A couple of days ago, I posted an article where I tried to put the Lance Berkman signing in some sort of historical context. In case you wanted to know who some of the players and events were in the Roger Maris scenario, here are the answers. If you tried to play along at home, and I hope that you did, how did you do ?
(1) The Cardinals were just a few years removed from a Championship season, but had largely disappointed fans since then. There was far too much talent on this team not be playing in post-season.
Answer: 1965 and 1966. Even though there were few changes from the team that challenged the Dodgers in 1963 and defeated the Phillies and Reds in 1964, the 1965 Cardinals were a huge disappointment. It was especially tough on lefties Ray Sadecki and Curt Simmons. On the offensive side, only Curt Flood and Tim McCarver kept pace with their ’64 performance. Dick Groat, Bill White and Ken Boyer had a particularly hard time and would soon be gone. Julian Javier suffered a devastating injury, but we’ll talk about that in a future I-70 Baseball article. The situation didn’t improve in 1966 and that lead to the mid-season deal that brought 1967 NL MVP Orlando Cepeda to the Cardinals.
(2) Their manager was a fan favorite, a former infielder and would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame
Answer: Red Schoendienst. A Cardinal for most of his 19 seasons, Red would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989. He would also manage the Cardinals for 14 seasons, including some interim assignments. He would win 2 National League Pennants (1967, 1968) and one World Series title (1967). Red represents what it means to play like a Cardinal.
(3) A new General Manager had taken over from one of the best in the game.
Answer: Bob Howsam. He took over for Bing Devine in August 1964, just before the Cardinals got hot and overtook the Phillies for the National League Pennant. While Devine’s firing was done in haste, Howsam proved to be a more than adequate replacement, and successfully retooled the Cardinals and put them back into post-season. He also did the same for the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970’s, using many players he drafted while in St. Louis.
(4) The departing GM would soon surface at a rival and start building his new dynasty.
Answer: Bing Devine. He would soon take over the New York Mets, first as General Manager and then as President, and transform them into a championship, much like he did with the Cardinals. He would soon return to the Cardinals. He would change sports and then serve as General Manager to the St. Louis Football Cardinals (the Big Red). His second tour with St. Louis wasn’t as successful, even though he continued to bring talent into the organization.
(5) The new GM would start making all sorts of changes, including sending away a fan favorite third baseman. The Cardinals had subsequently struggled to find an adequate placement for the former star, and were still looking when this deal was made.
Answer: Ken Boyer. Applying Branch Rickey’s rule, “Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late,” Bob Howsam traded Ken Boyer to the New York Mets at the end of the 1965 season. In return the Cardinals received left handed pitcher Al Jackson and third baseman Charlie Smith. Smith would play third base in 1966, but not any better than Boyer had the previous year. Smith would soon be sent to New York for Roger Maris, the final piece to the 1967 and 1968 championship team.
(6) The catcher was considered a leader on the club, but there wasn’t an obvious backup in case he went down to an injury or needed some time off.
Answer: Tim McCarver. McCarver was one of the better signal callers in the game and managed the Cardinals pitching staff brilliantly. He was also a dependable bat in the lineup, bringing up the rear of the power part of the order. McCarver’s performance in the 1964 World Series could easily have earned him the MVP award, if not for some heroics by his battery mate, Bob Gibson. He would go 11-23 in the series with a double, triple and home run for a .478 batting average. Add 5 walks and his OBP would scream at .552. He would be held in check by the Red Sox in 1967, but had a very good series in 1968, nearly rivaling ’64.
There was help coming in the farm system with a (7) most promising youngster that looked like he could swing the bat like a lumberjack, but he was still a few years away.
Answer: Ted Simmons. Simmons was drafted in 1967 and would get his first taste of the major leagues as a September call-up in 1968. Joe Torre would take over at first base in 1969 and then move behind the plate for a short time in 1970. By June of that year, Simmon took over and Torre moved to 3rd base. Simmons would own the backstop position for the Cardinals until Whitey Herzog retooled the team in 1981. Simmons was one of the most dependable catchers and was a prolific hitter. He played in the shadow of Johnny Bench, who was a much better defensive catcher and hit with more power, but Simmons was the far better hitter. Simba should be in the Hall of Fame.
The (8) veteran had already won 20 games and was considered one of the most competitive pitchers of his day.
Answer: Bob Gibson. Nobody was more competitive. Some could match him, Don Drysdale and Ferguson Jenkins to name a couple, but nobody had more fire. Joaquin Andujar and Chris Carpenter are the only other Cardinals that had that same intensity, but neither could sustain it over a decade and a half like Gibson did. Gibson came close to winning 20 games in the Johnny Keane era (1963 and 1964). He would win 20 in 1965 and 1966. Only an injury prevented him from repeating in 1967. Gibson would follow that up with the single greatest year for a pitcher in the last 50 years, if not in the history of the game. He would also win 20 or more in 1969 and 1970 as well as coming close in 1972. He would win 2 World Series MVP awards (1964, 1967), 2 Cy Young awards (1968, 1970) and the National League MVP in 1968. Yeah, Gibby was kinda good.
The (9) younger pitcher, who had spent some time in the bullpen, was similar in body stature, but didn’t have the outward intensity as his mentor. He would soon flirt with a 20 win season of his own.
Answer: Nelson Briles. Briles broke in with the Cardinals as a reliever in 1965. He would be in and out of the rotation as he struggled through the 1966 campaign. The Cardinals tried to trade him at the start of the 1967 season, and fortunately failed to find a suitor. When Gibson went down with a broken leg midway through the 1967 season, Briles stepped up and became a second ace on the staff. He would win 9 in a row to end the regular season, win his only decision in the World Series and start off the 1968 season on fire. He would flirt with 20 wins in 1968, falling one win short.
(10) Another right hander in the rotation had been suffering from recurring arm troubles and each off-season brought the hope that he would return to his earlier winning form, but as of yet, that hadn’t happened.
Answer: Ray Washburn. Washburn entered the National League like a bull in a china cabinet. He threw hard and took no prisoners. Arm troubles developed while flirting with a perfect game (April 27, 1963) shut him down for a couple of years, and another freak injury would sideline him for some time in 1967. He would finally put it together in 1968 and fulfill his promise when he threw a no-hitter in San Francisco.
For the trivia buffs, on May 12, 1966, Washburn threw the first pitch at the new Busch Stadium. He also appeared in relief at the opener of Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Ironically, both games were against the Braves.
(11) The surprise in the rotation was a young lefty that had started turning heads around the league. This youngster was going to be very good some day.
Answer: Steve Carlton (although if you said Larry Jaster for the Jaime Garcia parallel, you would not be wrong). Yeah, Lefty was going to be very good, like Hall of Fame good. Unfortunately for Cardinals fans, a contract dispute similar to that of Curt Flood would get Carlton sent to the Phillies where he would dominate the National League.
(12) The bullpen featured a most unusual and reluctant closer. He was a pitch to contact type with a relatively low strikeout rate. He was a veteran, and a former starter for another team.
Answer: Joe Hoerner. Hoerner had been a starter in the Houston organization and failed to develop. The Cardinals would take a chance on him and put him in the bullpen with Hal Woodeshick, another Houston cast-off. When Woodeshick started slipping, Hoerner took over and proved to be one of the better closers in the league. He also had the UGLIEST pitching motion I’d ever seen. U-G-L-Y. He would stand up straight in his delivery and sling the ball side-arm to the plate. His follow-through looked like a duck waddling toward the third base line. All that was missing was a giant “quack”. But Hoerner was amazingly effective. He would through inside to both righties and lefties and nobody could intimidate him.
(13) The shortstop was considered one of the best defensive players in the league, and many teams coveted his glove. Unfortunately he couldn’t hit worth a lick – but man, could he flash some leather and did he ever have a cannon of an arm. We would never be invited to an All Star Game, but would soon win a Gold Glove.
Answer: Dal Maxvill. Maxvill took over for an injured Julian Javier in the 1964 World Series and flashed his glove in front of a national TV audience. After a disappointing 1965 season by Dick Grote, Maxvill took over at short. He was not a high average hitter, but really wasn’t that bad in the clutch. It always seemed like a Maxvill hit was in the middle of some late inning rally.
(14) This trade caused a right handed hitting platoon outfielder to move to third base.
Answer: Mike Shannon. Shannon took over in right field midway through the 1964 season. He struggled in 1965 but rebounded in 1966. When Roger Maris came to the Cardinals prior to the 1967 season, Shannon made the move to third base so that his right handed bat could stay in the lineup. He worked with Red Schoendienst relentlessly to learn the position, and it was a struggle in the beginning. By the end of 1967, Shannon was turning pretty 5-4-3 double plays.
(15) The player coming to the Cardinals in the trade had bad legs and couldn’t run terribly well.
Answer: Roger Maris. Maris is the hero of our little story and he captured the imagination of this little 7 year old. I’ve tried to give some indication of what Maris meant to the Cardinals, and you can read that here. A better place would be in the excellent biography, Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero. This is one of those books that every baseball fan should read. Several times.
(16) One player oozed personality and frequently stirred things up in the clubhouse. He was flamboyant and somewhat of a clown, but he always seemed to be having fun.
Answer: Orlando Cepeda. He would wear flamboyant clothing and was known to play lots of different music in the clubhouse. He also hustled and put up the offensive numbers so that you had to take him seriously as a teammate. He was no clown, but wanted the players around him to play with some gusto. And they did. Viva el Birdos, Cha Cha Cha.
(17) The moody and aloof star of the team, considered one of the best players of his era, stayed away from all of those shenanigans – in fact, the clowning around probably irritated him.
Answer: Bob Gibson. Drawing this parallel to Albert Pujols may not be entirely fair, but on-the-field body language suggests that Brendan Ryan may not be Albert’s favorite teammate.
(18) A group of young and exciting outfielders would soon be getting splinters as they rode the bench, and all of them would find success in the future with new teams.
Answer: Bobby Tolan, Alex Johnson, Ed Speizio (although an infielder), Ted Savage, Ron Davis, Dick Simpson and Joe Hague. Bobby Tolan and Alex Johnson would be the most popular choice here, but extra credit will be given for any of the other players. A special prize for Phil Gagliano, especially if you spelled his name correctly which might be difficult if you listened to Harry Caray back then.
I hope you enjoyed the original article and tried to fill in a few of the names for yourself. If you did, how did you do ?