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Along with Bob Gibson and Ray Sadecki, Don Choate was a prized pitching prospect who was projected to be in the Cardinals’ plans entering the decade of the 1960s, but he never got the chance to play for them in the regular season.

Instead, Choate went to the Giants in the trade that brought future all-star Bill White to the Cardinals.

Choate, a right-hander who reached the major leagues with the Giants in 1960, died Feb. 4, 2018, at 79.

A native of Potosi, Mo., Choate grew up in East St. Louis, Ill. He signed with the Cardinals in 1956, the year he turned 18, and made his professional debut that season with their minor-league club in Peoria, Ill.

In February 1957, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane cited Choate as one of the “talented kids from the St. Louis area in the Cardinals organization,” The Sporting News reported.

Assigned to the Billings, Mont., team in the Cardinals’ farm system, Choate had a breakout season in 1957, posting a 19-8 record. At 19, he pitched 20 complete games and 240 innings. On successive days, Aug. 30-31, Choate pitched shutouts against Salt Lake City. He pitched a one-hitter in a 5-0 victory cut to five innings because of rain, then came back the next night with a three-hitter in another 5-0 triumph in the seven-inning opener of a doubleheader.

Choate pitched in spring training exhibition games for the Cardinals in 1958 and was touted by The Sporting News as an “impressive” prospect. He split the 1958 season between Cardinals farm clubs in Omaha, where he pitched in the rotation with Gibson, and Houston. When Choate retired 19 consecutive batters in a game against Denver, The Sporting News reported he “scintillated on the mound.”

After producing a combined record of 12-11 in 34 games for Omaha and Houston in 1958, Choate played winter ball for the Licey team in the Dominican Republic League. He won his first six decisions and had a 1.54 ERA. Choate “has developed into the Dominican loop’s leading hurler,” The Sporting News reported.

George Silvey, Cardinals assistant minor-league director, said Choate “is sneaky fast and his curve has been improving. He’s a pitcher, not a thrower. A definite big-league prospect.”

Cardinals manager Solly Hemus and minor-league director Walter Shannon went to the Dominican Republic to see the top players. Hemus filed a favorable report on Choate. As the Cardinals prepared for spring training in 1959, Choate seemed a likely candidate to earn a spot on the big-league team.

While in the Dominican Republic, Hemus and Shannon also saw Bill White, who was then in the Giants’ organization, and were impressed by his power, run production and versatility at first base and in the outfield. Eddie Stanky, a Cardinals scout who managed White in the minor leagues, also recommended him.

On March 25, 1959, the Cardinals traded Choate and a starting pitcher, Sam Jones, to the Giants for White and utility player Ray Jablonski. Most analysts said the deal favored the Giants. Bob Broeg, sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, predicted Choate “eventually might make the grade” as a major-league pitcher.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ve improved our pennant chances tremendously with Jones coming to our team,” Giants manager Bill Rigney told United Press International. Rigney added, “It was the most important pitching deal we’ve made since I’ve been manager.”

Said Bing Devine, who replaced Lane as Cardinals general manager, “We believe White will solve our outfield problem and give us the added power at the plate we have been looking for.”

White became one of the Cardinals’ best players and a premier first baseman in the National League. The Giants didn’t become pennant winners with Jones.

Choate was assigned to the Giants’ farm club at Phoenix in 1959 and was 4-7 in 22 appearances.

In 1960, after posting a 10-15 record for minor-league Tacoma, Choate was called up to the Giants in September. He made four relief appearances for them, including a one-inning scoreless stint against the Cardinals at St. Louis on Sept. 17, and had a 0-0 record and 2.25 ERA.

Choate pitched one more season, 1961, with Tacoma, hurt his arm and was finished as a professional player at 23. He had a second career as a professional firefighter.

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During his prime years with the Cubs, pitcher Guy Bush was an archrival of Cardinals ace Dizzy Dean. Imagine the surprise then when, within a span of two months, Bush joined the Cardinals and Dean went to the Cubs.

Eighty years ago, on Feb. 5, 1938, Bush was acquired by the Cardinals from the Braves in a cash transaction. In April that year, the Cardinals dealt Dean to the Cubs.

Bush, nicknamed the Mississippi Mudcat, was among the best pitchers in the National League in the 1930s. For 10 consecutive years (1926-1935), he achieved double-digit win totals each season. His peak years with the Cubs were 1932 (19-11, 3.21 ERA) and 1933 (20-12, 2.75 ERA).

Dean, the Cardinals’ brash future Hall of Famer, and Bush were matched in intense duels during their primes. In 1933, Bush challenged Dean to a fight during a game, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. “I get more satisfaction out of beating that guy once than I do winning from anyone else twice,” Bush said.

When Bush joined the Cardinals, though, he was on the back end of his career. Bush, 36, was 8-15 for the 1937 Braves. Dean, only 28, also was in decline, losing the zip on his fastball after getting injured in the 1937 All-Star Game. Dean was dealt to the Cubs on April 16, 1938, and went 16-8 over four seasons with Chicago.

As spring training approached in 1938, the Cardinals were looking for a reliever who could make spot starts. They acquired Bush “for protection around the edges of our pitching staff,” Cardinals executive Branch Rickey said to The Sporting News.

Dean and Bush pitched in the Cardinals’ second spring training exhibition game, a 8-1 victory over the Yankees. The Sporting News wrote of Bush, “He hasn’t the stuff that once made him one of the stars of the Cubs, but he knows the hitters in the league and has developed a fairly effective slow ball.”

Once the regular season began, however, the Cardinals quickly grew unimpressed by Bush. He made six relief appearances, posting an 0-1 record and 4.50 ERA, before he was released on May 7. Seven years later, with rosters depleted by calls to military service during World War II, Bush, 43, surfaced again in the major leagues for a stint with the Reds.

Bush has a big-league career record of 176-136 with a 3.86 ERA. His career mark versus the Cardinals is 19-23.

Previously: Why Cardinals dealt ace Dizzy Dean to Cubs

 

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Oscar Gamble twice teamed with a future member of the 1982 World Series champions to help the Padres beat the Cardinals.

Gamble, a pop culture favorite among baseball fans because of a distinctive Afro hairstyle and a name like a character in a detective novel, died Jan. 31, 2018, at 68. He was an outfielder in the major leagues for 17 seasons (1969-1985), including five years in the National League with the Cubs (1969), Phillies (1970-1972) and Padres (1978).

Gamble was the Opening Day left fielder on a Padres team that included future Cardinals Ozzie Smith at shortstop, George Hendrick in center field and Gene Tenace at catcher. Smith, Hendrick and Tenace went on to play for the 1982 World Series champion Cardinals. In 1978, though, Smith and Tenace paired with Gamble in providing prominent production in wins over the Cardinals.

The first of those games was May 5, 1978, at St. Louis. The Padres won, 2-1, and Gamble and Smith played key roles versus starter John Urrea. Smith, the shortstop, batting second, had two triples, a single and a stolen base. Gamble, the right fielder, batting third, drove in the winning run with a triple. The game was the sixth for Ken Boyer as Cardinals manager.

Mike Tyson, Cardinals second baseman, deprived Gamble of a second RBI when, in the eighth inning, he dived for Gamble’s hard smash, snared the ball, leaped to his feet and threw out Smith, who was attempting to advance from third base to home.

Two months later, on July 28, 1978, at San Diego, Gamble and Tenace were culprits in defeating the Cardinals. Gamble, the right fielder, batting fifth, had a RBI-double against starter John Denny and a two-run single off Buddy Schultz. Tenace, catching and batting sixth, drove in five runs and scored twice. He produced a RBI-single and solo home run against Denny and a three-run homer off Aurelio Lopez.

It was the 10th time in a row the Cardinals lost to the Padres at San Diego.

For his career, Gamble batted .254 (30-for-118) against the Cardinals.

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Johnny Bench made Johnny Edwards available to the Cardinals and Ted Simmons made him expendable.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 8, 1968, the Cardinals acquired Edwards from the Reds for catcher Pat Corrales and infielder Jimy Williams.

The trade paired Edwards and Tim McCarver, giving the Cardinals an all-star catching tandem. Corrales and Williams went on to become big-league managers after their playing careers.

McCarver, the Cardinals’ first-string catcher, was outstanding in 1967. He batted .295, finished second in balloting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award and handled a pitching staff that carried the Cardinals to a World Series championship.

The Cardinals, however, wanted a strong backup who could fill in when McCarver was fulfilling his Army reserve duties one weekend a month and when McCarver needed a rest.

Edwards, 29, became available because Bench, a rookie phenom, was ready to take over the starting catcher role for the Reds in 1968. Edwards, who debuted with the Reds in 1961, twice won a Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence (1963-64) and three times was named a NL all-star (1963-65) with the Reds.

He fell out of favor with the Reds when his batting averages dipped substantially in 1966 (.191) and 1967 (.206). Unhappy with being platooned and aware that Bench was ready to take over, Edwards publicly requested a trade. “It was a real good deal to get out of Cincinnati,” Edwards said to The Sporting News. “The (management) people in Cincinnati were down on me.”

In joining the Cardinals, Edwards was reunited with Dick Sisler, who was Reds manager in 1965 before becoming Cardinals hitting coach in 1966. “Maybe Sisler can help me with my swing,” Edwards said. “I used to hit to all fields. Then they wanted me to try to pull the ball more.”

Recalling Wally Pipp, the Yankees first baseman who missed a game, was replaced by Lou Gehrig and never got his job back, McCarver said, “Maybe I would be better off with a little more rest, but I don’t want to get Wally Pipped out there.”

On March 10, 1968, in his spring training debut for the Cardinals, Edwards caught 14 innings in a game against the Mets and impressed his teammates.

Edwards quickly contributed to the Cardinals during the regular season. After Edwards produced three hits in a Cardinals victory over the Astros on May 1, outfielder Roger Maris needled McCarver. “I’m sure glad we had a good-hitting catcher in there tonight,” Maris said.

A left-handed batter, like McCarver, Edwards hit a two-run home run off Juan Marichal in Bob Gibson’s 3-0 shutout of the Giants on July 6. Edwards caught 10 of Gibson’s starts in 1968 and Gibson had a 0.89 ERA in those games, according to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

On Sept. 18, Edwards caught Ray Washburn’s no-hitter, the first by a Cardinals pitcher since Lon Warneke in 1941.

Edwards appeared in 85 games for the 1968 NL champions and made 52 starts. He batted .239.

In the World Series against the Tigers, McCarver started all seven games. Gibson won his first two starts but was the loser in the decisive Game 7. “I feel if I had caught Bob in the World Series, the result would have been different,” Edwards said to his SABR biographer.

On Oct. 11, 1968, Edwards was traded to the Astros in a deal for pitcher Dave Giusti. Simmons was being groomed to replace McCarver and Edwards no longer was needed.

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Paired with an innovative coach who provided a seal-tight offensive line, reliable running backs and sure-handed receivers, Jim Hart was among the NFL’s top quarterbacks in the mid-1970s and secured his place as the best who played for the St. Louis football Cardinals.

The Cardinals played 28 seasons (1960-1987) in St. Louis and Hart was a quarterback for them for 18 of those years (1966-1983).

On Dec. 3, 2017, Hart will be inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor in ceremonies at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Like the franchise, Hart had many ups and downs. When he came to the Cardinals as an undrafted prospect from Southern Illinois University, Hart competed with another underrated quarterback, Charley Johnson, for the starting job.

Hart prevailed when Johnson was traded to the Oilers after the 1969 season, but when Bob Hollway became Cardinals head coach in 1971 he soured on Hart. By 1972, Hart was a reserve behind Gary Cuozzo and Tim Van Galder.

The arrival of Don Coryell as Cardinals head coach in 1973 revived Hart’s career. Coryell recognized Hart as a special talent and named him the starter.

Coryell also supported Hart with a cast that included offensive linemen Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Bob Young, Tom Banks and Roger Finnie; running backs Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis; and receivers Mel Gray, Jackie Smith, Earl Thomas and Ike Harris.

Hart led the Cardinals to their best St. Louis seasons. The Cardinals finished in first place in the NFC East Division in 1974 (10-4) and 1975 (11-3) and in second place in 1976 (10-4). They got to the playoffs in 1974 and 1975, years when only four teams from the NFC qualified for the postseason.

Here are 10 facts to know about Hart based on research, most especially from Pro Football Reference:

1. Leader of the pack

Hart is the Cardinals career franchise leader in passing yards (34,639), completions (2,590) and touchdown passes (209). That’s no small feat. The franchise has been in the NFL since 1920. The Cardinals started in Chicago (1920-1959) and relocated to St. Louis (1960-1987) and Phoenix (1988-present). Hart highlight video

2. Best in class

In 1974, Hart led the NFL in pass attempts (388) and ranked first in the NFC in both completions (200) and touchdown passes (20). Hart was named 1974 NFC Player of the Year by United Press International.

3. Tough to beat

Hart threw more career touchdown passes (35) against the Cowboys than he did against any other foe. The Cardinals, however, had a 7-17 record versus the Cowboys in games in which Hart played.

In 1975, Hart threw seven touchdown passes in two games against the Cowboys. On Sept. 28, Hart connected on two touchdown passes to Gray and one each to Thomas and Smith, but the Cowboys beat the Cardinals, 37-31. On Dec. 7, the Cardinals defeated the Cowboys, 31-17, with Hart completing two scoring strikes to Gray and one to Metcalf. The victory gave the Cardinals control of the NFC East.

4. Playing long ball

Hart had an exceptionally strong arm and was effective at completing long passes, or bombs. Forty-one percent of his career touchdown throws (87 of 209) were of 30 yards or more.

In his 1977 book, “The Jim Hart Story,” Hart said, “The bomb is partly feel and partly luck. The feel is knowing where to throw it. You want to get it over the receiver’s outside shoulder, so the defender can’t get to it. The luck is having the right speed, the right velocity. You can’t always control that.”

5. Longest yard

Hart’s longest completion, however, didn’t produce a touchdown.

On Dec. 10, 1972, against the Los Angeles Rams, Hart completed a 98-yard pass to Bobby Moore (later named Ahmad Rashad). The play went from the Cardinals’ 1-yard line to the Rams’ 1-yard line. It’s the longest non-scoring play in NFL history.

“If I scored, it wouldn’t have been a record,” Moore said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Hollway sent in the play _ a fly pattern _ figuring the Rams were expecting the run.

Moore snared Hart’s pass at the Cardinals’ 40-yard line and cut downfield. He was caught from behind by Al Clark. Video

On the next play, Donny Anderson ran for the touchdown.

6. Productive target

Gray was the receiver who caught the most touchdown passes from Hart. Gray and Hart connected for 38 touchdowns.

The most famous came on Nov. 16, 1975, against the Redskins. On fourth down, Hart completed a seven-yard scoring pass to Gray. Officials initially disagreed on whether Gray maintained possession, but the call went in the Cardinals’ favor. Some refer to it as the “Phantom Catch.” Video

St. Louis won in overtime, 20-17, and earned the label “Cardiac Cardinals.”

7. Welcome to the NFL

Hart played in his first regular-season Cardinals game on Dec. 17, 1966, against the Browns.

Appearing in relief of starter Terry Nofsinger, Hart completed four of 11 passes for 29 yards. The Browns won, 38-10.

Asked about Hart’s debut, Cardinals head coach Charley Winner said, “Most of those passes he completed were short and to the sidelines. You’re supposed to complete those passes.”

8. On-the-job training

The first regular-season touchdown pass thrown by Hart was 12 yards to Prentice Gautt on Sept. 17, 1967, against the Giants.

Hart, making his first start, was intercepted four times. The Giants won, 37-20.

“After that loss, I felt so poor that I didn’t want to look anybody in the eye,” Hart said.

9. On the run

Hart had 16 career rushing touchdowns. The longest was his first, a 23-yard run on Sept. 24, 1967, versus the Steelers.

“I had to run with it,” Hart said. “The play was a fake up the middle and a pitch to the fullback. (Linebacker) Andy Russell made a good move to get in the way of the pitch. I was going to throw it, but with our linemen already down the field I couldn’t. I had to run.”

Jim Bakken kicked seven field goals and St. Louis won, 28-14.

10. Picked off

In 1967, Hart was intercepted 30 times in 14 starts.

The only quarterbacks to be intercepted more times than that since then are Vinny Testaverde (35 interceptions), 1988 Buccaneers; Fran Tarkenton (32), 1978 Vikings; and John Hadl (32), 1968 Chargers.

George Blanda of the 1962 Oilers holds the single-season record. He was intercepted 42 times.

Previously: Football Cardinals finally got it right with Don Coryell

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After getting a ringside view of Muhammad Ali bludgeoning an opponent, Bill White had seen enough boxing.

clay_fleemanWhite and Cardinals teammate Curt Flood met Ali, then known by his birth name of Cassius Clay, in Florida in February 1961. Ali, 19, was early in his professional boxing career after having won a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics. White, 27, was the first baseman and Flood, 23, the center fielder for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals had opened an advance training camp in Homestead, Fla., near Miami, on Feb. 12, 1961, before they would move across state to their St. Petersburg base at the beginning of March. White and Flood were among the veterans who attended the early workouts at Homestead to get in extra hitting.

Ali was preparing for his fifth professional bout, a match with Donnie Fleeman, 29, an experienced heavyweight from Midlothian, Texas.

Meet in Miami

Seeking a break from small-town Homestead, which primarily was an agricultural community, White and Flood drove the 35 miles to Miami.

In his book “Uppity: My Life in Baseball,” White said he and Flood “went to the Sir John Hotel in the Overtown section, an area earlier known as Colored Town, where a lot of black celebrities stayed and performed.”

White said he and Flood were standing outside the hotel when an acquaintance approached and offered to introduce them to a friend of his.

“The friend was a tall, good-looking black kid named Cassius Clay _ later, of course, Muhammad Ali,” White said.

Bloody event

On Feb. 21, 1961, Ali fought Fleeman before 2,076 spectators at the Miami Beach Auditorium. White accepted Ali’s invitation to attend the fight and was given a ringside seat.

Ali, using what the Associated Press described as “a speedy jab and a rock-hard right cross,” earned a seventh-round technical knockout of Fleeman.

Ali twice opened a cut over Fleeman’s right eye and bloodied his nose, according to the Associated Press.

“At the end of the sixth,” wrote the Associated Press, “the bleeding Fleeman pointed to his midsection … and asked that doctors examine it. Dr. Alex Robbins said Fleeman had a rib injury and recommended that the scheduled eight-rounder be stopped.”

Said White: “In typical Ali fashion, he had boasted to me that Fleeman would never lay a glove on him _ and in typical Ali fashion, he was right … By the time he knocked Fleeman out in the seventh round, I had flecks of Fleeman’s blood all over my clothes. I never went to another professional fight.”

No thanks

Nine years later, in 1970, when White had retired as a player and gone into broadcasting, he was asked by Howard Cosell of ABC television to join him in working a fight in Italy.

“Howard persisted,” White said, “and while I was flattered by the offer, in the end I turned him down. Although I often watched boxing on TV, I hadn’t been to a fight since Ali spattered me with Donnie Fleeman’s blood in Miami in 1961. I just didn’t think that I was ready for such a high-profile assignment in a sport I had never covered.”

Message of hate

During their February 1961 introduction to Ali, White and Flood were invited to join the boxer at a Nation of Islam meeting at a Florida mosque.

In his book “The Way It Is,” Flood said Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson attended the meeting, too.

Said White: “After being searched for weapons at the door, we went in and sat down and listened as a speaker talked about separating black people from the ‘white devils’ and how Black Muslims wanted to inflict mayhem on their enemies … After about 10 minutes, Curt looked at me and I looked at Curt and then we got up and left. Ali left with us.”

Said Flood: “Our wallets and watches were impounded at the door … The speeches _ or sermons _ were rampantly, savagely racist. The only discernible program seemed to be destruction of the hated ‘white devil’ and substitution of black rule.”

Rejecting racism

Said White: “I wanted to support anyone who was fighting against the oppression of black people, but the Nation’s philosophy really wasn’t my kind of thing.”

Said Flood: “I simply happen to doubt that black pride need be accomplished by racism … We ought to have learned enough about racism to avoid it in ourselves.”

Of Ali, Flood concluded, “Anyone who expects me to attack Muhammad Ali or the Black Muslims can forget it. I respect Ali. I would be surprised if he were a racist fanatic.”

Previously: Bill White interviewed about autobiography

Previously: Book details how Cardinals were segregated in Florida

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