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The process of acquiring players is imperfect and misjudgments always will occur, so the Cardinals routinely do critical self-analysis to learn how to adjust and adapt their approach, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said.

In December 2018, Mozeliak answered questions from Cardinals 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 answered two of my questions and he did so thoughtfully. His answers provide good insights.

Q: How do you determine whether you’ve had a successful year with respect to player acquisitions?

Mozeliak: “Fair question. There are a lot of questions of, ‘How do you measure yourself?’ I think you have to have an honest assessment because not every decision we make works.

“When you look at the nature of player acquisitions, is it more of an aggregate question _ did we have a winning season or did we get to the postseason _ or is it more specific on individual decisions _ were they successful or were they smart?

“One thing I think we do fairly well in this organization is we’re willing to ask those questions, willing to understand the why and not afraid to change. There are a lot of things in this industry you might be a part of that you never actually do _ in other words, you may be in negotiations where you hope to get a player, but you don’t. You think about, ‘What was the strategy? How could we have done something different?’

“The same can be said for the misses and the hits. There is the 50,000-foot view you can look at and there is the much lower, in-the-weeds approach. All those are fair approaches and I think we try to do both.”

I liked Mozeliak’s answer and I appreciate him giving a response with depth rather than a pat, simplistic one.

Q: What’s one aspect about the Cardinals baseball operations department you wish more people would understand or appreciate better?

Mozeliak: “I feel like, in this day and age, our fan base understands why and how we make decisions. When you ask about a specific department, I think most people know who Randy Flores is as our scouting director, most people know who Gary LaRocque is as our farm director.

“Most people are aware of Luis Morales as our international director, but he might have less recognition just because he works out of Jupiter _ and not out of St. Louis.

“That’s a department, if you look back just five or six years, between Luis and Moises Rodriguez, they’ve advanced that department light years. As a matter of fact, we have our first graduating class from high school in the Dominican Republic, I believe, on Jan. 27.

“When you think back 10 to 15 years ago, we weren’t even providing education, now we have young men graduating from high school. That’s just a great compliment to what those guys have done and also shows that we truly are invested in the Dominican, not just as a place to mine talent, but as a place to try to improve young men’s lives.”

Again, I liked Mozeliak’s answer. It was a polite and accurate way of acknowledging many may know of the scouting and minor-league achievements, but may not know the important work being done by the international department.

According to the Cardinals’ media guide, the Cardinals have personnel in five countries outside of the United States and operate a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic as well as two rookie-level summer teams. The Cardinals’ international personnel scout for baseball talent in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, the Dutch Antilles, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. Also, the Cardinals have increased their involvement in Asia and Cuba.

The Cardinals wanted free-agent pitcher Kevin Brown and thought they had a legitimate chance, offering to extend their payroll budget to get him, but the Dodgers took the bidding to unexpected heights.

Twenty years ago, on Dec. 12, 1998, the Dodgers signed Brown to a seven-year contract, making him the first $100 million player in baseball.

Brown, represented by agent Scott Boras, got a $105 million deal, with an average salary of $15 million a season. The contract also called for the Dodgers to provide a private jet to fly Brown’s family back and forth from Macon, Ga., and Los Angeles 12 times a season.

The Cardinals were willing to give Brown, 33, a six-year offer, general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and were stunned by what he got from the Dodgers.

“It’s insane,” said Jocketty. “I don’t understand it.”

Baseball mercenary

Kevin Brown majored in chemical engineering at Georgia Tech, pitched for the baseball team and was selected by the Rangers in the first round of the 1986 amateur draft.

A 6-foot-4 right-hander, Brown pitched eight seasons for the Rangers, including 1992 when he was 21-11. He became a free agent, played one season for the Orioles, became a free agent again and went to the Marlins.

In two seasons with the Marlins, Brown was 33-19 and they won a World Series championship in 1997. The Marlins traded him to the Padres and he was 18-7 in 1998, helping them win a National League pennant and a berth in the World Series against the Yankees.

Brown was 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA in four World Series starts for the Marlins and Padres, but those setbacks didn’t damage his value. He became a free agent for a third time after the 1998 World Series and let it be known through Boras he was seeking a six-year contract at $13 million per season.

High stakes

The Cardinals were in dire need of starting pitching. Kent Mercker (11-11, 5.07 ERA) led the Cardinals in wins in 1998 and the club finished out of title contention at 83-79. Jocketty told the Post-Dispatch “we have expressed interest” in Brown.

On Nov. 5, 1998, Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz declared “the Cardinals were thought to be favorites” in the bidding for Brown and noted, “Brown looms as an exciting purchase, but how smart is it? For Brown money, Jocketty may be able to get two starting pitchers.”

Jocketty said he thought the length of a contract for Brown “could, and should, go down to five years” rather than the six the pitcher sought.

The Padres, Rockies, Orioles, Angels and Dodgers joined the Cardinals in pursuit of Brown.

On Nov. 25, 1998, Miklasz reported the Cardinals “have quietly remained at the table” as the “expensive and risky poker game” for Brown unfolded.

“I believe we’ll go over budget to get him,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “Our ownership would get so fired up about him coming to St. Louis, they’d go get him. If he says, ‘I want to come to the Cardinals,’ our owners will find the money.”

La Russa said “several people close to Brown keep telling us that he’ll seriously consider the Cardinals.”

Golden Brown

On Dec. 2, 1998, the Post-Dispatch reported the Cardinals “would balk at six years but would be interested at five” as the length of a contract for Brown.

“They know of our interest and we know he’s interested in here,” Jocketty said.

A week later, on Dec. 11, 1998, as the baseball winter meetings were getting under way, the Post-Dispatch reported Jocketty still was pursuing Brown “as his first pitching choice.”

The next day, Brown and Boras announced the agreement with the Dodgers. Boras said the deal was sealed when the Dodgers agreed to a contract length of seven years.

“I basically knew the Dodgers were his primary choice and I went to the Dodgers and told them they could have exclusive negotiations if they went to a seventh year,” Boras said.

Boras said the Dodgers, owned by Rupert Murdoch and the Fox media empire, were among four teams willing to pay Brown an average of at least $15 million a season.

Jocketty told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch the Cardinals were prepared to give Brown a six-year pact. “I told (Boras) after the fact that if we thought the dollars were right for six years we would have considered doing that,” Jocketty said.

Boras confirmed the Cardinals “were in the running” at six years.

Regarding a seven-year contract at $105 million, Jocketty said, “It’s too much and too long. It just doesn’t make good sense. I don’t think it’s a very good deal for baseball.”

Miklasz, who described Brown as “Kevin Green, the new U.S. mint,” concluded, “It’s a sobering day when the Cardinals, prepared to offer Brown a fortune, think they have a legitimate chance, only to discover that they couldn’t wipe Brown’s cleats with their contract proposal.”

Padres owner John Moores said he offered Brown six years at $60 million and “held my nose and got nauseated.”

Return on investment

Kent Bottenfield was the ace of a weak Cardinals pitching staff in 1999 and the club finished 75-86.

Brown was 18-9 for the 1999 Dodgers, but they finished 77-85. Brown alone couldn’t carry a Dodgers rotation with Darren Dreifort (4.79 ERA), Chan Ho Park (5.23) and Carlos Perez (7.43).

Brown’s records in his other four seasons with the Dodgers: 13-6, 10-4, 3-4 and 14-9. In five seasons with the Dodgers, Brown was 58-32 with a 2.83 ERA, but the club never qualified for the postseason while he was with them.

On Dec. 13, 2003, Brown, with two years left on his contract, was traded by the Dodgers to the Yankees for a package of players, including pitcher Jeff Weaver, and cash.

In two seasons with the Yankees, Brown was 14-13 with a 4.95 ERA. He was 40 years old when he pitched his last game for them.

Brown, who never won a Cy Young Award, finished a 19-year big-league career with a 211-144 record and 3.28 ERA. In 11 career starts against the Cardinals, Brown was 6-2 with a 2.21 ERA.

After making a pitch for Barry Larkin of the Reds, the Cardinals, shopping for a shortstop, turned to a younger, less expensive model, Edgar Renteria of the Marlins.

Twenty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1998, the Cardinals traded pitchers Braden Looper and Armando Almanza, plus infielder Pablo Ozuna, to the Marlins for Renteria.

The Cardinals went to the baseball winter meetings at Nashville determined to acquire a shortstop to replace Royce Clayton, whom they traded to the Rangers five months earlier.

Larkin and Renteria were atop the Cardinals’ shopping list and, if they couldn’t get either one, Pat Meares of the Twins was an alternative, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Seeing red

Larkin was unhappy with the Reds and asked to be traded. The Reds had their second consecutive losing season in 1998 and Larkin, who had a Hall of Fame resume, wanted to be with a contender. Reds general manager Jim Bowden had vowed to rebuild the roster around Larkin and second baseman Bret Boone, so when Bowden traded Boone to the Braves in November 1998, Larkin felt betrayed.

“I’ve been lied to consistently,” Larkin said to the Dayton Daily News. “I’ve heard rebuild, rebuild, rebuild to get better. If that’s the case, I should see some light at the end of the tunnel. All I see is a tunnel filled with water.”

Because he had spent 10 years in the major leagues, including the last five with the same club, Larkin could veto any trade. He gave the Reds a list of five teams to which he would accept a trade: Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres and Rangers.

“If they can move me, please do it now,” Larkin told the Dayton newspaper on the eve of the winter meetings.

“I feel as if I’m being held hostage by a team with no immediate plans to be competitive.”

Trade talk

Larkin batted .309 with 34 doubles for the 1998 Reds, earning his eighth of nine Silver Slugger awards. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner ranked second among National League shortstops in fielding percentage that year.

The Cardinals “keep inquiring about Larkin,” the Dayton newspaper reported.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty offered the Reds a package of players, including pitcher Manny Aybar, who in 1998 was 10-0 for minor-league Memphis and 6-6 for the Cardinals.

Bowden’s response to Jocketty was: “You know who I want.”

According to the St. Louis and Dayton newspapers, the players Bowden wanted in exchange for Larkin were outfielder J.D. Drew and pitcher Rick Ankiel.

Bowden said the Cardinals and Mariners, who made a bid on behalf of Larkin’s friend, Ken Griffey Jr., were the clubs most interested in Larkin “but neither offered quality big-league players or top-notch prospects. We listened, but nothing was substantial. Teams felt they could steal him for nothing.”

Big catch

Unable to reach an agreement with the Reds, the Cardinals turned to the Marlins.

Renteria became a Marlins hero in 1997 when he delivered a championship-clinching RBI-single against Charles Nagy of the Indians in the 11th inning of World Series Game 7. Video

In 1998, Renteria batted .282 with 41 stolen bases for the Marlins and was named to the National League all-star team.

Renteria, 22, was younger than Larkin, 34, and Larkin was under contract to make $5.3 million in 1999 compared with $2 million for Renteria.

The Marlins were agreeable to trading Renteria because they had a highly regarded shortstop prospect, Alex Gonzalez, who was ready to play in the big leagues.

Initially, the Cardinals and Marlins discussed a deal of Renteria for Looper and another pitcher, Mike Busby, the Palm Beach Post reported, but Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski, looking to get three players instead of two, opted for Almanza and Ozuna, along with Looper, rather than Busby.

“I want to play for the Cardinals,” Renteria said. “I want to show the fans I can play hard for a team that can win.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he planned to bat Renteria in the leadoff spot, with Drew second and Mark McGwire third.

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz rated the acquisition of Renteria a plus for the Cardinals. “He’s magic in the field and will take excellent care of Ozzie Smith’s cherished ground,” Miklasz concluded.

Good as expected

Renteria played six seasons (1999-2004) for the Cardinals and helped them to four postseason appearances. His best season for St. Louis was 2003 when he hit .330 with 47 doubles, 100 RBI and 34 stolen bases.

Overall with the Cardinals, Renteria won three Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Glove awards and posted a .290 batting average with 148 steals. He batted .333 for the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series against the Red Sox.

After that World Series, Renteria became a free agent and signed with the Red Sox.

In 2010, playing for the Giants against the Rangers, Renteria was the recipient of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .412 with two home runs.

Wally Moon shined for the Cardinals for four years, but wore out his welcome in a single season when he slumped at the plate and displayed what some perceived as an indifferent attitude toward his outfield play.

Sixty years ago, on Dec. 4, 1958, the Cardinals traded Moon and reliever Phil Paine to the Dodgers for outfielder Gino Cimoli.

Four years earlier, Moon won the 1954 National League Rookie of the Year Award when he batted .304 and scored 106 runs for the Cardinals. He followed that by batting .295 with 19 home runs in 1955, .298 with a league-leading 11 triples in 1956 and .295 with 24 home runs in 1957.

Moon, a left-handed batter, posted consistently high on-base percentages, including a .390 mark in 1956. He combined with Stan Musial and Ken Boyer to give the Cardinals a formidable attack.

Though he went into a tailspin in 1958 and hit .238 with seven home runs, he didn’t start a game for a month after injuring his left elbow.

After the 1958 season, Moon joined the Cardinals on their goodwill tour of Japan, impressed new manager Solly Hemus and appeared to be back in the club’s plans, but the Dodgers, who’d shown interest in Moon all year, convinced general manager Bing Devine to trade him.

The deal revived Moon’s career and sparked the Dodgers to a World Series championship.

Season of struggles

During spring training in 1958, the Cardinals got trade offers for Moon from the Phillies and Reds, but Devine was reluctant to give up a power hitter, according to The Sporting News.

Moon never got untracked at training camp and Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson was disappointed in his “light hitting and uninspiring defensive play,” The Sporting News reported.

In April, the Dodgers offered to deal outfielder Duke Snider to the Cardinals for Moon and Boyer, the Post-Dispatch reported, but Devine didn’t want to give up both players.

Moon’s funk carried through the first two months of the regular season. He was batting .246 with no home runs entering a May 31 game against the Giants at St. Louis. In the fifth inning, Moon, playing center field, and left fielder Joe Cunningham collided at the outfield wall while chasing a line drive by Orlando Cepeda. Moon suffered severe bruises to his left elbow and didn’t start another game until June 29. Boxscore

Moon hit .211 in July, rebounded in August with five home runs and 20 RBI and slumped again in September, batting .204.

Full Moon rising

The Cardinals finished 72-82 in 1958 and Hemus replaced Hutchinson after the season.

On Oct. 3, 1958, the Los Angeles Times reported Devine met with Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi and discussed a deal of Moon for Cimoli. The Times described Cimoli as “a gifted athlete but something less than a favorite” of manager Walter Alston. Cimoli was in and out of the Dodgers lineup in 1958 “and made no attempt to veil his dissatisfaction with the situation,” the Times reported.

The Cubs wanted Cimoli, too, and Bavasi was in no rush to deal. “We’re being offered players for Cimoli that would help our farm clubs, but they wouldn’t strengthen the Dodgers,” Bavasi said.

As the Cardinals prepared to embark on their trip to Japan, trade talks with the Dodgers cooled, the Times reported, because “there are other St. Louis players Bavasi would prefer to Moon.”

Also, Hemus wanted to keep Moon and told The Sporting News, “You just can’t give up on a guy like that.”

Devine became less receptive to offers for Moon and noted, “A poor year sometimes is a challenge to a player and he comes back with a great season. We feel Moon can do it.”

After the goodwill tour, Hemus said Moon “looked good, improved … He looked like the Moon of old at times.”

Determined to deal

At the 1958 baseball winter meetings, the Braves made a bid to acquire Moon and the Cardinals were talking to the Cubs about left-handed power hitter Walt Moryn. The Cardinals also resumed negotiations with the Dodgers, and when Devine offered to include Paine, the Moon-for-Cimoli deal was made.

“The Cardinals made a mistake in letting me go because Cimoli isn’t the longball hitter they need,” Moon said.

Devine admitted the Cardinals sought a power threat in return for Moon, but opted for Cimoli because he “not only is better defensively, but also his ability to hit to right-center will be useful at Busch Stadium.”

According to Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg, Moon “disappointed consistently afield, both fly chasing and throwing. He seemed so satisfied with his inadequacies that his lean and hungry look appeared merely an unfortunate illusion.”

Alston acknowledged Moon “isn’t a great defensive outfielder,” but said he enhanced the Dodgers’ lineup because “he’s aggressive, he can run and what I like best about him is his power.”

The Dodgers projected Moon to be their left fielder and the Cardinals planned for Cimoli to start in center.

Cimoli said he looked forward to joining the Cardinals because “I can sit next to Stan Musial and pick up some hitting pointers.”

That’s a winner

Actually, Musial advised Moon, suggesting he develop an inside-out swing to take advantage of the short distance from home plate to the left-field screen at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Moon got off to hot start for the 1959 Dodgers, batting .352 in April. He also finished strong, hitting 11 home runs in the last two months of the season, including six in a six-game September stretch.

Moon concluded the season with a .302 batting mark, 19 home runs, 93 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .394. The Sporting News described him as “a dedicated hustler whose inspiration lifted the entire team.”

The Dodgers clinched the National League pennant and beat the White Sox in the World Series. Moon hit a two-run home run in the decisive Game 6. Boxscore

Cimoli batted .279 with 40 doubles for the 1959 Cardinals, who finished next-to-last at 71-83. After a torrid start, when he hit 30 doubles in three months, Cimoli tailed off in the second half and was traded to the Pirates in December.

Moon produced two more big seasons for the Dodgers, batting .299 with a .383 on-base percentage in 1960 and .328 with a .434 on-base percentage in 1961.

He was a role player from 1962-65 and concluded his playing career with another World Series championship with the 1965 Dodgers.

Chuck Essegian, a Renaissance man who played the violin, studied to be a doctor, became a lawyer, and excelled at baseball and football, began the 1959 major-league season as a Cardinals reserve and ended it as a World Series hero for the Dodgers.

Sixty years ago, on Dec. 3, 1958, the Cardinals acquired Essegian from the Phillies for shortstop Ruben Amaro.

Essegian was an outfielder with a weak throwing arm, but the Cardinals were intrigued by his power.

After a short stint with them, Essegian was demoted by the Cardinals to the minor leagues in June 1959 and nearly quit baseball to pursue a medical career, but reconsidered after the club offered to relocate him to a West Coast franchise.

Four months later, Essegian achieved an unprecedented feat in the World Series.

Stanford standout

Essegian (pronounced Uh-see-jee-un) was born in Boston and moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was a boy. Essegian’s father was an Armenian immigrant who became a mail carrier.

Essegian was a standout baseball and football player at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles as well as a promising violinist. “If he could belt a tune the way he batters that baseball, the Philharmonic missed a hot bet,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

He enrolled at Stanford, played baseball and was a linebacker and fullback in football, appearing in the 1952 Rose Bowl game against Illinois. Essegian earned a degree in biology and considered pursuing a career as a doctor or dentist, but first tried professional baseball.

From 1953-55, Essegian played mostly for unaffiliated minor-league clubs. In 1956, he led the Northwest League in batting at .366 for Salem (Ore.).

Essegian asked the National Association, the organization overseeing minor-league baseball, to declare him a free agent because of irregularities in the handling of his 1956 contract. On Dec. 4, 1956, National Association president George Trautman ruled in favor of Essegian, granting him free agency and giving Salem 30 days to appeal, The Sporting News reported.

The next morning, Dec. 5, 1956, the minor-league draft was held and the Cardinals’ Rochester farm team, unaware Essegian was a free agent, selected him off Salem’s roster.

Rochester was allowed to cancel its selection and choose another player, but stuck with Essegian, hoping the free agency ruling was reversed on appeal.

While awaiting the results of the appeal, Essegian took graduate courses, “which may lead to a career in dentistry,” the Capital Journal in Salem reported.

On Feb. 15, 1957, an executive committee of the minor leagues rejected Salem’s appeal.

Free to make his own deal, Essegian signed with the Phillies.

Cards come calling

Essegian spent 1957 in the Phillies’ farm system and led the Eastern League in batting at .355 for Schenectady.

In 1958, Essegian reached the major leagues, batted .246 for the Phillies and hit his first big-league home run on May 6 against Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers. Essegian became a friend of Phillies second baseman Solly Hemus, who after the season was named manager of the Cardinals. Hemus suggested the club acquire Essegian.

Essegian, 27, displayed impressive power for the 1959 Cardinals in spring training. On March 15, he hit two home runs against Dick Donovan of the White Sox in an exhibition game at Tampa and the next day he hit another home run off the Yankees’ Don Larsen at St. Petersburg.

Essegian “doesn’t have a good throwing arm, a result of a football injury,” but “is eager to give baseball a good try before returning to medical school at his alma mater,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Essegian made the Opening Day roster and in his second regular-season game for the Cardinals he drove in three runs against the Dodgers. Boxscore

Highlights were few, however. Essegian hit .179 and on June 3, 1959, the Cardinals assigned him to Rochester.

Essegian balked at reporting and “talked of quitting baseball unless he could spend more time on the West Coast,” according to The Sporting News.

After the Cardinals assured him they’d try to accommodate him, Essegian went to Rochester and hit four home runs in 10 games. Good to their word, the Cardinals traded Essegian and pitcher Lloyd Merritt to the Dodgers on June 15, 1959, for infielder Dick Gray.

Series slugger

Essegian was sent to Spokane and hit nine home runs before being called up to the Dodgers on Aug. 4, 1959. Batting .304 over the last two months of the season, Essegian earned a World Series roster spot against the White Sox.

In Game 2 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the White Sox led, 2-1, in the seventh when Essegian, batting for pitcher Johnny Podres, got a high slider from Bob Shaw and drove it deep into the upper deck in left for a home run, tying the score. “It had to be the best ball I ever hit,” Essegian said. The Dodgers won, 4-3, and Essegian was credited with sparking the comeback. Boxscore

The Dodgers led the decisive Game 6, 8-3, in the ninth at Chicago when manager Walter Alston, playing a hunch, had Essegian bat for Duke Snider. Essegian lined the first pitch from Ray Moore into the lower left-field stands, capping a 9-3 championship-clinching triumph.

“He broke his bat on that homer, you know,” said Dodgers coach Pee Wee Reese. “How about that for power?” Boxscore

Essegian became the first player to hit two pinch-hit home runs in a World Series. Another former Cardinal, Bernie Carbo, matched the feat in 1975 for the Red Sox against the Reds.

Essegian also became the second athlete to play in a Rose Bowl and a World Series. The other, Jackie Jensen, appeared in the 1949 Rose Bowl for Cal and the 1950 World Series for the Yankees.

Law and order

Even with his World Series heroics, Essegian barely survived the last roster cut at spring training in 1960 and his name was omitted from the Opening Day game program.

A crowd of 67,550 filled Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to see the defending World Series champions open the 1960 season against the Cubs. With the score tied 2-2 in the 11th, Essegian batted for pitcher Don Drysdale and hit a slider from Don Elston high into the left-field seats for a walkoff home run. Boxscore

The 1960 season was Essegian’s last with the Dodgers. In 1961, he played for three American League teams _ Orioles, Athletics and Indians. He became an everyday player for the first time in the big leagues in 1962 and hit 21 home runs for the Indians. “Because of his medical school aspirations, (teammates) are calling him Dr. Essegian and Ben Casey,” The Sporting News reported. “He’s handsome and has the scowl. All he needs is the stethoscope.”

Traded back to the Athletics, Essegian played his last year in the big leagues in 1963. He spent 1964 with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League and hit 15 home runs.

Essegian never did become a doctor or dentist. Instead, he earned a law degree and became a prosecutor in Pasadena before entering private practice.

Though often asked about the World Series home runs, Essegian downplayed the feat.

“I didn’t think that was so spectacular,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I was just doing a job. Luck has a great deal to do with something like that. You have to have the right situation, the right pitch and be lucky enough to hit it.”

In a 2006 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Essegian said, “I’m not sure, but I think those home runs probably hurt my career. You kind of get labeled as a certain kind of player. If you’re a pinch-hitter, you’re a pinch-hitter because you’re not good enough to play everyday.”

In 161 regular-season plate appearances as a pinch-hitter in the major leagues, Essegian hit three home runs. In four World Series plate appearances as a pinch-hitter in the 1959 World Series, he hit two.

In seeking a third consecutive pennant, the Cardinals traded six players to get a No. 5 starter for their rotation.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 3, 1968, the Cardinals acquired pitcher Dave Giusti from the Padres for infielder Ed Spiezio, outfielder Ron Davis, catcher Danny Breeden and pitcher Philip Knuckles.

Two months earlier, on Oct. 11, 1968, the Cardinals got Giusti and catcher Dave Adlesh from the Astros for catchers Johnny Edwards and Tommy Smith, but three days later the Padres selected Giusti in the National League expansion draft.

The Cardinals, who won league championships in 1967 and 1968, were determined to add Giusti to a 1969 starting rotation with Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Nelson Briles and Ray Washburn, but the payoff didn’t match the price.

In exchange for Edwards, Smith, Spiezio, Davis, Breeden and Knuckles, the Cardinals got a pitcher who earned three wins in his lone season with them.

Houston calling

Giusti was a successful college pitcher at Syracuse and nearly signed with the Cardinals when he turned pro in June 1961. The Cardinals and Houston Colt .45s each offered Giusti a signing bonus of $35,000 and Giusti was leaning toward choosing St. Louis, partly because his former Syracuse roommate, Doug Clemens, was a Cardinals outfielder.

“If the Cardinals had hurried just a bit at that point, they undoubtedly would have landed Giusti,” The Sporting News reported.

Giusti opted for the Colt .45s, who were entering the National League as an expansion club in 1962, because he said “it would be the fastest way to the big leagues.”

Giusti made his major-league debut in April 1962 and developed into a durable starter for the club, which was renamed the Astros in 1965. In each of three consecutive seasons (1966-68), Giusti reached double digits in wins and topped 200 innings pitched.

During the off-seasons, Giusti, who earned a master’s degree in physical education, was a substitute teacher in a Syracuse suburb.

Giusti was delighted when the Cardinals acquired him from the Astros. With Dal Maxvill at shortstop, “I’ll have more experience behind me at that spot than I’ve had before,” Giusti said, and with an outfield of Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Vada Pinson to chase down drives “you don’t have to worry about making the perfect pitch all the time.”

Come and go

To help stock the rosters of the expansion Expos and Padres, the National League held a draft on Oct. 14, 1968, consisting of six rounds. The Expos and Padres each were allowed to select five players per round from the existing National League franchises.

Each existing team initially could protect 15 players. A team could protect three more players each time one was taken from its list of unprotected.

After the Cardinals got Giusti from the Astros, he asked general manager Bing Devine whether he’d be protected and Devine “didn’t say yes or no,” Giusti said.

The Cardinals wavered until the last minute before protecting Washburn instead of Giusti, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The Cardinals would have protected Giusti in the second round if another one of their players was chosen in the first round, according to the Post-Dispatch, but Giusti was the first Cardinals player drafted. The Padres selected Giusti with their second pick in the first round.

“I’m very disappointed,” Giusti said. “Nobody in St. Louis told me this was going to happen. I wanted to work for a championship club.”

Let’s make up

Trade offers for Giusti poured in to the Padres from the Reds, Orioles, Astros and Cardinals. The Reds were offering shortstop Leo Cardenas or outfielder Hal McRae, The Sporting News reported.

Devine came up with the package of four players at positions the Padres were looking to fill. “We needed numbers and the Cards wanted the proven starting pitcher,” said Padres president Buzzie Bavasi.

Devine called to inform Giusti he’d been reacquired by the Cardinals and said, “You can stop being mad at me. We’ve got you back.”

In addition to a fastball and slider, Giusti threw a palmball, which is similar to a changeup. “The difference is the pitcher grips the ball back in the palm rather than with the fingertips,” the Post-Dispatch explained.

“Learning to throw the palmball was a matter of survival,” Giusti said. “I found out early that the hitters up here can hit the fastball. I had to come up with another pitch.”

Said Cardinals pitching coach Billy Muffett: “He can throw the palmball over the plate just about any time he wants. He’s not afraid to throw it no matter what the situation. He never tips off the pitch.”

Starter to closer

In his first regular-season appearance for the Cardinals, on April 12, 1969, Giusti pitched a shutout and scored the lone run in a 1-0 victory over the Mets. The run came in the third inning when Giusti doubled and scored on Flood’s double against Don Cardwell. Boxscore

Giusti pitched a three-hitter against the Cubs for his second Cardinals win. Boxscore.

His season began to unravel in late May when he wrenched his back while fielding during batting practice. He was on the disabled list for a month and in his absence Chuck Taylor and Mike Torrez won spots in the rotation. Giusti was relegated to long-inning relief in August and September as the Cardinals faded from contention.

He finished the season at 3-7 with a 3.61 ERA in 22 appearances.

On Oct. 21, 1969, the Cardinals traded Giusti and catcher Dave Ricketts to the Pirates for outfielders Carl Taylor and Frank Vanzin. Pirates general manager Joe Brown made the deal on the recommendation of outfielder Roberto Clemente, who told him Giusti “always had good stuff and he is a tough competitor.”

The Pirates converted Giusti into a closer and in 1971 he led the National League in saves (30) for the World Series champions. Giusti pitched 5.1 scoreless innings against the Orioles in the 1971 World Series and earned a save in Game 4 when he retired all six batters he faced. Boxscore

In seven seasons (1970-76) with the Pirates, Giusti was 47-28 with a 2.94 ERA and 133 saves.