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Five months after he suffered multiple injuries when struck by a car, Harry Caray returned with a flourish to broadcast the season opener for the Cardinals.

Fifty years ago, on April 8, 1969, when the two-time defending National League champion Cardinals opened the season against the Pirates at St. Louis, Caray called the game from the Busch Stadium broadcast booth.

Caray’s appearance was a testament to his determination to recover from compound fractures of both legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken nose and facial cuts and he made certain his comeback was noticed. Given center stage as emcee for pre-game ceremonies on the field, he put on a performance for the audience.

Road to recovery

At about 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 3, 1968, Caray, 51, was hit by a car while he attempted to the cross the street outside the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

Caray’s injuries were disabling and he spent several weeks in a St. Louis hospital. After his release just before Christmas in 1968, Caray went to Florida and continued his recuperation near St. Petersburg at the beach house of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch.

In his 1989 book “Holy Cow!,” Caray said he was under the care of a male nurse at Busch’s residence and dutifully did isometric exercises daily. According to The Sporting News, he also did a daily radio show from the beach house for St. Louis station KMOX.

Though both legs were in casts, Caray said in his book, “I managed to keep myself entertained. I had a lot of friends there and they were always coming by the house or taking me out to restaurants. I could get around in a collapsible wheelchair.”

In early February 1969, Caray went to St. Louis to be evaluated by his doctors. He convinced them to remove the casts from his legs and returned to Florida as the Cardinals were arriving in St. Petersburg for spring training.

“I was determined to get myself in shape right along with the players,” Caray said.

Caray reported daily to Cardinals trainer Bob Bauman at the club’s spring training facility. “Caray has spent more time in the rubbing room than the adhesive tape,” The Sporting News noted.

Said Caray: “I worked hard, kept on the leg exercises and by the end of spring training I had advanced from crutches to canes to the point where I didn’t really need anything to help me walk.”

Ribbed at roast

On April 7, 1969, on the eve of the Cardinals’ opener, Caray was the guest of honor at the annual Knights of the Cauliflower Ear banquet at the Stouffer’s Inn in downtown St. Louis. The event was similar to the famous Friars Club roasts where the guest of honor was expected to be skewered, or “roasted,” by colleagues.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Caray used a cane to maneuver his way around the banquet hall.

Jack Buck, Caray’s Cardinals broadcast partner, was master of ceremonies for the event and delivered several zingers at the guest of honor.

“What nice things can I say about Harry that you haven’t heard from the man himself?” Buck said in his opening remarks.

Referring to Caray getting hit by a car, Buck said to the audience, “What can I say to make you believe I didn’t do it?”

As the event ended, Buck told the crowd, “Please drive carefully. Harry’s walking again.”

St. Louis showman

The Cardinals opened the 1969 season on a Tuesday night.

When Caray emerged from the dugout to begin the pre-game ceremonies at home plate, he used two canes to walk onto the field. He received polite applause while “hobbling along rather pathetically,” he said in his book.

As Caray approached the first-base line, “I whirled one cane over my head and flung it as far as I could,” he said.

With the crowd cheering and urging him on, Caray started toward home plate with the help of the remaining cane. Just before he got to his spot, Caray stopped and tossed the cane into the air as spectators roared in approval.

After the ceremony, Caray made his way to the dugout and was approached by pitcher Bob Gibson. According to Caray, they had the following exchange:

Gibson: “Harry, what the hell was that all about?”

Caray: “Hey, Gibby, it’s like I’ve always told you, pal. This isn’t just baseball. It’s show biz.”

During the broadcast of the game, won by the Pirates in 14 innings, Caray interviewed baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn and let him do some play-by-play. Boxscore

The 1969 season turned out to be Caray’s last with the club. On Oct. 9, 1969, he was fired after serving as the voice of the Cardinals for 25 years.

Luke Easter was a popular player with a power-packed swing who produced home runs well past age 40, including two seasons with a Cardinals farm club.

Easter grew up in St. Louis and played semi-pro baseball there. He became one of the top sluggers in the American League with the Indians in the 1950s before extending his career in the minors at Buffalo and Rochester.

His life ended tragically 40 years ago, on March 29, 1979, when he was robbed and murdered by two gunmen outside a bank in Euclid, Ohio.

Hard hitting

Easter was born in Jonestown, Mississippi, and moved with his family to St. Louis when he was a boy. At 21, he joined a semi-pro team, the St. Louis Titanium Giants, in 1937 and played for them until he entered the Army in 1942.

A left-handed hitter, Easter was 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds. After his stint in the military, he eventually signed with the Pittsburgh-based Homestead Grays of the Negro National League and played for them in 1947 and 1948.

In 1949, two years after Jackie Robinson of the Dodgers integrated the major leagues, Easter signed with the defending World Series champion Indians and was assigned to their San Diego farm club in the Pacific Coast League. Though he missed time because of a broken right kneecap, Easter hit .363 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI for San Diego and was called up to the Indians in August 1949, a week after he turned 34.

Over the next three seasons, Easter was the Indians’ first baseman and produced 28 home runs with 107 RBI in 1950, 27 home runs with 103 RBI in 1951 and 31 home runs with 97 RBI in 1952. Easter was one home run short of tying teammate Larry Doby for the American League crown in 1952.

In 1950, Easter hit the longest home run at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. The ball carried 477 feet into the upper deck in right.

A broken left foot limited Easter to 68 games for the Indians in 1953. He batted six times for them in 1954 before being sent to the minors.

Better with age

Though he’d never again play in the big leagues, Easter, 38, wasn’t done as a player. He hit 28 home runs in the minors in 1954 and 30 in 1955.

In 1956, Easter joined the Buffalo Bisons of the International League and over the next three seasons he became their most popular and productive player. He hit 35 home runs with 106 RBI in 1956 and 40 home runs with 128 RBI in 1957. Many of Easter’s home runs were prodigious. In 1958, the year he turned 43, Easter hit 38 home runs with 109 RBI for Buffalo.

The spring weather was especially cold in upstate New York in 1959 and Easter struggled. He was batting .179 with one home run when he was released by Buffalo on May 13. “He gave it all he had, but it wasn’t enough,” Buffalo manager Kerby Farrell said to the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle.

Easter was immensely popular with fans, who marveled at his home run prowess and could count on him to accommodate autograph requests. The Rochester Red Wings, a farm club of the Cardinals, saw an opportunity and signed him. “We’ve been looking for another left-hand hitter with power,” said Rochester manager Cot Deal. “This could be the answer.”

Before sealing the deal, Rochester general manager George Sisler Jr., consulted with Cardinals farm director Walter Shannon and got approval to open a spot at first base for Easter by moving prime prospect Gene Oliver to left field, the Rochester newspaper reported.

Sisler wanted to be certain Oliver’s development wouldn’t be hurt by shifting positions. “As he goes, the team seems to go,” Sisler said, “and we don’t want to do anything to upset his playing or hitting.”

Right for Rochester

Easter got six hits in his first nine at-bats for Rochester and became a mainstay in the lineup. In August 1959, catcher Tim McCarver, 17, joined Rochester and became a teammate of Easter, 44.

Easter hit 21 home runs for Rochester in 1959. The last produced a walkoff win against Buffalo.

“There can be no arguing about Luke’s popularity, so clear-cut is the big man’s superiority in the goodwill department,” wrote Rochester sports editor Paul Pinckney. “He always will be the No. 1 choice of the youngsters.”

Though productive, the Cardinals didn’t call up Easter because they had George Crowe, 38, a left-handed batter who served as their backup first baseman and pinch-hitter.

In 1960, the year he turned 45, Easter produced a 22-game hitting streak for Rochester and overall hit .302 with 14 home runs.

After the 1960 season, Rochester dropped its affiliation with the Cardinals and became a farm club of the Orioles, but Easter remained. In 1962, the year he turned 47, Easter batted .281 with 15 home runs for Rochester. His last full season as a player was 1963. He also appeared in 10 games for Rochester as a pinch-hitter in 1964, the year he became 49.

Gentle giant

After his baseball career, which included a stint as Indians coach in 1969, Easter worked in Cleveland for TRW Inc., an aerospace and automotive manufacturer.

As chief steward for the Aircraft Workers Alliance at TRW, Easter provided a service to co-workers who couldn’t get to a bank. Easter regularly collected their paychecks, cashed them at a bank and delivered the cash back to his fellow employees at work.

Easter, 63, was leaving a bank with thousands of dollars in cash when he was approached by two men who demanded he give them the money. When Easter refused, they shot him dead.

In an interview with David Condon of the Chicago Tribune, Bill Veeck, the Indians owner who signed Easter in 1949, called him “a wonderful, gentle person.”

“Everyone will miss Luke as a man,” Veeck said. “Baseball also will mourn him as a superstar talent never fulfilled. Luke’s talent would have found fulfillment if he’d reached the big-time as a youth.”

Said Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who was Easter’s teammate with the Indians: “If Luke had come into the majors 10 years earlier, I think he’d have been one of the top hitters all-time.”

After a rough beginning to his season with the Cardinals, Ted Power recovered and developed into a reliable starting pitcher for them.

Thirty years ago, on March 28, 1989, the Cardinals signed Power, 34, to a minor-league contract following his release by the Tigers.

Five months later, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was referring to Power as the “savior” of the pitching staff.

Versatile pitcher

In 1981, Power debuted in the major leagues with the Dodgers, spent parts of two seasons with them and was traded to the Reds. A right-handed reliever, his breakout season came in 1985 when he produced eight wins, 27 saves and a 2.70 ERA for Cincinnati.

Reds manager Pete Rose put Power into the rotation in August 1986 and he was 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 10 starts. The next year, Power led the 1987 Reds in starts (34), innings pitched (204) and strikeouts (133).

The Reds traded Power to the Royals for pitcher Danny Jackson after the 1987 season. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Royals reliever Steve Farr displayed two baseball cards _ one of Dan Quisenberry and the other of Power _ atop his locker. “One of them is my idol on the field (Quisenberry) and the other my idol off the field,” Farr said.

The Royals sent Power to the Tigers in August 1988 and after the season he had surgery to remove calcium deposits near his right elbow. When spring training began in 1989, Power was ready to pitch for the Tigers.

Comeback bid

In March 1989, the Cardinals were in the market for pitching depth after starters Danny Cox and Greg Mathews went on the disabled list because of elbow ailments. General manager Dal Maxvill sent scout Rube Walker to Tigers camp to assess Power, and Herzog spoke with Detroit manager Sparky Anderson about the pitcher.

On March 25, 1989, the Tigers released Power and three days later he signed with the Cardinals, who assigned him to their Louisville farm club. Under terms of the contract, if Power received an offer from another big-league team while with Louisville, the Cardinals would have 48 hours to decide whether to promote him to St. Louis or let him depart.

“I look at those major-league box scores every day and see middle relievers and starters who aren’t doing the job,” Power said to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I have all the confidence in the world that I’m going to get back. When I do, I won’t take anything for granted. You can get too comfortable up there. I won’t ever do that again.”

Louisville manager Mike Jorgensen placed Power in the rotation and he produced a 3-1 record and 2.73 ERA in five starts, prompting the Phillies to make him an offer. Unwilling to let Power go, the Cardinals promoted him to St. Louis on May 4, 1989.

“We were kind of forced to bring him up,” Herzog said to The Sporting News. “We didn’t want to bring him up that early.”

On the brink

After appearing in two games for the Cardinals, Power pulled a ribcage muscle while taking batting practice on May 17 and didn’t pitch again for them until June 20.

Herzog put Power in a rotation with Jose DeLeon, Joe Magrane, Ken Hill and Scott Terry, but he wasn’t effective. He reached a nadir on July 17, 1989, when he gave up seven runs to the Giants before being lifted with one out in the second inning. Boxscore

Power said he was overthrowing, causing his breaking pitches to “flatten out.” Said Herzog: “A lot of high sliders.”

Though he was 1-4 with a 7.43 ERA, Power made his next scheduled start against the Padres on July 22, 1989, held them to a run in 6.2 innings and got the win. Boxscore

“I feel like I belong in the big leagues, but this makes me feel like I belong on this team,” Power said.

Over his next three starts, Power shut out the Expos for seven innings, limited the Mets to a run in 6.2 innings and held the Pirates scoreless for eight innings.

“He’s kind of been a savior to us,” Herzog said.

Said Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith: “He’s throwing the ball as well as I’ve ever seen him throw it. It’s nice to see a guy like that come back. He was really on his way out.”

Getting it done

On Aug. 22, 1989, Power, matched against Derek Lilliquist, took a no-hitter and a 10-0 lead into the eighth against the Braves before he tired and gave up home runs to Tommy Gregg and Dale Murphy. Boxscore

In six August starts, Power produced a 2.61 ERA.

“He has more idea of what he wants to do,” said Cardinals catcher Tony Pena. “Before, he had no idea where he was throwing the fastball.”

Said Maxvill: “I look at 25 other clubs and how many have better fifth starters than Ted Power?”

On Sept, 2, 1989, Power beat the Astros in Bob Forsch’s last big-league start and last appearance against his former Cardinals teammates. Boxscore

Five days later, in a start against the Mets, Power suffered a hamstring injury. He was sidelined for two weeks and when he returned he made six appearances in relief.

Power finished with a 7-7 record and 3.71 ERA for the Cardinals in 1989. He became a free agent after the season and got a one-year offer from the Cardinals, but signed with the Pirates, who gave him a contract for 1990 with an option for 1991.

“I would really love to go back to St. Louis … but I’ve got to think of myself and my family,” Power said to the Post-Dispatch. “It looks like a deal that could be solid for a couple of years.”

Power went on to pitch the next four seasons for the Pirates (1990), Reds (1991), Indians (1992-93) and Mariners (1993). He completed 13 seasons in the big leagues with a 68-69 record, 70 saves and a 4.00 ERA.

Feeling disrespected by management at the bargaining table and on the field, shortstop Garry Templeton lashed out at the Cardinals.

Forty years ago, on March 27, 1979, Templeton asked to be traded and threatened to play at less than his best if his request wasn’t granted.

Templeton, 23, was upset because general manager John Claiborne wanted him to take a pay cut and because manager Ken Boyer and coach Dal Maxvill wanted him to change the way he played shortstop.

A day after expressing his unhappiness, Templeton apologized and remained the St. Louis shortstop.

Hurt feelings

In 1978, his third season with St. Louis, Templeton hit .280 with 31 doubles, 13 triples and 34 stolen bases, but he committed 40 errors.

After the season, the Cardinals hired Maxvill, their former Gold Glove shortstop, as a coach and assigned him to work with Templeton in 1979.

When Claiborne made a contract offer to Templeton for 1979, it called for a 10 percent cut in the $100,000 salary he received in 1978, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Claiborne proposed the cut because of Templeton’s high number of errors. Templeton was insulted because he led the 1978 Cardinals in hits (181) as well as triples and stolen bases and he believed such production should be rewarded.

“There are guys in this league making more than I am who can’t even hold my shoestrings, or tie my shoestrings,” Templeton told The Sporting News in February 1979.

The sides resolved the matter, with Templeton getting a 1979 salary of $130,000, but the increase didn’t erase the sting of his bruised feelings.

“That really hurt him,” Templeton’s friend and teammate, outfielder Jerry Mumphrey, said. “He hasn’t gotten over it.”

At spring training, Maxvill worked with Templeton on fielding fundamentals, but Templeton resisted the instruction because he believed he was being constrained.

Playing chicken

When Templeton’s frustration reached a breaking point, he went to the media to express his views.

“I’m not going to play hard,” Templeton said to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch. “I’m not going to do my best here. Hopefully I’ll be traded if the Cardinals aren’t too chicken to trade me.

“Either get me traded or get me more money. They can take the Cardinals uniform and shove it.”

Templeton said he twice asked the Cardinals to trade him. “They’d rather mess with you instead of sending you to someplace where you’ll be happy,” Templeton said.

In an interview with Mike Shannon of KMOX, Templeton said, “I don’t want to play with the Cardinals. I think they’re giving me too much trouble and I’m not happy here. I don’t want to play here and I’m not trying to play hard.”

After the outburst, Templeton met with his agent, Richie Bry, the Post-Dispatch reported. Bry met with Claiborne. After that, Templeton and Bry met with Claiborne and Boyer.

On second thought

The next day, Templeton attempted to control the damage he caused. He apologized for his words, claimed he no longer wanted to be traded and said “my contract is not and has never been the problem.”

In a prepared statement, Templeton said, “I regret the statements I made yesterday in the heat of anger for they do not accurately reflect my feelings for the Cardinals team, the city of St. Louis or the fans.

“The crux of my problem with management has always been my style of playing shortstop. Since I was 7 years old, I have developed certain habits and routines which have now become second nature to me. I believe that they give me more mobility, speed and range.”

Templeton contended his error total was high because he covered more ground than most shortstops. “Cardinals management and I disagreed on this and thus my anger and frustration,” he said.

Hummel noted, “Templeton’s style has on occasion been one of seeming nonchalance. He emphasizes catching balls with one hand, something Boyer and infield coach Dal Maxvill have suggested he alter.”

Said Boyer: “We haven’t tried to drive anything down his throat.”

To err is human

Reaction from Cardinals players and media generally was supportive of Templeton.

“All I know is that before long this guy is going to be the greatest shortstop I ever saw,” said Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons. “I just wish that when that happens he’ll be in St. Louis.”

Said first baseman Keith Hernandez: “I hope they can resolve the problem because we need him.”

Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg declared no Cardinals shortstop “has had anywhere near the basic all-round talent” of Templeton. “If Templeton is miffed most because Boyer had Maxvill trying to tell the kid how to do it at shortstop … tell Maxie to learn a few jokes to keep the kid loose and let him alone,” Broeg wrote.

Post-Dispatch columnist Doug Grow offered, “There is no greater insult to any working person than a reduction in pay. My guess is that management never will recover from that offer. An effort to save a few thousand a few months ago eventually could cost the Cardinals a shortstop worth millions.”

Templeton hit .314 with 32 doubles, 19 triples and 26 stolen bases for the Cardinals in 1979. He produced 211 hits and made 34 errors.

Two years later, in August 1981, Templeton created another controversy when he made obscene gestures to fans who booed him for lack of hustle in a game at St. Louis. He was traded after the season to the Padres for shortstop Ozzie Smith.

To acquire Bill White, the Cardinals had to give up their best pitcher.

Sixty years ago, on March 25, 1959, the Cardinals traded pitchers Sam Jones and Don Choate to the Giants for White and utility player Ray Jablonski.

Jones led National League pitchers in strikeouts in 1958, with 225, and shattered the Cardinals’ single-season record of 199 set by Dizzy Dean in 1933. Jones also led the 1958 Cardinals in wins (14) and ERA (2.88).

White, a first baseman and outfielder, was highly regarded, but he couldn’t get a spot in the Giants’ lineup and wasn’t the Cardinals’ first choice. Giants outfielder Leon Wagner was the hitter the Cardinals wanted before they settled on White, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals took heat for making the deal, but it turned out to be the right move.

Who’s on first?

White made his major-league debut with the Giants in 1956 and hit 22 home runs as their first baseman. He served in the Army in 1957 and the first six months of 1958. Orlando Cepeda became the Giants’ first baseman in 1958 and the rookie excelled.

When White returned to the Giants in July 1958, he was relegated to a reserve role. White hit .241 in 26 games for the 1958 Giants. Cepeda hit .312 with 25 home runs and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

At spring training in 1959, Cepeda was back and a power-hitting prospect, Willie McCovey, whose best position was first base, was close to joining the team. White, seeing his path blocked, asked the Giants to trade him.

Help wanted

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine was determined to acquire a hitter to boost the 1959 lineup. In 1958, Ken Boyer was the only Cardinal to hit as many as 20 home runs.

According to Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg, the Cardinals set their sights on Wagner, who hit 13 home runs in half a season as a Giants rookie in 1958 after producing impressive power numbers in the minor leagues.

Wagner’s ability to hit home runs was appealing, but Cardinals talent evaluators concluded White was a better player.

While scouting winter baseball in the Dominican Republic, Cardinals manager Solly Hemus and farm director Walter Shannon saw White and were impressed. Cardinals minor-league manager Joe Schultz, who managed a team in the Dominican Republic, also raved about White.

After Cardinals scout Ollie Vanek filed glowing reports about White from Arizona spring training in 1959, Devine sent his special assistant, Eddie Stanky, to take a look. Stanky managed the Cardinals from 1952-55 and managed White in the minor leagues.

Stanky scouted White for a week. In his 2004 autobiography, “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine said he called Stanky in Arizona from a phone booth on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., to get his opinion on whether to acquire White.

“How well do you like him?” Devine asked Stanky.

Stanky replied, “Let’s not debate it. You sent me out here to see him. I like him. I’m telling you right now I’d make the deal. I suggest you do, too.”

Worth a risk

The trade was unpopular in St. Louis because Jones was so well-regarded. “He was, and we do not mind saying it out loud, one of our special favorites,” the Post-Dispatch declared in an editorial.

Broeg noted the deal “took nerve” because “the Cardinals gambled front-line pitching for potential batting power.”

The Cardinals were heartened by the reaction of former Giants manager Leo Durocher, who told the Associated Press, “I’ll bet you that in one or two years White will be one of the great players in the National League.”

Cardinals reliever Marv Grissom, a former Giant, said the Cardinals made the right choice. “Wagner has more power, all right, as much as anybody in the game,” Grissom said. “White is a smarter player, faster, better defensively and good and strong enough at the plate.”

White told The Sporting News, “I’m happy with the trade. With the Cardinals, I’ll get to play regularly. Naturally, I’m in baseball for the money, and when you play regularly you have a better argument for salary terms.”

In his autobiography, “Uppity,” White said he was pleased to be traded, but “at the time, St. Louis was the worst city in the league for black players” because of segregationist attitudes. In 2011, when I interviewed White about the deal, he said, “St. Louis wasn’t my first choice, but it ended up that it was a great trade for me.”

Finding the groove

The Cardinals opened the 1959 season with an outfield of Stan Musial in left, Gino Cimoli in center and Joe Cunningham in right, with White at first base.

Pressing to fulfill expectations of being a power hitter, White struggled and had one hit, a single, in his first 19 at-bats. Cardinals coach Harry Walker urged him to relax and make contact rather than try for home runs. “White was lunging too much, was ahead of the pitch, wasn’t getting a good look,” Walker said.

After starting three games at first base and another in left field, Hemus had White make six starts in center field, even though Curt Flood was available.

In his autobiography, White said, “I was a terrible outfielder. I couldn’t judge fly balls. I couldn’t throw and I couldn’t cover the ground.”

On April 29, 1959, Hemus moved Musial to first base and shifted White to left. White was the left fielder from late April until early June. After that, he alternated between first base and left field.

After batting .195 in April, White hit .393 in May and .382 in June. He finished the season at .302, with 33 doubles and 12 home runs.

Jones, meanwhile, was 21-15 for the 1959 Giants and led the league in ERA at 2.83.

After the season, the Cardinals acquired Wagner from the Giants, hoping he’d fill an outfield spot, but he played one season for them as a reserve before going to the American League and becoming an all-star for the Angels.

In eight seasons with the Cardinals, White batted .298, topped 100 RBI three times and hit 20 or more home runs five years in a row. He won the Gold Glove Award six times as a Cardinals first baseman. He also was a National League all-star with the Cardinals in 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963 and 1964 and helped them become 1964 World Series champions.

 

Surviving a scare from the last batter he faced in the game, Jack Crimian earned his first major-league win for the Cardinals in his hometown of Philadelphia.

Crimian, who died Feb. 11, 2019, at 92, reached the big leagues with the Cardinals in 1951, pitched in two seasons for them and also played for the Athletics and Tigers.

A right-hander, Crimian was a relief specialist with the Cardinals, but had his most successful season as a starter in the minor leagues.

Willing to work

After graduating high school in Philadelphia, Crimian was signed by the hometown Phillies. In 1944, his first season in the Phillies’ minor-league organization, Crimian earned 18 wins. He joined the Army in 1945 and served as a paratrooper. A year later, he returned to the Phillies’ farm system and was chosen by the Cardinals in the November 1946 minor-league draft.

In 1951, Crimian’s fifth season as a Cardinals minor leaguer, he thrived as a reliever for Columbus manager Harry Walker.

Crimian worked in 30 of Columbus’ first 50 games, developing a reputation as a “rubber-armed pitcher,” according to The Sporting News.

“Crimian is a big-league relief pitcher,” said Charlie Grimm, manager of the Braves’ Milwaukee farm team. “I’ll not miss him when the St. Louis Cardinals call him up.”

On Walker’s recommendation, the Cardinals promoted Crimian on July 1, 1951, as they were about to embark on a three-week road trip. “Harry told me Jack was one of those guys you can use every day for a couple of innings and have him go at top speed,” said Cardinals manager Marty Marion. “That’s what we need.”

Frustrating the Phillies

Crimian, 25, made his major-league debut for the Cardinals on July 3, 1951, against the Reds at Cincinnati. Relieving Harry Brecheen in the sixth inning, Crimian faced two batters, yielding a walk to Dixie Howell and a three-run double to Barney McCosky. Boxscore

The highlight of Crimian’s stint with the Cardinals came two weeks later, on July 15, 1951, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Phillies at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

With the score tied at 3-3, Crimian relieved Brecheen and held the Phillies scoreless in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, working around a leadoff triple by Granny Hamner in the seventh. The Cardinals scored twice in the seventh and twice in the eighth, taking a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

With one out, Del Ennis hit a home run against Crimian, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 7-4. After Hamner grounded out, Jimmy Bloodworth walked and Del Wilber doubled, putting runners on second and third and bringing the potential tying run to the plate.

Dick Sisler, a former Cardinal, was the batter. After working the count to 2-and-1, he hit a pitch from Crimian over the right-field wall. If the ball landed fair, it would have been a three-run home run, tying the score, but it curved into foul territory.

Unwilling to let Crimian throw another pitch to Sisler, Marion brought in Al Brazle to finish the job. Brazle’s first pitch was a curveball and Sisler watched it bend across the plate for strike three, preserving the win for Crimian. Boxscore

A week later, on July 24, 1951, Crimian made his first appearance at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis and Sisler again played a central role. With the Cardinals leading the Phillies, 8-5, Crimian relieved Brecheen with two on and two outs in the eighth and struck out Sisler. The Cardinals scored a run in the bottom of the eighth and Crimian retired the Phillies in order in the ninth, earning a save. Boxscore

On the move

Crimian made 11 appearances, all in July, for the 1951 Cardinals and was 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA before he was returned to the minors.

In 1952, Crimian was called up to the Cardinals in June, pitched in five games, posted a 9.72 ERA and was demoted.

Playing for Walker at Rochester in 1953, Crimian was 13-5 with a 2.86 ERA, but the Cardinals didn’t call. On Dec. 2, 1953, the Cardinals sent Crimian and $100,000 to the Reds for shortstop Alex Grammas.

According to the Dayton Daily News, Walker spoke to Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts about Crimian and said there’s “no reason why he can’t relieve successfully in the majors.”

The Reds, though, never gave Crimian a chance. On April 8, 1954, the Reds sold Crimian’s contract to the Toronto Maple Leafs, an unaffiliated minor-league club owned by Jack Kent Cooke. The Maple Leafs manager was Luke Sewell, who managed the St. Louis Browns to the 1944 American League pennant and a berth in the World Series against the Cardinals.

Back in the bigs

Crimian earned 30 saves for the Maple Leafs in 1954. During the summer, the Yankees expressed interest in acquiring him, “but Cooke wouldn’t part with Crimian in midseason,” The Sporting News reported.

In 1955, Sewell put Crimian in the starting rotation because he “wasn’t getting enough work to stay sharp” as a reliever.

“I have trouble keeping a fine touch if I don’t get enough work,” Crimian said.

Crimian posted a 19-6 record and 2.10 ERA, earning International League pitcher of the year honors.

The pitching-poor Athletics of the American League took notice. On Oct. 12, 1955, the Athletics acquired Crimian from the Maple Leafs for pitcher Marion Fricano and $60,000.

“If they give this fellow a chance to learn the hitters, he can’t miss,” Sewell said. “He’s got the best control I’ve seen in any pitcher.”

Crimian spent the 1956 season with the Athletics and was 4-8 with a 5.51 ERA in 54 appearances. His highlight came on Sept. 4, 1956, when he won a start against the Indians and outdueled Herb Score, a 20-game winner. Boxscore

In December 1956, the Athletics traded Crimian to the Tigers. He pitched in four games for them in 1957, including on April 18 when Indians rookie Roger Maris hit his first major-league home run, a grand slam, against Crimian in the 11th inning at Detroit. Boxscore