloninger faced the Cardinals for the first time and catcher Tim McCarver, 19, hit his first big-league home run against him. Boxscore

The next year, on Sept. 5, 1962, Cloninger pitched his first major-league shutout in a 1-0 Braves victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis. Bill White, with a single and double, had two of the Cardinals’ five hits against Cloninger. Boxscore

On Aug. 11, 1963, at Milwaukee, Cloninger pitched another gem against the Cardinals, striking out 11 in a four-hitter won by the Braves, 9-1. Boxscore

From 1964-66, Cloninger was a productive, durable ace for the Braves. He was 19-14 with 242.2 innings pitched in 1964, 24-11 in 279 innings in 1965 and 14-11 in 257.2 innings in 1966. Cloninger was 3-0 against the Cardinals in 1965.

Cloninger also could hit. On July 3, 1966, he produced nine RBI, with two grand slams and a run-scoring single, in a game against the Giants at Candlestick Park. He hit the first grand slam against Bob Priddy and the second against Ray Sadecki, the former Cardinal, and pitched a complete game in a 17-3 Braves victory. Boxscore

In June 1968, the Braves traded Cloninger to the Reds and, though he no longer was an ace, he contributed, earning nine wins for the pennant-winning 1970 Reds. Cloninger also started and lost Game 3 of the 1970 World Series against the Orioles. Boxscore

Taking a chance

The 1972 Cardinals gave a look at another former Reds starter, Jim Maloney, in spring training, but didn’t like what they saw, released him and acquired Cloninger.

“Even though I like Cloninger personally and admire his perseverance, I can’t get excited over the addition of a struggling pitching veteran who has been beset by arm, eye and back troubles,” sports editor Bob Broeg wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Reds manager Sparky Anderson said if the Cardinals “pitch him enough so that he can keep his control, he’ll deliver for them.”

“He still throws hard and his attitude is the best,” Anderson added.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said Cloninger told him he was “ready to start, to relieve or hit fungoes” to help.

“I’ve never talked to a ballplayer yet who played for the Cardinals organization who didn’t think it was fantastic,” Cloninger said to the Dayton Journal Herald.

In his first spring training appearance for the Cardinals, Cloninger yielded two hits in five innings against the Mets and ensured himself a spot on the Opening Day pitching staff.

The Cardinals opened the 1972 season with seven relievers: right-handers Moe Drabowsky, Dennis Higgins, Al Santorini and Cloninger, and left-handers Joe Grzenda, Don Shaw and Lance Clemons.

Gopher balls

Cloninger had a good outing on May 24, 1972, against the Pirates, pitching 3.2 scoreless relief innings, but five days later he took a big step backwards.

On May 29, 1972, the Cardinals carried a 6-3 lead into the ninth inning against the Mets at St. Louis and Schoendienst called on Cloninger to be the closer. After Jerry Grote singled and Bud Harrelson walked, Ken Bowell, batting with one out, hit a three-run home run, tying the score at 6-6. Tommie Agee followed with a single before Schoendienst lifted Cloninger. Agee eventually scored from third on a passed ball by catcher Ted Simmons, the Mets won, 7-6, and Cloninger took the loss.

The home run was the first of the season for Boswell, who entered the game batting .177. Boxscore

Cloninger unveiled a knuckleball and bounced back with some good outings, including a three-inning scoreless stint against the Braves on July 11, 1972, at St. Louis.

His Cardinals career, however, came to a sudden close with one bad pitch.

On July 22, 1972, against the Braves at Atlanta, Cloninger entered in the 10th inning with the score tied at 7-7. His first pitch to the first batter, Dusty Baker, was belted for a walkoff home run and an 8-7 Braves victory.

Before going to the plate, Baker told teammate Oscar Brown, “I think I’ll take a pitch and see what he’s got.” Brown replied, “No, man, go up there swinging,” and Baker did.

Denny McLain, who pitched a scoreless top of the 10th, got his first National League win and the loss went to Cloninger. Boxscore

Four days later, on July 26, the Cardinals released Cloninger, who was 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA in 17 relief appearances. On Aug. 1, Cloninger signed with the Braves, who sent him to their minor-league club at Richmond, Va., where he became a teammate of second baseman Tony La Russa.

Cloninger was 1-1 in seven appearances for Richmond, ending his playing days. He had a 113-97 record in 12 big-league seasons.

Twenty years later, in 1992, Cloninger was hired to be a coach on the staff of Yankees manager Buck Showalter. In 1996, Showalter departed and Cloninger’s old friend, Torre, became Yankees manager. Cloninger was a coach for five pennant-winning teams and four World Series championship clubs with the Yankees under Torre.

In 2002 and 2003, Cloninger was a Red Sox coach for manager Grady Little.

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