Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Johnny Lindell faced the Cardinals in a World Series as a Yankees outfielder and in a regular season as a pitcher for the Pirates and Phillies. He also played for the Cardinals for a couple of months when they sought power for their lineup.

Seventy years ago, on May 15, 1950, the Cardinals purchased the contract of Lindell from the Yankees for the $10,000 waiver price.

Lindell was an intriguing player because of the multiple roles he performed. He began his professional career as a pitcher, moved to outfielder and went back to pitching again.

A strapping 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds, Lindell batted and threw right-handed. Talented as well as versatile, he pitched for one pennant-winning Yankees team and played outfield for another. As a hitter, he twice led the American League in triples and as a pitcher he once led the National League in most walks issued.

Pitching prospect

Lindell developed his athletic skills in high school at Monrovia, Calif., near Pasadena. He was offered a chance to play football at the University of Southern California but signed with the Yankees when he was 19 in 1936. The Yankees sent him to their farm club in Joplin, Mo., and he posted a 17-8 record.

Working his way through the minor leagues, Lindell became a prominent pitching prospect. He was 18-7 with a 2.70 ERA for the Kansas City Blues in 1940.

Lindell began the 1941 season with the Yankees, made his major-league debut in a pinch-hitting appearance on April 18 and was sent to their farm club in Newark, N.J. Lindell was 23-4 with a 2.05 ERA for Newark in 1941 and the Yankees made plans to have him on their pitching staff in 1942.

Though he pitched in 23 games for the 1942 Yankees and was 2-1 with a 3.76 ERA, Lindell’s fastball and curve no longer were effective and manager Joe McCarthy lost confidence in him. Lindell didn’t pitch in the 1942 World Series versus the Cardinals.

According to The Sporting News, McCarthy told Lindell after the season, “Johnny, it does not look as if you ever will be a really good pitcher. However, you have the makings of a hitter.”

Lindell worked on his hitting in winter ball in California and reported to spring training in 1943 as an outfield candidate.

New role

The Yankees’ center fielder, Joe DiMaggio, and right fielder, Tommy Henrich, entered military service in 1943 and the club needed outfielders. Lindell was the Yankees’ 1943 Opening Day right fielder and remained in the lineup throughout the season. Lindell started 64 games in right, 52 in center and four in left for the American League champions. He led the league in triples (12) and was named to the all-star team.

In the 1943 World Series against the Cardinals, Lindell hit .111 but was involved in a critical play.

After the teams split the first two games, the Cardinals led, 2-1, in Game 3. Lindell led off the eighth inning with a single and advanced to second when center fielder Harry Walker bobbled the ball. George Stirnweiss bunted to first baseman Ray Sanders, whose throw to third arrived ahead of Lindell.

As third baseman Whitey Kurowski went to apply the tag, Lindell “came into the bag like a 10-ton truck,” crashing into Kurowski and knocking the ball loose, The Sporting News reported. The impact snapped Kurowski’s head back.

Lindell said the collision was unavoidable because Kurowski positioned himself in front of the base. “What was I to do? Beg his pardon?” Lindell asked.

Said Cardinals manager Billy Southworth: “Lindell played ball the way I like to see it played.”

The play woke up the Yankees, who scored five runs in the inning and won, 6-2.  Boxscore

Lindell had his best season in 1944. As the Yankees’ center fielder, he hit .300 with 33 doubles, 18 home runs and 103 RBI. He led the league in triples (16), extra-base hits (67) and total bases (297).

After spending part of 1945 in military service, Lindell returned to the Yankees in 1946 and was their Opening Day left fielder. In 1947, Lindell batted .500 in the World Series against the Dodgers, collecting nine hits in 18 at-bats and driving in seven runs in six games, despite cracking a rib in Game 5.

Right fit

Lindell’s playing time decreased when Casey Stengel became Yankees manager in 1949. After starting in left field on Opening Day in 1950, Lindell struggled, hitting .190 in 21 at-bats.

The 1950 Cardinals were stocked with left-handed hitters, led by Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter, and were looking for a power bat from the right side. Lindell, 33, was an available candidate.

“He’s a good competitor, a clutch player,” Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer told The Sporting News.

Though he had spent 15 years in the Yankees’ organization, Lindell welcomed the move to St. Louis. “I wanted to be traded because I didn’t fit Casey Stengel’s idea of a ballplayer,” Lindell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Not enough obvious spark, I guess.”

Lindell reported to the Cardinals 15 pounds over his regular weight of 225, the Post-Dispatch noted, but Dyer played him immediately in left field.

In his Cardinals debut, Lindell went 0-for-4 against the Dodgers’ Preacher Roe, but in his next game he hit a two-run home run into the upper deck in left at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn against rookie Billy Loes. Boxscore

A month later, on June 24, 1950, Lindell’s 10th-inning home run against Bob Chipman gave the Cardinals a 7-6 triumph over the Braves at Boston. Boxscore

Though 12 of Lindell’s 21 hits for the Cardinals were for extra bases, including five home runs, he batted .186 in 36 games and “his fielding had slipped along with his hitting,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

On July 17, 1950, the Cardinals sent Lindell to their farm team at Columbus, Ohio. After playing in five games there, the Cardinals accommodated his request to be sent to a Pacific Coast League club closer to his California home and traded him to the Hollywood Stars, a farm team of the Dodgers.

On the mound again

In 1951, Lindell went back to pitching and was 12-9 with a 3.03 ERA for Hollywood. Relying on a knuckleball, Lindell was dominant in 1952, posting a 24-9 record and 2.52 ERA for Hollywood, which had become a Pirates affiliate.

Lindell returned to the big leagues in 1953 as a member of the Pirates’ starting rotation. On May 3, 1953, he earned his first National League win, a four-hitter against the Cardinals at Pittsburgh. Boxscore

After posting a 5-16 record and 4.71 ERA for the Pirates, Lindell’s contract was sold to the Phillies on Aug. 31, 1953. He earned one win for the Phillies and it came against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Lindell struck out 11, walked eight and ignited the winning rally in the ninth with a run-scoring single. Boxscore

Lindell “would have had a far easier time if his catchers had been able to hold” the knuckleball, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The win was Lindell’s last as a pitcher. He was 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA for the Phillies. His combined record for the Pirates and Phillies in 1953 was 6-17 with a 4.66 ERA, and in six starts versus the Cardinals he was 2-4 with a 3.64 ERA. Lindell led National League pitchers in allowing the most walks (139) and wild pitches (11).

In 1954, Lindell didn’t pitch, made seven plate appearances, all as a pinch-hitter, for the Phillies and was released on May 10.

In 12 big-league seasons, Lindell hit .273 and had a pitching record of 8-18.

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Mike Torrez, a big guy with big talent, capped a hot personal stretch for the Cardinals with his most dominant pitching performance.

Fifty years ago, on April 15, 1970, Torrez pitched a one-hitter for the Cardinals against the Expos at St. Louis. The win was the 11th in a row for Torrez. He won his last nine decisions of 1969 for the Cardinals and his first two of 1970.

A 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander, Torrez joined Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss in a Cardinals rotation primed to become one of baseball’s best, but it didn’t work out.

The Cardinals traded Carlton because of a contract squabble, Reuss because he wouldn’t shave his moustache and Torrez because he couldn’t control his pitches.

Wild thing

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Torrez was 18 when he signed with the Cardinals in September 1964.

In 1967, his fourth season in the Cardinals’ farm system, Torrez was assigned to Tulsa, whose manager was pitching legend Warren Spahn.

At mid-season, Torrez was 3-8 and struggled to get pitches over the plate. Torrez said Spahn helped him to focus. Hand-written on Torrez’s glove were four words: think, concentrate, throw strikes.

“I know I’ve got one of the best arms in the organization,” Torrez told The Sporting News.

Torrez turned around his season, winning six consecutive decisions, and became the Pacific Coast League’s “most exciting pitcher,” The Sporting News reported.

“At last, I’m throwing strikes and thinking out there,” Torrez said.

The Cardinals, on their way to the 1967 National League pennant, called up Torrez in September. He made his big-league debut in relief against the Pirates and was picked to make his first start on Sept. 22 against the Braves.

“I had time to think about what could happen to me and I got nervous,” Torrez told Sports Illustrated. “You look around and all of a sudden you are in the major leagues. They were all there _ Cepeda, Maris, Flood, Brock _ and I knew they were yelling for me, but you feel so alone.”

Torrez’s nervousness showed in the first inning when the first three Braves batters reached base, but he limited the damage to one run. He went five innings and didn’t give up another run after the first. Boxscore

Gobbling up wins

Torrez opened the 1968 season with the defending World Series champion Cardinals, was 2-1 in five games and got sent down to Tulsa.

In 1969, Torrez stuck with the Cardinals. He was 10-4, but had almost as many walks (61) as strikeouts (62).

If Torrez could control his pitches, the Cardinals figured, he could be a big winner. “His potential is unlimited,” Cardinals pitching coach Billy Muffett told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in March 1970.

Torrez also had a big appetite. On the eve of his first start in 1970, he dined out in Montreal and “put away a 20-ounce steak,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “The restaurant charged by the ounce and the price was 75 cents an ounce, or $15.”

The next night, Torrez, well-fortified, won, limiting the Expos to one earned run in 8.1. innings.

Wild but wily

The Expos were the opponent again when Torrez made his next start at St. Louis.

Relying primarily on a fastball, Torrez held the Expos hitless through seven innings.

“I was conscious of the no-hitter in the sixth inning,” Torrez told the Montreal Gazette. “I thought I could do it.”

The No. 8 batter in the order, Adolfo Phillips, led off the eighth for the Expos.

“I had been pitching him inside all night and I was trying to jam him,” Torrez told the Post-Dispatch, “but I put the ball right over the plate.”

Phillips lashed at the fastball and sent a grounder skimming along the AstroTurf between third baseman Richie Allen and shortstop Dal Maxvill. Neither could reach it and the ball rolled through for a single.

Torrez went on to complete the first shutout of his career in the majors and his only one-hitter. He walked six and struck out three. Boxscore

“Mike’s fastball was really quick,” said Cardinals catcher Joe Torre. “He was consistent with it, even with all the walks. It sounds funny, but he wasn’t as wild as he had been. He put the fastball in good spots and had it moving good.”

Said Torrez: “I felt my control was good, but I’m relatively new in the league and the umpires don’t know me. I thought they took a few good pitches away from me.”

According to the Post-Dispatch, Torrez threw 117 pitches, including 98 fastballs. He registered 60 balls and 57 strikes.

“Torrez has got to be a strong boy to make that many pitches and still throw a one-hitter,” said Expos manager Gene Mauch. “He has good life in his fastball.”

Torrez also contributed as a hitter to the 10-0 victory. In four plate appearances, he had three singles and was hit on the left arm by a Ken Johnson knuckleball. Torrez scored twice and had a RBI.

Overcoming adversity

Lacking command, Torrez couldn’t sustain his early success in 1970. He finished the season 8-10 with a 4.22 ERA and had more walks (103) than strikeouts (100).

In 1971, his career nearly unraveled. In nine games for the Cardinals, Torrez was 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA, walking 30 and striking out eight. On June 15, 1971, the Cardinals traded Torrez to the Expos for reliever Bob Reynolds. The Expos sent Torrez to the minors and his struggles continued. He was 2-4 with an 8.16 ERA for Winnipeg, walking 52 and striking out 45.

Torrez revealed he was having marital problems and admitted he’d become overweight.

“I was all mixed up,” Torrez told The Sporting News. “I used to lie awake nights wondering what to do about my marriage. I wondered what was going on back home. I didn’t know if I should be there and forget baseball. It was difficult to concentrate.”

Torrez and his wife divorced and he went on a diet. In 1972, Expos pitching coach Cal McLish helped Torrez develop a slider and sinking fastball.

The results were immediate. Torrez was 16-12 with a 3.33 ERA for the 1972 Expos, working 243.1 innings.

Torrez went on to pitch 18 years in the majors. Though he became known for throwing the pitch Bucky Dent of the Yankees hit for an improbable home run to beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for a division title, Torrez had more success than failure.

He had a career record in the majors of 185-160 and 10 times had seasons of double-digit wins, including 1975 when he was 20-9 for the Orioles. In 1977, Torrez made two starts for the Yankees in the World Series against the Dodgers and won both.

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The Cardinals tried to acquire Don Zimmer to be their second baseman but were outmaneuvered by the Cubs.

Sixty years ago, on April 8, 1960, the Dodgers told Zimmer he would be traded later in the day to either the Cardinals or the Cubs. Zimmer said he preferred to go to the Cubs because they would play him at third base, his favorite position.

The Cardinals offered the Dodgers a pair of minor-league players and cash. The Cubs offered three minor-leaguers and cash.

After weighing both offers, the Dodgers chose the Cubs, dealing Zimmer for pitcher Ron Perranoski, infielder John Goryl and outfielder Lee Handley. Only Goryl had big-league experience, but Perranoski was the prize. The left-hander became a prominent reliever for the Dodgers.

The Cardinals’ failure to land Zimmer turned out to be fortuitous. A month later, they made a trade with the Pirates for Julian Javier, who developed into an all-star and was their second baseman on three National League championship clubs.

Hard knocks

In December 1959, the Cardinals traded second baseman Don Blasingame to the Giants for shortstop Daryl Spencer and outfielder Leon Wagner. With the acquisition of Spencer, the Cardinals planned to shift Alex Grammas from shortstop to second base.

Near the end of spring training in 1960, when the Dodgers started shopping Zimmer, the Cardinals saw an opportunity to upgrade at second base. Zimmer (29) was five years younger than Grammas (34). The Cardinals thought it would be better to have Grammas in a utility role.

Zimmer was available because Maury Wills had taken over the Dodgers’ shortstop job and Bob Lillis was a capable backup.

In 1953, Zimmer was beaned in a minor-league game, suffered a skull fracture and needed a plate inserted in his head. He made his debut in the majors with the Dodgers in 1954 and two years later suffered a broken cheekbone when beaned again by a pitch from Hal Jeffcoat of the Reds.

Zimmer “just doesn’t get out of the way,” pitcher Sal Maglie said to the Associated Press.

After being used primarily as a backup at second, third and short, Zimmer became the Dodgers’ starting shortstop in 1958 and hit .262 with 17 home runs.

“A colorful fielder, Zimmer looks like a chubby Nellie Fox, always yelling encouragement about the infield with a wad of chewing tobacco bulging in his jaw,” the Associated Press observed.

Zimmer returned as Dodgers shortstop in 1959, but struggled to hit for average. “Likable little Zimmer never has ceased stubbornly to swing for the fences,” Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

In June 1959, the Dodgers called up Wills from the minors and the speedster supplanted Zimmer, who never got untracked and finished the season with a .165 batting mark for the National League champions.

Time to go

At spring training in 1960, Zimmer choked up on the bat and shortened his swing. “I’ve never seen Zimmer look better,” Dodgers manager Walter Alston told The Sporting News.

Alston may have been trying to prop up Zimmer’s trade value. He and Zimmer weren’t getting along.

“I wanted to get away, especially from Alston,” Zimmer told the Associated Press. “I know he doesn’t care for me. That’s because I’m always after him to play me or trade me.”

The Cardinals and Cubs were the most ardent suitors for Zimmer. The Cubs wanted him as the third baseman to replace Al Dark, who they traded to the Phillies in January 1960.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Zimmer “stated frankly he was not interested in going to the Cardinals when he learned they planned to play him at second base. He prefers third.”

The Dodgers “were understood to be seeking a suitable place for Zimmer in the major leagues,” the Tribune reported, “and his preference for the Cubs undoubtedly was taken into consideration.”

The Cardinals offered two minor-league players and cash to the Dodgers for Zimmer, the Post-Dispatch reported, adding the identities of the players were unknown. It’s possible pitcher Jim Donohue and outfielder Duke Carmel were the minor-leaguers offered because two months later the Cardinals dealt them to the Dodgers for outfielder John Glenn.

According to the Associated Press, Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi told Zimmer, “You’re going to either the Cubs or the St. Louis Cardinals. I can’t tell you yet. I’ll be able to tell you later on.”

A few hours later, Zimmer learned he was a Cub.

“I would have liked to have had Zim because he can play three infield positions well and I like his fire,” Cardinals manager Solly Hemus told the Post-Dispatch.

Foiled in their attempt to acquire Zimmer, the Cardinals turned their attention to a Pirates prospect, Julian Javier, whose path to the majors was blocked by Bill Mazeroski, a future Hall of Famer. On May 28, 1960, the Cardinals dealt pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell and infielder Dick Gray to the Pirates for reliever Ed Bauta and Javier, who became their mainstay at second base for more than a decade.

Crowd pleaser

Zimmer was the third baseman when the Cubs opened the season on April 12, 1960, against the Dodgers at Los Angeles. In his first at-bat as a Cub, Zimmer hit a home run against his former teammate, Don Drysdale.

“The crowd of 67,550 stood and cheered Don as he rounded the bases,” The Sporting News reported.

Zimmer told the Los Angeles Times, “I can’t think of anything that has happened to me in baseball that gave me a bigger thrill, and I hit it off one of my best buddies.” Boxscore

The next day, Zimmer was chatting with Drysdale at the ballpark when Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider approached and informed them his wife stood and applauded for Zimmer when he hit the home run.

Zimmer replied, “I can top that one. I saw Ginger Drysdale outside the dressing room after the game and she gave me a kiss and a hug.”

In June 1960, the Cubs called up prospect Ron Santo from the minors, put him at third base and moved Zimmer to second. Zimmer eventually played for the Mets, Reds, Dodgers again, and Senators before ending his playing career in 1965.

From 1971 through 2006, Zimmer was in the major leagues as either a coach or manager. He had a 906-873 record as manager of the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs and Yankees.

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The Cardinals had Willie Montanez in their organization, lost him, got him back, lost him again and made another attempt to reacquire him.

Fifty years ago, on April 8, 1970, the Cardinals sent Montanez to the Phillies as partial compensation for Curt Flood’s failure to report after being traded.

A first baseman and outfielder in the Cardinals’ farm system, Montanez became a prominent player for the Phillies.

He spent 14 seasons in the majors with nine teams, but not the Cardinals.

Big leap

Cardinals scout Chase Riddle, who signed Steve Carlton and who also opened the talent pipeline for the club in Latin America, discovered Montanez in Puerto Rico. Montanez signed with the Cardinals on March 1, 1965, a month before he turned 17. He spent the 1965 season with a Cardinals club managed by George Kissell in the Florida Rookie League.

Years later, Montanez admitted he too often flashed a temper in those development years. “I was really bad then,” Montanez said to the Philadelphia Daily News. He also told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I wouldn’t take anything from anybody and I’m sure that’s what held me down in the minor leagues.”

Left off the Cardinals’ 40-man major-league roster, Montanez was selected by the Angels in the November 1965 Rule 5 draft. The move was a surprise because Montanez had little professional experience and, under the rules, would have to remain with the Angels throughout the 1966 major-league season or be offered back to the Cardinals.

Montanez, 18, was on the Angels’ Opening Day roster and made his debut in the majors on April 12, 1966, as a pinch-runner for Norm Siebern. Boxscore

He appeared in eight games for the Angels, had two at-bats and struck out both times. On May 5, 1966, the Angels returned Montanez to the Cardinals, who sent him to their farm club at Rock Hill, S.C. A month later, in June 1966, Rock Hill placed Montanez on a 10-day inactive list so he could return to Puerto Rico and graduate with his high school class, The Sporting News reported.

From 1966-69, Montanez made a steady rise through the Cardinals’ system. In 1969, he hit .375 in 14 games for Class AAA Tulsa before he fractured his right knee sliding into second base, ending his season.

Compromise solution

In October 1969, the Cardinals traded Flood, Tim McCarver, Joe Hoerner and Byron Browne to the Phillies for Richie Allen, Cookie Rojas and Jerry Johnson. Flood refused to report and filed an antitrust lawsuit, challenging baseball’s reserve clause.

At spring training in 1970, when it became obvious Flood wouldn’t reconsider, the Cardinals and Phillies opened talks regarding a player to replace him in the trade. The Phillies were interested in third baseman Mike Shannon, the Post-Dispatch reported, until medical tests revealed he had a kidney ailment.

With Shannon unavailable, the Cardinals submitted a list of players for consideration, but the Phillies rejected it because “we felt the players listed were no better than the players we already had,” Phillies general manager John Quinn told the Post-Dispatch. “In some cases, we felt they weren’t even quite as good as the players we had.”

The Phillies suggested to the Cardinals some alternative names, including Montanez. Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi had seen Montanez while managing winter baseball in Puerto Rico and urged the Phillies to take him, the Sporting News reported.

“Montanez was more or less a compromise name,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told the Post-Dispatch.

The Phillies got Montanez and the right to choose another Cardinals prospect. On Aug. 30, 1970, the Phillies took pitcher Jim Browning.

Fantastic Phillie

Montanez spent the 1970 season in the minors before being called up to the Phillies in September. He went to spring training in 1971 “with only an outside chance of winning a job as a utility man,” The Sporting News reported.

Instead, Montanez was the surprise of training camp and opened the 1971 season as the Phillies’ center fielder.

On April 25, 1971, when the Phillies were in St. Louis to play the Cardinals, Montanez made an over-the-shoulder catch of a Jose Cardenal liner and “collapsed to the warning track, the breath knocked out of him by the head-on collision with an unyielding wall,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported. Boxscore

Five months later, on Sept. 13, 1971, Montanez had five hits and a walk in six plate appearances against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Besides two singles and a double, Montanez hit two home runs. The first, against Reggie Cleveland, tied the score in the seventh and the second, against Don Shaw in the 10th, gave the Phillies a 6-5 victory. Boxscore

Montanez finished the 1971 season with 30 home runs and 99 RBI for the Phillies. The next year, he tied for the National League lead in doubles (39).

Near deal

In May 1975, the Phillies traded Montanez to the Giants for Garry Maddox.

Montanez didn’t like San Francisco’s weather or its stadium, Candlestick Park. He chose to play the 1976 season without a contract. The Giants, concerned Montanez intended to play out his option and become a free agent, decided to trade him. Montanez’s agent, Dennis O’Brien, told the Giants his client would play in St. Louis, Pittsbugh, Philadelphia or New York, the Post-Dispatch reported.

On June 12, 1976, the Cardinals and Giants made a deal “on the condition that Montanez would sign with the Cardinals,” the San Francisco Examiner reported, but the Cardinals backed out when Montanez indicated he would stay unsigned.

“Montanez’s agent called and said we appreciate the opportunity but we’ve decided to play out our option,” Devine told the Post-Dispatch.

Montanez said to the Examiner, “I never did say I’d sign with the Cardinals … I might have signed with St. Louis if the price had been right.”

According to the Examiner, the Cardinals intended to send Reggie Smith to the Giants for Montanez. The Post-Dispatch reported the Cardinals would have sent Smith or Keith Hernandez.

A year earlier, the Cardinals traded Ken Reitz, a San Francisco native, to the Giants. Hernandez, also a San Francisco native, told the Post-Dispatch he wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been dealt to the Giants for Montanez. “They’re looking for Bay Area products,” Hernandez said. “That’s why they got Reitzie. They’re looking for people who’ll bring fans into the park.”

The next day, June 13, 1976, the Giants traded Montanez to the Braves for Darrell Evans. Two days after that, the Cardinals swapped Smith to the Dodgers for Joe Ferguson.

Extra mustard

Montanez batted .275 with 1,604 career hits for the Angels, Phillies, Giants, Braves, Mets, Rangers, Padres, Expos and Pirates. He developed a reputation for flamboyant catches and bat flips.

Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News concluded Montanez “has all the subtlety of a peacock.”

“He walks toward the plate twirling his bat, almost like a baton,” The Sporting News noted.

Padres second baseman Tito Fuentes said, “He’s headed for the hot dog hall of fame. Nobody else is close to him.”

Said Montanez: “Some players do those things, they call them colorful. I do them, they say I am a hot dog.”

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The Cardinals couldn’t figure out Ramon Hernandez when he pitched for them any better than they could when he pitched against them.

Fifty years ago, on March 31, 1970, the Cardinals released Hernandez, a left-handed reliever who went to spring training as a member of their major-league roster.

The Cardinals would come to regret the move.

Hernandez and another ex-Cardinal, Dave Giusti, anchored a dependable bullpen for the Pirates and helped them become the dominant club in the National League East.

The Cardinals, who finished runner-up to the Pirates in 1971 and 1974, consistently were baffled by the effective relief work of Hernandez.

Traveling man

Hernandez was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the same hometown as future teammate Roberto Clemente, who was six years older.

Hernandez was 18 when the Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent. In 1960, his second season in their farm system, the Pirates sent Hernandez from the Class C level to Class D. Miffed by the demotion, Hernandez sat out the 1961 season, according to the Pittsburgh Press.

In December 1961, the Pirates sold Hernandez’s contract to the Angels. He played five seasons (1962-66) in the Angels’ farm system and had his best year in 1966 when he posted a 2.16 ERA for an El Paso team managed by Chuck Tanner.

The Braves selected Hernandez in the Rule 5 draft in November 1966 and he made their Opening Day roster in 1967. Hernandez “might turn out to be the surprise hurler of the year,” The Sporting News predicted.

Hernandez made 46 appearances for the 1967 Braves and was 0-2 with five saves and a 4.18 ERA. One of his losses came against the Cardinals on July 23, 1967, at St. Louis. The winning rally began when Mike Shannon hit a smash toward the mound “which caromed off Hernandez’s glove, a play which didn’t exactly establish the Braves’ reliever as a Golden Glove candidate,” the Atlanta Constitution reported. Boxscore

Left off the Braves’ winter roster, Hernandez was chosen by the Cubs in the November 1967 Rule 5 draft at the request of manager Leo Durocher, who planned to pair Hernandez with right-hander Phil Regan as the club’s top relievers in 1968. “I didn’t draft Hernandez to send him to Siberia,” Durocher told the Chicago Tribune.

Said Cubs pitching coach Joe Becker: “I just hope he’s as good as they say he is because we need a consistent lefty for emergency calls. The day in baseball is gone when you expect a starter to finish.”

The Cubs’ faith in Hernandez went unrewarded. He appeared in eight games for them and had a 9.00 ERA.

Wrong fit

On June 14, 1968, the Cubs sold the contract of Hernandez to the Cardinals, who assigned him to their Class AAA Tulsa farm team.

Warren Spahn, who as a pitcher was baseball’s career leader in wins (363) by a left-hander, was Tulsa’s manager, but he and Hernandez clashed.

“Hernandez admitted he had differences with Warren Spahn,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the Pittsburgh Press, Hernandez said Spahn “impeded his return to the majors by sending unfavorable reports back to St. Louis.”

Miserable at Tulsa, Hernandez was 2-5 with a 6.19 ERA. The Cardinals demoted him to Class AA Arkansas for 1969. At 28, his career appeared to be in decline.

On the outs

Playing for Arkansas manager Ray Hathaway, a former pitcher known for his instructional skills, Hernandez improved.

Used primarily as a starter, he was 10-10 with a 2.40 ERA. Among the wins was a no-hitter against El Paso on Aug. 17, 1969. “What else could you call it but a masterpiece?” Hathaway said. “The guy works fast, has great control and, when he really has it, like he did today, he makes this a simple business.”

Hernandez had 133 strikeouts and 38 walks in 184 innings for Arkansas. Impressed, the Cardinals put him on their winter roster and planned to give him a long look in spring training.

Cardinals director of player procurement George Silvey said, “Hernandez throws a screwball and has great control. He’s the kind of guy who maybe has to work every other day (to be effective).”

The good vibes the Cardinals had for Hernandez quickly faded at spring training in 1970 when “there were such problems as reporting late for practice sessions and not going all out in workouts,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the Pittsburgh Press, the Cardinals “didn’t think he was putting out enough in the team running drills.”

Roberto Clemente later said, “Every place he went, they said he had a problem. I guess they didn’t understand him. The first tendency is to say that he is lazy.”

Hernandez allowed two earned runs in three exhibition game innings for the Cardinals before he was released.

Regarding the decision by Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, Hernandez, 29, told The Sporting News, “He thought I was too old.”

Finding a home

Hernandez signed with the Mexico City Reds of the Mexican League and pitched for them in 1970 before going home to Puerto Rico to play winter baseball. Pirates infielder Jose Pagan saw Hernandez pitch in Puerto Rico and was impressed.

“I can’t understand why some big-league club doesn’t give him a chance,” Pagan said.

At Pagan’s urging, the Pirates sent a career minor-league pitcher, Danny Rivas, 35, to Mexico City in exchange for Hernandez on Feb. 10, 1971.

The Pirates assigned Hernandez to the minors, but in June 1971, facing a shortage of pitchers because of injuries and military commitments, he was called up for a weekend series versus the Cardinals at St. Louis.

On June 12, 1971, in his first Pirates appearance, Hernandez gave up a scratch single to the first batter he faced, Lou Brock. Boxscore

The Cardinals wouldn’t get another hit against Hernandez the rest of the season.

The next day, Hernandez earned a save against the Cardinals. Boxscore

As planned, he was returned to the minors but got called up again in September. With the Pirates and Cardinals battling for the division title, Hernandez faced the Cardinals twice and got saves both times.

For the season, Hernandez had three saves in four appearances versus the Cardinals and yielded no runs. He faced 19 batters and retired 18.

The Pirates finished seven games ahead of the second-place Cardinals in the East Division, won the pennant against the Giants in the National League Championship Series and prevailed in the World Series versus the Orioles.

Hernandez had seven saves and an 0.73 ERA in 10 appearances for the 1971 Pirates.

Working the angles

Hernandez became one of the National League’s top relievers, helping the Pirates win four division titles in a five-year span, and was especially effective against the Cardinals.

In 1972, he was 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 14 saves, including four versus the Cardinals. In 1974, he was 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA against them.

Regarding his success with the Pirates, Hernandez told the Pittsburgh Press, “I do it with a bunch of garbage.”

Said Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi: “His motion has a lot to do with it. It’s very deceptive.”

Hernandez threw a variety of pitches from three different angles _ overhand, three-quarters and sidearm _ and at varying speeds.

Dave Giusti, his bullpen mate, said of Hernandez, “The best I’ve ever seen at getting out left-handers _ and I mean ever.”

Left-handed batters hit .224 versus Hernandez in the majors. In six seasons (1971-76) with the Pirates, Hernandez was 23-12 with 39 saves and a 2.51 ERA.

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Convinced center fielder Jim Edmonds would depart for free agency, the Angels were willing to deal him for the right offer.

Twenty years ago, on March 23, 2000, the Cardinals capitalized on the opportunity, trading pitcher Kent Bottenfield and second baseman Adam Kennedy to the Angels for Edmonds.

Bottenfield and Kennedy filled two holes in the Angels’ lineup, but Edmonds provided much more to the Cardinals.

With Edmonds producing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center and a power bat from the left side, the Cardinals became perennial contenders. They qualified for the postseason in six of the eight years Edmonds played for them, won two National League pennants (2004 and 2006) and earned a World Series championship (2006) for the first time in 24 seasons.

Angels fan

Edmonds grew up in the California town of Diamond Bar, 27 miles from where the Angels played in Anaheim. He was an Angels fan and admired Rod Carew.

Edmonds was about to turn 18 when he was chosen by the Angels in the seventh round of the 1988 amateur draft. An eye test revealed he had 20-15 vision, meaning he could see things at 20 feet that people with normal vision could see only at 15 feet, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Five years later, in September 1993, Edmonds made his major-league debut with the Angels.

Carew, a Hall of Famer and seven-time American League batting champion, was the Angels’ hitting coach and he and Edmonds bonded. In 1995, Edmonds had a breakout year, hitting .290 with 33 home runs and 107 RBI for the Angels. He twice won an American League Gold Glove Award (1997-98).

In 1999, Edmonds missed most of the season after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder while weightlifting. He had surgery in April and didn’t play until August.

Edmonds hit .250 with five home runs in 55 games for the 1999 Angels. He also was criticized for having a care-free attitude and lacking dedication. “Let’s just say he never would have been voted the most popular player on the team,” the Orange County Register reported.

Desire to deal

At spring training in 2000, Edmonds was heard telling Angels teammates about the clubs he expected to get offers from when he planned to enter free agency after the season.

Angels general manager Bill Stoneman was willing to trade Edmonds, but found his market value limited. The Yankees wanted Edmonds but wouldn’t part with the two players Stoneman sought, pitcher Ramiro Mendoza and second baseman Alfonso Soriano, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Talks between the Cardinals and Angels about a deal involving Edmonds stalled, the Los Angeles Times reported. According to the Post-Dispatch, the Angels wanted a pitching prospect, Rick Ankiel or Chad Hutchinson, but the Cardinals were unwilling.

Later, Bob Gebhard, an assistant to Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty, was scouting Edmonds in Arizona and told Stoneman the Cardinals might be willing to include Kennedy with Bottenfield for Edmonds.

Stoneman called Jocketty and the deal was made.

“It became apparent we might be able to fill two needs,” Stoneman said. “It made so much sense that we had to do it.”

Bottenfield, an 18-game winner for the 1999 Cardinals, gave the Angels a potential staff ace. Stoneman was in the Expos’ front office when Bottenfield began his pro career with them.

“He could throw to a dime and hit it,” Stoneman said. “He understands pitching and has great control.”

The Orange County Regster concluded, “He might never win 18 games again but he is still so far above anything else in the Angels’ rotation at the moment that it doesn’t matter.”

Kennedy, a first-round selection by the Cardinals in the 1997 amateur draft, made his major-league debut with them in August 1999. The Angels projected him as their second baseman in 2000.

High marks

While the Angels viewed Bottenfield and Kennedy as solutions, the Cardinals saw them as players who didn’t fit their plans. Bottenfield was expendable because the Cardinals wanted to open a spot in the starting rotation for Garrett Stephenson, who allowed one earned run in 15 spring training innings. Concerned about Kennedy’s defense, the Cardinals had acquired Fernando Vina from the Brewers during the winter to play second base.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals “didn’t think Kennedy would ever be their everyday second baseman” and “they doubted whether Bottenfield was more than a one-year wonder.”

Acquiring Edmonds enabled the Cardinals to move J.D. Drew from center to right and use Eric Davis as a role player.

“We added a player who is a major-league plus as a defensive outfielder with a major-league plus throwing arm, a guy who has been a productive major-league hitter,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “It seems to me we really helped our club.”

Said Jocketty: “He plays hard every day and he’ll sacrifice his body to play hard. That’s something St. Louis fans will enjoy. He’s as close to a five-tool outfielder as you will find.”

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz praised the Cardinals for making a deal “to stabilize the outfield and upgrade the offense.”

Return on investment

In May 2000, Edmonds agreed to a $57 million, six-year contract extension with the Cardinals, keeping him from becoming a free agent after the season.

Though he set a franchise record by striking out 167 times, Edmonds led the 2000 Cardinals in home runs (42), RBI (108), runs (129) and walks (103). He hit .295 with an on-base percentage of .411 and a slugging percentage of .583. The center fielder also won the first of six consecutive Gold Glove awards with the Cardinals.

Bottenfield, 31, went 7-8 with a 5.71 ERA for the Angels before they dealt him to the Phillies in July 2000 for another ex-Cardinal, outfielder Ron Gant.

Kennedy, 24, became the Angels’ second baseman in 2000 and was with them for seven seasons. In 2002, he hit three home runs in the pennant-clinching Game 5 of the American League Championship Series versus the Twins and helped the Angels prevail against the Giants for their only World Series crown. He returned to play for the Cardinals in 2007 and 2008.

Edmonds hit 241 home runs as a Cardinal. Only Stan Musial (475), Albert Pujols (445) and Ken Boyer (255) hit more as Cardinals.

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