November 4, 1963: Cardinals acquire Roger Craig in trade with Mets

On November 4, 1963, the Cardinals acquired Roger Craig from the Mets in exchange for outfielder George Altman and rookie pitcher Bill Wakefield. Less than a year later, Craig pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings to win Game 4 of the 1964 World Series and help St. Louis claim its seventh world championship.

Craig’s pitching career began in Brooklyn, where he broke into the major leagues in 1955 and won a career-high 12 games the following year. In the final game of the 1957 season, he suffered an arm injury that derailed his 1958 campaign; as a result he was demoted to the minors that year before returning with arguably his best season in 1959, when he went 11-5 with a 2.06 ERA in 152 2/3 innings. His performance helped the Dodgers, now in Los Angeles, win the National League pennant.

In 1961, the Mets selected Craig in the expansion draft. Though he had gone 49-38 over his career with the Dodgers and was effectively the “ace” of the Mets staff, Craig suffered back-to-back 20-loss seasons, going 10-24 in 1962 and 5-22 in 1963.

“This trade gives me an opportunity to show I can still be a winning pitcher with a little more support,” Craig said. “It’s one of the best things that’s happened to me since I’ve been in baseball.

“And I’m happy for another reason. The Cards were the club that in recent years have hit me the hardest. It will be a pleasure to be with them instead of facing them.”[1]

Led by Dick Groat, Bill White, and Curt Flood, the 1963 Cardinals had won 93 games and placed second to the Dodgers in the National League pennant race.

“The Cardinals have the best hitting club in baseball, and they have a real good defensive club, strong down the middle and with great fielders like Ken Boyer and Bill White at the corners,” Craig said.[2]

“I know several guys who will be disappointed because they won’t be able to face me anymore, especially Bill White,” Craig added. “White hit me like he owned me.”[3]

In 73 career plate appearances against Craig, White hit .353 with five homers and 14 RBIs.

Though his record with the Mets was awful, Craig’s 4.14 ERA over his two years in New York was respectable, and in 1963 he posted a 3.78 ERA over 236 innings. In eight of Craig’s losses, the Mets were shut out and four of his losses came by a score of 1-0.[4]

“I don’t feel those two years with the Mets were wasted by any means,” he said. “In fact, they were a blessing. My stay with the Mets taught me how to cope with adversity. I think I really learned a lot more about pitching. I learned how important it is to bear down harder when things don’t go well.”[5]

“You certainly have to give Roger A for effort, but when a man loses 46 games it’s time for a change,” Mets general manager George Weiss said. “”I think Craig got a break.”[6]

With questions marks on the pitching staff, Craig gave the Cardinals a pitcher who could start or work out of the bullpen, general manager Bing Devine said. Ray Washburn had missed most of the 1963 season with a shoulder injury and Harry Fanok, a minor-league starter, suffered an arm injury late in the season.[7]

“We can use Craig in a dual role, either as a starter or in relief,” Devine said. “I think this also gives full opportunity to some of our young outfielders such as Gary Kolb, Johnny Lewis, Doug Clemens, and Mike Shannon.”[8]

With Altman headed to New York and Stan Musial retiring, the Cardinals had two vacancies in their outfield. Charlie James was expected to take over in left field, while the prospects would battle for playing time in right.

“Maybe two of them can alternate,” Devine said.[9]

Altman had been a disappointment for the Cardinals after batting .318 with 22 homers and 74 RBIs with the Cubs in 1962. That October, the Cardinals traded Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel, and Jimmie Schaffer to Chicago for Altman, Don Cardwell, and Moe Thacker. In his lone season in St. Louis, Altman hit .274 with nine homers and 47 RBIs. His home run and RBI totals were the lowest of his career.

“Altman had an off year, but it wasn’t that bad,” Devine said. “I want to stress that disposing of Altman in no way reflects dissatisfaction with his contribution to the club. Several clubs were interested in Altman. … Both (manager) Johnny Keane and I felt it was desirable to add a pitcher and, at the same time, give full opportunity to one of our young outfielders.”[10]

In addition to Altman, the Mets had insisted on Wakefield’s inclusion in the deal.[11] A 22-year-old right-hander enrolled at Stanford University, Wakefield had seen limited minor-league action, going 3-7 at Tulsa in 1963 and 1-3 in Atlanta in 1963.[12]

“Our scouts inform us Wakefield has major league possibilities,” Weiss said. “The Cards gave him a $35,000 bonus to sign. He graduates from Stanford sometime in March. He told me by phone he may be able to join us for spring training.”[13]

Although Devine said at the time of the trade that he preferred to have pitchers slotted into a starter or reliever role throughout a season, Craig ended up doing both for the Cardinals in 1964. Appearing in 39 games, including 19 starts, Craig went 7-9 with a 3.25 ERA over 166 innings as the Cardinals rallied from seventh place in late July to capture the National League pennant.

Facing the Yankees in the World Series, Craig struck out the only batter he faced in a Game 2 defeat.

In Game 4, he played a far more important role. After Ray Sadecki allowed three runs in 1/3 of an inning, Keane turned to Craig to right the ship.

A day earlier, Craig had approached Keane to offer his services.

“I told him, I feel fine and I’d like to pitch if you need me,” Craig said.[14]

Craig threw 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out eight batters. In the sixth inning, Ken Boyer hit a grand slam to give the Cardinals a 4-3 win. St. Louis went on to win the World Series in seven games, giving Craig the third world championship of his career, including his 1955 and 1955 titles with the Dodgers.

“I had excellent control and I was throwing good sinkers to the left-handers,” Craig said. “I did strike out Tom Tresh on a palm ball, but the curve was my big pitch. In fact, I’ve had a real good curve in my last five or six games.”[15]

The game proved to be the highlight of Craig’s Cardinals career. In December, he was traded alongside James to Cincinnati in exchange for Bob Purkey.

After a 12-year major-league career, Craig spent 10 years as a manager for the Padres and Giants. He led the Giants to the National League pennant in 1989.

Altman’s career continued to decline in 1964 as his batting average fell to .230. After hitting nine homers and driving in 47 runs for the Mets, he was traded to the Cubs for Billy Cowan.

Wakefield pitched primarily in relief for the Mets in 1964, going 3-5 with a 3.61 ERA in his only major-league season.


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[1] Jim McCulley, “Mets Deal Craig for Cards’ Altman, Rookie,” New York Daily News, November 5, 1963.

[2] Neal Russo, “Craig Would Like to Be Starter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 5, 1963.

[3] Neal Russo, “Craig Would Like to Be Starter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 5, 1963.

[4] Neal Russo, “Redbirds Get Craig From Mets for Altman, Rookie Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4, 1963.

[5] Neal Russo, “Craig Would Like to Be Starter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 5, 1963.

[6] Jim McCulley, “Mets Deal Craig for Cards’ Altman, Rookie,” New York Daily News, November 5, 1963.

[7] Neal Russo, “Redbirds Get Craig From Mets for Altman, Rookie Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4, 1963.

[8] Robert L. Burnes, “Craig ‘Delighted’ To Join Cards,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 5, 1963.

[9] Neal Russo, “Redbirds Get Craig From Mets for Altman, Rookie Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4, 1963.

[10] Neal Russo, “Redbirds Get Craig From Mets for Altman, Rookie Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4, 1963.

[11] Neal Russo, “Redbirds Get Craig From Mets for Altman, Rookie Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4, 1963.

[12] Neal Russo, “Redbirds Get Craig From Mets for Altman, Rookie Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4, 1963.

[13] Jim McCulley, “Mets Deal Craig for Cards’ Altman, Rookie,” New York Daily News, November 5, 1963.

[14] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.

[15] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.

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