July 6, 1929: Jim Bottomley and Chick Hafey each hit grand slams in Cardinals’ 28-6 win over the Phillies

When the 1929 St. Louis Cardinals finally broke their longest losing streak of the season, they did so in historic fashion.

Excluding a July 1 tie with the Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals had lost 10 consecutive games headed into their July 6 double-header with the Philadelphia Phillies. To make matters worse, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, “It was a hot, sultry day and swarms of Japanese beetles added to the discomfort of players and spectators.”[1]

The Cardinals extended their losing streak to a season-high 11 games, dropping the opener 10-6 despite two home runs from first baseman Jim Bottomley.

Bottomley drove in four runs, shortstop Charlie Gelbert added three hits and drove in two, and third baseman Andy High had four hits. Cardinals starting pitcher Bill Sherdel struggled, however, as the Phillies totaled 13 hits, including seven for extra bases. Third baseman Pinky Whitney and right fielder Chuck Klein each homered for the Phillies.

The 16 runs scored in the opener proved to be just the beginning of the day’s scoring as the Cardinals put together two 10-run innings in Game 2. Claude Willoughby immediately ran into trouble, walking Taylor Douthit and Carey Selph before allowing three consecutive RBI singles by High, Bottomley, and Chick Hafey. After Willoughby walked Wattie Holm, Phillies manager Burt Shotton summoned Elmer Miller to the mound.

He didn’t fare any better.

Miller walked Jimmie Wilson to load the bases, then walked Charlie Gelbhert as well, making the score 5-0. Shotton had a shorter leash this time, calling on Luther Roy to replace Miller.

Cardinals pitcher Fred Frankhouse greeted Roy with a two-run single into left field. Douthit followed with an RBI single to give the Cardinals an 8-0 lead. Selph mercifully laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance runners to second and third before High hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning.

Roy, however, would not escape the inning that easily.

With two outs, Bottomley singled into center field, scoring Frankhouse and High to give the Cardinals a 10-0 lead.

For Frankhouse, the double-digit first-inning lead was a gift. He was taking the mound despite a sore thumb that made it difficult for him to throw his curveball. Taking advantage of the sizeable lead, Frankhouse “merely lobbed the ball over the plate,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.[2] After a single from Denny Sothern and a pair of walks by Frankhouse, Philadelphia’s Fresco Thompson hit a two-run single to make the score 10-2.

In the second inning, a throwing error by Whitney at third base allowed Holm to reach third base, and Wilson drove him in with a single to right.

Sothern homered in the bottom half of the second to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 11-3, but the St. Louis offense was far from finished.

Douthit hit an RBI single and Selph drove him home with a triple in the fourth. In the fifth inning, after the Cardinals scored two more runs on a sacrifice fly by Holm and Wilson’s second RBI single of the game, the Phillies replaced Roy with June Greene.

Frankhouse welcomed Greene with a single to drive in his third run of the day. Douthit singled and Eddie Delker walked to load the bases before Greene hit High with a pitch to make the score 18-4.

With the bases still loaded, Bottomley launched a grand slam to right field, clearing the bases and giving the Cardinals a 22-4 lead. It was his 19th home run of the season.

For the next three innings, both teams’ bats were relatively quiet, but Greene ran into trouble once again in the eighth. After High hit an RBI single, Bottomley walked to load the bases and Hafey hit the Cardinals’ second grand slam of the game.

Hafey’s 21st home run of the season marked the Cardinals’ final offense in a 28-6 victory. The Redbirds’ 28 runs set a new major-league record, and until Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in the same inning in 1999, it marked the only time that the Cardinals hit two grand slams in the same game. The previous major-league runs record came on July 7, 1923, when the Cleveland Indians scored 27 runs against Boston.[3]

Altogether, the Cardinals totaled 28 hits and nine walks. Hafey finished with five hits, including two doubles and his grand slam, as he drove in five runs on the day. Douthit added five hits and walked twice, and Bottomley finished the game with four hits, two walks, and seven RBIs.

Frankhouse actually had a better day at the plate than he did on the mound. He allowed the Phillies to score six earned runs on 17 hits and three walks, but as the Cardinals’ No. 9 hitter he finished the day with four hits, four RBIs, and two runs scored.

Despite finally snapping their losing streak, the Cardinals suffered five injuries on the day. Wally Roettger injured his ankle and left the first game early, Bubber Jonnard was spiked in the leg, Earl Smith pulled a leg muscle, and Selph sprained an ankle sliding into third base. Frankie Frisch, who already was favoring one leg due to a charley horse, pulled a muscle in the other leg.[4]

The Cardinals would finish the season with a 78-74 record, good for fourth in the National League. Hafey finished the season with a .338 batting average, 29 homers, and 135 RBIs, while Bottomley batted .314 with 29 homers and 137 RBIs.


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[1] J. Roy Stockton, “Cards crush Phillies under 28-6 score after losing by 10 to 6,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Page S3.

[2] J. Roy Stockton, “Cards crush Phillies under 28-6 score after losing by 10 to 6,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Page S3.

[3] Stan Baumgartner, “Cards capture second, 28 to 6, making record,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Page S1.

[4] “Five Cardinals injured in day,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Page S3.

April 23, 1999: Fernando Tatis hits two grand slams in the same inning

Less than seven months after Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs to set a single-season home run record, Fernando Tatis set a home run mark that may never be broken.

A third-year player from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Tatis hit two grand slams off Chan Ho Park in the third inning of a 12-5 win over the Dodgers, becoming the first player in major league history to accomplish the feat.

“I just want to enjoy the moment,” Tatis said. “I can’t believe it. I know this will probably never happen again for me.”[1]

“The game’s been played 100 years and this is the first time,” La Russa said. “That was an electrifying moment in the dugout.”[2]

Only nine previous players had hit two grand slams in the same game, and it marked just the second time a pitcher had allowed two grand slams in the same inning. Pittsburgh’s Bill Phillips allowed two such blasts against the Cubs on August 16, 1890.[3]

Tatis’s eight RBIs in the inning broke the major-league record of six set by Matt Williams in 1997, and Tatis became the first Cardinal to hit two home runs in an inning.[4] The only other time the Cardinals hit two grand slams in the same game came in 1929, when Jim Bottomley and Chick Hafey accomplished the feat.

“You’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery,” said McGwire, who hit two homers in an inning with the Athletics, but only one of the blasts came with the bases loaded.[5]

The Cardinals had acquired Tatis the previous year as part of the trade that sent Royce Clayton and Todd Stottlemyre to the Rangers. When the trade was made, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said that Tatis was the best third baseman available on the market, and La Russa noted that Tatis had both a power bat and an above-average arm.

“He’s got the talent to become an impact-type third baseman,” La Russa said.[6]

He certainly made an impact against Park and the Dodgers.

Tatis originally was slated to bat fifth in the Cardinals’ lineup, but when Eric Davis was unavailable due to a hand injury, Tatis moved up to fourth in the Cardinals’ lineup.

The Dodgers entered the third inning with a 2-0 lead on sacrifice flies from Gary Sheffield and Todd Hundley.

After stranding three runners in the first two inning, Park couldn’t escape trouble in the third. Darren Bragg led off the inning with a single. Edgar Renteria walked and McGwire singled to load the bases for Tatis. Park missed with his first two pitches, drawing the count to 2-0, and Tatis didn’t miss when he swung at the third pitch, launching a fastball an estimated 450 feet to give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead.

It didn’t end there.

After J.D. Drew grounded out, Eli Marrero homered to left. Placido Polanco, pinch-hitting for David Howard, drew a walk. So did Joe McEwing. Cardinals pitcher Jose Jimenez laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the Dodgers couldn’t retire anyone, loading the bases. On the next play, Polanco scored on a ground ball when Eric Karros’s throw drew Hundley off the plate. Dodgers manager Davey Johnson came out to argue that Karros had kept his foot on the plate, but it was to no avail.

Edgar Renteria’s RBI single made the score made the score 7-2. Park retired McGwire for the second out of the inning, but that brought Tatis to the plate again with the bases loaded. This time, Tatis worked a full count before hitting a slider for his second home run of the game.

“I didn’t think I had enough explosion,” Tatis said. “I was not sure it was going to go. It just happened. I thought, ‘I’m going to fly.’ My mind is in other worlds right now.”[7]

A kid in the stands grabbed the home run ball, then sold the ball to another fan for $80. That fan gave the ball to Tatis after the game, along with the advice that he should donate it to the Hall of Fame.[8]

 With the score now 11-2, Johnson mercifully replaced Park with Carlos Perez, who retired J.D. Drew to end the inning.

In 2 2/3 innings, Park allowed 11 runs – six earned – on eight hits and three walks.

“Chan Ho pitched like he was pitching defensively,” Johnson said. “That was a different pitcher than I saw in spring training. He wasn’t going after guys.”[9]

Drew hit a solo home run in the sixth on the way to a 12-5 Cardinals win.

Jimenez pitched seven innings in the win, allowing three earned runs on nine hits and a walk. He struck out six and improved to 2-0 on the season. Manny Aybar allowed one run in the final two innings.

After the game, Tatis welcomed calls from family, friends, and members of the media in the Dominican Republic, where he instantly was hailed as a national hero.

“They were watching the game and they were having a party,” Tatis said.

“I think that’s what every baseball player is looking for – to be famous, to be in the Hall of Fame. You just want your name to get bigger and bigger every year.”[10]

The game marked the high point in the best season of Tatis’s career. He finished the season with a .298 batting average, 34 homers, 107 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. All were career highs.

The following year, a strained groin limited him to 96 games, and he finished the year batting .253 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs. It was his final season in St. Louis.

On December 14, 2000, the Cardinals traded Tatis and Britt Reames to the Expos for Dustin Hermanson and Steve Kline. Over three seasons with the Expos, Tatis was limited to just 208 games by a variety of injuries.

In 2004, Tatis joined the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but he did not make the team in spring training and spent the next two years in the Dominican Republic. He returned to baseball in 2006 and spent most of the year with the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate. He played in 28 games for the Orioles, hitting two home runs in 56 at-bats.

Tatis spent the final four years of his career with the Mets organization. He spent the entire 2007 season with their Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. Over the next three seasons, he appeared in 258 games for the Mets, totaling 21 homers and 101 RBIs.

He finished his major-league career with 113 homers and 448 RBIs over 11 seasons.


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[1] Jason Reid, “In Grand Style – Twice,” Los Angeles Times, April 24 ,1999: Page D1.

[2] Rick Hummel, “It was grand night for Tatis,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1999: Page F9.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Tatis hits two grand slams in third,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1999: Page 14OT.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Tatis hits two grand slams in third,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1999: Page 14OT.

[5] Rick Hummel, “It was grand night for Tatis,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1999: Page F9.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals trade Stottlemyre, Clayton to Texas for pitcher, third baseman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1998: Page 5OT.

[7] Rick Hummel, “It was grand night for Tatis,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1999: Page F9.

[8] Rick Hummel, “It was grand night for Tatis,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1999: Page F9.

[9] Jason Reid, “In Grand Style – Twice,” Los Angeles Times, April 24 ,1999: Page D11.

[10] Rick Hummel, “It was grand night for Tatis,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1999: Page F9.

July 29, 2002: Cardinals trade for all-star third baseman Scott Rolen

When the trade was finally complete, the newest St. Louis Cardinal, Scott Rolen, recalled his father taking him to games at Busch Stadium in the 1980s.

Now, following a trade that sent Placido Polanco, Bud Smith, and Mike Timlin to the Phillies for Rolen and minor-league pitcher Doug Nickle, the 27-year-old from Jasper, Indiana, would be playing on the same infield that Ozzie Smith, inducted in the Hall of Fame just one day earlier, once patrolled.

“It may be the best place to play in the game, and it’s the place I always dreamed of playing,” Rolen said.[1]

St. Louis was equally excited to have him. The day the trade was announced, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Dan O’Neill wrote, “He will be baptized in a sea of red, cuddled like a lost puppy, accepted into the Cardinals’ community with high honors. Rolen didn’t just leave a last-place team for a first-place team, he just became the most popular guy in town.”[2]

The 1997 Rookie of the Year, Rolen’s relationship with the Phillies had deteriorated rapidly since spring training 2001, when Rolen turned down a contract offer that would have paid him a guaranteed $90 million over seven years. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the proposal called for Rolen to earn $7 million in 2002, $13 million in 2005, $14 million in 2006, $15 million in 2007, and $15 million in 2008, plus incentives. Additionally, there was a $16 million team option for 2009 and player and club options for $16 million in 2010 and $18 million in 2011. A no-trade clause would kick in beginning in 2005.[3]

In Rolen’s four seasons with the Phillies, however, the club had never finished above .500. To remedy that situation, he requested a clause in his contract that would require the Phillies to rank among the league’s highest payrolls.[4] The Phillies were not interested.

Things only got worse during the season. Rolen feuded with Phillies manager Larry Bowa, and the two didn’t speak to one another late in spring training.[5] Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Jim Salisbury wrote, “The biggest push out of town came … when Bowa was quoted as disparaging Rolen’s play. Bowa denied saying Rolen’s lack of offense was ‘killing us.’ But the damage had been done. From that day on, Rolen detested playing for Bowa.”[6]

Once one of the Phillies’ most popular players, Rolen began to receive boos from his home fans. In June, Rolen hit two home runs in a win over the Expos and refused to acknowledge the fans seeking a curtain call.

“Maybe we’re even,” he said.[7]

Later that month, one of Rolen’s teammates anonymously referred to him as a clubhouse cancer.[8]

In November, when Rolen refused to negotiate further with the Phillies, the team publicly announced that it had offered him a deal worth up to $140 million over 10 years. At the winter meetings, the team tried to trade Rolen, but a deal with the Orioles fell through.[9]

In the first half of 2002, Rolen hit .253/.349/.458 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs and was named to the National League all-star team for the first time in his career. With Rolen due to be a free agent at the end of the season, Phillies general manager Ed Wade didn’t have much time remaining to get something more than a compensatory draft pick in exchange for his star third baseman.

Enter Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty.

On July 26, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals were engaged with talks about Rolen, with discussions centered around Polanco, top pitching prospect Jimmy Journell, and additional pitching.

“We’ve talked about some things but I’m not sure anything’s there,” Jocketty said.[10]

On July 27, Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz outlined the challenges to making such a deal, noting that reports indicated the Phillies had rejected an offer of Polanco and left-handed pitcher Bud Smith.

“According to baseball insiders, Wade wants a trading partner to pay for the remaining $2.9 million of Rolen’s contract in addition to giving up two quality players,” Miklasz wrote. “The other complicating factor is the labor situation. If the players go on strike, teams would receive no real benefit in acquiring Rolen. Why give up good players for a free agent when there’s a distinct chance of a labor shutdown?”[11]

That same day, Fox Sports erroneously reported during its Cardinals-Cubs broadcast that the trade had been completed. Others speculated that Fernando Vina, who was out of the lineup for the second day in a row, might be included in such a deal. Vina, however, was day-to-day with a right wrist injury.[12]

On July 28, the Post-Dispatch reported that trade talks now included Polanco, Smith, and Journell, but were stalled as the two sides determined whether the Phillies would cover “a significant portion” of the costs of Rolen’s remaining salary and whether Rolen would be open to re-signing with the Cardinals.[13]

For his part, Rolen indicated that he would be open to such a scenario in St. Louis.

“If the situation arose, I’d be willing to talk about a contract extension,” he said. “Right now, it’s out of my hands, as it always has been.”[14]

On the July 29 Post-Dispatch, Jocketty described the trade talks as “stuck in neutral,” and sources said Jocketty was no longer willing to include Journell in a trade.[15] That day, however, Jocketty and Wade finally agreed on the deal.

Rolen was batting .259 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs at the time of the trade.

“We are very pleased and excited to add Scott Rolen to our lineup,” Jocketty said in a statement. “He is an all-star, a proven run producer, and an excellent defensive player.”[16]

Polanco was batting .288 with nine homers and 49 RBIs, and had a .296 career batting average with the Cardinals. In addition to third base, he played at both shortstop and second base.

“The Cardinals have tinkered with their cohesive chemistry in parting with Placido Polanco,” O’Neill wrote. “They gave up a versatile and resilient player, one admired by his teammates, one who has been a fixture in the Cardinals’ circle of Latin players.”[17]

Smith threw a no-hitter for the Cardinals in 2001 on his way to a 6-3 rookie season, but struggled in 2002, going 1-5 with a 6.94 ERA, and had been sent to Triple-A Memphis.

Timlin, a 16-year veteran, had appeared in 134 games for the Cardinals over three years, compiling a 3.36 ERA over 163 1/3 innings. He was due to be a free agent at the end of the season, and the remaining portion of his $5 million salary helped to offset Rolen’s remaining salary.[18]

“Three things would have to happen for this deal to haunt the Cardinals,” O’Neill wrote. “They miss the World Series, Rolen signs elsewhere, and Smith develops into a big winner. You have to like the odds.”[19]

Including 2002, Polanco played seven seasons with the Phillies, batting .290 with a .341 on-base percentage. He totaled 51 homers, 281 RBIs and 31 stolen bases before he was traded to the Tigers in 2005. In Detroit, he had his greatest success, earning two all-star appearances, a Silver Slugger Award, and three Gold Gloves. He retired in 2013 after a 16-year major-league career.

Smith stayed in the Phillies’ minor league system through 2004. He pitched for the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in 2005, then played two seasons of independent baseball before retiring.

Timlin pitched the remainder of the 2002 season with the Phillies, posting a 3.79 ERA through 35 2/3 innings. He signed with the Red Sox following the season and played the final six years of his 18-year career in Boston.

Nickle didn’t stay with the Cardinals long. After 14 appearances with the Memphis Redbirds in which he went 3-1 with a 4.60 ERA, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Padres. When rosters expanded in September, he played in 10 games for the Padres and claimed his only major-league win against the Rockies. He spent the rest of his career in the minors and retired after the 2004 season at age 29.

Rolen had the best years of his career with the Cardinals, making four all-star appearances and winning three Gold Gloves. Together, he, Albert Pujols, and Jim Edmonds were nicknamed “MV3” as they made the Cardinals’ offense one of the best in the league.

In 2004, Rolen hit .314 with 34 homers and 124 RBIs, helping the Cardinals win the National League pennant and placing fourth in the MVP voting. In 2006, he hit .296 with 22 homers and 95 RBIs. After struggling in the NLDS against the Padres and the 2006 NLCS against the Mets, Rolen went 8-for-21 (.421) with a homer and two RBIs as the Cardinals beat the Tigers for their 10th world championship.

By 2008, Rolen’s relationship with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had deteriorated and he was traded to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. Rolen played two years in Toronto before playing the final four seasons of his career in Cincinnati, where he made two more all-star appearances and won a Gold Glove in 2010. He retired following the 2012 season with a career .281 batting average, 316 home runs, and 1,287 RBIs.


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[1] Bob Brookover, “The Deal Is to the Cards,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 30, 2002: Page E4.

[2] Dan O’Neill, “Rolen’s acquisition is worth the risk for the Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E1.

[3] Bob Brookover, “The Deal Is to the Cards,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 30, 2002: Page E4.

[4] Rob Maaddi, “Cardinals deal for Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E5.

[5] Rob Maaddi, “Cardinals deal for Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E5.

[6] Jim Salisbury, “Once-happy union ends in divorce,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 30, 2002: Page E4.

[7] Rob Maaddi, “Cardinals deal for Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E5.

[8] Rob Maaddi, “Cardinals deal for Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E5.

[9] Bob Brookover, “The Deal Is to the Cards,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 30, 2002: Page E4.

[10] Joe Strauss, “Isringhausen bags No. 100 but focuses on team wins,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 26, 2002: Page D5.

[11] Bernie Miklasz, “Phils’ Rolen would fit in nicely with the Cards,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 27, 2002: Page 3OT.

[12] Joe Strauss, “Cards GM continues pursuit of Phillies’ Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 2002: Page D10.

[13] Joe Strauss, “Cards GM continues pursuit of Phillies’ Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 2002: Page D10.

[14] Joe Strauss, “Cards GM continues pursuit of Phillies’ Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 2002: Page D10.

[15] Joe Strauss, “Journell’s out of any trade to get Rolen, sources say,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 29, 2002: Page C5.

[16] Rob Maaddi, “Cardinals deal for Rolen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E5.

[17] Dan O’Neill, “Rolen’s acquisition is worth the risk for the Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E1.

[18] Dan O’Neill, “Rolen’s acquisition is worth the risk for the Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E5.

[19] Dan O’Neill, “Rolen’s acquisition is worth the risk for the Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2002: Page E1.

What I’m Reading: “That’s a Winner” by Jack Buck

In “Jack Buck: That’s a Winner,” the legendary Cardinals announcer takes readers through his life, first as a poor family in Cleveland, Ohio, then as a soldier in World War II, and then as a broadcaster.

Buck’s most interesting stories are about his military service, where he served in Europe and was awarded the Purple Heart from his service. It also was interesting to read Buck’s perspective of the Cardinals teams he covered, though even as a broadcaster his perspective remains somewhat at a distance from the team itself.

Most of the book consists of Buck detailing his career and outlining the various jobs he took, both in St. Louis and nationally, and telling stories about different people he met along the way.

Some of the most interesting details from the book:

  • Buck was colorblind and couldn’t tell the difference between red and green.
  • Buck admits that he and Harry Caray had very different personalities and there was some competitive friction between them, though Buck mostly places that friction at Caray’s feet. Nonetheless, Buck writes, “When Caray and I were doing the games together, we were as good a team as there ever was. His style and mine were so different, that it made for a balanced broadcast. The way we approached the job, with the interest and love both of us had for the game, made our work kind of special.
  • Buck was really not a fan of Vern Rapp and his leadership style, which included telling Bake McBride that he couldn’t go out on the field with a beard and mustache, a fight that Rapp also had with Al Hrabosky. After Buck mentioned the troubles during a show, Gussie Busch called and asked him what was going on. When Buck told him, Rapp was fired and replaced with Ken Boyer.
  • Buck admits that there’s nothing worse than watching bad baseball, and admits that there were teams during the ‘70s that he didn’t enjoy covering, partially due to the poor play but also due to the players’ drug use, dress, and long hair.
  • In speaking about Mark McGwire, Buck writes, “When you meet Mark’s father, John McGwire, what you see is a miniature of Mark. You can tell that his size and strength came naturally.” That line certainly aged poorly.

For fans who love Jack Buck from his days covering the Cardinals, the book is worth a read, but I don’t think I can recommend it for most casual fans or those who aren’t already familiar with his work. Buck was always a fantastic storyteller on the air or at community events that he emceed, but to be honest, the storytelling here isn’t up to par. Too many of the stories are fairly random, or don’t have a clear message, and the book overall doesn’t have much focus. At times, it like a random collection of very brief stories that don’t always seem to have a point.

I wish I could have rated it higher, but this may be a book strictly for those already familiar with Buck’s work. For those who are only passingly familiar with him, I would recommend finding one of his broadcasts on YouTube and enjoying him in his true element.


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How Lou Brock and Bob Kennedy helped Keith Hernandez reach his potential

Without the efforts of Bob Kennedy and Lou Brock, Keith Hernandez may never have won the 1979 National League MVP Award – at least, not with the Cardinals.

Hernandez was a 17-year-old out of Capuchino High School in San Bruno, California, when the Cardinals drafted him in the 42nd round of the 1971 draft. Due to a disagreement with his high school coach, Hernandez didn’t play during his senior year of high school, allowing him to slide to the later rounds of the draft. Nonetheless, with recruiters from Cal and Stanford interested in him for both football and baseball,[1] Hernandez had plenty of options if the Cardinals didn’t meet his salary expectations.

Bill Sayles, the Cardinals’ northern California scout, believed strongly in Hernandez’s potential and called general manager Bing Devine to see why the team hadn’t signed him yet.

“I said the kid wanted too much money,” Devine wrote in his 2012 autobiography. “And Bill Sayles said, ‘I think you’re missing the boat. He’s playing even better since you drafted him. Why don’t you send someone up to cross-check him?’ So we sent Bob Kennedy.”[2]

Kennedy was the Cardinals’ director of player development. A 16-year major-league veteran, Kennedy played third base and the outfield for the White Sox, Indians, Orioles, Tigers, and Dodgers.  After his playing days were over, he became a scout and farm system director for the Indians, then coached the Cubs and Athletics before joining the Cardinals organization.

“Kennedy called me back and said, ‘I don’t know about the money. But if you don’t sign this kid, you’ll regret it the rest of your life!’” Devine wrote.[3]

Convinced, Devine signed Hernandez and Kennedy sent him to St. Petersburg of the Class A Florida State League. In 1973, Hernandez played 105 games with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, batting .260 with three homers and 52 RBIs in 105 games. They weren’t the statistics expected of a player with Hernandez’s potential.

“My numbers in AA were atrocious,” Hernandez wrote in his book, I’m Keith Hernandez. “If anything, I should have been left to shrivel up in that miserable Texas League or sent down to Single-A.”[4]

Instead, Kennedy promoted Hernandez to Triple-A Tulsa, where he hit .333 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 31 games. Suddenly, Hernandez was playing well enough to push for a major-league roster spot in 1974.

Years later, Hernandez had the opportunity to ask Kennedy why he promoted him when he was playing so poorly in Tulsa. As Hernandez recounts, “Kennedy looked at me with a serious gaze – Bob was a man who seldom laughed while in uniform – and said, ‘Keith, I knew if I left you in Little Rock, you might have hit .230 and been done. If I sent you down, it could have destroyed your confidence and you would have been done. So I took a chance because I knew you had the talent.”[5]

Hernandez got his first taste of the majors in 1974, appearing in 14 games. In 1975, however, expectations were far higher. During the offseason, the Cardinals had traded Joe Torre to the Mets for Tommy Moore and Ray Sadecki, leaving Hernandez a clear path to claim the starting job.

National League pitchers, however, were unwilling to cooperate. By June 3, Hernandez was batting just .203 and the Cardinals demoted him back to Tulsa. While Hernandez rediscovered his batting stroke under the tutelage of Ken Boyer, batting .330 with a .440 on-base percentage and .531 slugging percentage, he still had a few things to learn about professional baseball.

Hernandez first caused a stir when he told a reporter in Tulsa that the Cardinals’ clubhouse wasn’t as welcoming as he had hoped it would be. The story was picked up in the St. Louis media and drew the ire of some of the Cardinals’ veterans, including Ken Reitz.[6]

By August, just as it was clear that Hernandez had rediscovered his swing and his confidence, it was also visible to those around him that he had no patience for remaining in Tulsa.

“Keith has been pouting,” Kennedy said. “He feels he has nothing to prove by playing further in the minors. The boy has to grow up.”[7]

Bob Gibson was happy to help Hernandez along with a little tough love. The Cardinals called Hernandez up in September and he joined the team in time for the final two games of a series against the Cubs at Busch Stadium. When a reporter from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat asked for an interview in the dugout during pregame warmups, Hernandez obliged. He was still answering the first question when he was interrupted by Gibson, who shouted at him from the batting cage where the pitchers were just beginning to hit.

“There you are, Hernandez, always talking! Talk, talk, talk! Why don’t you just shut up and get your rookie ass out here to shag some balls!”[8]

Brock took a more diplomatic approach to helping Hernandez reach his potential. During one game against the Phillies in 1976, the 22-year-old Hernandez struck out during a pinch-hit appearance. Frustrated, Hernandez sat at the end of the bench and, by his own admission, sulked.

The 37-year-old Brock sat down next to Hernandez. As Hernandez recalled:

He very gently said: What the hell are you poutin’ about? No one’s gonna feel sorry for you. You getting mad and feeling sorry for yourself? Who’s making you mad? You see that guy on the mound? He’s making you mad. Get him. Take it out on him. He’s the one who’s gonna put you into a day job. You wanna go to work nine to five and have two weeks off a year? Then go ahead and do what you’re doing. Or get mad at him. He’s the one who’s gonna take the job away from you.[9]

With that, baseball’s stolen base leader stood back up and returned to the other end of the dugout.

Brock’s assistance went beyond merely teaching Hernandez to conduct himself like a professional. That same season, Brock saw that the left-handed hitting Hernandez continued to struggle against left-handers, particularly when they threw the breaking ball on the outer half of the plate. Brock recommended that Hernandez crowd the plate.

“You’re going to go around the league for at least a month, they will see you on top of the plate, and they are going to throw you inside,” Brock said. “Look for it and rip it! Pitchers can’t relate to hitting. They don’t know you’re looking in there. It doesn’t matter if you make an out or pull it foul, just hit it hard. Establish the inside pitch as your pitch. Each time you do this, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, that’s my best fastball and he hit the dog out of it. Maybe I can’t get in there …’ That’s when you have them! Because they’re going to throw right into your strength – the outside corner, with the barrel of your bat in full coverage.”[10]

The adjustment worked exactly as Brock described. In 1977, Hernandez actually hit better against left-handers (.313 batting average with eight homers and 39 RBIs) than against right-handers (.279 with seven homers and 52 RBIs). For his career, Hernandez would bat .291 against left-handed pitching with a .370 on-base percentage.

In 1979, Brock’s final season, Hernandez put it all together, leading the league with a .344 batting average, 116 runs scored, and 48 doubles. Along the way, he hit 11 home runs and drove in 105. In November, Hernandez was named the National League’s co-MVP alongside Willie Stargell, who helped lead the Pirates to the World Series championship. Hernandez made it a point to thank Brock for helping him along the way.

“Lou is very unselfish,” he said. “He’s done more for me than just about anybody. He always had a pat on the back at the right time, and he was there with encouragement in my moments of self-doubt, reminding me to think positive.”[11]


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[1] Keith Hernandez and Joan Ryan (2018), I’m Keith Hernandez, Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y, Location 344 (Kindle Android version).

[2] Bing Devine and Tom Wheatley (2004), The Memoirs of Bing Devine: Stealing Lou Brock and Other Winning Moves by a Master GM, Sports Publishing, New York, N.Y., Location 157 (Kindle Android version).

[3] Bing Devine and Tom Wheatley (2004), The Memoirs of Bing Devine: Stealing Lou Brock and Other Winning Moves by a Master GM, Sports Publishing, New York, N.Y., Location 157 (Kindle Android version).

[4] Keith Hernandez and Joan Ryan (2018), I’m Keith Hernandez, Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y, Location 855 (Kindle Android version).

[5] Keith Hernandez and Joan Ryan (2018), I’m Keith Hernandez, Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y, Location 855 (Kindle Android version).

[6] Keith Hernandez and Joan Ryan (2018), I’m Keith Hernandez, Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y, Location 2493 (Kindle Android version).

[7] Neal Russo, “Hernandez Pouting In Tulsa,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 8, 1975: Page C1.

[8] Keith Hernandez and Joan Ryan (2018), I’m Keith Hernandez, Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y, Location 2535 (Kindle Android version).

[9] Keith Hernandez and Joan Ryan (2018), I’m Keith Hernandez, Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y, Location 2963 (Kindle Android version).

[10] Keith Hernandez and Joan Ryan (2018), I’m Keith Hernandez, Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y, Location 3268 (Kindle Android version).

[11] Arnold Irish, “Hernandez: Garage To Co-MVP,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 14, 1979: Page B1.