The Glove Club: Curt Flood
From 1963 through 1968, the National League Gold Glove Awards for outfielders were won by three players. The same three outfielders. Year after year.
Lights Out: Stan Musial Demolishes New York Mets’ Pitching
When: July 8, 1962
Where: Polo Grounds, New York, New York
Game Time: 2:47
When the National League’s oldest player came up against its youngest team, the result was devastating to the arms on the New York Mets’ pitching staff. Continue reading
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(October 11, 1964) In Game Four of the World Series, Ken Boyer‘s sixth inning grand slam off Yankee starter Al Downing gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees. The St. Louis third baseman is the second National Leaguer to hit a post-season bases-loaded round-tripper.
The Cardinals’ victory tied the Series at two games apiece.
Boyer, who would be named the National League MVP for the 1964 season, got only one hit in the game, but it was the one that counted. Downing, the Yankee left-hander who went 13-8 during the regular season and led the American League with 217 strikeouts, had shut out the Cardinals over the first five innings, allowing only one hit.
The Cardinals loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Carl Warwick and Curt Flood, and an error by second baseman Bobby Richardson that allowed Cardinals shortstop Dick Groat to reach base safely. Boyer, the National League RBI champion for 1964, promptly launched a Downing fastball deep into the left field seats, putting the Cardinals ahead for good.
Boyer wasn’t the only hero for the Cardinals that day. Cardinals starter Ray Sadecki lasted only a third of an inning, allowing four consecutive hits and two runs before being replaced by Roger Craig. Craig was the Cardinals’ pitching star that day, allowing a third run on an Elston Howard single (run charged to Sadecki) before shutting down the Yankees’ bats, pitching 4.2 scoreless innings and striking out eight batters.
Craig was the pitcher of record when Boyer hit the game-winning home run. Ron Taylor shut out the Yankees over the final four innings for the save.
Lights Out: Larry Jaster Blanks Los Angeles for the Fifth Time … in One Season
When: September 28, 1966
Where: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
Game Time: 2:27
Pitcher Larry Jaster won 35 games during his seven-year major league career. Five of those victories came in a single season, against a single team: the team that would claim the National League pennant.
The left-handed Jaster was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1962 and made his debut with the Cardinals in 1965, pitching a scoreless inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game St. Louis lost 3-2.
Jaster made three starts after that initial appearance, going 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA. The Dodgers were the only team Jaster faced but didn’t beat in 1965. That would be rectified – repeatedly – in 1966.
Jaster was 1-1 when he first faced the Dodgers in 1966, beating them 2-0 on a seven-hit shutout, striking out seven batters and walking none. He faced the Dodgers again on July 3, and shut them out again on three hits.
On July 29, Jaster faced the Dodgers again and pitched another shutout, winning 4-0 on a five-hitter. When Jaster faced the Dodgers for the fifth time that season, they were still fighting off the Pittsburgh Pirates for the National League pennant. The Dodgers started 12-game winner Don Sutton against the Cardinals and Jaster, who was 10-5 coming into his final start on the season. Both teams were scoreless after three innings. Jaster retired the first 11 Los Angeles batters.
In the bottom of the fourth, Curt Flood reached base on an error and Tim McCarver walked. Two outs later, both runners scored on Ed Spiezo’s double. Jaster retired the Dodgers in order in the fifth and sixth innings. In the top of the seventh, Jaster gave up two singles, but struck out Al Ferrara to notch another scoreless inning. In the top of the eighth, Jaster gave up a walk but no runs. In the top of the ninth he retired the Dodgers in order.
Jaster’s four-hitter was his fifth shutout of the Dodgers that season: five starts, 45 innings, no runs. Over the rest of his career, which would last only five more seasons, Jaster would be 4-5 with a 4.21 ERA against the Dodgers.
The Dodgers survived Jaster to win the 1966 National League pennant by 1.5 games over the San Francisco Giants.
Homer Happy: Dick Allen
Dick Allen burst upon the major leagues in 1964 as the National League’s best rookie … and as one of the best sluggers in baseball. He would maintain his status as a premier slugger for a decade.
Allen was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1960. In four seasons, he hit with power at every rung in the minor league ladder, culminating with 33 home runs and 97 RBIs at Arkansas in the International League in 1963.
To say Allen was ready for major league pitching in 1964 was an understatement. As a rookie, he rocked the National League, batting .318 on 201 hits and leading the league with 125 runs scored and 13 triples. He also led the league with 138 strikeouts, but his power numbers made his tendency to strike out forgivable. He racked up 38 doubles, 29 home runs and 91 RBIs … all as a rookie. He was a near-unanimous choice as the National League Rookie of the Year.
The “sophomore jinx?” It nipped at Allen in 1965, but didn’t infect him all that much. He managed to hit .302 with 20 home runs and 85 RBIs while scoring 93 runs.
He rebounded in 1966, batting .317 (fourth in the National League), with 40 home runs (second to Hank Aaron’s 44), and 110 RBIs (third in the league). Allen scored 112 runs and his .632 slugging percentage led the National League.
He never put up those kinds of offensive numbers again, but he remained a major slugging threat for the rest of the 1960s and into the next decade. From 1967-1969, Allen batted .285 with a .551 slugging percentage, averaging 29 home runs and 85 RBIs per season.
Just after the close of the 1969 season, the Phillies sent Allen to the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven-player deal that was supposed to include the Cardinals’ All-Star outfielder Curt Flood. Flood’s refusal to comply with the trade set in motion the legal events that led to players’ free agency in the 1970s. Allen hit 34 home runs with 101 RBIs in his only season with the Cardinals.
Allen played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1971 (23 home runs, 90 RBIs) and then spent three seasons with the Chicago White Sox. He led the American League twice in home runs while playing for Chicago, and he won the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1972 when he batted .308 with 37 home runs, 113 runs batted in, and a .603 slugging percentage.
In 1975, Allen returned to the Phillies, but was only a shadow of the slugging monster who broke in with Philadelphia a decade earlier. He hit 12 home runs in 1975 and 15 in 1976, then finished his career in 1977 as a part-time player with the Oakland Athletics.
In 15 major league seasons, Allen batted .292 with 1,848 hits. He hit 351 home runs and drove in 1,119 runs. He was an All-Star seven times.
Dick Allen is one of the sluggers featured in Legends of Swing: The Home Run Hitters of the 1960s.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Tim McCarver
A generation of baseball fans familiar with Tim McCarver as a veteran baseball broadcaster might be surprised to learn how good he really was as a catcher for more than two decades.
McCarver was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals out of high school in 1959 and spent the next four seasons shuttling between St. Louis and various stops throughout the Cardinals’ farm system. In 1963, his first full season with the Cardinals, McCarver hit .289 and established himself as the preferred catcher for Bob Gibson.
He remained the Cardinals’ starting catcher through 1969. He led the National League in triples with 13 in 1966, the first catcher ever to do so. His most productive year as a hitter was 1967, when he hit .295 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 69 RBIs. He was an All-Star (for the second time) that season, and finished second in the Most Valuable Player balloting to teammate Orlando Cepeda.
McCarver started the 1970s with a new team, having been traded with Byron Browne, Curt Flood and Joe Hoerner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. (Flood refused to report to his new team. St. Louis later sent Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to the Phillies to complete the trade.) McCarver played for two years in Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Montreal Expos for John Bateman.
Over the next two seasons, McCarver became the game’s vagabond catcher, playing for Montreal, St. Louis again, and the Boston Red Sox before being re-acquired by the Phillies in 1975. For the next four seasons, he served primarily as the personal catcher for Steve Carlton. He was released by the Phillies after the 1979 season, but was re-signed and appeared in six games during the 1980 season, making McCarver the twenty-ninth player in major league history to appear in four different decades.
In 21 major league seasons, McCarver had 1,501 hits and a .271 career batting average.
Lights Out: Steve Carlton Strikes Out 19 New York Mets in a Losing Effort
When: September 15, 1969
Where: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
Game Time: 2:23
The hallmark of a championship team is that it knows how to find a way to win even when it isn’t at its best. Or when its opponent is.
The Cardinals’ starting pitcher, Steve Carlton, was having a breakout season in 1969. The 24-year-old Carlton had won 14 games in 1967 and 13 games in 1968, but was becoming more dominant as he matured. He was averaging eight strikeouts per nine innings and entered the game with a 1.92 earned run average. He was also on a two-game losing streak due to lack of support from a Cardinals’ lineup that had produced only two runs in his last pair of starts.
The Mets’ starter was Gary Gentry, who was 11-11 and coming off a six-hit shutout of the Montreal Expos in his previous start. Gentry and Carlton matched scoreless innings in the game’s first two frames, then the Cardinals scored in the third inning when Lou Brock walked and Curt Flood singled. Brock tried to score but was thrown out at the plate, allowing Flood to advance to second base and then score on Vada Pinson’s single.
Carlton allowed three singles in the first three innings, but also struck out seven Mets batters. In the fourth inning, Carlton walked Donn Clendenon to lead off the inning and then gave up a home run to Ron Swoboda. But he struck out three more Mets batters that inning, and had 10 strikeouts through the first four innings though the Cardinals now trailed 2-1.
The Cardinals regained the lead in the fifth inning. With two outs, Brock singled and stole second. Flood singled to center field, scoring Brock to tie the game. Pinson singled to right field, moving Flood to second base. Flood scored the third run on Joe Torre’s single to center. The inning ended with no further scoring when Tim McCarver flied out to left field.
Meanwhile, Carlton continued to be a strikeout machine. He fanned Amos Otis and Tommie Agee in the fifth inning. He struck out Swoboda in the sixth inning. He struck out Otis again in the seventh inning with two runners on base.
That gave Carlton 14 strikeouts for the game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Tug McGraw took over for Gentry and pitched a scoreless inning despite an error and a walk. In the top of the eighth inning, Agee led off with a single and then Carlton struck out Clendenon looking, Carlton’s fifteenth of the game. But Ron Swoboda launched his second home run of the game and ninth of the season to put the Mets back on top 4-3. Carlton got his sixteenth strikeout to end the eighth inning.
McGraw retired the Cardinals in order in the bottom of the eighth, and Carlton fanned the side in the ninth inning, giving him 19 strikeouts for the game. But it wouldn’t be enough. Despite an error and a Brock single, the Cardinals couldn’t score against McGraw in the ninth.
Carlton would finish the 1969 season at 17-11 with a 2.17 ERA, second lowest in the National League behind Juan Marichal. He topped 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career, something he would do seven more times. But he would never again strike out as many as 19 batters in a single nine-inning game. In fact, only one left-hander (Randy Johnson) has matched that performance.
Steve Carlton’s heartbreaking 19-strikeout loss is one of the performances featured in Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age.
This Week in 1960s Baseball …
And he made it a “man-sized” farewell.
Musial got two hits in three at-bats during the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Dal Maxvill doubled with one out in the bottom of the fourteenth inning to drive home the game-winning run.
Musial singled in the fourth and sixth innings. His base hit in the sixth inning off Reds starter Jim Maloney drove in Curt Flood with the game’s first run. It was Musial’s last appearance in a major league game, as Gary Kolb came into the game to run for him. Kolb later scored on a Charley James sacrifice fly to put the Cardinals ahead 2-0.
The Reds tied the score when Cincinnati shortstop Leo Cardenas singled to drive in two runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.
Maloney struck out 11 Cardinal batters in the seven innings he worked. The Cardinals’ starting pitcher. Bob Gibson, also struck out 11 batters in nine innings.
Musial’s two hits gave him 3,630 for his career, the most ever by a National League hitter and second all-time to Ty Cobb’s 4,189 hits. His run batted in was number 1,951 for his career, also the most by a National Leaguer.
And Musial’s two hits gave him 1,815 career hits at home, exactly the same as the number of career hits he collected on the road. Stan the Man would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Curt Flood
With the exception of Babe Ruth, no individual player has had more of an impact on the way major league baseball is played than Curt Flood. Just as the Babe’s potent bat transformed baseball offensive strategy in the 1920s, Flood’s fight for independence from club owners and against the Reserve Clause that bonded a player irrevocably to a team was the gateway to player free agency in the 1970s. It is the greatest single difference between baseball today and baseball as it was played in the 1960s and earlier, and Flood’s off-the-field battle with baseball was the beginning of that change.
In addition, Flood was a dynamic hitter and fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1960s, playing a pivotal role for a team that won three National League pennants and two World Series during that decade.
Flood was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1956 and made his major league debut at the end of that season, striking out in his only plate appearance. In December of 1957 he was traded to the Cardinals as part of a five-player deal, and immediately became an everyday outfielder for the Cards. His breakout season was 1961, when he hit .322. He batted.311 for the Cardinals’ 1964 pennant-winning team, leading the National League with 211 hits. From 1961 through 1968, Flood hit a combined .304, with a career-high .335 in 1967.
Flood’s speed was well utilized in the Cardinals’ outfield, where he won seven consecutive Gold Gloves. From 1965 through 1967, he set a National League record for consecutive errorless games (226) and a major league record for consecutive errorless chances in the outfield (568).
Following the 1969 season, the Cardinals sent Flood with Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. Flood refused to report, and sued major league baseball to overturn the reserve clause and have the freedom to choose the team he would play for. The suit eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided in major league baseball’s favor. However, Pandora’s box had been opened as Flood had given major league players (and their labor union) a glimpse at what was possible. The reserve clause eventually was struck down in 1975, four years after Flood retired.
Flood never played for the Phillies. He was traded to the Washington Senators in 1970, and played in 13 games for the Senators in 1971 before retiring with 1,861 career hits and a .293 lifetime batting average.