Feeds:
Posts
Comments

In December 1960, the Cardinals made a bid to acquire catcher Elston Howard from the Yankees. While they were at it, they tried for pitcher Whitey Ford, too.

It was an audacious attempt, coming two months after a World Series in which Howard hit .462 and Ford pitched a pair of shutouts, but Cardinals general manager Bing Devine indicated the Yankees gave him reason to try.

The Cardinals offered pitchers Larry Jackson and Ron Kline, plus catcher Hal Smith, for Ford, Howard and pitcher Ryne Duren.

The Yankees said no _ and, as it turned out, were mighty glad they did so.

Local connection

The Cardinals were in the market for a power hitter because in 1960 only one player, Ken Boyer, hit more than 17 home runs for them. Howard hit for power and played multiple positions _ catcher, outfield and first base.

“Anybody who can play two or three positions capably is going to be able to write his own ticket, and Howard can do that,” Devine told Bob Burnes of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “He’s probably the best catcher in the American League, but can do almost as well in the outfield or at first base.”

Born and raised in St. Louis, Howard did well in a tryout with the Cardinals after he graduated from Vashon High School in the late 1940s, but the club wasn’t signing black players then and never made him an offer.

When Howard reached the big leagues in 1955 at 26, he was the first black Yankees player _ eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers and one year after the first black, Tom Alston, played for the Cardinals.

In 1960, Howard was an American League all-star for the fourth consecutive season. Devine “tried hard to land him,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

Connecting the dots

After losing to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, the Yankees replaced manager Casey Stengel with Ralph Houk and general manager George Weiss with Roy Hamey.

The Yankees had three catchers, Howard (31), fellow St. Louisan Yogi Berra (35) and Johnny Blanchard (27), and Houk was considering moving Berra to the outfield, the Globe-Democrat reported.

According to The Sporting News, “The Cardinals had heard reports that, because of the rapid development of Johnny Blanchard, the Yankees might be willing to trade Howard.”

If that was so, Devine figured, Cardinals catcher Hal Smith, a defensive specialist, might appeal to the Yankees as an experienced backup to Blanchard.

Also, reliever Ryne Duren, who had 67 strikeouts in 49 innings for the 1960 Yankees, appeared obtainable to the Cardinals because of reports he “was in the doghouse with Houk,” The Sporting News reported.

The Yankees had expressed interest in Cardinals pitcher Ron Kline, according to The Sporting News.

Devine approached Hamey with an offer of Smith and Kline for Howard and Duren. The Yankees wanted more, and that’s how Larry Jackson and Whitey Ford got mentioned, The Sporting News noted.

Expanding the offer

Ford (32) was the Yankees’ ace, but he experienced shoulder problems during the 1960 season and finished 12-9, his lowest winning percentage (.571) since entering the majors in 1950. Before he shut out the Pirates in Games 3 and 6 of the World Series, the Yankees talked to the Giants about a swap of Ford for pitcher Johnny Antonelli, the Associated Press reported.

That gave Devine the idea Ford may be obtainable in exchange for another quality starter. In order to expand the deal for Howard, Devine offered Larry Jackson, an 18-game winner for the Cardinals in 1960, if the Yankees would swap Ford.

On Dec. 5, 1960, a headline in the Globe-Democrat declared, “Redbirds May Land Ford, Howard.”

“The possibility of a Cardinals-Yankees trade, involving major athletes on both sides, picked up steam,” Jack Herman reported in the Globe-Democrat. “One thing that’s been established is the fact that Ford is on the block.”

According to John Fox, sports editor of the Binghamton (N.Y.) Press and Sun-Bulletin, the Cardinals said “the offer stood only if Ford was inspected first by a physician of their naming.”

Ford told the Associated Press, “I don’t know if I’d quit or not if I were traded. It all depends on where I was traded.”

Howard said, “I don’t want to be traded. I’m happy where I am.”

No deal

On Dec. 6, 1960, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Yankees co-owner Dan Topping “turned thumbs down” on the Cardinals’ proposal. “We won’t deal Howard,” he said.

Though Houk told The Sporting News that “talk of our considering any offer which included Ford was based on hot air,” the Binghamton newspaper reported the reason the proposal was rejected “was not the idea of including Duren or Ford, but the request for Howard.”

The Cardinals’ chances for a deal also were hampered by the entrance of the Dodgers into trade talks for Howard. “We got a better proposition from the Dodgers,” Houk told The Sporting News. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers offered pitcher Johnny Podres and outfielder Duke Snider for Howard.

If the Yankees added rookie pitcher Bill Short to the package, the deal with the Dodgers would have been made, United Press International reported.

Instead, the Yankees stayed pat, and got rewarded.

In 1961, Ford was 25-4, got two more wins in the World Series against the Reds and received the Cy Young Award. Howard batted a career-high .348 with 21 home runs. Two years later, he won the 1963 American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Hal Smith developed a heart ailment and had to quit playing in June 1961. Larry Jackson had four fewer wins (14) in 1961 than he had the year before, and Ron Kline got sent to the Angels.

 

A surprising aspect of the Cardinals’ 1982 season was they succeeded without a big contribution from a pitcher considered a key to the starting rotation.

In March 1982, the Cardinals were counting on right-hander Andy Rincon to be a consistent winner.

Instead, he spent much of the season in the minors and wasn’t with the Cardinals when they won the National League pennant and the World Series championship.

Ticketed for majors

Born and raised in California, Rincon played high school baseball in Santa Fe Springs, near Los Angeles, and was a teammate of Mike Gallego.

The Cardinals chose Rincon, 18, in the fifth round of the 1977 June amateur draft.

In 1980, Rincon pitched for Class AA Arkansas, earning 10 wins during the regular season and two in the playoffs for the Texas League champions. After the final game, he left Little Rock to drive home to California.

Cardinals general manager Whitey Herzog, who scouted the Arkansas team, wanted Rincon to join the Cardinals for the final month of the season. Herzog said “it looked like Andy had the best arm in the organization,” interim Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Hoping to contact Rincon before he got to California, the Cardinals alerted authorities in Texas to be on the lookout for him, The Sporting News reported.

Rincon was stopped for speeding in El Paso, Texas, and immediately brought to traffic court. According to the Post-Dispatch, when Rincon gave his name in court, the judge replied, “Oh, you’re the guy we’ve been looking for,” and told him to call the Cardinals.

Herzog informed Rincon to take a flight from El Paso to Philadelphia and join the team there. Rincon paid a $23 traffic fine, parked at the El Paso airport and boarded a plane. “All my stuff is in the car,” he told the Post-Dispatch.

From Philadelphia, the Cardinals went to Chicago and Rincon, 21, made his debut for them there, pitching a five-hitter in a win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

“Who is he, anyway?” Cubs shortstop Ivan DeJesus asked the Post-Dispatch.

Rincon made three more starts for the 1980 Cardinals and finished 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA.

Bad break

Herzog, who returned to managing the Cardinals in 1981, had Rincon in the starting rotation to begin the season. After four starts, he was 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA. Rincon was the “Cardinals’ best pitcher in the first month of the season,” The Sporting News declared.

On May 9, 1981, in a start at St. Louis, Rincon was cruising to his third win. He shut out the Pirates for seven innings, drove in three runs and had a 13-0 lead.

In the eighth, Phil Garner led off and hit a line drive that struck Rincon in the throwing arm. The ball caromed to third baseman Julio Gonzalez, who fielded it and threw out Garner at first base. Rincon suffered a hairline fracture of the right forearm. Boxscore

Rincon (3-1, 1.77 ERA) was placed on the disabled list. Two days before the players went on strike on June 12, Rincon received medical clearance to resume pitching, The Sporting News reported. “He was throwing the hell out of the ball,” Herzog said. “I couldn’t see anything wrong with him.”

The Cardinals sent Rincon to their Class AAA Springfield (Ill.) farm club so that he could pitch during the strike, but it was too much too soon and he strained his right shoulder.

“Being weak in my forearm put more strain on my shoulder,” Rincon told The Sporting News. “If I’d just backed off and been more patient, things might have been better.”

In eight starts for Springfield, Rincon was 1-3 with a 6.55 ERA. Instead of helping the Cardinals after the strike ended in August, Rincon was reassigned to Arkansas and was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts there.

“We wanted him to pitch, but he wasn’t worth a damn down there,” Herzog said to the Post-Dispatch.

Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez criticized Rincon for not working hard enough to come back from the injury and help the club in 1981, The Sporting News reported.

“He might be right,” Rincon said. “I feel like I did let the guys down.”

Missing out

Despite the setbacks encountered in 1981, Rincon was viewed by Herzog as “the key to the pitching staff” entering 1982 spring training, The Sporting News reported.

After working daily during the winter on a Nautilus machine and in aerobic exercises, Rincon, 23, reported to spring training fit and healthy. “I feel great,” he said. “I want to be the stopper of our staff. I want to pitch the tough games.”

The Cardinals entered the 1982 season with a starting rotation of Rincon, Bob Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, Steve Mura and John Martin.

“Rincon potentially is the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher,” The Sporting News declared.

In his first start of the season, Rincon pitched a three-hitter to beat Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs at Wrigley Field, but his performances unraveled after that. Boxscore

Lacking command, he had more walks (25) than strikeouts (11). In his last start, against the Dodgers, Rincon “incurred Herzog’s displeasure for failing to hold runners on” and “missing a hit-and-run sign,” The Sporting News reported.

Rincon (2-3, 4.73 ERA) and Martin were sent to the minors, and John Stuper and Dave LaPoint replaced them in the Cardinals’ rotation.

At Class AAA Louisville, Rincon was 5-8 with a 5.09 ERA. When it came time to call up players to help the contending Cardinals, Louisville manager Joe Frazier told Herzog he didn’t think Rincon merited a chance.

“What Frazier said is good enough for me,” Herzog told The Sporting News.

Without Rincon, the Cardinals went on to win their first World Series championship in 15 years.

Still trying

Rincon never got back to the majors.

At spring training with the Cardinals in 1983, Herzog became unhappy with the number of runners stealing bases against Rincon and wanted him to change his pitching delivery. “I could steal on him, and I’m 51 years old,” Herzog told the Post-Dispatch.

Eric Rasmussen, 31, edged Rincon for the final pitching spot on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster.

Rincon reported to Louisville, experienced elbow pain and was limited to 31 innings pitched in 1983. Granted free agency after the season, he signed with the Pirates and spent 1984 in their farm system, pitching a no-hitter for Hawaii.

Rincon went to spring training with the Orioles in 1985, but, when his arm didn’t respond, he went home. He sat out the 1985 and 1986 seasons, had shoulder surgery late in 1986, and was sidelined again in 1987.

In 1988, Rincon pitched in Mexico, then joined Fresno, an unaffiliated Class A club that had become a refuge for former big-leaguers seeking comebacks.

Cardinals scout Fred McAlister saw Rincon pitch at Fresno and signed him to a minor-league contract for 1989. “It’s a chance,” Rincon told the Post-Dispatch. “That’s all I want.”

Assigned back to Class AA Arkansas, from where he first made the leap to the majors nine years earlier, Rincon, 30, ended his playing days with a 1-0 record and 4.21 ERA in 11 relief appearances in 1989.

Wide receiver Charley Taylor and quarterback Sonny Jurgensen were in sync, able to connect in a city often associated with disconnection. So when they botched a play in a key game against the St. Louis Cardinals, it was unusual and costly.

With the Washington Redskins, Taylor was “the man who had given more headaches to cornerbacks than any pass catcher to play the game,” according to the Washington Post.

His ability to consistently rack up receptions made him one of the franchise’s most popular players. As Sports Illustrated noted, “It would have surprised hardly anyone at a Georgetown dinner party to hear Henry Kissinger, with his mouth full of caviar canapes, discoursing about the grace of Charley Taylor.”

Taylor played in 22 games versus the Cardinals. He caught 78 passes against them, but it was one he didn’t catch that became perhaps the most noteworthy.

A player who held the NFL record for career receptions (649) when he retired after the 1977 season, Taylor died on Feb. 19, 2022, at 80.

Multiple skills

Charley Taylor was born and raised in Grand Prairie, Texas, an aircraft manufacturing hub located 14 miles west of Dallas. His mother, Myrtle, was a chef, butcher and restaurant owner and his stepfather, James, built airplane parts, according to the New York Times.

A local grocer, R.B. Clarke, who had connections to Arizona State University, arranged for Taylor to meet the school’s football coach, Frank Kush, who offered a scholarship.

Taylor excelled as a running back at Arizona State and hoped to be drafted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys so he could play near home. When a college roommate informed him he was taken by Washington with the third overall pick in the first round of the 1964 draft, “I actually rolled over in bed and started crying because I wanted to go to Dallas so bad,” Taylor told the Associated Press.

Swift and sure-handed, Taylor excelled at running back for Washington his rookie season in 1964, rushing for 755 yards, catching 53 passes and scoring 10 touchdowns in 14 games.

About midway through the season in 1966, coach Otto Graham moved Taylor from running back to wide receiver. Taylor initially resisted the move but discovered the position change “gives me the opportunity to do what I do best _ catch the ball and run with it,” Taylor told the Associated Press.

Taylor and Bobby Mitchell gave Washington a pair of elite receivers as targets for quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. All three were destined for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Taylor said Mitchell and assistant coach Ray Renfro, a Browns receiver when Graham quarterbacked them, were influential in his transformation.

“They knew I had the knack for catching the ball,” Taylor said to the Associated Press. “What they had to teach me was to run patterns. That’s the difficult thing _ reading defenses and running good patterns.”

Taylor led the NFL in receptions in 1966 (72) and 1967 (70).

Mitchell, who also had started his NFL career as a running back before shifting to receiver, told Sports Illustrated, “Charley would always get the double coverage. I had some big days because people said Charley Taylor wasn’t going to beat them.”

All mixed up

Taylor, 33, and Jurgensen, 40, were in their 11th season together when Washington (4-2) faced the Cardinals (6-0) on Oct. 27, 1974, at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

Though the Cardinals defeated Washington in the second week of the season and were atop the NFC East Division, Taylor said, “We still feel Dallas is the team we have to beat.”

Pinned to a bulletin board in the Cardinals’ locker room, Taylor’s quote was viewed as “an affront to our pride,” Cardinals defensive tackle Bob Rowe told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Taylor was matched in the game against cornerback Roger Wehrli, another future Pro Football Hall of Famer. When the Cardinals drafted Wehrli out of Missouri in the first round in 1969, it was partly because it was thought he had the speed to cover receivers such as Taylor.

On the game’s opening drive, Washington advanced to the Cardinals’ 48-yard line before Jurgensen attempted a pass. On first-and-10, he called for Taylor to run an out pattern to the sideline.

Taylor ran the route correctly, but Wehrli had him covered. Taylor adjusted, turning up field, but Jurgensen didn’t adjust his pass. He threw before Taylor broke free of Wehrli.

“I was throwing the ball away,” Jurgensen told the Post-Dispatch.

Instead, he threw it into the hands of Wehrli, who moved forward, rather than follow Taylor, when he saw Jurgensen release the ball. “I just kept coming and there was no one there but me,” Wehrli told the Post-Dispatch.

Wehrli streaked 53 yards down the sideline, converting an interception into a touchdown for the first time in his NFL career. His only other interception return for a touchdown was in 1979 against Tommy Kramer of the Minnesota Vikings. Wehrli totaled 40 interceptions, all for the Cardinals.

St. Louis won the game, 23-20, improving to 7-0 and moving three games ahead of Washington in the division standings. Video and Game Stats

“The Cardinals made the big plays,” Jurgensen said to the Post-Dispatch. “Now they’re in the driver’s seat. It was a key game. We had to have it, and they got it.”

St. Louis and Washington each finished 10-4 in the regular season and each lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Taylor remains the Washington franchise leader in career touchdowns scored (90) _ 11 rushing and 79 receiving.

Of his 79 touchdown catches, 53 came on throws from Jurgensen, 21 from Billy Kilmer, two each from Randy Johnson and Jim Ninowski and one from Joe Theismann. The touchdown pass to Taylor was the first of Theismann’s NFL career.

In his quest to pitch for the Cardinals, Bob Slaybaugh lost an eye, but not his determination.

On March 24, 1952, Slaybaugh was pitching batting practice at Cardinals spring training when he was struck in the head by a line drive. He suffered severe damage to his left eye and it had to be surgically removed.

A couple of months later, Slaybaugh was pitching again.

Promising prospect

Robert Slaybaugh was born and raised in the village of Hartville, Ohio, located about halfway between Akron and Canton. According to census records and his obituary, the family name was spelled Slabaugh. At some point, either intentionally or inadvertently, a “y” was added to the spelling of his last name.

Known as Bob or Bobby, Slaybaugh was stricken by rheumatic fever as a youth and had to use a wheelchair for a time, according to baseball-reference.com.

A left-handed pitcher who stood 5 feet 9, Slaybaugh developed into a pro prospect and was signed by the Cardinals. In his first season, 1950, he was 6-17 with a 4.85 ERA for Goldsboro, N.C., a Class D farm team. He returned to Goldsboro in 1951, became the ace (17-10, 2.33 ERA) and led the league in strikeouts (224 in 219 innings, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

The Cardinals rewarded Slaybaugh with an invitation to attend big-league spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1952. 

Described by the St. Petersburg Times as a “quiet, likeable, team-type player,” Slaybaugh roomed at the Bainbridge Hotel with another pitcher, Gary Blaylock.

“Residents along lower Second Avenue South became accustomed to seeing the two stroll toward the Bainbridge each evening after games, so absorbed in replaying the contest that they stopped from time to time to demonstrate by gestures what had occurred,” the St. Petersburg Times observed.

Slaybaugh got into two Cardinals exhibition games, pitching two innings against the Senators and three versus the Braves. He allowed one run, showing Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky enough to convince him “he was only a year or two away” from being ready for the majors, the St. Petersburg Times noted.

“Right back at me”

On March 24, 1952, it was Slaybaugh’s turn to pitch batting practice during morning drills for rookies and prospects. Jim Dickey, a power-hitting first baseman at the Class A level, stepped in from the left side of the plate. Slaybaugh threw a pitch on the outside corner.

“I was expecting it to be pushed down the left field line as usual,” Slaybaugh told Helen Popa for The Sporting News. “Instead, it shot right back at me. I watched it all the way and threw my gloved hand in front of my face for protection, but at the same moment I jerked my head. The ball tipped one of my gloved fingers and hit the left side of my face.”

Slaybaugh “dropped as though shot,” the St. Petersburg Times reported.

According to The Sporting News, “the line drive shattered the left cheekbone and forced the left eyeball partly out of the socket.”

Stanky and Don McGranaghan, a vacationing New York state police officer, rushed Slaybaugh to a hospital in McGranaghan’s car, Bob Broeg reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“With a towel, Stanky literally held the eye in place,” according to Broeg.

Stanky told The Sporting News, “In the car on the way to the hospital, he talked about baseball. No whimper out of him, and the pain must have been terrific. He told me that, if they had to operate, for me to be sure to tell the surgeons that he had rheumatic fever when he was young, so they could be careful about the effect of anesthetic on the heart.”

Significant damage

A St. Louis ophthalmologist, Dr. S. Albert Hanser, happened to be vacationing in nearby North Reddington Beach. A police escort raced him to the hospital, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Dr. Hanser joined St. Petersburg ophthalmologist Dr. Bernard Bell in treating Slaybaugh. They performed “a delicate operation” in an effort to save the left eye, the Associated Press reported.

In addition to the damaged eye, Dr. Hanser said Slaybaugh suffered a fracture of the left cheekbone, a fracture of a group of bones near the eye and multiple fractures of the nasal bones, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

Cardinals owner Fred Saigh called Slaybaugh’s parents in Ohio, informed them of their son’s injury and arranged for them and another son to travel by plane to St. Petersburg the next day, The Sporting News reported.

After a week in the St. Petersburg hospital, Slaybaugh, accompanied by his mother, took a flight to St. Louis on March 31 for further treatment at a hospital there. That same day, Jim Dickey, who hit the line drive, was assigned by the Cardinals to their Rochester farm team. He’d never make it to the majors.

On April 4, Slaybaugh’s damaged eye was removed in “an emergency operation,” the Associated Press reported. Dr. Hanser, who performed the operation, said, “A rupture at the rear of the eyeball forced the removal.”

Passing grade

Sometimes, good can come amid tragedy. While recuperating from his eye operation in the St. Louis hospital, Slaybaugh met a nurse, Joy, and she became his wife, according to The Sporting News.

In late April, Slaybaugh was cleared to practice with the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park.

“When I first started working out, I was ready to give up,” he told The Sporting News. “I couldn’t do anything right. I was confused by distances and was just plain scared, but Eddie Stanky and the players kept encouraging me and gradually I started feeling better.”

In mid-May, Slaybaugh was discharged from the hospital. He made a brief visit home to Ohio, then reported to the Cardinals’ Omaha farm team, managed by George Kissell.

Ray Oppegard, business manager of the Omaha team, said, “(Slaybaugh) still thinks he can pitch and so do we and our doctors.”

Kissell wasn’t so sure. Asked in May by the Des Moines Tribune whether he’d let Slaybaugh pitch in a game, Kissell said, “Too dangerous. A one-eyed person has no depth perception.”

When Slaybaugh arrived in Omaha, he said to Kissell, “I didn’t come here to sit on the bench. Let me pitch.”

According to The Sporting News, Kissell set up a program to help determine Slaybaugh’s chances of playing again. He had Slaybaugh throw on the sideline. After several good sessions, Slaybaugh was allowed to stand behind the pitcher during batting practice to get used to batted balls again.

After that, Slaybaugh progressed to pitching in bunting practice, then batting practice.

“At first, he threw the ball only to the inside corner so that he knew when it was hit it wouldn’t come back at him,” Kissell told The Sporting News. “Now he throws all over the plate.”

Kissell then put Slaybaugh through fielding practices. “He had his players drive grounders straight at Slaybaugh and to both sides,” the Des Moines Tribune reported. “Then he tested him with line drives.”

Finally, Slaybaugh got to bat in batting practice. When he passed all the tests to Kissell’s satisfaction, it was time to play in games.

Quite a comeback

On June 22, in his first game since losing the eye, Slaybaugh allowed one run in 6.1 innings of relief against Colorado Springs.

His next appearance, on June 29, was a start against Des Moines in the first game of a doubleheader. Slaybaugh responded with a four-hit shutout in a 1-0 Omaha victory in seven innings.

“That shows you what determination and courage will do,” Des Moines manager Harry Strohm told the Des Moines Tribune.

Slaybaugh called it “the biggest game of my life.”

He pitched 31 innings for Omaha in 1952 and posted a 2-2 record, according to baseball-reference.

The next year, he was 2-9 for Columbus (Ga.) and Winston-Salem. On May 1, he tried to pitch for the first time without an eye patch, placing a strip of tape over the left optic. In the fifth inning, the artificial eye fell to the ground. “Unflustered, Bobby picked it up and stuck it in his pocket,” The Sporting News reported.

The 1954 season was Slaybaugh’s last as a pro. After brief stints with Columbus (Ga.) and Lynchburg (Va.), the Cardinals asked him to report to Winnipeg, Canada. “Instead, he went home and obtained a job as a bookkeeper with a produce firm,” according to The Sporting News.

Gene Mauch, who drew comparisons with Eddie Stanky, got to play for him a brief while with the Cardinals.

On March 26, 1952, the Cardinals claimed Mauch for $10,000 after he was placed on waivers by the Yankees.

Mauch began the 1952 season with the Cardinals as a utility infielder but was released in May. A few months later, he began a more prominent career as a manager.

The Natural

The Dodgers signed Mauch, 17, in 1943 out of Fremont High School in Los Angeles.

A year later, at the Dodgers’ wartime spring training camp at Bear Mountain, N.Y., Mauch, 18, impressed manager Leo Durocher and earned the shortstop job.

“He’s a natural,” Durocher, the former Cardinals shortstop, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “He does everything right by instinct.”

Pee Wee Reese, who took over for Durocher as Dodgers shortstop in 1940, was in military service in 1944, opening an opportunity for Mauch. “Durocher regards Mauch as a better shortstop prospect than Reese was at Mauch’s age,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

On April 18, 1944, Mauch was the Dodgers’ Opening Day shortstop against the Phillies. Boxscore

Joining Mauch in the infield were first baseman Howie Schultz, a 6-foot-6 basketball player; second baseman Luis Olmo, an outfielder; and third baseman Gil English, a utilityman appearing in a big-league game for the first time in six years. English was an upgrade from Dixie Walker, an outfielder who flopped in a tryout at third base in spring training.

Years later, Mauch told the Atlanta Constitution, “It must have been the worst infield of all time.”

Mauch started the Dodgers’ first five games, made no errors but hit .133 and was returned to the minors. In May 1944, Mauch entered the Army Air Corps and served until the spring of 1946.

On the move

When Mauch resumed his baseball career, he embarked on an odyssey as a utility player with the Dodgers, Pirates, Cubs and Braves.

Atlanta Constitution columnist Furman Bisher told the story of the time the Braves’ bus got stuck under a low overpass on the way to a game. The embarrassed driver was unsure what to do. Mauch suggested he let the air out of the tires and back out. The driver did.

Mauch spent most of the 1951 season with the Braves’ Class AAA team in Milwaukee, hitting .303 and posting a .445 on-base percentage. Milwaukee manager Charlie Grimm told The Sporting News, “Every big-league scout I have talked with this season tells me Mauch is good enough to be the regular shortstop on almost any big-time club except the Yankees and Dodgers.”

Naturally, it was the Yankees who took Mauch in the Rule 5 draft in November 1951. Looking to be the backup to shortstop Phil Rizzuto, Mauch batted .077 in spring training.

The Cardinals, in Eddie Stanky’s first season as manager, were seeking a reserve infielder to replace Stan Rojek. They claimed Mauch on waivers from the Yankees near the end of spring training at St. Petersburg, Fla., where both clubs trained.

On their way from Florida to St. Louis to open the 1952 season, the Cardinals played a series of exhibition games. At Lynchburg, Va., on April 9, Mauch drove in the winning run against the Phillies.

Mauch, 26, made his Cardinals regular-season debut on April 17 when he was sent to run for Steve Bilko. Boxscore

Pinch-running became Mauch’s primary role with the Cardinals. He appeared in seven games, four as a pinch-runner, two as a substitute shortstop and one as a pinch-hitter. In four plate appearances for the Cardinals, he had no hits and a walk. In two fielding chances at shortstop, he made one putout and one error.

In May 1952, the Cardinals acquired Virgil Stallcup from the Reds to be their backup shortstop and asked waivers on Mauch.

Chance to lead

According to the Associated Press, the Cardinals were planning to send Mauch to one of their minor-league teams, Rochester or Columbus, if no one claimed him, but the Braves did. Mauch spent the rest of the 1952 season with the Braves’ farm club in Milwaukee and hit .324.

After the season, Mauch’s former Dodgers teammate, Dixie Walker, left his job as manager of the minor-league Atlanta Crackers, a Braves farm team in the Class AA Southern Association, to become a Cardinals coach on Stanky’s staff.

Crackers owner Earl Mann sought a player-manager to replace Walker. While attending the 1952 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees in New York, Mann met with Braves general manager John Quinn, who recommended Mauch.

According to the Atlanta Constitution, Quinn labeled Mauch an Eddie Stanky-type.

“He’s always thinking on the field, talks baseball all the time, and is one of the sharpest young students of baseball in the game,” Quinn said. “I feel confident that Mauch is ready to take a shot as a manager in double-A ball.”

Mann called Mauch at home in Los Angeles, invited him to Atlanta for an interview and hired him. “That’s where my future is in baseball _ managing,” Mauch told the Atlanta Constitution.

Mann said, “He has everything I’ve been looking for in a manager: youth, aggressiveness, personality.”

Told Mauch was described as a Stanky-type, Eddie Stanky replied to the Atlanta Constitution, “I’m not sure that’s an asset, but I’m sure you’ve got a good man. I can vouch for him as a student of baseball.”

Making his mark

Mauch had no connection to Atlanta or the South, so he arrived as a mystery man to Crackers fans. Columnist Furman Bisher wrote, “The selection of Mauch exploded on Atlanta with much the same surprising effect as if the Prohibition candidate had won the presidency.”

It didn’t take long for him to get noticed. Mauch, 27, led the 1953 Crackers to an 84-70 record. One of his top players was outfielder Chuck Tanner, who, like Mauch, became a successful big-league manager.

According to the Atlanta Constitution, Mann invited Mauch to return in 1954, but Mauch declined. “We may have had some success on paper, but I wasn’t satisfied because I didn’t think I measured up to what I thought I should as a manager,” Mauch told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Crackers sent Mauch to the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels, a Cubs farm team, and he resumed playing. He returned to the majors as a Red Sox utility player in 1956 and 1957, then went back to managing. He managed the Red Sox’s farm team at Minneapolis in 1958 and 1959.

In 1960, Mauch was 34 when he got his first job managing in the majors with the Phillies. The man who hired him, general manager John Quinn, was the one who recommended Mauch for the Atlanta job when Quinn was with the Braves.

A smart instigator, Mauch turned out to be a lot like Stanky. Mauch managed in the big leagues for 26 seasons with the Phillies, Expos, Twins and Angels but never won a pennant.

Throughout his playing career, Mauch had several managers who either had played for or managed the Cardinals. Those influencers included Leo Durocher (1944 Dodgers), Ray Blades (1946 St. Paul), Jimmy Brown (1947 Indianapolis), Frankie Frisch (1949 Cubs), Billy Southworth (1950 Braves) and Eddie Stanky (1952 Cardinals).

In 1980, when Whitey Herzog became Cardinals general manager, he tried to hire Mauch to manage the Cardinals, but was turned down.

Roger Maris didn’t like being criticized. Rogers Hornsby didn’t like being snubbed. Subsequently, Maris and Hornsby didn’t like one another.

On March 22, 1962, in the usually relaxed setting of spring training, an impromptu encounter between Maris, the Yankees’ outfielder, and Hornsby, the Mets’ hitting coach, turned ugly before an exhibition game at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record five months earlier, refused to pose for a photo with Hornsby, who holds the mark for top career batting average by a right-handed hitter.

The incident went public when Hornsby, stung by Maris’ disrespect, lashed out at him in comments to newspaper reporters.

Though eventually linked by their prominent roles in Cardinals championship success _ Hornsby was the manager and second baseman for the 1926 World Series champion Cardinals, and Maris was the right fielder on Cardinals World Series clubs in 1967 and 1968 _ their differences kept them apart.

Mantle fan

In 1961, when Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle were in pursuit of Ruth’s home run record, Hornsby, scouting big-league clubs for the Mets in Chicago, publicly supported Mantle because he considered him a better player than Maris.

“I told a writer that there was only one thing Maris could do better than the Babe _ that was run,” Hornsby said to The Sporting News. “I also said Mantle has all types of ability Maris doesn’t have. I said I’d like to see Mantle lead in home runs.”

In the book “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero,” authors Tom Clavin and Danny Peary wrote that Maris “took it personally” when Hornsby criticized him.

Hornsby was a career .358 hitter who batted better than .400 in a season three times for the Cardinals and led the National League in hitting seven times. He preferred a player such as Mantle, who hit .317 with 54 home runs in 1961, to Maris, who batted .269 in 1961 and never hit .300 in the big leagues.

“I’ll give Maris credit for hitting all those homers,” Hornsby told The Sporting News, “but he has the advantage of playing in Yankee Stadium. He’s got the short right field there and he’s a right field hitter.”

Maris, who hit 31 of his 61 home runs away from Yankee Stadium in 1961, silently bristled at Hornsby’s remarks. Hornsby wasn’t alone in his criticism and, as spring training neared in 1962, Maris had heard enough.

“This stuff about not hitting for an average gets me,” he told The Sporting News. “Eighteen more hits would have brought me to .300. Lots of guys bloop in that many or more.”

Bad vibes

Mets manager Casey Stengel, 71, put Hornsby, 65, on his coaching staff in 1962. Stengel had managed the Yankees to seven World Series championships and 10 American League pennants before he was fired after the 1960 World Series.

When the defending World Series champion Yankees, featuring Maris and Mantle, came to St. Petersburg to play Stengel’s expansion team Mets in March 1962, it drew a lot of attention.

Joel Schrank, an enterprising photographer for United Press International, got the idea to pose the two rajahs, Hornsby and Maris. Schrank approached Hornsby, who agreed to the request. Hornsby grabbed a bat and followed Schrank to the Yankees dugout, where they found Maris.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, when Maris was asked to pose with Hornsby, he said to Schrank, “Why should I? He’s done nothing but run me down. He says I can’t hit.”

Maris turned his back on them and walked away, the Associated Press reported.

“That bush leaguer,” Hornsby said to The Sporting News. “I’ve posed for pictures with some major league hitters, not bush leaguers like he is. He couldn’t carry my bat.”

According to the Associated Press, Hornsby also called Maris a “little punk.”

By comparison, Hornsby told The Sporting News, Yankees first baseman Bill Skowron approached Stengel before the same game and asked him whether Hornsby could share advice about hitting.

“There were a few things he thought I could straighten out for him,” Hornsby said. “We talked for about 15 minutes. That’s the difference between a high-class fellow and a swelled-up guy.”

Regarding Hornsby, Maris said to the New York Daily News, “All last year I kept reading how he said I was a lousy hitter. So why should I pose with him? He says I’m a lousy hitter and a busher. Well, I think he is a lousy hitter, too _ that is, in my category, home runs.”

(Hornsby twice led the National League in home runs, with 42 in 1922 and 39 in 1925, and ranked in the top 10 in the league 14 times.)

Difference of opinions

New York Herald Tribune columnist Red Smith, who described Hornsby as the “mightiest of all National League hitters and the roughest right-handed bruiser in human history,” wrote that Hornsby was justified for being miffed by Maris’ slight.

Noting that Maris “has not yet learned to live with fame,” Smith advised the Yankees slugger to learn from the experience. “If, through stubbornness, he becomes embittered, it can warp what should be a productive professional life,” Smith cautioned.

Yankees manager Ralph Houk told The Sporting News that when he was a boy Hornsby “was sort of an idol,” but he said he disagreed with Hornsby’s characterization of Maris.

“He says Maris is a bush leaguer and a lousy .269 hitter. I know differently,” Houk said.

About three weeks after the incident, Hornsby’s book, “My War With Baseball,” was published.

In the chapter titled “There Won’t Be Any More .400 Hitters,” Hornsby said, “Maris, a left-handed hitter, is strictly a right field pull hitter … They didn’t pitch him very smart in 1961. Threw him too many inside pitches, which is all he’s looking for so he can pull the ball. He’ll never have a big average, let alone hit .400. He couldn’t hit .400 if he added all his averages together.”

(Maris remains the only big-league player to hit 61 home runs in a season without using performance-enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa all hit more than 61 but needed steroids to do it, and attempted to cover up their fraud. The Cardinals rewarded McGwire, a career .263 hitter, for the revenue his flimflam generated for them by putting him alongside Hornsby in their club hall of fame. Imagine what Hornsby would say about that.)