For the last month-and-a-half, over at Cardinals fan site Viva El Birdos, I have been counting down the Redbirds’ magic number old jersey numbers of players on the team. I would compile five facts about each historic figure. Last night, the Cardinals clinched the division. (Yahhhhh!!!) Here are all those facts, in one place, just so I don’t lose them
MAGIC NUMBER: 41
August 16, 2009
Cardinals 7, Padres 5
1. He is currently an analyst on the MLB Network after serving as a color commentator for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 1998-2008.
2. He bears a striking resemblance to cult film actor Bruce Campbell.
3. During a spring training game at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann told me Magrane was “one of his best friends in the world.”
4. He did color commentary for Olympic baseball in 2008 Beijing Games.
5. He was drafted in the first round of the 1985 Major League Baseball Draft. Other players selected in the first round include Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Barry Larkin, and Gregg Jefferies. The first overall selection of that draft was B.J. Surhoff.
MAGIC NUMBER: 39
August 17, 2009
Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2
1. He was born in Oakland, exactly 18 days before Bryan Leitch.
2. He was forced to shave his Fu Manchu mustache in 1977 by new Cardinals manager Vern Rapp, a veteran of the Korean War who managed the Cardinals for only one season before being run off by his players.
3. He has been a color commentator for the Cardinals for 24 years, which is a lot longer than I suspect you imagined.
4. He played himself in the 1985 movie “The Slugger’s Wife,” written by Neil Simon and directed by Hal Ashby. His role is as the Bad Guy pitcher: At the end, the protagonist homers off him, and, subsequently, gets the girl.
5. He is not, in fact, Hungarian.
MAGIC NUMBER: 38
August 18, 2009
Padres 6, Cubs 3
1. He has been a board member of the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes for 15 years and has been the organization’s board president for the last four.
2. He will turn 50 years old next month. (Wow.)
3. He is second on the Cardinals’ career saves list, behind Lee Smith, the man for whom, after two years recovering from injury, he selflessly returned to serve as a set-up man.
4. He is the pitching coach for Westminster High School in St. Louis.
5. Jorge Orta was out. Obviously. Worrell once said that putting Don Denkinger, the man who famously missed the call at first base, was the home plate umpire for Game 7 of the 1985 World Series was “like putting a stick of dynamite back there and lighting it.”
MAGIC NUMBER: 37
August 19, 2009
Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2
1. Due to a dispute with his coach, he sat out his entire collegiate senior baseball season at the College of San Mateo. Concerns about his attitude were the reason he dropped to the 42nd round of 1971 Major League Baseball draft, where the Cardinals grabbed him.
2. In 1979, the year he shared the MVP with Willie Stargell, he hit .344, the third highest National League average of the decade. In the last 52 years, the Cardinals have had five batting champions: Albert Pujols, Willie McGee, Joe Torre, Stan Musial and Hernandez.
3. He was traded to the Mets in 1983 because manager Whitey Herzog felt his cocaine addiction was turning him into a “cancer” in the clubhouse. “I never regretted that trade,” Herzog wrote in his book “You’re Missin’ A Great Game.” “Smartest move I ever made.”
4. He chose the number 37 because he wanted to honor Mickey Mantle, his favorite player. He switched to 17 when he joined the Mets because they had already retired the number in honor of Casey Stengel.
5. There was a second spitter. After all: He’s Keith Hernandez!
MAGIC NUMBER: 35
August 20, 2009
Cardinals 5, Padres 1
1. When his friend and former teammate Mike Matheny was forced to retire because of concussions, Morris changed his number from 35 to 22, Matheny’s old number.
2. His worst season as a Cardinal, oddly, was 2004: His 4.72 was the worst of the team’s five regular starters. Of those five starters, the ERAs, from best to worst: Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Woody Williams, Matt Morris. Those five men started 154 of the Cardinals’ 162 games that season: The other starts were made by Dan Haren (5), Al Reyes (2) and Randy Flores (1).
3. At the trading deadline in 2007, he was sent to the Pirates from the Giants for Rajai Davis. He pitched a total of 16 games for the Pirates, averaging just under $1 million per start.
4. Morris and his wife named their daughter “Harper.”
5. A month and a half after the death of his mentor and friend Darryl Kile, Morris told Sports Illustrated how he would call Kile’s widow weekly from the road: “I wind up sobbing, and then she winds up sobbing, so I’m not sure how much help I am. But sometimes we all need a shoulder to cry on. I know I do. Lately I’ve been trying to think about all the good stuff, some of the fun times. The thoughts always pop up at weird times. Anytime. Anyplace. During a game. When you go to lunch before a night game and he’s not there. When you go to dinner after a day game. Hanging out in the [hotel] room. It’s everywhere. There’s a missing piece right now, and you can feel it.”
MAGIC NUMBER: 34
August 21, 2009
Dodgers 2, Cubs 1
1. He is not the same Danny Cox who is Danny Cox, Accelerationist.
2. He was really quite good in 1985, the current leader in the Damn We Should Have Won That Year sweepstakes (barely beating 2002), winning 18 games and notching an ERA of 2.88. He’s probably not quite the pitcher you remember, though: Despite his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, he was not a strikeout pitcher. He threw 241 innings that season, and only struck out 108 batters.
3. He was born in England.
4. Overcoming his fancy-pants upbringing, he settled in Central/Southern Illinois. He lives in Freeburg, where sections of In The Heat Of The Night were filmed, and is currently the pitching coach for the Springfield (Ill.) Sliders.
5. During his entire career, he made a total of $5,914,000, which is which is slightly more one-third of what Troy Glaus made this season.
MAGIC NUMBER: 32
August 22, 2009
Cardinals 7, Padres 0
1. His National League-record total of 19 strikeouts was during a game that the Cardinals lost, 4-3, to the New York Mets, in September 1969. The Mets “miraculously” won the World Series one month later.
2. A disagreement over salary with Gussie Busch led to his trade to the Phillies in 1972. He pitched for Philadelphia for 14 years. He only pitched for the Cardinals for six.
3. He holds the all-time record with 144 runners picked off base, almost double the amount of second-place Jerry Koosman.
4. Pat Jordan’s famous 1994 Philadelphia magazine article about Carlton should not be forgotten. Let’s let Murray Chass take us home: “Carlton alternately said that the world is ruled or controlled by the Russian and United States Governments, which “fill the air with low-frequency sound waves,” the Elders of Zion, British intelligence agencies, “12 Jewish bankers meeting in Switzerland” and “a committee of 300 which meets at a roundtable in Rome.Not only that, but Carlton also charges, according to Jordan, that President Clinton has “a black son” he won’t acknowledge and that the AIDS virus was created at a secret Maryland biological warfare laboratory “to get rid of gays and blacks.”“
5. You can email Steve at Steve@Carlton32.com. Currently, his Website has a short dissertation about whether or not teenagers should throw breaking balls. (They shouldn’t.)
MAGIC NUMBER: 31
August 23, 2009
Cardinals 5, Padres 2
1. He is the only Cardinals to have throw two no-hitters for while wearing the Birds on the Bat, against the Phillies in 1978 and the Expos in 1983. His brother, Ken Forsch, threw a no-hitter himself in 1979. They are the only two brothers in baseball history to have thrown no-hitters. (Ironically, Paul Dean threw a no-hitter, but Dizzy never did.)
2. He was an excellent hitter and won Silver Slugger Awards in 1980 and 1987.
3. He is one of only five men to play for all three of the Cardinals’ pennant winners in the 1980s. The other four are Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr and Tito Landrum.
4. After Bud Smith’s no-hitter in 2001 — the most recent Cardinals no-hitter — Forsch asked and received an autographed ball from the game.
5. His first no-hitter was on April 16, 1978. That is the exact day Julia Furay was welcomed to this planet. Today, Julia is the chairperson of the Cardinals Fans In NYC group, in which displaced Cards fans in New York City meet once or twice a month to watch the Birds.
MAGIC NUMBER: 29
August 25, 2009
Cardinals 1, Astros 0
1. In college, the speedster was on the opposite side of the special teams divide that you might suspect: He was not a punt returner, but, in fact, a punter. With Florida A&M, he was all-conference in 1980 and 1981 and once kicked a game-winning field goal to defeat The U.
2. He still holds the all-time minor-league stolen bases mark with 145. He missed one month of that season with a broken hand.
3. He caused a bit of a ruckus during his rookie season when, after being asked about Jackie Robinson, he said, “I don’t know nothin’ about him. Why are you asking me about Jackie Robinson?” His blithe response inspired an angry retort from Robinson’s widow. Coleman later apologized.
4. In New York, he is mostly remembered for the time he stupidly tossed a lit firecracker into a crowd of children; as a reporter in New York City, let me tell you that this isn’t the type of thing press folk handle well. More disturbingly, though, he once injured Dwight Gooden’s arm by swinging a golf club in the clubhouse.
5. The tarp. In 2005, the Cardinals actually auctioned off the tarp that cost Coleman (and, arguably, the Cardinals) the 1985 World Series. The eventual bidder was never disclosed. The injury, in a pre-blog era, was reported by Jack Buck on KMOX Radio, who began his report with, “Well, you’re never going to believe this.” It is the belief of this journalist that the Vince Coleman Being Ran Over By A Tarp On The Eve Of The World Series is the great underreported story of our time.
MAGIC NUMBER: 28
August 26, 2009
Cardinals 3, Astros 2
1. He was actually born and raised in South St. Louis and attended the University of Missouri. He did not graduate; he left early to play baseball.
2. He is the only person to hit home runs in all three of the Cardinals’ World Series appearances in the ’60s: off Whitey Ford in 1964, off Gary Bell in 1967 and off Mickey Lolich in 1968..
3. He entire baseball career only lasted eight years. He was forced to retire when he was diagnosed with nephritis, a rare kidney disease.
4. His wife Judith passed away in July 2007. They had been married for 48 years — they wed when Mike was 20 years old — and they had six children.
5. He is most famous for his Shannonisms, the uniquely Mike Shannon accidental witticisms he has cultivated since joining the Cardinals booth in 1971, the year after he retired. Everyone has their favorites, but mine is: “Boy, that was a poorly fielded ball. It reminds me of that book, what was it called? “The Bell Rings for the Man?” Though this one’s pretty irresistible too: “Well, no one’s perfect. Only one guy was ever perfect, Jack, and they nailed him to a tree.”
MAGIC NUMBER: 27
August 27, 2009
Nationals 5, Cubs 4
1. His home town of Jasper, Indiana, has a population of 12,100, and was named one of 10 best places to live by a depressing-sounding organization called Relocate America.
2. He won the 1997 National League Rookie Of The Year Award. Check out other players in the top 10 in voting: Livan Hernandez (2), Matt Morris (3), Andruw Jones (5), Vladimir Guerrero (6), Brett Tomko (7), Tony Womack (9) and Neifi Perez (11). It is the opinion of this reporter that baseball players get older, faster than they used to.
3. He has finished in the top 10 on his league in batting average once in his career: This year, where he’s currently in seventh in the American League, locked in at .320 when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.
4. They still boo him in Philadelphia. This is an eternal point in Rolen’s favor.
5. The Tony La Russa-Rolen rift has seemed a bit confusing to Cardinals fans; their personalities have never seemed all that wildly divergent. (Fights with Kerry Robinson, Ron Gant and Adam Kennedy made more sense). It might have began with the benching in the NLCS, it might have happened before that, it might have happened afterwards. It’s never put much of a damper on the 2006 title, but, for some reason, this reporter has always felt it took a bit of a shine off the beautiful 2004 season. But flags fly forever.
MAGIC NUMBER: 26
August 28, 2009
Cardinals 3, Nationals 2
1. He played a total of 15 seasons in his career — from 1971-85 — almost entirely as a pinch hitter. After 1979, he never had more than 98 at-bats in the season.
2. He happened to join the Cardinals in 1981, which allowed him to be one of the primary pinch hitter for two World Series teams, in 1982 and 1985. Still, in 11 postseason at-bats, he had only one hit.
3. His one hit was a big one, a two-out RBI single off Mike Caldwell, knocking in Keithe Hernandez, in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 1982 World Series. When Bruce Sutter struck out Gorman Thomas to win the series, Braun was in the lineup as… the designated hitter. From 1976-84, in odd-numbered seasons, both teams in the World Series used the DH, regardless of the home team.
4. Atter his retirement, he served as the Cardinals’ hitting coach during Whitey Herzog’s last season as manager. He currently has a hitting school for kids.
5. He is one of the few Cardinals to wear the number 26. Obviously.
MAGIC NUMBER: 25
August 29, 2009
Cardinals 9, Nationals 4
1. He was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos but turned down their $8,500 contract offer to attend the University of Southern Calfornia. He played on the 1984 Gold Medal-winning Olympic baseball team. His teammates included Will Clark, Barry Larkin and B.J. Surhoff.
2. He hit the other walk-off home run of the 1988 World Series, a solo shot off reliever Jay Howell — who, amusingly, had been suspended for two games of the NLCS for using pine tar — to end Game 3 of the A’s-Dodgers series. It was the only game of that series the A’s would win.
3. The Cardinals traded for McGwire on July 31, 1997, even though they were 7 1/2 games out of first place at the time; they gave up T.J. Mathews, Blake Stein and Eric Ludwick, older brother of current Cardinals right fielder Ryan Ludwick. McGwire hit 24 home runs in 51 games after the trade.
4. McGwire broke Roger Maris’ home run record on September 8, 1998, with his shortest home run of the season. It is believed that McGwire, along with fellow 1998 home run hero Sammy Sosa, were using performance enhancing substances at the time. It is the opinion of this reporter that it does not change the pleasure of that night. To quote a lousy writer: “Whatever your thoughts on steroids and McGwire’s and Sosa’s murky history with them, that night really did happen, and all the optimism and warmth that came out of it was real. Tim Forneris really did give back that ball. McGwire really did embrace his son and provide a real-life ”Field of Dreams” moment for fathers and sons everywhere. The Maris children really did cry and honor their tortured, maligned father. We were all touched by these moments, and why wouldn’t we be? They were real.”
5. In his final season, he struggled with injuries and batted .187, though he still managed to hit 29 home runs, eight behind the team leader, a 21-year-old Albert Pujols. (2001 was the one season the two men played together.) As McGwire walked to the plate for the final time in the top of the ninth inning of the decisive fifth game of the National League Divisional Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks … Tony LaRussa called him back to the dugout. Mark McGwire was pinch hit for by Kerry Robinson, who came in to bunt.
MAGIC NUMBER: 23
August 30, 2009
Cardinals 2, Nationals 1
1. He played for the Cardinals for 14 years, making his major league debut, at the age of 18, in September for the pennant-winning 1968 Cardinals. He did not play in that World Series, and the Cardinals did not make the postseason again for those next 14 seasons.
2. Shortly after taking over as general manager of the Cardinals, Whitey Herzog traded Simmons, along with Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich, to the Milwaukee Brewers for David Green, Sixto Lezcano, Lary Sorenson and Dave LaPoint. (In retrospect, this was not a good trade. Though it all worked out for the best.) Simmons played his first postseason games in 1981, though, lifetime, he hit only .186 in October. Herzog said if the National League had the designated hitter, he would have never traded him.
3. He was the first catcher to ever win the Silver Slugger Award, in 1980.
4. He’s considered one of the better powering hitting catchers in baseball history, but his career total, 248, is one less than Jose Valentin.
5. After he retired, he served as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates before retiring after he suffered a heart attack. He’s currently the bench coach for the San Diego Padres.
MAGIC NUMBER: 22
August 31, 2009
Astros 5, Cubs 3
1. When he came to the Cardinals — in a 1985 trade in which the Cardinals sent the Giants Jose Uribe (nee Gonzalez), Dave LaPoint, David Green and Gary Rajsich — he was a right fielder. He switched to first base to avoid injury.
2. His dramatic home run off Tom Neidenfuer in the 1985 National League Championship Series continues to befuddle baseball observers, who have never quite understood why Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda did not walk him.
3. Dwight Gooden, at the height of his powers in 1986, said the one player in baseball he’d want to face least with the bases loaded in a tie game was Jack Clark.
4. According to the New York Daily News, shortly after his playing career ended: “Clark was involved in a drag racing enterprise which reportedly lost $1 million a year, and he was victimized by an unscrupulous lawyer and financial advisor who bilked him out of most of the money he’d been awarded in the collusion settlement.”
5. He’s currently the manager of the Springfield (Ill.) Sliders … kind of. He missed 10 of the Sliders’ first 26 home games because of commitments to Fox Sports Midwest. The Sliders’ best pitcher said, “It’s a little difficult because there is a lot of talk whether [Clark and pitching coach Danny Cox] are going to show up or not and when they are actually going to be there.”
MAGIC NUMBER: 21
September 1, 2009
Cardinals 7, Brewers 6
1. He played in the same high school outfield as Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson, which is absolutely insane.
2. Flood won seven consecutive Gold Gloves for the Cardinals, from 1963-69. He had 211 hits for the World Champion 1964 Cardinals, though, if he had played today, sabermetricians (justifiably, one supposes) would point out that his batting average was relatively empty and he seemed pathologically opposed to taking a walk. He also never slugged more than .421 in a season. As a comparison, Colby Rasmus is currently slugging .426.
3. Flood wasn’t a particularly popular player as a Cardinal, not nearly as much as we like to consider him today, but, of course, Curt Flood was so much more than just a baseball player. When he was traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies, he refused to report, demanding commissioner Bowie Kuhn declare him a free agent, writing, “After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.” Flood took Kuhn to the Supreme Court – no active players testified for Flood, though former players Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg did, along with Bill Veeck – and lost when the court decided “to stand by things decided.” Five years later, the reserve clause was eliminated.
4. This did little good for Flood, who had to sit out the entire 1970 season. Eventually, the Phillies sent him to Washington, where manager Ted Williams told Flood he was angry about a book Flood had written, “The Way It Is,” not because of its discussion of the reserve clause, but because of “Curt’s public disclosure of his exploits with women.” Flood also once called Stan Musial a “simpleminded company man.” Musial said he was deeply hurt by Flood’s comments.
5. “I guess you really have to understand who that person, who that Curt Flood was. I’m a child of the sixties, I’m a man of the sixties. During that period of time this country was coming apart at the seams. We were in Southeast Asia. Good men were dying for America and for the Constitution. In the southern part of the United States we were marching for civil rights and Dr. King had been assassinated, and we lost the Kennedys. And to think that merely because I was a professional baseball player, I could ignore what was going on outside the walls of Busch Stadium was truly hypocrisy and now I found that all of those rights that these great Americans were dying for, I didn’t have in my own profession.” Just try to imagine a professional athlete saying anything remotely like that today.
MAGIC NUMBER: 20
September 2, 2009
Cardinals 10, Brewers 3
1. Brock did not start playing baseball until he was 13, after he wrote a class paper on Jackie Robinson and Joe DiMaggio.
2. He was a mathematics major at Southern University and was only invited to join the baseball team after serving as a team manager. As the story goes, the coaches let him take some batting practice, he hit five straight homers and they offered him a scholarship on the spot.
3. When Brock was traded to the Cardinals in June 1964 — famously, from the Cubs for Ernie Broglio, an All-Star pitcher who, alas, won only seven games for the Cubbies before retiring three years later — the Birds were in fourth place, six-and-a-half games out of first. With Brock installed second in the lineup (behind Curt Flood), St. Louis went on to win the World Series.
4. Brock was so obsessed with the habits of pitches that he would sit in the dugout and film them with his 8 mm camera. He remains second place on the all-time stolen base leaders list, behind Rickey Henderson, but he only stole more than 100 bases once. Strangely enough, he notched the 118-steal in 1974, when he was 35 years old.
5. Brock and his wife are active ministers and elders at the Abundant Life Fellowship Church in St. Louis, and have prayed with Billy Graham and President George W. Bush. Brock also has played a full round of golf with Sally Leitch, who happens to be my mother.
MAGIC NUMBER: 19
September 3, 2009
White Sox 5, Cubs 0
1. In college, at Arkansas, he was a catcher and a third baseman, but insisted on catching exclusively his senior year so he could show off for professional scouts. The Cardinals drafted him in the eighth round in 1983, a year after the Brewers drafted him in the 24th round. (He did not sign the first time.)
2. Pagnozzi made his major league debut April 12, 1987, pinch-hitting for Curt Ford. The Cardinals’ starting catcher that day was Steve Lake.
3. He is one of three Cardinals to have appears in both the 1987 and 1996 National League Championship Series. The other two are Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith.
4. In his 11 years in the Major Leagues, he never played for any team other the Cardinals. In fact, he was the reason manager Joe Torre moved superstar prospect Todd Zeile to third base, so enamored of Pagnozzi’s defense was Torre.
5. Last December, Pagnozzi was in a serious automobile accident near his home in Arkansas, hitting a patch of ice and flipping his truck several times. He and Cardinals farmhand Casey Rowlett escaped with minor injuries, but a third passenger was more seriously injured.
MAGIC NUMBER: 17
September 4, 2009
Cardinals 14, Pirates 7
1. Dizzy and his brother Paul — he was only referred to as “Daffy” in the media — were born and raised in Lucas, Arkansas, a town so small it is not even findable by Google. (A search reveals countless information about Lucas Miller, a former Razorbacks wide receiver, though.)
2. The Gashouse Gang, the 1934 World Champions, became a national sensation not just because of the colorful personalities of the Dean brothers and Pepper Martin, but also because of geography and economics. At the time, the Cardinals were the southernmost (and westernmost) team in baseball, and the team’s blue-collar, roguish element appealed to a populace suffering through the Depression.
3. Once, Dizzy stumbled across a robbery taking place in a St. Louis drugstore. Ever the prankster, he thought the assailants were kidding as well, at least until he ended up with a pistol in his ribs. After the St. Louis papers wrote about the incident, one of the robbers called him. “I didn’t know you wuz in the store. I want you to know that I don’t hold nothing against you personally, and to prove it, I’m going to send you a bunch of neckties.” They arrived a few days later, and Dean shared them with his teammates. (Story via the wonderful book The Gashouse Gang.)
4. Dean’s 1934 was unusually dominant. He won 30 games — he’s the last National Leaguer to do that — with 24 complete games in 311 innings. He was the National League Most Valuable Player award. His most famous game was when he vowed beforehand that he would strike out Dom DiMaggio four teams. He struck him out three times, and then DiMaggio popped one up behind the plate. Dizzy screamed “Drop It! Drop It!” to his catcher, who obliged him. Dean struck out DiMaggio on the next pitch.
5. After he retired, Dean, not surprisingly, became a popular baseball broadcaster. When he was with the Browns, he complained “I could pitch better than nine out of ten guys on this staff.” When the players’ wives complained, Dean, 37 and out of baseball for six years, did exactly that, tossing four scoreless innings in the last game of the season before returning to the booth for the ninth inning. He also was a focus of a fictionalized film version of his life, The Pride Of St. Louis. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Story,” and he was played by Dan Dailey. His brother Paul was played by Richard Crenna, who later played Col. Trautman in the Rambo movies. “You don’t seem to want to accept the fact you’re dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare, with a man who’s the best, with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a billy goat puke. In Vietnam his job was to dispose of enemy personnel. To kill! Period! Win by attrition. Well, Rambo was the best.”
MAGIC NUMBER: 16
September 5, 2009
Cardinals 2, Pirates 1
1. Lankford was originally drafted by the Cubs, in the third round of the 1986 draft, but he did not sign. The Cardinals drafted him a year later, also in the third round.
2. He took over for Willie McGee as Cardinals center fielder in 1991 and seemed a natural heir to Willie, hitting an MLB-high 15 triples and stealing 44 bases. He would transform himself more into a power hitter as the years went along, though, never notching that many triples or SBs again.
3. He did, however, famously strike out a lot, including a career-high 151 times in 1998, the year Mark McGwire called him “the best lineup protection I’ve ever had.” Though that seems like a lot, comparatively speaking, especially when one considers today’s players, it isn’t: That total, the career high for the notorious strikeout-prone Lankford, is fewer than Mark Reynolds, Ryan Howard, Carlos Pena and Adam Dunn have right now, today, with a month left in the season. (At current paces, at least seven other players — and probably more — should reach 151 by season’s end.)
4. He ran into some off-the-field trouble in 2004, his final year with the Cardinals (after a brief sabbatical with San Diego, to whom he was traded for Woody Williams), when a female “associate” smashed his window with a rock and punched him in the face. She claimed he punched her as well, but later retracted. The odds are excellent that you never heard about this incident, even though it involved one of the Cardinals most popular players, right in the middle of the season. St. Louis is a very different media town than New York.
5. Lankford and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa didn’t mesh well after Mark McGwire left, and LaRussa once gave him a “leave of absence” after Lankford complained that the team didn’t give him the respect he deserved. (He was traded to the Padres two days later. For time capsule’s sake, the final Cardinals lineup that strange season with Lankford in it at Busch was: Vina 2B, Polanco SS, Pujols RF, McGwire 1B, Edmonds CF, Paquette 3B, Lankford LF, Matheny C, Hermanson P.) Time heals such wounds, though, and Lankford earned his first National League Championship ring during a final tour of duty with the team in 2004, even though he was not on the postseason roster. His underappreciated career inspired The Ray Lankford Wing of The Hall of Fame, a fictional museum full of baseball players who were great, but not quite great enough for the Hall of Fame. And when they tore down Busch Stadium after the 2005 season, they secured that the man who hit more home runs there than any other player was not Mark McGwire, or Ken Boyer, or Jim Edmonds, or Lou Brock. It was Ray Lankford.
MAGIC NUMBER: 15
September 6, 2009
Mets 4, Cubs 2
1. As a kid growing up in Diamond Bar, California, Edmonds was well-known not just for being an amazing natural athlete, but also for being ambidextrous. He was a lefty in the outfield but threw righthanded when the played the infield.
2. He grew up a diehard fan of the California Angels and patterned his hitting style after Rod Carew, his favorite player. In 1988, the Angels drafted him in the seventh round. He would make his debut for the Angels in 1993, and he first earned a full-time job in 1994, benefiting from an injury to Bo Jackson to go from a part-time first baseman to a starting left fielder. The general manager of that Angels team was Whitey Herzog.
3. Edmonds was not popular with his Angels teammates, who found him aloof and lackadaisical. It was Crew, then hitting coach for the Angels, who took him aside and explained why his teammates didn’t like him. He also told him to “try to lift the ball more” with his swing. By 1997, he was the Angels’ full-time center fielder and winning the first of his eight Gold Gloves.
4. Edmonds never truly won over Angels’ brass, and before the 2000 season, clearly, a trade was in the works. The Yankees, in desperate need of a center fielder, were considered the favorite, but they were unwilling to trade top prospect Alfonso Soriano. Right before the season began, the Cardinals, eager to find a slugger to pair with Mark McGwire, won the bidding, sending the Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy and starting pitcher Kent Bottenfield. He was instantly popular with Cardinals fans and management, including manager Tony LaRussa, who said, “I can’t fathom why no one would like this guy.” He also became close friends with Darryl Kile, and was devastated by his death. He now has a tattoo that says “DK57” on his right wrist.
5. Edmonds’ best season was 2004, when he hit .301, with 42 homers, 102 runs and 111 RBIs while winning another Gold Glove. He also hit an epic, mind-altering homer off Dan Micili (who foolishly tried to sneak a high fastball past him) in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. (Still the greatest series this reporter has ever seen.) His only hit, however, in the World Series that year was a bunt single. Fortunately, Edmonds was a key contributor, concussed and all, to the 2006 World Championship team. And contrary to published reports, after the Cardinals traded him before the 2008 season to the San Diego Padres (for potential 2010 starting third baseman David Freese), he never, ever played for the Chicago Cubs. He still owns the club 15 in St. Louis, at 1900 Locust Street.
MAGIC NUMBER: 14
September 7, 2009
Cardinals 3, Brewers 0
1. Boyer grew up in Alba, Missouri, about 4 1/2 hours west of St. Louis. Alba has a population of 588 people … yet has sent three different men to the Major Leagues. Thing is, they were all named Boyer: Ken and his brothers Clete and Cloyd. Alba’s also had four other men play in the minor leagues … also all Boyers. Seven different Boyer brothers played professional baseball; there were 14 Boyer siblings in total. It must have been very difficult for the Boyer boys to date in Alba.
2. Boyer was instantly a brilliant fielding third baseman, but when the Cardinals needed to break in rookie Eddie Kasko at third in 1957, he played center field … and had the best fielding percentage in baseball. He was back to third base in 1958 and won his first Gold Glove.
3. His best season, the year he won the MVP, was 1964. He hit .295 with 24 homers and 119 RBIs, but he’s most famous for the grand slam he hit off Yankees pitcher Al Downing to win Game Four 4-3. His brother Clete played for the Yankees — it was the Yanks’ fifth straight World Series, and their 14th over the last 16 seasons — and he admitted, years later, that he was secretly happy the Cardinals had won so his brother could have a championship. “He was the leader of our team in every way,” said fellow 1964 champion Mike Shannon.
4. He retired in 1969 and was the Cardinals’ manager a decade later, leading the team to a third-place finish. He was fired 51 games into the 1980 season — in between games of a doubleheader — and was ultimately replaced by Whitey Herzog.
5. He was diagnosed with lung cancer just a year after his Cardinals firing and died in September 1982. The Cardinals team that won the World Series that season wore black armbands in his honor.
MAGIC NUMBER: 13
September 8, 2009
Cardinals 4, Brewers 3
1. His Wikipedia page reports that Ryan’s father holds the record for “most hits by a Loyola Marymount Lion with a wooden bat.” Which is kind of awesome.
2. Ryan was suspended from his college team, Lewis-Clark State in Idaho, four different times and finally kicked out of the program. His high school coach said, “Sometimes he didn’t focus as much as I thought he could as a student.”
3. For some reason, his baseball card for the Alaska Goldpanners in 2002 shows him batting left handed and hunched over as if someone is standing on his back.
4. According to Cardinals Diaspora, Ryan has always been eccentric. He has never been diagnosed with ADHS, but he has always worn his socks like that. Quoth Diaspora: “I had an interesting conversation with one of Brendan Ryan’s old HS coaches, Dave Kramer. The gentleman was extremely friendly and had lots of good things to say about Ryan. He called Brendan a “very intense kid” who was very dedicated to playing baseball. When I asked him about Brendan’s supposed lack of focus (see ADHD comment above), he made it clear that Brendan is a smart kid, but it is all in how you approach him to get him to understand what you want. Kramer commented that Ryan had a really strict and intense college coach, but said that Ryan needed that type of structure. He thinks that TLR is at no loss for intensity and thinks that is good for Ryan. Brendan played 2nd base in HS, and Kramer said that he never had a 2nd baseman play for him like Brendan did. He did say that Brendan hasn’t really changed much from HS, besides the shaved head and getting a little skinnier. He said, “Yep, he still wears his socks up around his nose.” I guess he’s not a fan of the socks.”
5. His nickname, The Boog (of course), is in honor of Boog Powell. Mercifully. There are a million worse reasons to be called The Boog.
MAGIC NUMBER: 12
September 9, 2009
Cardinals 5, Brewers 1
1. Lawless was the 433rd player selected in the 1978 MLB draft, by the Cincinnati Reds. He once joked, “that was the only time I didn’t have the mustache.”
2. He only received more than 100 at-bats in a season once, in 1982, with the Reds. He hit .212 and spent 1983 in the minor leagues.
3. The Montreal Expos had grown tired of an aging, ineffective and perpetually obnoxious Pete Rose, and they planned to release him. Upon hearing this, the Reds, who were interested in having Rose be their player-manager (GREAT idea, by the way), offered to send a player to the Expos to spare Rose’s ego. That player was Tom Lawless, who ended up being the only player in the history of baseball to have been traded for Pete Rose.
4. He was traded to the Cardinals in 1985 for something called Mickey Mahler. He barely played — he batted once in the 1985 World Series, and popped out — and basically shuffled in between AAA and the majors. When the Cardinals finished their NL pennant 1987 season, Lawless had been to the plate exactly 29 times.
5. Terry Pendleton was one of the many Cardinals injured going into the playoffs, and manager Whitey Herzog had little to replace him. Desperate, in Game 4 of the World Series, he turned to Lawless. In the fourth inning of that game, Lawless hit a breaking ball from Frank Viola into deep left field. Though it was not particularly powerfully struck, and appeared to be headed for an out, Lawless, who had hit exactly two home runs in his career at that point, flipped the bat behind him confidently, like duh obviously that ball’s gone. It barely cleared the fence, and Lawless had a three run homer that helped lead to a 7-2 victory. Afterwards, he told reporters: “When I hit it I knew I hit it good, but I wasn’t sure it was out. ‘Holy cow,’ I said to myself. The ball went out and I went blank for a second. Then I flipped the bat. I knew if it wasn’t out, it would have been caught.” He had 10 hits for the Cardinals in 1988, including one homer, and was out of the game by 1990. He’s now a minor league manager. That was his only hit of the 1987 World Series.
MAGIC NUMBER: 11
September 12, 2009
Reds 7, Cubs 5
1. Oquendo made his major league debut in May 1983, when he was only 19 years old. He was signed by the Mets as a free agent when he was 15. He has been involved in professional baseball for 30 years.
2. His rookie year was not a productive one, perhaps because he was, you know, 19. He walked 19 times that season and struck out 60 times, with one home run and a .213 average. Later he would become known for his batting eye; somehow, he reached base at a .375 clip in 1989 despite having only one home run. (He did somehow hit seven home runs in 1988.)
3. With the game tied 5-5 in the 16th inning on May 14, 1988, manager Whitey Herzog, out of relievers, called on Oquendo to pitch. He threw three scoreless innings before giving up two runs in the 19th inning to the Braves, becoming the first non-pitcher to record a decision in 20 years. He walked six men, struck out one and threw 65 pitches. His one strikeout? Deion Sanders. It was one of three relief appearances for Oquendo in his career; his lifetime ERA was 12.00.
4. Contrary to popular belief, Oquendo never played all eight positions in the same game. The most he ever hit was three: On September 24, 1988, he played second base, shortstop and catcher in a 14-1 loss to the Mets. That was in the midst of a 1-for-26 slump to end that season.
5. Whitey Herzog was the first to dub him with the “Secret Weapon” nickname, though most Cardinals fans will hear his nickname through the rasp of Jack Buck and the cackle of Mike Shannon. In Puerto Rico — where he is a legend, where he manages the national team in the World Baseball Classic — he is known as “Cheito,” which is commonly translated, quite loosely, as “the revolutionary.” If Tony LaRussa were to ever leave the Cardinals, Oquendo is considered a top prospect to become Cardinals manager, in part due to his close friendship with Albert Pujols, and in part because Jose Oquendo is freaking awesome.
MAGIC NUMBER: 10
September 14, 2009
Cardinals 11, Marlins 6
1. Before you consider anything about Johnny Mize, you must remember that Johnny Mize had a unibrow. A substantial, profound one.
2. Mize arrived in the majors in 1936 and immediately started hitting; he hit .329 with 93 RBIs straight out of the minors. During his seven years with the Cardinals, he notched an OPS above 1.000 three times. His best season, 1939, he had an OPS of 1.070, a season roughly analogous to Albert Pujols’ 2004 totals.
3. Before the 1942 season, Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey traded Mize to the New York Giants for for Bill Lohrman, Johnny McCarthy, Ken O’Dea and $50,000, with the belief that Mize was about to decline. He did, but only because he missed the 1943-45 seasons because he was fighting with World War II.
4. Mize never made a World Series until 1949, when he was 36 years old. He then commenced to win five in the next six years for the New York Yankees.
5. Until Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, Mize held the Cardinals’ single-season record with 43. Unfortunately for Mize, he was unpopular with sportswriters while he played, and was never given an MVP award. More damning, this unpopularity kept him out of the Hall of Fame until 1981, when the Veterans Committee finally put him in, at the age of 68.
MAGIC NUMBER: 9
September 16, 2009
Brewers 9, Cubs 5
1. Slaughter was a multi-sport star in high school in Roxboro, North Carolina, but turned down a college scholarship from Guilford College to play baseball so that he could work at a textile mill with his older brothers. It wasn’t until a sportswriter saw him play for a semipro team and subsequently mention him to a Cardinals scout that he was ever on the radar of the Major Leagues.
2. While in the minor leagues in Columbus, Georgia (hometown of this reporter’s fiancee, he feels obliged to mention), a coach, witnessing Slaughter walk in from the field at the end of an inning, said, “Son, if you’re tired, we’ll try to get you some help.” From then on, Slaughter sprinted every minute he was on the field. He was in the Major Leagues with the Cardinals a year later.
3. Slaughter enlisted with the Army Air Force late in the 1942 season, but, for morale, the Army decided to delay his deployment until after the World Series. That series was the first to be broadcast live to troops overseas, and at the end of Game Four, the radio announcers asked Slaughter to say something to the troops. He went on air and said, “Hi, fellows. We played a great game today, and we on. And we are going to finish this thing tomorrow. Then I’m going to report for duty in the Army Air Corps and join you.” Slaughter homered in Game Five to clinch the series and was deployed a week later.
4. Sadly, the reports of Slaughter’s racism do not appear to be overstated. A year after he returned from the war, he and teammate Terry Moore tried (and failed) to convince the rest of the Cardinals to strike in protest of Jackie Robinson being allowed to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. When the Cardinals played the Dodgers in August 1947, with Robinson playing first base, Slaughter hit an easy groundball to the shortstop. Though he was thrown out by 15 feet, Slaughter slid hard into Robinson’s left leg with his spike. Robinson fell over, stood up and jogged to the dugout without saying a word. When he was inducted to the Hall of Fame — not until 1985; the delay was directly related to the reports that he’d tried to organize a strike — he denied that he was a racist. ”I’ve never in my life spoke against a black player,” Slaughter said at his induction ceremonies. ”I was accused of spiking Jackie Robinson, but I stepped on a lot of players.”
5. His “Mad Dash” — the crazy sprint toward home that won Game 7 of the 1946 World Series — would have never happened had Red Sox center fielder Dom DiMaggio not been injured and out of the game. Slaughter knew that, and knew replacement Leon Culberson had a weak arm, so as soon as Harry Walker’s single hit the outfield, he vowed to come all the way home. He scored from first on a single. Slaughter always gave Walker credit for the run and took little himself, claiming “it’s what anyone would do.” He died in 2002 at the age of 86.
MAGIC NUMBER: 8
September 17, 2009
Brewers 7, Cubs 4
1. Gaetti grew up in Centralia, Illinois, and, after being kicked off the team at Northwest Missouri State University, spent one year at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, which happens to be the hometown of this reporter. (Also a Lake Land alum: Former Cardinals catcher Glenn Brummer, who, somewhere, this very second, is shocking everyone in his general vicinity by stealing home.) Gaetti played for the Lakers in 1978 — while a three-year-old Will Leitch lived just two miles away from campus — and led the team to the state championship.
2. Gaetti was famous for being a hellraiser — when asked about why he was booted from NMSU, Gaetti will only say, “Without getting into great detail, I was not allowed to go back to Northwest Missouri State for a season. My coach at Lake Land just thought I was a weirdo” — and carried that reputation into the Major Leagues, where he played for the Minnesota Twins. He became best friends and (heavy) drinking buddies with Kent Hrbek. When Gaetti made the All-Star Game in 1988, he wrote a veiled obsene reference on his batting glove that only Hrbek would understand. Manager Tom Kelly once called the duo “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Drunk.”
3. Gaetti changed his ways at the end of his Twins career, embracing Christianity and renouncing his days as an accomplished sinner. Hrbek did not, and the schism essentially ended their friendship. In his book “Tales From The Twins Dugout,” Hrbek recalled watching the All-Star Game and seeing Gaetti flash his batting glove at the camera. He had written a Bible verse on it. Hrbek wrote, “I just broke down and started crying. I knew my friend was gone.”
4. Gaetti joined the Cardinals in 1996, playing for a team that was not expected to contend. But under new manager Tony LaRussa — who had stacked the team with many veteran players like Dennis Eckersley, Rick Honeycutt and Mike Gallego; also on that team was Eric Ludwick, older brother of current Cardinals Ryan Ludwick — the Cardinals shocked everyone by winning the National League Central and sweeping the National League Divisional Series 3-0 over the San Diego Padres. Gaetti went 1-for-11 in that series, but made up for it in the National League Championship Series, where he hit a Game 2 grand slam off Greg Maddux in the top of the seventh inning to even the series 1-1. That grand slam also happened to occur on this reporter’s 21st birthday. It is the last element of the evening he remembers.
5. Gaetti has his own cult. No, really, he does: It was founded in 1998 by a group of students at the University of North Dakota who “cheered for Gaetti not just because of his mullet, flapless helmet, wrist hair, and huge bat, but because he busted his ass every night, brought intensity and a commitment of fundamental baseball to the field, and was not out there for a fashion show like Jeter and those other Backstreet Boy players. He was/is the workingman’s player….a Miller High Life man of sorts.” They ended up buying the official domain name, and have since met Gaetti (who finds the site hilarious, if a bit odd). The site’s founding credo: “Three things are certain, The Gary Gaetti Cult believes in individual liberties, rock ‘n’ roll, and of course the G-Man himself. The year is 2009 and The Cult is now roughly 11 years old. It all started back in 1998 when we were attending the University of North Dakota drinking and dreaming on weekends, and weekdays for that matter, watching Gaetti and the Cubs on WGN in the afternoons at 514. At the time, we were young men who had our first taste of freedom, with a beer in one hand and an American flag in the other, it was a time of testing boundaries, causing trouble, pulling pranks, listening to country gospel and heavy metal, and running amuck as free men. We were sports fans and were looking for a player that represented “us”….that man was simply Gary Gaetti. Still today, the average cult member enjoys: watching quality sports (baseball, hockey, football), shooting guns, burning fossil fuels, riding motorcycles, and running pranks on friends and enemies. The page is what it is. I guess time and space met, shared a can of beer, and The Cult was formed.” It also happens to be the only site this reporter has ever visited that, upon typing the URL and hitting enter, the songs “No Easy Way Out” (from Rocky IV), “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and “Balls To The Wall” begin playing. Which is rather fantastic.
MAGIC NUMBER: 6
September 18, 2009
Cardinals 3, Cubs 2
1. Musial was born on November 21, 1920, in Donora, Pennsylvania. Also born on November 20 in Donora, Pennsylvania, 49 years later, was Ken Griffey Jr., making Griffey, as Bill James once wrote, “the second-best left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder ever born in Donora, Pennsylvania on November 21.”
2. Musial, whose father always called him “Stashu,” married Lillian Musial when they were both 19 and Stan was playing for the Cardinals D league team in Florida. Three months later, Stan, primarily a pitcher, hurt his arm while playing the outfield, weakening it, as Stan later put it, “at the root.” By 1941, Musial was a full time hitter. He made it to the Majors at the end of that season, less than a year after the injury that cost him his pitching career.
3. Musial was instantly a star, notching an OPS of 1.023 in just 12 games and inspiring Cubs manager Jimmy Wilson, after watching Musial play a doubleheader against his team, to say, “Nobody, but nobody, can be that good.” By the 1943, he was in the All-Star Game, though there was a fear at one point that he might miss the whole season because of a contract dispute. In his first three seasons, Musial played in three World Series and won two of them.
4. After missing the 1945 season for World War II, Musial returned to the Cardinals in 1946 … and earned himself a nickname. During a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, sportswriter Bob Broeg noticed a chant coming from the Ebbets Field fans. He couldn’t make out what it was, so he asked around: They were chanting “Here comes the man” every time Musial walked to the plate. (This is kind of amazing. It’s difficult to imagine fans being so organized today.) Broeg called him “The Man” in his game story, and it stuck. 1946 was also the last World Series that Musial appeared in; the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in seven games.
5. Of all the Musial stories — and there are many — this reporter’s favorite involves the 1955 All-Star Game. The score was tied in the bottom of the 12th, and Yogi Berra, a St. Louisian and a close friend of Musial’s, said, “My feet are killing me, Stan.” Musial turned around and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll have you sitting at home in no time.” He then hit a two run homer to win the game. Musial’s 6 was the first number the Cardinals ever retired, and he was the general manager of the 1967 World Series championship team. At Busch Stadium, they still show Musial playing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” on his harmonica, and he was on the field for the All-Star Game this season with Albert Pujols and President Obama. He will be 89 years old in November.
MAGIC NUMBER: 4
September 19, 2009
Cardinals 3, Cubs 2
1. Hornsby’s odd first name came from his mother’s maiden name, but, despite its spelling, it was actually pronounced “Roger” for most of his life. By the time he became a famous baseball player, though, he relented at allowed its common phonetic pronunciation to be used. So whether you call him “Roger” or “Rogers,” you’re right.
2. When he came into the major leagues, he was undersized and not considered a major prospect. In fact, the Cardinals attempted to sell his to Little Rock of the Southern League for $500; Little Rock turned them down. Frustrated by his slap-hitting tendencies, Hornsby vowed to bulk up one offseason. Today, he would use advanced training techniques or increase his supplement intake. (Or, you know, he might just use steroids.) Then, without those options, he spent the winter before the 1916 season doing intense farm labor and showed up to spring training with 25 pounds of new muscle weight.
3. Hornsby batted .327 at the age of 21 in his second full season, and led baseball with a .868 OPS, not that anyone knew what OPS was. If you want to understand how much baseball has changed since then. that .868 OPS would currently rank him 45 in the major leagues, just behind Johnny Damon.
4. Hornsby had a few “off” years, but starting in 1920, he rattled off a series of seasons unprecedented in baseball history. He would lead the majors in OPS nine of the next 10 seasons, he would bat over .400 three times and won two MVPs and a World Series. (Strangely, he batted. 245 in his two World Series appearances.) He’s most famous for his ungodly .424 batting average in 1924, but he might have been better in his next season: He hit. 403 with 39 home runs and 143 RBIs. His OPS that season was the highest in baseball history by someone not named Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth or Ted Williams. Also: He was the team’s manager that year.
5. After 1931, in which he led the NL in OPS one last time while playing for the Cubs, he fell off a cliff, injury-wise, never notching more than 108 plate appearances again. He kept managing though, and trying to push his uncompromising personality to his players. He was famous for his focus on the game, to the point that The Rajah not only did not smoke or drink, he would not read or go to the movies, lest it bother his hitting eye.He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1942 and died in 1963.
MAGIC NUMBER: 3
September 21, 2009
Cardinals 7, Astros 3
1. Herzog, one of the more successful managers in baseball history, is considered a terrible player, but this is probably not giving him his due. He was in the major leagues for eight seasons, no small amount of time, and was considered an excellent fielder at every position he played. Casey Stengel, one of his managers, when asked which men who played for him had the most power, said, “Mickey Mantle, but Whitey Herzog once hit a ball as far as anybody I’d seen.”
2. Only three years after he retired as a player (at the age of 32), he was the director of player development for the New York Mets. He spend 17 of the next 18 years as a manager, of the Texas Rangers, California Angels, Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals.
3. Herzog had the undying respect of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whom he asked to manage his team several times, to no avail. Herzog’s success with smaller market teams always confounded Steinbrenner. ”After we won in 1987,” Herzog said once, ”George Steinbrenner asked me how I could win with Jose Oquendo in right field when the Yankees couldn’t win with Dave Winfield in right field. He couldn’t figure that out.”
4. Herzog was so angry after Don Denkinger’s botched call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that he threatened to pull his team off the field. In his book “White Rat,” he wrote that he wished he had. “I should have just sent everybody home,” he wrote. “Wouldn’t have made a difference, but it would have shown just how mad I was.” His postgame comments are immortal: “We’re going to win the World Series and that bleeper [Denkinger] blows the call. Now we’ve got the bleeper behind the plate tomorrow. We’ve got about as much chance as the man in the moon.” He actually said “bleeper.”
5. As affable and colorful as Herzog was, reporters often learned that he did not suffer fools lightly. Let’s quote Wikipedia: “Herzog also expressed an interest in becoming President of the National League when that job opened in 1986.The role eventually went to Yale University President A. Bartlett Giamatti, who also became the Commissioner of baseball in 1989. In an interview, after Giamatti accepted the job of NL President, Marv Albert jokingly asked Herzog if he would be interested in the job opening for President of Yale University. Herzog replied, “I get the idea you’re trying to be funny, and that’s not funny at all.” This reporter, while in college, once asked Herzog, “So, did you ever consider coaching other sports?” (Not the best question, admittedly. This reporter was 18 at the time.) Herzog said, “that’s a stupid question, son. Just a stupid question. No. That’s your answer. Are you happy?” This reporter had just talked to Whitey Herzog for 10 minutes and was therefore very, very happy.
MAGIC NUMBER: 2
September 22, 2009
Cardinals 11, Astros 2
1. Schoendienst grew up in Germantown, Illinois, only a hour or so outside of St. Louis, and signed with the team in 1942 after he was discharged from the army with an eye injury. His rookie year was 1945, and he played left field. Another rookie in St. Louis that season: One-armed Pete Grey, who batted .218 for the St. Louis Browns.
2. Red was most well-known for his fielding at second base; Stan Musial once said he had “the best hands I’d ever seen.” Musial would have had plenty of opportunities to come to this conclusion: The two men were roommates for seven years.
3. He played in 10 All-Star games as a Cardinals before being traded to the New York Giants in 1956. He won a World Series the next season (his second, after one with the Cardinals in 1946). Then the injuries set in. In 1958-59, he had bruised ribs, a broken finger, pleurisy and, ultimately, tuberculosis. The TB would cost him part of his lung, but he returned to the game, signing with the Cardinals in 1961 for the final three seasons of his playing career. He was also a coach on those teams.
4. He took over as manager of the Cardinals in 1965, the year after they’d won a World Series, and guided them to another one in 1967. He managed the Cardinals until 1976, though he had interim stints in both 1980 and 1990.
5. After the Cardinals fired him as manager, he was a coach for Oakland for two seasons before returning to St. Louis for good as a coach, “special assistant to the general manager” and general face of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. The sight of him Red hitting fungoes for a game is something any Cardinals fan over the last 40 years can vividly remember. And the man was roommates with Stan Musial.
MAGIC NUMBER: 1
September 23, 2009
Brewers 3, Cubs 2
1. Ozzie grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and was accepted to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on an academic scholarship. He had to walk-on to play on the baseball team.
2. Ozzie was drafted in 1977 by the San Diego Padres and was in the majors by 1978. He only played 60 minor league games, for low-level short-season Walla Walla and was rushed into a starting spot with the Padres immediately. He hit .258 in his first season but regressed to .211 the next season. He wouldn’t hit higher than .258 again until 1985.
3. He was traded to the Cardinals before the 1982 season, because of a conflict with Padres management, for fellow “malcontent” Garry Templeton. He immediately won the fans over with his dazzling defense and his signature move, a backflip as he ran onto the field. He did not invent this movie in St. Louis; he had done it for fun during batting practice with the Padres, and San Diego’s public relations director suggested he do it on Fan Appreciation Day. It stuck.
4. Ozzie became the most popular player in baseball with the Cardinals and was the first player ever to earn $2.5 million in a single season in a deal signed in 1985. He finished second in MVP voting in 1987 — and should have won — and won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves.
5. His signature Cardinals moment was in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS, when he homered off Tom Neidenfuer, his first ever left-handed homer (he actually had six right handed that season), and inspired Jack Buck’s “Go Crazy, Folks, Go Crazy!” call. If you watch, the pitch before features Ozzie clearly swinging for the fences, inspiring a chuckle from Buck. In his last season with the Cardinals — Tony LaRussa’s first as Cardinals manager — he hit .282 and kind of had a better season than Royce Clayton. His last hit — he had a total of 2,494, counting postseason — was in the NLDS against the Padres. He, sadly, went 0-for-9 in the NLCS against the Braves. He also caused this reporter, a catcher by disposition and trade, to toss tennis balls against the front step of his childhood home for hours on end, diving for balls even if they were right to him. He also caused one very unfortunate attempt at a backflip.
And now … here we are, the St. Louis Cardinals, 2009 National League Central Champs. Pop out the champagne, gentlehumans.