August 8, 1997: Mark McGwire hits his first Cardinals home run in his Busch Stadium debut

Cardinals fans welcomed Mark McGwire with a standing ovation prior to his first at-bat at Busch Stadium. In his second at-bat, McGwire returned the favor, blasting a 441-foot home run for his first home run wearing the birds on the bat.

McGwire’s was the second of back-to-back home runs as the Cardinals defeated the Phillies 6-1 on August 8, 1997.

The Cardinals acquired McGwire from the A’s in exchange for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein at the trade deadline on July 31, and since that time McGwire had played in Philadelphia, New York, and Atlanta. The start of the Phillies series marked the beginning of a nine-game homestand and McGwire’s first opportunity to play in front of the Redbird faithful.

McGwire had gone just 2-for-25 in his first seven games for the Cardinals, dropping his batting average from .284 at the time of the trade to .271. Nonetheless, the 38,300 Cardinals fans in attendance greeted McGwire with a standing ovation when he stepped into the batter’s box for his first Busch Stadium at-bat.

“Overwhelming,” McGwire said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a crowd so loud in a regular-season game.”[1]

With runners on first and second, McGwire swung at the first pitch from Phillies starter Mark Leiter and popped up to shallow right field. With McGwire retired, Delino DeShields and Ron Gant pulled off a double steal, and both runners scored when Gary Gaetti smashed a ground ball past rookie third baseman Scott Rolen and into left field. The play was ruled an error on Rolen.

“I know it was scored an error, but that ball was smoked,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.[2]

Ray Lankford, a late addition to the lineup after suffering a hamstring injury more than a week earlier, hit a solo home run in the third inning before McGwire stepped to the plate for his second at-bat. This time, the big man hit a line-drive home run off the left-field foul pole, ending his streak of 71 at-bats without a home run.

“It had been a while,” McGwire said. “It just felt good to hit a ball squarely.”[3]

“It was beautiful,” Cardinals starting pitcher Donovan Osborne said. “It’s amazing to watch that guy hit. It’s nice to see.”[4]

The crowd continued to cheer until McGwire climbed the dugout steps for a curtain call.

“Believe me, I will never forget this night,” McGwire said. This was a feeling I’ve never experienced.”[5]

“They’re pretty impressive fans,” Phillies manager Terry Francona said. “I’m not talking as someone trying to beat the Cardinals. I’m talking as someone who likes baseball.”[6]

The Phillies scored an unearned run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Mike Lieberthal. It was Philadelphia’s only run of the game as Osborne allowed just three hits over seven innings. He struck out six without walking any.

Just five days earlier, the Phillies had jumped on Osborne with eight earned runs in three innings.

“The difference between this game and the last one for me was that nothing I threw last time was working and everything I threw this time was,” Osborne said.[7]

Curtis King and John Frascatore each pitched a scoreless inning to complement Osborne’s best performance of the season.

In the eighth inning, the Cardinals added a pair of insurance runs off reliever Reggie Harris. David Bell brought a run home with an infield single and rookie Scarborough Green, another Cardinal making his Busch Stadium debut, added an RBI single into center field. Green was a graduate of Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Mo., the same high school that produced David Freese, Ryan Howard, and Luke Voit.

Gant, Lankford, Mike Difelice, and Bell each had two hits apiece for the Cardinals, who finished with 12 for the day.

Leiter took the loss for Philadelphia, allowing two earned runs over seven innings.

The game sparked McGwire for the rest of the year, as he hit 24 homers and drove in 42 runs in his 51 games with the Cardinals that season.

On September 16, inspired by the reception he had received in St. Louis, McGwire signed a three-year, $28 million contract with an $11 million option for a fourth year.[8] Just hours after the deal was announced, McGwire hit his 52nd home run of the season, a 517-foot blast that tied him with Ken Griffey Jr. for the major league lead.

McGwire cemented his place in history with his 70-home run season in 1998, which set a new Major League Baseball single-season home run record. In 2010, prior to being hired as the Cardinals’ hitting coach, McGwire admitted that he used steroids at various points in his career, including during the 1990s and the 1998 season.

“I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids,” McGwire said. “I had good years when I didn’t take any, and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids, and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.”[9]

In 4 ½ seasons in St. Louis, McGwire hit 220 home runs, giving him 583 for his career. Over the course of his career, he was named to the all-star game 12 times, won three Silver Slugger awards, and won a Gold Glove in 1990.


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[1] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards Roll In McGwire’s Home(r)coming,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 9, 1997.

[2] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards Roll In McGwire’s Home(r)coming,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 9, 1997.

[3] Jim Salisbury, “McGwire helps muscle St. Louis past the Phillies,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 1997.

[4] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards Roll In McGwire’s Home(r)coming,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 9, 1997.

[5] Jim Salisbury, “McGwire helps muscle St. Louis past the Phillies,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 1997.

[6] Jim Salisbury, “McGwire helps muscle St. Louis past the Phillies,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 1997.

[7] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards Roll In McGwire’s Home(r)coming,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 9, 1997.

[8] Rick Hummel, “‘I’m Proud To Be A Cardinal,’ McGwire Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 17, 1997.

[9] “McGwire apologizes to La Russa, Selig,” ESPN.com, www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=4816607.

August 6, 2004: Cardinals trade for Larry Walker as they make World Series push

One week after the 2004 trade deadline, the Cardinals added future Hall of Famer Larry Walker to a lineup that already included Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds.

The Cardinals received Walker and cash considerations in exchange for minor league pitcher Jason Burch and two players to be named later. In August, the Cardinals announced that Luis Martinez and Chris Narveson would go to Colorado to complete the deal.

“You look at this lineup and you wonder, ‘How can it get any better?’ and it did,” said Cardinals outfielder Reggie Sanders.

With more than 10 years of experience, including five with the same team, Walker had the power to decline any trade. In fact, he already had declined a trade to the Diamondbacks for Matt Williams in 2002, and blocked trades to the Rangers and Marlins before the 2004 trade deadline.

“I think there were some people in Colorado who weren’t certain he would come (to St. Louis),” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. “I talked to a few of the players over the last few days and I expressed to Larry how excited they were about the possibility of his coming. … He weighed everything and it didn’t take him long.”[1]

Rockies general manager said that a key goal for the Rockies in trading Walker was to get him on a team where he could compete for a championship.

“Larry is 38 and he was not going to be with us after next year,” O’Dowd said. “This gave us the best opportunity to put him somewhere with a chance to win, and it gives (rookie) Matt Holliday the opportunity to play every day.”[2]

A native of Maple Ridge, Canada, Walker had grown up playing baseball and hockey, and had dreams of becoming an NHL goalie. Instead, the Expos signed him in 1984 and sent him to Utica in the New York Penn League. In 1989, he made his major league debut, the first of six seasons he would spend in Montreal. Three years later, in 1992, he made his first all-star appearance, batting .301/.353/.506 with 23 homers and 93 RBIs.

Prior to the 1995 season, Walker signed with the Rockies, where he proceeded to enjoy the best seasons of his career. In 1997, Walker won the National League MVP after batting .366/.452/.720 with a major league-leading 49 home runs. In 1998, 1999, and 2001, he posted the highest batting average in baseball.

“I was shocked and surprised,” Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said about the trade. “I have never played a game without him here. He is the best Rockies player ever.”[3]

A groin strain had limited Walker to just 38 games that season, though he had been effective when he took the field. He played his first game of the season on June 22, and three days later went 4-for-6 with three home runs and five RBIs. At the time of the trade, he was batting .324/.464/.630 with six homers and 20 RBIs.

“I think he’ll be energized to come here and play with us, and I think he’ll energize our club,” Jocketty said. “He’s a gamer. He’s a hard-nosed player and a winner, and he’ll have no trouble fitting in with this club.”[4]

Burch was a 6-foot-5 right-hander the Cardinals drafted in the 21st round in 2003. Between rookie league Johnson City and Class A Peoria, Burch made 30 relief appearances that year. At the time of the trade, he had made 44 appearances for Peoria in 2004, posting a 3.78 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.

Martinez, a 6-foot-6 southpaw from the Dominican Republic, had appeared in four games for the Brewers in 2003, going 0-3 with a 9.92 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. The Cardinals had picked him up off waivers in February.

Narveson had been the Cardinals’ second-round pick in 2000. At the time of the trade, he was 5-10 with a 4.16 ERA for Double-A Tennessee. The year-before, he had posted a 2.91 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Tennessee.

Burch never climbed above Double-A. After the 2006 season, the Rockies traded Burch and Jim Miller to the Orioles as part of a package for Rodrigo Lopez. He retired following the 2008 season.

Martinez finished the 2004 season in Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he went 2-2 with a 6.83 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. The Rockies released him after the season, and Martinez played in the Japan Central League, the Chinese Professional Baseball League, the Mexican League, the Dominican Winter League, and the United Baseball League before retiring following the 2010 season.

Narveson spent the remainder of 2004 in Triple-A Colorado Springs. Prior to the 2005 season, the Rockies traded Narveson and Charles Johnson to the Red Sox for Byung-Hyun Kim and cash. The Cardinals picked Narveson up off waivers that August, and in 2006 he pitched in five games, starting one.

After spending 2007 in the minors, Narveson signed with the Brewers. He returned to the majors in 2009 and spent five seasons with the big-league club, going 26-18 with a 4.65 ERA. In 2011, he made six postseason relief appearances for the Brewers, including four against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Narveson pitched in Japan in 2014 before playing his final two major-league seasons in Miami.

Meanwhile, Walker appeared in 44 regular-season games for the Cardinals, batting .280/.393/.560 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs. With Walker adding depth to an already potent lineup, the Cardinals won the NL Central with a 105-57 record.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Walker hit two homers and scored four times. He went 5-for-15 in the four-game series.

In Game 1 of the NLCS against the Astros, Walker singled, doubled, and tripled. In the seven-game series, he went 7-for-29 with two homers and five RBIs.

With the Cardinals’ Game 7 NLCS win, Walker reached the World Series for the first and only time in his career. Once again, he started the series on the right note, hitting a home run and two doubles in a 4-for-5 performance. He homered again in Game 3.

Walker played 100 games in his final season in 2005. Despite playing with a herniated disc in his neck that made it impossible to turn his head to the left, he hit .289/.384/.502 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs. In the postseason, he went just 3-for-28. He retired shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated in the NLCS.

In 2020, in his 10th year on the ballot, Walker was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Finishing with the St. Louis Cardinals – I’m not a baseball historian, but when you talk about organizations, you usually talk about the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cubs, the Cardinals,” he said. “Those are the iconic organizations that people know about around the world – a uniform that is recognizable around the world. I’ll never forget that first day walking in the clubhouse and putting that white birds on the bat uniform over my head. It was a great way to go out.”[5]


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[1] Rick Hummel, “Cards, Rockies deal after Walker’s OK,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 7, 2004.

[2] Associated Press, “Goodbye, Larry,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, August 7, 2004.

[3] Associated Press, “So far, so good for Walker-less Rockies,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, August 7, 2004.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Cards, Rockies deal after Walker’s OK,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 7, 2004.

[5] Derrick Goold, “Walker joins Jeter as two new electees,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 22, 2020.

August 2, 2001: Cardinals trade Ray Lankford for Woody Williams

As a veteran who had been with the club since making his debut in August 1990, Ray Lankford wasn’t ready to become the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder.

Instead, following a reduction of playing time and a war of words between Lankford’s agent and manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals sent the 34-year-old Lankford and $2.8 million to San Diego for Woody Williams, a 34-year-old right-hander who became a key part of the Cardinals’ rotation.

At the time of the trade, Lankford was batting .235/.345/.496 with 15 homers and 39 RBIs. Though his on-base and slugging percentages remained strong, Lankford had 105 strikeouts in 264 at-bats, and with Jim Edmonds in center field, J.D. Drew in right, and rookie Albert Pujols earning at-bats in left, Lankford was beginning to see others cut into his playing time.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling or not. I don’t think I get the respect around here that I deserve,” Lankford said. “Whatever goes on around here, nobody tells me. I’ve been here 11 years and people around here should respect that and understand that and pay me the respect of letting me know what’s going on. That’s all I ask. If they can’t do that, then it’s time to go. That’s the bottom line.”[1]

Lankford had arguably been the Cardinals’ best player of the ’90s. In 1991, he led the majors with 15 triples, drove in 69 runs, and stole 44 bases to place third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. The following season was a breakout year, as Lankford hit .293/.371/.480 with 20 homers, 86 RBIs, and 42 stolen bases.

In 1997, Lankford was named an all-star on his way to a .295/.411/.585 batting line with 31 homers, 98 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. He followed that season with a .306/.380/.493 campaign in which he hit 31 homers, had a career-high 105 RBIs, and stole 26 bases. Between the two seasons, Lankford provided 11.5 wins above replacement (WAR).

At the time of the trade, Lankford was the Cardinals’ longest-tenured player and his 222 home runs ranked third in team history behind Stan Musial (475) and Ken Boyer (255).

“I’ve been with three teams in four years and he’s been with one team for 12 years,” relief pitcher Steve Kline said. “It has to be hard for him to leave St. Louis, and this is probably a tough team to leave.”[2]

Despite rumors that the Cardinals would send Lankford to the Padres in advance of the trade deadline, no deal was completed, meaning that any players exchanged would need to clear waivers. Lankford’s agent, Stanley King, made it clear that he hoped a trade could still be completed. He placed the blame for Lankford’s discontent at La Russa’s feet.

“Ray’s a big boy,” King said. “He can understand that it’s a baseball decision. I just don’t think there’s any excuse for not communicating with your players. That’s part of managing. The respectful thing is to call him in and sit him down.”[3]

“We have been talking,” La Russa said in response. “I felt like I had made it clear. If it isn’t quite clear, I look forward to explaining it all over again. I’d love to get into a debate with him about respect and about all the ways we respected him, including his contract, and all the ways we didn’t. There’s only one thing I can look at – it’s that nobody gave him a definite take on what was going to happen (with a trade).”[4]

La Russa also disputed King’s accusation that the reason for his decreased playing time was unclear.

“The need for putting the ball in play – that was told to everybody,” La Russa said. “Playing with intensity, making sure our fans see we’re not giving in to our struggles, and the importance of defense. Those are all things we’ve told everyone. It’s possible a guy like (Padres manager) Bruce Bochy can get through to him, but he’s got to improve his production. Maybe a guy like Tony Gwynn can get through to him.”[5]

Despite Lankford’s differences with La Russa, his teammates were sad to see him go. Mike Eisenbath of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that while several were willing to comment, others were visibly upset declined to talk on the record.[6]

“He treated everyone the same,” said second baseman Fernando Vina. “Even though he had been here for so many years, he didn’t have any favorites. He was kind to everyone, a very down-to-earth person.”[7]

Andy Benes, who had played his entire career with the Padres before they traded him to St. Louis, said it would be an emotional move for Lankford, but could also be for the best.

“I think it will be good for him,” Benes said. “Change is good a lot of times. Sometimes a change of scenery is good to get the juices going. It will be good for Ray – and I think it will be good for us to get a guy who can throw.”[8]

In Williams, the Cardinals were getting a veteran pitcher with a reputation as an innings eater. In both 1998 and 1999 he had pitched more than 200 innings, and added 168 in 2000 despite missing two months due to an aneurysm under his right arm. Over nine seasons with the Blue Jays and Padres, Williams had gone 58-62 with a 4.32 ERA.

He was 8-8 with a 4.97 ERA at the time of the trade.

“I’m going to use this as a steppingstone that will allow me to get back to where I want to be,” Williams said. “Hopefully, I’ll give them the kind of performance they want.”[9]

Like Lankford, Williams was a popular teammate in San Diego.

“There isn’t a guy in this clubhouse who doesn’t love Woody,” first baseman Ryan Klesko said.[10]

That included Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who unsuccessfully negotiated with Williams on a three-year contract the previous winter.

“If I didn’t believe in our young pitching, I wouldn’t have done this,” he said.[11]

Lankford played in 40 games through the remainder of the 2001 season, batting .288/.386/.480 with four homers, 19 RBIs, and six stolen bases the rest of the way. In 2002, injuries limited him to just 81 games and his numbers fell to .224/.326/.356 with six homers and 26 RBIs.

Lankford missed the 2003 season with a hamstring, then re-signed with the Cardinals, where he played his final 92 games. After the acquisition of Larry Walker, Lankford’s playing time dipped again and he did not make the team’s playoff roster. He retired after the season with a career .272/.365/.481 batting line to go with 238 homers, 874 RBIs, and 258 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2018.

Williams pitched 3 ½ seasons in St. Louis. Under Dave Duncan’s tutelage, Williams thrived, going 45-22 with a 3.53 ERA. In the 2001 NLDS against the Diamondbacks, Williams earned the Game 2 win against Randy Johnson, allowing just one run over seven innings.

In 2003, Williams the best season of his career and was named to the all-star team. He finished the year with an 18-9 record and 3.87 ERA over 220 2/3 innings.

In the 2004 National League championship season, Williams went 11-8, then held the Dodgers to two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the NLDS. He won Game 1 of the NLCS against the Astros, then threw seven shutout innings in Game 5, though he earned no decision in the Cardinals’ loss. Williams had a forgettable outing in Game 1 of the World Series, allowing seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

That offseason, Williams returned to San Diego, where he went 19-17 over two seasons before playing his final season with the Astros at age 40. He retired after 15 seasons with a 132-116 record and a 4.19 career ERA.


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[1] Rick Hummel, “Lankford says he won’t stand in the way of a trade,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2001.

[2] Mike Eisenbath, “Cardinals reflect on Lankford’s situation,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 2001.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Lankford’s agent says deal still is possible, criticizes La Russa,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2, 2001.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Lankford’s agent says deal still is possible, criticizes La Russa,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2, 2001.

[5] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards send Lankford to Padres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 2001.

[6] Mike Eisenbath, “Cardinals reflect on Lankford’s situation,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 2001.

[7] Mike Eisenbath, “Cardinals reflect on Lankford’s situation,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 2001.

[8] Mike Eisenbath, “Cardinals reflect on Lankford’s situation,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 2001.

[9] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards send Lankford to Padres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 2001.

[10] Shaun O’Neill, “Williams bound for St. Louis,” North County Times, August 3, 2001.

[11] Shaun O’Neill, “Williams bound for St. Louis,” North County Times, August 3, 2001.

July 31, 1997: Cardinals trade for Mark McGwire

On July 31, 1997, the Cardinals made the deadline deal of deadline deals, acquiring first baseman Mark McGwire from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for pitchers Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein.

Heading into the final day before the trade deadline, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that there was no progress to report regarding a possible deal for McGwire.[1] Meanwhile, the Cardinals were reported to be pursuing Detroit third baseman Travis Fryman, though they were unwilling to meet the Tigers’ asking price of Todd Stottlemyre.

“I’m not trading Todd Stottlemyre,” Jocketty said.[2]

He didn’t have to, as the Mcgwire deal was completed a few hours before the midnight deadline. A’s general manager Sandy Alderson originally had asked for Matt Morris and/or Alan Benes, and in the final hours, backed off his request for the Cardinals’ top pitching prospect, Manny Aybar, accepting Ludwick in the deal instead.[3]

“July 31 began a new era in Cardinals history – the Mark McGwire era,” Jocketty said.[4]

Mathews, a graduate of Columbia High School in Columbia, Illinois, was the most experienced of the pitchers the Cardinals sent to Oakland. The A’s originally drafted him out of St. Louis Community College in the 35th round in 1990 but were unable to sign him. Mathews was drafted again in 1991, but the Twins were unable to sign him. Finally, in 1992, the Cardinals signed him after choosing him in the 35th round out of UNLV.

Mathews debuted with the big-league club in 1995, posting a 1.52 ERA and two saves in 29 2/3 innings. In his sophomore campaign, Mathews made 67 appearances, posting a 3.01 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 83 2/3 innings. At the time of the trade to Oakland, he had a 2.15 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 46 innings.

“I think it’s good we got three quality pitchers for him,” A’s outfielder Matt Stairs said. “T.J. Mathews – that’s his name, isn’t it? – from what I hear, he’s got some great stuff.”[5]

The 6-foot-5 Ludwick was a former second-round draft pick by the Mets in 1993, and had come to St. Louis as part of the package the Cardinals received for Bernard Gilkey in January 1996. Ludwick made his big-league debut that season, allowing 10 runs in 10 innings.

In 1997, Ludwick spent most of the season with Triple-A Louisville, posting a 2.93 ERA in 80 innings. In five major-league relief appearances, Ludwick had allowed seven runs.

Stein, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, was a 1994 sixth-round draft pick who was in his first season with the Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate in Arkansas. Stein was 8-7 with a 4.24 ERA over 133 2/3 innings. The year prior, he had impressed in the Florida State League, going 16-5 with a 2.15 ERA in 172 innings.

“McGwire didn’t fetch all that much, and this is not meant to slight Mathews, Ludwick, or Stein, who are just pawns in the game,” San Francisco Examiner columnist Ray Ratto wrote. “Mathews was at least known as the heir apparent to Dennis Eckersley in St. Louis, but Ludwick appeared only briefly in the bigs and Stein not at all. … But the A’s in their minds were trading from a rapidly weakening position. Having already said in so many words that they were not going to re-sign McGwire to the kind of money he can command, they were going to try to bluff their way to a good deal, failed, tried to break even, failed again, and ended up moving him for the worst of all reasons – to get anything at all.”[6]

“More than anything, I was having to grapple with trading Mark McGwire,” Alderson said. “I tried to put myself in our fans’ shoes while recognizing the reality of where we were. Sometimes free agency forces your decisions. This is the best result for everybody. It’s not an easy result, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s the right decision.”[7]

Mathews wound up pitching five seasons in Oakland, going 24-15 with a 4.78 ERA.

Ludwick went 1-4 with an 8.25 ERA in six appearances for the A’s in 1997. He was traded to the Marlins for Kurt Abbott that winter and was drafted by the Tigers in the minor league draft in December 1998.  He pitched in four major-league seasons, going 2-10 with an 8.35 career ERA.

Stein pitched for the A’s in 1998 and 1999, going a combined 5-9 with a 6.60 ERA. At the 1999 trading deadline, he was sent to the Royals as part of a deal for Kevin Appier. In five major-league seasons, Stein went 21-28 with a 5.41 career ERA.

In McGwire, the Cardinals were getting one of the game’s preeminent sluggers. After appearing in 18 games in 1986, McGwire broke out in his rookie 1987 campaign, leading the majors with 49 homers and a .618 slugging percentage on his way to the Rookie of the Year Award.

The 33-year-old McGwire had hit 363 home runs and driven in 941 RBIs in Oakland, and he appeared to be getting even better. In 1996, McGwire had batted .312 and led the majors in home runs (52), on-base percentage (.467), and slugging percentage (.730).

At the time of the trade, McGwire was batting .284/.383/.628 with 34 homers and 81 RBIs.

“You don’t really recover from losing a friend like that or a teammate like that, but at least he gets a chance to play with a contender,” said Jason Giambi, who immediately inherited first base from McGwire. “He taught me how to play the game, how to play it right.”[8]

McGwire had to approve the deal before it could be completed.

“It’s going to be a challenge and to tell you the truth, I think that’s what I need,” he said. “I decided to do this because I needed a change and I needed a challenge.”[9]

While Bay Area fans questioned whether Alderson had gotten enough for McGwire, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz argued that the Cardinals had given up too much for a player he anticipated would leave when his contract expired at the end of the season. With the Cardinals’ 2-1 loss to the Phillies that evening, St. Louis had fallen 7 ½ games behind the National League Central-leading Astros, and Miklasz argued that even McGwire’s bat wouldn’t be enough to allow St. Louis to catch Houston.

“McGwire will pad his resume with a few homers, then strut away to collect a ransom of free-agent millions this offseason,” Miklasz wrote. “Unless the Cardinals want to flirt with financial calamity by offering McGwire the largest contract in baseball history, he will bolt. He probably will wind up playing in his preferred home base in southern California, near his young son.”[10]

Miklasz proved to be only half-right. While the Cardinals finished fourth in the NL Central, on September 16 – just six weeks after being traded – McGwire signed a three-year, $28 million contract with an $11 million option for a fourth year. At McGwire’s request, the contract also called for McGwire to donate $1 million each year to a new Mark McGwire Charitable Foundation for sexually and physically abused children.[12]

“He accepted less money to play in St. Louis than he probably would have got on the free-agent market,” Jocketty said. “I think that’s an indication of the type of person we have here.”[13]

Just hours after the deal was announced, McGwire hit his 52nd home run of the season, a 517-foot blast that tied him with Ken Griffey Jr. for the major league lead.

“Mark is reminiscent of the great Cardinals of the past,” owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “Players like Johnny Mize, Red Schoendienst, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith. These were not only impact players but also great team players with a burning desire to win.”[14]

McGwire cemented his place in history with his 70-home run season in 1998, which set a new Major League Baseball single-season home run record. In 2010, prior to being hired as the Cardinals’ hitting coach, McGwire admitted that he used steroids at various points in his career, including during the 1990s and the 1998 season.

“I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids,” McGwire said. “I had good years when I didn’t take any, and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids, and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.”[15]

In 4 ½ seasons in St. Louis, McGwire hit 220 home runs, giving him 583 for his career. Over the course of his career, he was named to the all-star game 12 times, won three Silver Slugger awards, and won a Gold Glove in 1990.


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[1] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals’ Trade Quest Heads Toward Final Day,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 31, 1997.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals’ Trade Quest Heads Toward Final Day,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 31, 1997.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Cards Deal For McGwire,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1997.

[4] Rick Hummel, “‘I’m Proud To Be A Cardinal,’ McGwire Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 17, 1997.

[5] Edvins Beitiks, “A’s will lean on Giambi,” San Francisco Examiner, August 1, 1997.

[6] Ray Ratto, “A debatable move by the A’s,” San Francisco Examiner, August 1, 1997.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Cards Deal For McGwire,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1997.

[8] Edvins Beitiks, “A’s will lean on Giambi,” San Francisco Examiner, August 1, 1997.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Cards Deal For McGwire,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1997.

[10] Bernie Miklasz, “Big Swing, Short Fling,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1997.

[12] Rick Hummel, “‘I’m Proud To Be A Cardinal,’ McGwire Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 17, 1997.

[13] Rick Hummel, “‘I’m Proud To Be A Cardinal,’ McGwire Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 17, 1997.

[14] Rick Hummel, “‘I’m Proud To Be A Cardinal,’ McGwire Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 17, 1997.

[15] “McGwire apologizes to La Russa, Selig,” ESPN.com, www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=4816607.

July 30, 1959: Bob Gibson shuts out the Reds in his first career start

On July 30, 1959, Bob Gibson formally introduced himself to the Cincinnati Reds and Major League Baseball, earning the first of 251 career victories in the first starting assignment of his career.

That April, Gibson had made three appearances for the Cardinals, each in relief.

On April 15, Gibson made his major league debut, pitching the seventh and eighth innings of a 5-0 loss to the Dodgers. Pitching opposite Don Drysdale, who threw a complete-game shutout, Gibson allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, Jim Baxes, and another run in the eighth on a sacrifice bunt.

The following day, he entered the game in the fifth inning and allowed one run on three hits, retiring just one of the four batters he faced. On April 18, Gibson entered a game against the Giants down 7-1 in the eighth inning. Orlando Cepeda greeted Gibson with an RBI double before Gibson got Felipe Alou to ground out to the shortstop to end the inning.

With three earned runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings, Gibson was returned to Triple-A Omaha. He remained in his hometown until July 29, when right-hander Dick Ricketts was optioned to Rochester and Gibson was summoned to take his spot on the roster.[1] Gibson had been 9-9 with a 3.07 ERA in Omaha.[2]

It was poetic that Gibson was making his first start against the Reds, the franchise that had come so close to signing him out of Creighton University.

“As late as two in the morning he agreed to verbal terms with us, but by daylight he had jumped to the Cardinals,” Reds farm director Phil Seghi told the Cincinnati Enquirer, noting that he believed a family member had nixed the deal. “I don’t know what he’ll do tonight, but he’s a pretty good major league prospect.”[3]

The 23-year-old Gibson’s biggest challenges came in the first and ninth innings. After Johnny Temple walked to lead off the first, Vada Pinson singled to left. With runners on first and second, Gibson got Gus Bell to ground into a force out at second, Frank Robinson to fly out to center field, and Jerry Lynch to ground out.

The Cardinals gave Gibson all the offense he would need in the second. Ken Boyer led off the inning with a double to center field. Bill White advanced Boyer to third base, then Joe Cunningham singled to left off Reds left-hander Jim O’Toole, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

From there, Gibson refused to allow a runner past first base until the ninth inning.

The 22-year-old O’Toole pitched seven innings for the Reds, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when he got Hal Smith to ground into an inning-ending double play. After O’Toole was removed for a pinch hitter, Brooks Lawrence threw two scoreless innings in relief.

In the ninth, Cardinals manager Solly Hemus subbed Curt Flood into the game to play center field, moving Gino Cimoli to left field and White to first base in place of the 38-year-old Stan Musial. Lynch led off the inning with a single to right field, but was retired when White knocked down a liner by Ed Bailey and threw to second for the force out.

Gibson got Willie Jones to pop up for the second out of the inning before he walked pinch hitters Frank Thomas and Don Newcombe on eight consecutive pitches. With the bases loaded and Marshall Bridges warm in the bullpen,[4] Gibson fell behind in the count 2-0 before Temple flied out to Flood to end the game.

Gibson finished the game with eight hits and three walks allowed. He struck out two.

“I can throw a lot harder but my shoulder has been a little sore for the past week,” Gibson said.[5]

Boyer led the Cardinals’ offense with three hits, including a double, and Smith and Alex Grammas each singled twice.

While Gibson’s performance demonstrated his outstanding potential, he wasn’t yet the dominant pitcher of the mid- to late-1960s. He allowed five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in his next start, a 7-3 loss to the Pirates, then walked eight batters in his next outing, a 10-inning performance against the Phillies. After losing five consecutive decisions, he finished the year strong, striking out 10 Cubs in a complete-game win on September 12 and throwing 4 2/3 innings of relief to earn the win in a 14-8 victory over the Giants.

It was a mixed season for Gibson, who was still learning the slider, which would become a key pitch for him when paired with his fastball. On the other hand, Gibson was unlikely to reach his full potential while playing for Hemus.

“He told me, like he told Flood, that I would never make it in the majors, and he went so far as to suggest that I take a shot at basketball instead,” said Gibson, who had played for the Harlem Globetrotters before Cardinals general manager Bing Devine increased his salary enough to convince him to give up basketball. “He was apparently convinced that I didn’t have a thought in my head when I was on the mound, and was not the least reluctant to insult my intelligence. When the pitchers would meet before a series to review the hitters on the other team, Hemus would say things like, “You don’t have to listen to this, Gibson. You just try to get the ball over the plate.”[6]

In his third season as the Cardinals’ manager in 1961, Hemus was fired and replaced with Johnny Keane. With Keane’s encouragement changing the trajectory of his career, Gibson went on to establish himself as the most dominant pitcher in franchise history. Over 17 seasons, Gibson won one National League MVP trophy, two Cy Young awards, two World Series MVP awards, and nine Gold Globe Awards. He led the Cardinals to two World Series championships and appeared in nine all-star games before retiring in 1975. Gibson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 with 251 career wins, 3,117 strikeouts, and a 2.91 ERA.


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[1] “Ricketts Sent To Rochester; Gibson Back,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 29, 1959.

[2] “Birds to Start Gibson, Former Basketball Pro,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 1959.

[3] Bill Ford, “Don’s Control Just Too Good,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 31, 1959.

[4] Neal Russo, “Cards’ Gibson, in First Big League Start, Shuts Out Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 31, 1959.

[5] Neal Russo, “Cards’ Gibson, in First Big League Start, Shuts Out Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 31, 1959.

[6] Bob Gibson and Lonnie Wheeler (1994), “Stranger to the Game,” Penguin Books USA, New York, Page 52.