May 4, 1990: Cardinals trade Tom Brunansky to Boston for Lee Smith

For more than a month, the Cardinals and Red Sox had discussed a trade that would send St. Louis’s top home run hitter, Tom Brunansky, to the Boston for closer Lee Smith.

Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill declined the trade proposal in early April, hopeful that his club could re-sign Brunansky and keep in him an outfield that also included Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, and Milt Thompson, and had highly regarded prospect Ray Lankford waiting in Triple-A.

The issue, however, was Brunansky’s desire for a limited no-trade clause similar to the one included in his current deal, which he had signed with the Twins. The Cardinals had a team policy against no-trade clauses.

On April 5, Bernie Miklasz wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Brunansky could be traded for Smith.

“Who’s the most likely guy to leave here?” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog asked. “Bruno. He wants a smaller park to hit in, he knows the Cowboy (California Angels owner Gene Autry) wants him. He’s from California. He knows he can get $2.5 million a year from the Cowboy.”[1]

Herzog made clear that if Brunansky was traded, it wasn’t because his manager didn’t appreciate him.

“I like Bruno. He’s a dream to manage,” Herzog said. “You can’t find a better son of a gun. I’d like to keep him, but I’m just talking facts here.”[2]

At the time, Brunansky said he hadn’t heard anything from his agent regarding the deal, nor had the Red Sox reached out to him.

“I’m sure before they’d go for a trade like that, the Red Sox would at least want to talk to me,” he said. “They know I’m in my final year, and I’m sure they’d like to lock me up in a new contract instead of seeing me walk away.”[3]

By early May, with negotiations between Brunansky and the Cardinals at an impasse, Maxvill called Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman and it didn’t take long to finalize the exchange of pending free agents. On May 4, 1990, they made the deal official.

“We tried to work around this somehow, but it just couldn’t be done,” Maxvill said.[4]

Brunansky said he had met with both Maxvill and Herzog and encouraged them to make a trade that would help the team.

“The no-trade was the whole thing,” Brunansky said. “We never got to the point of talking any money. For me to stay here, I would need some kind of security. I wasn’t going to sign here for three years, buy a house and everything, and keep hearing trade rumors.”[5]

Brunansky had come to St. Louis in an April 1988 trade with the Twins for Tom Herr. He hit 22 homers and drove in 79 runs for the Cardinals that season to lead the team in both categories. In 1989, Brunansky led the club with 20 homers and his 85 RBIs ranked second on the team to Pedro Guerrero.

Through the first 19 games of the 1990 season, however, he was batting just .158 with more walks (12) than hits (9) and was splitting time with Thompson in right field.

“I know it was hard on Bruno and me both,” Thompson said of the Cardinals’ crowded outfield situation. “You find yourself pressuring a lot when you get the opportunity. The key now is to go out there and relax and just play ball.”[6]

Just as the Twins had found it difficult to part with the well-liked Brunansky two years earlier, the Cardinals were disappointed to see the popular outfielder leaving.

“From my perspective, I don’t know Lee Smith, and certainly he’s been a great pitcher and he’s going to help us,” Cardinals pitcher Ricky Horton said. “There’s no doubt about that, but from a personal standpoint, we’re losing a great guy. Bruno is just a great guy to have around the clubhouse. He’s a big leaguer and I’m going to miss him.”[7]

The Red Sox, of course, were excited to add Brunansky’s bat to their lineup. They chose the Cardinals’ trade offer over a package from the Braves that included pitcher Tommy Greene and third baseman Jim Presley.[8]

“A power hitter was our secondary need, but a big need,” said Red Sox president John Harrington. “We would have preferred a starting pitcher, but Tom Brunansky is no second fiddle by any means.”[9]

In trading the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Brunansky, the Cardinals added a 6-foot-5, 220-pound closer in Smith, who emerged in the Cubs’ bullpen after they traded Bruce Sutter to the Cardinals in 1980. In eight seasons, Smith saved 180 games for the Cubs, including a league-leading 29 in 1983.

After the 1987 season, the Cubs traded Smith to the Red Sox for Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi. In two-plus seasons in Boston, Smith saved 58 games. During the previous offseason, however, the Red Sox signed Jeff Reardon, making the big right-hander expendable. Like Brunansky, Smith was due to become a free agent after the season.

“This makes us pretty strong,” Herzog said, noting that three members of the Cardinals’ bullpen – Smith, Scott Terry, and Tom Niedenfuer – had experience closing.[10]

For his part, Smith was glad to come to a situation where – despite the experience of Terry and Niedenfuer – he was the clear-cut closer.

“I’m really pleased,” Smith said. “Something had to be done here. With the two closers we had, it wasn’t fair to either one of us. Over the winter, they were talking about how they could use both of us. Jeff would pitch one day and I’d pitch the next, but it seemed like every time I pitched this season, Jeff pitched the same day. I said going into spring training that I didn’t think it would work.”[11]

It certainly worked in St. Louis. Smith saved 27 games for the Cardinals in 1990, posting a 2.10 ERA in 68 2/3 innings.

The 1991 season was arguably the best of Smith’s 18-year career, as he led the league with 47 saves. In addition to making his third all-star appearance, he placed second in the Cy Young Award voting behind Tom Glavine and placed eighth in the MVP vote.

In 1992, Smith saved 43 games with a 3.12 ERA. Once again, he was named an all-star and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. In 1993, Smith saved 43 games with a 4.50 ERA before the Cardinals traded him to the Yankees on August 31 for Rich Batchelor.

In four seasons, Smith saved 160 games for the Cardinals with a 2.90 ERA. He retired in 1997 with 478 saves. Beginning in 2003, Smith spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, reaching a high of 50.6% of the vote in 2012 but never reaching the 75% threshold required for induction. In 2018, all 16 members of the Today’s Game Committee voted Smith into the Hall of Fame alongside Harold Baines.

Meanwhile, Brunansky turned his 1990 season around with Boston, batting .267 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs for the Red Sox. After the season, he re-signed with Boston and played the next two seasons there before signing with Milwaukee in 1993. In 1994, the Brewers traded Brunansky back to the Red Sox for Dave Valle.

He retired after the 1994 season with 271 homers and 919 RBIs in a 14-year major-league career.

Enjoy this post? Follow on Twitter or enter your email below to get new posts sent directly to your inbox!

[1] Bernie Miklasz, “‘Bruno’ Could Go If Pen Needs Help,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1990.

[2] Bernie Miklasz, “‘Bruno’ Could Go If Pen Needs Help,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1990.

[3] Bernie Miklasz, “‘Bruno’ Could Go If Pen Needs Help,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 1990.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Cards Acquire Lee Smith,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1990.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Cards Acquire Lee Smith,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1990.

[6] Dan O’Neill, “Cards Sad Brunansky Had To Go,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1990.

[7] Dan O’Neill, “Cards Sad Brunansky Had To Go,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1990.

[8] Nick Cafardo, “Sox trade Smith for Brunansky,” Boston Globe, May 5, 1990.

[9] Nick Cafardo, “Sox trade Smith for Brunansky,” Boston Globe, May 5, 1990.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Cards Acquire Lee Smith,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1990.

[11] Rick Hummel, “Cards Acquire Lee Smith,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1990.

April 19, 2019: Lane Thomas hits two-run blast in his first major-league at-bat

As the son of a professional drag racer, Lane Thomas knows the value of a fast start. So perhaps it was no surprise that he homered in his first major-league at-bat.

Lane’s father, Mike, was a professional drag racer in the National Hot Rod Association, and Lane spent his early summers traveling around the country, watching his father race.[1] For a while, he thought he might make his career at the track as well. Then he discovered baseball.

“I kind of figured out that was going to be a little bit too much adrenaline for me,” Thomas said. “Those guys are running some crazy times. They are going a quarter mile in like six seconds at 200-something miles per hour. I think I’m going to stick to having something fly at me.”[2]

A Knoxville native, Thomas committed to the University of Tennessee as a high school sophomore before batting .410 with 17 homers and 40 RBIs his senior season. His plans to play for the Volunteers, however, changed when the Blue Jays drafted him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.[3]

“He’s a sure-fire pro prospect, no question,” Bearden assistant coach Jack Tate said. “He has all the tools.”[4]

Thomas was assigned to Toronto’s High-A affiliate in Dunedin of the Florida State League to start the 2017 season. There, he hit .252 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 73 games before he was traded to the Cardinals for international signing bonus cap space.

Injuries limited Thomas to just nine games for the Cardinals’ Palm Beach affiliate that season, but in 2018 St. Louis assigned him to Double-A Springfield to open the season. In 100 games, he hit .260/.337/.487 with 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He played his final 32 games with Triple-A Memphis, batting .275 with six homers and 21 RBIs. It was the breakout season Thomas needed.

That November, the Cardinals added Thomas to the 40-man roster. After Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill both went down with injuries, the Cardinals called up Thomas on April 17, 2019. He played two innings of the Cardinals’ 6-3 win over the Brewers but didn’t get to take an at-bat as the game ended with him standing in the on-deck circle.

Two days later, he wasn’t about to miss his opportunity.

The Mets scored two first-inning runs off Adam Wainwright as Wilson Ramos hit an RBI single and J.D. Davis added an RBI double. In the second, after Juan Lagares led off with a single, shortstop Paul DeJong committed a two-out error and Robinson Cano followed with an RBI single to right field.

In the fourth inning, Wainwright walked Pete Alonso and allowed a double to Cano before manager Mike Schildt called upon Giovanny Gallegos out of the bullpen. Gallegos struck out Michael Conforto, but Alonso scored on an RBI groundout by Ramos, making the score 4-0.

Jose Martinez got the Cardinals on the scoreboard with a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth, but Alonso hit a solo home run of his own in the sixth off Ryan Helsley.

In the bottom of the sixth, Dexter Fowler hit a one-out double. After Seth Lugo struck out Kolten Wong, Schildt called upon Thomas to take his first major-league at-bat. Lugo challenged him with an outside slider on the first pitch, then tried the same pitch again. Thomas proved a fast learner, hitting the second pitch off the top of the right field wall before it bounced back down to Conforto, the Mets’ right fielder.

“It was pretty surreal,” Thomas said. “It’s the stuff you dream about when I was a kid.”[5]

Initially, the play appeared to be a triple before the umpires viewed the replay and ruled that the ball had indeed hit the top of the wall and struck a sign behind the outfield wall before bouncing back into play.

“My heart was beating a little quick so I don’t even remember what I was thinking,” Thomas said.[6]

The blast made him just the 10th Cardinal in history to homer in his first major-league at-bat, joining Eddie Morgan (1936), Wally Moon (1954), Keith McDonald (2000), Chris Richard (2000), Gene Stechschulte (2001), Hector Luna (2004), Wainwright (2006), Mark Worrell (2008), and DeJong (2017).

After Thomas returned to the dugout, his teammates convinced him to give the Busch Stadium fans a curtain call.

“That was the coolest part – looking up and seeing everyone cheer,” Thomas said. “It was awesome. I don’t think it could have gone any better.”[7]

It also cut the Mets’ lead to 5-3. Yadier Molina scored in the eighth on a ground ball by Fowler to make the score 5-4, but in the ninth inning, New York’s Edwin Diaz retired Molina with runners on first and third to earn his seventh save of the season.

Thomas stayed on the shuttle between Memphis and St. Louis throughout the season, batting .316 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 44 plate appearances.

“I saw him a lot in my rehab starts last season,” said Wainwright, who was limited to just eight starts in 2018 due to an elbow injury. “He was one of the four guys I came back and reported that ‘these guys are big-league players.’ I think we’re going to see a lot of him.”[8]

Enjoy this post? Follow on Twitter or enter your email below to get new posts sent directly to your inbox!

[1] Drew Hill, “Outfielder Lane Thomas’ peculiar journey from NHRA to baseball,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 23, 2018.

[2] Drew Hill, “Outfielder Lane Thomas’ peculiar journey from NHRA to baseball,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 23, 2018.

[3] “Bearden’s Thomas named 1st Team HS baseball All-American,” USA Today, June 25, 2014,

[4] Mike Blackerby, “Bearden’s Lane Thomas commits to play at Tennessee,” Knoxville News Sentinel, August 25, 2012.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

April 22, 1988: Cardinals trade Tom Herr to the Twins for Tom Brunansky

Tom Herr knew that the Cardinals needed to shake things up after winning just four of their first 15 games in 1988.

Still, he was just as shocked as Cardinals fans when he entered the clubhouse following a 4-0 loss to the Mets and was informed that he had been traded to Minnesota for power-hitting outfielder Tom Brunansky.

“I could see the writing on the wall,” he said, “but I didn’t think it would happen this soon.”[1]

The 32-year-old second baseman had been with the Cardinals’ franchise since August 22, 1974, when he signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent. In 1979, Herr earned his first taste of major-league action, making 12 plate appearances in 14 games as a second baseman and pinch hitter. His first game came the same night that Lou Brock earned the 3,000th hit of his career.

In 1980, Herr appeared in 76 games. Desperate to get the prospect into the lineup, interim manager Red Schoendienst, who was overseeing the major-league club while Whitey Herzog analyzed the Cardinals’ farm system, used Herr in 14 games at shortstop to get a better look at the rookie.

“I called (Herzog) one night and said I’d like to play this kid, Tommy Herr, at shortstop if it was all right with Whitey,” Schoendienst wrote in his 1998 autobiography. “I told Whitey I knew he was not a shortstop and was a second baseman, but this way I could get him some playing time and see what he could do. Whitey was all in favor of the idea. I told Tommy the next day about my plan. I told him, ‘I know you’re not a shortstop, but this will give you some playing time.’ He said that was OK with him and he went out and played hard and did a good job. The next year he was our second baseman and one piece of the puzzle was in place.”[2]

Herr was the starting second baseman for the Cardinals’ 1982 world championship team and the National League champion 1985 and 1987 teams. The 1985 season was Herr’s best, as he batted .302 with career highs in homers (8), RBIs (110), and stolen bases (31). That season, he made the only all-star game of his career and placed fifth in the National League MVP voting.

“The most amazing hitter I had in those years might have been Tommy Herr,” Herzog wrote in 1999. “I can’t think of a better example of how having a plan, a sense of the situation you’re in, can help you succeed.

“If there was one guy I managed that I would want hitting for me in the stretch drive, in August and September, it’d be hard to pick between George Brett and Tommy. He didn’t have much power, but he’d rope it to all fields, torch the lines, bleed it up the middle, even hit one out of the ballpark when you needed it. I don’t know how he did that, but if he’d hit you 10 homers a year, eight counted for something.”[3]

One of those homers came almost exactly one year prior to the trade. On April 18, 1987, Herr hit a 10th-inning grand slam off the Mets’ Jesse Orosco to secure a 12-8 victory. The win happened to come on Seat Cushion Night at Busch Stadium, and joyous Cardinals fans celebrated by tossing hundreds of seat cushions onto the field. In fact, fans threw so many that stadium personnel were still removing cushions from the field when players showed up for the next day’s game.[4]

The 1988 season marked the final year of Herr’s contract.

“I came into this year knowing it was a pivotal year for me and the organization had to make a decision on me,” Herr said. “I prefer to look at it from a positive standpoint. There’s a ballclub out there that wants me – a real enthusiastic club, a fun-loving club.

“I certainly loved my time here as a Cardinal. I’m a winner, and the organization provided me a chance to play on a winner. It’s really hard to say goodbye. I wanted to play my whole career here and that dream is out the window.”[5]

Even as the Cardinals struggled in the opening weeks of the 1988 season, Herr was batting .260 with a .393 on-base percentage. Nonetheless, with Jack Clark playing in Yankee pinstripes on a rich free-agent contract, the Cardinals desperately needed a power hitter for the middle of the lineup.

Enter the 27-year-old Brunansky.

The 6-foot-4 right fielder from Covina, California, made his only all-star appearance in 1985, when he clubbed 27 homers and drove in 90 RBIs. In 1987, he helped the Twins capture the world championship, hitting 32 homers and driving in 85 runs. In the American League Championship Series against Detroit, he hit .412 with two homers and nine RBIs. Against the Cardinals in the World Series, he went just 2-for-25 with two RBIs and a stolen base.

The Twins, like the Cardinals, were off to a slow start to 1988. With their 11-6 loss to the Indians that night, they had fallen to 4-10 on the season.

“I’ve been going through this situation for the last couple of years,” Brunansky said. “It had to happen. The team hasn’t been playing well. Just by the way things were going, you felt they had to make a change. It’s part of the business. There’s not much you can say.”[6]

Twins manager Tom Kelly had plenty to say about Brunansky.

“He played his heart out,” Kelly said. “He was part of a championship team. You get close to players and it’s tough to tell a guy he’s been traded to another team. It’s not easy to do.”[7]

The day he made the trade, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said the Cardinals hoped Brunansky could provide 20 homers per year in the more spacious Busch Stadium confines.[8] It proved to be an uncannily accurate prediction.

Through the remainder of the 1988 season, Brunansky hit 22 homers, more than twice as many as any other player on the roster (Tony Pena ranked second on the team with 10). Brunansky also drove in 79 RBIs and stole 16 bases. The following year, Brunansky again led the team in home runs, this time hitting exactly 20 to go along with 85 RBIs.

Despite Brunansky’s power production, the Cardinals won just 76 games in 1988 and 86 in 1989, when they finished third in the National League East. Brunansky played just 19 games in 1990 before the Cardinals sent him to Red Sox for closer Lee Smith. In 320 games with the Cardinals, he hit .238/.327/.411 with 43 home runs and 166 RBIs.

He finished his 14-year major-league career with 271 home runs and 919 RBIs. Following his playing career, he served as a hitting coach in the Twins’ development system, then was promoted to serve as the major league hitting coach from 2013 through 2016. He currently serves as hitting coach at the University of St. Katherine in San Marcos, California.

Herr played the remainder of the 1988 season in Minnesota. It proved a difficult season, as he strained his left quadriceps and required two trips to the disabled list. In 86 games, he hit .263 with two homers, 24 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases.

“The shock of the trade bothered me more than anything. … It really hit me out of the blue,” Herr said. “I can remember getting on the plane to fly to Minneapolis and crying like a baby. It was hard to go through. Looking back on it, I didn’t handle it very well. I kept looking back instead of forward. I was looking at it more that the Cardinals didn’t want me than that the Twins wanted me. If I had put a more positive spin on it, I would have reacted better.”[9]

Knowing that Herr had no intention of re-signing with them, the Twins sent Herr, Eric Bullock, and Tom Nieto to the Phillies in a rare October trade for Shane Rawley and $125,000. Following the deal, Herr signed a free-agent deal with the Phillies.

In 1990, the Phillies sent him to the Mets at the trade deadline for Nikco Riesgo and Rocky Elli. After the Mets released him in August 1991, he signed with the Giants and played the remainder of the season in San Francisco.

He finished his 13-season major-league career with a .271 batting average, 1,450 hits, and 188 stolen bases.

In 2005 and 2006, and again in 2009 and 2010, Herr managed his hometown Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers in the Atlantic League, leading the team to the 2006 league championship. In 2007, he managed the Washington Nationals’ Class A affiliate in Hagerstown, Maryland.[10]

In 2020, fans elected Herr to the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

“I always feel the love whenever I go back out there (to St. Louis),” Herr said. “This just puts an exclamation mark on that. It’s overwhelming, really.”[11]

Enjoy this post? Follow on Twitter or enter your email below to get new posts sent directly to your inbox!

[1] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Head Spinning After Trade,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 23, 1988.

[2] Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains (1998), “Red: A Baseball Life,” Sports Publishing, Champaign, Ill., 177.

[3] 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,” Berkley Books, New York, 130.

[4] Rick Hummel, “What a wild ride the Cards took in ’87,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 13, 2007: Page B5.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Head Spinning After Trade,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 23, 1988.

[6] Steve Aschburner, “Twins find goodbyes difficult,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 23, 1988.

[7] Steve Aschburner, “Twins find goodbyes difficult,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 23, 1988.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Head Spinning After Trade,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 23, 1988.

[9] Rob Rains and Alvin A. Reid (2002), “Whitey’s Boys: A Celebration of the ’82 Cards World Championship,” Triumph Books, Chicago, 45.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Herr’s Grand Slam Sent Cushions Flying,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 22, 2020.

[11] Rick Hummel, “New Hall Class,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 23, 2020.

April 23, 1990: Cardinals trade for the “Wonder Dog,” Rex Hudler

On the same day that third baseman Terry Pendleton pulled his hamstring attempting to stretch a single into a double, the Cardinals added much-needed infield depth, trading relief pitcher John Costello to the Montreal Expos for utility man Rex Hudler.

Hudler’s acquisition immediately gave Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog more lineup flexibility. In two seasons in Montreal, Hudler had played second base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions. In 395 plate appearances with the Expos, Hudler had batted .262 with 10 homers, 27 RBIs, and 44 stolen bases.

The trade “lets me do things I couldn’t do because I had only one utility infielder,” Herzog said.[1]

Hudler had taken just three at-bats for the Expos in the first month of the season.

“This is a class move on their part to send me to a place where I’ll play,” he said. “I think it’s because (manager Buck Rodgers and vice-president of player personnel Dave Dombrowski) know how far I’ve come.”[2]

A graduate of Bullard High School in Fresno, California, Hudler had been a baseball and football star. Notre Dame and Michigan State both recruited him as a wide receiver (Kirk Gibson, who played both football and baseball for Michigan State, showed him around during his campus tour in East Lansing). Hudler signed his letter of intent with Notre Dame, but signed with the Yankees after they made him their 1978 first-round pick.[3]

Despite being selected 18th overall, Hudler took a long road to the majors. In 1983, after the Yankees sent Hudler back to Class A, he wrote a letter to George Steinbrenner saying that he had been overlooked in the Yankees’ farm system. The next day, he was promoted to Triple-A.[4] In 40 games, he hit .305 with the Columbus Clippers, then followed that up by hitting .292 in 114 games in 1984.

That season, he made his major-league debut for the Yankees, appearing in nine games. In 1985, he appeared in 20 games, appearing at first base, second base, shortstop, and as a pinch hitter.

In the winter, the Yankees traded him to the Baltimore Orioles as part of a package for Gary Roenicke. He appeared in 14 games in one season with the Orioles, primarily as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He received just one at-bat, though he did steal his first major-league base.

After appearing in 31 games with the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, Illinois, in 1987, Hudler signed with the Expos as a free agent. There, his career blossomed. He appeared in 77 games in 1988, batting .273 with four homers, 14 RBIs, and 29 stolen bases in 1988. In 1989, he appeared in 92 games for the Expos, batting .245 with six homers, 13 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases.

Hudler’s wife Jennifer made appearances singing the Canadian national anthem at Olympic Stadium.

“The team will probably miss her more than me,” Hudler said.[5]

Hudler already knew a few of the Cardinals. He had been teammates with Willie McGee as a Yankees farmhand, and he and Pendleton both hailed from Fresno. Pitcher Bryn Smith was a former teammate in Montreal. However, Hudler admitted he was a bit leery about reuniting with Joe Magrane. In 1989, Magrane allowed one of Hudler’s six homers, then hit Hudler with a pitch when he tried to bunt.[6]

“I took it as respect because he knows I own him and I know he hates me,” Hudler said. “Is he a nice guy? The only words I ever said to him were swear words.”[7]

When Hudler greeted Magrane in the clubhouse, Magrane said, “We’re teammates but we don’t have to be damn friends.” It was only then that Magrane and Tom Pagnozzi let an astonished Hudler know he was being pranked.[8]

“You’ll like his style. He’ll fit right in here,” Smith said. “He plays hard. He might be a little over-aggressive, but he’ll go through a brick wall for you.”[9]

“Intense?” Magrane said. “He makes Pete Rose look like a pastry chef.”[10]

Nicknamed “the wonder dog” by ESPN’s Chris Berman,[11] Hudler admitted that he was still learning to play within himself and not try to do too much.

“The guys who don’t know me think I’m a bad guy because I like to play hard,” he said. “I don’t play to make friends. I have a lot of enemies.”[12]

Meanwhile, Costello was disappointed by the trade. A 24th-round Cardinals draft choice in 1983 out of Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, Costello made his major-league debut in 1988, going 5-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 49 2/3 innings. In 1989, he had gone 5-4 with a 3.32 ERA in 62 1/3 innings.

At the time of the trade, Costello and his wife had just purchased a home in the area and had a 4-month-old daughter.[13]

“If ever there was a clause that I could veto a trade, I’d veto this one,” Costello said, “but there isn’t a clause. I don’t want to go. It’s tough to leave here. This was the perfect place for me. I’m still going to live here in the offseason.”

A groin pull had forced Costello to miss the first week of the season, and he had a 6.34 ERA in 4 1/3 innings.

“We didn’t trade for him on the basis of his numbers this year,” Rodgers said. “He’s a solid bullpen guy we’ve liked for a number of years. Our doctors have spoken to their doctors about the groin pull and everyone seems to agree it’s nothing serious – although we may have to break him in slowly.”[14]

Indeed, the Expos placed Costello on the disabled list on April 30.[15] He appeared in just four games for Montreal that season. That November, the Expos shipped him to San Diego for minor league relief pitcher Brian Harrison.

Costello threw 35 innings for the Padres in 1991, going 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA, but San Diego released him after the season. He played for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in Calgary in 1992, but did not appear in the majors again.

Hudler became a fan favorite in St. Louis. He appeared in 89 games in 1990, batting a career-high .281 with seven homers, 22 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases. In 1991, he appeared in a career-high 101 games, though he hit just .227. In 1992, his final year in St. Louis, he appeared in 61 games, batting .265 in 98 at-bats.

Hudler spent the 1993 season in Japan, helping the Yakult Swallows win the Japan Series championship. After the season, he signed a free-agent deal with the Giants but was released before the season started. Six days later, he signed with the Angels and played three seasons there before playing his final two years with the Phillies. He signed with the Indians midway through the 1998 season but didn’t play in the majors.

He finished his 13-year major-league career with a .261 batting average, 56 homers, and 107 stolen bases.

Since retiring, Hudler has served as a broadcaster for Angels and Royals games. He also serves as a motivational speaker for corporations, charities, and community groups, and he and his wife founded Team Up for Down Syndrome, an organization that supports the Down syndrome community and those with special needs.[16]

Enjoy this post? Follow on Twitter or enter your email below to get new posts sent directly to your inbox!

[1] Dan O’Neill, “Cards Trade Costello To Montreal For Hudler,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1990.

[2] Jeff Blair, “Expos trade Hudler for reliever Costello,” Montreal Gazette, April 24, 1990.

[3] Scott Ostler, “The Wonder Dog,” Sky Magazine, April 1997.

[4] Scott Ostler, “The Wonder Dog,” Sky Magazine, April 1997.

[5] Jeff Blair, “Expos trade Hudler for reliver Costello,” Montreal Gazette, April 24, 1990.

[6] Rick Hummel, “‘First Choice,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1990.

[7] Rick Hummel, “‘First Choice,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1990.

[8] Rick Hummel, “‘First Choice,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1990.

[9] Rick Hummel, “‘First Choice,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1990.

[10] Rick Hummel, “‘First Choice,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1990.

[11] Scott Ostler, “The Wonder Dog,” Sky Magazine, April 1997.

[12] Rick Hummel, “‘First Choice,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1990.

[13] Jeff Blair, “Expos trade Hudler for reliever Costello,” Montreal Gazette, April 24, 1990.

[14] Jeff Blair, “Expos trade Hudler for reliever Costello,” Montreal Gazette, April 24, 1990.

[15] “Costello placed on disabled list,” Montreal Gazette, May 1, 1990.


April 27, 2005: Mark Grudzielanek hits for the cycle

On the day that Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter celebrated his 30th birthday, it was Mark Grudzielanek who stole the show.

In the Cardinals’ 6-3 victory over the Brewers on April 27, 2005, Grudzielanek joined Lou Brock and Ray Lankford as the only Cardinals to hit for the cycle at Busch Stadium.

The veteran of 11 previous seasons with the Expos, Dodgers, and Cubs, Grudzielanek had seen his batting average dip as low as .224 on April 22. Now that he was back in St. Louis, however, his fiancé Danielle and 23-month-old son Bryce were visiting from San Diego and helping to place his mind at ease as he adjusted to a new team.

“I see my little guy and everything just falls off – the pressure, the ton of bricks on your shoulders just fall off,” he said. “I walk out the clubhouse door and just get to be his hero.

“Everything was building up and building up and I was pressing, and they get here and it’s like, ‘Hey, relax. Relax. Things will come around.’”[1]

They certainly did.

Grudzielanek and the Cardinals set the tone early after Carpenter struck out Brady Clark, Jeff Cirillo, and Geoff Jenkins to open the game. Batting leadoff in place of David Eckstein, who had the day off, Grudzielanek opened the bottom of the first with a home run to left field, his first as a Cardinal.

It was just the beginning of a very rough inning for Brewers starting pitcher Victor Santos. Larry Walker doubled and Albert Pujols singled before Jim Edmonds hit an RBI double. Scott Rolen drew a walk to load the bases before Santos retired his first batter, and Abraham Nunez scored Pujols on a ground ball to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead after one inning.

In the second, Grudzielanek struck again with a one-out single to left. Two batters later, Pujols singled to score Grudzielanek and give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

The lead stayed four runs until the fourth, and Grudzielanek was again in the middle of things. Yadier Molina walked to lead off the inning and Carpenter laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance him to second. On a 2-1 pitch, Santos gave Grudzielanek a waist-high fastball on the outside half of the plate and the Cardinals second baseman smacked it into the right-field gap, where it one-hopped the fence to score Molina.

“I didn’t think about (the cycle) really until Pujols was yelling at me a little bit after I hit the double, saying ‘You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to go for the cycle,’” Grudzielanek said. “I didn’t think the opportunity would come, but it sure did. … It doesn’t happen often, just one of those days.”[2]

In the fifth, the Brewers finally caught up to Carpenter. After the 6-foot-6 right-hander struck out Russell Branyan and Junior Spivey, Bill Hall doubled into the right-field gap and Chad Moeller hit an RBI single up the middle to make the score 5-1.

Branyan hit a two-run homer in the sixth to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-3, but Grudzielanek once again sparked St. Louis. Brewers reliever Jorge De La Rosa opened the at-bat with two consecutive strikes before he tried to sneak an outside breaking ball past Grudzielanek.

It didn’t work. The Cardinals’ second baseman slapped the ball into the right-field corner. It looked like Grudzielanek would have to settle for a double, but as the ball bounced around the corner it skipped past Jenkins. Grudzielanek raced around second and slid safely into third without a throw to become the first Cardinal to hit for the cycle since John Mabry accomplished the feat in Colorado in 1996.

“I saw (Jenkins) try and cut it off and saw it squeeze by and I thought, ‘Gotta go, gotta go,’” Grudzielanek said. “It’s just weird how it worked out. Pujols yelling at me that you’ve got to go for it, and sure enough it happened where I had a chance to go for it.”[3]

Edmonds hit a two-out single to left to score Grudzielanek and make the score 6-3.

Carpenter pitched into the eighth. With Jenkins on first with a single, he struck out Carlos Lee for his final out of the game. With the left-handed-hitting Russell Branyan up next, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called on Ray King to get the final out of the inning. Julian Tavarez, filling in for injured closer Jason Isringhausen, struck out three of the four batters he faced in the ninth for his first save of the season.

Carpenter’s day consisted of three earned runs in 7 2/3 innings. He tied a career high with 12 strikeouts without walking a batter.

“Right now, I feel I can throw my curveball for strikes or down or whatever I want to do with it,” Carpenter said. “That was, I think, a key factor today.”[4]

That curveball would remain a factor throughout the season, as he went 21-5 en route to winning the National League Cy Young Award.

Santos took the loss after allowing five earned runs over four innings. Three of the seven hits he allowed came off Grudzielanek’s bat.

“It’s like everything I threw him, he was right on it,” Santos said. “I would make a mistake and then – boom!”[5]

Grudzielanek finished the season with a .294 batting average to go along with 30 doubles, eight homers, and 59 RBIs. After his lone season in St. Louis, he signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Royals with a $3 million player option for 2007.[6]

Grudzielanek played three seasons in Kansas City, then played his final season in Cleveland in 2010 at age 40. He finished his career with a .289 batting average and 2,040 career hits.

Enjoy this post? Follow on Twitter or enter your email below to get new posts sent directly to your inbox!

[1] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[2] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[3] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[4] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[5] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[6] Derrick Goold, “Grudzielanek tires of waiting, crosses state to join Royals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 17, 2005.