Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

The emergence of Albert Pujols as a big-league prospect enabled the Cardinals to swap third baseman Fernando Tatis for the left-handed reliever they needed.

On Dec. 14, 2000, the Cardinals acquired pitchers Steve Kline and Dustin Hermanson from the Expos for Tatis and pitcher Britt Reames.

Hermanson was projected as a starter to join a Cardinals rotation with Darryl Kile, Matt Morris and Andy Benes, “but the player they really want is Kline,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported

A reliever who led National League pitchers in appearances in 1999 (82) and 2000 (83), Kline was a durable, effective left-hander.

A lack of reliable left-handed relief limited the late-inning maneuvering Cardinals manager Tony La Russa could do in 2000. Jesse Orosco and Scott Radinsky both had health issues and hardly played. Their replacements were Jason Christiansen (5.40 ERA), Mike Mohler (9.00) and Mike Matthews (11.57).

“Kline is the left-handed reliever the Cardinals have been seeking for years,” columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Stock drop

To get Kline, the Cardinals had to give up Tatis, a right-handed power hitter, but they were confident they had a replacement in Pujols. Though he had one season of experience as a professional, Pujols, 20, looked to the Cardinals to be on the cusp of reaching the majors.

Tatis, acquired by the Cardinals from the Rangers in July 1998, had a breakout season in 1999 when he became the first player to hit two grand slams in an inning. Tatis hit .298 in 1999 and had an on-base percentage of .404. He scored 104 runs, drove in 107, slugged 34 home runs and had 21 stolen bases.

He appeared headed for another big season in 2000 when he hit .375 in April and drove in 28 runs in 21 games, but on April 29 he suffered a tear of his left groin and was sidelined for two months.

When he returned on June 30, Cardinals management noticed Tatis wasn’t applying himself to conditioning and workouts.

“Tatis had issues a lot of guys face after having big years,” La Russa said to the Post-Dispatch. “They forget how hard they worked. I didn’t think he prepared himself as well.”

Tatis hit .183 in August and .186 in September. La Russa benched him in the National League Division Series versus the Braves.

After the season, the Post-Dispatch reported, “There apparently is some indecision in the organization whether to trade Tatis, but on the horizon is Albert Pujols.”

Playing primarily third base, Pujols hit .314 with 41 doubles and 96 RBI in the Cardinals’ farm system in 2000.

“Fast-rising Albert Pujols is not figured to be far away” from being ready for the majors, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Assessing value

After deciding to trade Tatis, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty tried to convince the Expos to take a player other than Reames in the deal. Reames debuted with the Cardinals in August 2000 and was 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA. He also got the win in the decisive Game 3 of the NL Division Series.

The Expos wouldn’t make the trade without Reames included.

“I know Walt tried as hard as he could to get him out of the deal,” La Russa said. “He even offered three or four players instead of Britt.”

When the trade was announced, Bernie Miklasz noted, “Some fans are freaking out” about the departure of Tatis.

“That’s understandable,” Miklasz wrote. “Baseball has become a homer-crazy game and we’ve developed a homer-crazy mentality.

“Jocketty was absolutely correct to go out and reinforce his pitching staff, even if it meant sacrificing Tatis,” Miklasz concluded. “Jocketty wouldn’t have made the deal unless the organization was confident Albert Pujols is the real deal. Pujols could be a Cardinal next year.”

Tatis told Miklasz, “I was surprised to be traded. I was disappointed. If I didn’t get hurt last season, with the numbers I would have put up, they wouldn’t have traded me.

“I thought I’d be in St. Louis for a long time.”

Loopy lefty

Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette offered, “If there is a part of this deal that causes real pain in Montreal, it’s the loss of Kline.”

Kline had a reputation for being a free spirit. “He’s a lefty, and all lefties are crazy,” Hermanson told the Post-Dispatch. “You want those guys in the bullpen, not scared to do anything.”

Born in rural Sunbury, Pa., about 55 miles north of the state capital of Harrisburg, Kline said, “I’m weird. I am a goofy left-hander. They called me a groundhog when I was a kid. Nothing but dirt.

“My brothers were electrocuting me when I was a kid. I was ratting everyone out to my mom, so they tied me up to a fence and they shocked me to teach me a lesson. I learned quick.”

Kline said he threw sinkers to right-handed batters and sliders to left-handers, and he enjoyed pitching as often as possible.

“I get paid to pitch,” he said. “I’m not getting paid to sit there.”

One-sided deal

The deal worked out well for the Cardinals.

Kline established a Cardinals franchise record for most games pitched in a season, making a league-leading 89 appearances in 2001. The only others to pitch in 80 or more games in a season for the Cardinals are Ray King (86 in 2004) and Kevin Siegrist (81 in 2015).

Left-handed batters hit .150 versus Kline in 2001 and none hit a home run against him.

Hermanson was 14-13 in 33 starts for the 2001 Cardinals.

Pujols opened the 2001 season as the Cardinals’ left fielder. He also made starts at third base, first base and right field. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .329, scoring 112 runs and driving in 130.

In four seasons (2001-2004) with the Cardinals, Kline was 12-11 with 21 saves and a 2.69 ERA. In 13 postseason games for St. Louis, Kline was 0-1 with two saves and an 0.96 ERA. He became a free agent after the 2004 season and signed with the Orioles.

Hermanson was traded to the Red Sox for prospects after the 2001 season. He rejoined the Cardinals in 2003 and got released in June. Two years later, he had 34 saves as the closer for the World Series champion White Sox.

In three years with the Expos, Tatis hit .225. He never again approached the kind of success he had with the Cardinals.

Reames also played three seasons with the Expos and was 5-12 with a 5.53 ERA.

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Gene Tenace brought to the Cardinals a winning pedigree, leadership and a consistent ability to get on base. Willing to accept a reserve role as a catcher and first baseman, Tenace was a good fit for a franchise looking to change its culture and transform from underachievers to champions.

On Dec. 8, 1980, the Cardinals got Tenace, pitchers Rollie Fingers and Bob Shirley, and a player to be named, catcher Bob Geren, from the Padres for catchers Terry Kennedy and Steve Swisher, infielder Mike Phillips and pitchers John Littlefield, John Urrea, Kim Seaman and Al Olmsted.

Fingers, a closer and future Hall of Famer, was the player who got the attention for the Cardinals when the deal was made, but Tenace was the one who contributed the most.

Four days after acquiring Fingers, Whitey Herzog, who had the dual roles of Cardinals manager and general manager, dealt him and another future Hall of Famer, catcher Ted Simmons, to the Brewers. Tenace remained with the Cardinals for two years, fulfilled the role Herzog envisioned for him, and helped them become World Series champions in 1982.

Finding his way

Tenace was born Fiore Gino Tennaci in Russelton, Pa. He grew up in Lucasville, Ohio, and his name was changed to Fury Gene Tenace because the family wanted it to be more American than Italian.

He was 18 and a shortstop when the Athletics selected him in the 20th round of baseball’s first amateur draft in 1965. Tenace was an outfielder and third baseman in the Athletics’ farm system before he was converted to catcher in 1968.

A right-handed batter, Tenace generated tremendous bat speed. “I play to hit,” Tenace told The Sporting News. “I love to hit.”

A turning point in Tenace’s career came in 1969 when he was assigned to Birmingham, a Class AA club managed by Gus Niarhos. A former big-league catcher who started for the 1948 Yankees before being replaced by future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, Niarhos taught Tenace how to play the position.

Tenace, 22, was called up to the Athletics in May 1969. After he went 0-for-4 in his debut against Denny McLain, Tenace got a single the next day versus Luis Tiant for his first hit in the majors.

Though the Athletics liked Tenace’s hitting, the catcher they liked best was Dave Duncan, the future Cardinals pitching coach. Duncan was the Athletics’ starting catcher in 1971, when they won the first of five consecutive division titles.

Duncan was the starter again in 1972 before he went into a hitting slump. “He wasn’t doing it with the bat and it was beginning to affect his catching,” Athletics manager Dick Williams said.

Tenace replaced Duncan for the last two months of the 1972 season, and he was the starter when the Athletics went into the World Series against the Reds.

Valuable player

Tenace took center stage in the 1972 World Series. In Game 1, he became the first player to hit home runs in his first two World Series at-bats. The homers versus Gary Nolan produced all the runs for the Athletics in a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

Tenace hit .348 with four home runs and nine RBI against the Reds and was named most valuable player of the 1972 World Series. Video

Moved to first base in 1973, he had 24 home runs and a .387 on-base percentage. In the World Series against the Mets, Tenace had 11 walks and three hits.

In 1974, when the Athletics won a third consecutive World Series title, Tenace again played first base and hit 26 home runs. He returned to catcher in 1975 and had 29 home runs and an on-base percentage of .395.

Regarding his ability to get on base often, Tenace told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I’ve always used discipline at the plate. I know my limitations. I’ve been in the game long enough to know I can handle only certain pitches.”

Herr almost dealt

Tenace became a free agent after the 1976 season and signed with the Padres. He was tough versus the Cardinals. In 1978, he had 11 RBI in 12 games against them and his on-base percentage was .467.

In 1980, Tenace and Fingers clashed with manager Jerry Coleman and asked to be traded. According to The Sporting News, the Padres tried to trade Tenace to the Cubs in July 1980, but it didn’t work out.

Herzog was interested in both Fingers and Tenace. The Padres wanted a young catcher, and the Cardinals’ Terry Kennedy and the Pirates’ Tony Pena were the two who appealed to them most.

In his book, “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said Kennedy approached him near the end of the 1980 season and asked to be traded to a team needing a starting catcher.

Herzog and Padres general manager Jack McKeon met during the 1980 World Series and agreed to a trade of Kennedy, second baseman Tommy Herr and others for Fingers, Tenace and Bob Shirley. “I can make that deal now,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch.

Herr said, “I don’t know if I’d like it or not. I want to play with a contender.”

The trade “was close” to being made, The Sporting News reported, but it got held up because of a snag over Fingers’ contract.

Herzog and McKeon resumed their talks at the baseball winter meetings in December. In his book, Herzog said he almost traded Kennedy to the Reds for reliever Tom Hume, but when the Padres agreed to take other players instead of Herr, Herzog closed the deal with them.

Good as advertised

Herzog said Fingers was “the great relief pitcher I needed, but not the one I really wanted. The guy I was really after was Bruce Sutter.”

Fingers was insurance in case Herzog couldn’t make a deal for Sutter.

On Dec. 9, 1980, the day after the trade with the Padres, the Cardinals acquired Sutter from the Cubs. With catcher Darrell Porter joining the Cardinals earlier in the week as a free agent and Sutter filling the closer role, Herzog decided to package Fingers and Ted Simmons in a trade to the Brewers.

Tenace was projected to back up Porter at catcher and Keith Hernandez at first base. Unfazed about a reserve role, Tenace said, “I’ve been adjusting all my life.”

Tenace delivered what was expected of him. He had on-base percentages for the Cardinals of .416 in 1981 and .436 in 1982.

A leader in the clubhouse, he made sure the reserves were as ready as he was to play. Outfielder Tito Landrum said, “If I start having a letdown, he comes over and kicks my rear end. Literally. He pulls no punches. He lets you know.”

After the Cardinals won Game 7 of the 1982 World Series versus the Brewers, Porter, like Tenace in 1972, was named the Series’ most valuable player, meaning the Cardinals had two catchers on the same team who had received the honor.

Tenace became a free agent after the 1982 World Series. Herzog said the Cardinals wanted to keep him, but on a one-year contract. When the Pirates gave Tenace a three-year deal, he accepted.

After one season with the Pirates, Tenace was through playing. He went on to coach, manage and instruct, including a stint with the Cardinals as minor league hitting coordinator from 2002-07.

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

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

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

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

Cards call

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

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

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

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

Plenty of competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot hitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyday excellence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinals rival

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

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

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

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

Culture change

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

Ryan hit .223 in 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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