November 7, 1967: Voters unanimously name Orlando Cepeda NL MVP

In 1967, Orlando Cepeda was more than the heart of the World Series champion “El Birdos.” On November 7, he was named the first unanimous National League MVP since Carl Hubbell received all six first-place votes in 1936.

“The Most Valuable Player Award, that’s the best compliment any ballplayer can desire,” Cepeda said.[1]

The recognition capped a season in which Cepeda, in his second season with the Cardinals, batted .325 with 25 homers and a league-high 111 RBIs. It was a resurgent season for the 30-year-old first baseman, who experienced highs and lows during the first nine seasons of his career with the Giants.

Cepeda burst onto the major-league scene as a 20-year-old in 1958, batting .312 with 25 homers and 96 RBIs to win the Rookie of the Year Award. After six consecutive all-star seasons, Cepeda was hobbled by knee injuries in 1965 and made just 40 plate appearances. Herman Franks, newly installed as the Giants manager that season, was unimpressed.

On May 8, 1966, the Giants traded Cepeda to the Cardinals for left-hander Ray Sadecki, a 20-game winner in 1964. It proved to be a welcome change for Cepeda.

“Orlando loved being a Cardinal,” Bob Gibson wrote in 2015. “For one thing, he was allowed to play his countless Latin records and speak Spanish—although Julian Javier was the only one who could speak it back—in the clubhouse. Those things had been forbidden in San Francisco’s. Nor was our clubhouse divided into ethnic cliques like San Francisco’s.”[2]

In 123 games for the Cardinals that season, Cepeda hit .303 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs, winning the St. Louis writers’ comeback player of the year award.[3]

By 1967, Cepeda had became the heart and soul of the team he affectionately referred to as “El Birdos.” As George Vecsey described it:

He was more than the trusted cleanup hitter. Orlando was the life of the party.

The Cardinals would club somebody into submission and troop back into their clubhouse. First thing you knew, Orlando’s soul music was blasting from the phonograph and Cepeda was standing on a chair.

Who wins the game?” he would shout.

“El Birdos,” the Cardinals would respond in their pidgin Spanish.

“What’s the magic word?” Cepeda would ask.

“Nuts to Herman Franks,” the Cardinals would respond. Then they would be free to take their shower or open their beer. Orlando was satisfied.[4]

The Cardinals’ pitching staff was particularly pleased to have Cepeda in the lineup. Gibson described the scene one day in 1967 when Cepeda was running late. With the team waiting on Cepeda, some of the players began to call for the driver to take them to Shea Stadium and leave the tardy Cepeda behind.

Gibson wasn’t having it. Standing up in the middle of the bus, he declared, “We’re waiting for Cepeda. The pitchers aren’t leaving without him.”[5]

Cepeda was one of four Redbirds to place in the top 10 in that year’s MVP voting. Tim McCarver, who hit .295 with 14 homers and 69 RBIs, placed second in the voting with eight second-place votes. His 136 points edged the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente, who tallied 129 in the voting.

Lou Brock hit .299 with 21 homers, 76 RBIs, and 52 stolen bases to finish seventh in the voting. Julian Javier, who hit .281 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs, placed ninth.

The Reds were the only other team in the National League with multiple players in the top 10, as Tony Perez finished seventh and Pete Rose was 10th.

“I have to thank Bob Howsam for taking the big chance on me, and I have to thank Stan Musial for the encouragement and trainer Bob Bauman for helping with my leg,” Cepeda said after winning the MVP Award. “They have had a lot to do for me. I think for Bauman they should give him the Most Valuable Trainer Award.”[6]

In 1968, Cepeda hit .248 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs, a far cry from his MVP numbers a year earlier. On March 17, 1969, the Cardinals traded Cepeda to the Braves for Joe Torre. The trade marked the end of the “El Birdos” era of the Cardinals, though Torre did win his own NL MVP trophy in 1971 and represented the Redbirds in four all-star games.

In three seasons in St. Louis, Cepeda hit .290 with 58 homers and 242 RBIs. He retired following the 1974 season after 17 years in the majors. An 11-time all-star, he retired with a .297 batting average, 379 home runs, and 1,365 RBIs and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.


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[1] Ed Wilks, “MVP Cepeda Has ‘Big Day,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 8, 1967.

[2] Bob Gibson with Lonnie Wheeler (2015), Pitch by Pitch: My View of One Unforgettable Game, Kindle Android Version, Retrieved from Amazon.com, Page 53.

[3] Ed Wilks, “MVP Cepeda Has ‘Big Day,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 8, 1967.

[4] George Vecsey, “Now Cepeda Has His Vindication,” Newsday, November 8, 1967.

[5] Bob Gibson with Lonnie Wheeler (2015), Pitch by Pitch: My View of One Unforgettable Game, Kindle Android Version, Retrieved from Amazon.com, Page 53.

[6] Ed Wilks, “MVP Cepeda Has ‘Big Day,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 8, 1967.

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.

November 2, 2000: Will Clark retires as a Cardinal

After two and a half incredible months with the St. Louis Cardinals, Will Clark announced his retirement on November 2, 2000.

The 36-year-old Clark had come to St. Louis at the trade deadline just three months earlier in exchange for minor-league third baseman Jose Leon. As part of the trade, the Orioles also assumed about half of Clark’s remaining salary for the season.[1]

Clark would fill in for Mark McGwire, who was battling patellar tendinitis in his right knee even as the Cardinals were battling for the National League Central Division championship. At the time of the trade, it was unclear whether McGwire would be able to return.

“We’re protecting ourselves in the event that that happens,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. “There was a great deal of interest from Clark’s side to try to come here. He wanted to play on a winner.”[2]

Even if the 36-year-old McGwire did return, the addition of the left-handed hitting Clark gave the Cardinals the opportunity to mix and match against opponents.

“Even when Mac comes back, maybe he comes back like spring training where he plays one day and sits one day,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “Maybe he and Clark could alternate. You could play Mac early and then put Will in.”[3]

Ultimately, it proved to be a non-issue, as McGwire did not return. Instead, Clark became the Cardinals’ everyday first baseman.

At the time of the trade, it had been more than seven years since Clark had appeared in an all-star game. After homering off Nolan Ryan in his first major-league at-bat and placing fifth in the Rookie of the Year balloting in 1986, Clark became a mainstay of the Giants teams in the late ’80s and early ’90s. In 1987, he placed fifth in the MVP voting with a .305 batting average, 35 homers, and 95 RBIs, then hit .360 against the Cardinals in the NLCS.

Two years later, Clark again led the Giants to the postseason. This time, after batting .333 with 23 homers, 111 RBIs, and a league-leading 104 runs scored during the regular season, Clark hit .650 against the Cubs in the NLCS. His two-run single in the eighth inning of NLCS Game 5 sent the Giants to the World Series, where they fell to La Russa’s Athletics in four games.

After the 1993 season, Clark signed as a free agent with the Rangers, where injuries took their toll on his career. In his first four seasons in Texas, he failed to exceed 123 games. Though he bounced back to hit .305 and drive in 102 runs in 1998, the Rangers allowed him to sign with Baltimore after the season.

In his debut season in Baltimore, Clark played in just 77 games, batting .303 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs. He was able to stay on the field in 2000, and at the time of the trade he was hitting .301 with 28 RBIs in 256 at-bats.

In St. Louis, he was even better, batting .345 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in just 197 plate appearances. With Clark providing a spark, the Cardinals won 95 games and beat the Reds by 10 games in the NL Central race.

In Game 2 of the NLDS, Clark hit a three-run, first-inning homer off Tom Glavine to help lead the Cardinals to a 10-4 win over the Braves. He added a solo home run off Bobby Jones in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Mets.

A few days after the Yankees defeated the Mets in the World Series, Clark announced the end of his 15-year major-league career. Two years earlier, Will and his wife Lisa’s 4-year-old son Trey was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder, a form of autism. In fact, two years earlier he had signed with Baltimore in part because it would place him close to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he could get Trey the best treatment in the nation.[4]

“I could have played a few more years, but I realized where I was needed most, and that was at home,” Clark said in 2015.[5]

In announcing his retirement, Clark said, “I just want to say thank you to the Cardinals organization to allow me to have a lot, a lot, of fun the last two months of the 2000 season. This is something that has taken a lot of thought process on my part, but I’ve decided to move on to the second part of my life. The first part, I was a baseball player. The second part, I’m going to be a daddy, a husband. I’m actually looking forward to it.”[6]

Although McGwire was expected to return as the Cardinals’ first baseman in 2001, St. Louis had expressed an interest in bringing him back. Other teams were also interested. However, in addition to his family concerns, Clark had already had 36 bone chips removed from his left elbow over the course of three operations in the previous five years. To continue his playing career, he would need to undergo another surgery on the elbow.[7]

Instead, he chose to hang up his cleats and go out on top.

“Will, Michael Jordan, John Elway – there are only a few names you can think of who went out when they still had a lot left,” La Russa said. “That’s how rare it is. When it happens, most of the time it’s a combination of being real good and things breaking right.”

Clark had been a perfect fit for the clubhouse culture La Russa had built in St. Louis: ultra-competitive with just a bit of an edge to him.

“The first time I ever spoke to him, Clark started the conversation by saying, ‘That was a horsebleep column you wrote today,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz said, recounting that he told Clark to get used to it and got a laugh out of the first baseman.[8]

After being a rival in the late ’80s and even getting into an on-field scrap with Ozzie Smith in 1988, Clark was embraced during his 10 weeks as a Cardinal.

“After having been part of this organization, seeing the great fans and how great the organization is, I’m committed to the Cardinals,” Clark said. “I’m pretty much a loyalist. They’ve been loyal to me, so I will be loyal to them.”[9]

“That’s pretty dramatic, for Will to be here two months and two weeks and make a statement like that,” La Russa said.[10]

Ray Ratto, a columnist with the San Francisco Examiner, wrote that Clark’s final weeks with the Cardinals proved the perfect endcap to his career:

His decision to retire after only 2 ½ months as a St. Louis Cardinal made perfect sense, at least to those who knew his inner drives and torments. He needed to go out a .300 hitter, and he needed to go out as an impact player, the way he began 14 years ago. He needed to be on a good team, so that people wouldn’t forget that he once was just that important.

“It would have been tougher to retire (if he’d still been an Oriole), because of all the questions,” Clark said. “You know, ‘Can he still play?’ I think the last 2 ½ months answered those questions. I can still hit. I can still play. I can still field my position.”[11]


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Surhoff, Clark join exodus,” Baltimore Sun, August 1, 2000.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Cards stack deck, nab Clark on deadline,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 2000.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Cards stack deck, nab Clark on deadline,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 2000.

[4] Lloyd Courtney, “Where are they now: Will Clark focuses on family,” Shreveport Times, May 17, 2015.

[5] Lloyd Courtney, “Where are they now: Will Clark focuses on family,” Shreveport Times, May 17, 2015.

[6] Mike Eisenbath, “Clark goes out a Cardinal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 3, 2000.

[7] Mike Eisenbath, “Clark goes out a Cardinal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 3, 2000.

[8] Bernie Miklasz, “Congrats to Jocketty; now let’s make a deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4, 2000.

[9] Mike Eisenbath, “Clark goes out a Cardinal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 3, 2000.

[10] Mike Eisenbath, “Clark goes out a Cardinal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 3, 2000.

[11] Ray Ratto, “Clark spotted his exit in the Cards,” San Francisco Examiner, November 3, 2000.

October 13, 1985: Busch Stadium’s automated tarp runs over Vince Coleman’s legs

There wasn’t a catcher in baseball who could stop Vince Coleman during his rookie campaign in 1985.

Unfortunately, the same rule didn’t apply to the Busch Stadium tarp.

The Cardinals initially didn’t plan for Coleman to break their starting lineup in 1985. Coleman went just 4-for-29 in spring training[1] and was optioned to Triple-A Louisville to open the season. However, outfielders Willie McGee and Tito Landrum each suffered injuries that month, prompting the Cardinals to call the speedster up to the majors.

Upon Coleman’s arrival, general manager Dal Maxvill met with Coleman to be sure the rookie had realistic expectations about his role.

“Look, Vince, you’ve had a nice spring, but I want you to realize, right now, that you’re only going to be with us for about a week, and then you’ll be sent to Louisville,” Maxvill began.

Coleman nodded. “Yes, Mr. Maxvill, I understand, but I want you to know that I’m going to be here the whole year.”

Maxvill smiled. “That’s great, Vince. I want you to have all the confidence in the world, but you have to understand that once McGee is healthy, you’ll be sent back down to Louisville.”

Once again, Coleman nodded. “Yes, Mr. Maxvill,” he said. “I understand, but I want you to know I’m going to be here the whole year.”[2]

Coleman proved to be right. In his major-league debut on April 18, Coleman went 1-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases. That proved just the beginning of a season in which Coleman stole 110 stolen bases, breaking Juan Samuel’s rookie record of 72.

With Coleman setting the basepaths on fire, the Cardinals won 101 games on their way to the National League East championship.

“Things just seemed to click when we brought Vince Coleman up,” said Tom Herr, who posted a career-high 110 RBIs that season. “Before, we were kind of experimenting. With a natural leadoff hitter like Vince, and a guy like Willie McGee hitting behind him, it was like a smorgasbord for me all year long.”[3]

Ahead of the National League Championship Series, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, whose team went 95-67 en route to the National League West title, was asked how he planned to contain Coleman.

“Fake a throw to second, and then try to catch him going to third,” he joked.[4]

Coleman went 0-for-4 in the first game, a 4-1 Dodgers victory, then went 2-for-5 with an RBI as the Dodgers won Game 2. In Game 3, Coleman again went 2-for-5, this time stealing a base and scoring twice. It proved to be his final game of the season.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch story following Vince Coleman’s injury.

Prior to Game 4, a light rain began to fall. As Coleman and other players gathered their equipment, the grounds crew began to use an electronic machine to unroll the tarp. As Ozzie Smith described the scene in his autobiography:

Vince was standing right at the edge of the tarp. He turned to toss his glove to somebody who was headed into the dugout, and just as he turned, his foot slipped on the wet Astroturf, he fell, and the tarp rolled over his foot and started up his leg. Vince panicked, as anyone in that situation would, and everybody else kind of froze. Finally we sprang into action and got the guy controlling the tarp, who was down beyond first base, to shut the thing off. But in order to reverse the tarp, he had to go back over Vince’s leg. Vince was in a lot of pain, and nobody really knew what to do.[5]

Cardinals spokesperson Jim Toomey estimated that the tarp and cylinder weighed approximately 1,200 pounds spread out across their 180-foot width.[6]

 “I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy,” Coleman said.

“When I went home I dreamed about it and the dream was that the tarp went over my head.”[7]

As the Cardinals’ medical staff assessed Coleman, manager Whitey Herzog called Coleman’s mother at her home in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Are you sure that I don’t need to come up there?” Mrs. Coleman asked.

“No,” Herzog answered. “We’ve got Willie and Ozzie to mother him.”[8]

Dr. Stan London, the Cardinals’ team doctor, initially was optimistic. Preliminary x-rays showed no fractures, and while Coleman’s legs had suffered cuts and were tender, the initial diagnosis was that there was no structural damage.

“He could play if everything checked out tomorrow in the same fashion,” London said. “That would be contingent on how he was feeling.”[9]

Coleman, however, did not feel well enough to play. The Cardinals won each of the NLCS games they played without him to win the series in six games. When Jack Clark hit a three-run, ninth-inning home run to lift the Cardinals to a 7-5 victory in Game 6, Coleman discarded his crutches and was right behind pitcher Joaquin Andujar, the second person to greet Clark at home plate.[10]

The day after the Cardinals won Game 2 of the World Series to take a two-game lead over the Royals, London conducted a new series of tests on Coleman using a more sensitive film.

“It’s really a very small 1- by 3-millimeter bone flake that’s pulled off,” London said. “It’s not a significant injury, except for the extreme pain, but it should heal and I would not anticipate it causing him any problems.”[11]

Nonetheless, Coleman’s season was over. The Cardinals petitioned Commissioner Peter Ueberroth’s office for a special allowance to replace Coleman on the roster, but Major League Baseball denied the request.[12]

Kansas City won four of the final five games of the World Series to capture the championship. Though Don Denkinger’s missed call in Game 6 drew most of the media attention, questions remained regarding the impact Coleman could have made in the series.

“We were spinning our wheels until Vince got here this year,” Herzog said ahead of Game 6. “Everybody talked about how well our first four (hitters) complemented each other this year, and they’re right.”[13]

First baseman and outfielder Cesar Cedeno, who joined the club in July, grew frustrated with the questions about Coleman’s absence from the lineup.

“You want to talk about the offense, we’ll talk, but don’t bring up Vince,” he said. “Every time we lose a game, you bring up Vince. We won (six of eight games) with him out. I know you’ve got to make news. We obviously miss him. But we’re still winning the Series.”[14]

At the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America annual dinner in February, Herzog pointed out that outside of Game 6, the Cardinals’ losses were too lopsided for Coleman to have made a difference in the outcome.

“The bottom line was that we hit .168 in the Series,” Herzog said. “In the other three games that we lost, we were outscored 23-2. Vince Coleman wasn’t going to drive in 24 runs for us.”[15]

In his book White Rat: A Life in Baseball, published in 1987, Herzog wrote, “My biggest regret was that the people who watched the World Series didn’t see the true St. Louis Cardinals. We just didn’t play our brand of baseball. Coleman’s injury took the flash out of our offense.”[16]

In January, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Coleman’s injury had healed “a week or 10 days after the World Series had ended,” and he was looking forward to the 1986 season.

“Right now it feels like it’s brand new,” Coleman said. “It’s 100% healthy.”[17]


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[1] Rick Hummel, “Coleman Knows His Job’s A Steal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 30, 1985.

[2] Doug Feldmann (2002), Fleeter Than Birds: The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and Small Ball’s Last Hurrah, McFarland Publishing, Pages 44-45.

[3] John Sonderegger, “ConVincing,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 28, 1985.

[4] Doug Feldmann (2002), Fleeter Than Birds: The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and Small Ball’s Last Hurrah, McFarland Publishing, Page 156.

[5] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Contemporary Books, Page 128.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Close Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 14, 1985.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Nobody At Fault Except Himself, Coleman Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[8] Doug Feldmann (2002), Fleeter Than Birds: The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and Small Ball’s Last Hurrah, McFarland Publishing, Page 160.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Close Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 14, 1985.

[10] “Coleman Ready To Play In World Series Opener,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 18, 1985.

[11] Rick Hummel, “Coleman Sidelined For Series,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 22, 1985.

[12] Doug Feldmann (2002), Fleeter Than Birds: The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and Small Ball’s Last Hurrah, McFarland Publishing, Page 177.

[13] Mike Smith, “Royals’ Pitching Stifles Cards’ Bats,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 26, 1985.

[14] Mike Smith, “Royals’ Pitching Stifles Cards’ Bats,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 26, 1985.

[15] Cathie Burnes, “Herzog At Dinner: No Excuses,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 5, 1986.

[16] Whitey Herzog and Kevin Horrigan (1987), White Rat: A Life in Baseball, NY H&R, Page 182.

[17] Rick Hummel, “Coleman On Injured Leg: ‘It Feels Like Brand New,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 25, 1986.

October 31, 2011: Tony La Russa retires on a winning note

Months before his 2011 Cardinals surged into a National League wild-card berth and stunned all of baseball with the franchise’s 11th World Series championship, Tony La Russa knew it would be his last season wearing the birds on the bat.

As the Cardinals entered the dog days of August, La Russa realized that while he continued to love the competition, the game wasn’t quite as much fun as it had once been. His mind kept going back to a spring training game against the Nationals in which Chris Carpenter hit Washington’s Laynce Nix with a pitch.

Nix had played for the Reds the previous season when the Cardinals brawled with Cincinnati, and the Nationals believed the Cardinals had intentionally hit Nix. They responded by hitting Ryan Theriot with a pitch.

Now La Russa had a decision to make. He went to pitcher Miguel Batista and gave him his marching orders: “Go after Ian Desmond.”[1]

Batista did as instructed and was ejected. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, a friend of La Russa’s, was upset. So was Desmond.

“As I thought about whether or not this would be my last year, I kept going back to that incident,” La Russa wrote in his book One Last Strike. “In some ways, how I felt about it mirrored what I was thinking in terms of this 2011 club. I had everything I wanted in terms of great team chemistry. Still, it wasn’t as much fun as it had been. The duty I felt to protect my players had forced my hand, and I’d had to do something against a manager and a player I really liked. That wasn’t any fun. I distinctly remember thinking, I’ve had just about enough of this crap.[2]

In mid-August, La Russa told his wife Elaine of his decision: this would be his last season managing the Cardinals. She was surprised, and La Russa wrote “she would have been more disappointed and upset if she’d thought I was serious.”[3]

On August 19, La Russa met with general manager John Mozeliak to tell him of his decision.

“We talked, quite a bit, on sort of the relevance of what was happening,” Mozeliak said. “At the time our club was still directionally not sure where it would end up in terms of the success we ended up having. There was still some frustration, but I think for him, he just wanted me to know, and I appreciated that because it was allowing us to at least start planning. … My head was obviously spinning. I went back to the hotel. I had reached out to Bill (DeWitt Jr.) to let him know. I kind of took a deep breath and in earnest started making a list. It was probably 30 or 35 names of potential replacements.”

La Russa and Elaine discussed his retirement again in September, as the Cardinals were rallying to catch the Braves in the playoff race. Of everyone La Russa spoke to, Elaine came the closest to talking him out of his decision.

“One, she said it would mean a lot to her and the girls if I passed John McGraw for second on the list of most managerial wins in a career,” La Russa recalled. “I could understand their thinking, but I couldn’t give in to it, because that was something personal and not professional. Doing it for them, knowing that I shouldn’t be there, wasn’t something I could do. I hated to disappoint them.

“The second thing she said hit me the hardest. She told me that for the last 30 years, she and the girls, whether over the radio, TV, or internet, at game time would turn on the broadcast, and go about their day while keeping track of our progress. Every day for six months or more, they did that. Our games were so much a part of their lives and had been for so long, that they couldn’t imagine going on without them as the soundtrack for their lives. Hearing that was the only time I reconsidered my decision. Elaine really made me realize, good and bad, just how intertwined my two families were.”[4]

Nonetheless, La Russa could not be swayed. Even as the Cardinals rallied to reach the postseason for the ninth time in his 16 seasons and La Russa captured the third world championship of his career, his course was clear.

“I looked in the mirror and I know if I came back, I would come back for the wrong reasons and I wouldn’t do that,” La Russa said.[5]

Only a few people were clued in to La Russa’s decision. In addition to DeWitt and Mozeliak, La Russa told coaches Dave Duncan, Mark McGwire, and Dave McKay.[6]

Three days after the Cardinals won Game 7 of the World Series, La Russa and the Cardinals participated in a parade in their honor. After celebrating with more than 40,000 Cardinals fans, La Russa gathered his team for a brief meeting in the weight room and broke the news.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted one attendee who said that La Russa “had his game face on.”[7]

“I wasn’t expecting a retirement speech,” Skip Schumaker said, “but Tony, who knows how to speak, you could tell he was ready. He was done. His best chance to win was with us, and he did that. It didn’t feel like he was going to another organization. He’s spent, and he’s going to leave us with a championship. He got to walk away on his terms and he deserves it more than anybody else.”[8]

Afterward, La Russa shared hugs and well wishes.

“It’s fitting for Tony,” Holliday said. “For it to be this mad dash to the finish, and for us to be able to finish the job in such a crazy manner, it’s the end it should be. It’s a cool way to finish. Very Hollywood-esque. He’s a Hall of Fame manager and he gets to ride off into the sunset on possibly the highest note of them all – Game 7 of the World Series, at home, in a postseason that we were supposed to have no chance to get into. It’s cool for a guy like Tony, who has managed 33 years, to go out the way he did.”[9]

La Russa retired with a 1,408-1,182-1 record with the Cardinals for a .544 winning percentage. Along the way, the Cardinals won the National League pennant in 2004, 2006, and 2011, and won the World Series in 2006 and 2011.

At the time of his retirement, La Russa’s career win total of 2,728 was 35 shy of John McGraw’s mark for the second-most managerial wins in modern-day history.

“I think this just feels like time to end it,” La Russa said.[10]

“I talked to him plenty about it but I didn’t wear him out on the subject,” DeWitt said, “and once he made his mind up, his mind was made up. He’s a very decisive individual. It’s one of the things that makes him a great manager. He makes a decision and doesn’t look back.”[11]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell, who called La Russa one of the most fascinating personalities he had covered in his 38-year career, said the clues of La Russa’s decision had been there in the month’s final weeks.[12]

During this incredible championship run for his 2011 St. Louis Cardinals over the last few weeks, the 67-year-old manager was subtly broadening his field of vision. Instead of locking in only on his dogged daily routine – trying to win a baseball game – La Russa surprised us. Uncharacteristically, he was pausing to savor the entire experience of this dash to the most improbable World Series pursuit in baseball history. He lingered around before and after games longer to tell wonderful old baseball stories. He seemed relaxed. There were nights before the games when you could actually catch him slowly panning around the ballpark to take in all its amazing sights and sounds.[13]

Though La Russa may have paused to savor the moments a bit more during his final weeks in St. Louis, he left behind a legacy of unyielding intensity.

“He’s tough to play for because he’s so demanding, and why shouldn’t he be?” said Mike Matheny, who played for La Russa from 2000 through 2004 and was named his successor as Cardinals manager in November. “You ended a season completely spent, physically and mentally spent. I know he’s gotten some knocks for that. That style of constantly grinding, grinding, grinding, grinding is difficult to do, but it’s what we learn is conducive to winning. It could turn into a country club if you get too comfortable. He doesn’t let it. He kept you on track. He kept you on edge for 162 games.”[14]

Holliday said that La Russa’s legacy of tenacity would carry forward no matter who was named the next Cardinals manager.

“I’m thankful for the two seasons that I did have with him,” Matt Holliday said. “I think a lot of us learned from him. A lot of Carp’s edge, a lot of Carp’s leadership, comes from Tony and how he goes about it. Tony talks a lot about how to be a leader of men. That combination of Tony leading and our veterans following suit will carry over. It’s important for us to play the right way and it won’t change.”[15]

Shortly after his retirement as a manager, La Russa took a position with Major League Baseball assisting another former Cardinals manager, Joe Torre, in on-field discipline. In 2014, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and also joined the Diamondbacks as Chief Baseball Officer. He later took front-office positions with the Red Sox and Angels.

In 2021, La Russa returned to the dugout as manager of the White Sox, where he passed John McGraw for second place in all-time managerial wins.


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[1] Tony La Russa (2012), One Last Strike, Kindle Android Version, retrieved from Amazon.com, Page 168.

[2] Tony La Russa (2012), One Last Strike, Kindle Android Version, retrieved from Amazon.com, Page 169.

[3] Tony La Russa (2012), One Last Strike, Kindle Android Version, retrieved from Amazon.com, Page 170.

[4] Tony La Russa (2012), One Last Strike, Kindle Android Version, retrieved from Amazon.com, Page 170.

[5] Joe Strauss, “‘I have no regrets,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[6] Joe Strauss, “‘I have no regrets,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[7] Joe Strauss, “‘I have no regrets,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[8] Derrick Goold, “‘Cool way to finish,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[9] Derrick Goold, “‘Cool way to finish,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[10] Joe Strauss, “‘I have no regrets,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[11] Joe Strauss, “‘I have no regrets,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[12] Bryan Burwell, “Leaving on his terms,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[13] Bryan Burwell, “Leaving on his terms,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[14] Derrick Goold, “‘Cool way to finish,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.

[15] Derrick Goold, “‘Cool way to finish,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 1, 2011.