(Updated Jan. 21, 2020)

Ozzie Smith welcomed Derek Jeter as a peer among baseball’s best shortstops.

In 2014, when Jeter came to St. Louis with the Yankees for the last time as a player, he was embraced by Smith in a pre-game ceremony near home plate at Busch Stadium.

Smith, who won 13 Gold Glove awards, including 11 with the Cardinals, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 in his first year on the ballot. Smith got 91.7 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Jeter was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. Jeter got 99.7 percent of the votes from the baseball writers.

Parting gifts

After Jeter, 39, said 2014 would be his final season as Yankees shortstop, he was honored at each stop on the schedule.

The Yankees came to St. Louis for a three game series May 26-28 in 2014.

Jeter had played against the Cardinals in 2003 at Yankee Stadium and in 2005 at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis. The 2014 visit was at the downtown ballpark that opened in 2006.

Before the Memorial Day series opener in 2014, the Cardinals presented Jeter with cuff links bearing the likeness of franchise icon Stan Musial. The Cardinals also gave Jeter a $10,000 donation to his Turn 2 Foundation. According to its Web site, the foundation “strives to create outlets that promote and reward academic excellence, leadership development and positive behavior” for young people.

Among those representing the Cardinals at the ceremony were Red Schoendienst, the Hall of Fame second baseman who wore the same uniform number (No. 2) as Jeter did, and Smith, the acrobatic fielder nicknamed The Wizard. Video

Special bond

Smith “put out his arms and embraced” Jeter, MLB.com reported.

Smith’s last two seasons in the majors (1995-96) were Jeter’s first two.

“He’s always treated me good, especially when I was a younger player,” Jeter said. “He’s a guy that I admire. I admire his career. When you’re a young player, you remember how guys treat you. Ozzie always treated me well.”

Smith told the New York Post, “He’s probably been the perfect example of what a baseball player should be. Great ambassador for the game. He’s done it the right way.”

Cardinals reliever Randy Choate, Jeter’s teammate from 2000-2003 with the Yankees, said to MLB.com, “He leads by example. When you play with him, you want to play like him.”

Showing respect

In his first at-bat after the ceremony, Jeter singled and received a standing ovation. Boxscore

Jeter “was feted at every opportunity” during the three-game series, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Jeter started the first two games but sat out the third when the Yankees went with his backup, former Cardinal Brendan Ryan. In the seventh inning, Jeter got a standing ovation when the scoreboard camera showed him in the dugout. He responded by going to the top step and doffing his cap. Boxscore

“It’s much appreciated,” Jeter said. “It’s not something that’s expected.”

Hall of Fame stats

Jeter’s best performances against the Cardinals were in 2005 when he had five hits in 13 at-bats. His career batting mark versus St. Louis was .265 (9-for-34).

In 20 seasons (1995-2014) with the Yankees, Jeter won five Gold Glove awards and was named an American League all-star 14 times. One of his all-star appearances was the 2009 game in St. Louis.

Jeter produced a career batting mark of .310 and an on-base percentage of .377. He had 3,465 hits, including 544 doubles, with 1,311 RBI and 358 stolen bases.

Jeter has the most career hits of any shortstop.

According to MLB.com, the top six players all-time in career hits are Pete Rose (4,256), Ty Cobb (4,191), Hank Aaron (3,771), Stan Musial (3,630), Tris Speaker (3,515) and Jeter (3,465). Aaron is the only right-handed batter with more career hits than Jeter.

Jeter played in seven World Series and the Yankees won five of those. He had a World Series batting average of .321, with 50 hits in 38 games, and an on-base percentage of .384.

The Cardinals continue to span the globe for talent.

In January 2020, the Cardinals’ 40-man winter roster had players who were natives of nine countries or territories. In alphabetical order, those are Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Korea, United States and Venezuela.

One of the Cardinals’ key acquisitions for the 2020 season was left-handed pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim, a South Korean.

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is leading the franchise’s efforts to grow its global reach. In January 2020, Mozeliak answered questions from bloggers by e-mail. The opportunity to ask questions of Mozeliak came about through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of United Cardinal Bloggers.

Mozeliak thoughtfully answered my two questions regarding the Cardinals’ international approach. Here are those questions and his answers:

Q.: What will be the long-term impact of the Cardinals’ Dominican Republic Academy on the major-league organization?

John Mozeliak: “Great question. We continue to invest in Latin America, specifically in the Dominican Republic. We’re currently operating two Dominican Summer League teams, and part of the reason for that is trying to create opportunity for finding more talent.

“I think, as you look at overall operating costs and what we’re also trying to manage through on the minor-league side, at some point I hope we get back to one team down there, but the impact we’re hoping for from the Latin America program is very real. These are measurable. Are you getting contribution from that program that’s contributing to the major-league side, or helping you with trades?

“Right now, we feel that our international operations has done a very good job of finding us talent and we continue to hope to enrich that by making investments and educating our staff to help them grow.”

Q.: How important will the Pacific Rim become as a talent source and how will the Cardinals be a player in that region?

John Mozeliak: “Well, clearly, we are a player in the region. I think you’re going to see more and more players have interest in coming here.

“A couple of things have changed over the last 10 years. I think the posting system (created to allow Asian teams to get compensation for players who want to go to the U.S. majors leagues) is much more fair. It’s more fair for everybody involved, not only domestic teams, but also teams in Korea and Japan.

“Players are able to see the game more, too. If you think about why New York, Boston or Los Angeles were the teams that seemed most attractive, I think part of that was because those were the teams that were on television in Asia. But now, with the ability to stream, players can see all the games, so their interest in other
baseball teams has become very real. You saw that with the Kwang-Hyun Kim signing.

“(Seung-Hwan) Oh (who pitched for the 2016-17 Cardinals) certainly didn’t hurt in that, being from Korea and speaking positively of the Cardinals, but also it was a team that he could see. I think how people watch the game of baseball now has helped our game grow.”

As a rookie with the 1951 Cardinals, Dick Bokelmann took over the role of closer.

Bokelmann died Dec. 27, 2019, at 93. A right-handed reliever, his major-league career consisted of spending parts of three seasons (1951-53) with the Cardinals.

He experienced his most success after his promotion from the minors in August 1951.

Handy man

Bokelmann, 20, was pitching for Northwestern University when he got an offer from the Cardinals and signed with them in 1947.

His breakout season came in 1951, his fifth year in the Cardinals’ farm system, when he posted a 10-2 record and 0.74 ERA as the closer for Houston of the Texas League.

“Dick began learning to place his sinking fastball and splendid curve where he wanted it,” The Sporting News reported.

Bokelmann, 24, was called up to the Cardinals and made his debut with them on Aug. 3, 1951, earning a save in relief of starter Harry Brecheen against the Giants at St. Louis. Boxscore

In his first three appearances for the Cardinals, all against the Giants, Bokelmann faced a total of 10 batters and retired all of them.

“A kid like Bokelmann comes in handy,” Brecheen told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In the groove

Bokelmann’s emergence prompted Cardinals manager Marty Marion to move closer Al Brazle into the starting rotation, where he thrived, posting a 2.83 ERA in eight starts.

“If we had a relief pitcher like Dick Bokelmann all season, we could have started Brazle more often,” Marion said.

After a couple of shaky outings against the Dodgers and Braves in late August, Bokelmann experienced a hot streak. In four appearances from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9, Bokelmann yielded no runs over 16 innings, earning two wins and a save.

The save came on Sept. 6 when Bokelmann worked four scoreless innings in relief of starter Cliff Chambers against the Cubs at Chicago. Boxscore

The next night, Sept. 7, the Cardinals were at Pittsburgh and Bokelmann got his first big-league win, yielding one hit and no runs over five innings in relief of starter Tom Poholsky. Boxscore

On Sept. 9, at Pittsburgh, Bokelmann, the Cardinals’ third pitcher of the game, entered with one out in the fourth, held the Pirates to one hit over 5.2 innings and got the win. Boxscore

Changing careers

Bokelmann finished the season with a 3-3 record and three saves in 20 appearances for the 1951 Cardinals.

He opened the 1952 season with the Cardinals, gave up runs in seven of his 11 appearances and was sent back to the minors.

Bokelmann ended his big-league career with three appearances for the 1953 Cardinals. His overall record for them: 3-4, three saves and a 4.90 ERA in 34 games.

After his baseball career, Bokelmann worked for Prudential Insurance in Illinois for 30 years.

Andy Hassler was willing to return to the minor leagues for the first time in 10 years to show the Cardinals he belonged with them in the majors.

Hassler died Dec. 25, 2019, at 68. A left-hander, he pitched for 14 seasons in the big leagues, primarily with the Angels.

In 1984, the Angels released Hassler at the end of spring training. He was 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA for them in 1983 and didn’t do enough at training camp the following spring to convince them to keep him.

The Cardinals offered Hassler, 32, a chance to stay in the game, but it was a humbling proposition. He would have to go to the minors, two levels down to Class AA. The last time he pitched in the minors was 1974. The last time he pitched in Class AA was 1970 when he was 18.

“It’s tough to go down after that many seasons,” Hassler told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You have to question yourself why you really want to do it.”

Hassler did it, and by the end of the season he was back in the big leagues with the Cardinals.

Rapid rise

Hassler was 17 and recently graduated from high school in Tucson, Ariz., when he was chosen by the Angels in the 25th round of the 1969 amateur draft.

Two years later, on May 30, 1971, he made his major-league debut for them at 19 in a start at Yankee Stadium. Boxscore

Hassler lost his first eight decisions in the big leagues. Though he pitched for the Angels in parts of 1971 and 1973, his first win for them didn’t come until June 23, 1974, versus the Rangers. Boxscore

His career often was defined by extremes. He either was very good or very bad. In 1974, Hassler pitched a one-hitter against the White Sox and, on a staff with Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana, led the Angels in ERA at 2.61. From 1975-76, he lost 18 consecutive decisions _ his last 11 of 1975 and his first seven of 1976.

“There were games in there where I pitched downright badly. I pitched poorly, period,” Hassler told the Boston Globe. “When I did pitch well, something (bad) would happen. I don’t like to make excuses, but it was a last-place team. There were a lot of plays that weren’t made.”

Hassler’s success depended on the effectiveness of his sinker.

“If I can keep the ball down, I don’t give a damn who’s up there,” Hassler told the Los Angeles Times.

Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski rated Hassler “one of the four best left-handers in the league.”

Mutual admiration

On July 5, 1976, the Angels sold Hassler’s contract to the Royals, who were in first place in the American League West. The Royals’ manager, Whitey Herzog, had been an Angels coach in 1974 and 1975 when Hassler pitched for them.

According to The Sporting News, Angels owner Gene Autry told Hassler, “At least you are going to a team on top that will score some runs for you.” Regarding his Angels, Autry added, “You can’t get any lower than this one.”

After losing his first decision, his 18th in a row, with the Royals, Hassler won four in a row. “Without Andy, we wouldn’t be in first place,” Herzog said.

Said Hassler: “I have all the admiration in the world for Whitey.”

In 1984, Herzog was manager of the Cardinals when Hassler took the offer to go back to the minors.

Comeback trail

After signing with the Cardinals on May 2, 1984, Hassler reported to their Class AA farm club at Arkansas. In his Arkansas debut, Hassler took the loss, giving up a home run to Mets prospect Billy Beane, who years later became the Athletics general manager who inspired the book and movie “Moneyball.”

Hassler pitched in nine games for Arkansas, posted a 1-1 record with three saves and showed enough to earn a promotion to Class AAA Louisville.

The 1984 Louisville manager, Jim Fregosi, was Hassler’s teammate with the 1971 Angels and managed him with the 1981 Angels during Hassler’s second stint with the franchise.

Hassler regained his form with Louisville, putting together a stretch of 15 scoreless innings over nine appearances. With a 7-4 record, 10 saves and a 2.11 ERA at Louisville, Hassler got called up to the Cardinals in September 1984.

In his Cardinals debut on Sept. 16, 1984, against the Pirates at St. Louis, Hassler got the win when David Green produced a two-run single in the bottom of the 10th. Boxscore

Real pro

At spring training in 1985, Hassler allowed one earned run in 11 innings and got a spot as a reliever on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster.

“If I was a right-hander, I’d have been done 10 years ago,” Hassler said. “Thank God there will always be teams looking for left-handers.”

Herzog said he liked Hassler “for his control and movement on his fastball.”

Hassler made 10 appearances for the 1985 Cardinals and was 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA, but with two other left-handers, Ken Dayley and Ricky Horton, in the bullpen, Hassler was sent back to Louisville in May to open a roster spot in St. Louis for outfielder Tito Landrum.

“I might be the first guy to get sent out with an ERA under two,” Hassler said.

At Louisville, Hassler, 33, mentored Todd Worrell, who struggled as a starter and was being converted into a reliever.

“It was just good timing that he was there to help me,” Worrell said. “What better source to get it from than somebody who’s been there?”

Worrell excelled as a reliever, got promoted to the Cardinals, became their closer in the last month of the 1985 season and helped them become National League champions.

Hassler was 4-5 with two saves and a 3.29 ERA for Louisville and retired from baseball in August 1985.

Pitching for six big-league teams (Angels, Royals, Red Sox, Mets, Pirates and Cardinals), Hassler was 44-71 with 29 saves.

St. Louis Browns manager Marty Marion wanted to convert rookie pitcher Don Larsen into an outfielder.

Marion reconsidered after Larsen put together a string of wins late in the 1953 season.

Three years later, with the Yankees, Larsen pitched the only World Series perfect game, a feat unlikely to have happened if Marion had implemented his plan.

Larsen died on Jan. 1, 2020, at 90. His professional baseball career was influenced by a couple of former Cardinals, Marion and Harry Brecheen.

Prized prospect

Larsen’s father, the son of Norwegian immigrants, was a watchmaker who moved the family from Indiana to San Diego. Larsen, 17, was pitching for an American Legion team when a Browns scout signed him for $850.

After four seasons (1947-50) in the Browns’ farm system, Larsen served stateside in the Army for two years (1951-52). He was on the roster of the San Antonio farm club when he reported to 1953 spring training with the Browns.

A right-hander, Larsen, 23, impressed in spring training and opened the 1953 season in the Browns’ starting rotation.

“He has the confidence and could be a terrific pitcher by the end of the season,” Browns general manager Bill DeWitt Sr. told The Sporting News.

ABC-TV broadcaster and former Cardinals ace Dizzy Dean said Larsen “could retire many of the big sluggers with only his blazing pitches if he could control them.”

Catcher Les Moss said Larsen’s curve and changeup improved with the help of Brecheen, the left-hander who joined the Browns following his release by the Cardinals. Brecheen, 38, mentored multiple Browns pitchers.

Marion, who’d been an all-star shortstop for the Cardinals and managed them in 1951 before joining the Browns, said Larsen “is the best-looking pitching prospect I’ve seen in the American League this season. He’s not a finished product, but he has all the tools to make a great pitcher.”

Preparing an experiment

Larsen struggled to fulfill expectations.

After a loss to the Red Sox at Boston on Aug. 5, 1953, he was 2-10 with a 4.32 ERA, but his batting average was .288. Boxscore

Over a span of three games from July 24 to Aug. 5, Larsen produced hits in seven consecutive at-bats.

Intrigued by the combination of Larsen’s bat and arm, Marion wanted to make him an outfielder.

Immediately after the Aug. 5 game at Fenway Park, Marion “ordered a practice session during which he had Larsen shag flies in the outfield for some 30 minutes,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

“Since spring training, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying Larsen as an outfielder,” Marion said. “The way he’s been hitting of late, I may take a look at him out there in a game in the near future.”

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Marion planned to start Larsen in the outfield the next day, Aug. 6, at Fenway Park.

“I decided against it at the last minute,” Marion said. “I was afraid he might run into the left field fence. As soon as I feel Don is mentally ready for the experiment, I’ll start him.”

Worth a try

After the series at Boston, the Browns went to Washington to play the Senators. In the series opener on Aug. 7, 1953, Browns left fielder Dick Kokos “bungled a fly ball” which fell for a double in the fifth inning, the Post-Dispatch reported. Marion replaced Kokos with Larsen in the sixth. Larsen played the final three innings in left field, had no fielding chances and grounded out in his one at-bat. Boxscore

Facing back-to-back doubleheaders, Marion used Larsen as a starting pitcher in one on Aug. 11 against the Tigers. Larsen was shelled for seven runs in four innings and took the loss, dropping his record to 2-11. Boxscore

The next day, the Globe-Democrat reported Larsen “has been working out afternoons as an outfielder.”

“He might be a better outfielder than a pitcher,” Marion told The Sporting News.

Said Larsen: “I’ll try anything they ask me to try. If I can’t make it in the outfield, I can always go back to pitching.

“If I get to play every day in the outfield, my hitting will improve. It’s worth trying and I’m happy Marty suggested it.”

Change of plans

A turnaround for Larsen occurred on Aug. 20, 1953, at Baltimore when the Browns played the minor-league Orioles in an exhibition game. Baltimore was trying to adopt the Browns and the game was important for the city. Larsen pitched a five hitter, striking out 11, in an 8-2 Browns victory.

On Aug. 30, the Browns were at home to play their third doubleheader in seven days. Brecheen, scheduled to start Game 1 against the Senators, had a sore shoulder, so Marion went with Larsen.

In what the Globe-Democrat described as “the surprise of the day,” Larsen pitched a two-hit shutout for his first win since June. Boxscore

“After being considered seriously for the role of outfielder, Larsen just missed pitching a no-hitter,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Larsen held the Senators hitless until Wayne Terwilliger singled with one out in the eighth. The other hit was a Pete Runnels single in the ninth.

The first batter of the game, Eddie Yost, walked on four pitches. When Larsen went to a 2-and-0 count on the next batter, Runnels, Marion called for Bob Cain to warm up in the bullpen. Larsen settled down and, starting with Runnels, struck out five batters in a row.

The shutout was the first of five consecutive wins for Larsen.

Browns owner Bill Veeck and Marion “vetoed all plans that had been afoot a few weeks ago to convert Larsen into an outfielder,” The Sporting News reported.

Larsen finished with a 7-12 record for the 1953 Browns and batted .284 with three home runs.

A year later, Larsen was traded to the Yankees and was 45-24 for them in five seasons. His career record in 14 big-league seasons was 81-91.

Larsen was 0-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 19 appearances versus the Cardinals. One loss was in 1963 while with the Giants. The other losses came in 1964 while with the Houston Colt .45s, including one on Aug. 18 in his lone career start against the Cardinals. Boxscore

Andy Benes and the Cardinals were separated, not estranged, and when the opportunity came to rekindle the relationship they made it happen.

Twenty years ago, on Jan. 7, 2000, Benes, a free agent, returned for a second stint with the Cardinals, signing a three-year, $18 million contract.

A right-hander, Benes, 32, joined Darryl Kile, Garrett Stephenson, Pat Hentgen and Rick Ankiel in a revamped starting rotation and helped the Cardinals return to the postseason in 2000 for the first time since he initially joined them in 1996.

Splitting up

After pitching for the Padres and Mariners, Benes became a free agent and signed with the Cardinals in December 1995.

He led the 1996 Cardinals in wins (18), starts (34) and innings pitched (230.1) and the club reached the postseason for the first time in nine years.

After earning 10 wins and leading the staff in strikeouts (175) in 1997, Benes again became a free agent. He reached an agreement to stay with the Cardinals, but the deal was voided because it came together after expiration of a deadline mandated by the baseball owners’ Player Relations Committee.

Instead of getting the Cardinals’ offer of a five-year contract worth $32.5 million, Benes settled for a three-year deal worth $18 million with the Diamondbacks, an expansion franchise.

The contract with the Diamondbacks gave Benes the option to depart after two seasons. Benes posted records of 14-13 and 13-12 with the Diamondbacks and exercised his option to leave after the 1999 season.

Benes and his agent, Scott Boras, talked with the Tigers, who showed the most interest, but the team Benes wanted to go to was the Cardinals.

After acquiring Kile and Hentgen in trades, the Cardinals were open to signing another veteran starter, but had budget limitations.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty was considering two other free-agent pitchers: Darren Oliver, who was 9-9 for the 1999 Cardinals, and Juan Guzman, a former Blue Jays ace who was a combined 11-12 for the Orioles and Reds in 1999.

Jocketty strongly considered Guzman, who had seasons of 16-5 and 14-3 for the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 and started three World Series games for them. “We were serious,” Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We could have done it. He was intriguing.”

Jocketty spoke to Boras about Benes but said no offer was made and it was unlikely the Cardinals would bring him back.

Problem solvers

The situation changed around Christmas time. Benes expressed a willingness to work with the Cardinals on structuring a contract putting more money on the back end than on the front.

“We had to be very creative as to how we put this deal together because where we were as far as our payroll was concerned for this year,” Jocketty said.

The Cardinals were approaching a franchise-high $60 million in player salaries for 2000, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Before Benes agreed to defer money in the first year of the contract, Jocketty said, “A month ago, I didn’t think this was going to happen.”

A grateful Benes said of his return to the Cardinals, “This is where my heart was. I really wanted this opportunity to see if it could happen back here again.”

Benes was 12-9 as part of a durable Cardinals rotation in 2000. Six pitchers made starts during the 162-game regular season: Kile (34 starts), Hentgen (33), Stephenson (31), Ankiel (30), Benes (27) and Britt Reames (seven).

In five seasons with St. Louis, Benes was 52-37. The Cardinals reached the postseason in four of those years.