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A journeyman reliever developed into an integral contributor to two contending Cardinals clubs.

Ten years ago, on July 31, 2012, the Cardinals acquired pitcher Edward Mujica from the Marlins for minor-league third baseman Zack Cox.

A right-hander with command of the strike zone, Mujica stabilized the Cardinals’ bullpen in 2012 and helped them reach the National League Championship Series. The next year, he filled a void in becoming their closer and helped position them to win a National League pennant.

Great Caesar’s Ghost…

Born and raised in Venezuela, Mujica was the son of a factory worker and a homemaker in the town of Yagua in the northwest part of the country.

He signed with the Cleveland Indians in October 2001 when he was 17, reached the majors with them in June 2006 and was traded to the Padres in April 2009.

Using a split-fingered pitch and a change-up, he developed a reputation for throwing strikes. In 59 games for the 2010 Padres, Mujica had 72 strikeouts and six walks, a ratio of 12 strikeouts for every walk issued.

In November 2010, the Padres traded him to the Marlins.

The Marlins changed managers in June 2011, replacing Edwin Rodriguez with an 80-year-old, Jack McKeon, who took a 1930s approach to player relations. It was McKeon who gave Mujica the nickname “The Chief.”

“He said to me one day, ‘I can’t say your name. Are you American Indian?’ ” Mujica recalled to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I said, ‘No, I’m from Venezuela.’ He said, ‘It’s better for me to call you The Chief. You’re the last of the Mohicans.’ “

Mujica said, “That was crazy, but I said OK, and everybody started calling me The Chief.”

(When Mujica got traded to the Cardinals, he said he was surprised when their general manager, John Mozeliak, called him and said, “Chief, how are you doing?” Mujica told the Post-Dispatch, “I said, ‘What? How did you know that?'”)

Swashbuckler

In 67 relief appearances for the 2011 Marlins, Mujica was 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA and earned a reputation as a clubhouse comedian. “He’s the class clown,” teammate Heath Bell told the Miami Herald. “He loves to have fun.”

Another teammate, Steve Cishek, told the Palm Beach Post, “In the bullpen, he’s a swordsman. I’ll look over and all of a sudden he has a stake that he pulled out of the ground and he’s fighting an imaginary person. It’s hilarious.”

Cishek, who took fencing classes in college, rewarded Mujica with a fencing foil and mask. Mujica kept those above his locker.

“I’m a funny guy,” Mujica told the Miami Herald. “I just try to enjoy my time because this job only lasts 10 or 15 years, and you have to enjoy the moment.”

Mujica also was known to take naps in the bullpen during early innings of games. After a TV camera showed him napping at Wrigley Field in Chicago, he came to the ballpark the next day with a hand-written sign: “Cameraman, Please Do Not Disturb.”

Helping hand

Happy to play for fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen, who took over as Marlins manager in 2012, Mujica told the South Florida Sun Sentinel “it was a big surprise” to be traded to the Cardinals.

The Marlins made the deal to get Zack Cox “with the thought he could be our third baseman in the near future,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told the Miami Herald. “We really like the bat.”

Cox was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round of the June 2010 amateur draft. Other 2010 first-round picks included Bryce Harper (Nationals), Manny Machado (Orioles), Christian Yelich (Marlins) and Nick Castellanos (Tigers).

(Cox never reached the majors.)

Noting that Mujica, 28, had an above-average split-fingered pitch, Cardinals pro scouts Mike Juhl and Mike Jorgensen recommended the club trade for him.

On the day of the deal, the Cardinals (55-48) were in third place, seven games behind the division-leading Reds, and their bullpen was in disarray. Relievers were making a mess of the seventh inning and that was creating chaos in the eighth and ninth, too.

Manager Mike Matheny designated Mujica to pitch the seventh. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and catcher Yadier Molina urged Mujica to feature his spit-fingered pitch instead of the slider, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The results were immediate and impressive. Mujica didn’t allow a run in his first 18 games pitched for the Cardinals. With Mujica locking down the seventh inning, Matheny was able to stick with Mitchell Boggs as a setup reliever in the eighth and Jason Motte as closer in the ninth.

The consistent combination of Mujica, Boggs and Motte stabilized the bullpen. In 29 games pitched for the 2012 Cardinals, Mujica had a 1.03 ERA, allowing three earned runs in 26.1 innings. He struck out 21 and walked three.

The Cardinals finished 88-74, second in their division and fifth overall in the National League, but in the watered-down system approved by team owners and the players’ union, fifth is good enough to qualify for the playoffs.

After dispatching the Braves and Nationals, the Cardinals were in the National League Championship Series against the Giants. Mujica was the winning pitcher in Game 1, striking out the side in a scoreless seventh. Boxscore

Mujica pitched four scoreless innings in the series, but the Giants prevailed, winning four of seven games to clinch the pennant.

Fun while it lasted

Near the end of spring training in 2013, Motte suffered an elbow injury. Matheny began the season with Boggs as the closer, but he faltered.

Mujica took over as closer and converted his first 21 consecutive save chances, earning a spot on the National League all-star team.

By August, fatigue set in. Mujica pitched three consecutive days six times in 2013. He pitched in six games in seven days from July 4-10.

Mujica strained his shoulder, causing numbness in his neck. He also had a groin injury. Unable to push off the mound the right way, his arm slowed down and so did his pitch speed, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In mid-September, with Mujica struggling, Trevor Rosenthal replaced him as closer. Mujica finished the season with 37 saves. He struck out 46 and walked five. The only Cardinals pitchers with more saves in a season are Rosenthal, Jason Isringhausen, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Motte and Ryan Franklin.

The 2013 Cardinals, who posted the best record in the National League at 97-65, won the pennant, eliminating the Pirates and Dodgers in the playoffs, before falling to the Red Sox in the World Series.

Granted free agency after the World Series, Mujica signed with the Red. Sox. By 2016, he was back in the minors.

The Cardinals signed Mujica to a minor-league contract in 2018. At spring training, he earned a save with a scoreless inning against the Braves. “How about that? Blast from the past,” Matheny said to the Post-Dispatch.

Sent to Memphis, Mujica, 34, led the team in saves (13) and games pitched (48). He struck out 35 and walked six in 51.1 innings, but wasn’t called up to the Cardinals.

Scott Rolen worried about the Phillies’ commitment to winning. He didn’t have the same concerns about the Cardinals.

Twenty years ago, on July 29, 2002, the Cardinals traded for Rolen, acquiring the third baseman, along with pitcher Doug Nickle, from the Phillies for infielder Placido Polanco and pitchers Bud Smith and Mike Timlin.

Having struck out in their efforts to get Rolen to sign a contract extension before he could become eligible to enter free agency after the 2002 season, the Phillies sought to trade him.

The Cardinals were the beneficiaries, adding Rolen to an imposing lineup with Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Edgar Renteria.

The Phillies had losing records in six of Rolen’s seven seasons (1996-2002) with them and never qualified for the playoffs. With the Cardinals, Rolen played in two World Series, helping them to a championship in 2006.

Hoosier hot shot

Rolen was born in Evansville, Ind., and raised in Jasper, Ind. When he was a youth in the 1980s, his parents would make the 200-mile drive with him from Jasper to St. Louis to attend Cardinals games at Busch Memorial Stadium. “It’s the place I always dreamed of playing,” Rolen told ESPN.com years later.

At Jasper High School, Rolen won the state’s Mr. Baseball honor given to the best prep player. He also received basketball scholarship offers from schools such as Georgia and Oklahoma State. Georgia recruiters promised he’d start in the backcourt as a freshman, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Rolen was 18 when the Phillies picked him in the second round of the June 1993 amateur draft. After he signed with them that summer, Phillies scouting director Mike Arbuckle brought Rolen to St. Louis and had him take grounders at third base during infield practice before a game against the Cardinals.

“Dave Hollins, then the Phillies’ third baseman, took one look at the eager Indiana schoolboy standing at his position and said, ‘Get lost,’ ” according to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jim Salisbury.

Described by the Inquirer as “a spectacular fielder with gap power,” Rolen, 21, made his big-league debut for the Phillies against the Cardinals at Philadelphia on Aug. 1, 1996. To open a spot for him at third base, the Phillies shifted the positions of a pair of former Cardinals, moving Todd Zeile from third to first and Gregg Jefferies from first to left.

With his parents and high school coach in attendance, Rolen got his first hit, a double against Donovan Osborne. Boxscore 

Hurt feelings

In 1997, his first full season in the majors, Rolen earned the National League Rookie of the Year Award. The next season, he had 31 home runs, 110 RBI and won a Gold Glove Award, the first of eight he would receive in his career. Video

During the 2001 season, Rolen’s relationship with Phillies management soured. In June, after Rolen went hitless with three strikeouts in the Phillies’ one-run loss to the Red Sox, manager Larry Bowa told the Philadelphia Daily News that Rolen was “killing us” in the middle of the lineup.

(Rolen hit .350 with runners in scoring position for the 2001 Phillies. Overall, for the season, he had 25 home runs and 107 RBI.)

“Rolen believes that his manager should be like a family member, there to protect, encourage and nurture,” Jim Salisbury noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He felt betrayed by Bowa, felt like the man who should have been building his confidence was tearing it down.”

Two months later, Phillies adviser Dallas Green, who had managed the club to a World Series title in 1980, said in a radio interview that Rolen “can be greater but his personality won’t let him.”

“Scotty is satisfied with being a so-so-player” Green said.

Stung by the criticism, Rolen told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I don’t feel as welcome here in this organization as I have in the past.”

Phillies general manager Ed Wade wanted to sign Rolen to a long-term contract extension and keep him from opting for free agency after the 2002 season. In November 2001, Wade told the Philadelphia Daily News he offered Rolen $90 million guaranteed over seven years, plus three option years that could bring the total contract value to $140 million, but Rolen rejected it because he questioned whether the team was committed to winning.

Almost an Oriole

With Rolen showing no intention of signing a contract extension, the Phillies tried to trade him at the December 2001 baseball winter meetings. The Cardinals were interested until the Phillies asked for Rookie of the Year Award winner Albert Pujols to be included in a package of players, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Phillies and Orioles “came agonizingly close” to a nine-player deal involving Rolen, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles agreed to send pitchers Sidney Ponson, Buddy Groom, Erik Bedard and Sean Douglass plus utility player Jeff Conine to the Phillies for Rolen, pitcher Chris Brock, infielder Kevin Jordan and a prospect.

When Orioles general manager Syd Thrift called club owner Peter Angelos to tell him about the trade, Angelos asked what it would take to sign Rolen to a contract extension. “Thrift suggested at least a 10-year, $150 million bid,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

Angelos nixed the trade.

Done deal

When the 2002 season began, Rolen still was with the Phillies. He played well, but the Phillies didn’t, and they shopped him.

The Cardinals made a proposal on July 25, but it nearly fell apart on July 28, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The Cardinals initially insisted Rolen had to agree on terms of a contract extension with them before a trade could be made, the Post-Dispatch reported. They also wanted the Phillies to pay the remaining portion of Rolen’s 2002 salary.

On July 29, the Phillies came close to trading Rolen to the Reds, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Reds general manager Jim Bowden told WLW radio he had a trade in place for Rolen but couldn’t make it work financially, The Cincinnati Post reported.

The Phillies went back to the Cardinals, who relented on their demands after the Phillies agreed to take Mike Timlin along with Placido Polanco and Bud Smith in the trade. Unloading Timlin opened room on the payroll for the Cardinals to pay the remainder of Rolen’s 2002 salary.

Happy days

Rolen, 27, went from a last-place team to a first-place team. “I feel as if I’ve died and gone to heaven,” he told ESPN.com.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Bowa said he called Rolen after the trade and left a message. “I told him, ‘It’s been a pleasure managing you. If everybody played the game like you do, there would be no problems. Careers are short. Try to be happy wherever you end up.’ “

In his Cardinals debut, on July 30, 2002, at Miami, Rolen was 2-for-4 with a run and a RBI. Boxscore

“I’ve been given an opportunity right now and I’m going to run through a wall to try to take advantage of it,” Rolen said to the Philadelphia Daily News.

On Aug. 16, 2002, Rolen played in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded. Enduring what the Philadelphia Inquirer described as “an evening of boos and insults,” Rolen had two hits against Randy Wolf. Boxscore

A month later, Rolen agreed to a $90 million eight-year contract extension with the Cardinals. “It wasn’t a chase for the last dollar,” Rolen told the Post-Dispatch. “It was a chase for happiness.”

Bad vibes return

In 2004, the Cardinals won the National League championship and Rolen had his best season: .314 batting average, .409 on-base percentage, 34 home runs, 124 RBI and 109 runs scored.

The happiness began to fade the next year when an injury to his left shoulder limited Rolen to 56 games. Rolen believed the Cardinals misled him about the severity of the injury, the Post-Dispatch reported, and it caused a strain in his relationship with manager Tony La Russa.

In 2006, La Russa benched a slumping Rolen during the National League Division Series. After Rolen hit .421 and helped the Cardinals prevail against the Tigers in the World Series, La Russa sent him a letter, expressing his opinions of the player, and Rolen didn’t like it.

When La Russa signed in October 2007 to remain Cardinals manager, Rolen requested a trade. He was dealt to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus in January 2008.

In six seasons with St. Louis, Rolen had a .286 batting average and .370 on-base percentage. In 17 years in the majors with the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds, he produced 2,077 hits, 316 home runs and 1,287 RBI.

The wet pitches of Bill Doak left batters high and dry.

One hundred years ago, in 1922, Doak pitched a pair of one-hitters for the Cardinals.

A lean, almost frail, right-hander, Doak’s signature pitch was a spitball. He started throwing the spitter in 1913, his first season with the Cardinals. Big-league baseball banned the spitball in 1920, but allowed 17 pitchers, including Doak, who regularly threw the pitch before then to continue using it for the remainder of their careers.

Adapt and innovate

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Doak reached the majors with the Reds, pitching in one game for them, against the Pirates, in 1912.

The Cardinals purchased Doak’s contract in 1913. Manager Miller Huggins suggested Doak try the spitball, and it turned around his career, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Doak was 19-6 for the 1914 Cardinals and led the National League in ERA (1.72). He told Baseball Magazine the spitter was “the easiest ball in the world to pitch.”

“The spitter is thrown with the same arm motion as the fastball, only you don’t have to put as much stuff on it to fool the batter,” Doak said.

In 1920, Doak earned 20 wins for the Cardinals. He also was credited with designing the modern fielding glove. It was his idea to put webbing between a glove’s thumb and first finger. Rawlings introduced the Bill Doak model in 1920, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Doak led the league in ERA (2.59) for a second time in 1921.

Beating the best

After posting 87 wins and finishing third in the league in 1921, the Cardinals, managed by Branch Rickey, were expecting to contend again in 1922.

Doak, 31, helped them to an 18-12 start, winning his first six decisions. The most impressive win in that stretch was a one-hitter against the reigning World Series champion Giants on Thursday afternoon May 11 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

The first batter of the game, shortstop and future Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft, got the only Giants hit, a bunt single along the first-base line. He then was caught attempting to steal second.

The Giants, who had future Hall of Famers High Pockets Kelly, Ross Youngs and Bancroft in their starting lineup, and used another, Frankie Frisch, to pinch-hit, were hitless the rest of the game, a 2-0 Cardinals victory.

Doak, who walked four and struck out two, was the first pitcher to shut out the Giants in 1922. Boxscore

(In its game report, the New York Daily News noted, “The Cardinals are wearing a flossy home uniform this season. Across the breasts of their monkey suits are embroidered baseball bats, on each end of which are perched cardinal birds. The supposition is that two birds on a bat are worth one in a bush.”)

Infield hits

Two months later, on Thursday afternoon July 13 at Sportsman’s Park, Doak pitched another one-hitter against the Phillies.

Leading off the seventh inning, Curt Walker hit “an ordinary infield bounder” to the right of first baseman Jack Fournier, who gloved the ball about 20 feet from the bag, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Expecting Doak to cover first, Fournier looked to toss to him for the out, but Doak “was standing there on the hill apparently contented with himself and life in general,” the Philadelphia Inquirer wryly noted.

The grounder, described by the Post-Dispatch as “an out 999 times out of a thousand,” resulted in a single, depriving Doak of a no-hitter. The Cardinals won, 1-0. Boxscore

It was the second time Doak’s failure to cover first base cost him a no-hitter.

Two years earlier, on Tuesday afternoon Aug. 10, 1920, at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, Doak pitched a one-hitter versus the Phillies. In the seventh, Cy Williams hit a grounder to the right side. Fournier and second baseman Rogers Hornsby both pursued it. Hornsby got to it, but Doak again was frozen on the mound, allowing Williams to reach base safely with a single. Boxscore

(According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Doak had a bad back and that might have been the reason he failed to cover first base on those plays.)

High achiever

After his second one-hitter of 1922, Doak had a 10-6 record. but he lost his next seven decisions. He finished the season with an 11-13 mark and 5.54 ERA. The Cardinals went 85-69, eight games behind the champion Giants.

Doak continued to pitch in the majors until 1929 when he was 38.

In 13 seasons with the Cardinals, Doak was 144-136 with a 2.93 ERA.

He ranks second among Cardinals pitchers in career shutouts (30). Only Bob Gibson (56) pitched more shutouts for the Cardinals.

Doak also ranks sixth among Cardinals pitchers in both career wins (144) and innings pitched (2,387). He is fifth in starts (320) and ninth in strikeouts (938).

In 16 seasons with the Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers, Doak was 169-157 with a 2.98 ERA.

In a year of turmoil in his personal life, pitcher Chuck Finley experienced satisfying success in his professional life when he joined the Cardinals.

Twenty years ago, on July 19, 2002, the Cardinals acquired Finley from the Cleveland Indians for minor-league first baseman Luis Garcia and a player to be named. Three weeks later, the Cardinals sent another prospect, outfielder Coco Crisp, to the Indians, completing the deal.

Though Crisp went on to produce 1,572 hits and 309 stolen bases in 15 seasons in the American League, the Cardinals got a double benefit from obtaining Finley. He was the starting pitcher they needed to replace Daryl Kile, who died a month earlier. The trade also kept the Cardinals’ closest competitor, the Reds, from getting Finley.

Bright lights

Born and raised in Monroe, La., Finley attended Louisiana Tech for a year, dropped out and went to work for his family’s nursery and landscaping businesses, planting trees and tilling soil, according to Sports Illustrated.

A year later, he enrolled at Northeast Louisiana University (now named University of Louisiana Monroe). A left-handed pitcher, he lacked command but had an exceptional fastball. The Angels drafted him in January 1985 and sent him to their farm system to be a reliever.

Finley developed a curve to go with his fastball, and in May 1986 he made the jump from Class A Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa, to the majors.

The Angels were home at Anaheim Stadium when Finley made his big-league debut in relief of future Hall of Famer Don Sutton. “I got to the mound and I couldn’t believe how bright it was,” Finley recalled to Sports Illustrated. “A night game in A ball, you turn on the porch lights.” Boxscore

In 1988, Finley joined the Angels’ starting rotation. Adding a split-fingered pitch, or forkball, to his arsenal, he posted double-figure win totals in 10 of his 12 seasons as an Angels starter.

After Finley had back-to-back 18-win seasons in 1990 and 1991, Angels executive Whitey Herzog rewarded him with a four-year $18.5 million contract, largest in franchise history. Sports Illustrated declared Finley “the best left-handed pitcher in baseball.”

Match game

In November 1997, Finley married actress Tawny Kitaen. She appeared with Tom Hanks in the 1984 movie “Bachelor Party.” Cast as the fiancee of Hanks’ character, Kitaen played the part “fetchingly,” according to the New York Times review.

She also performed in music videos for the British hard-rock band Whitesnake. Kitaen married band member David Coverdale in 1989 and they divorced in 1991.

After Finley married Kitaen, he told Paul Gutierrez of Sports Illustrated in 1998, “I found a great girl that put up with me. I couldn’t be with anybody better. We’re so much alike it’s incredible.”

Finley earned 14 consecutive wins for the Angels from July 1, 1997, to April 27, 1998. Granted free agency after the 1999 season, he signed a three-year $27 million contract with the Indians. Finley remains the Angels’ franchise leader in career wins (165), innings pitched (2,675) and starts (379).

Domestic violence

In 2002, the Indians opened the season at Anaheim, giving Finley a chance to be at home in Newport Beach with Kitaen and their two children.

On April 1, Finley and Kitaen argued while having dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Irvine, according to the Los Angeles Times. When they got home, Finley said, “his wife hit, kicked and scratched him and then called 911 before hurling a telephone through the window of their car,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police said, when they arrived, they saw cuts and bruises on Finley, the Associated Press reported. Kitaen was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors _ corporal injury on a spouse, and battery.

In exchange for her pleading guilty and after completing a counseling program, the case was dismissed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Finley and Kitaen soon divorced. She died in May 2021 at age 59.

Cost factors

On the morning of July 19, 2002, the Cardinals were atop their division, 3.5 games ahead of the second-place Reds. Though Finley, 39, was 4-11 with a 4.44 ERA for the 2002 Indians, both the Cardinals and Reds envisioned him as a starter who could tip the balance of the title chase.

According to The Cincinnati Post, the Indians agreed in principle to trade Finley to the Reds for minor-league pitcher Josh Hall. 

Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. volunteered to defer $1 million of his 2002 salary to clear payroll room for the $2 million still to be paid Finley for the season, The Cincinnati Post reported. Reds general manager Jim Bowden thought he had a done deal, but the club’s chief operating officer, John Allen, vetoed the trade. “We can’t add payroll,” Allen told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

According to ESPN.com, the Reds were close to sending outfielder Brady Clark and three prospects to the Red Sox for the cash to pay Finley, but that also fell through.

The Indians then turned to the Cardinals.

“We went back and forth,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This morning, I didn’t think it was going to happen. This afternoon, it fell back into our laps.”

With Woody Williams sidelined by injury, Finley joined a rotation of Matt Morris, Andy Benes and Jason Simontacchi.

“The Cardinals addressed their most pressing problem” and got a starter “who may alter the balance of power within a depleted division,” Joe Strauss wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds, who had been Finley’s teammate with the Angels: “He’s the ultimate workhorse. He’s one of the best professionals I’ve ever seen. When you play a big game, you want him to have the ball.”

Getting it done

Finley made his first Cardinals start on July 21, 2002, at Pittsburgh. With Mike Matheny as his catcher, Finley got the win, striking out eight in six innings.

His pitching was only part of the story. Finley doubled to left off Josh Fogg in the fourth and scored the go-ahead run on Fernando Vina’s single. The double was Finley’s first hit in 27 big-league at-bats. Boxscore

“I like what I’ve seen of this team in the two days I’ve been here,” Finley said. “When you look around and see very good players all around you, it really picks you up.”

Finley also won his second Cardinals start, beating the Cubs at St. Louis. Boxscore and Video

Three days later, Jocketty swung a deal for Scott Rolen, acquiring the third baseman, along with pitcher Doug Nickle and cash, from the Phillies for infielder Placido Polanco and pitchers Mike Timlin and Bud Smith.

The Cardinals, who entered July 2002 tied with the Reds for first place in the Central Division, closed July with a five-game lead over second-place Cincinnati.

On Aug. 27, Finley shut out the Reds on a two-hitter and Rolen hit a three-run home run in the game. Boxscore

With Finley and Rolen, the Cardinals were 17-14 in August and 21-6 in September, finishing 13 games ahead of the runner-up Astros. The Reds limped in at 78-84.

Finley finished 7-4 in 14 regular-season starts for the 2002 Cardinals, giving him a career record of 200-173.

In his last game of a 17-year big-league career, Finley started and won Game 3 of the 2002 National League Championship Series at San Francisco. Boxscore

 

A rookie from Comanche, Texas, felt right at home in upper Manhattan.

Ninety years ago, on June 19, 1932, Tex Carleton got his first win in the majors for the Cardinals with a two-hit shutout of the Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York.

A lanky right-hander with a sidearm delivery, Carleton pitched seven years in the minors before earning a spot with the reigning World Series champion Cardinals. The win against the Giants was the first of 100 for him in an eight-year career in the big leagues.

Prime prospect

Born and raised in Comanche, about 150 miles west of Dallas, James Otto Carleton moved with his family to Fort Worth when he was 11. Nicknamed “Tex” by a newspaper reporter, he pitched for Texas Christian University before leaving in his sophomore year, 1925, to begin a professional baseball career.

His breakout season occurred in 1931. Though sidelined a month because of a broken finger on his throwing hand, Carleton was 20-7 with a 1.90 ERA for the Houston Buffaloes.

In the book “The Gashouse Gang,” author Robert E. Hood noted, “His money pitch was a sinking fastball that was hard to hit solidly. It puzzled right-handed batters because it seemed to be heading right at them, only to break down and in at their knees. It made batters long for the shade of the dugout.”

At spring training  in 1932, Carleton was “the most consistent of the Cardinals’ pitchers,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported. Of the 28 innings he pitched in exhibition games, 26 were scoreless. “Players think he will be one of the stars of the big show,” The Sporting News declared.

Carleton joined a starting rotation with Dizzy Dean, Paul Derringer, Bill Hallahan and Syl Johnson. When the season started, Carleton put pressure on himself and struggled. “I was always worried about losing the game,” he told Hood.

In his major-league debut, a start against the Cubs, Carleton walked nine in eight innings. In his next start, he issued seven walks to the Pirates in five innings.

“Wildness has made him an uncertain gamble,” wrote Red Smith in the St. Louis Star-Times.

Two months into the 1932 season, Carleton was 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA.

Under control

The start against the Giants on Sunday afternoon June 19 marked a turnaround for Carleton. Pitching with command and changing speeds, “Carleton had the Giants bewildered from start to finish,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Facing a lineup with future Hall of Famers Freddie Lindstrom, Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Travis Jackson in the third through sixth spots, Carleton retired the first 11 batters before Lindstrom reached on an error by Jimmie Reese. Shanty Hogan got the Giants’ first hit, a single, with two outs in the fifth. The other hit was a single by Eddie Moore. Carleton walked none in nine innings.

“His control was perfection itself,” wrote Red Smith. “You could see the sparks of his fastball. His sweeping sidearm curves made pretzels on the way up to the plate.”

Future Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley, benched after hitting .158 in April, made his first start of the month at first base for the Cardinals and slugged two home runs in support of Carleton.

After retiring Mel Ott for the last out in the 7-0 Cardinals triumph, Carleton “carefully removed a paper sack of chewing tobacco and secreted in his hip pocket the ball that Ott missed,” Jimmy Powers wrote in the New York Daily News. “Then he and (teammate) Pepper Martin waddled about awkwardly in a strange little war dance. They hollered loudly once or twice, then went dog-trotting out to the clubhouse, their arms draped over each other’s shoulders.” Boxscore

All about winning

Carleton finished 1932 with a 10-13 record. He was second on the club in shutouts (three) and strikeouts (113).

During the winter, Giants player-manager Bill Terry met with Cardinals executive Branch Rickey in St. Louis for trade talks. Terry “is especially hopeful of obtaining Tex Carleton, whom he believes is one of the coming hurling stars of the National League,” The Sporting News reported.

Negotiations broke off without a deal because the Cardinals “wanted too much,” Terry told the New York Daily News.

In 1933, Carleton again gave another stellar performance against the Giants at the Polo Grounds. On July 2, he and the Giants’ Carl Hubbell each pitched 16 scoreless innings. Carleton was removed for a pinch-hitter in the 17th, and Hubbell won with an 18-inning shutout. Boxscore

Carleton told author Robert Hood he thought Hubbell, not Dizzy Dean, was the best pitcher in baseball at that time.

During the 1933 season, Carleton lost weight and the club worried about his health. According to the Gashouse Gang book, team physician Dr. Robert Hyland offered an unusual remedy.

“He recommended two or three highballs before dinner each night to stimulate my appetite,” Carleton said. “I used to get prescription whiskey _ it still being Prohibition _ and carry it with me on the road.”

Though he finished the season with a 17-11 record, Carleton said he thought he could have done better. “Proud and sensitive, he felt he should win 20 games every year,” Hood wrote in the Gashouse Gang book.

Carleton was 16-11 for the 1934 Cardinals, who won a World Series title, but afterward he was traded to the Cubs for $50,000 and two pitchers, Bud Tinning and Dick Ward, neither of whom would win a game for St. Louis.

Carleton helped the Cubs win National League pennants in 1935 and 1938. He pitched a no-hitter for the Dodgers against the Reds in 1940, but, plagued by shoulder ailments, it was his last season in the majors. He finished with a career mark of 100-76.

Being a Little League phenom is no guarantee of success at the professional level. The Cardinals made that costly discovery with Art Deras.

An exceptional Little League, Pony League and high school player, Deras was signed by the Cardinals, who outbid multiple teams with the intention of grooming him to replace Ken Boyer at third base.

A right-hander who threw hard and hit with power, Deras played five seasons in the Cardinals’ system, but never reached the majors. He died on June 5, 2022, at 75.

Super powers

When Deras grew up in Hamtramck, Mich., near Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s, the town was a Polish-American enclave. His Polish grandmother nicknamed him Pinky. “I never did learn how she picked the name Pinky, but it stuck,” Deras said to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1959, when he turned 13, Deras led Hamtramck into the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Against San Juan, Puerto Rico, in Game 1, Deras pitched a one-hitter and struck out 17 in a 5-0 victory. In Game 2, Deras played shortstop and hit a grand slam in Hamtramck’s 8-1 triumph versus Kailua, Hawaii.

For the Game 3 championship final, Deras pitched a three-hitter, struck out 14 and hit a three-run home run in Hamtramck’s 12-0 rout of Auburn, Calif. Among those in attendance were Baseball Hall of Famers Frank “Home Run” Baker and Frankie Frisch.

In the two six-inning games Deras pitched in the Little League World Series, 31 of the 36 outs he recorded were strikeouts. He allowed four total hits and no runs.

The Sporting News described him as “this super boy from Hamtramck.”

For the season, Deras pitched 10 no-hitters, including five in a row, struck out 296 in 108 innings, and had 18 wins, including 16 shutouts, The Sporting News reported. Video

Soon after the Little League World Series, Chrysler Corporation arranged for the team to be flown to California for an appearance on The Lawrence Welk Show. Michigan-based Chrysler was a sponsor of the television program.

“They introduced us, and at the end of the show I danced with the champagne lady,” Deras recalled to the Detroit Free Press. “Can you imagine that? Twelve years old and dancing with the champagne lady. Where do you go from there?”

The beat goes on

Deras advanced to Pony League and in 1961 he led Hamtramck to a national title. One of his teammates was Tom Paciorek, who went on to hit .282 during 18 seasons (1970-87) in the majors.

In an interview with the Free Press, Paciorek described Deras as “very, very talented. A tremendously gifted athlete. At his age level, from 12 to 14, I doubt if there is any question that he was the finest athlete in the country.”

Deras continued having success in high school sports. In addition to his pitching and hitting in baseball, he was a standout running back in football. In April 1964, he signed a letter of intent to play football at Michigan State.

Big-league baseball scouts had other plans for him.

Highest bidder

“Claimed by many to be the greatest natural hitter ever to come off the Detroit sandlots,” Deras received interest from at least 10 big-league teams, the Free Press reported.

Cardinals scout Mo Mozzali recommended the club go all-out to sign Deras. Knowing it would take a substantial offer to outbid others, the Cardinals sent their 82-year-old consultant, major-league legend Branch Rickey, to Hamtramck to see the 17-year-old amateur legend and determine whether he was worth the cash.

Rickey arrived at the Hamtramck high school ballfield in a black limousine and was escorted to a roped-off area behind home plate, according to the Free Press. Rickey was impressed with what he saw, and endorsed the Cardinals’ effort to pursue Deras.

On June 1, 1964, the Cardinals came to Detroit to play the Tigers in an exhibition game to benefit amateur baseball. Wearing a Cardinals uniform, Deras worked out with the team before the game at Tiger Stadium, the Free Press reported.

Two weeks later, on June 10, Deras graduated from high school. Attending the family graduation party that night at the home of Deras’ parents were the Cardinals’ scout, Mo Mozzali, and scouts for the Red Sox and Yankees. The hometown Tigers dropped out of the chase when Deras asked for $50,000.

According to the Free Press, Deras’ father was a security guard at General Motors. Deras’ mother worked in an auto supply factory. Deras saw a big-league signing bonus as a chance to help his parents, and decided to go with the team that made the highest offer.

On June 15, 1964, the same day the Cardinals traded for Lou Brock, Deras signed with them for $80,000, $20,000 more than the other finalist, the Red Sox, offered, the Free Press and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Attending the signing ceremony were Mozzali and Cardinals director of scouting George Silvey. Deras “has the talent to reach the majors in two years,” Mozzali told the Post-Dispatch.

Cavorting with champions

Though he primarily was a pitcher in high school, the Cardinals wanted Deras to play every day because of his bat. He hit .478 his senior season.

“The Cardinals have high hopes for him at third base” as the eventual replacement for all-star Ken Boyer, the Free Press reported.

The Sporting News designated Deras and Ed Spiezio as “the best bets as eventual successor to Ken Boyer.”

Assigned to Class A Rock Hill, Deras hit .208 in 51 games in 1964. He did better at the fall Florida Instructional League, attacking pitches the way the Cardinals hoped he would, and was invited to join the big-league club at spring training in February 1965.

Placed on the 40-man winter roster, Deras, 18, joined the reigning World Series champions at their St. Petersburg, Fla., training camp. He posed for pictures with club executive Stan Musial, took batting practice from Bob Gibson, and played cards with Mike Cuellar. “He used to cheat,” Deras told the Free Press. “Whenever you’d call him on it, he’d pretend he didn’t speak English.”

Deras returned to Class A in 1965 and hit .260 with 18 stolen bases, but the Cardinals decided to move him to the outfield. “We would have preferred to keep him at third base,” farm director Sheldon Bender told The Sporting News, “but the throwing from there to first base was bothering him.”

Peaked too soon

After two seasons at Class AA Arkansas, Deras was demoted to Class A Modesto in 1968. While Deras, 21, was on the way down, his Modesto teammate, Ted Simmons, 18, another Michigan high school standout who was signed by Mo Mozzali, was on the way up.

Deras hit .269 for Modesto, then walked away from the Cardinals. “I didn’t tell them I was retiring, and they didn’t ask why,” Deras told the Free Press. “I guess they knew.”

In five seasons in the Cardinals system, Deras hit .243 with 32 home runs.

Deras had invested part of his signing bonus in a Hamtramck sporting good store, but the business collapsed, according to the Free Press. In 1974, he joined the Warren, Mich., police force. He retired as a detective in 2001.

Looking back at Deras’ time in the Cardinals’ organization, the Free Press concluded, “It was never a question of ability. It was a question of desire _ and it was gone.”

Deras said, “By the time I was 21, I had already had a full career _ playing every day, two amateur championships, a room full of trophies. I should have been reaching my prime, and I was exhausted. Looking back on it, I guess it was just a problem of getting too much too soon.”