Unwilling to part with Manny Aybar, the Cardinals almost didn’t make the trade for Mark McGwire.

Twenty years ago, in July 1997, the Cardinals went in search of a power hitter. They had discussions with the Blue Jays about Joe Carter and with the Tigers about Travis Fryman. The slugger they wanted most, though, was McGwire.

For the Cardinals to get him, the Athletics demanded a package that included Aybar, a top pitching prospect.

With the trade deadline of midnight July 31 fast approaching, the Cardinals held firm in their refusal to part with Aybar. As late as 6:30 p.m. on July 31, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said he thought the deal wouldn’t happen.

When the Athletics relented and settled instead for Eric Ludwick, the trade was made. The Cardinals got McGwire for three pitchers: T.J. Mathews, Blake Stein and Ludwick.

Thumbs up

On July 25, after losing to the Marlins at St. Louis, the Cardinals fell to 48-53, six games behind the first-place Astros in the National League Central Division.

Unwilling to concede, the Cardinals determined what they needed most was another run producer in a lineup that included Ray Lankford, Ron Gant and Gary Gaetti.

Two days later, on July 27, McGwire told reporters he strongly would consider a trade to the Cardinals.

McGwire was eligible to become a free agent after the 1997 season, so the Athletics were open to trading him if they could get a good return. Because McGwire was a 10-year veteran who had played five consecutive seasons with his current team, the Athletics needed his approval before they could deal him. That’s why it was significant when McGwire went public with his consent of a possible trade to St. Louis.

Art of the deal

Initially, the Athletics inquired about the availability of two of the Cardinals’ most promising starting pitchers, Alan Benes and Matt Morris.

When Jocketty made it clear neither would be traded, the Athletics set their sights on two prospects in the Cardinals’ minor-league system: Aybar and catcher Eli Marrero.

Jocketty didn’t want to trade them either.

On July 29, Jocketty rated the Cardinals’ chances of acquiring McGwire as 50-50, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Looking to keep options open, Jocketty spoke with the Blue Jays about Carter, but they wanted outfielder John Mabry. Jocketty said no.

The Tigers were willing to deal Fryman, but they wanted starting pitcher Todd Stottlemyre. Again, Jocketty said no.

McGwire remained the best option.

The Angels also had pursued McGwire, but when they dropped out of the bidding it left the Cardinals as the lone suitor and gave Jocketty leverage.

Holding firm

With their negotiating hand weakened, the Athletics ended their demand for Marrero _ they also has asked about two other prospects, pitcher Braden Looper and infielder Brent Butler _ but still insisted on Aybar being in the deal. Jocketty wouldn’t budge. “We couldn’t give up Aybar and Mathews,” he said.

Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson indicated to Jocketty the deal could be dead. “At one point,” Jocketty said, “I thought we weren’t going to be able to get it done.”

Faced with the likely prospect of getting nothing in return for McGwire if he departed as a free agent after the season, Alderson relented and took Ludwick instead of Aybar when he realized Jocketty wouldn’t change his stance.

“Sometimes free agency forces your decisions,” Alderson said.

Four days after talks began, the deal for McGwire was completed.

It takes a village

“We were determined to get a quality bat in the middle of our lineup and I think we got the best hitter we could,” Jocketty said.

McGwire twice had led the American League in home runs and three times was the league leader in slugging percentage.

“He’s probably the greatest power hitter of his time,” said Stottlemyre.

Said Cardinals coach Carney Lansford, who, like Stottlemyre, had been McGwire’s teammate with the Athletics: “Besides being one of the best players in the game, he’s a great person and a great leader in the clubhouse.”

Tony La Russa, who had managed McGwire with the Athletics before joining the Cardinals after the 1995 season, was happy to have the slugger on his team again, but cautioned that McGwire alone couldn’t lift the Cardinals into first place.

“The quality of everything else we do has to raise itself a couple of levels for us to win a lot of games,” La Russa said.

For McGwire to be most effective, La Russa said, “we have to get on base in front of (him).”

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, acknowledged McGwire “will provide entertainment” and “will be a menacing presence” in the lineup, but expressed concern that McGwire would depart as a free agent after the season. The Cardinals would have done better to trade for an emerging talent such as Jose Cruz, 23, of the Mariners, Miklasz wrote.

Slugging and scandal

Asked why he approved the trade, McGwire said, “I decided to do this because I needed a change and I needed a challenge.”

On Aug. 1, McGwire traveled from California to Philadelphia and joined the Cardinals 90 minutes before their game that night with the Phillies.

Inserted into the cleanup spot between Phil Plantier and Gant, McGwire was 0-for-3 with a walk against Garrett Stephenson and Ricky Bottalico.

McGwire went on to hit 24 home runs with 42 RBI in 51 games for the 1997 Cardinals. Still, St. Louis finished 73-89.

After the season, McGwire signed with the Cardinals. He hit 70 home runs with 147 RBI in 1998 and 65 home runs with 147 RBI in 1999, but the Cardinals failed to qualify for the postseason both years.

McGwire and the Cardinals got into the postseason in 2000 and 2001 but didn’t reach the World Series.

In five years with St. Louis, McGwire had 220 home runs and 473 RBI.

Though tainted by his subsequent admission of using banned performance-enhancing drugs, McGwire was elected by a majority of fan voters to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2017.

Previously: Mark McGwire had hot start to 1998 Cardinals season

Seeking to bolster their rotation and add a role model to mentor their young starting pitchers, the Cardinals wanted to bring back Matt Morris.

Confident in the offer they made to the Giants for Morris, the Cardinals were astonished when he was traded instead to the Pirates.

At the trading deadline 10 years ago, on July 31, 2007, the Cardinals did acquire a starting pitcher, Joel Pineiro, from the Red Sox. At that time, though, Pineiro was in the minor leagues and his career appeared to be trending downward.

Morris would have been a more prominent acquisition.

As it turned out, Pineiro became a productive starter for the Cardinals. Morris was out of the big leagues less than a year after the Cardinals had tried to acquire him.

Learning to lead

The Cardinals, who had won the World Series championship in 2006, had a 49-53 record at the trade deadline on July 31, 2007. They were in third place in the National League Central, 6 games behind the front-running Brewers.

Still, the Cardinals determined they might make a run for the division title if they could improve their starting rotation.

Morris, who would turn 33 in August 2007, was their primary target.

He had pitched eight years for the Cardinals, posting a 101-62 record, before signing with the Giants as a free agent after the 2005 season.

Morris’ record with the 2007 Giants was 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA. The Cardinals saw him as someone who still could pitch effectively and help in the development of starters such as Adam Wainwright and Anthony Reyes.

“With us, he learned from guys like Darryl Kile about how to be a leader on a pitching staff,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He was always a guy we felt was good with young pitchers and led on the mound and off the mound. He was a guy who would provide whatever assistance and advice he could with young pitchers.”

Caught by surprise

The Giants, in last place in the NL West, were willing to deal Morris. The Cardinals and Mariners were the most aggressive suitors.

Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the Cardinals had agreed to send two minor-league players to the Giants and would absorb most of Morris’ contract. “From our standpoint, money was never an issue,” Jocketty said.

On the afternoon of the trade deadline, Jocketty said, he was confident the Cardinals and Giants had a deal. At the 11th hour, though, the Pirates contacted the Giants and offered to take on Morris’ entire contract. With bonuses, Morris had $13.8 million remaining on his total package.

“Pittsburgh stepped up to take the player as is, with the contract,” said Giants general manager Brian Sabean.

The Giants sent Morris to the Pirates for outfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named (minor-league pitcher Steve MacFarland).

When Sabean “called back to say he had moved Morris, Jocketty was stunned,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Said Jocketty: “We were never told we had to take the whole contract.”

Oquendo approves

The consolation prize for the Cardinals was Pineiro. The Cardinals sent Sean Danielson, a minor-league outfielder, to the Red Sox for him.

Pineiro, 28, had made 31 relief appearances for the 2007 Red Sox, posting a 1-1 record and 5.03 ERA, before he was sent to the minors. At Class AAA Pawtucket, he made two starts and had a 2.25 ERA before he was acquired by the Cardinals.

Before joining the 2007 Red Sox, Pineiro had been a starter for the Mariners. He was 14-7 in 2002 and 16-11 in 2003, but had losing records for the Mariners in each of the next three seasons.

At the World Baseball Classic in 2006, Pineiro pitched for Team Puerto Rico. His manager was Jose Oquendo, a Cardinals coach, and his catcher was Yadier Molina. Oquendo recommended Pineiro to the Cardinals.

“He has a good arm,” Oquendo said. “What he probably needs is a philosophy about pitching.”

Dave Duncan, Cardinals pitching coach, figured to be an ideal candidate to help Pineiro develop that philosophy.

“I think this is a good situation for him,” Duncan said. “I’m expecting to see good things … Yadi will be catching him and I think that works in his favor, too.”

Pineiro produces

In his second start for St. Louis, Pineiro pitched seven shutout innings and got the win against the Padres. That was the game Rick Ankiel returned to the Cardinals as an outfielder and hit a three-run home run.

Pineiro was 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA in 11 starts for the 2007 Cardinals. He was 7-7 with a 5.15 ERA in 2008 and 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA in helping the Cardinals win a division title in 2009.

After that, Pineiro became a free agent and signed with the Angels. In three seasons with the Cardinals, Pineiro was 28-23 with a 4.14 ERA.

Meanwhile, Morris struggled with the Pirates. He was 3-4 with a 6.10 ERA in 2007 and 0-4 with a 9.67 ERA the next season before he was released late in April 2008.

Previously: How Mike Matheny helped lure Matt Morris to Giants

In July 1977, when Al Hrabosky ignored manager Vern Rapp’s facial hair ban and let his whiskers grow, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch intervened and tried to get the pitcher to follow orders. Rather than obey, Hrabosky fought back. He told Busch he would file a grievance with the players’ union if the Cardinals tried to force him to shave.

If Hrabosky filed a grievance, the matter would go to arbitration. To Busch, the prospect of appearing before an arbiter and likely losing to Hrabosky and the union was more distasteful than having the pitcher grow a moustache.

Outmaneuvered, Busch lifted the facial hair ban Rapp had imposed at the start of 1977. At the same time, in an effort to show he maintained confidence in Rapp, Busch extended the manager’s contract through the following season.

Busch, though, was angry and humiliated.

Unaccustomed to defiance from an employee, Busch lashed out publicly at Hrabosky. He challenged him to become a better pitcher and warned Hrabosky to quit being disruptive.

“You pushed me into a corner,” Busch said, addressing Hrabosky, “and no one does that to me.”

Hrabosky realized his victory came at a price. He predicted the Cardinals would get rid of him.

Hairy situation

Hrabosky had established himself as an effective Cardinals reliever in 1973. Soon after, he developed a persona as the “Mad Hungarian.” With a Fu Manchu moustache, flowing black hair and menacing glower, Hrabosky tried to intimidate or irritate batters by standing behind the mound, facing the infield, muttering to himself and pounding his fist into his glove before whirling around and preparing to pitch.

After Rapp replaced Red Schoendienst as manager, he imposed the facial hair ban for 1977. Clean-shaven, Hrabosky no longer looked like the “Mad Hungarian.” He said he believed that took away from his ability to pitch at his best.

Unhappy and resentful, Hrabosky ripped Rapp in spring training, then apologized. In May, he refused Rapp’s request to meet and briefly was suspended for insubordination.

On July 4, the Cardinals began a 15-game road trip. They didn’t play well and tension mounted between manager and players.

Rapp called a clubhouse meeting in Philadelphia on July 14. Rapp began the session by saying he’d noticed 5 o’clock shadows on the faces of some players. He considered that a violation of the facial hair ban and said he’d suspend anyone who didn’t shave, The Sporting News reported.

Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock spoke up and asked Rapp to “bend a little” on his rules. Rapp replied, “I’m not going to change,” and left the clubhouse.

Jack Buck, Cardinals broadcaster, told listeners, “It’s one against 25.”

After the game, Hrabosky told a Philadelphia radio station “there’s no way” he could play another season with Rapp as manager. Soon after, Hrabosky began letting his facial hair grow.

Plenty of trouble

The Cardinals lost 11 of 15 games on the trip _ Hrabosky was 0-2 with a save and an 11.42 ERA _ before entering the all-star break.

When the team got back to St. Louis, Busch met with Hrabosky on July 21, the pitcher’s 28th birthday. Rather than a gift, Hrabosky received scorn.

“Well, young man, if you’re looking for trouble you can believe August A. Busch Jr. will give you more than you can handle,” Busch said.

Hrabosky told Busch he had the backing of Marvin Miller, leader of the players’ union. Miller encouraged Hrabosky to file a grievance.

That’s when Busch lifted the ban, saying management wouldn’t give Hrabosky “the satisfaction of dragging the Cardinals and baseball into the courtroom.”

Said Hrabosky: “From the legal standpoint, they knew they’d lose.”

Put up or shut up

Hrabosky at that time had a record of 2-4 with seven saves and a 4.58 ERA.

“You said … you can only get batters out by being psyched up with your moustache and beard,” Busch said. “Then go ahead and grow it. But, boy, are you going to look like a fool if you don’t get batters out.”

Said Hrabosky: “After much thought and personal reflection, I know it will be in the best interests of the ballclub and of my career to go back to being Al Hrabosky. I sincerely believe my appearance had a great effect on my performance … I sincerely believe my decision will help me on the field.”

Busch told Hrabosky: “My suggestion … would be for you to stop causing this trouble in the middle of a pennant race, obey the rules of the team, work your butt off for a pennant and quit this complaining.”

Jeff Meyers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, wrote that Hrabosky “deserves applause for having had the courage to stand up for what he thought was right,” but added that Busch had “deflated Hrabosky’s massive ego.”

Fading fastball

Cardinals infielders Mike Tyson and Garry Templeton were among the players who said they would grow facial hair in support of Hrabosky. Another infielder, Don Kessinger, said he wouldn’t try a moustache or beard.  “If I grow one, my wife won’t kiss me and there ain’t nothing worth that,” Kessinger said.

On July 23, Hrabosky made his first Cardinals appearance since his meeting with Busch and received mostly applause from the spectators at Busch Stadium. He pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief and the Cardinals beat the Astros, 4-3.

Hrabosky had a productive August (3-1 record, one save, 3.52 ERA) and a dismal September (0-0, no saves, 6.75 ERA).

“His fastball isn’t what it used to be and the whole league knows it,” Buck said.

Hrabosky’s overall statistics for 1977: 6-5, 10 saves, 4.38 ERA.

In The Sporting News, Neal Russo wrote, “Al Hrabosky was as bad with his beard as without.”

On Dec. 8, 1977, the Cardinals traded Hrabosky to the Royals for pitcher Mark Littell and catcher Buck Martinez.

Previously: Al Hrabosky, Vern Rapp and a tumultuous spring

Previously: The pitfalls of Cardinals rookie manager Vern Rapp

With a wallop to the outfield depths of Sportsman’s Park, Enos Slaughter altered the course of a National League pennant race in favor of the Cardinals.

Slaughter hit a walkoff inside-the-park home run that lifted the Cardinals to an extra-inning victory over the Dodgers and completed a doubleheader sweep of the NL leaders 75 years ago on July 19, 1942.

The Dodgers’ top player, center fielder and NL batting leader Pete Reiser, suffered a concussion when he crashed into a concrete outfield wall while pursuing Slaughter’s smash.

The sweep moved the second-place Cardinals to within six games of the Dodgers.

Reiser, who rushed back to the lineup too soon, struggled to hit over the last two months of the season. That was a factor in enabling the rejuvenated Cardinals to overtake the Dodgers at the end of the season and win the pennant.

Musial gets mad

The Dodgers entered the July 19 doubleheader at St. Louis with an eight-game lead over the Cardinals. A Dodgers sweep threatened to demoralize the Cardinals.

In Game 1, the Cardinals led 7-0 in the fourth inning when Stan Musial stepped to the plate against rookie reliever Les Webber. A month earlier, Musial had hit a home run off Webber.

Webber threw an inside pitch that moved Musial off the plate. Musial yelled out to Webber. The next pitch “came dangerously close to Stan’s head,” according to the St. Louis Star-Times.

Angered, Musial uncharacteristically moved toward Webber with his bat in hand. Webber started toward Musial. Players from both dugouts poured onto the field, but umpires stepped between Musial and Webber. No punches were thrown and the showdown quickly dissolved. Musial continued his at-bat and grounded out.

Two innings later, Webber batted and was hit by a pitch from starter Mort Cooper. Led by four RBI from Johnny Hopp, the Cardinals went on to an 8-5 victory. Boxscore

Going all-out

In Game 2, the Cardinals led, 6-2, after three, but the Dodgers scored four in the fifth, tying the score at 6-6. The game went into extra innings.

It was 7:37 p.m. and dusk was arriving when Slaughter led off the bottom of the 11th against reliever Johnny Allen.

With the count at 0-and-2, Slaughter swung and launched the ball deep into center field.

Reiser raced back _ “He was traveling like a bullet,” Dodgers left fielder Joe Medwick told The Brooklyn Daily Eagle _ turned and caught the ball. A split second later, Reiser crashed into the wall, his head banging against the concrete. The ball squirted out of his glove and bounced toward the flagpole.

As Slaughter sped around the bases, Reiser got to his feet, “staggered dizzily after the ball” and threw to the cutoff man, shortstop Pee Wee Reese, according to accounts in both the Star-Times and Daily Eagle.

In a rare double relay, Reese flipped the ball to second baseman Billy Herman, who was better positioned to make a strong peg to catcher Mickey Owen.

As Slaughter rounded second, he looked up and saw Cardinals manager Billy Southworth, coaching at third, “waving his arms like mad,” Slaughter said.

“I really gave that sprint around the base paths everything I had,” Slaughter told the Star-Times.

Slaughter “slid under the throw in a cloud of dust” for a home run that gave the Cardinals a 7-6 triumph. Boxscore

Eager to return

Dodgers players rushed to Reiser, who was leaning against the outfield wall. Reiser, a St. Louis native, walked off the field, went to the clubhouse, showered and dressed, according to the Star-Times.

Still wobbly, Reiser was taken to a hospital. Dr. Robert Hyland said X-rays revealed Reiser had a concussion, but no fractures.

The next day, July 20, Reiser, against the advice of doctors, left the hospital and went to his parents’ home in St. Louis. After spending the night there, Reiser boarded a noon train on July 21 and went to rejoin his teammates in Brooklyn.

Four days later, on July 25, Reiser was back in the Dodgers’ lineup.

Reiser, who was batting .350 at the time of his injury, was a diminished player afterward. He hit .206 in August and .233 in September.

The Cardinals surged to records of 25-8 in August and 21-4 in September and finished in first place at 106-48, two games ahead of the Dodgers.

Previously: Ralph Branca produced pair of gems against Cardinals

After a shaky first impression, Jack Lamabe had a flawless month for the Cardinals and helped them strengthen their hold on first place in the National League.

In a trade made by general managers Stan Musial of the Cardinals and Bing Devine of the Mets, Lamabe, a right-handed reliever, was sent to St. Louis 50 years ago on July 16, 1967.

In exchange, the Mets received a player to be named (pitcher Al Jackson).

Lamabe, 30, had a rough beginning to his Cardinals career. He was the losing pitcher in three of his first four appearances. His ERA in seven July games for St. Louis was 6.75.

The next month, Lamabe was untouchable. He was 3-0 with a save in August and his ERA for the month was 0.00. Lamabe didn’t allow a run in 25 innings over nine August appearances, including a start.

Lamabe’s splendid month helped stabilize a pitching staff that was missing its ace, Bob Gibson, who was sidelined with a broken leg. The first-place Cardinals, who had entered August with a 4.5-game lead, went 21-11 for the month and entered September with a 10-game advantage over the second-place Reds.

Switching sides

Lamabe had played college baseball for Vermont head coach Ralph LaPointe, who had been an infielder for the 1948 Cardinals.

Lamabe made his major-league debut with the 1962 Pirates. He also pitched for the Red Sox (1963-65), Astros (1965) and White Sox (1966). He primarily was a reliever, though he made 25 starts for the 1964 Red Sox and 17 starts for the 1966 White Sox.

After three appearances for the 1967 White Sox, Lamabe was sent to the Mets on April 26. He went 0-3 with a 3.98 ERA in 16 games with the Mets, but he held right-handed batters to a .174 average.

On July 15, Gibson was injured when struck by a line drive off the bat of the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente. With Nelson Briles moving into the starting rotation as Gibson’s replacement, the Cardinals needed a reliever to fill the void left by Briles’ departure from the bullpen.

The Mets had arrived in St. Louis for a July 16 doubleheader with the Cardinals. When Lamabe got to Busch Stadium, he was told to report to the home team clubhouse: He had been traded.

The Mets won the opener, 2-1. When Cardinals starter Jim Cosman struggled in Game 2, manager Red Schoendienst lifted him in the third inning and brought in Lamabe.

Facing batters who had been his teammates earlier that day, Lamabe yielded five runs, including Ed Kranepool’s two-run home run, in two innings and took the loss. “He’s not my friend anymore,” Kranepool said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Take that

A month later, on Aug. 28, the Mets and Cardinals again had a doubleheader in St. Louis. Lamabe started Game 2 and pitched a six-hit shutout. A double by Ed Charles was the lone extra-base hit Lamabe allowed in a 6-0 Cardinals victory.

“That 6-0 lead (after five innings) helped me a lot,” Lamabe said. “When I had the lead, I just challenged the hitters with something on the ball.” Boxscore

Lamabe finished the regular season with a 3-4 record, four saves and a 2.83 ERA for the pennant-winning Cardinals.

He made three relief appearances against the Red Sox in the 1967 World Series and was the losing pitcher in Game 6 at Boston. Entering in the seventh inning with the score tied at 4-4, Lamabe got Elston Howard to ground out, but yielded a single to Dalton Jones and a RBI-double to Joe Foy. The Red Sox went on to an 8-4 victory. Boxscore

Moving on

Lamabe went to spring training with the 1968 Cardinals. As camp was closing, he was cut from the roster and sent to Class AAA Tulsa. Devine, who had replaced Musial as Cardinals general manager, promised Lamabe he’d try to trade him to a team that would keep him in the big leagues.

Lamabe started the Pacific Coast League season opener for Tulsa on April 19 and pitched a five-hit shutout against San Diego.

Three days later, the Cardinals dealt Lamabe and pitcher Ron Piche to the Cubs for pitchers Pete Mikkelsen and Dave Dowling.

Lamabe ended his big-league career with the 1968 Cubs, posting a 3-2 mark with two saves and a 4.30 ERA.

With a master’s degree in physical education from Springfield College, Lamabe went on to become head baseball coach at Jacksonville University (1974-78) and at Louisiana State University (1979-83). After that, he was a minor-league pitching instructor for the Padres and Rockies.

Previously: An interview with former Cards pitcher Al Jackson

In their many duels from 1959-72, Bob Gibson would throw brushback pitches to Roberto Clemente to keep him from taking ownership of the plate. The tactic was rooted in a machismo kind of respect, not dislike, and Gibson never hit Clemente with a pitch.

One time, though, Clemente hit Gibson.

The incident became a prominent part of Cardinals lore.

Fifty years ago, on July 15, 1967, Clemente hit a low liner that struck Gibson and fractured a bone in his right leg.

Unaware of the severity of the injury, Gibson remained in the game and pitched to three more batters before collapsing.

Many predicted the injury, which would sideline Gibson for almost two months, would ruin the Cardinals’ championship hopes.

Instead, inspired by the example set by their ace to persevere in the face of adversity, the Cardinals pulled together and went on to win the 1967 National League pennant and World Series title.

Back off

Clemente, a career .317 hitter, batted .208 (26-for-125) with 32 strikeouts against Gibson.

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said of Clemente, “I always threw at him. He swung way too hard against me, flinging himself at the ball and spinning around in the batter’s box like he was on the playground or something. I had to demonstrate to him that I was no playground pitcher. To that end, I made a point of throwing at least one fastball in his direction nearly every time he came to the plate.”

Gibson, who like Clemente would earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, said he liked the Pirates outfielder and learned to laugh at his antics.

“It was virtually impossible to ignore him because he was always talking,” Gibson said. “Usually, it was to complain about how much his back or his shoulder or some other thing was hurting him. Then he would step in the batter’s box and swing so hard that the flagsticks on top of the stadium would bend.”

Just tape it

The Pirates had been held hitless by Gibson for the first three innings on that St. Louis summer Saturday night in 1967.

Clemente, leading off the fourth, hit a ball that rocketed straight toward Gibson and struck him on the shin.

“All my weight is on my right foot on my follow through,” Gibson said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s why I couldn’t get out of the way of the ball. I couldn’t even lift my foot because the weight was on it.”

The force of the blow knocked down Gibson. Trainer Bob Bauman rushed from the Cardinals’ dugout to the mound. Bauman sprayed ethyl chloride on Gibson’s leg.

“He advised me to take a look,” Gibson said. “I saw what he saw _ a dent in the skin the shape of a baseball.”

Clemente’s smash had cracked the fibula, a bone in the lower part of the leg.

Gibson, though, didn’t feel much pain.

“In this type of injury, there is shock immediately and no pain,” said Cardinals team physician Dr. I.C. Middelman.

Said Gibson: “It was odd that I couldn’t feel where I had been struck, but because I couldn’t feel it I wasn’t particularly worried. I told Doc (Bauman) to put a little tape on it and let me get back to work.”

Now it’s broke

Gibson threw some practice pitches and declared himself fit to continue.

“While it was true that I didn’t surrender easily to pain or injury, at the time I didn’t fully realize what I was doing,” Gibson said. “I assumed that I had picked up a hell of a contusion.”

When play resumed, Gibson walked Willie Stargell and got Bill Mazeroski to fly out to center.

The next batter, Donn Clendenon, worked the count to 3-and-2.

“I tried to put a little extra on the payoff pitch,” Gibson said.

As the pitch sailed outside the strike zone for ball four, Gibson collapsed.

“Initially, the bone had been fractured, but not separated,” Gibson said. “It was only when I came down on it so hard (on the last pitch) _ my motion concentrated a lot of weight and spinning momentum on my right leg _ that it broke cleanly in two. If that hadn’t happened, I believe I might have continued the season uninterrupted.”

Said Middleman: “He has a high threshold for pain. You or I would have been writhing from the pain.”

Setting an example

Gibson was taken to a hospital and his leg placed in a cast.

“At the hospital, he didn’t even want a shot,” Middleman told The Sporting News. “All we gave him was a little codeine.”

The Pirates won the game, 6-4, cutting the Cardinals’ lead over the second-place Cubs and Reds to four. Boxscore

After witnessing Gibson’s will and determination, Cardinals pitchers who might have complained about minor ailments or tiredness felt inspired to push forward.

The Cardinals were 36-19 during the time Gibson was sidelined. Nelson Briles and Dick Hughes each won seven of nine decisions during Gibson’s absence; Steve Carlton won five of seven.

When Gibson returned to action on Sept. 7, the Cardinals were at 87-53, 11.5 games ahead of the second-place Cubs and Giants.

“I felt a little awkward with all the gushy rhetoric that accompanied the incident,” Gibson said, “but if it provided a constructive example for the ballclub, so be it.”

Gibson, who was 10-6 when injured, won three of four decisions after his return and finished 13-7. The Cardinals completed the season at 101-60, 10.5 ahead of the runner-up Giants.

In the ensuing World Series against the Red Sox, Gibson made three starts and earned wins in all.