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In assessing Joe McEwing’s value to the club as a utility player, the Cardinals placed a premium on productivity instead of popularity.

Twenty years ago, on March 18, 2000, the Cardinals traded McEwing to the Mets for reliever Jesse Orosco.

The deal was disliked by Cardinals fans who rooted for McEwing when he unexpectedly emerged as an overachieving underdog to become the team’s second baseman in 1999.

Nicknamed “Super Joe” for his all-out hustle, McEwing established a Cardinals rookie record with a 25-game hitting streak in 1999. The feat earned him another tag, “Little Mac,” in relation to his slugging teammate, Mark McGwire, who was “Big Mac.”

Though McEwing endeared himself to the Cardinals, sentiment was shoved aside the following spring when he struggled in a bid to earn a role as a utility player.

Job search

McEwing, chosen by the Cardinals in the 28th round of the 1992 amateur draft, was in his seventh season in their farm system when he earned a call to the big leagues in September 1998.

Placido Polanco was the Cardinals’ Opening Day second baseman in 1999, but McEwing eventually emerged from the bench to replace him. A right-handed batter, McEwing hit .275 with 28 doubles for the 1999 Cardinals, splitting time between second base and the outfield.

After the 1999 season, the Cardinals acquired second baseman Fernando Vina from the Brewers and made him their leadoff batter in 2000. McEwing, 27, went to spring training as a candidate for a utility role.

The competition for bench spots was intense. McEwing hit .143 in spring training and was outperformed by fellow utility players Shawon Dunston, Craig Paquette and Polanco.

When left-handed reliever Scott Radinsky developed elbow trouble, the Cardinals went searching for a replacement and made the swap of McEwing for Orosco.

“It would have been tough for Joe to make the club based on what we’ve seen this spring and the other candidates,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

When McEwing left the Cardinals’ clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla., he wrote on a message board, “I love you guys, Joe Mac.”

Fond farewell

Most were sorry to see McEwing depart.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he planned to keep a pair of McEwing’s cleats in his office “to remind me of what a professional ballplayer is supposed to be.”

Jocketty said when he got home after making the trade he found a McEwing baseball card belonging to his son, Joey, on a table. “I’m not popular with my son,” Jocketty told the Post-Dispatch.

Columnist Bernie Miklasz called McEwing “one of my favorite St. Louis athletes ever” and wrote, “Trading Joe McEwing is like being mean to a kitten.”

Miklasz concluded, “I didn’t want to admit it at first, but this trade makes sense.”

Warranty expires

Orosco, who turned 43 a month after joining the Cardinals, was a standout with the Mets in 1986 when they were World Series champions. In 1999, he pitched in 65 games for the Orioles.

He told the Post-Dispatch he was glad to be with the Cardinals. “Hopefully, I’m the piece to that puzzle that they needed in the bullpen,” Orosco said.

Before becoming a Cardinal, Orosco pitched in 1,090 major-league games and never was on the disabled list.

“Maybe he’s just got elastic bands for rotator cuffs,” said Cardinals pitcher Paul Spoljaric.

Turns out, the elastic was ready to snap.

Orosco pitched in three April games for the Cardinals, hurt his elbow and went on the disabled list. He returned in June, pitched in three more games, went back on the disabled list, had surgery to repair a torn elbow tendon and was done for the season.

Orosco faced a total of 16 batters for the Cardinals. He became a free agent after the season, signed with the Dodgers and continued to pitch in the majors until 2003 with the Twins at age 46. His 1,252 games pitched, including six with the Cardinals, are a major-league record

Switching sides

With Melvin Mora and Kurt Abbott in utility roles for the Mets, McEwing began the 2000 season in the minors. In mid-May, he got called up to the Mets and was in their lineup as an outfielder for all three games of a series May 26-28 against the Cardinals at St. Louis.

“I’m excited to come back,” McEwing told the Post-Dispatch before adding, “I’m a Met now. I’m happy to be a Met.”

Helped by McEwing and another ex-Cardinal, Todd Zeile, the Mets swept the three-game series. McEwing was 4-for-12 with one RBI and was warmly greeted by Cardinals fans. Zeile was 5-for-13 with three home runs and seven RBI and was booed.

After teasing McEwing about the fan reactions, Zeile told the New York Daily News, “I get excited to play back here. With every at-bat, the fans booed me a little louder and it motivated me a little more. I don’t think there’s any animosity though.”

McEwing hit .222 for the 2000 Mets, who won the pennant by prevailing against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

McEwing played five season (2000-2004) with the Mets before finishing his career in the majors with the Royals (2005) and Astros (2006). He played every position in the majors except pitcher and catcher.

Joe Torre reported to Cardinals spring training prepared to be their catcher, got switched to third base two weeks before the season opened and ended up playing a similar number of games at both positions.

Fifty years ago, in March 1970, the Cardinals asked Torre to change positions after third baseman Mike Shannon was diagnosed with a kidney ailment. Torre, 29, hadn’t played third base since he was “a fat kid in high school back home in Brooklyn,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Torre, who got to camp weighing 228 pounds, went on a diet, lost 25 pounds and was able to perform with the agility needed at third base.

Torre as Twiggy

Torre’s weight loss wasn’t dictated by the club. He did it on his own and before he was asked to play third base.

The motivation for the weight loss was twofold:

_ He would turn 30 during the 1970 season and knew he had to work more diligently to stay in shape.

_ He also knew there was a chance he could be shifted to first base when catcher Ted Simmons, the Cardinals’ top prospect, completed a military commitment and joined the club in May.

Torre followed a diet developed by Dr. Irwin Stillman of Brooklyn. The Stillman Diet emphasized drinking large quantities of water, eating foods high in protein and avoiding carbohydrates and fats.

In his book, “Chasing the Dream,” Torre explained, “Every time you eat a hardboiled egg and then have two or three glasses of water, it’s like swallowing a sponge and filling it up. That’s the idea. You’re full.”

The Stillman Diet was controversial but it worked for Torre.

“I was the kind of guy who thought nothing of eating candy, soft drinks, banana cream pies and junk like that,” Torre said. “I really watched what I ate after the diet and learned to reduce my portions.”

Change in plans

On March 18, 1970, the Cardinals disclosed Shannon’s kidney ailment and said he’d be unavailable to play for a while.

Manager Red Schoendienst initially considered using one of his utility infielders, Cookie Rojas or Phil Gagliano, to play third, the Post-Dispatch reported, but neither was the run producer Shannon had been for the Cardinals.

Another utility player, Carl Taylor, was regarded a good hitter and, though he primarily played first base and outfield, he had caught in 29 games as a rookie for the 1968 Pirates.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the scouting report on Taylor as a catcher was “he has a strong arm,” but “he has problems getting the ball away properly.”

Schoendienst decided to test Taylor at catcher and Torre at third base.

“I’m going to give that combination every chance to make it in the last two weeks of exhibition games,” Schoendienst said. “If Carl can do it behind the plate, I believe Joe will do all right at third.”

Said Torre: “If I can get enough work there, I think I can do it.”

Hot corner lessons

Torre received a crash course on how to play third from coaches George Kissell and Vern Benson as well as Ken Boyer, a five-time Gold Glove Award winner who was in camp as manager of the Cardinals’ Arkansas farm club.

“I can use all the instruction I can get,” Torre said.

The Post-Dispatch reported, “For 15 minutes, Kissell had Torre fielding grounders hit to either side of him. Later, Phil Gagliano joined Kissell in hitting grounders and Torre began to wish he were an octopus.”

“I thought I used to hate catching batting practice most,” Torre told the Post-Dispatch, “but now I hate George Kissell.”

In his book, “Chasing the Dream,” Torre said, “George Kissell turned me into a third baseman.”

The experience also helped Torre become a Hall of Fame manager.

“I learned one of my many lessons from George,” Torre said. “As a manager, you have to find a way to communicate with people _ to correct and suggest things _ without having them resent you for it.”

Let’s try this

While the experiment with Torre at third base was succeeding, the experiment with Taylor at catcher wasn’t doing as well.

“I never was supposed to be a Bill Dickey,” Taylor told the Post-Dispatch. “They know my glove is not what brought me up here.”

On Easter Sunday, with a week remaining in spring training, Schoendienst returned Torre to catcher and put Taylor on the bench.

“You just have to have a good defensive catcher, someone who has been catching a lot,” Schoendienst said.

The manager’s next move was to shift Richie Allen from first base to third. Allen was the Phillies’ third baseman from 1964-67 before he hurt his hand and changed positions.

After watching Allen work out at third, Schoendienst said, “Allen has been throwing a lot better from third base than he has in the six years I’ve seen him.”

Said Allen: “I don’t care where I play. I’ll do whatever the manager wants me to do … I just hope I can throw well enough to suit everybody.”

Though the Cardinals opened the regular season with Torre at catcher, Allen at third and Joe Hague at first base, Schoendienst said the experiments of spring training were valuable because, “We know now that Torre can play third base good enough.”

Fine fit

Allen returned to first base when Shannon came back to the lineup in mid-May. When Shannon struggled to hit, Schoendienst benched him, played Torre at third and started Simmons at catcher.

Though Shannon eventually got back in the lineup, his kidney condition deteriorated and, when he stopped playing in August 1970, Torre became the third baseman.

Torre played 90 games at catcher (88 starts) and 73 games at third base (72 starts) for the 1970 Cardinals.

He was the Cardinals’ third baseman in 1971, when he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award, and 1972 before moving to first base in 1973 to make way for smooth-fielding Ken Reitz.

A routine physical exam at spring training revealed a serious medical problem for third baseman Mike Shannon.

On March 18, 1970, the Cardinals disclosed Shannon, 30, had glomerulonephritis, a defect of the filtering function of the kidney.

Both of Shannon’s kidneys were affected, Cardinals team physician Dr. Stan London told The Sporting News.

Through medication, Shannon was able to play in 55 games for the Cardinals in 1970, his last season as a player.

Timely test

Shannon’s future with the Cardinals was in question when he got to spring training in 1970, but not because of his health.

Outfielder Curt Flood, who was traded by the Cardinals to the Phillies in October 1969, refused to report and filed an antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball. The Cardinals agreed to compensate the Phillies by sending them another player, possibly Shannon, according to columnist Dick Young in The Sporting News.

Shannon “apparently was” of interest to the Phillies, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. As general managers Bing Devine of the Cardinals and John Quinn of the Phillies were discussing a deal, a urine sample taken during a spring training physical revealed Shannon’s kidney problem.

if Shannon was going to play in 1970, it likely wouldn’t be until July or August, Dr. London said. “Mike might have to miss the entire season,” Dr. London added.

Shannon was stunned to learn he had a kidney disease. He was batting .304 in spring training games and said he had been feeling fine.

“I had no idea at all I had such a condition,” Shannon told the Post-Dispatch. “I had no warning.”

Shannon was grateful the physical exam had been thorough and that Dr. London had made the diagnosis.

“If I had gone on and played, I might really have damaged the kidney,” Shannon said. “I might never have played again. It might have taken my life.”

Dr. London confirmed, “His condition could have been aggravated by his playing baseball.”

Speedy recovery

On March 20, 1970, Shannon left training camp in Florida and returned to St. Louis. He was admitted to a hospital two days later.

The Cardinals assigned instructors George Kissell and Ken Boyer to work with catcher Joe Torre on how to play third base. Manager Red Schoendienst planned to try utility player Carl Taylor at catcher until Ted Simmons completed a military commitment in May. After watching Taylor catch in spring training, Schoendienst changed his mind. He shifted first baseman Richie Allen to third, replacing Shannon, put Joe Hague at first base and kept Torre at catcher.

On April 16, 1970, Shannon was discharged from the hospital and continued being treated at home, the Post-Dispatch reported. “We are conservatively optimistic,” Dr. London said.

Shannon adapted well to the medication and was given approval to return to baseball earlier than anticipated. On May 3, 1970, Shannon took part in batting and fielding drills with the Cardinals at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

As for a prognosis on his health, Shannon said, “It will be up to the Man upstairs. He’s running the show. Let’s face it.”

Asked about being sidelined for about seven weeks, Shannon said, “I’ll trade a few weeks for the rest of my life any time.”

Brief comeback

On May 14, 1970, Shannon made his first official appearance of the season when he batted for outfielder Leron Lee in the eighth inning of a game against the Pirates at St. Louis. Shannon, who received a standing ovation, flied out to Willie Stargell in left. Shannon stayed in the game at third base and cleanly fielded a grounder hit by leadoff batter Jose Pagan in the ninth. Boxscore

The next night, Shannon started against the Cubs at St. Louis and got a bunt single versus reliever Phil Regan. Boxscore

Shannon remained in the lineup but struggled to hit. On May 30, 1970, Schoendienst benched Shannon, who was batting .132, moved Torre to third and started Simmons at catcher.

Shannon eventually returned to the starting lineup but he lacked power. His last game as a major-leaguer was Aug. 12, 1970. Two days later, the Cardinals placed him on the disabled list for the rest of the season. Dr. London said tests revealed Shannon’s kidney condition had deteriorated.

In 55 games, including 45 starts at third base, Shannon hit .213 with no home runs for the 1970 Cardinals. Torre (72 starts) and Allen (38) were the Cardinals’ primary third basemen. Torre also started 88 games at catcher and Allen made 78 starts at first base.

On Feb. 12, 1971, the Cardinals said Shannon wouldn’t be back as a player. After spending the 1971 season in the Cardinals’ sales and promotion department, Shannon embarked on a successful second career as a broadcaster for the club rather than pursue opportunities to be a coach or manager.

The strained relationship between Cardinals owner Gussie Busch and pitcher Steve Carlton had its roots in a dispute which occurred two years before the ill-fated trade of the future Hall of Famer.

Fifty years ago, on March 12, 1970, after Carlton refused to accept the club’s salary terms, Busch said, “I don’t care if he ever pitches a ball for us again.”

Carlton and the Cardinals eventually agreed on a contract, but Busch held a grudge.

Two years later, when Carlton again balked at the Cardinals’ contract offer, Busch ordered general manager Bing Devine to trade the pitcher.

Dealt to the Phillies on Feb. 25, 1972, for pitcher Rick Wise, Carlton was one of the game’s all-time best left-handers, winning four Cy Young awards, compiling 329 career wins and earning election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bitter Busch

After helping the Cardinals win consecutive National League pennants in 1967 and 1968, plus a World Series title, Carlton developed a devastating slider and posted a 17-11 record and 2.17 ERA in 1969. He also became the first major-league pitcher to strike out 19 batters in nine innings.

Entering spring training in 1970, Carlton, 25, told the Cardinals he wanted a salary of $50,000. The Cardinals, who paid Carlton $24,000 in 1969, gasped and responded with an offer of $30,000 for 1970. Carlton countered with an ask of $40,000, but the Cardinals “refused to budge” from the $30,000 figure, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Busch asked Carlton to accept the club’s terms and assured him the Cardinals “would make it up to him” if he produced a good season in 1970. After Carlton rejected the proposal, Busch told the Sporting News, “I don’t like his attitude, not a damn bit.”

In a rant reminiscent of his public scolding of the players in a 1969 spring training clubhouse meeting, Busch said, “The fans are going to resent this situation. I can’t understand it. The player contracts are at their best, the pension plan is the finest, the fringe benefits are better, yet the players think we are a bunch of stupid asses.

“I’m disillusioned,” Busch said. “I don’t know what’s happening among our young people, to our campuses and to our great country.”

Busch got support from the editor and publisher of The Sporting News, C.C. Johnson Spink, who wrote, “We believe fans in general will agree with Busch in his challenge to the other owners to join him in resisting some of the players’ demands.”

Surprise settlement

Carlton said he wouldn’t ask for a trade and Devine said he had no plans to deal the pitcher.

A day after Busch said he didn’t care if Carlton pitched again for the Cardinals, Carlton told the Post-Dispatch, “I intend to pitch, but I want to meet Bing again and try to solve this.”

Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg noted, “Carlton has kept his composure in the face of Busch’s unfortunate comment that he didn’t care if Steve ever pitched again for the Cardinals.”

Broeg concluded, “The Redbirds need the big left-hander, one of baseball’s best young pitchers.”

On March 17, 1970, Carlton signed a two-year $80,000 contract with the Cardinals. According to multiple published reports, the deal paid Carlton $30,000 in 1970 and $50,000 in 1971.

Carlton became the first Cardinals player to receive a two-year contract since third baseman Ken Boyer (1960-61).

“I never thought I’d sign a two-year contract, but this is a fair way to handle the situation and I’m very happy,” Carlton said.

Cardinals executive vice president Dick Meyer, who brokered the compromise, said, “This enabled both sides to maintain a posture and was fair to both of us _ to Steve and to the club.”

Get rid of him

In 1970, the first year of the contract, Carlton was 10-19. In the second year, 1971, he was 20-9.

The Cardinals reportedly offered Carlton a 1972 salary of $57,500. As spring training got under way, he remained unsigned. Carlton said he and the club were less than $10,000 apart, The Sporting News reported, but Busch was angry when the pitcher didn’t sign.

In his book, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said, “Mr. Busch wanted him gone.”

“This thing was generated by our difference with Carlton two years ago,” Devine told the Sporting News after dealing Carlton to the Phillies. “Having gone through that experience, we could sense a similar situation developing.”

The Phillies signed Carlton for $65,000 in 1972. Though the 1972 Phillies finished in last place in the East Division with 59 wins, Carlton was 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA.

Carlton, who was 77-62 as a Cardinal, pitched 24 years in the majors and was 329-244. He ranks second all-time in career wins by a left-hander. Warren Spahn has 363.

Johnny Antonelli lost more than he won versus the Cardinals, and Stan Musial and Ken Boyer often hit well against him, but when he was at his peak he was hard to beat.

Antonelli died on Feb. 28, 2020, at 89. A left-handed pitcher, he had a 126-110 record in 12 major-league seasons with the Braves, Giants and Indians.

His most prominent year was 1954 when he was 21-7 for the World Series champion Giants and led the National League in ERA (2.30) and shutouts (six).

His 20th win in 1954 came against the Cardinals and made him the first Giants left-hander to achieve the feat since Carl Hubbell and Cliff Melton each did it in 1937.

The Natural

Antonelli’s father was born in Italy and immigrated to Rochester, N.Y., where he worked for the railroad.

In the book, “We Played the Game,” Antonelli said he played organized baseball for the first time in high school. “It came pretty easy to me,” Antonelli said. “I started out playing first, but my coach, Charlie O’Brien, noticed that when I threw the ball it had a little tail to it, so he tried me out as a pitcher.”

As he prepared to graduate from high school in 1948, Antonelli said an exhibition game against a local semipro team was arranged for him so he could pitch before big-league scouts. The game was played at the ballpark used by the Cardinals’ farm club in Rochester.

In “We Played the Game,” Antonelli said the Red Sox made the highest offer, but he signed with the Braves for a $52,000 bonus. The Braves’ manager, Billy Southworth, had led the Cardinals to three consecutive pennants (1942-44) and two World Series titles.

“I let my father make the decision,” said Antonelli. “My father and I were fans of the Rochester Red Wings and my father was surely influenced to sign with the Braves because Billy Southworth had once coached at Rochester.”

Antonelli said it also helped that the Braves were owned by an Italian-American, Lou Perini.

Mixing pitches

Antonelli, who never played in the minor leagues, was 18 when he made his debut with the Braves on July 4, 1948. He spent two years (1951-52) in the Army and was traded to the Giants in 1954 in a deal involving slugger Bobby Thomson.

Giants pitching coach Freddie Fitzsimmons helped Antonelli develop an off-speed pitch to go with his fastball and curve. Antonelli described it as a “little snap screwball.”

In “We Played the Game,” Antonelli said, “It was meant to keep batters off stride. It was the pitch that made me successful.”

Changing speeds effectively, Antonelli’s pitching, along with Willie Mays’ hitting and fielding, helped the Giants replace the Dodgers as the best team in the National League in 1954.

On Aug. 30, 1954, Antonelli pitched a four-hitter in a 4-1 Giants victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis. The win gave Antonelli a season record of 20-3. All four Cardinals hits were singles.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Antonelli as “tremendous” and reported he used a curve, a “clever changeup” and an “overpowering fastball.”

“I’ve never seen him so fast,” Musial said. “He almost shaved me with one inside.” Boxscore

In a nifty bit of foreshadowing, the Post-Dispatch concluded, “It’s difficult to figure them beating Antonelli in a close one.”

Two weeks later, on Sept. 13, 1954, Antonelli pitched a five-hit shutout and outdueled rookie Gordon Jones in the Giants’ 1-0 triumph over the Cardinals in New York. Again, all of the St. Louis hits were singles. Antonelli allowed no hits after the fourth inning. Boxscore

Cardinals challenge

Antonelli was the starter for the Giants in the first game the Cardinals played in San Francisco in 1958. Boxscore

He also allowed two of the five home runs Musial hit in a doubleheader against the Giants on May 2, 1954 at St. Louis. Boxscore

Musial hit .302 with 11 home runs in his career against Antonelli. No other batter hit more home runs versus Antonelli.

The first home run allowed by Antonelli in the big leagues was to Musial on May 24, 1949, at St. Louis. Boxscore

Musial’s Cardinals teammate, Boyer, batted .330 with five home runs versus Antonelli. Two of Boyer’s home runs came in a game on June 27, 1956, a 6-0 Cardinals victory at the Polo Grounds. Boxscore

For his career against the Cardinals, Antonelli was 17-18 with five shutouts and a 3.53 ERA.

In his book, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said, “Antonelli was a good pitcher with great control for several years. In his peak, he came up with a terrific change of pace that made him outstanding. A little later, he lost that change, the pitch that went away from a right-handed hitter, and he never got it back. Losing that pitch cost him something in the way of effectiveness.”

After the 1959 season, the Cardinals offered to trade second baseman Don Blasingame and pitcher Larry Jackson to the Giants for Antonelli and shortstop Daryl Spencer, but the Giants wouldn’t part with Antonelli, a 19-game winner in 1959. With Antonelli unavailable, the deal was restructured and Blasingame was sent to the Giants for Spencer and outfielder Leon Wagner.

In his return to the Cardinals, Ken Boyer prepared to manage some of their best prospects while preparing veteran Joe Torre to play third base.

Fifty years ago, in March 1970, Boyer attended spring training with the Cardinals for the first time since he was traded five years earlier.

Boyer, 38, was back as an instructor and as manager of the Cardinals’ Class AA Arkansas farm club. The Cardinals hired him after he retired as a player near the end of the 1969 season.

Stanky protege

Boyer played 11 seasons for the Cardinals, won the Gold Glove Award five times at third base and produced 1,855 hits and 1,001 RBI. He was the recipient of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1964 when the Cardinals won the World Series title.

The Cardinals traded Boyer to the Mets after the 1965 season and he went on to play for the White Sox and Dodgers as well.

The Dodgers wanted Boyer to manage in their farm system in 1970, but he accepted an offer from Cardinals general manager Bing Devine to manage at Arkansas because he preferred to return to the franchise where he began his career, according to the book “Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain.”

“There is a line of tradition here,” Boyer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… When you put on a Cardinals uniform, you just seem to fall in step with people like Rogers Hornsby and Frank Frisch.”

Boyer said as a player he enjoyed analyzing games in clubhouse talks with Cardinals teammate Dick Groat, and those discussions prompted him to think about becoming a manager, Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg reported.

Eddie Stanky was Boyer’s first manager in the majors in 1955. Though Stanky was fired two months into the season, his influence on Boyer was significant.

“I agree entirely with Stanky that safety-first baseball is second-division baseball,” Boyer said. “You’ve got to be aggressive and take chances. Speed is baseball’s only two-way weapon. It’s necessary on both offense and defense.

“I’m glad I broke in under a manager as smart as Stanky … I’m fortunate I learned so many little things from him, including how to run the bases. If he had pitching to go with the offense he developed, the Cardinals in the mid-1950s would have been outstanding.”

Regarding Johnny Keane, manager of the 1964 World Series champion Cardinals, Boyer said, “He encouraged individual ingenuity.”

Teaching skills

At Cardinals spring training in 1970, Boyer was one of the instructors who worked with Joe Torre, the catcher who was learning to play third base. With Cardinals third baseman Mike Shannon sidelined because of a kidney disease, Torre and first baseman Richie Allen were the candidates to take over the position.

“I told Bing Devine that Torre had good enough hands and a strong, accurate arm,” Boyer said. “The only questions are his range and knowing what to do in certain situations.”

As spring training neared an end, the Cardinals named former pitcher Dick Hughes to be a coach on Boyer’s staff at Arkansas. Boyer’s former Cardinals teammate, Carl Sawatski, was the Arkansas general manager.

Boyer’s brother, Len, 24, was the Opening Day third baseman for Arkansas. “I don’t think it’s going to cause any problems,” Ken Boyer told The Sporting News.

Arkansas lost 13 of its first 17 games. Len Boyer struggled, hitting .230 in 24 games, and was sent down to Class A Modesto.

Even with the slow start and his brother’s demotion, Ken Boyer was poised and patient. The club followed his lead, recovered and finished with a 67-67 record.

“The challenge is to get kids to go out and play the game relaxed,” Boyer said. “(Stan) Musial enjoyed playing. That’s a big reason he lasted so long.”

Two of the top prospects at Arkansas were outfielder Jose Cruz (90 RBI, .300 batting average) and pitcher Al Hrabosky (8-1, 3.26 ERA).

“There’s more emphasis on development in double-A.” Boyer said. “When I played, we had four or five players over 30 who didn’t have anywhere to go, or maybe had already been and were coming back.”

Back in the majors

After the 1970 season, Boyer was named Cardinals hitting coach, replacing Dick Sisler, who was fired.

“The young players at Arkansas liked Boyer,” said Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst.

Devine said Boyer “has impressed a lot of people with his work with young players.”

Boyer’s ascension to the big-league coaching staff fueled speculation he was waiting in the wings to replace Schoendienst, whose clubs didn’t contend in 1969 and 1970.

In the Post-Dispatch, Bob Broeg wrote, “Red’s heir apparent now is Ken Boyer.”

Boyer was a Cardinals coach in 1971 and 1972 before returning to managing in their farm system from 1973-76.

When Schoendienst was fired after the 1976 season, the Cardinals bypassed Boyer and hired Vern Rapp. Disheartened, Boyer left the organization and became a manager in the Orioles’ farm system.

Boyer was managing Rochester of the International League when the Cardinals fired Rapp in April 1978. Boyer finally got his chance to manage in the majors, replacing Rapp.

In three seasons as Cardinals manager, Boyer was 166-191 before he was fired in June 1978 and replaced by Whitey Herzog.