June 7, 1981: The Cardinals trade for Joaquin Andujar

Whitey Herzog wasn’t certain exactly what caliber of pitcher he was receiving when he traded for Joaquin Andujar in 1981, but he did know one thing – the Cardinals were getting a personality unlike any they’d ever seen.

Herzog had been on the search for pitching when Astros general manager Al Rosen called and offered Andujar in exchange for center fielder Tony Scott. Herzog was intrigued by the opportunity to pick up the two-time all-star, but he wanted more information. He called Astros manager Bill Virdon to find out why Andujar was available in the first place.

Virdon, whose pitching staff already included Nolan Ryan, Vern Ruhle, J.R. Richard, and Joe Niekro, explained that he simply didn’t have the patience for Andujar’s antics. The breaking point had come when Andujar pitched on a Thursday before the Astros were rained out Friday and Saturday. Come Sunday, Andujar was in Virdon’s office, declaring himself ready to pitch in that day’s game.

“The other four guys ain’t even been out to the mound yet and he thinks it’s his turn!” Virdon told Herzog. “Whitey, I’m telling you. This guy is out of his mind.”[1]

Cardinals pitching coach Hub Kittle, however, had coached Andujar in the Dominican winter league for five seasons and was confident he could keep Andujar in line.

“He’s not wild with me,” Kittle said. “I know how to handle him.”[2]

With Kittle’s confidence and the Cardinals’ desperate need for pitching counteracting Virdon’s warning, Herzog agreed to the deal. Andujar and Scott were both in the final years of their contracts, and Herzog might not have agreed to the trade if Scott and his agent had responded to the team’s recent contract offer.

“He had to know that with the trading deadline approaching, we’ve got to hear from him,” Herzog said. “We laid an offer – it was a pretty good one, too – but we never heard back. If Tony liked it here so much, why didn’t they get back with us?”[3]

It didn’t help that Scott was batting just .227 in 45 games. In five seasons with the Cardinals, Scott had hit .255 with 12 homers, 168 RBIs, and 87 stolen bases in 137 attempts. He played four seasons in Houston before he was released during the 1984 season. Scott caught on with Montreal for 45 games, before ending his 11-year major league career.

The day the trade was announced, Herzog admitted he was uncertain whether he could re-sign Andujar.[4]

In 1977, Andujar’s second season in the league, he went 11-8 with a 3.69 ERA and earned an all-star game appearance. He started just 13 games for Houston the following year, then went 12-12 in 1979 with a 3.43 ERA and another all-star game.

In 1980, he made just 14 starts, going 3-8 on the year, and the Astros had used him for just 23 2/3 innings so far in 1981.

“I guess he was very unhappy playing with the Astros,” said Cardinals infielder Julio Gonzalez, who had played alongside Andujar in Houston. “He just wanted to get a starting job.”[5]

Andujar told the Houston media that while he appreciated the opportunity to pitch more in St. Louis, he was disappointed to leave the Astros.

“It will be better for me in St. Louis,” he said. “At least I’ll get a chance to pitch, but I don’t feel very good about having to leave a lot of good friends. I guess I expected it, but when they tell you, it hits you in the heart awfully hard.”[6]

Virdon told Andujar about the trade in the seventh inning of the Astros’ 6-2 win over the Mets. With two innings left in the game, he told Andujar it would be OK to head to the showers and start packing his belongings. Instead, Andujar stayed until the game was over.

“I said, ‘No, I want to stay here and be an Astro as long as I can,’” Andujar said. “This is like leaving your family.”[7]

The Cardinals would soon become family for Andujar as well. He appeared in 11 games for the Cardinals during the strike-shortened season – starting eight – and went 6-1 with a 3.74 ERA. That December, the Cardinals signed him to a three-year contract.

“I decided to sign with the Cardinals again because I like Whitey Herzog and the people of St. Louis,” Andujar said. “All I want to do is pitch and help the Cardinals win the pennant.”[8]

He did exactly that in 1982, going 15-10 with a 2.47 ERA over 265 2/3 innings. In the World Series against the Brewers, he won both his starts, allowing just two earned runs over 13 1/3 innings.

Though Mike Roarke replaced Kittle as pitching coach after the 1983 season, Herzog found his own ways to manage Andujar’s temper. Andujar was known to get angry whenever he was taken out of a game, but Herzog found that a few words of encouragement along with confirmation of Andujar’s next start would take the sting away when he came to retrieve his ace.

“I’d go to the hill, put my hand right on his shoulder, and say, ‘Hey, Goombah, great job. Gimme the ball, and I’ll see you Tuesday,’” Herzog recalled. “‘OK, Whitey,’ he’d say with a big smile. ‘See you Tuesday!’ and he’d stride off to the showers like a proud son. It wasn’t logical. Joaquin already knew he was pitching Tuesday. He knew he’d pitched great. But he liked to hear me tell him when he was pitching again. He liked to hear me tell him how good he was.”[9]

Herzog used a similar strategy in the clubhouse.

“He’d steam through the clubhouse: ‘I’m pissed, Whitey, I’m pissed!’ Sonofagun was always worked up about something,” Herzog wrote in 1999. “I almost never knew why he was pissed and mostly had no desire to find out. I’d say, ‘Pissed, huh, Goombah? Come by my office at five o’clock and we’ll talk about it.’ ‘OK, Whitey,’ he’d say, and he’d stomp off mumbling something to himself … Well, five o’clock would roll around and I’d see him on his way out the door. I’d buttonhole him: ‘Hey, Goombah, wanna talk?’ He’d look at me like he barely knew who I was, think for a second, then remember. ‘Oh, no thanks, Skip,’ he’d say. “I’m not mad anymore!’ and happy as a lark, he’d go home … If I just showed him I noticed, let him blow off steam, and waited for him to cool down, we made a hell of a pair.”[10]

In 1985, Andujar again pitched the Cardinals into the World Series, but struggled against the Royals, taking the loss in Game 3. With Game 7 out of hand, he appeared in a mop-up relief role and was ejected for arguing balls and strikes and charging home plate umpire Don Denkinger, who infamously missed a crucial call late in Game 6. The embarrassing episode led to the Cardinals trading Andujar to the Athletics for Tim Conroy and Mike Heath that winter.

Despite the ignominious end of Andujar’s Cardinals career, the trade certainly proved positive for St. Louis. Over five seasons, Andujar went 68-53 with a 3.33 ERA. He twice placed fourth in the Cy Young Award voting (1984 and 1985), and proved a valuable innings eater – from 1982 through 1985, he averaged more than 255 innings per season.


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[1] Whitey Herzog and Jonathan Pitts (1999), You’re Missin’ a Great Game: From Casey to Ozzie, the Magic of Baseball and How to Get It Back, New York; Berkley Books, Page 156.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Hard Work Ahead For Andujar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 8, 1981.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Hard Work Ahead For Andujar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 8, 1981.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Hard Work Ahead For Andujar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 8, 1981.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Hard Work Ahead For Andujar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 8, 1981.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Hard Work Ahead For Andujar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 8, 1981.

[7] “Andujar dislikes trade,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram,” June 8, 1981.

[8] “Cardinals Sign Andujar To A Three-Year Contract,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 30, 1981.

[9] Whitey Herzog and Jonathan Pitts (1999), You’re Missin’ a Great Game: From Casey to Ozzie, the Magic of Baseball and How to Get It Back, New York; Berkley Books, Page 158.

[10] Whitey Herzog and Jonathan Pitts (1999), You’re Missin’ a Great Game: From Casey to Ozzie, the Magic of Baseball and How to Get It Back, New York; Berkley Books, Page 157-158.

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