The Cardinals liked what they saw from Matt Holliday in the short term and decided to pay the price to keep him for the long term.

Ten years ago, on Jan. 5, 2010, Holliday, a free agent, informed the Cardinals he accepted their offer of a seven-year contract for $120 million. It was the richest contract given by the Cardinals and it went to a left fielder who had played 63 regular-season games for them.

Holliday batted .353 and had an on-base percentage of .419 for the 2009 Cardinals after being acquired on July 24 in a trade with the Athletics. With Holliday, the Cardinals were 39-25 and won the 2009 division title with an overall mark of 91-71.

When Holliday became a free agent in November 2009, agent Scott Boras said his client wanted an eight-year contract with an average annual salary of $17 million to $18 million and a no-trade clause.

The prospect of featuring a middle of the batting order with Albert Pujols, Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Ryan Ludwick in the third through sixth spots motivated the Cardinals to propose a deal.

Leading suitor

On Dec. 10, 2009, as baseball’s winter meetings were ending, the Cardinals made a formal offer to Holliday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but the terms were kept secret.

Club owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak were hoping to have negotiations settled by Christmas Day, but talks moved at a deliberate pace.

The Red Sox offered five years, but were rejected, according to the Post-Dispatch.

After the Red Sox dropped out of the bidding, it was unclear whether any other clubs were competing with the Cardinals for Holliday. The Orioles and Mets reportedly expressed interest, but it was believed only for a short-term deal.

Boras said Holliday “had a variety of options of various lengths from different teams.”

Waiting game

During the first weekend in January 2010, DeWitt and Mozeliak met with Boras and Holliday near the player’s home in Austin. Texas, in an effort to close a deal.

The Cardinals indicated if Holliday didn’t accept their offer by Jan. 8, 2010, they would have to move on to other candidates.

A possible alternative to Holliday in left field had been Mark DeRosa, who played for the Cardinals in 2009 before becoming a free agent, but he signed with the Giants. The Cardinals didn’t want to risk missing out on other free agents while waiting for Holliday to make a decision.

The Cardinals reportedly were interested in free-agent third baseman Miguel Tejada, who hit .313 with 46 doubles and 86 RBI for the 2009 Astros, if they couldn’t sign Holliday.

Regarding negotiations with Holliday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the Post-Dispatch, “We’ve made it clear how much we want to keep him. At some point, you have to go in one direction or another.”

Good fit

Soon after DeWitt and Mozeliak returned to St. Louis from Austin, Holliday notified them he accepted their offer. Two hours later, Holliday made his decision public in an interview with ESPN Radio.

“Playing in St. Louis with guys I made friends with, and given the way the organization is run, became very appealing to me,” Holliday said.

Regarding the decision process, Holliday said, “You get into January, you want to get excited about spring training and not worry about contract stuff. I was ready for it to be over.”

The Cardinals’ willingness to approve no-trade protection and guarantee $17 million for a seventh season sealed the deal, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Holliday accepted the offer two weeks before he turned 30.

“The Cardinals did their homework and were willing to gamble that Holliday will age well as a player,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.

At the announcement of the formal signing, the Cardinals said Holliday would wear uniform No. 7. Holliday said he chose the number to honor fellow Oklahoma native Mickey Mantle, whose No. 7 was retired by the Yankees.

With the Rockies and Athletics, Holliday had worn No. 5, but Pujols had that number with the Cardinals, When Holliday was traded to St. Louis in July 2009, he was given No. 15, previously worn by Cardinals luminaries such as Tim McCarver, Darrell Porter and Jim Edmonds.

Holliday played eight seasons (2009-2016) for the Cardinals and produced 1,048 hits in 982 games, with a batting average of .293 and a .380 on-base percentage.

The Cardinals qualified for the postseason in six of Holliday’s eight seasons with them. In the 2011 National League Championship Series versus the Brewers, Holliday batted .435 and had 10 hits and three walks in 26 plate appearances, giving him a .500 on-base percentage.

After his seven-year contract expired following the 2016 season, Holliday became a free agent and signed with the Yankees.

In 15 seasons with the Rockies, Athletics, Cardinals and Yankees, Holliday had 2,096 hits and 1,220 RBI.

As a catcher for the Cardinals, Ted Simmons helped Steve Carlton achieve his first 20-win season. As an opposing hitter, Simmons hit with power against Carlton.

One reason Simmons was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2019 was he could hit any kind of pitching, including the best.

Of his 248 regular-season career home runs in the majors, Simmons hit 22 against fellow future Hall of Famers.

The future Hall of Famer who Simmons hit the most home runs against was Carlton, who spent most of his career with the Phillies after being a teammate of Simmons with the Cardinals.

A switch-hitter, Simmons hit seven home runs against Carlton, a left-hander.

Here is a breakdown of the number of home runs Simmons hit versus future Hall of Famers:

_ Steve Carlton, 7 home runs against.

_ Tom Seaver, 3

_ Don Sutton, 2

_ Ferguson Jenkins, 2

_ Bert Blyleven, 2

_ Phil Niekro, 2

_ Rich Gossage, 1

_ Bruce Sutter, 1 (See story)

_ Lee Smith, 1

_ Gaylord Perry, 1

Battery mates

Carlton debuted with the Cardinals in 1965 and Simmons debuted with them three years later, in 1968.

Tim McCarver was Carlton’s primary catcher with the Cardinals from 1965-69. After McCarver got traded to the Phillies in October 1969, Simmons and Joe Torre split the catching for the Cardinals the next year. Torre caught Carlton in 20 games in 1970 and Simmons was his catcher in 15, according to baseball-reference.com.

The first time Carlton and Simmons started a regular-season game together was June 2, 1970, a 12-1 Cardinals win versus the Giants at St. Louis. Carlton pitched a four-hitter. Simmons had a single, a triple and a walk, scoring twice. Boxscore

In 1971, when Torre shifted to third base, Simmons was the Cardinals’ catcher. He caught in 33 of Carlton’s 37 games for the 1971 Cardinals.

On Sept. 28, 1971, Carlton earned his 20th win of the season, beating the Mets at New York. Simmons was the catcher and produced a single, a double and two RBI. Boxscore

It was the last time Carlton would pitch for the Cardinals. Five months later, on Feb. 25, 1972, he was traded to the Phillies on orders of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, who was fed up with player salary demands.

Carlton and McCarver were reunited as Phillies. According to baseball-reference.com, the catchers who caught the most games pitched by Carlton were McCarver (236), Bob Boone (147), Bo Diaz (79) and Simmons (48).

Carlton had a 3.24 ERA over the 358.2 innings Simmons was his catcher.

Mighty matchup

Carlton’s career record against the Cardinals was 38-14 with five shutouts, 27 complete games and a 2.98 ERA.

Simmons batted .274 against Carlton. Of his 34 hits, 17 were for extra bases: nine doubles, seven home runs, one triple. Simmons had a .357 on-base percentage versus Carlton, drawing 16 walks and getting hit by a pitch once.

The most significant home run Simmons hit against Carlton was on June 25, 1977, at St. Louis.

In the seventh inning, with the Phillies ahead, 2-1, Hector Cruz led off for the Cardinals and pulled the ball down the third-base line. Third baseman Mike Schmidt snared it, but his throw sailed past first baseman Richie Hebner. Cruz was credited with a single and advanced to second on Schmidt’s throwing error.

Simmons, due up next, turned to teammate Mike Anderson and said, “I’m just going to look for anything inside that I can pull and hit hard,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

With McCarver catching, the first pitch Carlton threw Simmons was a slider, low and on the inside corner of the plate.

“He might have wanted to get the ball in the dirt or something because usually he doesn’t give me the ball in the strike zone unless it’s outside,” Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Simmons hit the ball into the left-field seats for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

“That’s one of the hardest he’s hit right-handed,” said Cardinals manager Vern Rapp. “That was hit deep into the deck.”

Said McCarver: “Simmons is just a good hitter. He might be the purest hitter in the game outside of Rod Carew. Maybe even more than Pete Rose because Simmons has more power.”

Bob Forsch and Rawly Eastwick held the Phillies scoreless over the last two innings, preserving the win for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Three years later, on April 26, 1980, at Philadelphia, Simmons got another key hit against Carlton, but it wasn’t a home run. Carlton pitched a one-hitter versus the Cardinals. Simmons’ single in the second deprived Carlton of a no-hitter, a feat that eluded him throughout his career. Boxscore

Special deliveries

Among other noteworthy home runs by Simmons against fellow future Hall of Famers were one hit against the Braves and another hit for them.

On Aug. 23, 1975, Simmons hit a grand slam against Phil Niekro, snapping a 1-1 tie in the fifth and carrying the Cardinals to a 7-2 win over the Braves at St. Louis. Simmons said he hit a low screwball, not Niekro’s signature knuckleball.

“I just golfed it,” Simmons said. “He’s been throwing me a lot of screwballs.”

The grand slam was the fifth of Simmons’ major-league career but his first versus a right-hander. Boxscore

Simmons batted .203 against Niekro in his career. He had almost as many walks (15) as hits (16).

On Aug. 31, 1986, the Cubs played the Braves in Atlanta. The Cubs started and ended the game with two future Hall of Famers, Dennis Eckersley and Lee Smith.

Simmons, 37, and in his first season with the Braves, led off the ninth, batting for pitcher Jeff Dedmon with the score tied at 3-3.

Throwing sliders, Smith got ahead in the count 1-and-2.

“Being down 1-and-2 is not the best situation to be in against Smith,” Simmons told the Chicago Tribune. “You’re living on the edge.”

On the next pitch, “Simmons timed the slider properly and launched an electric rainbow to right field,” the Atlanta Constitution reported.

The walkoff home run gave the Braves a 4-3 triumph. Boxscore

“When they say go up there and get it done like this, it’s do or die,” Simmons said. “When you do, it’s the greatest. When you don’t, it’s the worst. I like it.”

Ray Sadecki was the player the Cubs wanted in exchange for Lou Brock, but the timing wasn’t right. Sadecki got hot at the same time as the trade talks did and the Cardinals opted to keep him.

In May 1964, the Cubs and Cardinals discussed a proposed swap of Brock, an underachieving outfielder, for Sadecki, an underachieving starting pitcher, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Cubs general manager John Holland indicated “the Cardinals have shown a strong interest in Brock” and he wanted Sadecki in return.

In the story, which appeared on May 26, 1964, under the headline, “Cards Balk Cubs Bid for Sadecki; Brock Dangled as Trade Bait,” the Tribune reported a proposed swap involving Brock for Sadecki “was stalled by reluctance of someone in the St. Louis front office.”

Three weeks later, on June 15, 1964, the Cardinals dealt starting pitcher Ernie Broglio, reliever Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens to the Cubs for Brock and pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth.

The deal, initially viewed as a steal for the Cubs, became the symbol for lopsided trades, with Brock becoming a Hall of Famer and Broglio, who damaged his right elbow, posting a 7-19 record in three years with Chicago.

Up and down

Sadecki was 17 in June 1958 when he signed with the Cardinals. Two years later, in May 1960, he made his major-league debut at 19 and earned nine wins as a rookie.

In 1961, Sadecki, 20, was an emerging ace. He was 14-10 and led the Cardinals in starts (31), complete games (13) and innings pitched (222.2).

The Cardinals offered him a $13,000 salary for 1962. Sadecki, who wanted $18,000, asked manager Johnny Keane to back him, but was sharply told to accept what was offered. They settled for $15,000, but a strain developed between Keane and Sadecki.

On June 5, 1962, in a relief stint in St. Louis against the Reds, Sadecki faced five batters, allowed five runs, committed two errors and was booed off the field. Keane called Sadecki’s performance “the worst display of effort I’ve ever seen on a big-league diamond” and fined him $250.

Sadecki, upset about his effort being questioned, asked to be traded and continued to struggle. On July 31, 1962, with a 6-8 record and 5.54 ERA, he was demoted to the minors.

Back with the Cardinals in 1963, Sadecki was 10-10 with a 4.10 ERA.

Pressure to perform

When Sadecki, 23, went to spring training in 1964, he was in the back of the starting rotation, behind Broglio, Bob Gibson and Curt Simmons.

“Sadecki should be our No. 4 pitcher,” Keane told The Sporting News. “It’s important for us to get Ray off to a good start.”

Instead, Sadecki lost his first three decisions. Cardinals fans were “booing him at every turn,” The Sporting News reported.

The slow start didn’t help Sadecki’s relationship with Keane. According to author David Halberstam, Keane “believed that professional, as well as financial, success had come too quickly to Sadecki, and that somehow he had not paid his dues.”

Keane valued speed in a lineup and was urging general manager Bing Devine to trade for Brock. Before the 1964 season began, the Cardinals offered Phil Gagliano for Brock. The Cubs needed a second baseman to replace Ken Hubbs, who was killed in a plane crash in February 1964, but they opted for Joey Amalfitano of the Giants instead of Gagliano.

The player the Cubs desired was Sadecki.

Change in plans

If the Cardinals were open to the notion of swapping Sadecki for Brock, they changed their minds in mid-May. Locating pitches better and throwing breaking balls for strikes, Sadecki surged, winning six of seven decisions from May 11 to June 9. Two of the wins were against the Cubs, giving him an 11-3 career record versus them.

“Ray’s progress, from my standpoint, has not been unexpected,” said Cardinals pitching coach Howie Pollet. “I’ve felt he’s a key man in our pennant chances.”

In an editorial, The Sporting News credited Keane.

“Had Keane sought the easy way out, he could have dealt Sadecki to any of several clubs which sought him,” The Sporting News declared. “The manager, however, determined that the southpaw could help the Cardinals. He stayed with him doggedly and patiently.”

After the Chicago Tribune revealed the stall in a Brock for Sadecki swap, Devine said “Brock’s name had been mentioned in trade talks, but there is no serious thought of a deal now,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Soon after, Devine’s perspective changed. The Cardinals lost five of their first six games in June, dropping to 26-25. After winning two of three against the Giants despite scoring a total of three runs, the Cardinals were swept by the Dodgers, scoring two runs in three games, and fell to 28-29 on June 13.

Needing a spark to the offense, Devine called the Cubs. The starting pitcher he was prepared to offer was Broglio.

An 18-game winner in 1963, Broglio won two of his first three decisions for the Cardinals in 1964, but was 0-3 in five starts from May 3 to May 24. Broglio’s right elbow ached and he couldn’t throw without pain, but the Cubs were unaware of the problem.

On May 30, 1964, Broglio pitched a complete game and beat the Reds. In his next start, a 3-0 loss to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, Broglio yielded only one earned run in 6.1 innings.

The Cubs jumped at the chance to acquire a proven winner who, at 28, appeared to be entering his prime.

Brock, batting .251 with a lame .300 on-base percentage, was not well-received by Cardinals veterans. Brock told the Chicago Tribune he felt “unwanted” when he reported to the Cardinals. “Some of his teammates concurred that there was a feeling of resentment” over the trading of Broglio for such a raw talent.

Acquiring Brock and keeping Sadecki proved to be a winning combination for the Cardinals, who clinched the pennant on the last day of the season. Brock batted .348 and produced an on-base percentage of .387. Sadecki was 20-11.

In the 1964 World Series against the Yankees, Sadecki won Game 1, and Brock hit .300 with five RBI, helping the Cardinals to their first championship in 18 years.

Ron Kline had an ominous start to his stint with the Cardinals, foretelling of rough times ahead for the right-handed pitcher.

On Dec. 21, 1959, the Cardinals acquired Kline from the Pirates for outfielder Gino Cimoli and pitcher Tom Cheney. Kline, 27, was expected to join a starting rotation with Larry Jackson, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Ernie Broglio and Bob Miller in 1960.

Two weeks after the trade, on Jan. 3, 1960, Kline was on a commercial flight to St. Louis to sign his contract when one of the airplane’s engines stopped working.

“Our plane had an engine conk out half an hour out of Pittsburgh and the pilot invited anybody who felt shaky to get out at Indianapolis,” Kline told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Apparently, no one accepted the offer and the plane landed safely in St. Louis.

The precarious arrival set the tone for Kline. Over the next 15 months, he experienced a series of predicaments both on and off the field as a Cardinal.

Pirates product

Kline was born and raised in Callery, Pa., a railroad junction of about 400 residents located 27 miles north of Pittsburgh. He played for a town baseball team, got a tryout with the Pirates and signed when he was 18.

After two years in the minors, primarily at Class D, Kline, 20, earned a spot with the 1952 Pirates. Overmatched, he was 0-7 with a 5.49 ERA but bonded with a veteran starter, ex-Cardinal Howie Pollet.

Kline served in the Army in 1953 and 1954, returned to the Pirates in 1955 and lost his first two decisions, giving him an 0-9 record for his major-league career.

On May 1, 1955, Kline got his first big-league win, a shutout against the Cardinals at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Boxscore

Kline developed a reputation as a hard-luck starter whose record didn’t reflect his skill. His best Pirates seasons were 1956 (14-18, 3.38 ERA) and 1958 (13-16, 3.53).

In 1959, Kline was 11-13 with a 4.26 ERA. Disappointed he was limited to 186 innings after topping 200 in each of the previous three seasons, Kline said he wanted “to pitch more often or be traded,” the Pittsburgh Press reported.

“I have to pitch to make money,” Kline told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Pirates shopped Kline for an outfielder. After being rebuffed by the Giants in a bid to get either Willie Kirkland, Felipe Alou or Jackie Brandt, the Pirates came close to shipping Kline and shortstop Dick Groat to the Athletics for Roger Maris.

Betting on a breakthrough

Kline was shoveling snow outside his home when he got a call from Pirates general manager Joe Brown, informing him of the trade to St. Louis. Kline was recommended by his former teammate, Pollet, the Cardinals’ pitching coach.

“I saw a lot of potential in the kid,” Pollet told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “He has great desire and I have enough confidence in my ability to think I can make him a regular winner. He has a good fastball, but for some reason he didn’t throw it last season. He tried to be cute and too fine with his control.”

Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer, who hit .222 against Kline in his career, was glad to see him become a teammate. “Kline gave me as much trouble as anyone,” Boyer told The Sporting News.

At spring training with the Cardinals in 1960, Kline was impressive. In 28 innings pitched in exhibition games, his ERA was 0.64.

When the season began, it was a different story. Kline had a 5.06 ERA when he got his first Cardinals win, beating the Pirates on May 2, 1960, at St. Louis. Boxscore

Let’s make a deal

The satisfaction of beating his former team was short-lived. Kline lost six of his next seven decisions. He made his last start for the Cardinals on July 10 before being moved to the bullpen.

Kline finished the 1960 season with a 4-9 record and 6.04 ERA. Three of his wins were against the Pirates. He struggled both as a starter (3-7, 5.92) and as a reliever (1-2, 6.35).

In 117.2 innings pitched, Kline gave up 21 home runs. His average of allowing a home run every 5.6 innings was the highest in the National League in 1960.

The Cardinals (86-68) finished in third place, nine games behind the league champion Pirates (95-59). While Kline faltered with the Cardinals, Mizell, traded to the Pirates in May 1960 for second baseman Julian Javier, was 13-5 for Pittsburgh.

After the season, the Cardinals approached the Yankees and offered to trade pitcher Larry Jackson, catcher Hal Smith and Kline for pitchers Whitey Ford and Ryne Duren and catcher Elston Howard. The clubs “surveyed the pros and cons of such a trade” before the Yankees backed out, the Globe-Democrat reported.

The Cardinals also proposed sending Kline and Bob Gibson to the Senators for pitcher Bobby Shantz, but Washington preferred an offer from the Pirates.

Also, the Cubs and Cardinals discussed a swap of pitcher Moe Drabowsky for Kline but it didn’t get done.

Flummoxed by his inability to deal Kline, Devine said, “I realize his value is down, but I’m not going to throw him out the window.”

Spitball specialist

During the winter, Kline was hunting in Pennsylvania when a gun shell blew up in his face. Fragments of the brass shell lodged in each eye, but were removed without damaging Kline’s eyesight, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Kline reported to Cardinals spring training in 1961 and said he planned to work on a knuckleball. Unimpressed with the result, the Cardinals sold Kline’s contract to the Angels on April 11, 1961.

After stints with the Angels and Tigers, Kline thrived as a reliever for the Senators. In four years (1963-66) with them, he had 83 saves and a 2.54 ERA.

His turnaround came when he mastered the spitball, an illegal pitch. Sports Illustrated reported Kline had one of “the finest spitballs in the American League.” In his book “The Wrong Stuff,” Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee said, “Ron Kline had a great spitter.”

Kline pitched for nine teams (Pirates, Cardinals, Angels, Tigers, Senators, Twins, Giants, Red Sox and Braves) in 17 seasons. His career numbers: 114-144 record, 108 saves, 3.75 ERA.

In one of the most unusual at-bats of his Hall of Fame career, Ted Simmons stepped in for the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter against a pitcher who didn’t expect to be used in relief and hit a grand slam, accounting for all the runs in the game.

Batting for another switch-hitter, Reggie Smith, who had to depart because of back pain, Simmons hit an 0-and-2 pitch from Jon Matlack over the left-field wall, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 victory over the Mets in the second game of a doubleheader on June 23, 1975, at New York’s Shea Stadium.

It was the first of six pinch-hit home runs Simmons had in the major leagues.

Ready or not

Simmons caught Ron Reed’s shutout in Game 1 of the Monday night doubleheader, a 1-0 Cardinals victory. Simmons, batting cleanup, contributed a single and a walk. Boxscore

In the second game, Simmons was out of the lineup and Ken Rudolph was the starting catcher.

The game was scoreless when Cardinals pitcher John Denny led off the eighth inning with a single to left for his first major-league hit. Bake McBride moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt.

After Mike Tyson drew a walk from Mets starter George Stone, putting runners on first and second with one out, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told Simmons, “I’m probably going to use you to pinch-hit. Get a bat.”

As Simmons started out to the plate, he saw the scheduled batter, Luis Melendez, headed there, too, the Associated Press reported.

Ted asked Red, “Don’t you want me to hit?”

“Yeah, but for Reggie Smith,” Schoendienst replied.

Melendez singled to left, loading the bases, and Simmons came up to bat for the ailing Smith, who was 0-for-3 against Stone.

Sink or swim

In the Mets’ bullpen, Matlack had gotten up to fulfill his routine of throwing between starts. After the Cardinals loaded the bases, bullpen coach Joe Pignatano turned to Matlack and said, “Are you ready?”

“Ready for what?” Matlack replied.

Pignatano said, “You’re in the game.”

“I was almost done with my workout,” Matlack said to the Passaic (N.J.) Herald-News. “I had no idea they wanted me to go in as a reliever. I had been throwing out of my full windup and was just about done working out of the stretch.”

Mets manager Yogi Berra said, “I brought him in because he makes them hit a lot of groundballs. I talked to him before the game and told him I might have to use him.”

Matlack, who hadn’t appeared in relief in three years, said, “Being thrown in a game like that is an unnatural situation for me.”

Cat and mouse

When Matlack, a left-hander, entered the game, Simmons, a switch-hitter, stood in from the right side of the plate. He swung and missed at the first two pitches.

“The first pitch was a fastball down at the knees,” said Simmons. “The second was a slider around my neck. I said to myself, ‘I wish I could have that one back.’ ”

Matlack said he noticed Simmons “was pulling out on the first two pitches” and decided to throw a curve.

“The purpose of the 0-and-2 pitch is not necessarily a waste pitch,” said Matlack. “If anything, he was supposed to hit it foul. Or, if he doesn’t swing, it sets him up for the next pitch.”

Matlack’s curve looked like a slider or cut fastball, Simmons said, and came in low and inside.

“I was on the plate, trying to protect it and hoping to at least hit a fly ball for a run,” Simmons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Matlack said, “The pitch was a hell of a curve, I thought. It was right where I wanted it. I was surprised he even swung at it.”

Said Simmons: “I got all of it.”

After watching a television replay of the grand slam, Matlack noted, “As he hit the ball, his hands collapsed, It was almost as if he was looking for that pitch.”

Simmons’ slam enabled the Cardinals to sweep. A grateful Reggie Smith said, “We had the right man for the right job at the right time.” Boxscore

Simmons hit .377 (20-for-53) with two home runs versus Matlack in his career.

Of Simmons’ nine grand slams in the majors, seven were with the Cardinals and he hit one each with the Brewers and Braves.

The Cardinals tried for a year to acquire second baseman Fernando Vina and when they finally succeeded they were rewarded for their effort.

Twenty years ago, on Dec. 20, 1999, the Cardinals got Vina from the Brewers for pitchers Juan Acevedo and Matt Parker, plus catcher Eliezer Alfonzo.

Vina gave the Cardinals the consistent leadoff batter they’d been lacking and solidified the infield defense.

AL all-star

Vina was born and raised in Sacramento, Calif., where his parents settled after immigrating to the United States from Cuba. His father took a maintenance job with a local college. In 1989, when Vina attended Arizona State, he toured Cuba with Team USA.

A left-handed batter with speed, Vina played for the Mariners (1993) and Mets (1994) before being traded to the Brewers. In five seasons with the Brewers (1995-99), Vina batted .286 and produced 559 hits in 528 games. His best season was 1998 when he was named a National League all-star and batted .311 with 198 hits and 101 runs scored.

After the 1998 season, the Brewers shopped Vina because he had “the highest trade value” on their roster, The Sporting News reported, and rookie Ronnie Belliard was available to replace him.

The Cardinals, seeking a replacement for departed free agent Delino DeShields at second base, became serious suitors for Vina in December 1998, according to The Sporting News, but couldn’t come up with a pitcher the Brewers wanted.

On May 9, 1999, Vina collided with Brewers teammate Jeromy Burnitz while pursuing a pop fly and injured his left knee. He returned to the lineup three weeks later, developed tendinitis in the knee and was shut down for the season after June 3.

High praise

Joe McEwing was the Cardinals’ second baseman in 1999 and batted .275, but the the club wanted a leadoff batter with a high on-base percentage and speed.

The Cardinals pursued a deal with the Dodgers for second baseman Eric Young, offering reliever Ricky Bottalico, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but when talks stalled they turned their attention to Vina, who had 22 stolen bases and a .386 on-base percentage for the Brewers in 1998, his last full season before the knee injury.

The Cardinals offered pitcher Garrett Stephenson, but the Brewers insisted on Acevedo and the deal was made.

“He’s a legitimate top of the lineup guy,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

Vina said, “My plan is to get on base any way I can. This lineup is incredible … If I get on base, good things are going to happen.”

At spring training in 2000, Vina impressed coach Jose Oquendo, a former Cardinals second baseman.

“He’s the best I’ve seen turning the double play, ever,” Oquendo said.

Vina said, “Defense is a big part of my game. I don’t underestimate the momentum that can turn our way when you come up with a good defensive play or turn a double play.”

Key contributor

On April 3, 2000, in the season opener against the Cubs at St. Louis, Vina had a successful Cardinals debut, producing two singles, a triple, scoring a run, driving in a run and turning a double play. Boxscore

Vina, who turned 31 two weeks into the season, batted .300 for the 2000 Cardinals, scored 81 runs, had an on-base percentage of .380 and led National League second basemen in fielding percentage.

He also was hit by pitches a league-leading 28 times in 2000. He achieved the total even though he was on the disabled list for two weeks in June because of a hamstring injury and sat out 14 September games because of a rib injury.

The Cardinals’ single-season record for most times hit by pitches is 31 by right fielder Steve Evans in 1910.

Vina had three more seasons of double-figure hit-by-pitch totals for the Cardinals _ 22 in 2001, 18 in 2002 and 11 in 2003.

According to The Sporting News, “Vina is the key to jump-starting the team’s offense … When Vina gets on, it makes it easier for No. 2 hitter (J.D.) Drew to hit the ball in the hole.”

Vina had his best Cardinals season in 2001 when he batted .303 with 191 hits and 95 runs scored.

He won Gold Glove awards for his defense in 2001 and 2002.

Vina played four seasons (2000-2003) with the Cardinals, generated 570 hits in 488 games and sparked them to three postseason appearances.

Ill-advised decision

After an injury-marred 2003 season, Vina became a free agent and signed with the Tigers. In December 2007, he admitted using Human Growth Hormone, a performance-enhancing drug banned by Major League Baseball, in 2003 with the Cardinals in an attempt to heal more quickly from hamstring and knee ailments.

“I tried everything rehabbing,” Vina said. “I came to a point that I was desperate.

“Was it right? No. Obviously, it was wrong. I’m embarrassed by it. Bottom line, it was stupid. I’m embarrassed now and it didn’t help, either.”