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A helicopter ride late on a winter night gave Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver a closer look at a mountain than he would have cared to experience.

The helicopter carrying McCarver in January 1968 veered in time to avoid a collision with Big Savage Mountain, about 20 miles west of Cumberland, Maryland, near the Pennsylvania border.

Four years earlier, the mountain was the site of a deadly crash involving a massive military aircraft carrying two nuclear bombs.

Air disaster

On Jan. 13, 1964, a U.S. Strategic Air Command B-52 left an Air Force base in Massachusetts and headed to its home station near Albany, Ga. The eight-engine plane had a five-person crew and carried two 24-megaton nuclear bombs.

At about 2 a.m., the B-52 flew into a snowstorm near Big Savage Mountain and experienced severe turbulence. The violent shaking caused the plane’s vertical stabilizer to break off and the aircraft became uncontrollable. The pilot, Major Thomas McCormick, ordered the crew to bail out into the blizzard.

The B-52, the biggest plane in the Strategic Air Command, crashed near the base of Big Savage Mountain on its western slope.

The two nuclear bombs onboard were unarmed, meaning safety mechanisms prevented the weapons from exploding. An unarmed nuclear bomb is designed not to explode until a crew member activates it, an Air Force spokesman told the Associated Press. The bombs were found intact in the wreckage, the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

Two of the crewmen survived. Three didn’t. Snow drifts were waist high, the Associated Press reported, and the temperature was at or below zero.

Major McCormick parachuted safely to the ground. “It was real rugged where I came down and the snow was several feet deep,” he told the Cumberland News.

After daybreak, Major McCormick trekked several miles, found his way to a farmhouse near Grantsville, Maryland, and called authorities to report the crash.

Rescuers found the co-pilot, Captain Parker Peeden, who survived by using his parachute to provide a shelter, the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

Two other crewmen, Major Robert Payne, the navigator, and Sergeant Melvin Wooten, the tail gunner, parachuted to the ground but died of exposure. Major Robert Townley, the radar bombardier, didn’t eject and was killed in the crash.

Catcher in the wry

Four years later, Tim McCarver was in Cumberland, Maryland, to speak at its Dapper Dan Club dinner. The Dapper Dan Club, founded and operated by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams, raised funds for charities in Pittsburgh and other towns. Proceeds from the Cumberland dinner benefited the Allegany County League for Crippled Children.

McCarver was a prize catch for the dinner at St. Mary’s Church hall on Sunday night, Jan. 21, 1968. Glib and personable, he was the catcher for the Cardinals, who three months earlier had won the World Series championship. His appearance helped draw a sellout crowd of 700 to the Dapper Dan banquet.

After McCarver agreed to be the guest speaker, he learned he needed to be in St. Louis by noon on Monday Jan. 22, the day after the dinner, for Army reserve duty. Abrams arranged for a private helicopter to take McCarver from Cumberland to Pittsburgh immediately after the banquet to catch a flight to St. Louis.

Tight schedule

Others on the dais included Orioles pitcher Pete Richert, retired big-league players Dick Groat and Jerry Lynch, University of Maryland head football coach Bob Ward and West Virginia University head football coach Jim Carlen. Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince was toastmaster.

The dinner started at 6 p.m. and McCarver was a hit with the audience. In his remarks, McCarver made special mention of Groat, the shortstop who was his Cardinals teammate from 1963-65. “Dick taught me how to conduct myself both on and off the field,” McCarver said. “I learned a lot of baseball from him.”

When the dinner ended at 9:40 p.m., McCarver, Abrams and Prince left immediately for the helicopter ride to Pittsburgh.

“That wasn’t soon enough,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported. “The weather won the race.”

Sharp turn

The helicopter had been airborne for about five minutes when “a huge mountain, completely shrouded by dark clouds, loomed ahead,” Abrams reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Big Savage Mountain, 2,986 feet at its peak, barely was visible in the icy fog.

Listening to a warning from air traffic control crackle into his earphones, pilot Dick Jarrard “suddenly made a 180-degree turn” and headed back to the Cumberland airport, Abrams reported.

“Don’t worry, men” Jarrard told his passengers. “I received orders to turn back. It’s too soupy here. That big, black blotch you saw ahead of us was Big Savage Mountain. I didn’t want to put a dent in it.”

Jarrard later told them, “The weather ahead was socking in fast.”

Abrams recalled, “By the time the helicopter touched the cold, cold ground, Tim McCarver’s face had turned ashen white.”

According to Abrams, McCarver said to no one in particular, “Let me out of here. You guys can ride this thing, not me.”

Four days earlier, McCarver and his wife Ann had become parents for the second time when Ann gave birth to a girl, Kelly.

A private plane was chartered to take McCarver from Cumberland to Washington, D.C., where he got a flight to St. Louis in time to report for military reserve duty the next day.

Abrams, Prince and the pilot stayed overnight in Cumberland and flew in the helicopter to Pittsburgh the next morning.

Years later, recalling the helicopter adventure, McCarver told Abrams, “I’ll never forget that ride.”

It took until 1964 for all the teams in the major leagues to have integrated housing for their players at spring training.

On March 4, 1964, the Minnesota Twins became the last club in the big leagues to end segregation of blacks and whites in spring training residences. The move came 99 years after the end of the Civil War and four months before enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Twins owner Calvin Griffith acted only after civil rights groups planned to picket the regular-season home opener in protest of the segregated housing practice.

Racism and inequality

In Orlando, where the Twins trained, their white players, manager, coaching staff and front-office personnel stayed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel on Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.

Because the Cherry Plaza discriminated against blacks, the Twins’ black players stayed at the Hotel Sadler. Located on West Church Street, it was described by the Orlando Sentinel as “the first hotel for blacks in central Florida.”

Most major-league teams training in Florida were slow to end segregated housing. In St. Petersburg, where the Cardinals trained, their black players stayed at a boarding house, and their white players stayed in a waterfront hotel. In 1961, activist Dr. Ralph Wimbish and Cardinals first baseman Bill White led the effort to get Cardinals owner Gussie Busch to end the segregated housing. Unable to find a suitable integrated hotel, the Cardinals leased a St. Petersburg motel and had the entire team and their families stay there.

Three years later, under duress, Calvin Griffith and the Twins did it differently.

High-rise hotel

In 1950, the Eola Plaza apartments opened in Orlando. The nine-story building was one of the tallest in the region, and nearly every room offered a view.

Businessman William Cherry bought the building in the mid-1950s and converted it into a hotel, the Cherry Plaza. It featured a nightclub, the Bamboo Room, and banquet facility, the Egyptian Room.

Calvin Griffith considered the Cherry Plaza to be the best hotel in Orlando. The Twins arranged to make it their spring training headquarters, even though the Cherry Plaza wouldn’t allow blacks to stay there.

Bellman to boss

In 1963, Henry Sadler, who had been a bellman at the San Juan Hotel in downtown Orlando, opened the Hotel Sadler, a two-story turquoise and white structure. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Sadler built the hotel with financial help from Calvin Griffith.

The Hotel Sadler became a mecca for black baseball players and entertainers such as Ray Charles and James Brown, Sadler’s daughter, Paula, told the newspaper.

“I have as good a room at the Sadler as I have anywhere in the American League,” Twins catcher Earl Battey told The Sporting News.

Speaking out

Earl Battey liked the Hotel Sadler, but he and his black teammates objected to being segregated. “Our position was that equal but separate accommodations was still discrimination,” Battey told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Another black Twins player, outfielder Lenny Green, said to The Sporting News, “We wanted to be treated like any other player.”

Minnesota Gov. Karl Rolvaag appointed a three-member review board to investigate charges of discrimination against black Twins players at spring training, The Sporting News reported. Rolvaag appointed the panel after Minnesota’s State Commission Against Discrimination ordered a public hearing.

Minnesota attorney general Walter Mondale, the future vice president of the United States, spoke out against the Twins’ segregated conditions.

Minneapolis mayor Arthur Naftalin was informed the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Congress of Racial Equality planned to picket the Twins’ regular-season home opener unless integrated housing was provided to the team.

Naftalin called Griffith and urged him to “lay down the law” to management of the Cherry Plaza Hotel and insist they admit blacks, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Quality inns

On Feb. 10, 1964, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. The proposal needed approval of the U.S. Senate before President Lyndon Johnson could enact it.

Griffith said he tried to convince Frank Flynn, manager of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, to accept blacks, but Flynn refused. Griffith said he and Twins traveling secretary Howard Fox looked into other Orlando hotels and motels, and all except the Cherry Plaza and the Robert Meyer Motor Inn, which opened on Lake Eola in 1963, were objectionable. Like the Cherry Plaza, the Robert Meyer Motor Inn wasn’t integrated.

“There are two first-class hotels in Orlando and neither will accept Negroes,” Griffith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “That’s all there is to it. Sure, there are places integrated in Orlando, but they’re nothing we would stop at. We’re not going to go to a third- or fourth-rate hotel just to accommodate the civil rights people. If we’re going to integrate, let’s go first class.”

Orlando mayor Robert Carr said it was “ridiculous” to claim good integrated accommodations were unavailable in the city.

With Griffith unwilling to take the team out of the Cherry Plaza Hotel, civil rights groups went ahead with plans for demonstrations to show “our displeasure with the team’s management for not making a strong effort to change the discrimination policy,” said Minneapolis NAACP president Curtis Chivers.

“The Negro members of the team aren’t in a position to do too much and it’s the responsibility of civil rights groups to act in their behalf,” Chivers said.

Making the move

Howard Fox indicated the threat of pickets provided the impetus for Twins management to find integrated housing, The Sporting News reported.

Twins players, coaches and manager Sam Mele were moved to the Downtowner Motor Inn, a chain motel in downtown Orlando. The motel had been integrated since it opened 15 months earlier.

Unmarried players and married players whose wives were not at spring training were moved to the Downtowner. Married players with wives present were allowed to make their own arrangements. Griffith and others in the Twins front office remained in the Cherry Plaza Hotel, The Sporting News reported.

A total of 27 members of the Twins’ team, including a half-dozen blacks, moved to the integrated motel, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

“We had to give up a little in the quality of accommodations,” Griffith told the Minneapolis newspaper. “As a matter of fact, neither the white nor the Negro players will have quite such commodious quarters as when they were separated, but we have accomplished the primary purpose of bringing our players together without discrimination.”

It’s a small world after all

On June 19, 1964, the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act. It was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Three months later, on Oct. 25, 1964, President Johnson visited Orlando and stayed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel, which integrated after passage of the Civil Rights Act.

At spring training in 1965, all of the Twins were housed at the Cherry Plaza Hotel. The Twins went on to win the 1965 American League pennant.

On Nov. 15, 1965, a month after the Dodgers beat the Twins in Game 7 of the World Series, Walt Disney held a news conference in the Egyptian Room of the Cherry Plaza Hotel and announced plans for the creation of Disney World.

In a conference call with bloggers, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said the 2020 major-league baseball season has been about adjusting, adapting and learning every day because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking from Target Field in Minneapolis before the Cardinals played the Twins on July 29, 2020, Mozeliak met for 45 minutes with about a dozen bloggers via Zoom video conferencing to update them on “these unprecedented times” in baseball.

Mozeliak usually meets yearly with bloggers in St. Louis. Because of the pandemic, he opted to continue the tradition using technology. It was a classy, much appreciated effort by Mozeliak, who answered every question asked of him.

Mozeliak described himself as a person who usually isn’t anxious, but he said playing a baseball season during a pandemic has created “a weird stress” for him.

Regarding the Cardinals’ first road trip in 2020, Mozeliak said it has been both “very normal and very odd.”

Trying to find balance with those conflicting feelings “is the art of all this,” he said.

While emphasizing he wasn’t complaining and was grateful baseball was being played, Mozeliak admitted, “Doing this is far different than normal.”

Usually, Mozeliak said, his biggest stresses during a baseball season are winning and losing games. In the 2020 season, he said, the main stress is “just getting through the day.”

Like a batter facing curveball after curveball, Mozeliak said playing baseball games while trying to protect the health of everyone involved with the team has been “extremely demanding to keep it together.”

Mozeliak said the coronavirus infecting multiple members of the Marlins team was a wakeup call to all big-league players “to understand the severity of how fast this can spread.”

Regarding cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands, automatically putting a runner on second base in extra innings and other oddities, Mozeliak said the 2020 baseball season “is a unique opportunity to do weird stuff. This is a year to be as open-minded as possible.”

In answering questions from bloggers, Mozeliak addressed several topics, including:

_ Whether the Cardinals’ complex in Jupiter, Fla., was open and whether he was concerned about sharing the facility with the co-tenants, the Marlins: Only one player and two staff members are in Jupiter, so he isn’t overly concerned.

_ Whether he would be in favor of expanding the active roster to 30 players for every big-league team: Yes.

_ Whether the Cardinals would conduct a Florida Instructional League camp in the fall: I don’t know.

_ On the status of the Cardinals’ Dominican Republic academy: The only players there are from Venezuela because those players cannot get back into Venezuela.

_ On the status of scouting by the Cardinals: At the big-league level, all scouting is being done by video. All other scouting is via day trips within a scout’s area.

_ On whether the Cardinals will use cardboard cutouts of spectators in the seats at big-league games: “I think we’ll see those on the next homestand.”

_ On Cardinals such as Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright quickly adapting to using masks: “Having veterans on the team who follow the rules is a huge help” in influencing teammates.

_ On the Cardinals’ organization supporting the Black Lives Matter movement: “My email in-box was not very nice. Kind of crazy, really. Shows you where our country is and how polarizing it has become. I’m not naive. I wasn’t that surprised.”

_ On whether spectators will be allowed to attend Cardinals games in 2020: “Having fans in the stadium is going to be a challenge, but I’m not ruling it out yet.”

As a baseball innovator, Cardinals outfielder Charlie James was about 60 years ahead of his time.

In 1961, while pursuing a degree in electrical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis during the Cardinals’ off-season, James devised an electronic system for calling balls and strikes.

James presented his plan for an electronic umpire in a 21-page special projects paper he submitted as part of his studies.

Though James said he was certain his plan was doable and would be accurate, Major League Baseball hardly was ready for such an innovation in the 1960s.

More than half a century later, a modernized version of the system James envisioned was on the verge of being accepted.

Major League Baseball began experimenting with a computerized strike zone in 2019 in the Atlantic League, an independent minor league, ESPN.com reported. Plate umpires wore earpieces connected to a phone that relayed ball-and-strike calls from a camera system. It also was used in the 2019 Arizona Fall League.

After more testing, it was expected a computerized strike zone eventually would be implemented in major-league games.

Multiple talents

A St. Louis native, James was a football and baseball standout at Webster Groves High School. The University of Missouri recruited him to play both sports and he enrolled as an electrical engineering major.

As a sophomore, his first varsity season at Missouri, James was a halfback in football and an outfielder in baseball. He led the 1956 football team, coached by Don Faurot, in receptions (30) and receiving yards (362), and also rushed for 283 yards on 62 carries. In baseball, he batted better than .300 and drew the attention of big-league scouts.

In a practice session before his junior football season, James suffered a leg injury and spent a week in a hospital. Though he recovered in time to play for the 1957 team, coached by Frank Broyles, James was limited. He led the 1957 team in receptions (12) and receiving yards (132), and rushed for 58 yards on 18 carries, but the preseason injury was a wake-up call.

Concerned he could suffer more football injuries, James decided to pursue the money being offered in baseball. Besides, if he stayed at Missouri, he’d be playing for his third head football coach in three years. Broyles had departed for Arkansas and Dan Devine was hired to replace him.

On Jan. 6, 1958, James, 20, signed with the Cardinals, accepting a $15,000 bonus, and gave up his last two seasons of college baseball as well as a final season of football.

“I’m glad I played football because it helps toughen you, mentally even more than physically, for disappointments and setbacks,” James told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I owe a lot to it and to Missouri.”

Advanced technology

The Cardinals assigned James to their farm system in 1958. Determined to earn a college degree, James enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis and planned to attend classes in the fall and winter.

In August 1960, James made his major-league debut with the Cardinals. He was back at school after the season and zeroed in on completing work for his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Before reporting to Cardinals spring training in 1961, James finished his paper in which he outlined how an automated baseball strike zone would work.

“It’s based on electric circuits and I can assure you it’s trigonometrically possible,” James told the New York Times.

James said his idea was based on “placing three lines flush on the ground between home plate and the pitcher’s mound.”

He drew for New York Times columnist Arthur Daley three parallel lines with circles at either end. “They radiate upward and a mathematical formula can predict anything that moves in a parabolic path,” James explained.

James told the Post-Dispatch the three detectors in the ground registered “both the horizontal and the vertical path of the ball.”

He said a metering device would adjust the strike zone for the height of each batter.

Human element

James’ plan existed only on paper, the Post-Dispatch noted, but “is proved by calculus and theorems to be a practical device, scientifically.”

The electronic umpire had “an infallible eye, but, alas, no heart,” the Post-Dispatch concluded.

James said his device wasn’t intended to replace umpires. He envisioned a plate umpire would remain crouched behind the catcher and would be needed for “calling plays at the plate, determining foul balls, determining check swings and keeping order.”

The goal, James said, is not to eliminate the plate umpire “but rather to improve on his judgment in calling pitches.”

The New York Times concluded, “It can’t automate umpires out of existence, but it will be accurate.”

Others had tried automated strike zones, James told the Post-Dispatch, but had failed.

“An Ohio outfit manufactured a robot that was placed behind the pitcher and didn’t have the good sense to get out of the way on a hit back to the mound,” James said.

At Dodgers training camp in 1950, General Electric introduced an electric eye, “but it sat right on top of the plate and a batter could trigger it, making a ball out of a strike with a wide swing of his bat,” James said.

Career growth

James was a reserve outfielder for the Cardinals from 1961-63, though he played a lot in 1962 after Minnie Minoso was injured. James hit a grand slam versus Sandy Koufax in 1962.

After he earned his bachelor’s degree, James pursued a master’s in electrical engineering at Washington University. While working on the master’s, which he obtained, James also was an instructor in electrical engineering at the school in the baseball off-seasons.

“Being an instructor forces you to keep up with things,” James said. “I handle four lab sections, with 15 to 20 students in each section. It takes a lot of preparation for each session, and so does the grading. It becomes a 40-hour week, easily.”

After Stan Musial retired, the Cardinals chose James to replace him. James was the Opening Day left fielder for the 1964 Cardinals, but hit .238 in April and .254 in May. In June, the Cardinals acquired Lou Brock from the Cubs and he took over in left for James.

James remained as a backup outfielder for the 1964 Cardinals, who became World Series champions. Afterward, James was traded to the Reds. In April 1966, James, 28, quit baseball because he said he needed to secure his family’s financial future. He became a successful business executive and eventually president of Central Electric, a Missouri company that manufactured electrical power equipment for industries.

Tony Taylor played his first and last games in the major leagues at St. Louis against the Cardinals. In between, he had two splendid series against them, one in 1960 and the other in 1970.

An infielder who had 2,007 hits in 19 seasons in the big leagues, Taylor died July 16, 2020, at 84. He primarily played for the Phillies, but entered the majors with the Cubs and was mentored by the former Cardinals standout, Rogers Hornsby.

Late in Taylor’s career, the Cardinals tried to acquire him, but he opted to return to the Phillies.

Deep in Dixie

Born and raised in Cuba, Taylor liked to study chemistry in school. “If I didn’t go into baseball, I would have become a chemist for a sugar company,” he told The Sporting News.

A friend, Felix Gomez, had played for Texas City, an independent club in the minor leagues, and persuaded Taylor to start a pro baseball career there. Taylor was 18 when he signed with Texas City in 1954. During the season, the franchise was shifted to Thibodaux, La.

On the field, Taylor thrived, playing third base and batting .314, but “off the field, he was confused, anxious and lonely,” The Sporting News reported.

“I was so homesick,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he would have quit during the season, but lacked the money for a plane ticket to Cuba.

The Giants bought his contract after the 1954 season and he spent the next three years (1955-57) in their farm system.

Success at St. Louis

In December 1957, the Cubs chose Taylor in the minor-league draft and he went to spring training in 1958 as a candidate for the third base job. At training camp, Cubs manager Bob Scheffing was impressed with Taylor’s fielding range and moved him to second base, even though Taylor never had played the position. “He’ll get a lot of balls nobody else would reach,” Scheffing said.

Two of the Cubs’ coaches, Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby and George Myatt, were former big-league second basemen and they helped Taylor make the transition from third base, The Sporting News reported.

As Opening Day neared, the Chicago Tribune reported Taylor “has done slick work at second, ” but added he “has become a controversial figure in camp. There are those who believe he can’t miss but others rate him lacking in big-league ability.”

Scheffing’s confidence in Taylor never wavered. On April 15, 1958, when the Cubs opened the season at St. Louis, Taylor was the second baseman and batted in the leadoff spot. In his first at-bat in the majors, Taylor opened the game with a double against Vinegar Bend Mizell and went on to score, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead in a game they won, 4-0. Boxscore

In 1960, Taylor was 8-for-14 for the Cubs in a three-game series at St. Louis. Taylor capped the weekend by going 4-for-5 with three RBI in the series finale in what the Chicago Tribune called “a Taylor-made victory” for the Cubs. Boxscore

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Taylor as “the quiet man with the loud bat.”

A right-handed batter, Taylor had a powerful build on a 5-foot-9 frame. Rogers Hornsby, who had become a Cubs batting instructor, told The Sporting News he believed Taylor would be a .300 hitter. “If he ever learns to stride into the the ball and pull it,” Hornsby added, “he’ll be a home run slugger.”

Two weeks after his big St, Louis series, Taylor was traded to the Phillies.

Popular with Phillies

Taylor became a Phillies favorite. In 1963, he led National League second basemen in fielding percentage, produced 180 hits and scored 102 runs. Taylor six times had 20 or more stolen bases in a season.

Taylor was the Phillies’ second baseman from 1960-65, moved to a utility role in 1966-67 when Cookie Rojas became the starter, and took over at third base in 1968-69.

In 1970, the Phillies moved Don Money from shortstop to third base and went with rookies Denny Doyle at second and Larry Bowa at shortstop. Taylor, 34, opened the season in left field, but returned to second base when Doyle slumped.

Taylor time

On May 21, 1970, Philadelphia was abuzz with anticipation when the Cardinals opened a four-game series with the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. Slugger Richie Allen was playing in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded by the Phillies to the Cardinals.

In the Thursday night series opener, the focus was on Allen, but Taylor, his former road roommate, stole the show.

Cardinals starter Steve Carlton struck out 16 batters in eight innings, but the Phillies led, 3-0, entering the ninth. The Cardinals came back with three runs in the top of the ninth, including two on a home run by Allen, tying the score.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies had runners on first and second, two outs, when Taylor came to the plate. “He was the right guy in the right spot,” Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Facing reliever Sal Campisi, Taylor told the Philadelphia Daily News, “I try to hit the ball up the middle in a spot like that. I was looking for a strike, a ball I could handle.”

Taylor grounded a single into center field, scoring John Briggs from second and giving the Phillies a 4-3 walkoff victory. Boxscore

Cardinals catcher Bart Zeller, making his big-league debut, told the Post-Dispatch, “Taylor hit a slider up, and we were trying to keep it away, but it got the middle of the plate.”

Tribute for Taylor

The next night, Taylor moved to third base to replace Don Money, who was injured in the series opener when a ball he was about to field struck him in the right eye. Taylor had two hits, scored a run and swiped a base, but the Cardinals won, 6-3. Boxscore

Game 3 of the series was Tony Taylor Night in Philadelphia and he was honored in ceremonies before the game. Standing at home plate with family, including his mother, who arrived from Cuba in March, Taylor was presented with gifts, including a trip to Spain for he and his wife.

Unfazed by the show of affection for Taylor, Bob Gibson struck him out three times in the game and finished with 16 in a 3-1 victory. Taylor did get one of the four hits Gibson allowed. Richie Allen drove in all the Cardinals’ runs with a pair of home runs versus Jim Bunning. Boxscore

The series finale on Sunday afternoon gave Taylor the chance to produce another game-winning hit, and he delivered.

In the 10th inning, with the score tied at 5-5, the Phillies loaded the bases with none out before Taylor lined a single to right on a fastball from Chuck Taylor, scoring Grant Jackson from third and giving the Phillies a 6-5 walkoff triumph. Richie Allen struck out five times in the game. Boxscore

Taylor finished the season with a .301 batting mark. He hit .411 with runners in scoring position.

Tony the Tiger

The Phillies traded Taylor to the Tigers in June 1971. He made the only postseason appearance of his career with them in 1972.

Released by the Tigers in December 1973, Taylor, 38, was pursued by the Cardinals, who wanted him for a utility role, United Press International reported, but he returned to the Phillies and played three more seasons for them.

On Sept. 29, 1976, Taylor ended his major-league playing career where it began, at St. Louis. Batting for pitcher Tug McGraw, Taylor grounded out to second versus John Curtis. Boxscore

Taylor went on to manage in the Phillies’ farm system for five seasons, coached for the Phillies and Marlins and was an instructor for the Giants.

Mike Ryan connected with Steve Carlton behind the plate, not at the plate.

A catcher of superior defensive skills who played in the 1967 World Series for the Red Sox against the Cardinals, Ryan died July 7, 2020, at 78.

Ryan played in 11 seasons in the big leagues because of his glove work and strong throwing arm. His career batting average with the Red Sox (1964-67), Phillies (1968-73) and Pirates (1974) was .193.

Ryan’s strength and weakness were illustrated by his interactions with Carlton. With the Phillies from 1968-71, Ryan was hitless in 26 at-bats against the Cardinals’ left-hander. When Carlton got traded to the Phillies in 1972, Ryan became one of his catchers in an award-winning season.

New England tough

Ryan was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, about 35 miles north of Boston and near the border of New Hampshire. He grew up a Red Sox fan and took up catching when he was 9. “A catcher’s mitt wasn’t the first glove I owned, but it was my favorite,” Ryan told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I guess I liked the idea of being in on every play.”

A prominent sandlot player, Ryan signed with the Red Sox when he was 18 and played in their farm system from 1961-64.

On the last weekend of the 1964 season, injuries left the Red Sox short of catchers and they called up Ryan. Manager Billy Herman put him in the starting lineup in a Saturday game against the Senators at Boston’s Fenway Park. Bill Monbouquette pitched a shutout for the Red Sox. Ryan caught seven innings and drove in two runs in his major-league debut. Boxscore

With a Massachusetts accent described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “thick as chowder,” Ryan was a natural for the Red Sox. He spent part of 1965 with them and was their Opening Day catcher in 1966 and 1967. In August 1967, the Red Sox acquired catcher Elston Howard from the Yankees and he supplanted Ryan as the starter for the pennant stretch.

Howard, 38, appealed to Red Sox manager Dick Williams more than Ryan, 25, did because Howard had played in nine World Series for the Yankees. Ryan objected to being displaced and spoke out about it. He considered himself a better defensive catcher than Howard, and Howard (.147) did even less at the plate for the Red Sox than Ryan did (.199).

“They put the screws to me around here,” Ryan told the Boston Globe.

The Red Sox clinched the American League pennant on the last day of the 1967 season. In the World Series versus the Cardinals, Howard did most of the catching. Ryan’s only appearance came in Game 4 at St. Louis when he replaced Howard in the fifth inning and went hitless in two at-bats against Bob Gibson. Boxscore

During the regular season, Red Sox ace Jim Lonborg, who won the 1967 American League Cy Young Award, started more games with Ryan as his catcher than he did with Elston Howard, or backups Russ Gibson and Bob Tillman.

In a tribute to Ryan in the Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, Massachusetts, Lonborg said, “He taught me what New England toughness was all about. Broken fingers, cracked ribs. The game must go on.”

Two months after the Cardinals prevailed in the 1967 World Series, Ryan was traded to the Phillies. “I’m glad to get away, to get a chance,” Ryan told the Boston Globe.

Good field, no hit

Ryan “has a strong arm, a sure glove and handled Boston’s young pitchers intelligently,” the Philadelphia Daily News noted.

He was the Phillies’ Opening Day catcher in 1968 and 1969. In the off-seasons, Ryan and his wife collected antiques. “The catcher has a poet’s soul,” wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bill Lyon.

Ryan led National League catchers in percentage of runners caught attempting to steal (57.6) in 1968 and in assists (79) in 1969, but his batting marks for those seasons were .179 and .204.

“Mike Ryan can’t hit a lick and that’s the pity of it,” Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote. “He’s tried a dozen stances and a jillion bats, but nothing has helped.”

Ryan told Sandy Padwe of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “There have been times I was so confused that I didn’t even know my name when I went up to bat. The whole thing is so frustrating. It takes so much out of you. Maybe I’m just not a hitter, but I can’t believe that.”

Collecting Cardinals

In October 1969, looking to get more production from the catcher position, the Phillies acquired Tim McCarver from the Cardinals and Ryan became a backup.

McCarver and Ryan were involved in a freak occurrence on May 2, 1970, in a game at San Francisco. In the sixth inning, a foul tip by Willie Mays fractured McCarver’s right hand. Ryan replaced him. After Mays singled and Willie McCovey doubled, Ken Henderson singled to right. Ron Stone’s throw to Ryan nailed McCovey at the plate, but Ryan fractured his left hand when spiked by McCovey. Boxscore

McCarver hit .287 in 1970 and .278 in 1971, but his defensive skills were slipping.

The Phillies acquired Steve Carlton from the Cardinals in February 1972. The deal reunited Carlton with McCarver, who was Carlton’s catcher with the Cardinals from 1965-69, but Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi was becoming disenchanted with McCarver’s weak throwing.

“If Mike Ryan had McCarver’s .280 bat, he would be a six-figure everyday player, a great star,” declared the Philadelphia Daily News. “If McCarver had Ryan’s sure, soft hands and lightning release, he’d be an all-star.”

Neither Carlton nor McCarver got off to a strong start with the 1972 Phillies. At the end of May, Carlton was 5-6 and McCarver was batting .208. “The Phillies watched McCarver three-hop balls to second and handle pitches as if they were live grenades while waiting for a bat which never came around,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

On June 14, 1972, the Phillies dealt McCarver to the Expos for catcher John Bateman.

Teaching and helping

With Bateman starting and Ryan backing up, Carlton put together a big season (27-10, 1.97 ERA) for a bad team (59-97) and won the 1972 National League Cy Young Award. “I could have told the hitters what was coming and they still wouldn’t have touched Steve,” Ryan told The Sporting News. “He dominated hitters.”

In 1973, rookie Bob Boone became the Phillies’ catcher, Bateman departed and Ryan remained the backup. In two seasons (1972-73) together, Carlton and Ryan formed the Phillies’ battery in 10 games. Ryan also was reunited in 1973 with Lonborg, who was acquired by the Phillies.

Ryan finished his playing career in 1974 with the Pirates. He was a manager in the Pirates’ farm system for two years (1975-76) and mentored a teen catching prospect, Tony Pena. Ryan also managed Phillies minor-league teams for two seasons (1977-78) and helped advance the career of outfielder Lonnie Smith.

For 16 years (1980-95), Ryan was a Phillies coach. The Phillies got to the World Series three times in that stretch, including 1993, when their catcher was Darren Daulton, who bonded with Ryan. “He’s as solid as they come,” Daulton told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “How much do I think of him? I named my son for him: Zachary Ryan Daulton.”