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Dick Sisler, a standout as a St. Louis prep school athlete and son of a Hall of Fame baseball player, came to the Cardinals amid high expectations. He earned starts in two Opening Day lineups for the Cardinals but departed before he developed into a major-league all-star.

Seventy years ago, on April 7, 1948, the Cardinals traded Sisler to the Phillies for infielder Ralph LaPointe and $20,000.

Initially, the deal disappointed Sisler, who hoped to establish a big-league career with the hometown Cardinals. Sisler soon learned, however, that joining the Phillies was a good break for him.

Preps to pros

Dick Sisler excelled at baseball, basketball, football and track at John Burroughs School in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue. His father, George Sisler, a first baseman, was one of baseball’s best hitters, primarily for the St. Louis Browns of the American League, in a major-league career that spanned from 1915 to 1930.

As a high school senior, Dick Sisler accepted a college scholarship offer from Colgate, but when the Cardinals came calling with a professional contract in February 1939, Sisler, 18, went with them instead.

Sisler made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in 1946, starting at first base on Opening Day. When a hand injury sidelined Sisler in June, Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer moved Stan Musial from the outfield to first base. Musial did well there, and after Sisler recovered from his injury, Dyer kept Musial at first base and put Sisler in left field. Sisler hit .260 with 42 RBI in 83 games as a Cardinals rookie.

When the 1947 season opened, the Cardinals started Musial at first base and Sisler in left field. Sisler, though, didn’t provide the power the Cardinals sought, and in May they acquired left fielder Ron Northey from the Phillies and moved Sisler to the bench. Sisler batted .203 in 46 games for the 1947 Cardinals.

When Sisler signed his Cardinals contract for the 1948 season, Robert Hannegan, the club’s owner, informed Sisler that Musial would be moved back to the outfield. Sisler was told he would have the chance to compete for the starting first base job, but would be traded if someone else got the role, according to The Sporting News.

Spring cleaning

Sisler played well for the Cardinals at spring training in Florida. “Dick was meeting the ball better and seemed to be on his way to a bright season,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Sisler told the St. Louis Star-Times, “I was given to understand that I had a real chance to make the Cardinals’ ball club if I had a good spring training season. Well, I had a big spring. I know I led the club in home runs. In extra-base slugging, my percentage must have been over .600.”

After the Cardinals left Florida and made their way north, they stopped in Columbus, Ga., to play an exhibition game on April 7 against their minor-league team there. After the game, the Cardinals were at a team barbecue when Hannegan approached Sisler and told him he’d been traded to the Phillies.

The Post-Dispatch reported the deal as “something of a surprise move” and the Pulitzer-owned newspaper’s editorial page opined that the Cardinals are “going to regret trading Dick Sisler.”

According to the Star-Times, the trade was made because Dyer and Sisler “were hardly of one mind on Dick’s baseball abilities or on other subjects.”

The Sporting News, however, said Dyer planned to start Sisler, a left-handed batter, at first base, but changed his mind because he wanted a right-handed batter to better balance a lineup that included left-handed hitters such as Musial, Northey and Enos Slaughter. After the trade, Dyer named Nippy Jones, a right-handed batter, to start at first base.

“I feel the deal ultimately will prove to be in Sisler’s best interest as well as the Cardinals’,” Hannegan said.

Philadelphia freedom

After Sisler reported to the Phillies, he appeared to be more naturally relaxed in his approach than he had been with the Cardinals. “Perhaps it would have been better for Dick if he had started in a town other than St. Louis, someplace where the fans didn’t have as many recollections of his brilliant dad,” columnist J.G. Taylor Spink wrote in The Sporting News.

Meanwhile, LaPointe, the player the Cardinals acquired from the Phillies for Sisler, was tabbed by Dyer to be a backup to Red Schoendienst at second base and to Marty Marion at shortstop.

“Coming to this ball club is like falling into Utopia,” LaPointe said.

Sisler batted .274 with 56 RBI for the 1948 Phillies and Jones, his replacement at first base, hit .254 with 81 RBI for the 1948 Cardinals. In his lone St. Louis season, LaPointe batted .225 in 1948.

Sisler had his all-star season with the 1950 Phillies, hitting .296 with 83 RBI. In the final regular-season game that year, Sisler hit a three-run home run in the 10th inning against Don Newcombe, lifting the Phillies to a 4-1 pennant-clinching victory over the Dodgers.

In four seasons with the Phillies, Sisler hit .287. He went to the Reds in 1952 but was traded back to the Cardinals in May that year. He finished his big-league playing career with the 1953 Cardinals.

After a stint as a minor-league manager, Sisler was a Reds coach from 1961-64. Late in the 1964 season, he replaced an ailing Fred Hutchinson as Reds manager and guided them into a pennant race with the Cardinals and Phillies. The Reds finished in second place when the Cardinals clinched the pennant on the last day of the regular season.

Sisler managed the Reds in 1965, and though the club finished 89-73, he was fired after the season. He was a Cardinals coach on manager Red Schoendienst’s staff from 1966-70, and he also coached for the 1975-76 Padres (managed by John McNamara) and the 1979-80 Mets (managed by Joe Torre).

Francisco Pena provided one of the surprises of the Cardinals’ 2018 spring training, leapfrogging ahead of prospect Carson Kelly and earning the backup catcher spot behind Yadier Molina on the Opening Day roster.

Pena, son of former Cardinals catcher Tony Pena, played in the Mets’ minor-league system for seven seasons (2007-13) before reaching the major leagues with the Royals in 2014. After the 2015 season, his contract was sold to the Orioles and Pena was with them in 2016 and 2017.

The Cardinals signed Pena, 28, after he was granted free agency in October 2017.

Here are six fun facts to know about the Cardinals catcher:

Chip off the old block

Ed Spiezio and Scott Spiezio are the only father-son duo to hit home runs for the Cardinals. Ed Spiezio played five years (1964-69) for the Cardinals and hit five home runs for them. His son, Scott Spiezio, played two years (2006-07) for the Cardinals and hit 17 home runs for them.

The Penas are looking to become the second father-son pair to achieve the feat with St. Louis.

Francisco Pena has hit three home runs in the major leagues. His father Tony hit 107 big-league home runs, including 19 in three seasons (1987-89) with the Cardinals. Tony helped the Cardinals win the 1987 National League pennant and he was an all-star with them in 1989.

Family history

Francisco Pena never got to see his father Tony play for the Cardinals. Francisco was born on Oct. 12, 1989, 11 days after Tony played in his final game for the Cardinals. Tony Pena became a free agent on Nov. 13, 1989, and signed with the Red Sox two weeks later.

Mets mentors

Although Francisco Pena never played a big-league game for the Mets, he was influenced by two second basemen from their 1986 World Series championship club.

Tim Teufel was Pena’s first minor-league manager, with the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats in 2007. Teufel managed Pena again in 2009 with the St. Lucie (Fla.) Mets. In 2013, Pena played for the Las Vegas 51s, who were managed by Wally Backman.

Strong arm

Francisco Pena made his major-league debut with the Royals on May 20, 2014, and quickly displayed his defensive skills.

Entering the game in the ninth inning as a replacement for starting catcher Brett Hayes, Pena threw out White Sox runner Adam Eaton, who was attempting to steal second base. Boxscore

Honoring Mom

On May 13, 2017, Francisco Pena hit two home runs in a game against his former team.

Pena hit solo home runs in the third and fifth innings against Royals starter Nathan Karns at Kansas City. Boxscore

In batting practice that night, on the eve of Mother’s Day, Pena predicted he would hit a home run for his mother, The Baltimore Sun reported. Swinging a pink bat, he delivered.

Liking lefties

In 28 major-league games entering the 2018 season, Francisco Pena, a right-handed batter, hit .246. He hit .348 (8-for-23) against left-handers and .176 versus right-handers.

 

Ed Charles hit the most important home run of his major-league career against the Cardinals.

Charles, who died March 15, 2018, at age 84, was a third baseman who played eight seasons in the big leagues with the Athletics (1962-67) and Mets (1967-69).

In 1969, Charles hit a home run against the Cardinals’ Steve Carlton that helped the Mets clinch their first postseason berth.

Carlton cursed

The 1969 season was the first for divisional play in the major leagues. The Cardinals were two-time defending National League champions. The Mets, who joined the league in 1962 as an expansion team, never had experienced a winning season.

Few predicted the Mets would be the league’s best team in 1969. Yet, entering their game against the Cardinals on Sept. 24 at New York, the Mets were in first place in the NL East and needed one win to clinch the division title.

The game matched Carlton, the future Hall of Fame left-hander, against Gary Gentry. A week earlier, on Sept. 15 at St. Louis, Carlton struck out 19 Mets, including Charles twice, but the Cardinals were beaten, 4-3, on a pair of two-run home runs by Ron Swoboda. Boxscore

Career climax

Determined to clinch the playoff berth before a sellout crowd at Shea Stadium, the Mets looked motivated from the start of their Sept. 24 match with the Cardinals. With one out in the first inning, Donn Clendenon hit a three-run home run and, after Swoboda walked, Charles hit a two-run home run, giving the Mets a 5-0 lead and prompting manager Red Schoendienst to remove Carlton from the game. The Mets cruised to a 6-0 victory.

“Boom. Boom. We’re dethroned,” Schoendienst said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in describing the first inning salvos by the Mets.

Said Carlton: “Tonight was the worst experience of my life.”

The home run by Charles was a drive to right-center. Curt Flood, the Cardinals’ center fielder, banged against the wall in pursuit of the ball and was taken out of the game after two innings because of a bruised knee. Video

Charles clapped his hands as he rounded the bases because, as he informed United Press International, “I wanted to tell the fans, and tell the world, this home run meant more to me than any other in my life.” Boxscore

At 36, Charles was a platoon player on a roster filled with teammates entering their primes. “I am in the twilight zone,” Charles said. “I’m not like these younger guys. There is going to be a next year for them. There may not be another next year for me.”

Pinch-hit power

Indeed, after the Mets went on to win the NL Championship Series against the Braves and the World Series versus the Orioles, Charles was released and didn’t play again.

A right-handed batter, Charles posted a .263 career batting average. He made his major-league debut two weeks before turning 29 and hit .288 with 17 home runs as a rookie with the 1962 Athletics.

In 37 career games against the Cardinals, Charles batted .228.

Before his home run against Carlton, Charles’ best performance versus the Cardinals occurred in 1968 when he delivered pinch-hit home runs in consecutive games. On June 1, Charles, batting for Kevin Collins, hit an eighth-inning home run against Joe Hoerner, Boxscore and on June 2, in the opener of a doubleheader, Charles batted for Al Jackson and hit a seventh-inning home run against Bob Gibson. Boxscore

According to The Sporting News, Charles became the sixth National League batter to hit pinch-hit home runs in consecutive times at-bat and just the second to do it on consecutive days. Dale Long of the Cubs hit pinch-hit home runs on consecutive days vs. the Giants on Aug. 13-14, 1959.

(Updated March 29, 2018)

The Cardinals, who began the 2018 regular season against the Mets at Citi Field on March 29, haven’t won an Opening Day game in New York since 1963.

The Mets and Cardinals have faced one another in a season opener eight times. The Cardinals won the first two, in 1962 at St. Louis and in 1963 at the Polo Grounds, and the Mets won the last six in a row. Here is a look at those opening games:

April 11, 1962, at St. Louis

Stan Musial, 41, batted cleanup and was 3-for-3 with a walk, two RBI and a run scored, leading the Cardinals to an 11-4 victory in the first regular-season game played by the expansion Mets.

In the game story headlined, “Musial Stalls Father Time, Helps Cards To Fast Start,” Musial told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I want to get those hits quick. You never know when fate may step in.”

Said Mets manager Casey Stengel of Musial: “He’s still doing a great job, but that’s what they’re paying him for.”

The Cardinals scored five runs in three innings against Mets starter Roger Craig. Julian Javier contributed four singles and Bill White had three RBI.

Cardinals starter Larry Jackson pitched a complete game. “I didn’t have my good stuff,” Jackson said. “Everything I threw seemed to be high.” Boxscore

April 9, 1963, at New York

Ernie Broglio pitched a two-hit shutout in a 7-0 triumph for the Cardinals. Both Mets hits were produced by their leadoff batter, Larry Burright, who singled and doubled. Broglio retired 20 batters in a row.

“It’s tough to wait for one pitch from Broglio because he has so many different pitches and he can get all of them over the plate,” said Mets cleanup batter Duke Snider.

Said Cardinals catcher Carl Sawatski: “Ernie was hitting the corners all afternoon. He didn’t put more than six pitches over the heart of the plate.”

Craig started again for the Mets and yielded seven runs in 5.1 innings. George Altman had four singles. Musial produced a single, a walk and a RBI. Boxscore

April 9, 1985, at New York

With one out in the 10th inning, Gary Carter hit a home run against Neil Allen, lifting the Mets to a 6-5 victory. “That was the best curveball I’d thrown all day,” Allen said. “It was down and away … He had to be looking for it.”

The Mets took a 5-4 lead into the ninth, but the Cardinals tied the score when Doug Sisk walked Jack Clark with two outs and the bases loaded. “I’ll take it,” Clark said. “It’s another RBI, but I would rather have mashed it.” Boxscore

April 3, 1989, at New York

Cardinals starter Joe Magrane gave up seven runs in 3.2 innings and the Mets won, 8-4. “I was wild in the strike zone,” Magrane said. “The ball was up and I think that was why they were able to get a lot of those balls through the infield. Normally, the pitches I make there are broken bats or ground balls.”

Howard Johnson produced a two-run single against Magrane in the third inning and a solo home run against Todd Worrell in the eighth.

Pedro Guerrero drove in all four Cardinals runs. Boxscore

April 6, 1992, at St. Louis

The Mets got a run against closer Lee Smith in the ninth, tying the score at 2-2, and won when Bobby Bonilla hit a two-run home run against Smith in the 10th. “I was hoping to throw a backdoor slider, but Bonilla went through the wrong door,” Smith said.

Bonilla also hit a solo home run against starter Jose DeLeon. Boxscore

April 1, 1996, at New York

The Mets scored four in the seventh against relievers Rick Honeycutt, Cory Bailey and Tony Fossas, erasing a 6-3 deficit, and went on to 7-6 victory, spoiling the regular-season Cardinals debut of manager Tony La Russa.

A pair of former Cardinals, Lance Johnson and Bernard Gilkey, sparked the Mets. Johnson drove in a run and scored one. Gilkey had two RBI and a run scored.

“This is a game we should have won,” La Russa said. “We did a lot of good things, but I don’t feel like I had a lot of fun today. It’s kind of hard to believe we got beat, but we did.” Boxscore

April 1, 2007, at St. Louis

Mets starter Tom Glavine limited the defending World Series champions to a run in six innings. Glavine “killed the Cardinals softly” and “made it look as smooth as a master violinist,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.

The heart of the Cardinals’ order, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, combined to produce one hit and no RBI.

Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter yielded five runs in six innings. Paul Lo Duca drove in three runs for the Mets and Carlos Delgado drove in two. Boxscore

March 29, 2018, at New York

Cardinals pitchers yielded nine walks, Cardinals batters struck out 15 times and the Mets won, 9-4. Yoenis Cespedes had three RBI for the Mets.

Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run for the Cardinals and his teammate, Jose Martinez, contributed three hits, including a home run, and two RBI. Boxscore

Lance Lynn was a prolific winner, a strikeout artist and a durable starter for the Cardinals, but, for all his attributes, the feat he struggled most to accomplish was pitching a complete-game shutout.

Before becoming a free agent and signing with the Twins on March 12, 2018, Lynn posted a regular-season career record of 72-47 (a .605 winning percentage) for the Cardinals, struck out 919 batters in 977.2 innings and pitched 175 innings or more in each of his last five active seasons with the club.

Though he made 161 regular-season starts for St. Louis, Lynn pitched only one complete-game shutout. That occurred on May 27, 2014, against the Yankees at St. Louis.

Sink or swim

Lynn, a right-hander who reached the major leagues with the Cardinals in 2011, won Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, became a full-fledged member of the starting rotation the following season and posted records of 18-7 in 2012 and 15-10 in 2013.

In 2014, he took a 5-2 record into his start against the Yankees at Busch Stadium.

Facing the Yankees for the only time in his big-league career, Lynn got them to hit into 15 groundouts. “They were caught off guard by the sinker and didn’t expect me to use it as much as you can,” Lynn said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I elevated later in the game to get fly balls when I needed it.”

The Yankees got five hits and three walks, but were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. “We squared some balls up,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to Newsday. “We had some chances to score a few runs.”

Cardinals hitters supported Lynn with four runs in the third and a run each in the fifth and seventh. Allen Craig and Matt Holliday each hit a solo home run.

Elusive goal

Lynn threw 116 pitches in eight innings. Manager Mike Matheny usually would relieve a pitcher at that point, but, knowing how much Lynn wanted a chance at a shutout, Matheny and Lynn reached a compromise. Matheny let Lynn start the ninth, but told him he would be lifted if a batter reached base.

Lynn retired the Yankees in order on 10 pitches, getting Yangervis Solarte and Alfonso Soriano to ground out and Brian Roberts to fly out. Boxscore

“Since my first day in the major leagues, that’s your goal, always to throw a complete-game shutout,” Lynn said. “Every time you go out there, that’s your goal _ not give up any runs and finish it. Took me way too long.”

Matheny told The Sports Xchange, “Everyone on the bench knew how much this meant to him. You could tell how long and hard he’d worked to make this happen. You could see the reaction of his teammates.”

(Updated March 29, 2018)

The Cardinals in 2018 opened a season in March for the fifth time. The March 29 game against the Mets at New York was the earliest date for a Cardinals regular-season opener.

The Cardinals won three of their five Opening Day games played in March. Here is a look at each:

March 31, 1998

Todd Stottlemyre pitched seven scoreless innings and Mark McGwire hit a grand slam in the fifth, carrying the Cardinals to a 6-0 victory over the Dodgers at St. Louis.

Stottlemyre limited the Dodgers to three hits, including two by rookie first baseman Paul Konerko. “I was trying to stay away from all the nervousness and the other things that go into Opening Day,” Stottlemyre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… Your gut is going all different directions.”

McGwire’s home run was the first grand slam hit by a Cardinals player in an Opening Day game. He connected on a changeup from Ramon Martinez, breaking a scoreless tie. “I was juiced up,” McGwire said. “I don’t know my own strength. I hope I don’t hurt anybody.”

Gary Gaetti and Willie McGee each produced a RBI-single in the eighth.

Braden Looper, making his major-league debut for the Cardinals, pitched the ninth and struck out Todd Zeile, Raul Mondesi and Konerko. “It’s amazing to see the command of his pitches,” McGwire said of Looper. “He basically doesn’t throw anything over the belt.” Boxscore

March 31, 2003

Scott Rolen hit a three-run home run, capping a six-run eighth inning, and the Cardinals held on for an 11-9 triumph over the Brewers at St. Louis.

Trailing 7-5 in the eighth, the Cardinals got a RBI-triple from Orlando Palmeiro and a RBI-double from Fernando Vina, tying the score. Kerry Robinson put the Cardinals ahead, 8-7, with a bunt single that scored Vina from third. After Robinson swiped second and Albert Pujols was walked intentionally, Rolen, playing in his first Cardinals season opener, hit a home run against Mike DeJean, giving the Cardinals an 11-7 lead.

The Cardinals needed the cushion Rolen provided. In the ninth, Richie Sexson hit a two-run home run against Cal Eldred. After Keith Ginter singled with one out, Steve Kline relieved and retired Jeffrey Hammonds and Wes Helms, sealing the win for St. Louis. Boxscore

“That was an ugly game,” Rolen said. “That’s not a game that you’re going to come out on top all the time.”

March 31, 2011

Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin blew a ninth-inning save opportunity and the Padres went on to win, 5-3, in 11 innings at St. Louis. It was the Cardinals’ first extra-inning opener since 1992.

Matt Holliday hit a home run in the eighth against Mike Adams, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Manager Tony La Russa brought in Franklin to pitch the ninth. Franklin retired the first two batters, Ryan Ludwick and Chase Headley, but Cameron Maybin swung at Franklin’s first pitch to him, a curveball, and launched it over the wall for a home run, tying the score.

Franklin described his pitch to Maybin as “a good, first-pitch strike.”

Said Maybin: “I got a pitch I recognized early out of his hand. If it’s in my zone, I’m going to attack it.”

In the 11th, Bryan Augenstein, making his Cardinals debut, gave up two runs after retiring the first two batters. The Cardinals were retired in order by Heath Bell in the bottom half of the inning.

“It was 11 innings of baseball that seemed like 111,” wrote columnist Bernie Miklasz. Boxscore

March 31, 2014

Adam Wainwright pitched seven shutout innings, the bullpen escaped an eighth-inning jam and Yadier Molina delivered the lone run, a home run against Johnny Cueto, lifting the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati.

Wainwright held the Reds to three hits, struck out nine and earned the first Opening Day win of his career. “I’ve never had this much fun pitching,” he said. “I’ve never felt as good about where I’m at.”

Molina hit a cutter from Cueto over the left field wall in the seventh inning. He also made several stellar defensive plays and clicked with Wainwright on calling pitches. “We were on the same page from the very first pitch of the game,” Wainwright said. “… I really think he’s the best I’ve ever seen at that position.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer declared, “Yadier Molina is Public Enemy No. 1 in Cincinnati and the Cardinals’ all-star catcher further endeared himself to Reds fans by ruining their 2014 Opening Day.”

In the eighth, after Wainwright departed, the Reds put runners on first and third, with no one out, but Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez kept the Reds from scoring. Trevor Rosenthal pitched a perfect ninth, marking the first time the Reds had been shut out on Opening Day since 1953 against the Braves. Boxscore

March 29, 2018, at New York

Cardinals pitchers yielded nine walks, Cardinals batters struck out 15 times and the Mets won, 9-4. Yoenis Cespedes had three RBI for the Mets.

Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run for the Cardinals and his teammate, Jose Martinez, contributed three hits, including a home run, and two RBI.

The Cardinals outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler went hitless in 12 at-bats, with eight strikeouts. Boxscore