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Looking to rebuild his reputation, Dave LaPoint returned to the organization where he felt the most comfortable and had enjoyed his greatest success.

dave_lapointThirty years ago, on Jan. 19, 1987, LaPoint, a free agent, signed with the Cardinals, who expected him to compete for a spot in their starting rotation.

At 27, his career was at a crossroads.

Five years earlier, LaPoint, a left-hander, had helped the Cardinals win the 1982 National League pennant and World Series championship.

After the Cardinals traded him in February 1985, LaPoint’s career spiraled. He pitched for three teams in two years, posting losing records at each stop, got traded twice and released once.

Out of shape and labeled a clubhouse jester, LaPoint said he was committed to rededicating himself to becoming a winner and was seeking a nurturing environment in which to attempt that comeback.

The 1987 Cardinals and manager Whitey Herzog provided the setting LaPoint sought.

Cards contributor

LaPoint’s tenure with the Cardinals began in December 1980 when he was acquired from the Brewers in a deal engineered by Herzog. The Cardinals traded Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich for Sixto Lezcano, David Green, Lary Sorensen and LaPoint.

LaPoint’s breakthrough year was 1982. He began the season as a reliever and joined the starting rotation in May. LaPoint appeared in 42 games, including 21 as a starter, for the 1982 Cardinals and had a 9-3 record and 3.42 ERA. He started Game 4 of the 1982 World Series against the Brewers, yielded one earned run in 6.1 innings and got no decision in a 7-5 Milwaukee victory.

LaPoint earned 12 wins for the Cardinals in both 1983 and 1984.

When the Cardinals, seeking a run producer to replace George Hendrick, had a chance to get Jack Clark before the start of the 1985 season, they sent LaPoint, Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich to the Giants.

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later reported the Cardinals parted with LaPoint because they “thought he might be influencing young players unduly.”

Hummel described LaPoint as a “leader in clubhouse revelry” and “a top consumer of the owner’s (Anheuser-Busch’s) product.”

Prodigal son

LaPoint had a 7-17 record for the 1985 Giants, who traded him to the Tigers after the season.

LaPoint and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson were a bad match. “I couldn’t get along with Sparky,” LaPoint told Hummel. After posting a 3-6 record and 5.72 ERA for the Tigers, LaPoint was traded to the Padres in July 1986. He was 1-4 for the Padres, who released him after the season.

It was then LaPoint decided to make changes. Weighing between 230 and 240 pounds, he dropped to 220.

The Expos and Giants wanted to sign LaPoint, but he chose the Cardinals, whose offer of a base salary of $125,000 was a cut from his $550,000 contract in 1986.

“It feels finally that I’m back where I belong,” LaPoint said. “… In talking to Whitey, he said he would use me like he did in ’82. That’s fine with me. It got me a World Series ring.”

Asked his reaction to LaPoint rejoining the Cardinals, center fielder Willie McGee said, “I like him … He’s kind of a clown, but that’s Dave LaPoint.”

It’s a reputation LaPoint said he was determined to change.

“I used to mess around during drills and I don’t do that anymore,” LaPoint said after reporting to Cardinals camp. “… It was time to put a stop to it.”

Redbird reliever

LaPoint had a successful spring training. He was 2-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched in Grapefruit League exhibition games.

The Cardinals opened the 1987 regular season with five left-handers: starters John Tudor and Greg Mathews and relievers Ricky Horton, Pat Perry and LaPoint. (Ken Dayley, another left-handed reliever, was on the disabled list.)

In his first appearance for the 1987 Cardinals, on April 10 against the Pirates at Pittsburgh, LaPoint took the loss when he yielded a two-out, RBI-double to Sid Bream in the bottom of the ninth. Boxscore

LaPoint was scheduled to make a start April 25 versus the Mets at New York, but that plan was scratched when the Cardinals called up Joe Magrane from the minors and put the rookie left-hander into the rotation.

LaPoint remained in the bullpen and largely was ineffective.

He got a win on April 18 against the Mets at St. Louis, but even then he didn’t perform well. In the 10th, LaPoint threw a wild pitch, enabling Al Pedrique to score from third with the go-ahead run. LaPoint was rescued when the Cardinals scored five times off Jesse Orosco in the bottom half of the inning. Tom Pagnozzi’s RBI-single tied the score at 8-8 and Tommy Herr’s grand slam made LaPoint the winner. Boxscore

On the road again

With his ERA at 6.75 after four relief appearances, LaPoint was demoted to Louisville on April 27. LaPoint had the option of declaring himself a free agent, but agreed to return to the minor leagues for the first time since 1981.

Placed in the starting rotation by Louisville manager Dave Bialas, LaPoint lost his first three decisions, but then found his groove. He completed four of his last five starts for Louisville and had a 5-5 record when he was recalled by the Cardinals on July 8.

“It was the best thing in the world for me,” LaPoint said of his stint in the minors. “… I’ve learned to pitch a little different style.”

LaPoint made two July starts for the Cardinals and got no decision in either.

On July 30, the Cardinals traded LaPoint to the White Sox for minor-league pitcher Bryce Hulstrom.

“LaPoint’s main problem has been control,” wrote John Sonderegger of the Post-Dispatch. “If he gets the ball up, he gets hammered. It usually takes him a couple of innings to find the strike zone and by then the game usually is out of control.”

After posting a 1-1 record and 6.75 ERA for the 1987 Cardinals, LaPoint was 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA for the 1987 White Sox.

The Cardinals, helped by a combined 30 wins from left-handed starters Mathews, Tudor and Magrane, finished 95-67 and won the NL pennant.

Previously: Trade for Jack Clark shook Cards from their slumber

Given a choice of facing Del Ennis or Stan Musial with runners in scoring position and the game on the line, Warren Spahn did what no other big-league pitcher had done before him: He opted to pitch to Musial.

warren_spahnIt was the only time in Musial’s illustrious 22-year Cardinals career that a pitcher intentionally walked a batter in order to get to Musial.

It happened 60 years ago on a Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17, 1957, in a game between the Cardinals and Braves at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Pennant race

The slumping Cardinals, who had lost nine in a row, were fighting to remain in the 1957 National League pennant race when they went to Milwaukee for a four-game series in August. The Braves, riding a 10-game winning streak, were in first place, 7.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and Dodgers, who were tied for second.

St. Louis won the series opener, 6-2, behind the slugging of Ennis, who hit a three-run home run off Juan Pizarro.

Game 2 of the series matched Larry Jackson of the Cardinals against Lew Burdette.

The Cardinals jumped ahead with three runs in the first, but the Braves came back with two runs in the sixth and one in the eighth, tying the score at 3-3.

Managerial moves

Don McMahon, a rookie, relieved Burdette in the ninth. After Eddie Kasko grounded out, Jackson, the pitcher, hit a broken-bat pop fly to right that fell safely in front of Bob Hazle for a single. The next batter, Ken Boyer, reached base when shortstop Felix Mantilla booted a grounder for an error.

With Wally Moon at the plate, McMahon’s first pitch to him eluded catcher Del Crandall for a passed ball. Jackson advanced to third on the play and Boyer to second.

Braves manager Fred Haney lifted McMahon and brought in Spahn, a left-hander, to face Moon, a left-handed batter, with the count at 1-and-0.

Two nights earlier, on Aug. 15, Spahn had started against the Reds at Cincinnati and pitched a complete game in an 8-1 Braves victory. With one day of rest, the Braves ace was making his fourth and final relief appearance of the season.

Unforgettable ploy

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson countered by bringing in Ennis, a right-handed batter, to hit for Moon.

Ennis, batting .275 with 17 home runs, was a threat, but he was no Musial. At 36, Musial was having a sensational season. He was batting .333 and would finish the year at .351, earning his seventh NL batting crown.

Still, with first base open, Spahn issued an intentional walk to Ennis, loading the bases with one out and bringing Musial, a left-handed batter, to the plate.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said the sight of Spahn walking Ennis to face him is one “I’ll never forget.”

Musial fared well versus Spahn in his career _ .318 batting average and .412 on-base percentage _ but on this day the Braves pitcher won the showdown of future Hall of Famers.

Musial rapped a Spahn pitch on the ground to the second baseman _ Musial’s friend and former teammate, Red Schoendienst.

Schoendienst fielded the ball and flipped it to Mantilla for the force of Ennis at second. Mantilla’s relay throw to first baseman Frank Torre was in time to retire Musial, completing the inning-ending double play.

“He’s the only pitcher ever to walk a batter to face me,” Musial confirmed.

Back and forth

The drama wasn’t over. Another future Hall of Famer, Braves center fielder Hank Aaron, had a large role to play in the outcome.

In the 11th, with Spahn pitching, Don Blasingame led off for the Cardinals and stretched a routine single into a hustling double. Kasko grounded out to second, advancing Blasingame to third.

Jackson was due up next, but Hutchinson sent Walker Cooper, 42, to hit for the pitcher. Cooper lifted a long sacrifice fly to left, scoring Blasingame and giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.

Billy Muffett, a rookie, was Hutchinson’s choice to pitch the bottom half of the inning. Muffett retired the first batter, Schoendienst, on a pop-up.

The next batter, Frank Torre, hit a low line drive to left. Ennis lumbered in, got a glove on the ball and dropped it. Torre, credited with a single, was replaced by pinch-runner Hawk Taylor.

Eddie Mathews followed with a single to center. Boyer, playing center field, hesitated on his throw, enabling Taylor to reach third.

That brought Aaron to the plate.

Hank hammers

Aaron was angry. In the ninth, Jackson had moved Aaron off the plate with a high, tight pitch. Aaron, in comments to the Associated Press, accused Jackson of “trying to stick one in my ear.”

“It’s on purpose,” Aaron said. “I can tell when they’re throwing at me.

“If that’s the only way they can win a ballgame, they ought to get other jobs. I don’t mind being brushed back _ you expect that _ but I don’t like them balls aimed at my head. We don’t knock Stan Musial down, so why do they do it to me?”

Aaron hit Muffett’s first pitch to him into right-center for a double. Taylor trotted home from third, tying the score at 4-4. Racing from first, Mathews headed toward the plate and barely beat Blasingame’s relay throw, giving the Braves a 5-4 victory and making a winner of Spahn. Boxscore

The Braves went on to clinch the pennant, finishing eight games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals.

Previously: Del Ennis provided power in Cardinals lineup

In a union of legendary rivals who represented baseball at its best, Stan Musial hired Warren Spahn to be a manager in the Cardinals organization.

spahn_musialFifty years ago, on Feb. 25, 1967, a month after he was named Cardinals general manager, Musial bypassed Sparky Anderson and selected Spahn to be manager of the Class AAA Tulsa Oilers.

Anderson had managed the Cardinals’ Class A St. Petersburg club to a league championship in 1966 and reportedly was the top internal candidate for the Tulsa opening.

Spahn, who never had managed, was the recommended choice of Tulsa owner A. Ray Smith.

Though Cardinals executives such as farm director George Silvey had input, Musial, as general manager, had the final decision regarding who to hire as manager for the Cardinals’ top affiliate.

Matchup of marvels

In Spahn, Musial chose the candidate who had been his respected nemesis during their Hall of Fame playing careers.

Spahn, who pitched 21 seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the Braves, is the all-time leader in career wins (363) among left-handers. Musial, who played 22 seasons in the major leagues, all with the Cardinals, is the all-time leader in total bases (6,134) among left-handed batters.

Their matchups spanned the 1940s to 1960s. Musial has a career .318 batting average and .412 on-base percentage against Spahn, according to the Web site retrosheet.org. Musial has more hits (104), doubles (23), triples (6) and walks (50) versus Spahn than any other player. Only Willie Mays (18) hit more home runs against Spahn than Musial (17) did.

In his 1964 book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial called Spahn “the best National League pitcher of my era.”

“Spahnie was more than a student of pitching,” Musial said. “He was a scientist.”

Musial concluded: “It was a great challenge to hit against this cunning guy … and I’m proud to have done well.”

Pressure on Stan

If not for Bob Howsam’s departure, Musial and Spahn might never have worked together and Anderson might not have left the Cardinals.

On Jan. 22, 1967, Howsam resigned as Cardinals general manager and became executive vice president and general manager of the Reds. Musial, a Cardinals vice president, took on the additional role of general manager.

One of Howsam’s cronies was Tulsa manager Charlie Metro, who was waiting in the wings in case Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst faltered. Metro followed Howsam to the Reds, accepting a job as a scout.

With spring training close to opening, Musial and the Cardinals had to scramble to find a replacement for Metro in Tulsa.

Spahn, 45, was residing on his 2,800-acre cattle ranch in Hartshorne, Okla., about 120 miles from Tulsa. He made it known he wanted to get back into baseball. Smith was thrilled by the possibility of having a baseball icon manage his club, so the Oilers owner went to work on trying to convince Musial to make it happen.

On Feb. 20, 1967, Musial said Smith’s request was under review and that he hoped to announce a choice soon, The Sporting News reported.

Smith told the Associated Press that Musial had been pressured to select a candidate from within the Cardinals’ organization, “but we fought a hard fight” for Spahn.

Though Anderson was “first choice for the position,” according to The Sporting News, Spahn got the Tulsa job. Anderson was assigned to manage the Cardinals’ Class A club at Modesto, Calif.

Rookie manager

Spahn’s hiring was announced by Smith at a news conference at Tulsa’s prestigious Southern Hills Country Club.

“The Oilers and Tulsa are mighty lucky to get a man of Spahn’s caliber,” Smith said.

Said Spahn: “I’ve always wanted an opportunity to manage. The ranch is great, but it’s more like a plaything. I’d like to manage in Tulsa for 10 years. Naturally, I’m for a major-league job someday, but first I’ve got to earn that.”

Tulsa opened the 1967 season with a roster that included pitchers Tracy Stallard and Wayne Granger; catchers Pat Corrales and Sonny Ruberto; infielders Elio Chacon, Bobby Dews and Coco Laboy; and outfielder Danny Napoleon.

Other managers in the Pacific Coast League that season included Chuck Tanner of the Seattle Angels, Whitey Lockman of the Tacoma Cubs, Bob Skinner of the San Diego Padres and Mickey Vernon of the Vancouver Mounties.

Under Spahn, Tulsa had a dismal 1967 season (65-79), though he did receive high marks for helping to develop starting pitchers Mike Torrez (10 wins) and Hal Gilson (15 wins). Silvey noted that Spahn “must have helped Torrez quite a bit. Mike has added a curve and he’s faster.”

Meanwhile, Anderson led Modesto to a 79-61 record and a league championship in 1967. After the season, Anderson joined the Reds as manager of their Class AA Asheville club.

Anderson “was so upset at being bypassed (for the Tulsa job) that he quit the Cardinals organization,” The Sporting News reported.

Two years after leaving the Cardinals, Anderson was named manager of the Reds and went on to build a Hall of Fame career.

Ups and downs

In 1968, Spahn took Tulsa from worst to first. The Oilers finished 95-53 and won the league championship.

Spahn managed Tulsa in 1969 (79-61), 1970 (70-70) and 1971 (64-76) before he was fired by Cardinals general manager Bing Devine.

“Devine said I had been here five years and there were young prospective managers in the organization who needed to move up,” Spahn said.

Though Spahn went on to work as a coach and instructor with other organizations, Tulsa would be the only team he would manage.

Previously: How Charlie Metro miffed Stan Musial

Previously: Cardinals boosted managing career of Sparky Anderson

Previously: Warren Spahn and his Cardinals connection

Previously: Why the Cardinals fired Warren Spahn

Three days after making his major-league debut with his hometown team, infielder Bob Sadowski was traded by the Cardinals for a player they thought could challenge Curt Flood for the center field job.

robert_sadowskiThe deal sent Sadowski on an odyssey during which he played for three big-league clubs in the next three years before returning to the minors, including a second stint in the Cardinals system.

Sadowski, 79, died Jan. 6, 2017 _ a week before his 80th birthday.

Talented infielder

Born and raised in St. Louis, Sadowski played baseball at Webster Groves High School and with the Maplewood American Legion team. A teammate on both clubs was future Cardinals outfielder Charlie James.

In 1955, when Sadowski was 18, he impressed the Cardinals at a tryout camp and they signed him to a contract.

A left-handed batter who could play multiple positions, especially third base and second base, Sadowski established himself as a prime prospect with a strong season for the Billings Mustangs of the Class C Pioneer League in 1957. Sadowski batted .302 and produced 20 doubles, 13 triples and 15 home runs for Billings.

Sadowski caught the attention of the Cardinals again in 1959 when he batted .290 with 24 doubles and 12 triples for Omaha of the Class AAA American Association.

Omaha manager Joe Schultz tabbed Sadowski as a player with a bright future. The Sporting News declared him “a talented infielder.” After the 1959 season, the Cardinals put Sadowski on their big-league roster.

Cardinals call

At Cardinals spring training camp in 1960, Sadowski developed astigmatism, making objects at a distance appear blurry or wavy, and eyeglasses were prescribed for him, The Sporting News reported.

He opened the 1960 season with the Cardinals’ affiliate at Rochester in the Class AAA International League. Batting .223 after 51 games, Sadowski was loaned to the White Sox Class AAA farm club in San Diego. He revived his career with the Pacific Coast League team, batting .340 in 64 games.

Impressed, the Cardinals promoted Sadowski to the big leagues in September 1960.

Debut at home

On Sept. 16, 1960, a Friday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Sadowski, 23, lived a dream by making his major-league debut for the Cardinals.

After five innings, in a game delayed an hour and 32 minutes by rain, the Giants led, 6-0. Cardinals manager Solly Hemus made several substitutions, including putting in Sadowski at second base to replace Julian Javier.

Sadowski led off the St. Louis half of the sixth against reliever Stu Miller, formerly of the Cardinals, and grounded out to third baseman Jim Davenport.

In the eighth, Orlando Cepeda reached on an error by Sadowski. In the Cardinals’ half of the inning, Sadowski reached on a walk. He was stranded when Miller struck out Bill White and got Stan Musial and Ken Boyer on pop-outs. Boxscore

That one game would be Sadowski’s lone appearance with the Cardinals.

Trade bait

With Javier at second and Boyer at third, the Cardinals were strong in the two positions Sadowski played best. What the Cardinals thought they needed was to bolster the center field position. Flood, the everyday center fielder, hit .237 for the 1960 Cardinals. Hemus was seeking better production from that position.

On Sept. 19, 1960, the Cardinals acquired center fielder Don Landrum from the Phillies for Sadowski and three players on their Rochester roster _ outfielder Jim Frey, second baseman Wally Shannon and pitcher Dick Ricketts.

Landrum, 24, had spent the 1960 season with the Phillies’ Class AAA farm club at Buffalo, where he batted .292 and led the International League in hits (178), doubles (35) and runs scored (112).

The Sporting News praised Landrum as being “a capable fly chaser who can also swing the bat.”

On the day of the trade, Landrum joined the Cardinals in time for their game that night against the Dodgers at St. Louis. He produced three singles and a stolen base. Two nights later, Landrum hit a home run and a triple off the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale.

Versatile prospect

Like the Cardinals, the Phillies had an established starter at second base in Tony Taylor. Sadowski was acquired to be a backup.

Under the headline “Phils Bolster Infield, Land Keystone Kid,” The Sporting News reported: “Because of his versatility, it is possible Sadowski might land a utility infield spot” with the 1961 Phillies.

Sadowski batted .130 in 16 games for the 1961 Phillies. He was traded to the White Sox after the season and hit .231 with six home runs for them in 79 games in 1962. Selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft, Sadowski hit .250 in 88 games for them in 1963.

Back where he began

Sadowski spent the rest of his playing days in the minor leagues. After starting the 1968 season with the Syracuse Chiefs, Sadowski rejoined the Cardinals’ organization and was assigned to the Class AAA Tulsa Oilers of the Pacific Coast League.

Playing for manager Warren Spahn, Sadowski, 31, filled a utility role and helped Tulsa to the league championship. “Sadowski’s hitting perked up the Oilers, especially over short stretches,” The Sporting News noted.

In 1969, his last season in organized baseball, Sadowski returned to the Angels’ organization as an infielder for the Class AA El Paso Sun Kings, who were managed by former Cardinals catcher Del Rice.

The Cardinals reacquired Sadowski in June 1969 and he finished the season with Class AA Arkansas and Class A Cedar Rapids.

Previously: Daryl Spencer followed in footsteps of Marty Marion

After being fired from his job as Yankees manager in 1966, Johnny Keane was looking forward to rebuilding his career in 1967. The Angels had hired him to be a special assignment scout. Keane hoped that role would position him to become a big-league manager again and provide him the chance to replicate the success he had when he led the 1964 Cardinals to a World Series title.

johnny_keane3The spirit was willing, but the body was not.

Fifty years ago, on Jan. 6, 1967, Keane, 55, died of a heart attack at his home in Houston.

Code of honor

Keane, a St. Louis native who studied for the priesthood at St. Louis Prep Seminary, abided by a principled personal code of fair play, dignity and loyalty.

In August 1964, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch violated that code by firing Keane’s friends _ general manager Bing Devine, business manager Art Routzong and player personnel director Eddie Stanky _ and plotting to replace Keane with Leo Durocher. Unwilling to continue working for Busch, Keane resigned following the Cardinals’ World Series triumph over the Yankees. Soon after, Keane became Yankees manager, inheriting a club of aging, injury-prone players.

When the Yankees finished with a 77-85 record in 1965 and followed that by losing 16 of their first 20 games in 1966, Keane took the fall.

Some believed the emotional toll of Keane’s departures from the Cardinals and Yankees within a span of 19 months contributed to his death.

In a less romanticized view, St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg, knowing Keane’s toughness and resiliency, wrote, “There is a tendency among the poets in the press box to suggest (Keane) died of a broken heart. Possibly, but not probably.”

Career Cardinal

Keane devoted most of his professional career to the Cardinals, working for them in four decades. He joined their farm system as a shortstop in 1930. His development was curtailed in 1935 when he was struck in the head by a pitch from Sig Jakucki and suffered a fractured skull. Three years later, Keane became player-manager for the Cardinals’ farm club in Albany, Ga. He spent 21 seasons as a manager in the St. Louis farm system and had winning records in 17 of those years.

Keane was a candidate to become Cardinals manager in 1951, but the job went to Marty Marion. Twice after that, Keane rejected offers to become a Cardinals coach because, “I wanted to go up as a manager,” he told The Sporting News.

In 1959, Keane, on the advice of Devine, reconsidered his stance and made it to the major leagues for the first time as a coach on the staff of Cardinals manager Solly Hemus. Keane replaced Hemus in July 1961 and led the Cardinals to a 47-33 record. The Cardinals also produced winning records in Keane’s three full seasons as their manager: 84-78 in 1962, 93-69 in 1963 and 93-69 again in 1964.

My way

With players such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Tony Kubek sidelined by injuries, the Yankees under Keane went from champions to also-rans. When the Yankees decided Keane no longer should be their manager, they offered to make a deal with him to prevent the move from being announced as a firing. Keane refused to go along with the scheme.

“Yes, that’s what happened,” Keane said to Chuck Fierson of the Oneonta (N.Y.) Star. “The Yanks told me that, if I said I was retiring because of my health, they would give me a job in the front office. But my health is OK and I don’t want a front office job. Besides that, I didn’t like the idea of making up excuses.”

Three months later, in July 1966, the Braves fired manager Bobby Bragan. Keane was their choice to replace him, according to columnist Dick Young in The Sporting News.

Keane, though, didn’t want to step in until the season was completed. “He preferred to start fresh,” Young said. Billy Hitchcock, a Braves coach, was named interim manager. When Hitchcock led the Braves to a 33-18 mark to finish the season, the interim tag was removed from his title and Keane was out of the picture.

True gentleman

By December 1966, Keane, eager to get back into baseball, was grateful to receive the offer to scout for the Angels.

To prepare for his role, Keane bought a new car on Jan. 6, 1967, so that he’d have a reliable vehicle to take him on scouting trips.

After dinner that evening, Keane told his wife he was feeling ill. At 10:30, Keane collapsed and died.

Dr. William Sutton, Keane’s physician, said Keane “had been under treatment for heart trouble and high blood pressure, but had not suffered a previous heart attack,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Reacting to news of Keane’s death, Ken Boyer, third baseman for the 1964 Cardinals, said Keane was the type of person “you would be proud to have for a brother or father.”

Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford said Keane “was the first person to visit me in the hospital after my operation last season _ and that was after he had been dropped as manager.”

Michael Burke, Yankees president, noted that Keane “won everyone’s respect” and “his own self-respect and quiet sense of personal dignity was never compromised.”

Said Stan Musial, who played his final three seasons for Keane: “Johnny was one of the finest guys in baseball. We was a gentleman and a real credit to the game.”

Faithful friends

The funeral for Keane was held in Houston three days after his death. Among the pallbearers were Devine, Routzong and two of Keane’s coaches from his Cardinals staff, Vern Benson and Howie Pollet.

Milton Richman of United Press International wrote that Keane “had more friends than he knew” and that Keane and Devine “were almost like brothers.”

Keane was survived by his wife, daughter and two grandsons.

Three months after the funeral, Young reported that, although Keane had been employed by the Angels for only one month, the club honored him by paying his widow the year’s salary Keane would have received as special assignment scout.

Previously: Johnny Keane to Gussie Busch: Take this job, shove it

As a player, Stan Musial rose to the challenge of converting from a pitcher to an outfielder. The move saved his career and launched him on a path to becoming the all-time greatest Cardinal. As an executive, Musial continued to take on challenges. He joined the Cardinals’ front office as a vice president in 1963 and, four years later, accepted a second role.

musial_schoendienst2Musial, 46, surprised many when he became Cardinals general manager on Jan. 23, 1967 — 50 years ago. Musial took the job a day after it was announced Bob Howsam, the Cardinals’ general manager since August 1964, had resigned to become executive vice president and general manager of the Reds.

At the time, Musial had many business and civic achievements. He owned a restaurant, a hotel and a sports equipment company, and he was an ambassador in promoting physical fitness for President Lyndon Johnson.

Still, he missed being directly involved in big-league baseball.

“The main reason I took the job is that I found myself with nothing to do,” Musial said to columnist Dick Young in The Sporting News. “I’d go into the restaurant, spend an hour or so there, and then have a lot of time on my hands for the rest of the day. All my other interests are pretty much running themselves. My son (Dick Musial) is running my sporting goods business and everything else is going smoothly. I needed something to do.”

Lillian Musial, Stan’s wife, explained that her husband’s decision was driven by a desire “to be closer to baseball again.”

Ready or not

When Howsam informed the Cardinals in January 1967 he was departing, club owner Gussie Busch said it took 15 minutes to decide Musial should become general manager. “We called a meeting of the executive committee and we decided right away,” Busch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Musial, whose first full season in the big leagues was 1942, said: “It’s taken me 25 years to reach this station and, you know, I kind of think I deserve it.”

As vice president, Musial had developed “an increasingly larger voice in the direction of the club, especially in regard to making trades.” the Post-Dispatch reported. “Musial indicated that he could have had the general manager job much earlier.”

Said Busch: “Since his retirement as an active player, he has become familiar with front office operations. He has served an apprenticeship as few men have in baseball.”

Stan and friends

Musial agreed to work with no contract _ “I might say that Mr. Busch’s word is better than a contract,” Musial said _ and for a salary of about $35,000.

As general manager, Musial’s first move was to hire Bob Stewart as executive assistant. Stewart, a former athletic director at St. Louis University, had earned Musial’s trust and respect as administrator of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Stewart’s role was key, because Musial “will concentrate on the playing personnel instead of devoting considerable time to routine administrative phases of the club’s operation,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Musial had another trusted ally in Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst. They were longtime friends and had been road roommates as players.

Schoendienst entered the 1967 season, his third as Cardinals manager, with a one-year contract. The Cardinals hadn’t contended since he replaced Johnny Keane.

“It is only fair to say that both Stan and Red fully understand that record _ and not personal friendship _ will be the judge of the future,” Busch said.

Unfazed, Musial said, “Red has had a couple of years under his belt in rebuilding the ballclub and I’m sure we’ll work together well and be together a long time.”

Said Schoendienst: “I know Stan well and he knows me well. He just might make me work harder.”

Tough enough

Media reaction to Musial’s hiring was supportive but cautious.

Bob Broeg, Post-Dispatch sports editor, wrote, “For Musial, stepping in to run a ballclub rather than into the batter’s box, is a risk for which The Man must be prepared. … It’ll be no easy job.”

In an editorial, The Sporting News suggested, “Musial is risking his hero toga in moving behind the GM desk for the club to which he contributed so much on the field.”

Asked whether his nice guy reputation might conflict with being a general manager, Musial told Young, “I can be as tough as I have to be, but that’s overdone. You don’t have to be tough at trade talks. I’ve sat in on enough of them to know. The hardest part is cutting some player’s pay.”

Broeg revealed a comment Musial made when they had worked together on his autobiography: “Most friends … think I don’t want to be a manager because I’d find it too hard not to be easy on the players,” Musial confided. “I’m afraid I’d be too demanding.”

That’s a winner

In Musial’s lone season in the dual role of vice president and general manager, the Cardinals won the 1967 National League pennant and World Series title. Though the roster largely was built by his predecessors _ Bing Devine and Howsam _ Musial did more as general manager than he usually gets credited for doing.

Musial created an atmosphere of confidence and professionalism that enabled players and staff to relax and perform at their best. It was quite a contrast to Howsam, who had hounded players with memos that told them how to dress, stand and sit and who had made it known he had a friend, minor-league manager Charlie Metro, waiting in the wings to take over for Schoendienst if the Cardinals skipper stumbled.

Howsam was the executive who acquired right fielder Roger Maris for the 1967 Cardinals, but it was Musial who closed the deal. Maris was considering retiring when the Yankees traded him to St. Louis. After Howsam departed, Musial listened to Maris’ concerns without pressuring him, made him feel appreciated and convinced the skittish slugger to report to spring training.

Said Maris: “It should be good working with men like Musial and Schoendienst because they know all about the game.”

Previously: Why Bob Howsam left Cardinals for Reds