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Cardinals pitcher Larry Jackson and Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider found out the hard way that bats and balls, like sticks and stones, may break bones.

On March 27, 1961, Jackson suffered a fractured jaw when Snider’s bat splintered and struck Jackson in the face during a spring training game.

Three weeks later, on April 17, 1961, Snider suffered a fractured right elbow when the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson hit him with a pitch during an at-bat in the regular season.

Gibson’s plunking of Snider had more to do with the home run Snider hit in his previous at-bat against Gibson than it did with the accident involving Jackson.

Jackson and Snider recovered from their injuries, and each went on to have a productive season.

Painful outing

Jackson was pitching in his last scheduled inning when Snider came to bat in the exhibition game between the Cardinals and Dodgers at Vero Beach, Fla.

Snider had hit a two-run home run in the first and a two-run double in the third against Jackson. In the sixth, with baserunner Tommy Davis on second, Snider was looking to drive in another run.

Jackson threw a pitch near Snider’s fists. Snider connected, shattering the bat and sending pieces of it flying. The ball hit Jackson on the hip and fell to the ground. As Jackson turned to retrieve it, the heavy end of the bat, whirling rapidly through the air, struck him in the lower left jaw.

“Bleeding from cuts inside his mouth, Jackson fell in a heap in front of the mound, but did not lose consciousness,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In his book “The Duke of Flatbush,” Snider said, “I felt awful about it, but that’s one of the occupational hazards of pitching.”

Jackson was taken by ambulance to a Vero Beach hospital and given emergency treatment. X-rays showed he had two fractures in the jaw.

Jackson was permitted to return on a chartered flight to St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Cardinals trained. His jaw was wired that night by a surgeon at a St. Petersburg hospital.

Released from the hospital on March 31, Jackson pitched batting practice a few days later. The Cardinals targeted the end of April for his return in a game.

Purpose pitch

After the Cardinals opened the season with wins in three of their first five games, they started Gibson against the Dodgers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In the third, Gibson threw a pitch on the outside corner to Snider, a left-handed batter. In the book “From Ghetto to Glory,” Gibson said, “I pitched away to Snider because he was a good pull hitter.”

Snider poked the ball over the screen in left for a two-run home run and a 3-1 Dodgers lead.

The next time Snider came up, in the fifth, “I was still going to pitch him outside,” Gibson said.

Gibson changed his mind when he noticed Snider lean in. “So I threw the next pitch tight to brush him back away from the plate,” Gibson said.

Snider barely saw the fastball. “It came right at me,” Snider said. “It was headed for my ribs and I brought up my right arm instinctively to protect my body. The pitch hit my elbow and the ball dropped straight to the ground. It was no glancing blow. It hit me flush.”

Snider advanced to first and was thrown out attempting to steal second.

When he tried to bat again in the seventh, Snider “felt a sharp pain in that right elbow, like someone jabbing a needle in there” and was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

An examination revealed the elbow was fractured.

“I saw Duke after the game,” Gibson said. “I didn’t apologize to him. He knew I was sorry. He knew I wasn’t throwing at him. I was just trying to move him away from the plate, trying to get him to think and not take things for granted up there.”

In the book “We Would have Played For Nothing,” Snider told former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, “I know that Bob Gibson has told people he never threw at a player on purpose. Bob Gibson is a nice guy, but he stretches the truth a little bit once in a while.” Boxscore

We meet again

Jackson’s absence from the starting rotation the first few weeks of the 1961 season was a significant setback for the Cardinals. The year before, he won 18 and led the National League in innings pitched (282).

A right-hander, Jackson made his first appearance of the 1961 season on April 26, a month after his injury, in a start against the Braves.

He lost his first three decisions, prompting The Sporting News to note, “After subsisting on liquids and soft foods for a month, Jackson showed he needed a few steaks to beef up his pitching.”

Meanwhile, after sitting out a month, Snider returned on May 19 as a pinch-hitter and was back in the Dodgers’ starting lineup on May 22.

Two days later, the Dodgers opened a series at St. Louis. Jackson started Game 1 and faced Snider for the first time since the spring training accident. Snider walked three times, but didn’t get a hit, and Jackson got his first win of the season. Boxscore

The next night, Gibson started and faced Snider for the first time since he suffered the fractured elbow. Snider got a single in four at-bats. Sandy Koufax pitched a three-hitter and Tommy Davis hit a home run in a 1-0 Dodgers triumph. Boxscore

Keep going

On June 26, Jackson lost to the Braves, sinking his record for the season to 3-8. Manager Solly Hemus dropped him from the starting rotation.

Two weeks later, Hemus was fired and Johnny Keane replaced him. Jackson returned to the rotation and won 11 of his next 12 decisions.

“There’s no pitcher in the league right now who’s better than Larry Jackson,” Keane said to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

Jackson finished the season at 14-11 with three shutouts and 211 innings pitched. He made six starts against the Dodgers and was 1-3. Snider hit .294 versus Jackson in 1961 and .219 for his career.

Snider finished the season with 16 home runs and a .296 batting mark. Against Gibson, Snider hit .300 in 1961 and .212 for his career.


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(Updated March 6, 2023)

Chuck Dressen thumbed his nose at being tossed.

On June 6, 1951, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Dressen, the Dodgers’ manager, was ejected in the fifth inning for complaining about ball and strike calls while Peanuts Lowrey batted for the Cardinals.

After plate umpire Artie Gore motioned for Dressen to take a hike, the manager stormed out of the dugout, kicked dirt around the plate and gesticulated wildly.

The performance ended when Dressen departed down the dugout steps, but it was just the first act in an afternoon of theatrics.

Costume party

According to the New York Daily News, Dressen went “to the cubicle beneath the stands, where it is possible to do a little bootleg managing.”

Unsatisfied with that arrangement, Dressen dreamed up a different scheme. According to The Sporting News, Dressen put on a groundskeeper’s cap and jacket and slipped into a corner of the Dodgers’ dugout, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed. He was about to pick up a rake to enhance the disguise when Cardinals manager Marty Marion spotted him and informed Gore.

“Marty turned me in when I was giving out instructions from the dugout,” Dressen told The Sporting News.

After being ordered by Gore to leave the dugout, Dressen headed for the clubhouse, but he wasn’t done.

Sitting pretty

In the seventh inning, Dressen, wearing street clothes, positioned himself in a box seat next to the Dodgers’ dugout on the first-base side.

Ever vigilant, Marion detected Dressen and again informed Gore. According to Marion, Gore replied, “There is nothing wrong with that, but if you see him doing anything to run the team from there, you let me know and I’ll chase him,” the New York Daily News reported.

Marion saw shortstop Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers’ captain, go over to Dressen’s seat.

“Dressen was giving the signs and motioned for Reese to get some pitchers warmed up,” Marion told The Sporting News. “He was making a joke of the game.”

When Marion advised Gore what he had seen, Gore told Dressen to leave. Dressen watched the rest of the game from team owner Walter O’Malley’s private perch under the mezzanine behind home plate.

Asked whether he was giving instructions to Reese, Dressen “grinned and said he wasn’t that dumb,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

“I just told Pee Wee to find out from Gore what Marion was complaining about,” Dressen said. “I wouldn’t try to relay signs right out there in the open.”

According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Dressen said he sat in the box seat at the request of a photographer. Dressen told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the photos were for a shoe polish ad.

Some nerve

The Dodgers won, 3-2. Roy Campanella drove in all the Dodgers’ runs and Ralph Branca pitched a complete game. Boxscore

Marion protested the game on the grounds that Dressen broke the rules when he didn’t stay away after being ejected in the fifth inning.

National League president Ford Frick fined Dressen $100 for “failure to leave the bench when ejected and for masquerading in the dugout,” but denied the protest.

Miffed that Marion turned him in to Gore, Dressen told The Sporting News, “If I ever get the chance, you can bet I’ll pour it on him good. I don’t appreciate what he did to me.”

(According to writer Roger Kahn, Dressen was a “nutcake” who proposed crackpot ideas as Dodgers manager. For instance, Dressen said it was bad for pitchers to receive oral sex. “If you get blowed, it makes you sweat in hot weather,” Dressen said to Kahn. “I got guys on my staff can’t beat the Cardinals in St. Louis because they get blowed. It starts them sweating and after a while they can’t stand up to the heat that comes up from the river.”)

Nearly 50 years later, on June 9, 1999, in a night game against the Blue Jays, Mets manager Bobby Valentine returned to the dugout disguised in sunglasses and a fake moustache after being ejected. Valentine said he was fined $5,000 and suspended for two games for the prank. Video

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Unsatisfied with the RBI production they got from their left fielder, the Cardinals tried to trade Vince Coleman.

In 1989, Coleman led the National League in stolen bases (65) for the fifth consecutive year and led the Cardinals in runs scored (94), but manager Whitey Herzog wanted more from him.

Coleman hit .200 with runners in scoring position and totaled a mere 28 RBI. He also had lapses in fielding.

“Vince Coleman has been castigated for both his outfield play and his inability to drive in runs,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.

Seeking either an outfielder who put up big RBI numbers, or a starting pitcher, the Cardinals were willing to give up Coleman to get what they needed.

They set their sights on a couple of potential trade targets: Indians outfielder Joe Carter and Reds pitchers Scott Scudder and Norm Charlton.

Thompson emerges

The top two RBI producers for the 1989 Cardinals, who finished third in their division, were first baseman Pedro Guerrero (117) and right fielder Tom Brunansky (85). Herzog figured the club could do better if it had another RBI producer in left.

An internal option was Milt Thompson.

Because of injuries, center fielder Willie McGee was limited to 47 starts in 1989. Thompson filled in and impressed. His season totals in key categories were much better than those Coleman produced.

Thompson had 68 RBI, 40 more than Coleman did, and hit .318 with runners in scoring position, 118 points better than Coleman did.

Overall, Thompson hit .290, with 28 doubles and 27 steals.

When the 1989 season ended, Herzog told Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, “I consider Vince my fourth outfielder” behind Brunansky, McGee and Thompson.

“In the history of baseball, you tell me a left fielder who batted 565 times and knocked in 28 runs,” Herzog said to Miklasz. “Tell me who it is. I’m interested in Vince hitting .290 and driving in 50 runs. if he can’t do that, I don’t think we can win.”

A switch-hitter, Coleman batted .254 overall in 1989. “After moving his average to .275 in late July, he batted .206 the rest of the season,” the Post-Dispatch noted.

Vince Coleman “has become Wince Coleman to Herzog,” Miklasz concluded. “Two things are likely to happen to Coleman this winter. He’ll be traded or benched.”

“I don’t think Vince would be happy sitting on the bench,” Herzog said.

Reds reconsider

The Reds needed a left fielder to replace Kal Daniels, who’d been traded. Their new general manager, Bob Quinn, envisioned Coleman, 28, joining an outfield with Eric Davis in center and Paul O’Neill in right.

Figuring Thompson could do the job in left for the Cardinals, “the ideal situation would be to get another quality starter” for the pitching rotation, Herzog told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

Hummel reported the Cardinals asked the Reds in October 1989 for pitchers Scott Scudder and Norm Charlton in exchange for Coleman.

A right-hander, Scudder, 21, was a first-round draft pick of the Reds in 1986. In the minors, he was 14-3 in 1988 and 6-2 in 1989 before being called up to the majors. He was 4-9 with a 4.49 ERA for the 1989 Reds. The Cardinals saw him as a developing talent and a fit for their starting rotation.

A left-hander, Charlton, 26, was a first-round draft pick of the Expos in 1984. He was 8-3 with a 2.93 ERA as a Reds reliever in 1989.

The Reds told the Cardinals they would trade one, but not both, of the pitchers for Coleman, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Soon after those trade talks began, the Reds hired Lou Piniella to be their manager. According to the Post-Dispatch, Piniella told general manager Bob Quinn, “I don’t like Coleman.”

The Dayton Daily News reported a swap of Scudder for Coleman “probably is dead. Piniella likes young pitchers and wants to see how Scudder” does in spring training.

Special instructions

Meanwhile, the Cardinals reassigned hitting coach Johnny Lewis and replaced him with Steve Braun, who had played for Herzog with the Royals and Cardinals.

“Without a doubt, Braun’s principal pupil is the perplexing Coleman,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Coleman had a batting cage at his St. Louis home and Braun began making visits there during the winter to work with him and “take the slap out of Coleman’s swing,” according to Dan O’Neill of the Post-Dispatch.

“We’re taking the top hand out of his swing,” Braun said. “That will allow him to keep the bat head in the strike zone longer and hit the ball more solidly. I have conveyed to him that I think he can be much more than a Punch and Judy hitter.”

Braun said he told Coleman he should be hitting more doubles than the 21 he produced in 1989. “He’s strong,” Braun said. “He has the size and the body to drive the ball. He has enough drive and determination to make the change.”

Swing and miss

Heading into the baseball winter meetings at Nashville in December 1989, the Indians were shopping slugger Joe Carter. He had 35 home runs and 105 RBI for them in 1989. The Cardinals wanted him.

“If the Cardinals were to make a deal with Cleveland, it would almost certainly include Vince Coleman and Willie McGee,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said the Cardinals “were definitely interested in Carter.” Herzog said getting Carter would revamp the offense.

“We really haven’t got out of our outfield what we have to in order to be contenders,” Herzog said. “We’ve got to have a guy who can do a better job than the guys we have. We’re too undisciplined with runners on base.

“We were in the running (for Carter),” Herzog said. “We made an offer and they thought about it.”

The Indians liked better what the Padres offered. On Dec. 6, 1989, Carter, 29, was dealt to the Padres for catcher Sandy Alomar, second baseman Carlos Baerga and outfielder Chris James.

The Cardinals went back and met with the Reds, but “the Reds aren’t interested in Vince Coleman,” the Dayton Daily News reported.

Something to prove

Entering spring training in 1990, Herzog was reminded that when the 1989 season ended he considered Coleman to be his fourth outfielder. “I haven’t changed my mind,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch.

“The thing that bothers me about Vince is he hasn’t played to his potential on defense or on offense,” Herzog said. “He has more ability than he has shown.”

On March 28, 1990, two weeks before the season opened, the Post-Dispatch reported, “Vince Coleman is the only all-star player in a major league spring training camp who isn’t assured of a starting job.”

Herzog said, “If the season opened tomorrow, Thompson would be playing left, McGee in center and Brunansky in right. In April, I don’t know.”

When a surge boosted Coleman’s spring training batting average to .368 on April 5, Herzog decided to open the season on April 9 with an outfield of Coleman, McGee and Brunansky.

The 1990 season was one of constant turmoil for the Cardinals. Brunansky was traded in May, Herzog quit in July and McGee was traded in August. The Cardinals finished in last place.

Coleman hit .292 with 39 RBI and 77 stolen bases in 1990. He hit .259 with runners in scoring position. After the season, he became a free agent and signed with the Mets.

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In 1951, the Dodgers dominated the Cardinals in a way few have. It wasn’t just future Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider who did the damage. Players such as Wayne Terwilliger joined in, too.

A second baseman who played nine years in the majors, Terwilliger built a second career as a coach and manager.

Though he was valued more for his fielding than his hitting, Terwilliger helped the Dodgers extend a streak of success against the Cardinals during his short stay with them in 1951.

War and baseball

A Michigan native, Terwilliger joined the Marines in 1943 and saw combat in Saipan and Iwo Jima. After the war, he enrolled at Western Michigan University and played varsity baseball and basketball. He signed with the Cubs in 1948 after impressing them in a tryout.

Called up to the Cubs from the minors in August 1949, Terwilliger, 24, caught the attention of manager Frankie Frisch, the former standout second baseman for the Giants and Cardinals. Terwilliger was the Opening Day second baseman for Frisch with the Cubs in 1950 and 1951.

On June 15, 1951, Terwilliger was part of a blockbuster trade between the Cubs and Dodgers. The Cubs sent Terwilliger, outfielder Andy Pafko, pitcher Johnny Schmitz and catcher Rube Walker to the Dodgers for catcher Bruce Edwards, pitcher Joe Hatten, outfielder Gene Hermanski and infielder Eddie Miksis.

The key player for the Dodgers was Pafko, a power hitter with a strong arm. With Pafko in left, Duke Snider in center and Carl Furillo in right, the Dodgers had what the Cardinals’ Stan Musial called “the best-throwing outfield I ever saw.”

Terwilliger was acquired to be a backup to Jackie Robinson at second. It was a role that gave him little chance to play.

Late drama

The Cardinals and Dodgers split the first four games they played against one another in 1951. After that, the Dodgers went on a roll, winning seven in a row versus the Cardinals entering their game on July 21, 1951, a Saturday afternoon, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

The Dodgers led, 2-0, until Cardinals left fielder Hal Rice hit a two-run home run in the eighth against starter Don Newcombe, tying the score.

Facing Cardinals reliever Tom Poholsky, Jackie Robinson led off the bottom of the ninth by looping a single to shallow left-center for his fourth consecutive hit.

The Cardinals’ infielders moved in, anticipating a sacrifice attempt from the next batter, Gil Hodges. On the first pitch, Hodges feigned a bunt, drawing the infielders closer. On the next pitch, he swung away and lashed a single to left.

As Robinson neared second, he saw Hal Rice in left didn’t charge the ball. Robinson turned up the speed and raced to third. Rice’s hurried throw was off the mark. Robinson got in safely and Hodges continued to second.

Roy Campanella was walked intentionally, loading the bases.

Good move

With a left-handed batter, Don Thompson, due up next, Cardinals manager Marty Marion relieved Poholsky with a left-hander, Harry Brecheen. Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen countered with Terwilliger, who batted from the right side. It was his first plate appearance in a week.

The Cardinals infielders came way in and “seemed to be expecting” the suicide squeeze bunt from Terwilliger, the New York Daily News observed.

Brecheen threw two outside pitches, hoping to foil a squeeze play, but Terwilliger offered at neither. On the third pitch, Terwilliger swung and hit a single through the drawn-in infield, scoring Robinson with the winning run and increasing the Dodgers’ win streak versus the Cardinals to eight. Boxscore

“The Cardinals continued to be the softest touch seen in these parts since Diamond Jim Brady left Broadway,” Bob Broeg wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Dazzling Dodgers

The Dodgers’ 1951 win streak against the Cardinals reached 14 before it ended on Aug. 23. For the season, the Dodgers won 18 of 22 games versus the Cardinals.

Spitball specialist Preacher Roe, a former Cardinal, was 7-0 for the Dodgers against the Cardinals in 1951. Carl Erskine was 4-0.

Most of the Dodgers’ regulars hit Cardinals pitching hard and often. The standouts, in alphabetical order, included:

_ Roy Campanella: .328, six home runs, 19 RBI in 19 games.

_ Carl Furillo: .326, 28 hits in 22 games.

Gil Hodges: .301, four home runs, 16 RBI in 22 games.

_ Andy Pafko: .516 on-base percentage, eight hits and eight walks in nine games.

_ Pee Wee Reese: .297, 27 hits in 22 games.

Jackie Robinson: .433 on-base percentage, 29 hits and 10 walks in 22 games.

Duke Snider: 23 hits, 12 walks, 16 runs scored and 13 RBI in 22 games.

The Giants, who edged the Dodgers for the National League pennant on Bobby Thomson’s home run in the ninth inning of the decisive playoff game, were 11-11 versus the Cardinals in 1951.

Long career

Terwilliger, a .172 hitter versus the Cardinals for his career, had a .538 on-base percentage (three hits, four walks) against them as a Dodger in 1951.

He spent the 1952 season in the minors and returned to the big leagues as the second baseman for the Senators in 1953 and 1954. Terwilliger’s final seasons in the majors were as a reserve for the Giants (1955-56) and Athletics (1959-60).

Terwilliger spent 18 years as a coach in the majors with the Senators (1969-71), Rangers (1972 and 1981-85) and Twins (1986-94). He coached for the Twins against the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series.

Terwilliger also was a manager for 17 years in the minors, mostly in the farm systems of the Senators and Rangers. In 2005, he was 80 when he managed an unaffiliated minor-league team, the Fort Worth Cats, to a Central League title.

In March 1993, when he was a Twins coach, Terwilliger, 67, told Knight-Ridder Newspapers his six rules for a long life:

_ Associate with young people.

_ Get up early.

_ Move with some bounce in your step.

_ A diet with plenty of distilled water, vegetables and chicken.

_ Find time each day to be by yourself.

_ Ignore the aches, pains and varicose veins.

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In a span of eight months, umpire Emmett Ashford experienced the indignation of being assaulted by a player and the satisfaction of breaking down a racial barrier.

During a winter league playoff game in the Dominican Republic in January 1965, Ashford was punched by Julian Javier, who went into a rage because of the way the umpire called him out on strikes. Javier was the second baseman for the Cardinals during the major league season.

The year got a lot better for Ashford after that. An umpire in the minors for 15 seasons, Ashford was informed in September 1965 that his contract was being purchased by the American League for the 1966 season. Ashford became the first African-American umpire in the major leagues.

Skill and style

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ashford went to Jefferson High School. He became the school’s first black student body president and also was the first black editor of a Los Angeles high school newspaper, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was a member of the school’s baseball and track teams, too.

After attending Chapman College, Ashford got a job as a postal clerk. He served in the Navy during World War II. Afterward, he resumed his job at the post office and began umpiring semipro games on weekends in Los Angeles.

In 1951, Ashford, 36, pursued umpiring fulltime. He worked games in the Southwest International League, becoming the first black umpire in the minors. He advanced to the Arizona-Texas League (1952), Western International League (1953) and Pacific Coast League (1954-65).

Displaying a “flamboyant style and distinctive motion for calling balls and strikes,” Ashford had “both skill and crowd appeal,” The Sporting News noted. 

When calling a pitch a strike, Ashford “lets fly with an ebullient ‘Stee-rike-ah’ that carries into the bleachers,” the New York Times reported.

In describing Ashford’s strike call, Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “His feet leave the ground at right angles in a semi-entrechat, his right arm shoots out, and in a voice that brings bull moose crashing out of the woods for miles around, he shouts, ‘Yes! Yes!’ or sometimes ‘Ste-ee-rike.’ “

Murray concluded, “They accuse him of being a showboat. In a game that too often resembles a slow boat, you’d think that would be desirable.”

Tropical heat

During winters, Ashford often refereed college basketball games in the United States or umpired baseball games in the Caribbean.

In January 1965, he was behind the plate for Game 1 of the Dominican Republic championship series between Leones del Escogido and Aguilas Cibaenas before a capacity crowd in Santo Domingo.

Julian Javier, a National League all-star in 1963 and the second baseman for the World Series champion Cardinals in 1964, played for Aguilas Cibaenas. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, “Javier is a national hero,” wrote Jim Murray.

In the third inning, Javier was batting against Larry Miller, who played in the majors for the Dodgers. After throwing a strike on his first pitch to Javier, Miller delivered a slider on the outside corner at the knee.

“Javier couldn’t hit it with a butter paddle,” Murray wrote. “So he did the next best thing: he let it go by and hoped the umpire would mistake it for a ball.”

Ashford called it strike two.

Javier whirled around to face Ashford and argued the call.

In a 1977 interview with author Larry Gerlach, Ashford recalled Javier saying, “Why are you calling that pitch on me? You know I don’t like that pitch.”

Ashford said the discussion deteriorated into a “nonsensical argument.”

“I knew I had a powder keg on my hands,” Ashford said.

“As Javier’s invective rose in decibel and malevolence,” Murray wrote, “Ashford curtly instructed him to get back in the box.”

Ashford warned Javier if he didn’t immediately resume the at-bat he would, as the rules allowed him to do, order Miller to throw a pitch and would call it strike three.

Ashford said Javier leaned on his bat, crossed his legs and replied, “I dare you.”

Ashford motioned for Miller to throw. According to Murray, Javier was 10 feet away from the plate and had his back turned when Miller delivered his pitch.

“Strike three,” barked Ashford.

Losing control

Ashford lifted his mask to remonstrate. According to The Sporting News, Javier stepped around the catcher and punched Ashford twice in the face.

Javier “landed a left to the cheekbone and a right to the jaw,” Murray wrote. “It was a picture book one-two, but Ashford didn’t go down.”

Ashford reeled back, his mouth bleeding, and then counterattacked, using his iron mask to strike Javier before other players intervened and separated them.

A hush fell over the ballpark, Ashford said. He said he asked for a towel and ice, pressed it to his mouth between innings and continued working the game.

Ashford told author Larry Gerlach that when he returned to his hotel room after the game, “Javier called, crying.”

Ashford told Sid Ziff of the Los Angeles Times that Javier was in a bad mood when the game started because he had received a contract proposal from the Cardinals for the 1965 season and it was for less than he made in 1964.

For attacking Ashford, the Latin American Baseball Federation initially gave Javier an indefinite suspension, but soon the punishment was reduced to a three-day suspension and $50 fine.

“Politics took over,” Ashford told Gerlach.

A lighter sentence was imposed on Javier “because he is a popular figure at home,” The Sporting News reported.

Outraged, Ashford resigned, saying the punishment wasn’t severe enough “for the serious action committed by Javier.”

A short time later, according to The Sporting News, Ashford was persuaded to change his mind and work the remainder of the playoff series “after Javier apologized.”

When Javier was eligible to return to the lineup in the playoffs, it was a home game for Aguilas Cibaenas before a big crowd in Santiago de los Caballeros.

As Javier came to bat for the first time in the game, he “comes straight to me and sticks out his hand,” Ashford told Gerlach.

“Well, what could I do? I couldn’t be a lesser man. So I shook hands with him and the house went crazy.”

Sticking it out

After the Dominican Republic playoffs ended, Ashford returned to the United States to work his 12th season in the Pacific Coast League. Three years earlier, he’d been named umpire-in-chief for the league. He was wondering what more he needed to do to prove he belonged in the big leagues. 

“I was completely discouraged,” Ashford told the Los Angeles Times. “I had always clung to the hope I could make the big leagues, but as the years went by they picked up a lot of our umpires, but not me.”

Ashford was preparing to attend real estate school after the 1965 baseball season, he told columnist Melvin Durslag of The Sporting News. He canceled that plan on Sept. 15, 1965, when American League president Joe Cronin said Ashford had been hired for the 1966 season and would become the first black umpire in the majors. Video

Ashford, 51, worked spring training home games of the Angels and Indians in Arizona in 1966. His first regular-season assignment in the majors was the American League opener between the Indians and Senators at Washington, D.C., on April 11, 1966. Boxscore

After five seasons in the majors, Ashford retired in December 1970, two months after he worked the World Series and one month after he turned 56.

Two years later, in September 1972, Art Williams became the first black umpire in the National League.

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One of the unsolved mysteries of baseball is the case of the abduction of Roberto Clemente.

In 1970, Clemente, the Pirates’ outfielder and future Hall of Famer, revealed he had been abducted at gunpoint a year earlier by four men in San Diego and robbed. Clemente said he thought he would be shot and left for dead. Instead, he said, he was released and his possessions were returned.

No arrests were made and no witnesses came forward. Details were inconsistent. Published reports, for instance, said the incident occurred in May 1969. More likely, it happened in August 1969. Skeptics abounded.

Clemente’s story sounded similar to one told 40 years earlier by Cardinals pitcher Flint Rhem, who claimed he was abducted in New York by two men, held at gunpoint and forced to drink to excess so he would be unable to make a start against the Dodgers.

Absent a Sherlock Holmes, or even a Jim Rockford, to crack the case, Clemente’s version is the only one available.

In his biography, “Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero,” author David Maraniss concluded of the kidnapping tale, “Whatever the hidden reality, it fit perfectly into the mythology of Roberto Clemente as a man of the people, respected even by urban desperados.”

Going public

On Aug. 9, 1970, after the Pirates beat Nolan Ryan and the Mets in Pittsburgh, reporter Bill Christine of the Pittsburgh Press approached Clemente in the clubhouse. Clemente, the only player left in the locker room, was sorting his fan mail with help from a personal assistant.

Christine had gotten a tip about a bizarre incident involving Clemente in San Diego a year earlier. He asked Clemente about it and Clemente decided to tell the tale publicly for the first time.

“I haven’t told this story to many people because I figured if any of the four robbers heard about it they might be looking for our ballplayers when we go out there again,” Clemente told Christine.

Taken away

The Pirates were in San Diego to play the Padres on Friday night, Aug. 8, 1969. In the fourth inning, Clemente was ejected by plate umpire Lee Weyer for arguing a called strike. Boxscore

Clemente went to his room at the team hotel. Most published accounts identified it as the Town and Country in the Mission Valley section of San Diego.

Clemente, who roomed alone, phoned his wife, Vera, according to Christine. Clemente complained to her about his shoulder aching and said he was thinking about quitting. She urged him to continue playing.

Shortly after midnight, Clemente went looking for a place to eat. 

Dressed in a sport coat and tie, Clemente was about to leave the hotel when teammate Willie Stargell entered the lobby. Stargell had a carryout order of fried chicken and told Clemente it was from a place nearby. Clemente walked to it, got an order to go and headed back to the hotel.

Clemente was about 400 feet from the hotel “when a car with four men stopped him. One produced a gun and they ordered him to get in,” Christine reported.

Clemente said he was forced to lie on the floorboard in the back of the car and a gun was put to his chin, the Associated Press later reported.

Don’t kill me

The abductors took Clemente to a spot overlooking the valley. Police later told the Associated Press the location probably was Balboa Park.

Everyone got out of the car and Clemente was ordered to strip. He removed everything except his undershorts.

“The man with the gun shoved Clemente in the direction of the car, pushing him backwards across the right front hood. He stuck the gun in Clemente’s mouth,” Christine later reported.

The other men went through Clemente’s discarded clothes and took about $250 from his wallet. The gunman removed an All-Star Game ring from Clemente’s finger.

“This is when I figure they are going to shoot me and throw me into the woods,” Clemente told Christine.

“I thought if they killed me, and threw me someplace, nobody would have ever been able to find me.”

Desperate, Clemente said he informed the kidnappers he was a Padres ballplayer. Clemente told Christine he did that because he thought the men might not know the Pirates were a baseball team.

Clemente said he told them, “If you really need the money, take it, but don’t kill me. Don’t kill anybody for money.”

One of the men who searched Clemente’s wallet found his Major League Players’ Association membership card. The All-Star Game ring was additional verification he was a ballplayer.

Change in plans

According to Clemente, when the abductors realized he was a big-leaguer, they told him to dress and gave back his money, wallet and ring. Clemente said he was driven to within three blocks of the hotel and released.

“I started walking, and then I heard their car returning,” Clemente said to Christine.

Clemente said he feared the men were coming back to harm him. As the car pulled up beside him, Clemente said, one of the men handed him the bag of fried chicken. Clemente said he waited for them to drive off and tossed the bag away before returning to the hotel.

Clemente didn’t report the incident to police. He said to Christine he told four people about the abduction the next day: wife Vera, teammate Jose Pagan, coach Bill Virdon and general manager Joe Brown. Later, the Associated Press reported Clemente told umpire Lee Weyer. Pirates player Matty Alou also knew, according to The Sporting News.

Lots of questions

Christine’s exclusive appeared in the back of the Pittsburgh Press sports section, above the big-league box scores, in the Aug. 10, 1970, edition. Though underplayed, the story was picked up by wire services and published throughout the United States.

Charley Feeney of the rival Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, “OK, so it’s a whopper of a tale. Some people don’t believe.”

One of the doubters was Mets first baseman Donn Clendenon, who was a teammate of Clemente for eight years with the Pirates. “I believed everything until the part about the guys giving Clemente back his money and his fried chicken. Nobody steals money and gives it back,” Clendenon said.

Though Christine scooped him, Feeney, an experienced baseball reporter, wrote, “It’s felt here the Clemente story is true. Fantastic to be sure, but true. Roberto Clemente is not some kind of nut.”

Asked by The Sporting News why he didn’t report the abduction to police, Clemente replied, “Why should I report it? I am alive, no? I got everything back that they took.”

Clemente said he decided to go public when Christine started asking questions. “Then I figured I better tell the story so that it would be printed right,” Clemente said.

Padres manager Preston Gomez told both Pittsburgh newspapers that San Diego police wanted to question Clemente. “People in town, and the police, are very disturbed about the Clemente kidnapping story,” Gomez told the Pittsburgh Press.

Something is afoul

Clemente didn’t let the commotion caused by his story hurt his performance on the field. On the day Christine’s article was published, Clemente played against the Mets and got two hits and a walk against Tom Seaver. Boxscore

On Aug. 18, 1970, Clemente turned 36. Two days later, the Pirates embarked on a road trip, starting with games at Los Angeles. Clemente went on a tear, with five hits against the Dodgers on Aug. 22 Boxscore and five more on Aug. 23. Boxscore

From there, the Pirates went to San Diego for the first time since Clemente told about his abduction.

After a day off on Aug. 24, the Pirates and Padres opened a two-game series on Aug. 25. Clemente, leading the National League in hitting at .363, was in the lineup as the right fielder.

When Clemente took his position in the bottom of the first inning, someone in the stands dropped a live chicken over the outfield fence and it crept up on Clemente. A batboy removed the bird from the field.

“Clemente was unimpressed with the prank,” according to the Pittsburgh Press.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette speculated “it could have been a gag arranged by some San Diego players.” Christine wrote that someone in the Padres’ front office hatched the idea. Boxscore

Four years later, in 1974, a radio station had a college student, Ted Giannoulas, wear a chicken suit for promotional gigs, and his antics led to the San Diego Chicken becoming a popular sports mascot at Padres games.

Quick work

On Aug. 26, 1970, the day after the chicken incident, Clemente said he spoke with police. At Clemente’s suggestion, the meeting was held in his hotel room, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

According to the Pittsburgh Press, Clemente “was visited by a San Diego detective, who wanted a perfunctory, first-hand explanation” of the abduction.

“The policeman came away with the same story told in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago, plus Roberto’s autograph” the Pittsburgh Press reported.

According to the Associated Press, police detective Hanly Pry said he was convinced “Clemente was telling the truth” after questioning him “for two hours.”

In a followup, the Pittsburgh Press reported Clemente said he spent “only 15 minutes with the San Diego authorities.”

Clemente said he considered the case closed.

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