For Marty Marion, being popular and having success in the big leagues gave him an edge over Johnny Keane in their competition for the Cardinals’ manager job.

Seventy years ago, on Nov. 29, 1950, Marion was chosen by Cardinals owner Fred Saigh to replace manager Eddie Dyer, who resigned. The hiring came two days before Marion turned 33.

Marion, the Cardinals’ shortstop since arriving in the big leagues in 1940, had no managerial experience. The other finalist, Keane, 39, began managing in the Cardinals’ system in 1938 and led their Rochester farm team to a 92-59 record and league championship in 1950, but he had no big-league experience.

Yankees prospect

Dyer, 51, resigned under pressure in October 1950. He had winning records in all five seasons as Cardinals manager and guided them to a World Series title in 1946, but Saigh was looking to make a change after the Cardinals fell to fifth place at 78-75 in 1950.

Saigh screened 25 candidates for the job, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Saigh “came close” to hiring a candidate outside the organization. The Post-Dispatch identified him as Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner. According to the Post-Dispatch, Saigh offered him the job, but Turner turned it down. Asked about it, Saigh declined comment.

Saigh eventually narrowed the field to four candidates. The Globe-Democrat identified Keane, Marion and two minor-league managers with big-league playing experience, Mike Ryba and Dixie Walker.  According to the Post-Dispatch, the four finalists were Keane, Marion, minor-league manager and former big-league catcher Rollie Hemsley and an unidentified “dark horse.”

Keen credentials

Saigh’s search was in its sixth week when the candidate list was pared to two, Keane and Marion.

Keane was well-regarded within the organization and his resume showed conclusively he knew how to manage and how to win. “I can’t try to do a selling job on myself by talking,” Keane told the Post-Dispatch. “My position is, ‘Here I am. You know my record. It’s up to you.’ “

Though Saigh was impressed by Keane’s record, he was concerned about image. Because he’d spent his whole career in the minors, Keane wasn’t well-known among the Cardinals’ fan base, and Saigh was hoping to make a splash with his first managerial hire.

Marion was a candidate who figured to attract attention. As the shortstop on Cardinals clubs that won four National League pennants and three World Series titles, Marion was as well-known among Cardinals fans as Stan Musial. He was popular with players, fans and media, and he was widely respected for his skills as a fielder and timely hitter. In 1944, Marion became the first shortstop to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Before being approached by Saigh, Marion said he hadn’t given a thought to managing, the Globe-Democrat reported.

Keane was “neck-and-neck” with Marion and “might have landed the job if he had the benefit of a rich major-league background,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “No doubt the final factors that influenced Fred Saigh were Marion’s background and popularity, and the fact Keane would be a stranger in the National League.”

Pleasing the public

Saigh told the Post-Dispatch he made the decision to hire Marion the day the announcement was made.

“He can do as good a job as anyone,” Saigh said to The Sporting News.

Marion said, “It’s my ambition to win a pennant, not just be a contender, and we’ll hope to surprise everyone.”

Marion got a one-year contract. He said he planned to continue playing while managing, but he gave up his role as player representative in baseball labor relations. Marion had been active in negotiating a pension plan for players.

Dyer and former Cardinals executive Branch Rickey were among the first to send congratulatory telegrams to Marion, the Post-Dispatch reported. Cardinals players also reacted positively. Musial said Marion “will do well as a manager” and Red Schoendienst predicted “he’ll be a good manager.”

In an editorial, the Post-Dispatch noted, “Marion in the manager’s post is a definite asset. He has the advantage of youth, ability and the wholehearted support of players and fans. His managerial inexperience may be a handicap, but that same inexperience might make him more inclined than a seasoned hand to do experimenting and play the game with the dash which made the Cardinals famous.”

Twists and turns

The Cardinals gave Marion an experienced coaching staff to lend support. The group was Ray Blades, Marion’s first big-league manager; Terry Moore, Marion’s former teammate who had coached for Dyer; Buzzy Wares, a Cardinals coach since 1930; and Mike Ryba, the former Cardinals pitcher who had been a candidate to replace Dyer.

Marion opted not to play in 1950 in order to focus on managing. He was replaced at shortstop by Solly Hemus.

The 1951 Cardinals finished 81-73, getting three more wins than they did the year before under Dyer, but were 15.5 games behind the first-place Giants. Saigh fired Marion and replaced him with Eddie Stanky.

In June 1952, Marion replaced Rogers Hornsby as Browns manager and kept the job through the 1953 season. Marion became manager of the White Sox for the last nine games of 1954 and for all of 1955 and 1956. The 1955 White Sox were 91-63 and the 1956 team was 85-69.

After losing out to Marion for the Cardinals’ big-league job, Johnny Keane continued to manage in their farm system. In 1959, when Solly Hemus became Cardinals manager, Keane got to the majors for the first time as a coach on Hemus’ staff. When Hemus was fired in July 1961, Keane replaced him and he guided the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1964, their first since Dyer was their manager.

Tony La Russa, thought by some to be too old to manage in the majors, once was thought to be too young.

On Aug. 3, 1979, La Russa was 34 when he managed his first game in the majors for the White Sox. On Oct. 29, 2020, La Russa was 76 when he was named White Sox manager for a second time.

When he joined the White Sox at 34, La Russa’s managerial experience consisted of two partial seasons in the minors.

When he rejoined the White Sox at 76, La Russa’s managerial experience consisted of a Hall of Fame resume. He ranked No. 3 all-time in wins (2,728) among big-league managers and he had the distinction of being the only manager besides Sparky Anderson to win a World Series title in each league.

La Russa guided the Athletics to three American League pennants and one World Series crown, and he led the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series championships. He ranks No. 1 all-time in wins (1,408) among Cardinals managers.

La Russa managed the White Sox from 1979-86, Athletics from 1986-95 and Cardinals from 1996-2011 before taking on a variety of front-office jobs.

His return to managing after an absence of nearly a decade drew surprise and skepticism similar to when the White Sox first hired him.

White Sox welcome

La Russa ended his playing career with the Cardinals’ New Orleans farm team as a player-coach in 1977. La Russa was about to finish law school and take his bar exam in Florida, but he wanted to give baseball managing a try.

According to the book, “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission,” the Cardinals talked to La Russa about managing their rookie league club in Johnson City, Tennessee, but he declined because he wanted to start at a higher level.

Loren Babe, who managed and mentored La Russa with White Sox farm teams in 1975 and 1976, thought La Russa had the ability to manage, and recommended him to White Sox general manager Roland Hemond and farm director Paul Richards.

Acting on Babe’s tip, the White Sox hired La Russa to manage their Class AA Knoxville club in 1978. One of Knoxville’s top players was 19-year-old Harold Baines, who was destined for a Hall of Fame career. After La Russa led Knoxville to a 49-21 record in the first half of the season, he got promoted to first-base coach for the second half on the staff of White Sox manager Larry Doby, who had replaced Bob Lemon on July 1.

Don Kessinger took over for Doby as White Sox player-manager for 1979. According to the “Man on a Mission” book, La Russa could have stayed on the White Sox coaching staff, but he asked to manage the franchise’s top farm club at Des Moines because he believed being a manager there gave him a better chance than a coaching job did to develop into a big-league manager.

Kessinger had trouble getting the White Sox to play hard for him. They had a dreadful June, losing 19 of 28 games. After a seven-game skid dropped the White Sox’s record to 46-60, Kessinger resigned during a lunch meeting with team owner Bill Veeck on a day off, Aug. 2, 1979.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Veeck considered bringing back Bob Lemon to manage, and he also liked former Tigers manager Les Moss, but Veeck concluded they “wouldn’t be fitted to a ballclub that must constantly juggle its lineup.”

Veeck “should have reached for St. Jude,” Chicago Tribune columnist David Condon wrote.

Instead, Veeck reached out to La Russa, whose Des Moines club was 54-51.

Opportunity awaits

Veeck called La Russa in Des Moines and informed him he wanted him to manage the White Sox.

In the 2012 book “One Last Strike,” La Russa said, “Looking back on it, I can see they probably had more trust in me than I did in myself, or maybe as (broadcaster) Harry Caray claimed, they were too cheap to hire a real manager.”

La Russa accepted Veeck’s offer and went to Chicago that night to join the team for their flight to Toronto, where the White Sox would start a series versus the Blue Jays the following night.

“In replacing low-keyed Don Kessinger with keyed-up Tony La Russa, the White Sox may be bringing a new Earl Weaver into the American League,” wrote Richard Dozer in the Chicago Tribune. “La Russa is tough, dedicated to winning at any cost, and probably won’t keep Chicago fans waiting long to see an emotional outburst that would make Leo Durocher look like a Sunday school teacher.”

La Russa told the newspaper, “I’m a hungry manager. I have this fire that burns inside me, and it tells me I want to win any way I can.”

La Russa also acknowledged, “One of the things I’m going to have to do is learn to control my temper. I’ve made moves in anger that I might not make otherwise. You lose your temper and you lose your good sense.”

Winning start

Before his first game as White Sox manager, La Russa held a 35-minute meeting with the team. According to the “Man on a Mission” book, he told them, “Don’t embarrass me, and I won’t embarrass you. Play hard all the time. Come to me any time you want to talk.”

Third baseman Kevin Bell told United Press International, “We talked over the club’s problems in a meeting before the game. We all pretty much agreed we had been dogging it on a few occasions.”

White Sox pitcher Steve Trout said La Russa inspired everybody “with that little speech before the game,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Bell, Jim Morrison and Lamar Johnson hit home runs, sparking the White Sox to an 8-5 triumph over the Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium in a game played in 2:28. Trout pitched eight innings for the win and Ed Farmer pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Boxscore

The White Sox were 27-27 for La Russa in 1979. They contended in 1982, with 87 wins, and in 1983 they had the best record in the majors (99-63) and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1959.

Curt Flood needed money. Bob Short needed customers.

Fifty years ago, on Nov. 3, 1970, in an attempt to fulfill their needs, Flood signed a contract to return to baseball as center fielder for the Washington Senators, who were owned by Short.

Flood hadn’t played in a game since Oct. 2, 1969, with the Cardinals. Five days later, the Cardinals traded Flood to the Phillies, but he refused to report. He filed an antitrust lawsuit against baseball, challenging its reserve clause, which bound a player to a team.

After sitting out the 1970 season while his case went to court, Flood reached an unnerving conclusion: Baseball was his legal adversary, but it also was his best benefactor.

Bob Short saw an opportunity to capitalize.

Cash poor

After rejecting the Phillies’ offer of a $100,000 contract, Flood moved from the United States to Denmark in 1970 and pursued business interests. He was a portrait artist and, according to the Associated Press, he also got involved in a restaurant venture in Copenhagen.

Flood discovered he couldn’t earn nearly as much as an artist as he did playing baseball, and he lost money in the restaurant investment.

“I’m paying alimony and I’ve got five kids to support,” Flood told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s enough to drive any man back into the game.”

While Flood was seeking a financial backer, Short was seeking ways to boost fan interest in the Senators, who finished 70-92 in 1970 and averaged about 10,000 fans per home game.

If the Senators couldn’t attract customers with their play, Short figured they might do it with personalities. He already had manager Ted Williams and slugger Frank Howard. Looking for more, Short, in October 1970, acquired pitcher Denny McLain. Next, he wanted Flood.

“If you sat at as many ballgames as I did this year looking at guys who can’t hit, and you knew somewhere there was somebody not playing who can hit, you’d go after him, too,” Short said.

Pay now

The Phillies retained the rights to Flood, even though he never played for them. Short sought and received permission from the Phillies to negotiate with Flood.

According to The Sporting News, Short offered Flood a one-year contract for $110,000, $20,000 more than he got from the 1969 Cardinals, and agreed to let Flood collect salary as soon as he signed, not when the baseball season started. It also was agreed Flood would continue with his legal challenge against baseball. A federal district judge ruled against Flood, but he appealed.

Flood’s contract included the reserve clause, binding him to the Senators.

All that remained to seal the deal was for Short to get the Phillies to agree to compensation.

Phillies negotiate

Short offered the Phillies a choice of either Mike Epstein, Rick Reichardt or Ed Stroud, the Washington Post reported. All were big-league players. General manager John Quinn said no.

“Epstein can’t hit left-handers,” Quinn said. “He can’t do anything but swing a bat. The only place he can play is first base and we’re up to our ears in first basemen. Reichardt? Our fellows think he’s overrated all the way. Stroud isn’t as good as our John Briggs or Ron Stone.”

The Phillies wanted the rights to the Senators’ No. 1 pick in the 1971 amateur draft, but trading a draft position wasn’t permissible in baseball.

The Phillies settled on a package of Greg Goossen, Gene Martin and Jeff Terpko, a group the Philadelphia Daily News described as “three uniforms filled with air.”

None of the three would ever play for the Phillies.

Still suing

When Flood signed with the Senators, he said, “I’ve had some business reverses and I need the money. I still think the reserve clause stinks.”

Players’ union executive director Marvin Miller said Flood’s return wouldn’t damage the legal challenge to the reserve clause.

“This case involves an issue, not just one man,” Miller said.

Shaky spring

Flood agreed to go to the Senators’ Florida Instructional League team, managed by former Cardinals catcher Del Wilber, and sharpen his skills. “I don’t believe it’s going to be any problem getting in stride again,” Flood said.

Four months later, at spring training, Flood, 33, hit .200 in exhibition games and didn’t play at the level he had with the Cardinals.

“I find my mind wandering all over the place,” Flood said.

Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray observed, “Curt is playing for the sheer money of it. He is as apprehensive as a guy going down a dark cellar to investigate a growl.”

Back in business

The Senators opened the regular season at home on April 5, 1971, against the Athletics. Ted Williams started Flood in center and batted him second. It was Flood’s first regular-season game in 18 months.

“I was jumpy,” Flood said. “I couldn’t sit down. I paced like a caged lion, but after the first time at bat I felt like I’d never been away.”

Flood produced a bunt single and walked twice, but he told United Press International, “I’m not out of the woods yet. I need to feel a little more comfortable at the plate and get acclimated in the outfield.” Boxscore.

Flood totaled three singles in his first 20 at-bats, and Williams benched him against right-handers.

“I told Curt we needed runs and we’re not scoring them with him in there,” Williams said. “He has a great attitude. He understands. He’ll be back.”

Flood’s road roommate, Elliott Maddox, added, “As for his benching, he told me that’s all right as long as we’re winning.”

Flood made his last start on April 20, and followed with a couple of appearances as a pinch-hitter. He hit .200 in 13 games.

Before an April 25 game against the Brewers, Flood was shagging fly balls when he told teammate Mike Epstein, “Things are closing in on me.”

That’s enough

Two days later, on April 27, Flood checked out of his room at the Anthony House hotel in Washington and took a flight to New York. When he didn’t show for the Senators’ home game that night, club officials checked his room and discovered he was gone.

“He never mentioned quitting to me or to anyone else,” Williams said.

When Flood got to New York’s Kennedy Airport, he sent a telegram to Short. It read: “I tried. A year and a half is too much. Very severe personal problems are mounting every day. Thanks for your confidence and understanding.” It was signed: Flood.

The Senators contacted the commissioner’s office in New York, and publicity director Joe Reichler was dispatched to the airport to try to persuade Flood to change his mind. Reichler found Flood at an airport bar.

“I told him he shouldn’t be discouraged, that fans didn’t expect him to come back and hit .400,” Reichler said. “For a while, I thought I had convinced him. He told me, ‘I know I owe Bob Short a great deal. He stuck his neck out for me.’ Then, suddenly, he said, ‘No, no. I’m not going to do it. I’ve reached the end. I’ll go crazy if I don’t get out.’ “

Flood boarded a Pan-Am flight to Spain and never played again.

His friend, St. Louis police lieutenant Fred Grimes, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that, in addition to the alimony and child support payments, Flood was distressed because his father had terminal cancer and a younger brother was in jail.

“He’s running away from himself, so don’t be hard on him,” Grimes said. “This man’s personal life is as unpleasantly involved as a soap opera.”

Senators executive Joe Burke said Flood received about half of his $110,000 salary. Payments started Nov. 1, 1970, and he was paid through April 15, 1971.

Joe Torre thought when he got fired by the Cardinals his career as a manager was finished. He never figured the best was yet to come.

Twenty-five years ago, on Nov. 2, 1995, Torre, 55, was hired to manage the Yankees, who, to his surprise, approached him about replacing Buck Showalter.

Five months earlier, when the Cardinals gave up on him, it seemed to Torre it was like three strikes and you’re out. He’d managed three teams, Mets, Braves and Cardinals, and was fired by each. His teams never won a World Series title and only one, 1982 Braves, qualified for the postseason.

After the Cardinals fired him in June 1995, Torre, who also played 18 years in the majors, including six with the Cardinals, said he planned to return to broadcasting, a role he did with the Angels before the Cardinals hired him.

Instead, given the chance to manage the Yankees, he transformed from a retread into a Hall of Famer.

Free agent

Hired by the Cardinals in August 1990 to replace Whitey Herzog, who quit, Torre had winning records in 1991, 1992 and 1993, but the club finished 53-61 in 1994 and Torre’s friend, general manager Dal Maxvill, was fired and replaced by Walt Jocketty. When the Cardinals staggered to a 20-27 start in 1995, Jocketty fired Torre.

In his book, “Chasing the Dream,” Torre said, “I planned to go back to broadcasting. The politics and players’ attitudes in St. Louis had left a sour taste in my mouth anyway. I thought I was treated shabbily by the Cardinals, though I never said anything to embarrass the organization, even when I was fired.”

Torre and his wife, Ali, moved to Cincinnati to be close to her family. In October 1995, the Yankees called and asked him to interview for their general manager job, which opened when Gene Michael stepped down.

After the interview, Torre withdrew from consideration because he said he wasn’t interested in what the role required, but he’d made a favorable impression on Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Friends in high places

On Oct. 23, 1995, the Yankees named Bob Watson as their general manager. Watson’s last three seasons as a player were with the Braves when Torre was manager. Torre entrusted him to serve as an unofficial assistant coach, an opportunity that helped prepare Watson for the next step in his baseball career.

The Yankees in 1995 had qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1981. The success heightened the popularity of manager Buck Showalter, whose contract was due to expire on Nov. 1.

Steinbrenner said Showalter wanted a three-year contract. Steinbrenner offered two years at $1.05 million, but Showalter rejected it “because it contained stipulations he didn’t like,” The Sporting News reported.

One stipulation was the Yankees wanted him to fire coach Rick Down.

When Showalter and the Yankees couldn’t agree on terms, Steinbrenner decided to let the contract expire and hire someone else.

Steinbrenner and Watson agreed on who should be the top choice: Torre.

Will to win

In his book, Torre said Steinbrenner called him and said, “You’re my man.”

A couple of days later, on Nov. 1, 1995, Torre met with Steinbrenner and Watson in Tampa. Torre was offered the same contract Showalter had rejected: two years at $1.05 million. The deal was for a salary of $500,000 the first year and $550,000 the next, and Torre was told it was non-negotiable. “It was a pay cut for me,” Torre said in his book. “I’d earned $550,000 with St. Louis.”

Torre understood the risks of working for Steinbrenner but was unfazed. “I knew George was willing to spend the money to win a world championship,” Torre said. “It wasn’t like St. Louis, where sometimes I had felt as if I were in a fight with my fists while the other guy had a gun.”

Torre accepted and the next day he was introduced at a press conference in New York as Yankees manager. He joined Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra and Dallas Green as men who managed both the Yankees and Mets.

Quality credentials

Watson said the Yankees also considered Butch Hobson, Gene Lamont, Chris Chambliss and Sparky Anderson for the manager job, but acknowledged Torre was the only candidate who met in person with club officials, Newsday reported.

Torre “had most of the qualities I was looking for in a manager,” Watson said. “He was a man I could communicate with. He’s not predictable. He’ll gamble a little bit.”

Torre told the New York Daily News, “I want a team that disrupts. I want an aggressive team. Speed never really goes into a slump.”

With characteristic self-deprecation, he added, “The way I ran as a player enables me to want someone who doesn’t run the way I did.”

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News called Torre “bright and personable” and noted he “has a natural presence that commands respect.” Torre’s downside was being “too laid back” and having a tendency to “move players out of position,” Madden added.

Pitcher Bob Tewksbury, whose best seasons occurred while Torre was managing the Cardinals, said, “He did more for me than any manager I played for. He believed in me. He has a way of relating to players that works. I don’t think you can take Joe Torre, the manager of the Cardinals, and predict how he’s going to manage the Yankees. His personnel will be different with the Yankees and he’ll adjust.”

Right stuff

Tewksbury was correct.

Torre guided the Yankees to six American League pennants and four World Series crowns., groomed Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera into Hall of Famers, and connected with consistent standouts such as David Cone, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.

Torre and the Yankees split after the 2007 season and he finished his managerial career with the Dodgers. His final postseason triumph came in 2009 when the Dodgers swept the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.

In 29 years as a manager in the majors, Torre had a record of 2,304-1,982. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2013 along with peers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.

A day at the beach turned deadly for Cardinals outfielder Herman Hill.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1970, Hill, 25, drowned while swimming in the sea in Venezuela.

Fourteen years earlier, on Nov. 27, 1956, another Cardinals outfielder, Charlie Peete, also was the victim of a fatal accident in Venezuela. Peete, 27, his wife and three children were passengers in an airplane that crashed into a mountain top in Venezuela. All 25 people onboard perished.

Both Hill and Peete batted left-handed and intrigued the Cardinals with their talents.

Peete made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in July 1956, four months before his death. Hill made his debut in the majors with the Twins in 1969, but never got to play for the Cardinals, who acquired him in a trade two months before his death.

Special speed

Hill was born in Tuskegee, Ala., and raised in Farmingdale, N.J. A standout athlete in high school in Freehold, N.J., he attended Yankees games and followed his favorite player, Mickey Mantle, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Jack McKeon, a scout for the Twins before he became a big-league manager, signed Hill in 1966.

In the Twins’ farm system, Hill’s speed distinguished him. He hit .292 with 58 stolen bases for Orlando in 1967 and had a 26-game hitting streak.

At spring training with the Twins in 1968, Hill was noticed “for his creativity and originality in baserunning,” the Star-Tribune reported, and he earned the nickname “Beep-Beep” because of “his roadrunner speed and posture.”

On March 15, 1968, in an exhibition game versus the Cardinals, Hill drove in a run with a single against Jim Cosman.

Though the Twins sent him back to the minors for the 1968 season, Hill said his experience at spring training convinced him he’d have success as a base-stealing threat in the majors.

“I’ve seen these pitchers and catchers now,” Hill said. “I could steal on them if they let me get a little jump. I could steal quite a few.”

In the majors

Hill had his best season in 1969 when he hit .300 with 31 stolen bases for Denver. He was called up to the Twins in September and made his big-league debut as a pinch-runner for Harmon Killebrew in a game versus the Indians. Boxscore

Hill got into 16 games, 13 as a pinch-runner, for the 1969 Twins.

In 1970, Hill began the season with the Twins’ farm club in Evansville. He’d been timed running 100 yards in 9.5 seconds, and he went from home to first in 3.4 seconds, The Sporting News reported. Hill said he set a goal of hitting .340 with 70 stolen bases for the season.

Hill was hitting .276 for Evansville when he got called up by the Twins in June 1970, replacing Charlie Manuel on the roster.

On June 29, 1970, Hill got his first major-league hit, a single versus the Royals’ Dick Drago. Boxscore

According to the Star-Tribune, the Twins talked to the Red Sox about a trade of Dave Boswell, Dick Woodson, Brant Alyea and Hill for Reggie Smith and Sparky Lyle, but the proposal was rejected.

In July 1970, Hill was returned to Evansville. The Twins brought him back in September and he was used mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

Terror and tragedy

The Cardinals had installed AstroTurf at Busch Memorial Stadium in 1970 and were looking to build a lineup featuring speed and defense. Hill was a prospect who appealed to them.

“Our scouts, Fred McAlister and Mo Mozzali, liked him a lot and figured he’d be able to take advantage of the AstroTurf with his speed,” Cardinals director of player procurement George Silvey told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He had to learn things like hitting more to the opposite field and making contact more consistently.”

Twins owner Calvin Griffith tried to get the Cardinals to deal pitcher Steve Carlton, but was turned down, the Star-Tribune reported. On Oct. 20, 1970, the Twins settled for a swap of Hill and minor-league outfielder Bob Wissler to the Cardinals for pitcher Sal Campisi and infielder Jim Kennedy.

Hill was placed on the Cardinals’ major-league roster and they were eager to see him in spring training after he fulfilled a commitment to play winter ball in Venezuela for the Magallanes Navigators, a team based in Valencia.

On Dec. 14, 1970, a Monday, the Navigators had a day off. Hill and three Navigators teammates, Indians catcher Ray Fosse, Brewers pitcher John Morris and Dale Spier, a minor-league pitcher in the Yankees’ system, decided to go to the beach in Puerto Cabello on Venezuela’s north coast.

Hill was swimming in the Caribbean Sea when a large wave swept him away from shore, The Sporting News reported.

While Hill struggled to stay afloat, his teammates tried to rescue him. According to The Sporting News, Morris grabbed hold of Hill, who flailed to keep from sinking. Morris had three teeth knocked out in the desperate thrashing. Fosse saved Morris from going under, The Sporting News reported.

Three days later, on Dec. 17, Hill’s body was recovered, according to United Press International.

J.W. Porter began his major-league career with the St. Louis Browns and ended it with the St. Louis Cardinals.

A highly regarded prospect who experienced personal tragedy soon after he got to the majors, Porter died Oct. 11, 2020, at 87.

Primarily a catcher, he spent six seasons in the big leagues and played for the Browns (1952), Tigers (1955-57), Indians (1958), Senators (1959) and Cardinals (1959).

Prime prospect

When Porter was born in Shawnee, Okla., in 1933, his father wanted to name him James William and his mother preferred initials, so they settled on J.W., according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

The family moved to California when Porter was 10 and he became a standout youth baseball player in Oakland. One of his American Legion teammates was Frank Robinson, who was two years younger than Porter. “Frank always could hit hard,” Porter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We all knew he would become a great ballplayer.”

Pro scouts expected the same from Porter. He was a strong-armed catcher and a right-handed batter who hit for power. With red hair, freckles and green eyes, Porter resembled Red Schoendienst or Huckleberry Finn, the Post-Dispatch noted.

White Sox scout Hollis Thurston told the Saturday Evening Post, “I’m so sold on him that I’m willing to say without reservation that if he doesn’t make stardom then I see no point in the whole scouting system. Porter is just one of those naturals.”

Before the 1951 baseball season, Porter signed with the White Sox for $65,000, but he never would play a game for them in the majors.

Brought to Browns

In 1952, Porter was with the White Sox’s farm club in Colorado Springs and learning to play outfield. The manager was Don Gutteridge, former infielder for the Cardinals and Browns. Gutteridge told the Post-Dispatch, “I have one outfielder who can’t miss. He’s certain to be playing big-league ball. His name is J.W. Porter.”

On July 28, 1952, Porter, batting .340 for Colorado Springs, was traded by the White Sox to the Browns with Ray Coleman for Jim Rivera and Darrell Johnson.

Two days later, on July 30, 1952, at St. Louis, Porter made his big-league debut. Pinch-hitting against the Senators’ Bob Porterfield, Porter was called out on strikes. Boxscore

After the game, Porter, 19, spoke by phone with his wife of seven months, Patricia, 18, who had stayed in Colorado Springs after Porter got traded. Patricia’s father, Walter Singleton, had joined her, and together they planned to drive home to Oakland while Porter played out the season. According to the Post-Dispatch, Patricia was pregnant.

Devastating deaths

The next day, July 31, 1952, Patricia and her father were beginning their journey to Oakland when they were killed in a head-on car crash near Gunnison, Colo. Porter learned of the deaths from Browns owner Bill Veeck.

Devastated, Porter, accompanied by Browns assistant trainer Bob Spackman, returned home to Oakland, The Sporting News reported.

“I hope the boy will be able to shake off the terrible shock,” Veeck said to the Post-Dispatch. “He’s at liberty to take all the time he wants to take care of his affairs at home.”

After the funerals, Porter rejoined the Browns. He was a pinch-hitter against the Indians on Aug. 9, and started in left field versus the White Sox on Aug. 12.

“Porter may make it, but he’s too young to be counted right now as anything but a good prospect,” Browns manager Marty Marion told the Post-Dispatch.

“I’ve hit Porter a lot of fungoes during the brief spell he’s been with the club and I can’t say he’s a good outfielder, but he has the physical requirements,” Marion said. “He can run well, he has a strong arm and practice should develop his defensive play. As a hitter, he looks great. He has a fine, natural swing, good power and apparently sharp eyes.”

Porter made 24 starts in center field for the 1952 Browns and hit .250 for them. He had a four-hit game against the Senators on Aug. 19. Boxscore

After the season, it was learned Porter would be drafted into the Army. Soon after, on Dec. 4, 1952, the Browns traded Porter, Bob Nieman and Owen Friend to the Tigers for Virgil Trucks, Johnny Groth and Hal White.

“I hate to lose title to Porter, who is a fine prospect,” Veeck told the Post-Dispatch, “but he’s 19 years old and headed for two years in the armed services and the Browns can’t wait for him to be available again.”

Reserve role

Porter was inducted into the Army in February 1953 and he remarried in 1954. After a two-year Army hitch, Porter reported to Tigers spring training in 1955. When Ferris Fain got hurt, Porter became the Opening Day first baseman for the 1955 Tigers. Boxscore

Mostly, though, Porter filled a utility role for the rest of his career.

His first major-league home run was hit in June 1957 against the Yankees’ Don Larsen. Boxscore

In May 1958, when he was with the Indians, Porter batted for Roger Maris and hit a home run versus the Orioles. Boxscore.

Cards come calling

Porter began the 1959 season as the backup catcher for the Senators. On July 25, 1959, the Cardinals acquired him on waivers to be the backup to starting catcher Hal Smith.

Porter, 26, played in 23 games for the 1959 Cardinals and hit .212. He made nine starts at catcher. In two of those starts, rookie Bob Gibson was the Cardinals’ starting pitcher.

On Aug. 8, 1959, with Gibson pitching and Porter catching, Porter hit a home run against the Phillies’ Taylor Phillips. The ball landed “far up in the left-center field bleachers” at Busch Stadium, the Post-Dispatch reported. Boxscore

Two months after acquiring Porter, the Cardinals called up a catching prospect, 17-year-old Tim McCarver. The Cardinals ticketed Porter for the minors in 1960. The Braves acquired him and he played in their farm system from 1960-66.

In 1969 and 1970, Porter managed Expos farm teams in West Palm Beach and settled in the area. When the Cardinals opened a spring training facility in nearby Jupiter, Fla., in 1998, Porter became a stadium usher at their exhibition games.