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On the verge of being unable to complete his masterpiece, Bud Smith rediscovered the strike zone in the nick of time and got the job done.

Twenty years ago, on Sept. 3, 2001, Smith pitched a no-hitter for the Cardinals against the Padres.

With his pitch count rising and his command fading, Smith was in danger of getting a mound visit from manager Tony La Russa, who was considering lifting the rookie left-hander.

One pitch away from creating an uncomfortable situation, Smith managed to prevent the conversation neither he nor La Russa wanted to have.

Tapping his potential

Born and raised in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Robert Allan Smith got the nickname Bud from his father, Allan, a construction worker, who would come home from work and ask his son to get him a cold Budweiser from the refrigerator, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Smith was 18 when he was chosen by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 1998 amateur draft.

His breakout season came in 2000 when he had a 17-2 record in the minors. Among the wins were a pair of seven-inning no-hitters for Arkansas.

A finesse pitcher, Smith was listed at 6 feet, 170 pounds. When Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck got a look at him at spring training in 2001, he exclaimed to Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, “He’s as thin as soup.”

The Sporting News described Smith as “a Tom Glavine-type: smallish but with a good enough fastball and decent changeup.”

“I create ground balls,” Smith told Miklasz. “I’m not a big strikeout guy.”

Ups and downs

Smith, 21, started the 2001 season in the minors, but was called up to the Cardinals in June. He made his debut for them with an inning of scoreless relief at Denver. Boxscore

On June 17 against the White Sox, Smith got his first big-league win in his first big-league start. Boxscore

He was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in July, but 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in August.

In his last three August starts, Smith gave up 14 earned runs in 14 innings. The last game in that stretch was against the Padres in St. Louis. The Cardinals won, 16-14, but Smith was shelled for seven runs, five earned, before he was lifted in the fourth. Ryan Klesko hit a 472-foot home run against him. Boxscore

Looking good

La Russa was considering removing Smith from the rotation if he didn’t improve in his next start, Sept. 3, in a rematch versus the Padres at San Diego.

The game would be Smith’s first in his home state as a big-leaguer. In attendance were his mother, stepfather, 14 other immediate family members and 10 high school buddies, the Associated Press reported.

“Smith tried to change speeds and use both sides of the plate better than he did in his three previous outings,” The Sporting News reported.

In sync with catcher Eli Marrero, Smith executed the strategy splendidly. “That’s the first time I’ve felt that comfortable in a while,” he told the Post-Dispatch.

Smith retired the first five batters before issuing a walk to ex-teammate Ray Lankford in the second. Rickey Henderson walked in the third. Five of the Padres’ first 15 outs were strikeouts. In five innings, Smith’s pitch count was at 70.

“I was almost rooting for him to give up a hit so we could get him out of there,” pitching coach Dave Duncan told the Post-Dispatch.

Henderson walked again in the sixth, but the no-hitter was intact.

In the seventh, Smith hung a changeup to Bubba Trammell, who drove the pitch deep to left.

“That ball was the biggest scare of the night,” Smith told the Post-Dispatch.

As he watched left fielder Albert Pujols run toward the wall, “I thought the only chance I had was if Albert jumped and robbed him,” Smith said.

The ball didn’t carry as far as Smith feared, and Pujols caught it at the wall.

Mission accomplished

In the late innings, aware a no-hitter was at stake, “I was shaking,” Smith said to the Post-Dispatch. “I was so nervous.”

With the Cardinals ahead, 4-0, La Russa made some defensive changes in the eighth, including shifting Pujols from left to first base in place of Mark McGwire.

In the same inning, Tony Gwynn, 41 and in his last season of a Hall of Fame career, got a standing ovation as he came to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Smith was so focused, “I couldn’t hear anybody in the stands,” he told the Post-Dispatch.

Gwynn grounded out to shortstop Edgar Renteria.

In the ninth, relievers Dave Veres and Steve Kline warmed up rapidly in the Cardinals’ bullpen. Henderson, like Gwynn, a future Hall of Famer, led off and hit a broken-bat grounder to short for the first out.

After getting ahead on the count 1-and-2 to D’Angelo Jimenez, Smith walked him. La Russa sensed trouble. Smith had thrown more than 120 pitches and leaving him in the game “went against La Russa’s instincts,” The Sporting News noted.

The next batter was Ryan Klesko, who had hit the mammoth home run against Smith five nights earlier. When the first three pitches to Klesko missed the strike zone, La Russa said he was tempted to relieve Smith if he walked Klesko, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Asked whether he really would have lifted Smith, La Russa replied, “I probably would have made a trip (to the mound) and asked him to be honest. If he said, ‘I’m toast,’ it would have been better to let the reliever make the mistake.”

La Russa never had to leave the dugout. On the 3-and-0 pitch to Klesko, Smith threw a fastball for a strike. He came back with a curve for strike two. On the next pitch, Klesko sliced a grounder toward short. Renteria grabbed it on the short hop and fired to first in time for the second out.

Next was cleanup batter Phil Nevin. He got the count to 2-and-1. On Smith’s 134th pitch, Nevin smacked a sharp grounder up the middle. Smith snared it, ran halfway to first base and flipped underhanded to Pujols for the final out.

“He hit it right to me, but I didn’t know I had the ball,” Smith told the Associated Press. Boxscore and Video of last 3 innings

Smith was the third Cardinals rookie to pitch a no-hitter, joining Paul Dean (1934) and Jose Jimenez (1999).

The no-hitter was the start of a stretch of 12 wins in 13 games for the Cardinals. Smith was 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA in three September starts, helping the Cardinals finish in a tie with the Astros atop the division and qualify for the playoffs.

Smith’s record with the Cardinals in the regular season: 6-3 with a 3.81 ERA.

In the National League Division Series against the Diamondbacks, Smith started and won Game 4. Boxscore

The next year, Smith was 1-5 with a 6.94 ERA when the Cardinals packaged him in a trade to the Phillies for Scott Rolen.

After the deal, Smith never appeared in another big-league game. The no-hitter was his only complete game in the majors.

An experiment with technology went haywire for the Reds in a game against the Cardinals.

Sixty years ago, on Aug. 18, 1961, Reds manager Fred Hutchinson used a shortwave radio to communicate instructions from the bench to his third-base coach.

The innovative effort lasted an inning before Hutchinson went back to using traditional hand signals to relay signs.

Sign language

The Reds were the surprise of the National League in 1961. In addition to talents such as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Wally Post, the Reds were loaded with former Cardinals. They included the manager (Fred Hutchinson), hitting coach (Dick Sisler), relief ace (Jim Brosnan) and three infield starters (second baseman Don Blasingame, shortstop Eddie Kasko and third baseman Gene Freese).

On Aug. 18, the Reds (73-46) were in first place, 13 games ahead of St. Louis (58-57) and one ahead of the second-place Dodgers (69-44), entering a weekend series with the Cardinals at Cincinnati.

Earlier that season, the Dodgers unveiled a walkie-talkie system for manager Walter Alston to communicate with base coaches, the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. The Reds were determined not to be left out of the modern communications game.

Before the series opener against the Cardinals, Hutchinson informed reporters of the new way he planned to send instructions to the third-base coach.

Hutchinson had a microphone in the dugout and coach Reggie Otero, stationed at third, was provided an earpiece.

“A blue wire, connected to an amplifier in the dugout, has been run underground to the third-base coaching box, where it forms a loop around Otero,” the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. “Otero is equipped with a receiver under his shirt and an earplug. Anything broadcast through the amplifier can be heard by Otero as long as he’s within the loop.”

Party line

In the first inning, Otero heard Hutchinson’s instructions just fine. Problem was, so did a lot of others.

Because of a snafu in the system, Hutchinson’s instructions to Otero also were coming through the loudspeaker in the press box.

Fans in seats near the press box could hear what was being said, too, United Press International reported.

“It threw the Reds’ bosses into a tizzy,” the Associated Press noted.

General manager Bill DeWitt Sr. called Hutchinson in the dugout and told him to stop using the shortwave device.

Hutchinson went back to using hand signals to send signs to Otero, who relayed them the same way to the batters and runners.

Unfazed, the Reds scored four runs in four innings against Bob Gibson. Gordy Coleman hit a three-run triple with two outs in the first. Frank Robinson stole home with two outs in the third.

Behind the complete-game pitching of American League castoff Ken Johnson, who mixed knuckleballs with sinkers, the Reds won, 6-3. Boxscore

They finished the season four games ahead of the Dodgers and became National League champions for the first time in 21 years.

When the body of Cardinals scout Les Wilson was found bloodied and battered in a hotel room, police suspected murder. Turns out, the victim killed himself.

Seventy-five years ago, on Aug. 17, 1946, Wilson, 35, died after a hellish night of hallucinations and destructive drinking.

The demons that tormented him took a terrible toll.

Farm work

Edward Leslie Wilson was born in St. Louis on Aug. 15, 1911, according to baseball-reference.com. He relocated with his family from St. Louis to Fayetteville, Ark., when he was 8, the Associated Press reported.

Wilson excelled at baseball in high school in Fayetteville. A catcher and infielder, he went on to play multiple seasons in the minors.

He broke his hand when Dom Dallessandro, a future big-leaguer, accidently stepped on it during a play at first base, according to the Associated Press.

After the hand injury, Wilson returned to Fayetteville and ran a cab company, the Associated Press reported.

He attempted a comeback as a player, then became an umpire in the minors from 1938-41.

Wilson enlisted in the Army Air Forces on Dec. 12, 1941, five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Soon after his honorable discharge on Jan. 15, 1946, the Cardinals hired Wilson to be a scout.

At the Cardinals’ minor-league spring training camp at Albany, Ga., in 1946, Wilson worked with Wally Schang, manager of the Marion, Ohio, team, in selecting a roster, the Marion Star reported.

Early in the season, Wilson spent nearly a week in Marion, “helping shape the team,” according to the Marion newspaper.

Wilson “discovered and signed several of the players now on the active list, including catcher Vern Rapp,” the Marion Star reported. Rapp would manage the Cardinals in 1977 and 1978.

Mystery visit

After his work with Marion, Wilson’s other assignments included helping run Cardinals tryout camps in Canada, Nebraska and Missouri, according to the Ottawa Citizen and the Associated Press.

Eventually, Wilson was assigned to scout in Texas, United Press reported.

During the first week of August, Joe Mathes, head of the Cardinals’ farm and scouting systems, said he spoke to Wilson in Houston, the Associated Press reported. Mathes said he assigned Wilson to be in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the American Legion Tournament Aug. 11-14.

“He wasn’t supposed to be in Dallas,” Mathes told the Dallas Times-Herald.

Wilson checked in to a Dallas hotel on Aug. 13. The next night, Aug. 14, he was told to leave because he became intoxicated and destroyed several pieces of furniture in his room, the hotel manager told United Press.

Wilson was arrested on a charge of drunkenness on the night of Aug. 14 and spent his 35th birthday, Aug. 15, in jail. He was released the morning of Aug. 16 after paying a $10 fine.

Dark night

At 6:05 on the morning of Aug. 16, Wilson checked in to the Savoy Hotel and was given a room on the fourth floor, the Associated Press reported. United Press described it as “a third-rate Dallas hotel.”

That night, Wilson had a hotel porter, William Brown, bring him two bottles of whiskey and a bottle of wine, United Press reported. Brown said Wilson was alone in the room.

Hours later, at 3:15 a.m. on Aug. 17, another porter, Johnny Lee Joe, was summoned to Wilson’s room. The porter “found the room wildly disarranged” and Wilson was “bloody and battered,” United Press reported.

Wilson, alone in the room, wanted ice water. The porter asked Wilson if he needed help. “Wilson said no, he had hurt himself in a fall, but would be all right,” United Press reported.

About six hours later, at 9:45 a.m. on Aug. 17, housekeeper Opal Cooper entered the room and discovered Wilson dead.

Gruesome scene

“His blood-stained, bruised body was found in a sitting position, propped against the wall,” The Sporting News reported.

Police suspected Wilson “died in a desperate battle with robbers in his room,” United Press reported.

“The walls were splattered with blood from baseboards to shoulder height,” according to United Press. “Blood even was splattered on the ceiling. Furniture was broken and blood soaked the broken bed.”

The first physician on the scene saw gashes on Wilson’s head and shoulders and determined those were knife wounds, United Press reported.

“A coroner’s investigation disclosed Wilson had been slashed across the throat and stabbed in the head and shoulders by an unknown assailant,” according to United Press.

“Wilson’s body was a mass of bruises, indicating he also was engaged in a fistfight with his attacker before the fatal wounds were inflicted.”

According to the Associated Press, detective chief Will Fritz “said he believed Wilson had been knocked unconscious in a fight, regained his senses and staggered about the room in a dazed condition. He said that could explain blood stains on the wall.”

Detective Fritz estimated the time of death to be 5:30 a.m.

No weapons were found in the room. On the dresser was a wallet, but the only money found were a few scattered coins, United Press reported.

According to the Associated Press, “on the floor of the wrecked room police found fragments of a torn photograph of a woman.”

An empty whiskey bottle and one half-full were on a window sill when officers arrived, United Press reported.

“Police had not the slightest doubt they were confronted with a murder,” United Press noted. “It promised to be a murder mystery.”

According to the Associated Press, two men dressed in khakis were sought by police in connection with the murder. The men were seen walking down the hotel’s fourth-floor hallway with Wilson the afternoon of Aug. 16.

Police also held three persons for questioning: the late-night porter, and two hotel guests _ a 33-year-old man Detective Fritz said had been arrested many times, and a 30-year-old woman.

Drunken violence

The case took an unexpected twist after an autopsy was ordered by a justice of the peace.

The autopsy was conducted by two physicians at Parkland Hospital in Dallas: Dr. Morton Mason, a toxicologist, and Dr. Charles Ashworth, a pathologist.

Dr. Mason ruled cause of death was “acute alcoholism.”

Wilson “killed himself with alcoholic gluttony in a wild, all-night wrestle with whiskey-produced phantoms,” United Press concluded. “Not one of his many wounds, all evidently inflicted when he flung himself against the walls of his hotel room in pursuit of bottle demons, was sufficient to have caused death,” the doctors said.

Dr. Ashworth said Wilson suffered a smashed nose and swollen upper lip, International News Service reported.

Detective Fritz said Wilson lost considerable blood from nose bleeding, the Associated Press reported.

According to The Sporting News, friends attributed Wilson’s “mental condition to reaction from the war and the death of his father last year.”

Wilson, unmarried, was survived by a cousin and an aunt, both of St. Louis, the Associated Press reported.

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon authorized a Dallas mortician, Vernon O’Neal, to hold funeral services and burial in Dallas Aug. 20 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, according to the Associated Press.

A troubled talent, Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton let his emotions reach a boiling point, resulting in a public meltdown.

Forty years ago, on Aug. 26, 1981, during a game at St. Louis, Templeton got booed for not hustling and reacted by making obscene gestures.

Ejected by umpire Bruce Froemming, Templeton was approaching the dugout when he was confronted by manager Whitey Herzog, who pulled him down the steps and backed him against a wall before teammates separated them.

The Cardinals suspended and fined Templeton, then moved him to the disabled list when he entered a St. Louis hospital for treatment of emotional problems.

Three weeks later, Templeton returned to the Cardinals’ lineup and finished the season. During the winter, the Cardinals traded him to the Padres for a future Hall of Famer, Ozzie Smith.

Good and bad

A first-round choice of the Cardinals in the 1974 amateur draft, Templeton was 20 when he took over for Don Kessinger as starting shortstop in August 1976.

In his book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said Templeton, a switch-hitter with speed, “was the single most talented all-around player I’d seen since Mickey Mantle.”

In 1979, Templeton became the first player to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in one season, but he also was the center of controversy, demanding a trade and snubbing the All-Star Game.

Battle of wills

In 1981, Herzog’s first full year as Cardinals manager and general manager, Templeton hit .345 in April, but slumped in May.

On May 25, Herzog moved Templeton out of the leadoff spot and put Tommy Herr there.

Herr “was the best leadoff man we’ve had here,” Herzog said to The Sporting News. “Templeton is not a good leadoff man. He doesn’t get any walks.”

Miffed, Templeton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he wanted to be traded to a team near his home in southern California.

“Put Tony Scott and me in a package deal and send us to San Diego for Ozzie Smith and Gene Richards,” Templeton told the Post-Dispatch in a story published June 1.

“This organization has had enough of me,” Templeton said. “I’m tired of this.”

Herzog responded, “No player is going to make out my lineup for me.”

Templeton batted in the No. 2 spot in the order until the players went on strike June 12.

Sign language

When play resumed Aug. 10, Templeton was restored to the leadoff position, but he wasn’t content. He informed Herzog he didn’t want to play in day games after night games.

In “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said his response to Templeton was, “What’s the matter with you? You’re tired?”

According to Herzog, Templeton’s teammates were tired of his antics. “They could see he was dogging it on ground balls, pulling up short on the bases, and generally acting like he didn’t give a damn about baseball or them,” Herzog said.

After a night game on Tuesday, Aug. 25, the Cardinals had a game against the Giants the next afternoon at Busch Memorial Stadium.

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “I told Templeton he’d have to play, even if he didn’t feel like it.”

The start of the game was delayed 88 minutes because of rain, and some of the 7,766 spectators spent the time drinking.

In the first inning, Templeton struck out, but catcher Milt May dropped the third strike. Rather than hustle to first, Templeton took a few steps up the line, then veered toward the dugout. Fans booed the lack of effort.

In “White Rat,” Herzog said, “I didn’t blame them. If I’d paid good money to see a professional ballplayer put out, I’d have been booing, too.”

Templeton responded to the jeers by slapping his left hand under a raised right arm with fist clenched.

Plate umpire Bruce Froemming warned Templeton that any more gestures would lead to an ejection.

Out of control

In the bottom of the third, when Templeton entered the on-deck circle, he was booed. He turned toward the fans and grabbed his crotch.

After Froemming ejected him, Templeton started toward the dugout, stopped, clutched his genitals and raised a middle finger to the fans, the Associated Press reported.

In “White Rat,” Herzog recalled, “When he got to the dugout, I reached out and pulled him down the steps, and if the other players hadn’t come between us, I guess we’d have had a pretty good fight. I’d never been so mad at a player.”

Herzog ordered Templeton to go to the clubhouse and wait for him, but Templeton packed and left the ballpark under police protection, The Sporting News reported.

Herzog suspended Templeton indefinitely and fined him $5,000.

“There’s no ballplayer big enough to show up the fans and make the gestures he was making,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch. “When he grows up to be a man and publicly apologizes to our fans and to his teammates, he can come back and play. It’s up to him.”

Asked about Templeton, Cardinals catcher Gene Tenace said to The Sporting News, “We’re better off without him. He’s a loser. I’ve lost all respect for him as a human being.” Boxscore

Ready to return

In “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said Cardinals owner Gussie Busch told him, “Get rid of the son of a bitch.”

Busch wanted Templeton traded the next day. “He didn’t care what we got in return,” Herzog said, “but that wasn’t going to help us any.”

Instead, team physician Dr. Stan London met with Templeton on Aug. 27 and convinced him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation the next day. London said Templeton was “very receptive” to be evaluated.

On Aug. 31, Templeton entered a St. Louis hospital for treatment of depression, the Post-Dispatch reported. The Cardinals lifted his suspension and put him on the disabled list.

On Sept. 15, Templeton returned to the club. He apologized to his teammates in the clubhouse before a doubleheader at Montreal and they welcomed him back.

“He was kind of emotional, but he made it short and to the point,” Tenace told the Post-Dispatch.

Tommy Herr noted, “He said he wanted to come back and play hard. That’s all I wanted to hear.”

Batting second in the order, Templeton had four hits in the opener versus the Expos. Boxscore

On Sept. 23, in his first home game since his return, Templeton “was cheered when the lineups were read and again before each time at-bat,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “The applause drowned out a smattering of boos.”

Templeton had two hits and a RBI in the game against the Phillies. Boxscore

Herzog kept Templeton in the second spot in the order the rest of the season. He hit .386 in 18 September games.

For the season, Templeton batted .288, including .351 with runners in scoring position, and had 96 hits in 80 games.

Batting leadoff in 1981, Templeton had a .273 batting average and .279 on-base percentage. From the No. 2 spot, he hit .336 with a .366 on-base percentage.

A four-game sweep by the Cardinals contributed to an epic losing streak by the Phillies.

Sixty years ago, in 1961, the Phillies lost 23 consecutive games _ the longest losing streak by a team since the American League joined the National League to form the majors in 1901.

Before then, two clubs deemed as major-league had longer losing streaks. The Cleveland Spiders of the National League lost 24 in a row in 1899. The Louisville Colonels of the American Association lost 26 straight in 1889.

Dim view

Managed by Gene Mauch, 35, the 1961 Phillies were not expected to be good. In its preview of the 1961 season, Sports Illustrated listed the Phillies’ weak spots as “pitching and hitting.”

In May, the Phillies traded one of their best pitchers, Turk Farrell, to the Dodgers for outfielder Don Demeter and third baseman Charlie Smith. By the end of June, the Phillies were 22-45 and out of contention.

The first of their 23 consecutive losses came on July 29 against the Giants. In the first inning, with Giants runners on second and third, one out, Mauch ordered an intentional walk to Willie Mays. Orlando Cepeda followed with a grand slam and the Giants won, 4-3. Boxscore

Wrong direction

The losing streak was at five when the Phillies went to St. Louis for a four-game weekend series with the Cardinals.

In the Aug. 4 opener, the Phillies trailed by a run in the ninth, but had runners on first and second, none out.

Tony Gonzalez hit a drive to deep right. Joe Cunningham leaped and caught the ball for the first out, but the runner on second, rookie George Williams, failed to tag and didn’t advance. The baserunning lapse prompted Mauch to stage “a helmet-throwing tantrum in the dugout,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The next two batters, ex-Cardinal Bobby Gene Smith and Lee Walls, struck out, and the Cardinals escaped with a 9-8 victory. Boxscore

In the clubhouse, Mauch “singed the entire team with a post-game lecture,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“It was building up, up, up,” said Mauch, who regretted the outburst.

On Aug. 5, the Cardinals won, 7-0, on a shutout by Curt Simmons, a former Phillie, and two home runs by Bill White. Boxscore

The next day, the Cardinals used the Polish power of Ray Sadecki and Carl Sawatski to win both games of a Sunday doubleheader .

In the opener, Sadecki hit a three-run double and pitched a four-hitter for a 3-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

In the second game, Sawatski, a former Phillie, drove in all three runs in a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

The Cardinals’ sweep stretched the Phillies’ losing streak to nine. “This team doesn’t act like a team that goes out to get beat,” Mauch told the Philadelphia Daily News. “They’re trying.”

That’s a winner

The Phillies had one extra-inning game during the streak and it resulted in their 20th consecutive loss, 7-6 to the Braves on Aug. 17. The Braves won in the 11th on a RBI by Philadelphia native Al Spangler. Boxscore

“The Phillies have had some inept clubs, but nothing to match this,” The Sporting News declared. “It was hard to assess more blame on the pitching than the hitting. Both were failing.”

Three days later, in a Sunday doubleheader at Milwaukee, the Braves won the opener, 5-2, on Warren Spahn’s five-hitter, giving them 10 consecutive wins and extending the Phillies’ losing streak to 23. Boxscore

Relief came in the second game. Clay Dalrymple had three hits, ex-Brave Wes Covington hit a home run and the Phillies prevailed, 7-4. Boxscore

The winning pitcher, John Buzhardt, went the distance and held Eddie Mathews and Joe Torre hitless.

“I had a feeling we were going to win,” Buzhardt told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I said, ‘Get me two runs and I’ll win.’ It’s a good thing they got me seven.”

Buzhardt was the lucky charm the Phillies had been seeking. He wore uniform No. 23, same number as the losing streak, and he was the winning pitcher in the Phillies’ last victory before the streak began.

“The kid probably felt like he was pitching in the seventh game of the World Series,” Mauch said to the Associated Press.

In the victorious Phillies clubhouse, the mood was more consolation than celebration.

“We were so embarrassed by then that we had no elation,” Mauch recalled to Sports Illustrated.

Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News observed, “If you think champagne corks popped or pheasant suddenly appeared out from under glass, think again. They had spare ribs, cheese and crackers, and beer in the clubhouse.”

Welcome home

The Phillies’ charter flight from Milwaukee arrived in Philadelphia at 1:10 a.m., 90 minutes late.

As the plane taxied to the gate, the Phillies saw a crowd of about 200 people waiting for them in a drenching rain.

Peering from his window seat, Phillies pitcher and funnyman Frank Sullivan shouted to his teammates, “They are selling rocks at $1.50 a pail. Leave the plane at five-minute intervals. That way, they can’t get us all with one burst.”

The fans had come to congratulate the team on snapping the losing streak, “and nobody threw anything more dangerous than confetti,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

As a band played “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” fans hoisted Mauch on their shoulders and staged an impromptu victory march through the airport.

Mauch told the crowd, “One day, we’ll come home after winning 23 out of 24, and they’ll have to build a new airport.”

Summing up the day, Frank Sullivan dead-panned, “Well, we gained a half-game on first-place Cincinnati.”

Bad numbers

The 1961 Phillies lost 19 of 22 games against the champion Reds and finished the season in last place at 47-107.

The Cardinals were 13-9 versus the Phillies. Curt Simmons (4-0, 1.52 ERA) and Bob Gibson (3-0, 0.67) did best against them.

Don Demeter led the Phillies in home runs (20) and RBI (68). Their top hitter was Tony Gonzalez (.277).

John Buzhardt finished with a 6-18 record. Frank Sullivan needed a sense of humor. He was 3-16. Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts was 1-10.

The Phillies placed last in the league in batting average (.243), on-base percentage (.310) and runs (584). Their staff ERA of 4.61 was worst in the league.

Adding a mix of controversy and comedy with a demonstration of clout, baseball’s greatest showman gave a commanding performance while reaching a milestone before a St. Louis audience.

Ninety years ago, on Aug. 21, 1931, in a game against the Browns at Sportsman’s Park, Yankees slugger Babe Ruth hit his 600th career home run.

Usually, such a feat would provide enough drama for one day, but not for Babe. Next, he got ejected. Then, he sparked a treasure hunt by offering a reward for his home run ball.

Big blow

Ruth, 36, hit his 599th home run, a ninth-inning grand slam, on Aug. 20 against the Browns at Sportsman’s Park. Boxscore

The next day, a Depression Era crowd of 4,000 came to Sportsman’s Park to see if he could hit No. 600.

Before the game, Ruth informed Browns secretary Willis Johnson that he’d like to have the ball if he hit the milestone home run, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

In the third inning, with a runner on first, Ruth did his part. He hit a pitch from George Blaeholder high and deep to right, “a gorgeous, virile blow” that “stirred the sopranos to violent shrilling,” the New York Daily News noted.

The ball carried over the pavilion roof and struck a parked car on Grand Avenue, according to the Associated Press.

“The din had just subsided” when Lou Gehrig “duplicated the Bambino’s feat,” the Daily News reported. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gehrig’s ball bounced off the roof and into the street.

Prize money

Four innings later, with the Yankees ahead, 8-1, Browns cleanup batter Red Kress hit a three-run home run to left against Hank Johnson.

Ruth, playing left field, claimed a spectator in the bleachers interfered with the ball while it was in play. When Ruth persisted with his argument, umpire Roy Van Graflan ejected him. It was the 10th of Ruth’s 11 career ejections as a player, but only the second time the gate attraction had been tossed since 1924.

Done for the day, Ruth’s thoughts were on his home run ball. When he got to the clubhouse, he sent word to the press box, asking that radio stations relay his request for the ball to be returned to him. Ruth said he would reward the finder with $10 and a new baseball.

Ruth was drawing a salary of $80,000 in 1931 _ when asked after signing the contract whether he believed he deserved to be making more money than President Herbert Hoover, Babe supposedly replied, “’I had a better year than he did.” _ but a $10 offer for a baseball was a good deal during the depths of economic depression.

Three St. Louis radio stations _ KMOX, KWK and WIL _ carried Browns home games in 1931, so when Ruth’s request went on the airwaves it reached a wide audience.

Kid stuff

When a 10-year-old newsboy, Tom Callico of North Grand Avenue, showed up at the Sportsman’s Park press gate with a ball, Willis Johnson, the Browns’ secretary, took him to meet Ruth.

According to Dick Farrington of The Sporting News, “Babe greeted the kid like a father. He fished around and handed the boy a $10 bill and in another few minutes had a brand new ball for him.”

While Callico was meeting with writers in the press box, another boy arrived at the gate and said he had the Ruth home run ball. According to The Sporting News, the boy was brought to Ruth, who gave him $10 and a new ball, too.

“Babe doesn’t know which of the balls he purchased was the one he hit,” The Sporting News noted.

Ruth guessed one of the balls was Gehrig’s home run. Boxscore

Ruth finished the season with 46 home runs, the 12th and last time he led the American League in that category.

Against the Browns in 1931, he hit .383 with eight home runs, including four at Sportsman’s Park.

For his career, Ruth batted .351 with 96 home runs versus the Browns. He hit 58 regular-season home runs at Sportsman’s Park. He also hit six there against the Cardinals _ three in Game 4 of the 1926 World Series Boxscore and three in Game 4 of the 1928 World Series. Boxscore