Mike Morgan delivered a special performance for the Cardinals at a special time in his life.

Twenty-five years ago, on July 3, 1995, Morgan came close to pitching a no-hitter. He held the Expos hitless until giving up an infield single with one out in the ninth at Busch Memorial Stadium.

Morgan’s gem capped a life-altering three-week stretch for him in which he became a father for the first time and got traded from the Cubs to the Cardinals.

Trial and tribulation

A right-handed pitcher, Morgan was 18 when he was selected by the Athletics in the first round of the 1978 amateur baseball draft. He went directly from high school in Las Vegas to the big leagues and made his debut with the Athletics in a start against the Orioles on June 11, 1978.

Morgan embarked on an odyssey, pitching for the Athletics (1978-79), Yankees (1982), Blue Jays (1983), Mariners (1985-87), Orioles (1988), Dodgers (1989-91) and Cubs (1992-95). The Cardinals were the eighth of 12 teams he pitched for in the majors.

The most successful seasons Morgan had were 1991 with the Dodgers (14-10, 2.78 ERA) and 1992 with the Cubs (16-8, 2.55).

His most trying year was 1994. His mother had stomach surgery, his father developed a brain aneurysm and his wife suffered a miscarriage. Morgan was the Cubs’ Opening Day starter, went on the disabled list three times for multiple physical ailments as well as emotional stress, and finished the strike-shortened season with a 2-10 record and 6.69 ERA.

When the 1995 season began, Morgan was on the disabled list again with an injured rib cage, but his outlook brightened in late May. Morgan’s wife, who got pregnant again in October, was progressing encouragingly and Morgan returned to the Cubs’ rotation.

After winning two of his three decisions for the 1995 Cubs, Morgan told The Sporting News, “If I’m healthy, I can pitch with anyone, and right now I’m healthy.”

The Cubs came close to dealing Morgan to the Phillies, prompting him to say, “I don’t want to go anywhere. Four years are the longest I’ve been with one club. These are my friends. They’re great dudes.”

Big changes

On the morning of June 16, 1995, Morgan was with his wife, who had gone into labor, at a hospital near their home in Utah. Soon after his wife gave birth to their first child, a girl, Morgan got a phone call from the Cubs. Expecting congratulations, Morgan instead was told he’d been traded to the Cardinals with two minor-league prospects for first baseman Todd Zeile. Morgan also learned the Cardinals had fired manager Joe Torre.

Morgan said goodbye to his wife and daughter, and dutifully reported to St. Louis, where two days later, June 18, 1995, he started for the Cardinals and took the loss against the Giants. Boxscore

He earned a complete-game win versus the Phillies in his second start and lost to the Astros in his third, giving him a 1-2 mark and 4.19 ERA with the Cardinals.

Taking control

Morgan, 35, made his fourth start against the Expos on a Monday night in St. Louis.

The Cardinals got a run in the first and five in the eighth, including John Mabry’s first home run in the big leagues, while Morgan kept the overeager Expos from getting a hit, enticing them to chase pitches.

“This is precisely the kind of guy who gives an undisciplined team like ours trouble,” Expos manager Felipe Alou told the Montreal Gazette.

The Expos didn’t get a ball out of the infield until Darrin Fletcher lined out to left in the eighth. Fletcher described Morgan’s pitches as “a little cutter away, a sinker away, a little harder sinker. Nothing inside.”

Rondell White, one of the Expos’ top hitters, said, “You get anxious because he’s not doing anything but throwing the ball to the outside. You’re up there hoping you get that fastball, just one of them, but it never comes.”

White hit a groundball in the eighth between first and second. Ranging to his left, second baseman Geronimo Pena gloved the ball, spun and threw blindly to first. The throw was wide and low, pulling first baseman Danny Sheaffer off the bag.

Official scorer Jack Herman gave an error to Pena. “I thought he had time to make a good throw,” Herman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He also admitted to the Montreal Gazette, “I might have scored it differently if it wasn’t a no-hitter.”

Alou called the ruling “an insult.” Morgan said, “Let’s face it, that ball gets hit like that in Montreal and it’s scored a hit.”

The next batter, Jeff Treadway, hit a drive to deep center. Brian Jordan raced to the wall and made a twisting catch.

Tough play

In the ninth, after Curtis Pride led off and flied out to left, Tony Tarasco drew a walk and Wil Cordero came to the plate.

Cordero hit a grounder down the third-base line. Scott Cooper grabbed the ball with his bare hand and fired a low throw to Sheaffer, who scooped it out of the dirt as Cordero streaked across the bag for a single.

Umpire Wally Bell told the Post-Dispatch, “I don’t think he would have beaten it out if the throw was good.”

Sheaffer said, “He had it beat, no question.”

Said Morgan: “Cooper did everything he could.”

With the no-hit bid gone, Jeff Parrett, a former Expo, relieved Morgan and secured the win, striking out David Segui and getting Moises Alou to ground out. Boxscore

Morgan lost his next four decisions and didn’t win again until Aug. 25. He was 5-6 with a 3.88 ERA for the 1995 Cardinals.

In 1996, Morgan was 4-8 with a 5.24 ERA for the Cardinals before he was released in August. He went on to pitch for the Reds (1996-97), Twins (1998), Cubs again (1998), Rangers (1999) and Diamondbacks (2000-2002).

With the 2001 Diamondbacks, Morgan, 42, got to the World Series for the first and only time. He made three relief appearances versus the Yankees and held them scoreless over 4.2 innings.

Morgan finished his career in the majors with a 141-186 record.

An impressive collection of managerial talent participated in an important game in the evolution of the Cardinals.

One hundred years ago, on July 1, 1920, the Cardinals played a regular-season home game at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis for the first time.

In addition to managers Branch Rickey of the Cardinals and George Gibson of the Pirates, seven of the players in the game went on to manage in the big leagues.

Moving in

The Cardinals had been playing their home games at dilapidated Robison Field until club owner Sam Breadon convinced his counterpart with the American League Browns, Sportsman’s Park landlord Phil Ball, to take in the cash-strapped Cardinals as a tenant.

The move to renting at Sportsman’s Park enabled Breadon to demolish Robison Field and sell most of the property to the city of St. Louis for $200,000 and sell the rest of the land for $75,000 to a trolley company.

On June 6, 1920, a Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals played their last game at Robison Field before going on a road trip for the rest of the month. Boxscore.

When the Cardinals got back from the trip, their first game at Sportsman’s Park was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon against the Pirates.

Attracting a crowd

The Pirates vs. Cardinals game was the feature of a program of events held at Sportsman’s Park that day to benefit the St. Louis Tuberculosis Society.

Described by the St. Louis Star-Times as an “athletic carnival.” the program included a five-inning matchup between Army and Navy baseball teams and the completion of a high school boys’ road run. The Navy beat the Army, 7-5. The game between the Pirates and Cardinals was scheduled to follow at 4 p.m.

According to an advertisement in The Sporting News, the price for a ticket to the day’s entire program ranged from 50 cents to $1.50.

Customers poured into Sportsman’s Park early. By 2 p.m., “the reserved seats were taken,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Those with tickets for unreserved seats, referred to by the Post-Dispatch as “the unseated mob,” preferred standing room on the field to the “sun-baked bleachers” and they “swarmed into roped off areas” on both sides of left and right fields.

When the Pirates-Cardinals game began, attendance was 20,000, the Star-Times estimated.

Lots of leaders

The lineups for the Pirates and Cardinals featured these future big-league managers:

_ Pirates center fielder Max Carey, who became manager of the Dodgers (1932-33).

_ Pirates right fielder Billy Southworth, who became manager of the Cardinals (1929 and 1940-45) and Braves (1946-51). Southworth managed the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series titles. He also won a pennant with the Braves.

_ Pirates shortstop Bill McKechnie, who became manager of the Pirates (1922-26), Cardinals (1928-29), Braves (1930-37) and Reds (1938-46). McKechnie managed the Cardinals to the 1928 pennant. He also won a pennant and World Series title with the Pirates, and two pennants and a World Series championship with the Reds.

_ Pirates first baseman Charlie Grimm, a St. Louis native who became manager of the Cubs (1932-38, 1944-49 and 1960) and Braves (1952-56). Grimm managed the Cubs to three pennants.

_ Cardinals left fielder Burt Shotton, who became manager of the Phillies (1928-33), Reds (1934) and Dodgers (1947-50). Shotton managed the Dodgers to two pennants.

_ Cardinals second baseman Rogers Hornsby, who became manager of the Cardinals (1925-26), Giants (1927), Braves (1928), Cubs (1930-32), Browns (1933-37 and 1952) and Reds (1952-53). Hornsby managed the Cardinals to their first pennant and World Series title in 1926.

_ Cardinals third baseman Milt Stock, who managed the Pirates for one game in 1951 and was a longtime coach in the majors.

Five of the participants in the game _ Carey, Hornsby, McKechnie, Rickey and Southworth _ would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Carey and Hornsby got in as players, Southworth and McKechnie as managers and Rickey as an administrator.

Pirates prevail

The Pirates led, 2-0, through seven innings, but the Cardinals got a run in the eighth and another in the ninth, tying the score at 2-2.

In the 10th, Cardinals starter Ferdie Schupp was relieved by Bill Sherdel, whose “slants were eaten up like hot waffles,” according to the Pittsburgh Daily Post.

Carey led off with a single to left and Southworth struck out looking. Possum Whitted singled to right and Carey dashed to third, beating the throw of right fielder Joe Schultz.

Whitted rounded first on the play, drawing a throw from third baseman Milt Stock. Carey broke for home as Stock’s throw went to first baseman Jack Fournier. Whitted got back to the bag safely and Fournier hurried a throw toward home plate, hoping to nail Carey.

“Fournier should have had him by 40 feet,” the Pittsburgh Press declared, but the low toss eluded catcher Verne Clemons. As the ball rolled toward a dugout, Carey crossed the plate, putting the Pirates ahead, 3-2, and Whitted went to third.

Rattled, Sherdel walked McKechnie. Grimm doubled to center, scoring Whitted and giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead. The Pirates scored twice more against Sherdel and went on to a 6-2 victory. Boxscore

Though the outcome of their first game at Sportman’s Park wasn’t what the Cardinals wanted, the move there was hailed as a positive for the franchise.

In its July 8, 1920, edition, The Sporting News reported, “Everyone seems happy over the shift of the Cards to the Browns’ park. The attendance at the games played there has been all that could be asked for by the club management, and everything has run smoothly to date.”

The Cardinals continued to play at Sportman’s Park, later renamed Busch Stadium, until May 1966 when they moved into a new stadium in downtown St. Louis.

Disheartened when the Cardinals benched him indefinitely, Stan Musial was willing to accept a trade to the Pirates.

Sixty years ago, in 1960, Cardinals manager Solly Hemus took Musial out of the starting lineup and relegated him to a pinch-hitting role. Hemus made the move, with the approval of the front office, because Musial wasn’t hitting for average and Hemus perceived Musial’s fielding as more a liability than an asset.

A seven-time National League batting champion, Musial, 39, was stunned and saddened by the Cardinals’ determination he was washed up.

If the Cardinals couldn’t use him, the first-place Pirates were willing to take him and play him at first base. Asked whether he’d agree to a trade to the Pirates and a chance to finish his playing career near his hometown of Donora, Pa., Musial replied, “Yes.”

In his autobiography, “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said, “Few realize how close I came to finishing my career with Pittsburgh.”

Fading star

After batting .255 in 1959, the first season he didn’t top .300, Musial faithfully followed a physical fitness and diet program during the winter and reported to 1960 spring training camp in shape.

The Cardinals opened the 1960 season with Musial at first and with an outfield of Leon Wagner in left, Bill White in center and Joe Cunningham in right.

Musial hit .300 in 13 games in April, but slumped in May. As Musial’s batting average dipped, Hemus utilized him sporadically and erratically. “I know he had lost confidence in me,” Musial said in his autobiography.

The 1960 Cardinals lost 16 of their first 26 games and were a half-game out of last place after play on May 15. Hemus experimented with various lineups in an effort to jolt the Cardinals. “If ever a manager panicked, I’m afraid Hemus did,” Musial said in his book.

On May 22, 1960, Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Bob Burnes of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat came out with columns criticizing the Cardinals for unfair treatment of Musial.

Broeg wrote, “If they’re trying to embarrass a man who never embarrassed them, either by word or deed, the Cardinals are succeeding.”

Burnes wrote, “What concerns us is the way an extraordinary performer and complete team man is being pushed around. Certainly his years of service to the Cardinals entitle him to more than that. What we are wondering is whether the Cardinals are trying to embarrass Musial into retiring.”

Reserve role

A few days later, Musial’s batting average for the season was at .250 when he was called to a meeting at the home of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch. Joining them were club executive Dick Meyer, general manager Bing Devine and Hemus. They informed Musial he was being benched because Hemus wanted a younger lineup.

Musial told them he would do what the club wanted. In his book, Musial said he was “hurt and disappointed” by the decision.

On May 27, 1960, Hemus started Curt Flood in center field in place of Bill White and moved White to first base in place of Musial.

Musial “has been benched indefinitely,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“Solly and I agreed that Solly ought to play his best lineup,” Devine said. “We talked it over with Musial and he went along with the plan.”

Musial, who hit .204 in May, told the Associated Press, “We haven’t been winning and they want to try that new lineup for a while. Anything they want to do is OK with me. We’ll see what happens. I think I’ll be back in the lineup soon.”

Hemus had other ideas.

Pirates treasure

Musial was out of the starting lineup from May 27 through June 23. He appeared as a pinch-hitter nine times in that stretch and had one hit, a double versus Warren Spahn, and his batting average sank to .238.

In his autobiography, Musial said he was planning to quit during the all-star break in July if he wasn’t back in the starting lineup by then.

When the Pirates came to St. Louis for a series in June, their manager, Danny Murtaugh, asked Broeg what was wrong with Musial. Broeg told him all Musial needed was a chance to play and to “go out with a winner.” Murtaugh asked whether Musial would accept a trade to the Pirates. Broeg approached Musial, who responded, “Yes.” Broeg relayed the answer to Murtaugh, who said he would urge general manager Joe Brown to make a deal.

“Musial could mean the difference for us in the race,’ Murtaugh told Broeg.

In a June 14, 1960, column in the Post-Dispatch, Broeg wrote Musial had been “surprised and even a bit stunned” by the Cardinals’ decision to bench him and suggested Musial would be a good fit for the Pirates.

“Although he has been uncomplaining, it’s apparent he was hurt,” Broeg told readers. “Hurt enough, you ask, to go to Pittsburgh if he had a chance to play rather than sit on the bench, a chance perhaps to achieve the thrill of one more World Series? Yes.”

The Pirates wanted Musial, but couldn’t afford to offer much, Brown said to Broeg. Another option would be for Musial to ask the Cardinals for his release, leaving him free to sign with the Pirates. Either way, Brown said, it would put Bing Devine in a bind, and he didn’t want to do that to his colleague.

“As much as we’d like to have Musial,” Brown told Broeg, “I just can’t do it to Bing Devine. Sure, if Musial were released, we would grab him in a minute … and to offer too little would be taking advantage of the public sentiment, which is sure to be strongly behind Musial, not the ball club. Devine would be on a spot where i don’t care to put him.”

Still The Man

When Bob Nieman got injured and newly acquired Walt Moryn struggled to hit, Hemus put Musial back into the lineup as the left fielder on June 24, 1960.

Musial was 1-for-8 in his first two games back and his batting average fell to .229, but then he went on a tear. Musial produced 11 hits in 19 at-bats over his next five games, raising his batting mark to .281. He continued his blistering pace and got his batting average to .300 at the all-star break.

“He’s been amazing,” Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer told the Globe-Democrat. “He’s delivering the big hits.”

Said Hemus: “Stan is popping the ball again.”

National League all-star manager Walter Alston of the Dodgers chose Musial as an all-star reserve.

On the field at Kansas City before the All-Star Game, Musial was approached by Red Sox counterpart Ted Williams, 41, who was in his last season as a player and batting .341. According to Bob Burnes, the conversation went like this:

Williams roared: “Hey, man, get on the train.”

Musial: “What train is it?”

Williams: “The one back to the minors. Us old guys are through. We’ve had it.”

The two laughed and Williams said, “What in the world got into you?”

Musial: “Just pecking away, just pecking away. I lucked a few, thumbed a few and then I got a couple of good ones.”

Williams: “Oh, hell, I wasn’t talking about your hitting. I wasn’t worried about that. What I’m talking about is that base you stole the other day.”

Musial: “Say, that was something, wasn’t it?”

The stolen base on July 8 was Musial’s first since 1957.

Musial hit .352 with 21 RBI in 21 games for the Cardinals in July. He hit .253 in August and .226 in September, finishing the season at .275 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI. He hit .338 with runners in scoring position and was 5-for-8 with the bases loaded.

“I look back on 1960 as a season of frustration and vindication, of sadness and success,” Musial said in his book. “It was the most emotional season I ever experienced.”

The Pirates went on to win the National League pennant, their first since 1927, and prevailed against the Yankees in the World Series. The Cardinals challenged the Pirates for a while and placed third at 86-69.

“I missed a chance to play in another World Series,” Musial said, “but I’m glad now I didn’t ask for my release.”

Cookie Rojas was supposed to be a 1970s version of Jose Oquendo for the Cardinals, but it didn’t work out.

Fifty years ago, on June 13, 1970, the Cardinals traded Rojas to the Royals for a minor-league outfielder, Fred Rico. The deal brought an unsatisfactory end to an unexpectedly short stint with the Cardinals for Rojas.

After acquiring Rojas from the Phillies in the October 1969 trade involving Richie Allen, Curt Flood and Tim McCarver, the Cardinals envisioned him as a valuable role player in 1970.

Like Oquendo did with the Cardinals in the 1980s and 1990s, Rojas played all nine positions for the Phillies in the 1960s. The Cardinals projected Rojas to back up second baseman Julian Javier and shortstop Dal Maxvill, and to help out at third base after Mike Shannon was sidelined because of a kidney ailment.

Instead of being a Secret Weapon, as Oquendo was nicknamed, Rojas was more like a lost secret, who didn’t play much for the Cardinals and who rarely reached base when he did.

Cuban cutie

Octavio Victor Rojas was born in Havana, Cuba. His father was a pharmacist at the University of Havana hospital, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

When Octavio was a boy, his mother called him Cuqui, which means cute, and the nickname morphed into Cookie when he came to the United States at 17 to begin his baseball career with a Reds farm club, the West Palm Beach Sun Chiefs.

After six years (1956-61) in the minors, Rojas debuted in the majors with the Reds in 1962 as the backup to second baseman Don Blasingame, the former Cardinal. Rojas’ first big-league RBI came against the Cardinals’ Curt Simmons. Boxscore

To make room for their rookie second baseman, Pete Rose, in 1963, the Reds traded Rojas to the Phillies.

Rojas spent seven seasons (1963-69) with the Phillies. His first two years were as a utility player before he became their second baseman in 1965.

“Cookie Rojas is a remarkable individual, indefatigable, willing and able to play any position on the field,” syndicated columnist Red Smith wrote.

Rojas told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I’m not a great ballplayer. I don’t have the ability some players have, but I can help my team win ballgames. Give me a chance, I’ll do it.”

Multiple skills

On June 30, 1967, Rojas pitched an inning against the Giants. With two on and two outs, Willie Mays came to the plate. “The only thing I could think of was I didn’t care how far Willie hit the ball as long as it didn’t come back through the middle,” Rojas said to the Philadelphia Daily News.

After Mays was retired on a soft fly to right, Rojas said, “I think Willie was more afraid of me than I was of Willie. He was probably worried I’d throw one wild and bean him.”

Said Mays: “He pitches good for a second baseman.”

Rojas was a good second baseman. He was a National League all-star in 1965, when he led the Phillies in hitting (.303), and he was tops among the league’s second basemen in fielding percentage in 1968. When the Phillies had a keystone combination of Rojas at second and Bobby Wine at shortstop, the plays of Wine and Rojas became a fan favorite.

Regarding his relationship with Philies fans, Rojas said, “They only boo if you’re not giving 100 percent. If you do give 100 percent, the Philadelphia fans will repay you with great ovations and admiration.”

Tough times

With rookie Denny Doyle projected to take over at second base in 1970, the Phillies deemed Rojas expendable. The Padres, managed by Rojas’ friend and winter-league manager, Preston Gomez, made offers for Rojas, The Sporting News reported, but the Phillies sent him to the Cardinals.

Though Rojas preferred to be a starter, he welcomed the trade to the Cardinals. “This club can win and, even more than playing regularly, I want to play on a championship team,” Rojas told the Post-Dispatch.

The union got off to an awkward start. On Feb. 23, Rojas phoned manager Red Schoendienst at the club’s spring training site in St. Petersburg, Fla., and said, “I think I’ve got chicken pox. What should I do?” Schoendienst replied, “Stay home until you’re sure you’re not contagious.”

Rojas didn’t report to camp until the day before the first exhibition game.

When the regular season began, Rojas, 31, struggled to hit. One of his few Cardinals highlights came on April 14, 1970, when he drove in the winning run with a scratch hit against the Expos. Batting for pitcher Sal Campisi in the bottom of the 10th with the bases loaded, one out and the score tied at 5-5. Rojas hit a squibber off the end of his bat down the third-base line.

“The ball was foul, but hit something and bounced over third baseman Angel Hermoso’s glove and over the bag,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Said Cardinals third-base coach George Kissell: “It looked like the ball hit a cleat mark.”

Julian Javier scored from third on the single for a 6-5 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Rojas played in 23 games for the Cardinals and hit .106. He made eight starts at second base and three in left field.

Reflecting on his short St. Louis stay, Rojas told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I sat and I sat. I gained 10 pounds. Everybody said, ‘Rojas is done. Rojas is too slow.’ ”

Revival with Royals

When the Cardinals informed Rojas he was traded to the Royals, an American League team in its second season of existence, “I was going to quit,” Rojas said. “I thought, ‘I’m 31. What does an expansion ball club want with me?’ ”

Before declaring his intentions, Rojas consulted with Preston Gomez, whose Padres, like the Royals, were in their second season as a big-league franchise. Gomez told Rojas, “I think you’re wrong,” and urged him to play for the Royals.

When Rojas reported to the Royals, manager Bob Lemon put him in the starting lineup at second base, replacing Luis Alcaraz.

Out of shape from his limited playing time with the Cardinals, Rojas said, “I couldn’t run. My range was terrible. I got by on experience.”

Rojas played in 98 games for the 1970 Royals and hit .260. He had two four-hit games and a pair of four-RBI games, and stabilized the Royals’ infield. “I knew Rojas would help us defensively,” Lemon told the Kansas City Star. “He makes the right moves all the time.”

Rojas went on to play eight seasons (1970-77) with the Royals and was named to the American League all-star team four times. In the 1972 All-Star Game in Atlanta, Rojas batted for Rod Carew and hit a two-run home run versus Bill Stoneman. Boxscore

In 16 big-league seasons, Rojas produced 1,660 hits. He was especially tough versus quality pitchers such as Ray Sadecki (25 hits against), Gaylord Perry (23 hits), Juan Marichal (21 hits) and Ferguson Jenkins (20 hits).

Besides Red Schoendienst in 1970, Rojas’ first (Fred Hutchinson) and last (Whtey Herzog) managers in the big leagues had Cardinals connections.

Rojas went on to manage the Angels in 1988. He also was a coach for the Cubs (1978-81), Marlins (1993-96), Mets (1997-2000) and Blue Jays (2001-2002) before becoming a broadcaster on Marlins Spanish radio broadcasts.

With two swings in one game, Biff Pocoroba created quite a bit of damage against the Cardinals.

A switch-hitting catcher who played 10 years in the major leagues, all with the Braves, Pocoroba died May 24, 2020, at 66.

Born in Burbank, Calif., “Biff” was Pocoroba’s given name, not a nickname.

Selected by the Braves in the 17th round of the 1971 amateur baseball draft, Pocoroba reached the majors in 1975. He became the Braves’ starting catcher in 1977 and hit .290 with 24 doubles and an on-base percentage of .394. The Braves rewarded him with a six-year, $1 million contract.

In 1978, Ted Simmons of the Cardinals was voted starting catcher for the National League all-star team and his backups were the Reds’ Johnny Bench and the Phillies’ Bob Boone. When an injury made Bench unavailable for the All-Star-Game in San Diego, Pocoroba was chosen to replace him and caught an inning. Boxscore

A month later, Pocoroba injured his right shoulder and was out for the rest of the season. During rotator cuff surgery in September 1978, Dr. Frank Jobe transferred muscle from Pocoroba’s lower bicep to his shoulder, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

When Pocoroba returned to the Braves in June 1979, Bruce Benedict had taken over as the starting catcher.

Danger zone

On May 14, 1982, Pocoroba was in the lineup against the Cardinals in Atlanta. The Cardinals were in first place in the East Division and the Braves led the West. The pitching matchup was Joaquin Andujar for the Cardinals and Phil Niekro for the Braves. During Niekro’s Hall of Fame career, Benedict and Pocoroba caught more of his games than any other catchers.

While batting in the second inning, Pocoroba’s foul tip broke the right index finger of Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter. After the inning, Porter was replaced by Orlando Sanchez. The injury sidelined Porter for three weeks.

Pocoroba helped Niekro hold the Cardinals scoreless for eight innings. He threw out two base runners, Keith Hernandez and Mike Ramsey, attempting to steal.

Trailing 1-0, the Cardinals rallied for a run in the top of ninth versus Braves closer Gene Garber. Lonnie Smith singled, swiped second, moved to third on Ozzie Smith’s bunt hit and scored on Hernandez’s sacrifice fly.

Biff bops

In the bottom half of the ninth, Cardinals reliever Doug Bair retired the first two batters before Pocoroba came to the plate.

“I was looking for a fastball because Bair had been getting ahead of batters with the pitch,” Pocoroba told the Atlanta Constitution.

Bair told the Post-Dispatch, “I tried to throw the ball low and away. He’s a first-ball, fastball hitter. I threw it right in his wheelhouse.”

Pocoroba hit Bair’s first pitch over the fence in right for a walkoff home run and a 2-1 Braves victory. Boxscore

It was Pocoroba’s first home run since August 1980 versus the Cardinals’ Bob Forsch. It also was the first home run Bair allowed in 22 innings in 1982.

The Cardinals and Braves went on to win division titles and met in the 1982 National League Championship Series. The Cardinals won the pennant, sweeping the Braves in three games. Pocoroba had one at-bat in the postseason. Porter was named most valuable player in both the NL Championship Series and in the World Series versus the Brewers.

In his short stay with the Cardinals, Bobby Locke pitched a total of two innings in one game and faced four future Hall of Famers.

A right-handed pitcher, Locke played in nine seasons in the majors leagues, primarily with the Indians, Phillies and Angels. He died June 4, 2020, at 86.

His time with the Cardinals consisted of three weeks in April 1962 when he made one appearance for them. It came against the Cubs, the team that traded him to the Cardinals. Locke pitched two scoreless innings in relief and faced nine batters, including the four who would make it to Cooperstown, Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams.

Though Locke had a good outing, he and the Cardinals weren’t a good fit.

Unused and unhappy, Locke wanted to pitch more and the Cardinals responded by dealing him to the Phillies.

Pitching prospect

After excelling as a high school athlete in Republic, Pa., about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, Locke briefly attended Arizona State on a football scholarship, returned home and signed a baseball contract with the Indians in 1953.

After four seasons (1953-56) in the Indians’ farm system, Locke spent two years in military service. He returned to baseball in 1959 with the Indians’ farm club at San Diego, posted a 1.63 ERA and was promoted to the majors in June.

Used as a reliever and spot starter, Locke was 3-2 for the Indians in 1959, 3-5 in 1960 and 4-4 in 1961. He also had a total of six saves.

Coveted by the Cubs

Locke threw a sinking fastball and it caught the attention of the Cubs, who traded second baseman Jerry Kindall for him in November 1961.

“I was surprised by the Kindall deal,” Locke told the Philadelphia Daily News. “Hell, I thought I could hit better than Kindall and I’m a pitcher.”

Before trading for Locke, the Cubs rejected a Braves offer of starting pitcher Bob Buhl for reliever Don Elston and Kindall, The Sporting News reported. Braves general manager John McHale said, “It’s kind of hard to understand. Buhl can win 15 games a year for just about anybody and Locke is pretty much an unknown.”

In its assessment of Locke, The Sporting News declared, “There are times when he appears to be the world’s greatest. At other times, you wonder if he isn’t traveling incognito.”

The Cubs projected Locke, 27, to join a 1962 starting rotation with Don Cardwell, Glen Hobbie and Dick Ellsworth. Locke “was virtually handed the No. 4 starting berth on a platter,” The Sporting News noted.

Elvin Tappe, designated as Cubs head coach in a system featuring multiple coaches as field leaders instead of a manager, said, “Locke is exactly the type of pitcher who is most successful at Wrigley Field. He’s a hard thrower with a good, sinking fastball.”

Regarding his fastball, Locke said, “I’ll match it against anyone’s.”

Conform or else

The relationship between Locke and Cubs management began to deteriorate soon after he arrived at spring training camp in Arizona. The Cubs gave him a manual on fundamentals and Locke disregarded it, saying he knew how to play. They also gave him a jump rope. “Everybody got a rope to skip with in their spare time, but I didn’t see much sense in it,” Locke told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Regarding Locke’s relationship with the coaches, his “clubhouse conversation and independence disenchanted them quickly,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Locke also disliked the Cubs’ system of a board of coaches, who took turns being head coach, in place of a manager. The issue flared into a controversy on March 6, 1962, during an intrasquad scrimmage. Locke walked off the mound and headed to the training room without consulting any of the coaches. The head coach, Elvin Tappe, wasn’t at the game because he was attending a civic luncheon in Phoenix.

“My arm was tight and I didn’t think I should pitch any more,” Locke told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but the pitching coach wasn’t around and the others were involved in some kind of argument on the field and weren’t in the dugout when I came in. So I just went into the clubhouse.”

Locke added, “With this all-coach system, I just didn’t know who to talk to.”

One of the coaches, Vedie Himsl, said, “Bobby just has to get used to doing things our way.”

According to Himsl, “Bobby apologized for the public defection,” but Locke stayed deep in the Cubs’ doghouse.

“After that,” wrote Philadelphia Daily News columnist Larry Merchant, “a leper would have become more at home with the Cubbies than Locke.”

Locke said, “Nobody talked to me for two weeks after that incident, honest. Even the players shied away from me. Maybe they could feel I was an outcast with the front office.”

Odd man out

On April 7, 1962, before he had a chance to pitch in a regular-season game for the Cubs, Locke was traded to the Cardinals for a minor-league outfielder, Allen Herring, and cash.

Locke’s arrival gave the Cardinals five right-handed relievers. Getting enough work for Locke, John Anderson, Ed Bauta, Lindy McDaniel and Paul Toth was a challenge for manager Johnny Keane.

Locke was a Cardinal for two weeks before he got into the game against the Cubs. He entered in a mop-up role in the seventh inning with the Cubs ahead, 11-5.

After retiring the first two batters, Locke gave up a single to pitcher Dick Ellsworth before getting Lou Brock to ground to second for a forceout. In the eighth after retiring the leadoff batter, Locked walked Ron Santo, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Ernie Banks grounded out, Billy Williams walked, but Locke escaped unscathed when he got Bob Will to fly out to center. Boxscore

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Locke told the Cardinals he’d just as soon move on if they weren’t going to pitch him more often.

“They had a lot of big stars over there and I knew I wouldn’t get much of a chance,” Locke said. “I want to pitch.”

On the move

On April 28, 1962, the Cardinals traded Locke to the Phillies for Don Ferrarese, a left-handed reliever who had been in the majors since 1955 and was Locke’s teammate with the Indians in 1959.

Ferrarese finished his big-league career with the 1962 Cardinals and was 1-4 with one save and a 2.70 ERA in 38 appearances for them.

In his first appearance for the Phillies, on April 29, 1962, Locke held the Mets to one hit in 4.2 innings of relief and got the win. He also contributed a run-scoring single. Boxscore

A happy Locke said, “With the Cardinals, everyone went separate ways. Here, everyone is on the same level.”

The good vibes faded quickly. Locke yielded runs in each of his next four appearances and was sent to minor-league Buffalo, his fifth club since October.

After pitching in parts of three seasons (1962-64) for the Phillies, Locke pitched for the Reds (1965) and Angels (1967-68).