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Prompted by his wife, Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean confronted a critic and initiated an argument that escalated into a brawl inside a crowded hotel lobby.

The principals in what became known as the Battle of Tampa were Dean, teammate Joe Medwick and journalists Jack Miley of the New York Daily News and Irv Kupcinet of the Chicago Daily Times.

Though the fisticuffs were real, the biggest blows may have been those that inflicted bruises to the egos of the participants.

The melee occurred 80 years ago, on April 2, 1937, at the Tampa Terrace Hotel after the Cardinals lost to the Reds in a spring training game.

The seeds for the showdown were sown about a month earlier.

Money matters

Holding out for a more lucrative contract offer, Dean didn’t report when the 1937 Cardinals opened spring training camp at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Miley, a columnist, scolded the pitcher. According to The Sporting News, he wrote: “For a guy who was picking cotton for 50 cents a day a few years ago, Diz has an amusing idea of his own importance.”

While Dean stayed with his wife Patricia at their house in Bradenton, Fla., during the contract holdout, journalists camped out in the town, hoping for comments from the colorful Cardinals ace.

In “Diz,” a 1992 biography of Dean, author Robert Gregory wrote that when reporters cornered Dizzy and his wife at a post office, seeking an interview, Patricia “cursed them and stomped to the car, honking the horn every few seconds until he joined her.”

When Dizzy later agreed to pose for news photographers, Patricia kept the cameramen waiting five hours before allowing her husband to cooperate.

Miley went on the attack in his column. According to Gregory, Miley called Patricia “a plump, dominating cotton queen” and described Dizzy as a “hen-pecked, fat-between-the-ears sharecropper.”

Dizzy shrugged off such remarks, Gregory said, but Patricia vowed revenge.

War of words

When the Cardinals played the Reds at Tampa, Patricia spotted Miley at the ballpark.

After the game, the Cardinals went to the hotel and, still in uniform, gathered in the lobby, awaiting room keys. Most of the Cardinals carried their spikes to keep from tearing up the lobby carpets.

Dizzy and Patricia were the first from the Cardinals group to get a room key. As they entered the elevator, Patricia saw Miley in the lobby _ just as Miley and Kupcinet emerged from the hotel bar, according to Gregory _ and urged her husband to confront the writer.

In the lobby were 18 Cardinals, about 20 other hotel guests and some hotel employees.

Dean stepped out of the elevator and approached Miley.

In piecing together accounts written by Miley, Gregory, J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and George Kirksey of United Press, here is what happened next:

Dizzy: “Is your name Miley?”

Miley: “Yes.”

Dizzy: “I wish you would not write those things about me. You said some terrible things about me.”

As the conversation continued, about 10 of Dizzy’s teammates gathered around him.

Dizzy: “You $125-a-month writers make me sick. Don’t you never mention me and my wife in one of them damned columns of yours again.”

Miley: “That’s a pleasure. I hate to write about bush leaguers anyway.”

Dizzy: “Just remember what I told you. I warned you. That’s from the horse’s mouth.”

Miley: “I say it’s from a hillbilly horse’s ass. What are you going to do about it?”

Dizzy: “I’ll show you…”

Hit or miss

Kupcinet, a 6-foot, 195-pound former college quarterback at North Dakota, stepped between Dean and the rotund (5 feet 6, 250-pound) Miley.

“Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size,” Kupcinet said to the pitcher.

Dean replied: “Stay out of my way, you New York Jew.”

Dizzy unleashed a wild punch _ “a ladylike left hook,” Miley called it _ that either missed or grazed Miley’s head.

Mike Ryba, a Cardinals pitcher, reached over Dean’s shoulder and swung his spikes, cracking Miley in the forehead and opening a cut above his right eye. The blow knocked Miley to the floor.

As Kupcinet reached for Dean, Medwick landed a crunching punch to Kupcinet’s left cheekbone.

Kupcinet went sprawling into a potted palm tree “that swooshed backward and started a chain reaction, knocking down floor lamps, plants and four other palms,” Gregory wrote.

Dean scampered for cover under an overturned sofa.

As other players moved in on the fallen writers, Mike Gonzales, a Cardinals coach, stopped the brawl from continuing.

In the Post-Dispatch, Stockton said of the spectacle, “Cigar girls and bell boys were very much excited, but no serious harm had been done.”

Tough talk

As Dean strutted back to the elevator, he crowed, “There ain’t no doubt about it _ It’s still the Gas House Gang.”

Kupcinet shouted at Dean: “I’ll fight you any place, any time you want to. Just name it.”

Miley said to Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch: “What’s the matter, Francis, can’t you control those ballplayers of yours?”

Replied Frisch: “No, I can’t.”

Kupcinet told a colleague, “Dean started the whole trouble, but when the fight started he didn’t get in it himself. They’re the Gas House Gang all right, but they won’t fight unless they know they’ve got the edge on you.”

Post mortem

The Cardinals paid the hotel for the damages, Gregory reported.

Ford Frick, National League president, said he wasn’t inclined to take action because the fight didn’t occur on the baseball field.

Among media reaction:

_ Joe Williams, columnist for the New York World-Telegram, said of Patricia Dean: “There’s a lady for you, chums. I wouldn’t say she is hard-bitten, but Mr. Miley is lucky she wasn’t in there swinging.”

_ The Sporting News editorialized: “There is no defense for ganging up on a man. Only mobs, hysteria-crazed and cowards adopt that method … The Cardinals players who participated in that hotel scene have put themselves in the position of public scorn.”

A week later, Dizzy told the Associated Press he was “sorry” about the incident. “It’s the first time I ever had any trouble with a sports writer and you can take it from ol’ Diz it will be the last time,” he said.

In October 1937, The Sporting News reported, Miley left the New York Daily News “after a disagreement with Jimmy Powers, sports editor.” Miley joined King Features syndicate and then the New York Post.

Dean was traded to the Cubs in 1938. Kupcinet, still with the Chicago Daily Times, and Dean patched their differences, posed for a Page 1 photo and became friends, Gregory said.

In retelling the story, Dean denied he’d been in the fight and blamed Medwick for instigating it. In response, Medwick, in a letter to the Chicago Daily Times, wrote: “Dean’s right in one respect. He wasn’t in the fight once punches started to fly. He usually does a crawfish act when that happens.”

Kupcinet began writing a celebrity gossip column for the Chicago Daily Times in January 1943. It was widely read and he became an influential figure in Chicago. Kupcinet continued writing the column for the Chicago Sun-Times until the week he died at 91 in 2003.

Previously: How Dizzy Dean survived an armed robbery

Though it was no blockbuster, the first trade made by Stan Musial as general manager brought to the Cardinals the infield insurance they needed.

Seeking a player who could fill in for shortstop Dal Maxvill and provide late-inning defensive help at third base for converted outfielder Mike Shannon, Musial turned to a friend: Bing Devine.

Devine, president of the Mets, had been general manager of the Cardinals from 1957 until replaced by Bob Howsam in 1964. Musial succeeded Howsam in January 1967.

Fifty years ago, on April 1, 1967, the Cardinals acquired infielder Eddie Bressoud, outfielder Danny Napoleon and cash from the Mets for second baseman Jerry Buchek, pitcher Art Mahaffey and infielder Tony Martinez.

Though seldom used, Bressoud capped his playing career by spending the entire season with a Cardinals club that won the National League pennant and World Series championship.

Roster shuffles

The 1967 Cardinals entered spring training with no reliable backup at shortstop. The options were Buchek, Phil Gagliano and Jimy Williams.

Gagliano had big-league experience, but his best position was second base. Williams was a prospect but had played only 13 games in the majors.

Buchek had been the Opening Day shortstop for the 1966 Cardinals, but his fielding was erratic _ “He just doesn’t cover the ground, field cleanly enough or throw accurately at shortstop,” wrote Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch _ and by June that year Maxvill regained the starting role.

Buchek seemed best equipped for second base, but the Cardinals had Gagliano to back up starter Julian Javier.

Meanwhile, the 1967 Mets entered spring training with a plan to platoon Bressoud and Chuck Hiller at second base.

Bressoud had started 110 games for the 1966 Mets: 73 starts at shortstop, 24 at third base, eight at second base and five at first base. “He’s one of the nicest gentlemen you’ll ever meet,” Mets manager Wes Westrum said to The Sporting News. “He’s done everything ever asked of him.”

Devine, however, decided the Mets would be better off with a starter younger than either Bressoud, 34, or Hiller, 32, at second base to pair with shortstop Bud Harrelson, 22.

Buchek, 24, seemed a promising candidate.

Betting on potential

Buchek, a graduate of McKinley High School in St. Louis, received a $65,000 bonus when he signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1959.

He had a breakout season as starting shortstop for the Cardinals’ Class AAA Atlanta Crackers in 1963, batting .287 with 33 doubles, 11 triples, 10 home runs and 92 RBI.

However, in parts of five seasons (1961 and 1963-66) with the Cardinals, Buchek batted .221 and had more strikeouts (158) than hits (127).

Devine thought a fresh start with another organization would help Buchek and he knew the Cardinals needed a player like Bressoud.

Life’s journey

Bressoud debuted in the big leagues as a shortstop with the 1956 Giants and formed a keystone combination with their second baseman, Red Schoendienst.

Two years later, in 1958, Bressoud’s wife Eleanor, 25, died of a brain tumor, leaving him with two sons ages 2 and 3. A year later, Bressoud remarried.

During the baseball off-seasons, Bressoud pursued his education. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a master’s degree in physical education from San Jose State. He supplemented his income by teaching at high schools in the winter.

Acquired by the Red Sox in November 1961, Bressoud hit 40 doubles and 14 home runs for Boston in 1962, 20 home runs in 1963 and 41 doubles and 15 home runs in his lone all-star season, 1964.

With the 1966 Mets, Bressoud batted .225 in 133 games.

New homes

During a March 30, 1967, spring training game between the Mets and Cardinals, Musial and Devine sat together and discussed their rosters.

Two days later, the trade was announced.

Bressoud and Buchek were the key players.

(Danny Napoleon, the outfielder with the famous surname, never would play for the Cardinals. He may be best remembered for delivering a three-run, pinch-hit triple with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Mets to a 7-6 victory over the Giants on April 24, 1965. Afterward, Mets manager Casey Stengel “pranced past the open door of the quiet Giants clubhouse, thrust up his arm and croaked, ‘Viva, La France,’ ” according to Broeg.)

The trade reunited Bressoud with Schoendienst, manager of the 1967 Cardinals.

“I’m going to a club that seems to want me … I’m ready to play anywhere Red wants me to,” Bressoud said.

Said Schoendienst: “Bressoud has a good arm and he gets rid of the ball well. He’s what we really needed, a proven utilityman who can fill in for Maxvill.”

Buchek, happy to get a chance to be a Mets starter, said, “It would have been another wasted year with the Cardinals.”

Bench player

With Maxvill providing steady play at shortstop and Shannon driving in runs as the third baseman, Bressoud didn’t play often for the 1967 Cardinals. He went hitless in his first 23 at-bats before getting a single off the Astros’ Larry Dierker on June 8, 1967.

“It’s been tough,” Bressoud said. “You replay every at-bat. You go home and punish yourself. You try to put up a false front, but if something like this doesn’t bother you, you don’t belong in the game.”

Bressoud hit his only Cardinals home run on Aug. 9 off future Hall of Famer Don Drysdale of the Dodgers.

Mostly, though, Bressoud served as a sort of player-coach.

“Eddie had some good ideas for me on playing shortstop _ and for playing second base, too,” Maxvill said. “Eddie knew how to play certain hitters and he had me make adjustments.”

Said Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson: “Eddie Bressoud has a good arm and he’s quick. He gets in front of a lot of balls that other infielders don’t even get to, but he’s not sharp enough at times because he doesn’t play enough.”

Bressoud played in 52 regular-season games, making 18 starts at shortstop, for the 1967 Cardinals and batted .134 (9-for-67). He appeared in two World Series games as a defensive replacement.

After the World Series, Bressoud retired as a player and became head baseball coach at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif. He also was a scout for the Angels.

Previously: Mike Shannon and the spring training intrigue of 1967

In his spring training stint with the Cardinals, Mike Caldwell appeared to be a pitcher whose career was in decline. Shelled early and often, Caldwell showed no signs of developing into what he would become: a 20-game winner who would torment the Cardinals in the World Series.

Caldwell’s five-month stint as a Cardinal is a tale of a late bloomer who was in the wrong organization at the wrong time.

Forty years ago, in March 1977, Caldwell, 28, a veteran of six big-league seasons, was considered a leading candidate to fill a role in the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Instead, Caldwell was traded before he got a chance to appear in a regular-season game for St. Louis.

Giant troubles

Caldwell, a left-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1971 Padres. He had a 13-25 record in three seasons with them, then was traded to the Giants for slugger Willie McCovey.

In 1974, his first year with the Giants, Caldwell had a breakout season, posting a 14-5 record and 2.95 ERA.

After the season, Caldwell had surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow. When he returned, he struggled. “I lost some movement on my best pitch, the sinker, and I tightened up some and came sidearm at times,” Caldwell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

By 1976, Caldwell was having troubles in the Giants clubhouse as well as on the mound. “I didn’t get along with a couple of the coaches and they took it personally,” Caldwell said.

The Giants’ pitching coach was the former catcher, Buck Rodgers.

Caldwell reached a low point on April 28, 1976, when Doug Clarey hit a home run, the lone hit of his big-league career, against him in the 16th inning, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory.

Caldwell finished 1-7 with a 4.86 ERA for the 1976 Giants. “I lost my confidence, tried too hard _ overthrew, I guess you’d say _ and I didn’t do very well,” Caldwell said.

Hope rekindled

On Oct. 26, 1976, the Giants traded Caldwell, pitcher John D’Acquisto and catcher Dave Rader to the Cardinals for pitcher John Curtis, outfielder Willie Crawford and utility player Vic Harris.

“I’m just glad to get away from a bad situation,” Caldwell said of leaving the Giants.

The Cardinals slotted Caldwell for the bullpen. “It’s common knowledge that the problem with the Cardinals last year was that middle relief and late relief, except for Al Hrabosky, couldn’t get the other clubs out,” said St. Louis manager Vern Rapp.

Said Caldwell: “I have no illusions. I’ve got to prove I’m good enough to make the staff.”

Bad audition

On March 12, in the Cardinals’ 1977 spring training opener against the Mets, Caldwell pitched two innings and gave up four runs.

Three days later, Caldwell pitched an inning against the Dodgers and yielded three runs.

The Cardinals didn’t pitch him much after that.

On March 29, the Cardinals traded Caldwell to the Reds for pitcher Pat Darcy. In eight spring training innings, Caldwell yielded nine earned runs.

“Rapp called me in and told me, ‘Don’t get mad. You’re going to a contender,’ ” Caldwell said. “I wasn’t mad about that. I just thought he should’ve had some respect for me as a pitcher. That’s all I wanted: Throw me out there to see what I can do.”

Right fit

The Reds weren’t much more impressed with Caldwell than the Cardinals had been. Three months after they’d acquired him, the Reds dealt Caldwell to the Brewers.

In 1978, Caldwell got a break when the Brewers named George Bamberger their manager. Under Bamberger, who had been a pitching coach for the Orioles, Caldwell fulfilled his potential. He was 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA and 23 complete games for the 1978 Brewers.

“Lots of people had given up on me,” Caldwell said to The Sporting News, noting he was traded by four clubs, including the Cardinals. “Maybe the people who gave up on me were responsible in an indirect way for my coming back. I knew I could pitch and I hope those who gave up on me will say now, ‘Well, he had the guts to battle back and win.’ ”

The third-base coach for Bamberger’s Brewers was Buck Rodgers, with whom Caldwell had feuded in his last season with the Giants. In 1980, Rodgers replaced Bamberger as Brewers manager.

Old wounds

Early in the 1982 season, Caldwell had a run-in with Rodgers aboard a plane, The Sporting News reported. In June that year, Rodgers was fired and replaced by hitting coach Harvey Kuenn. Rodgers said disgruntled players had “tried to stab me in the back.”

Kuenn led the Brewers to the 1982 American League pennant and a matchup against St. Louis in the World Series.

Five years after he’d been dealt by the Cardinals, Caldwell would be facing them on baseball’s biggest stage.

Series drama

Caldwell, nicknamed “Mr. Warmth” by teammate Gorman Thomas because of his sometimes grumpy nature, was Kuenn’s choice to start Game 1.

Caldwell responded with a three-hit shutout in a 10-0 Brewers victory. Boxscore

Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez said he thought Caldwell was throwing a spitter, an illegal pitch. “He might have been throwing me screwballs, but I never saw a screwball drop like that,” Hernandez said.

Caldwell said he threw “natural sinkers.” Regarding the spitball accusation, Caldwell replied, “I look at it as a compliment. If the ball drops so much that they’re accusing me of throwing a spitter, I’ve got pretty good stuff.”

With the Series deadlocked at 2-2, Caldwell started Game 5 and again was the winning pitcher. He yielded 14 hits and two walks in 8.1 innings, but the Cardinals stranded 12 and the Brewers won, 6-4. Boxscore

The Cardinals won Game 6, setting up a deciding Game 7.

Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the eighth, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, two outs, when Kuenn lifted Moose Haas and replaced him with Caldwell.

Darrell Porter and Steve Braun responded with RBI-singles, stretching the St. Louis lead to 6-3, before Caldwell got Willie McGee to ground out.

Bruce Sutter set down the Brewers in order in the ninth, clinching the championship for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Previously: How Doug Clarey became Cinderella Man of Cardinals

In a move that shifted the balance of baseball power in St. Louis, Branch Rickey left the American League Browns and joined the National League Cardinals.

branch_rickey2One hundred years ago, on March 20, 1917, Rickey, the Browns’ business manager, became president of the Cardinals.

Rickey’s departure was fought by Browns owner Phil Ball, even though the two men didn’t get along.

At the time, the Browns were the dominant baseball franchise in St. Louis.

Under Rickey, the Cardinals eventually would transform from a lackluster franchise into an elite one.

Meet the new boss

In 1915, Rickey served the dual roles of Browns manager and assistant to team owner Robert Hedges. Rickey performed many of the duties of a general manager.

After the 1915 season, Hedges sold the Browns to Phil Ball. One of Ball’s first moves was to hire Fielder Jones, former White Sox manager, to be manager of the Browns and reassign Rickey to the position of business manager.

In his 1982 book “Branch Rickey: A Biography,” author Murray Polner wrote that Rickey and Ball “took an instant dislike to one another.”

“Ball thought Rickey’s ideas too radical and Rickey’s endless talk and large vocabulary made him uncomfortable,” Polner wrote. “Rickey was, in turn, uncomfortable with Ball’s crudeness. He considered Ball uncouth and, in matters of baseball, virtually illiterate.”

According to Rickey, Ball agreed to honor Rickey’s contract, but told him he wouldn’t stand in his way if Rickey wanted to leave.

First choice

The 1916 Browns were competitive. They entered September four games out of first place and finished with a 79-75 record.

The 1916 Cardinals were a mess. They finished in last place at 60-93. Ownership was strapped for cash and had trouble paying bills.

On March 5, 1917, Cardinals owner Helene Britton sold the club for $375,000 to a consortium of investors led by former team president James C. Jones.

Jones and the investors polled a group of seven St. Louis journalists for their advice on who should be hired to run the baseball operations.

The response was unanimous: Rickey.

Lucrative offer

Jones offered Rickey a three-year contract at $15,000 per year to be Cardinals president, according to the St. Louis Star. Rickey, who was to be paid $7,500 as Browns business manager in 1917, went to Ball and asked to be released from his contract.

Rickey said he received absolute assurance from Ball on March 19, 1917, that he could negotiate for a job that would better his position, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

A day later, Rickey accepted the Cardinals’ offer and signed a contract with them, according to a Page 1 story in the Post-Dispatch.

Ball, though, was having second thoughts.

Baseball battle

Ban Johnson, president of the American League, didn’t want Rickey going to a club in the rival league, Rickey said. Johnson pressured Ball to stop Rickey from joining the Cardinals.

Displaying a Browns contract Rickey had signed for 1917, Ball told the Post-Dispatch, “I will insist that he fulfill his agreement.”

“Rickey seems to be confused over certain promises I made to him when he signed this (Browns) contract,” Ball said. “I promised Rickey … I would also help him in bettering himself if any opportunity offered itself for him apart from baseball.

“I at no time had the notion that he would consider this offer applicable to any proposition he might receive from one of my competitors,” Ball said. “My idea was that should Rickey care to enter the law business in St. Louis I would give him every assistance that I could.”

Ball went to court and received a restraining order that prohibited Rickey from working for the Cardinals until a hearing could be held before a judge.

In the Post-Dispatch, columnist John Wray wrote, “The battle between Rickey and Ball … seems a useless waste of time and money in which the only persons to come out of the conflict with all the honors _ and considerable cash _ will be the attorneys.”

The St. Louis Star opined: “Squeamish people who have doubted that Rickey will be allowed to preside over the Cardinals on account of a prior contract with the Browns are now inclined to view the position of Rickey as one that will impregnably withstand legal assault.”

Let’s make a deal

On April 6, 1917, the day a hearing was to be held, a settlement was reached that allowed Rickey to join the Cardinals.

“Rickey agreed to the terms of the settlement only after much persuasion,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “He and his personal attorney, George Williams, were very eager to bring the case to trial, but they were persuaded in the end, for the good of baseball, to accept the settlement out of court as proposed by Ball’s lawyers.”

Though the Cardinals under Rickey improved significantly in 1917 _ they finished in third place at 82-70 _ it wasn’t until Sam Breadon became principal owner in 1920 that the franchise had the backing it needed to solidify and blossom.

Supported by Breadon, Rickey built professional baseball’s first farm system, providing the Cardinals with a steady supply of talent trained under a shared organizational philosophy.

Rickey, who had returned to the field as Cardinals manager in 1919 while still running the administrative baseball operations, was put back in the front office by Breadon fulltime in May 1925 and the Cardinals won their first NL pennant and World Series championship the next year.

Previously: The story of Branch Rickey and his final journey

Looking to build on a reputation as a keen talent evaluator and smart decision-maker, Ted Simmons left a front-office job with the Cardinals for an executive position with a National League division rival.

ted_simmons19Twenty-five years ago, on Feb. 5, 1992, Simmons, 42, resigned as Cardinals director of player development and accepted an offer to become general manager of the Pirates.

Emerging from a field of finalists that included Walt Jocketty, Simmons got the job because of the work he had done in improving the Cardinals farm system and because of his connections with Pirates president Mark Sauer.

Simmons’ rise was derailed, however, when, 16 months after becoming general manager, he suffered a heart attack and resigned.

Talent show

A member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame, Simmons, a catcher, played 13 seasons (1968-80) for St. Louis, batting .298 and producing 1,704 hits and 929 RBI in 1,564 games.

In 1988, after Simmons finished his playing career with the Braves, he rejoined the Cardinals as head of their minor-league system.

Ray Lankford, Bernard Gilkey and Todd Zeile were among the prospects who developed into Cardinals players during Simmons’ tenure, enabling St. Louis to replace Willie McGee, Vince Coleman and Terry Pendleton.

Donovan Osborne, John Mabry and Dmitri Young were drafted by the Cardinals while Simmons was farm director.

Sauer, an Anheuser-Busch executive, joined the Cardinals as deputy chief operating officer and learned the baseball operation from Simmons.

Sauer was promoted to Cardinals executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1990. He left in October 1991 to become president and chief executive officer of the Pirates.

Search for success

Three months after he arrived in Pittsburgh, Sauer fired general manager Larry Doughty. Though the Pirates had won division titles in 1990 and 1991, Sauer was dissatisfied with the quality of the farm system under Doughty.

In his search for a general manager, Sauer identified five finalists. In addition to Simmons, they were:

_ Cam Bonifay, Pirates assistant general manager.

_ Bill Lajoie, former Tigers general manager.

_ Murray Cook, former general manager of the Yankees, Reds and Expos.

_ Walt Jocketty, director of baseball administration for the Athletics.

Simmons interviewed with Sauer in late January 1992. Simmons told Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the session was “thorough, intense and in-depth.”

Eliminating Jocketty (who two years later would become general manager of the Cardinals) and Cook, Sauer pared the list to Simmons, Lajoie and Bonifay.

Lajoie, a scout with the Braves, was the preferred choice of Pirates manager Jim Leyland. When he was scouting director of the Tigers, Lajoie was a mentor to Leyland, who had been a player and manager in Detroit’s farm system.

Simmons told the Post-Dispatch he thought Bonifay would get the job.

Earned reward

Simmons was in a meeting when Cardinals chief executive officer Stuart Meyer came in and told Simmons to expect a call from Sauer. A short while later, Sauer asked Simmons to be general manager.

Sauer described Simmons as “an outstanding evaluator of young talent” and “a good communicator.”

Asked whether their friendship was a factor in hiring Simmons, Sauer told the Pittsburgh Press, “My experience with Ted gives me a comfort level and confidence in what he can do, but this was not an issue of friendship. What I think made Ted the best choice was his demonstration of skills in the area of developing players in St. Louis.”

Said Simmons: “There’s no question Mark and I are friends, but there is also no question that during the time I was with Mark in St. Louis he was my boss … If I thought I stood here as general manager of the Pirates because I was Mark’s friend, No. 1, I would be embarrassed; No. 2, I would be ashamed.”

Simmons departed the Cardinals with the respect of general manager Dal Maxvill and manager Joe Torre.

“I’m extremely happy for him,” said Maxvill. “We had a great relationship. He was very loyal to me and to the organization. You couldn’t ask for better than Teddy.”

Said Torre: “He never does anything halfway.”

Pressure in Pittsburgh

Dedication and drive were qualities that helped Simmons get the job. Those attributes could become negatives, though, if not kept in check.

In their praise of Simmons, Maxvill and Sauer unintentionally foreshadowed trouble.

“His skin will have to be thick,” Maxvill said. “You can’t get too excited or too upset … You have to not let things bother you and just try to do the best you can and the best for the ballclub. I think he knows that.”

Said Sauer: “He’s very consumed with baseball. He lives and breathes baseball on many different layers.”

The Pirates won a third consecutive division title in Simmons’ first year as general manager. They were on the verge of clinching the 1992 pennant until the Braves rallied for three runs in the ninth inning and won Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

With ownership putting pressure on Sauer and Simmons to reduce payroll, the Pirates’ best hitter, Barry Bonds, and best pitcher, Doug Drabek, became free agents and left. Simmons dealt second baseman Jose Lind to the Royals for prospects.

Simmons, who smoked two to three packs of cigarettes a day, was tasked with trying to rebuild from within the organization.

Medical emergency

On June 8, 1993, Simmons, 43, was working in his office when he was stricken with a heart attack.

“I thought I was going to die,” Simmons told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“It was tolerable pain in my chest and between my shoulder blades. It was acute, intolerable pain in my upper left arm. I knew what was happening.”

Simmons called the team trainer, who got Simmons to a car and drove him to a hospital. Simmons underwent an emergency angioplasty operation to re-open a completely blocked artery to his heart.

Two weeks later, on June 19, 1993, Simmons was back at the ballpark when he announced he was resigning to focus on his health.

Sauer promoted Bonifay to the position of general manager.

Previously: Ted Simmons helped put pal Joe Torre on path to Hall

Though relief pitcher Clay Carroll was successful in his lone season with St. Louis, his most significant Cardinals connection came as an opponent.

clay_carrollCarroll, who played 15 seasons in the major leagues, had a career batting average of .130.

On May 30, 1969, in what The Sporting News aptly described as a storybook feat, Carroll hit the only home run of his big-league career. The improbable shot was struck against Bob Gibson in the 10th inning and it carried the Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis.

Eight years later, Carroll was traded to the Cardinals and excelled for them as a consistently reliable reliever.

Bench’s blast

Carroll, a right-hander, made his major-league debut with the 1964 Braves. He was traded to the Reds in June 1968.

His home run against Gibson occurred in the opener of a series between the Reds and Cardinals. The Reds were riding a seven-game winning streak. The Cardinals, two-time defending National League champions, were 21-23 and looking to get on track.

The Cardinals scored twice off Reds ace Jim Maloney in the first inning and added a run in the sixth against former teammate Wayne Granger for a 3-0 lead.

In the seventh, in a showdown of future Hall of Famers, Reds catcher Johnny Bench tied the score with a three-run home run. It was Bench’s first career hit against Gibson.

Carroll relieved Granger in the eighth and the game became a duel between Carroll and Gibson.

Neither team scored in the eighth and ninth.

Heavy lumber

Gibson retired the first two batters in the 10th. With Carroll pitching well, Reds manager Dave Bristol decided to let the reliever bat against Gibson, who had won five consecutive decisions.

Usually, Carroll used pitcher Tony Cloninger’s bat. This time, he borrowed the bat of outfielder Alex Johnson, a former Cardinal.

Johnson’s bats, Carroll explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “have a lot more wood in them than the one I had been using.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that Johnson’s bats “normally are about as heavy as any in baseball _ some weighing as much as 40 ounces.”

Big swat

With the count 3-and-2, Gibson delivered a high fastball. Carroll swung and lifted a towering fly ball to left field.

“I don’t want to brag, but when I hit the ball I knew it was gone,” Carroll said to United Press International. “Did you see it take off?”

The ball hit the top of the fence at Busch Stadium and bounced over the wall, giving the Reds a 4-3 lead.

“I was just swinging, trying to get on,” said Carroll. “Usually when I face Gibson, I just chop at the ball. That’s about all you can do against him.”

Said Bristol: “You should have seen the smile on Carroll’s face when he returned to the dugout. It looked like a cut watermelon.”

Bristol sent Carroll back out to pitch the bottom half of the 10th. He got Joe Hague to fly out, then walked Lou Brock. Curt Flood grounded out, moving Brock into scoring position at second. Vada Pinson, Carroll’s former Reds teammate, lined out to shortstop, ending the game.

Carroll pitched three hitless innings to earn the win. Boxscore

Championship caliber

Carroll was an important contributor to Reds teams that won NL pennants in 1970, 1972 and 1975.

In 14 World Series appearances for the Reds, Carroll was 2-1 with a save and a 1.33 ERA over 20.1 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, shutting out the Red Sox for two innings.

Dealt to the White Sox in December 1975, Carroll produced a 4-4 record, six saves and a 2.56 ERA for them in 1976.

Forty years ago, on March 23, 1977, the Cardinals acquired Carroll from the White Sox for pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.

Experience matters

The 1977 Cardinals were seeking an experienced reliever to set up closer Al Hrabosky. Carroll, 35, filled the need.

“This is obviously what we’ve been after _ consistency and experience from a right-handed reliever, a guy who’s been under fire in championship play,” said manager Vern Rapp. “We had nobody on our staff who fit those qualifications.”

Said Carroll: “I want to work as often as possible because the more I work the more consistent I am. I like the Cardinals, especially because they’re an aggressive team at bat and on the bases.”

Carroll reported to camp at 215 pounds, according to the Post-Dispatch. Rapp wanted him to be at 200 pounds when the season began. He instructed Carroll to run extra laps each day during spring training.

A master at locating his pitches, Carroll delivered for the 1977 Cardinals.

In its Aug. 20 edition, The Sporting News wrote, “When Carroll wasn’t saving games, he at least was dousing huge blazes to keep the Cardinals in the games. The tighter the situation, the more (Carroll) seemed to enjoy it.”

Noting how Carroll got batters to swing at pitches out of the zone, Dave Bristol, manager of the 1977 Braves, said, “Carroll would rather eat a green fly at home plate than throw a strike.”

One batter who did feast on Carroll’s pitches in 1977 was the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey, who hit two grand slams off him.

Still, Carroll produced a 4-2 record with four saves and a 2.50 ERA in 51 appearances for the 1977 Cardinals.

Then, on Aug. 31, they traded him back to the White Sox.

3-for-1

The trade created “a lot of eyebrow raising” because Carroll had been the Cardinals’ most consistent reliever, The Sporting News wrote.

The Cardinals were 10 games out of first place with about a month remaining in the season when the deal was made. The White Sox wanted Carroll because they were in contention for a division title, two games behind the first-place Royals.

St. Louis got three players in the deal: pitchers Silvio Martinez and Dave Hamilton and outfielder Nyls Nyman.

Carroll was disappointed to leave the Cardinals. “I thought I did a good job,” he said. “I guess they’re planning to go with a younger pitching staff next year.”

Previously: Like Shelby Miller, Silvio Martinez was special for Cards