Baseball Short Stories - 7
The Road Stockings
John Erardi, Memories and Dreams: The Official Magazine of the Hall of Fame, Summer 2019
The greatest road trip in baseball history was arguably the one that was the most ambitious. The 20-game, June-long, 1,821-mile trip by the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. ...
Two of those Red Stockings are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame: SS George Wright, inducted in 1937; and his brother, CF/Manager Harry, inducted in 1953. Harry is known as the "Father of Professional Baseball," and his brother as the game's first superstar.
The Red Stockings' famous road trip began on May 31 t Little Miami Railroad Depot, ... three-quarters of a mile east of Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.
The 32-day excursion was more like a rock 'n' roll tour than a baseball trip. Huge crowds turned out to see the handsome young men in their crimson hose and white-knicker uniforms in Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., where the Red Stockings received an audience with President Ulysses S. Grant.
They won all 20 games on the trip, and every game thereafter, playing before 200,000 fans. But things didn't start out so promising.
1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings

The day before the Eastern trip began, a game scheduled at the home park Union Grounds to raise money for their travels had been rained out. A shareholder in the club, Will Noble, had to borrow $300 ($5,575 in today's money) from his wife to get the trip started. It bought the team tickets as far as Boston. But the 10 players and two club executives needed to eat and occasionally sleep in a real bed. That same night, club president Aaron Champion visited the players in their rooms at the Gibson House to ensure they weren't drinking. It didn't work. The next morning, Champion found that "some of the members of the nine, forgetful of [their temperance] pledges, had touched the rosy too freely."
The Red Stockings, some grumpier than others, along with beat writer Harry Millar of the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper, boarded the train. ...
The Red Stockings were a team of characters ... Eight of the 10 were young, ranging from age 18 to 23. Harry was 34, P Asa Brainard 28. All were ... at the mercy of Champion and his right-hand man, John Joyce, who had to keep the trip financially afloat despite the rain - even accepting a loan from the beat writer. ... Champion and Joyce gave Millar a promissory note Millar kept to his dying day: "Received of Harry M. Millar $245 as a loan to the Cincinnati Baseball Club ..."
In Rochester, N.Y., the game had barely begun when rain soaked the teams and their eager fans. The Red Stockings broomed off the puddles, spread sawdust in the mud and played on.
When the team arrived for their game in Syracuse, the outfield grass was a foot high and the fence was in shambles. The Red Stockings had walked into the middle of a pigeon shoot. Harry couldn't find anybody who remembered scheduling the game, so the team settled for a salt bath at a local spa for 35 cents apiece.
The week that made baseball famous began on Tuesday, June 15, and ended six days later. But first it required a setup. It came on June 7, when the Red Stockings arrived in Lansingburgh, N.Y., a village on the north end of Troy, on the east shore of the Hudson River, 80 miles from Cooperstown. It is a direct shot - 175 miles due south down the Hudson - to New York City. But even in those days, one had to take Troy before one could take Manhattan. And the Red Stockings did, 37-31. In Boston, they whipped four Massachusetts nines.
The Red Stockings arrived at Earle's Hotel in lower Manhattan at 8 o'clock on June 14. At 1:30 p.m. the next day, officials of the New York Mutuals club called upon them, several elegant coaches at the ready, to ferry the impeccably clad Red Stockings across the East River to the Union Grounds in Brooklyn, Greater New York's most famous ballpark. ... The spectators roared at the first sight of red, bringing cap-tips from the players. The ensuing 4-2 game - the Red Stockings scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning - had the crowd on its feet. ... The low-scoring thriller, with defensive gem after gem, belied the underhand era in which scores of 40 and 50 runs were common and was immediately proclaimed a classic.

Union Grounds Brooklyn 1865
It brought out a huge crowd for the next day's game at the Capitoline Grounds (estimated at 12,000, by far the biggest baseball crowd to date). The Red Stockings walloped the powerful Brooklyn Atlantics, 32-10, then knocked off the Eckfords, 24-5, one day later back at the Union Grounds.
Three victories in three days over the best teams in New York, with the Red Stockings pocketing a $1,700 share of the bloated gate receipts.

Capitoline Grounds Brooklyn 1870
One huge foe awaited, the Philadelphia Athletics, adjudged by everybody as the strongest group of hitters anywhere ... The dizzying fame of the Cincinnati nine drew the attention of female admirers. As a light rain fell on the eve of the Athletics' game, a group of young women passed in front of the Red Stockings' hotel. They lifted their long skirts to avoid the mud in the streets, many revealing a flash of red stockings. The Cincinnatis won the next day, 27-18.
Then home to a raucous parade, eight city blocks long, and a sumptuous banquet at the Gibson House.
Give Back That Ball!
The Rules of Baseball: An Anecdotal Look at the Rules of Baseball
and How They Came to Be
, David Nemec (1994)
Until fairly deep into the 20th century spectators were expected to return any ball hit into the stands, whether fair or foul, and it often remained in play. For many years any fan who attempted to keep a ball he caught invited a struggle with the ballpark security force for possession of it.
Cubs owner Charles Weeghman in 1916 brought an end to the warfare in Wrigley Field (then called Weeghman Park) between park policemen and fans looking to ob­tain souvenir balls when he decided to cede all balls hit into the stands to his custo­mers. But other teams were loath to be so generous. In 1923 a Philadelphia lad was arrested and housed overnight in the slammer for refusing to relinquish a ball hit into the Baker Bowl bleachers during a Phillies game. Fourteen years later a New York fan was violently set upon by ushers when he tried to retrieve a foul ball that had become lodged in the home plate screen at Yankee Stadium. His suit against the Yankees in 1937, which the club ultimately settled for $7500, resulted in an unoffi­cial truce between fans and major league teams on the issue.
As for balls hit out of the park, they too were customarily returned to the playing field - at least until the tag end of the 19th century. Most teams stationed guards and sometimes even substitute players outside the park to retrieve balls that were fouled out of its confines or home runs that cleared the outfield barriers.
Prior to 1886 an umpire was required to wait five minutes before declaring a ball hit out of the playing field lost and putting a new ball in play. Even after 1886 teams continued to chase down balls hit out of the park and return them to play, depending on their condition. Whether a ball was still playable was often the subject of a furious debate. In a Union Association game at St. Louis on October 11, 1884, between the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Maroons, St. Louis won by forfeit when Washington refused to continue after arguing in vain that a ball fouled out of the park in the fourth inning by Maroons pitcher Pudge Boyle was too lopsided to be kept in play.
Some four years later American Association umpire Herman Doscher levied over $300 in fines stemming from a dispute midway through a game on July 6, 1888, between Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Doscher contended that a ball knocked over the outfield fence was useless when it came back covered with mud, and threw it out of play, overriding the protests of the A's pitcher. After Doscher broke out a new ball, A's centerfielder Curt Welch grabbed it and heaved it out of the Cincinnati park, prompting Doscher to tender his resignation after the game and aver that "he would not again pass through such a scene."
Rarely was a ball taken out of play in the 19th century or, for that matter, in the early part of the 20th century because it was too heavily stained by grass or mud or tobac­co juice or any combination thereof. No one worried whether the ball remained white, only that it remained reasonably round.

L: Herman Doscher; C: Carl Mays; R: Ray Chapman
By the early 1920s, however, umpires were strongly urged to remove balls that were discolored or difficult for players to see, and the one incident more than any other that caused both major leagues to stop economizing on the price of balls occurred at the Polo Grounds on August 16, 1920. ... Pitching for the Yankees ... was Carl Mays. The club's ace, Mays threw the ball with an underhand sweep that was hard for batters to follow even when visibility was good, and conditions that afternoon were execrable. By the top of the fifth inning, when SS Ray Chapman led off for the Indians, a light drizzle was falling. ... The following day the Cleveland Press report­ed, "Mays tossed an inshoot that seemed to hynotize Chapman, or else he miscal­culated it and believed the ball would sail by. Anyhow, it struck him on the temple, fracturing his skull, and paralyzing the nerve chords, making it impossible for him to talk."
After the beaning Chapman underwent a delicate brain operation that evening and then hung on for several hours unconscious before expiring during the night. ... Chapman's death, the only fatality resulting directly from an injury suffered in a major league game, hastened long-overdue legislation to remove balls from play as soon as they become scuffed or discolored.
"He Was a Major League Pitcher Right Then"
Lee Lowenfish, Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman (2007)
Branch Rickey was a law student at the University of Michigan in 1909-10 after playing for the St. Louis Browns in 1906 and the New York Highlanders in 1907..
The spring of 1910 would be noteworthy for Branch Rickey ... He had been hired as the University of Michigan's new baseball coach. ... When Rickey learned of the baseball opening, he sprang into action. He wrote about sixty of his onetime associates in the college and professional baseball ranks, asking for letters of recommendation. Rickey carefully orchestrated the requests so that every day, two of the letters in his behalf arrived at the office of Michigan athletic director Philip Bartelme. The admin­istrator did not know that a former Major League baseball player was on campus, but when he met the applicant, he was immediately impressed with his passion for the game and his principled views on the proper role of athletics on a college campus. ...
Eager to hire the earnest barrister-in-training, the administrator faced the hurdle of convincing law school dean Harry Hutchins that Rickey could handle his huge course load and coach a varsity team. After a two-hour, face-to-face meeting with the applicant, the dean reluctantly gave his consent on the condition that Rickey must be called on to answer questions every day in each of his law classes. ...
When Bartelme got the official word of the dean's approval, he called Rickey into his office with the good news. However, he made one earnest request of his new employee. "Stop sending me those darned letters!" ...
[The previous coach] had left Rickey an inexperienced but eager team, and Rickey rolled up his sleeves and went to work at educating them in the art and science of baseball. He taught his charges the proper way to run and to bunt. He instructed the catchers [Rickey's position in the majors] in the right technique of removing the mask on pop-ups so as to not to trip over it while locating the ball. At Michigan he also came up with the idea for what has become one of the most commonly used defensive strategies in baseball, "the daylight play." Designed to keep runners from taking too big a lead off second base, the strategy involved the pitcher whirling to second base on a pick-off attempt when he saw "daylight" between an unsuspecting base runner and a shortstop breaking to cover the base. Always interested in helpful technical innovations, Rickey also came up with the idea of sliding pits filled with sand to teach the players how to slide on each leg. ...
Not only did Rickey's first baseball season as Michigan coach end successfully, but he also continued to pile up good grades in law school. ...
The word about Rickey's coaching and baseball lecturing abilities was beginning to spread. Occa­sionally, on off days from the American League pennant race, Detroit Tigers players, scouts, and coaches came to Ann Arbor to sit it on Branch Rickey's practices and listen to his practical and inspirational instruction. At other times Rickey would take his players to Detroit to watch the gifted play of outfielders Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, two future Hall of Famers, and other stalwarts on the Tigers ...
Rickey resumed his coaching duties at Michigan before the 1912 season started. ... One morning in late March, a tall, gangly, quiet left-handed pitcher appeared at the indoor practice session at the gymnasium and wanted to know if he could try out for the team. He said that his name was George Sisler, and he was a freshman from Manchester, Ohio, studying mechanical engineering. "Oh, a freshman," Rickey said. "Too bad. You can't play this year. This inside work is only for the varsity." ...
Rickey's captain ... came over and told the coach that Sisler had set outstanding high school records in Ohio. Never liking to give bad news to anyone, Rickey consented to take a look at the freshman. ... A one-minute workout was all Rickey needed to appreciate what kind of jewel was sparkling on his coaching field. "This boy was something in grace and delivery from the very first pitch," Rickey wrote in The American Diamond. Although, as a freshman, Sisler could not play for the varsity, Rickey allowed him to work out with the team in the indoor drills. Restricted to throwing only fastballs, Sisler embar­rassed the varsity with the speed and movement of his pitches. "He was a major league pitcher right then!" Rickey marveled. ...
Sisler's baseball exploits led local sportswriters to dub him "the boy wonder," and professional scouts started to flock to his summer industrial league games. ... Sometime between Sisler's junior and senior years in high school, ... a scout, acting in behalf of ... the Akron team in the Ohio-Penn­sylvania League, had offered a professional contract to the heralded prospect. Though Sisler accep­ted no money he did sign the contract. The young player soon began to have second thoughts about his action and the impact it would have on his amateur eligibility. He was concerned his father would be very upset that his son might forgo his education for the transitory pleasures of the sporting life. ...
What Sisler did not know was that his contract had been shifted from Akron to Columbus, Ohio, in the American Association and had been purchased in early 1912 for $5,000 by Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss. By the summer of 1912 the astute and powerful Dreyfuss was ready to raise a ruckus ... If Sister did not report, he would be placed on the "permanently ineligible" list of profes­sional baseball. ...

L-R: Branch Rickey 1912; George Sisler; Barney Dreyfuss
Rickey was keeping close watch on the Sisler case. ... In August 1912 Dreyfuss went public with his demand that Sisler report to Pittsburgh. Dreyfuss's argument was simple: he had paid the Colum­bus franchise $5,000 for Sisler's contract earlier in the year, and it was time to claim his property. Sisler's amateur eligibililty at Michigan was, of course, no concern for Dreyfuss.
Sportswriters ... warned Sisler that he risked being blacklisted if he refused to report to Pittsburgh. ... The young Michigan student-athlete was, of course, disturbed at the threat to his college eligibility, but he had many important people in his corner. His father ... wrote the National Commission, the gover­ning authority of Major League Baseball, explaining that his son was "a bashful, backward boy" who had been influenced by the flattery of the sout and had signed something that he did not "in any way understand." ... A trustee of the University of Michigan ... wrote the Commission that Sisler was a student in good standing who had every reason to return to and play for the university. Last but not least Branch Rickey submitted a stirring defense of Sisler's blamelessness. ...
After tens of thousands of words were filed in the dispute, the Commission withheld judgment, in effect freeing the player to complete his college career. Barney Dreyfuss still claimed his rights to Sisler, and when the star player graduated in 1915, the case would arise once more. When Dreyfuss lost again it was the beginning of the end of the National Commission as baseball's governing body. That Sisler wound up going to play for Branch Rickey and the St. Louis Browns only rubbed more salt in Dreyfuss's wounds.
Gehrig's Streak Ends
Richard J. Tofel, A Legend in the Making: The New York Yankees in 1939 (2002)
The Yanks lost at home to Washington 3-2 April 20 in a game in which CF Joe DiMaggio
was injured, then lost again the next day.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, Washington leading 3-2 and reliever Johnny Murphy on the mound for the Yankees, [1B Lou] Gehrig barely got back to the bag in time on a ball hit between him and Murphy. It was a routine play, yet as they walked off the field, Murphy said, "Nice play, Lou." Murphy meant well, of course, but Gehrig was stung: he wasn't used to being patronized.
Then, in the locker room, Gehrig, having failed to advance runners in each of his four at-bats that day, may have overheard a less well-intended comment by another teammate: "Why doesn't he quit? He's through. We can't win with him in there."
Most ominously, as the Yankees enjoyed an off-day before their trip to Detroit, [Manager Joe] McCarthy, on his way to a one-day visit with his family in Buffalo, declined to post the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Tigers.
Gehrig took all of this in, and took it home with him, where he poured it out to his wife. She later wrote of their conversation that evening: "They don't think I can do it anymore," he said. "Maybe I can, maybe I can't. But they're talking about it now, they're even writing about it. And when they're not talking, I can almost feel what they're thinking. Then, I wish to God, that they would talk - you know, say anything but sit there looking."
"Sweetheart, you've done it for thirteen years without a day off," I told him. "The only thing that matters is whether you get the same feeling of satisfaction out of it."
"How can I get the same feeling of satisfaction out of it?" he asked. "I'm not giving them the same thing. You think they're hurting me. But I'm hurting them, that's the difference." Until this point, for all of his difficulties, Gehrig clearly intended to play through his problems, which he attributed publicly to "an easy winter and lack of exercise." He had had four hits (and five walks) in 33 at-bats in the season's first eight games and had already committed two errors. But he told The Sporting News, "My legs and my confidence have to be built up. In the meantime, I intend to play every day."
Yet as he boarded the 8:05 train for Detroit on Monday evening, May 1, Gehrig seemed to realize that McCarthy had other ideas. With DiMaggio out and Ruffing experiencing arm trouble, carrying Lou Gehrig at 1B and winning a fourth consecu­tive championship may have begun to seem mutually inconsistent to the manager. In March, McCarthy had speculated to Joe Williams of the world-Telegram about benching Gehrig. Now McCarthy turned to Dan Daniel of the same paper, who listened to him and deduced that Marse Joe had been grappling with the tempta­tion to bench Lou Gehrig in favor of Ellsworth Dahlgren. It is not the Iron Horse's failure to hit - his average is only .143 - that is hampering the Yankees. His defen­sive shortcomings have begun to alarm the lugubrious leader. McCarthy promised a decision when he rejoined the Yankees in Detroit.

L-R: Eleanor and Lou Gehrig, Joe McCarthy
Finally, Gehrig took the hint, or nearly so. At the time (and even in most modern versions of the story) it was insisted that ending the streak was entirely Gehrig's idea. But after Gehrig died, McCarthy was quite forthright about how the conver­sation had gone.
When the manager arrived at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, coach Art Fletcher told him that Gehrig was looking for him and wanted to talk to him. McCarthy told Fletcher to send Gehrig up to his room. A little later there was a knock on the door and Lou came in. I told him to have a seat. He was troubled, I could see that.
"Joe," he said, "how much longer do you think I should stay in this game? When do you think I should get out?"
"Right now, Lou," I said.
He didn't say anything right away, just sat there. Then he said, "Well, that's what I wanted to know."
"That's what I think," I said.
"That's the way I feel, too," he said. "I'm not doing the ball club any good."
I told him that maybe some rest would help and then we'd see what was going to happen. But the last was just sentiment, a polite end to an awkward moment. A newly uncovered letter from Gehrig to his wife the next day makes clear that player and manager went on to discuss a number of practical details.
Gehrig and Eleanor had developed the idea of a "farewell tour and farewell day," but they also wanted to be paid the rest of Gehrig's salary for the season. McCarthy said yes to the latter but thought that ruled out the former, because "if we planned a farewell day to record, newspapermen would interpret it as the absolute finish and that might cause a squabble [over paying Gehrig's remaining salary] among the new directors."
Instead McCarthy put out the word to that afternoon's World Telegram that it would be a long time before Gehrig would play again; in the next morning's New York Times he closed the door to using Gehrig as a pinch hitter.
Dahlgren was inserted at 1B, batting ninth. The Yankees left for Briggs Stadium. As they passed through the lobby, some stopped to greet a visitor, now a businessman in Grand rapids, Wally Pipp, the man Lou Gehrig had replaced at first base 2,136 games and fourteen years ago, had come by to say hello.
At the stadium, Gehrig took outfield and then infield practice. Fred Rice, then a 17-year-old Detroit student working as an usher, remember the scene sixty years later:
"Lou had been picking them up pretty good," Rice said. ... "Then a couple bounced off his glove. He dropped his glove, picked up the ball and bounced a throw to C Bill Dickey."
Gehrig proceeded to walk toward the dugout with his head down. Rice, a big fan, called out to him.
"I raised my hand and said, 'Hi, Lou,'" Rice said ... "He looked at me and smiled. He didn't say a word."

Gehrig at home plate with Detroit manager Del Baker before the game that ended his streak.
McCarthy accorded Gehrig the honor, as captain, of taking the day's lineup card to home plate umpire Steve Basil. The stadium announcer told the modest crowd of 11,379 that Gehrig would not be playing, ending his streak. When the announcer suggested "a big hand," the fans responded with a two-minute ovation. Gehrig, tears in his eyes, tipped his cap and returned to the Yankee dugout. Once there, he stepped inside to a water fountain, placed a towel over his head as he drank from the fountain, and broke down and cried.
He told the newspapers that he was puzzled about his inability to perform. "I just can't understand. I'm not sick."
The next morning, back in his hotel room in Detroit, Gehrig wrote a note to his wife. While the end of the letter has been withheld by the Gehrig estate as too personal, the beginning reveals his feelings quite clearly.
My sweetheart - and please God grant that we may ever be such - for what the hell else matters - That thing yesterday I believe and hope was the turning point in my life for the future as far as taking life too seriously is concerned. It was inevitable, as far as taking life too seriously is concerned. It was inevitable although I dreaded the day, and my thoughts were with you constantly - How this would affect you and I - that was the big question and the most important thought underlying everything. I broke just before the game because of thoughts of you - Not because I didn't know you are the bravest kind of partner, but because my inferiority grabbed me and made me wonder and ponder if I could possibly prove my self worthy of you. As for me, the road may come to dead end here, but why should it? Seems like our backs are to the wall now, but there usually comes a way out - where, and what, I know not, but who can tell that it might not lead right out to greater things? Time will tell -
Once the May 2 game began without Gehrig, the Yankees played as if possessed. They banged out 17 hits, including four HRs, and drew 12 walks on the way to a 22-2 victory. ... Dahlgren was very much part of the attack. He had a double, a HR, and two more long fly-outs that nearly went into the seats, and three RBI, and made two sterling catches in the field. With the rout under way, Dahlgren urged Gehrig to go out into the field for the bottom of the seventh. "They don't need me out there at all," Gehrig said, "you're all doing just fine."
Lou Brock: It's All in the Mind's Eye
Redbirds Revisited: Great Memories and Stories from St. Louis Cardinals,
David Craft and Tom Owens (1990)
In retelling the story of how Lou Brock first became interested in baseball, it's important to highlight the "growling tummy" factor.
In the small, one-room school house in rural Louisiana, where he soon learned the third "R" (as readin', 'ritin' and ...) could also stand for "redemption," a young Lou Brock once misdirected a spitwad meant for a female classmate but which hit the teacher behind her ear. To redeem himself, the little mischief maker was required to research the lives of several big league baseball players - Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson among them - and deliver a report to the rest of the class.
"That was the punishment, to read to the rest of the class," Brock said of that childhood incident. "And it was a punishment, too, standing before all these people and trying to read about something I knew little about. Baseball. Wasn't anything exciting about that. Just a bunch of grown men chasing a little ball around a field. But in stumbling through what I'd read about these ballplayers, I guess there was this one paragraph that stated these guys got something like $8 to $10 a day meal money. This was an economically-poor rural community, remember, and one thing school kids identified with was lunch. Eating. A meal.
"I had trouble gettin' a quarter for meal money and these guys were gettin' maybe forty quarters a day. I thought, 'Wow! Can you believe that?' That stayed with me, and I wanted to learn more about baseball."
Brock chuckles when he tells the story, but he is quick to add that the experience of having to recite information to his classmates was incentive enough to settle down in school.
"I never wanted to be put in that situation again," Brock said.
Something else happened to Brock not long afterward that drew him into the game of baseball to stay. A city sandlot team of older youths and young men had formed, and twelve-year-old Lou would go to see them play.
"I was always fascinated by the sound of a ball off a bat," Brock said. "To this day, to me, there is no greater sound than a bat hitting a baseball in an open field or park. It's a sound that breaks you into what I call a fantasy world where you begin to - not daydream - but, rather, live through your mind's eye.
"As I sat there watching and listening, a lot of wonderful things would come racing across my mind's eye. What's beautiful about that is that you can be the fielder, the pitcher, the hitter, all the things you might be doin' if you could have a chance to be out there on the field."
One day, Brock got that chance. The right fielder didn't show up for a practice game. Another player was needed. A yell rang out, "Hey, kid! Can you play ball?"
In his mind's eye, Lou Brock had played ball a thousand times. He answered with a resounding "Yeah!" and ran onto the field.
If the ball is hit to you, the older players told him, wait till it stops rolling and then pick it up and throw it in. Instead, he charged the first ball knocked in his direction.
"And that ball hit me all over," Brock remembered, "but I picked it up, threw it in, and the ball sort of sailed. I'm not sure how I even held it. When the inning was over they asked me if I could make the ball do that again. In my mind's eye, I had done it before, so I told 'em, 'Sure.' So they had me take the mound, but the ball would never do that for me again. I tried, but I could never make it sail like a cut fastball again.
"Yet based on that time and place, I became a pitcher on that sandlot team. And I continued to pitch clear through high school. But still, it was the sound of the bat on the ball that fascinated me and got me involved."
As he matured, Brock played most, if not all, nine positions on the diamond. A left-handed thrower as well as left-handed hitter, Brock even tried his hand at shortstop for one game. ("It wasn't a difficult throw, either," he insists, "despite what people say.")
Brock was primarily a pitcher until he reached college. Once enrolled at Southern University in Baton Rouge, he tried out for the outfield. Opposing hitters, then, must have figured out his pitching repertoire.
"Repertoire? I threw the express," Brock said, smiling. "Only the express."
Brock's development as a good, all-round amateur athlete at Southern caught the attention of some people in key places, and Brock was chosen for the baseball squad representing the United States in the 1959 Pan-American Games. He remembers getting "a couple hits" for an American team that took home a bronze medal.
Coincidentally, Wrigley Field in Chicago which mathematics major Brock saw during the Pan-Am Games, became his first major league home after he signed with the Cubs in 1961. And it was no surprise that the perennial also-rans were anxious to bring the budding star to the big leagues. All he did at St. Cloud was lead the Northern League in hitting (.361); runs (117); hits (181); doubles (33) and, on defense, in putouts, with 277. For that Brock received the league's "Rookie of the Year" award.
Lou played reasonably well for the Cubs in the early 1960s, but in June of 1964 the club dealt him, along with pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth, to St. Louis for pitchers Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz, and outfielder Doug Clemens. Brock and Broglio were the key figures in the deal. The Cubs wanted to improve their mound corps, and Broglio, who went 18-8 with a 2.99 ERA for St. Louis in 1963, appeared to fit the bill.
For their part the Cardinals desperately needed a catalyst for their sputtering offense and a speed merchant to help in the outfield, and team officials felt Lou Brock was their man on both counts.
"There was one cheerful reporter who covered the story," Brock said. "I don't remember who he was working for at the time. He'd say, 'We like you' while his smile during our interview said, 'We're glad to see you go because we're getting a great pitcher [in Broglio].'
"That young reporter, maybe on his first assignment, was Brent Musburger," Brock added, breaking into a grin. "To this day, whenever I see Brent, I always rub it in."
Still a Unique Feat
"Where Are They Now? Tony Cloninger," by Thom Henninger
Baseball Digest July/August 2016
Tony Cloninger, who spent 12 seasons in the major leagues, lives barely a stone's throw from his North Carolina high school, just north of Charlotte, where six decades earlier his baseball career took shape. He was a catcher then, but his ability to throw a mid-to-high-90s fastball landed him on the mound.
The 6-foot right-hander went on to win 24 games for Milwaukee Braves in 1965, but after all these years, he's remembered most for being one of 13 major leag­uers to hit two grand slams in a single game.
Cloninger, the only pitcher to slug two slams in a game, enjoyed his milestone moment 50 years ago in 1966, during the Braves' first year in Atlanta. By then he had spent five seasons with the franchise, with a locker located between future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews in the Braves clubhouse.
"That always puts a smile on my face and tears in my eyes when I think about how good those guys were to me when I got to the big leagues," Cloninger re­calls ... "Talking to me, and listening to them talking about how they approached different pitchers. And they would comment on how I had pitched and helped me along the way." ...
On July 3, 1966, Cloninger took the hill as the 35-45 Braves closed out a week­end set at Candlestick Park against the first-place San Francisco Giants. Before Cloninger faced the likes of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Jim Ray Hart, the Braves chased Giants starter Joe Gibbon by rallying for seven first-inning runs.
After Atlanta jumped in front on Joe Torre's three-run blast over the 410-foot sign in center field, Cloninger came to the plate to face reliever Bob Priddy with the bases loaded and two outs. He worked a full count before pounding a Priddy fastball to nearly the same spot as Torre's homer.
"I was just trying to hit the ball hard up the middle and I hit a line drive out to straightaway center field," says Cloninger, who used a heavy, 35-inch bat made for his friend and roommate, Braves infielder Denis Menke. "I just put my number on it," Cloninger chuckles. "He always gave me a certain number of bats."

L-R: Tony Cloninger, Joe Torre, Denis Menke
With the Braves up 9-0 in the fourth, Cloninger took the same bat to the plate, once again after Menke had drawn a two-out walk to load the bases. This time Cloninger faced lefty Ray Sadecki, the former 20-game winner who had come to the Giants in a recent trade ... The right-handed-hitting Cloninger went the other way, driving a Sadecki fastball into the right-field seats.
Cloninger became the first N.L. player to ever stroke two slams in a game, and his eight RBI established a new single-game mark for a pitcher. In the eighth, he sin­gled off Sadecki to drive in his ninth run, which remains the single-game record. Today Menke's bat is part of the Hall of Fame collection.
The North Carolina native says he flirted with a 10th RBI in the 17-3 victory. In his sixth-inning at-bat against Sadecki, Cloninger turned on a pitch and hit it to left as hard as his two homers.
"The wind was blowing in from left field real heavy," Cloninger says. "The others were line drives. I got under this one some, and it was up there a ways. Len Gabrielson went up to the left-field fence and pulled it in."
Sadecki gained a bit of revenge with a home run of his own off Cloninger, a fifth-inning solo shot that became a source of ribbing by teammates. "We got a lot of kidding about that," Cloninger says and laughs. "They said, 'He let you hit one and you let him hit one.' I said, 'No, he's always been a good hitter.' ..."
Cloninger hadn't done much as a hitter until 1966. He had batted .174 with a lone home run during his first five seasons with the Braves, but showed signs of a budding power surge on June 16, 1966, roughly two weeks prior to his two-slam game. He popped two home runs in a 17-1 win over the Mets, turning on a pitch for a three-run homer off Dave Eilers and going the other way for a two-run shot off Larry Bearnarth.
Beginning that day, through the end of the 1966 season, Cloninger batted .282 and slugged .526, with five homers and 23 RBI in just 82 plate appearances. His hitting spurred more at-bats. "It was hard to believe, but for the rest of my career, I pinch-hit some," says Cloninger.
"I was a fastball hitter, but if a guy made a mistake with a breaking ball, I could hit that," he adds, "because sitting beside those two guys, I learned a little about hitting. It wasn't just how hard you could swing, but to hit the ball out front."
Those two guys, of course, were Aaron and Mathews.
"What a gentleman and dear friend. I would have cherished him if he couldn't hit a baseball," Cloninger says of Aaron. ...
                    A Mad Dash That Changed My Life                
Ron Swoboda, Here's the Catch: A Memoir of the Miracle Mets and More (2019)
It’s a cool late afternoon in New York in mid-October of 1969. In the gloaming, a bunting-covered Shea Stadium, alive with the pulse of a capacity crowd, is draped in long shadows that mute colors and sharpen the edges between light and dark, success and failure. I’m in right field, in the only World Series I will ever see from the inside. My overachieving New York Mets, perennial laughingstocks of the National Pastime, lead the rightly favored Baltimore Orioles two games to one, and we are nursing a one–nothing lead in the top of the ninth inning of Game Four. Our right-handed ace George Thomas Seaver—“Tom Terrific,” “The Franchise”—has been moving through the Orioles’ batting order as unstoppably as the earth around the sun, all part of his inexorable journey to the Hall of Fame. Three seasons in the pros, he’s already accumulated 57 career wins, and a Cy Young Award is about to elbow its way onto his mantel. But at this moment, after eight innings of excellence, he is in trouble. With one out, back-to-back base hits by Frank Robinson, the O’s future Hall of Fame outfielder and two-time MVP, and Boog Powell, their slugging first baseman, have put runners at first and third. Brooks Robinson, the O’s shoo-in Hall of Fame third baseman, is at the plate. Our manager, Gil Hodges, who starred at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s and who played in seven World Series, more than anybody in either dugout, has one of the most able brains in baseball. In this pregnant moment, the tall, lean Indianan, his royal blue warmup jacket buttoned to the neck, takes a slow walk to the mound to make sure the infielders and everyone else are on the same page. He has our top relievers, Ron Taylor and Tug McGraw, warming in the bullpen. Today a manager in this predicament would almost certainly bring one of them in to close the game. (Hell, today a manager would never be in Gil’s predicament, because a closer would have started the inning, and Seaver would be in the dugout cheering him on.) But in that long-gone era, an elite pitcher like Seaver is expected to finish at least half his starts. Tom is our leader, the best we have, our rock. He isn’t coming out.

L-R: Ron Swoboda, Tom Seaver, Gil Hodges
What had to be dawning on most folks watching was that this game and this World Series had reached its tipping point. If the Orioles seized this moment, they would tie the Series and recapture the momentum; they would have come from behind to beat Seaver at his best, and they would play two of the next three in their home park. On the other hand, if we stopped the rally and won the game, we would be holding a 3–1 lead with a chance to wrap it up at home. And at that time, only three teams in baseball’s lengthy history had come back to win after a 3-1 disadvantage.
For the players, our families, and the fans, all our dreams were teetering on the fulcrum of this delicious moment. If things fall the right way, you’ve taken a giant leap toward a gold ring and a place in history. Things go badly and you join the long list of forgettable also-rans. ... What an extraordinary place to be for us players, frightening and fun at the same time, our focus honed sharp, ready to engrave a neural etching that we will, each of us, take to our graves.
In right field, I was ready. I’d worked hard teaching myself to get a good jump. Eddie Yost, our third base coach, was a wizard with a fungo bat—the long, light bat used in fielding drills. He would get me on the end of it, about 150 feet away, and hit me thousands of balls of all kinds, hard grounders and line drives, balls in front of me, balls over my head, to the left and right. The point of the drill was to help me make tough reads and tough plays, in the moment, with gamelike speed. I wasn’t just practicing catching the ball; I was practicing seeing the ball right off the bat. Nothing will make you a better outfielder.
With the tying run at third, I’m thinking that if the ball is hard hit, I’m comfortable going back for it; but if the ball is softly hit, I will want to be in position to try and throw the runner out at the plate, so it might be better for me to move in a couple steps. In the batter’s box, Brooksie has to be hunting fastball. Seaver featured mostly hard stuff, including a four-seam heater in the upper 90s, a two-seamer with hard run in on a right-handed hitter (which Robinson was), and a hard slider. Such was Seaver’s command that the venerable manager Gene Mauch liked to say, “He could throw it into a teacup.” Wherever Seaver decided to throw the ball, it would go there.
Watching the replay on YouTube—something utterly unfathomable in the moment—it looks like Seaver, pitching from the stretch, goes with his two-seamer down and away, hoping to induce a ground ball and maybe even an inning-ending double play. In which case, game over, we win. But Brooksie squares it up, and lines the pitch sharply toward short right center field.
I had made some incredibly embarrassing mistakes when I first came to the big leagues. I committed 11 errors as an outfielder in my rookie season, second worst in the league—what we call taking the routine out of a routine fly ball. In 1968, I made six—better, but still good for the lead among National League right fielders. When the ball is hit to someone who makes that many errors, everyone holds their breath, expecting an adventure. Exacerbating the problem was Shea Stadium, which stood three tiers tall, like a gigantic Globe Theatre. Instead of sky, most fly balls, plus all the liners and little loopers, had the grandstands as a background. With fans there in constant motion, I often felt like I was staring into an ebbing, flowing Jackson Pollock painting, amping up my indecisiveness, which is my fatal flaw, to an almost Shakespearean dimension. Years later, I saw Monet’s paintings from the Marmottan Museum in Paris, and I couldn’t help but wonder what Monet would have seen had he ever stood in right field at Shea and looked into that mercurial autumn light falling on the shouting, shifting fans.
Not then, though. I just broke for the ball.
Later, there was no small amount of debate over the wisdom of my pursuit of Brooksie’s falling line drive. Our first baseman, Donn Clendenon, one of those outspoken, self-appointed in-house arbiters known throughout baseball as clubhouse lawyers, but who was the only one I ever heard of who actually took a law degree and passed the bar exam, was quoted as calling me “a dumb SOB for trying to catch it” because if it got by me two runs score, and we would have trailed by at least a run going into the bottom of the ninth. That’s possible, but I’ve always maintained that Boog Powell would have had to grow wings on his heels to bring his bargelike body around from first to score. Regardless, in my moment of exquisite focus all I knew was … GO! Which I did. Joe Pignatano, our bullpen coach, a great friend of Hodges and the last living member of our coaching staff, once gave me a priceless piece of advice. “Swoboda,” he said, “don’t think. You will only hurt the team.” So, I didn’t. Not then. I launched into full-bore pursuit sharply to my right with the rapidly rising fear that I wasn’t going to get there on time. In my slo-mo memory, that dread seems to last a long time. If that counts as a thought, it was too late to stop.
In his grand novel, Underworld, the author Don DeLillo tells us about Cotter Martin, an ungainly young black kid leaping over a turnstile at the Polo Grounds in 1951, and gate-crashing the game where the New York GiantsBobby Thomson hit the game-winning home run to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League Pennant. “He is just a running boy, a half seen figure from the streets, but the way running reveals some clue to being, the way a runner bares himself to consciousness, this is how the dark-skinned kid seems to open to the world, how the blood rush of a dozen strides brings him into eloquence.” On my more fevered run, I was a young man already in his middle twenties, but like Cotter Martin, I was fully committed in a mad dash down a path that would change my life forever.

Several views of Swoboda's game-saving catch
Punching Out the Astros
Stan McNeal, Cardinals Gameday Magazine, Issue 2 2019
Fifteen years later, Julian Tavarez still hasn't forgotten.
In fact, he considers the night he smashed his hand in Game 4 of the 2004 NLCS at Houston as the defining moment in his two years with the Cardinals. That he overcame an injury of his own doing makes the memory even fonder these days.
After surrendering a tie-breaking HR to Carlos Beltran in the 7th inning (the Astros would even the series), Tavarez couldn't control his anger. He followed with a walk, wild pitch, intentional walk and hit a batter to load the bases before a double play prevented more damage.
At least on the scoreboard.
The dugout phone? Well, you remember what happened.
The enraged righthander came off the field and swung his glove at the dugout roof as he entered. He tossed a water cooler and also connected with a left to the phone and tried to yank it off the wall. The perilous punch broke bones in two fingers.

Julian Tavarez with his
broken fingers
Did the unhinged righthander maintain just enough self-control to refrain from throwing the blow with his pitching hand? "At the time, I wasn't thinking about hitting a phone with my left hand or my right hand," Tavarez admits. "When I did it, I wasn't thinking. But once you get hurt, you think - oh my, I wish I could take back what I did. But too late now."
His wallet took a hit, too, but not because of his dugout demolition derby. Facing Jeff Bagwell after Beltran's homer, Tavarez sailed ball four over the batter's head. MLB slapped the pitcher with a $10,000 fine.
The dramatic aftermath obscured a point that Tavarez might have considered and found some self-forgiveness: the HR came on a wicked two-strike slider that spun below the outer half of the zone. Most hitters would have been fortunate just to make contact with such a nasty offering.
But the 27-year-old Beltran was in the midst of orchestrating one of the greatest postseason masterpieces ever. He dropped down and essentially golfed the ball into the RF seats for his 8th (and final) homer of the playoffs, which were the first of his career. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan described the shot as something he hadn't seen in his 40 years in the big leagues.
Tavarez's take today: "I still don't believe he hit that."
Perhaps just as remarkable, Tavarez returned to the mound three days later.
After fracturing the fingers, he received two options: a cast, meaning he'd miss the rest of the playoffs, or a temporary splint and a shot to numb the pain, which meant he'd be available to pitch.
Despite the swollen hand and pain so intense that Tavarez admits he "cried like a baby" when the shot wore off ..., the reliever didn't hesitate in making a decision.
"I say, 'I don't want to get in a cast,'" he recalls. "I worked the whole year to get to the playoffs, and I have to pitch the rest of the playoffs. I could have thought about myself, but all I could think about was baseball. I wasn't thinking about 2005.
"Only thing I was thinking about was getting to the big dance, the World Series. I was very sure we were going to go all the way, even though Houston had a great team."
Sure enough, Tavarez pitched again - broken fingers and all - and played a pivotal role in helping the Cardinals reach the World Series for the first time since 1987.
After ripping out finger separators in his glove to fit his taped up left hand inside, Tavarez entered Game 6 in the 11th inning with the score 4-4 and the Cardinals facing elimination. He retired all six batters he faced - two on strikeouts - and when Jim Edmonds hit a walkoff homer in the 12th, Tavarez had his second win of the series.
And he wasn't done. The next night in Game 7, Tony La Russa called on him to protect a 4-2 lead in the eighth. Tavarez cut right through the heart of Houston's order, retiring Beltran, Bagwell and Lance Berkman.
On the final out, Berkman lined a shot up the middle that Tavarez deflected with his injured glove hand. The ball bounced to SS Edgar Renteria, who threw to first in time to beat Berkman. An inning later, the Cardinals celebrated as NL champs.
Tavarez partied as well, albeit in even more pain.
"Berkman hit the ball so hard, I messed up my hand more," Tavarez relates. "It was cold that night, and my fingers wwere stiff. But we got the out, or the tying run would have come to the plate. When Jason Isringhausen came out in the ninth and goes 1-2-3, that was nice, man."
Tavarez revealed that he never did wear a cast. Consequently, on cold days he's still physically reminded about what went down in 2004.
"My fingers will hurt," he says. "But they're still far away from my heart. So I'm good."
Family Guy
"Family Guy," Carroll Rogers Walton, Memories and Dreams: Official Publication of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Spring 2018)
Chipper Jones relishes the chance to celebrate Hall of Fame election with his mom and dad.
Young Chipper Jones
For Larry Wayne Jones Jr., baseball was always about family. Now, as a Hall of Famer, the Atlanta legend known as "Chipper" will celebrate the game's greatest honor with those who made it possible. "I can't wait for my dad to go up and rub elbows with the best in the game," Jones said. "He deserves it more than I do, for all that he and Mom did for me growing up. That'll be a pretty awesome family trip."
In January 2018, Jones became just the eighth third baseman voted into the Hall of Fame. In his first year eligible, he was named on 97.2 percent of the ballots to lead the 2018 class. He'll be the sixth Braves legend inducted in the past five years, joining former teammates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, along with manager Bobby Cox and GM John Schuerholz.
"The second that phone rang and I saw the 212 (area code) that it was from New York, I immediately got a lump in my throat," said Jones of the Jan. 24 call that informed him of his Hall of Fame election. When he hung up, Jones hugged and kissed his wife, Taylor, then turned toward his parents, who were standing on the opposite side of the kitchen. He locked eyes with his father; both of them already starting to well up. "When Dad and I hugged, I kind of let loose," said Jones, who managed to get out three words. "I told him, 'We did it.'"
Jones' father taught him strategy and the finer points of his swing. His mother, Lynne, a professional equestrian, shaped Jones' mental approach, preaching confidence every time he walked to the plate. He drew on both throughout his 19 years with the Braves, 22 including his time in the minors.
"He's been so laser-focused from the age of 4 years old on being a baseball player, and being one of the best baseball players," Lynne Jones said, "'Just good' wasn't good enough for him. He really strove to be the best that he could make himself."
Jones prided himself on being a .300 hitter and backed it up by finishing his career with a .303 average. He hit .300 from both sides of the plage ... to join Frankie Frisch as the only switch hitters with at least 5,000 plate appearance to do that. Interestingly, Jones figures he never went more than a dozen at-bats without a hit for the first 10 to 12 years of his career. "It's hard not to go in prolonged slumps, but you can do things to prevent 0-for-20s, 2-for-30s," he said. "I didn't have many of those over the course of my career because the game didn't stop for me at the end of the game. I was ... constantly thinking what I could do better. A lot of times I wouldn't have been able to go home and go to sleep if I didn't get into the cage and figure it out."
His teammates say that sense of urgency showed up in Jones' preparation as well. Maddux remembers being on the team bus in Milwaukee one day when somebody asked Jones who was pitching for the Brewers in that series. "He always knew the rotation for the series," Maddux said. "Nobody had ever heard of the guy pitching the second game. But Chipper goes, 'Oh yeah, we faced him in Spring Training. He came in in the fifth or six inning. He's got a little slider; his fastball's pretty straight.' He remembered two months ago in Spring Training facing this guy," Maddux added. "That was his edge. He was a little bit more prepared than most of the hitters."
Jones batted third as a rookie on the Braves' World Series championship team in 1995. He immediately earned the respect of veterans hitting behind him, including Fred McGriff and David Justice, by smashing w3 homers. It was his first of 14 straight seasons with 20 or more HRs. "He wasn't afraid of the moment," Justice says.
Jones proved it time and again throughout his career, starting in that rookie season when he hit a pair of HRs in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Rockies. He then secured the series-opening win with a diving play at 3B.
Four years later, in the prime of his career, Jones homered four times in a pivotal three-game September series against the Mets, giving the Braves a lead each time. That series sweep helped Atlanta nail down an eighth straight division title and propelled Jones to NL MVP honors, having hit a career-high 24 homers. Later in his career, after his power started to diminish and nagging injuries began to mount, Jones won a batting title. At age 36 in 2008, he proved he could still master the cat-and-mouse game by hitting .364.
Former Braves infielder Mark DeRosa remembers sitting in the dugout one night in Montreal as a rookie when Jones came back in after rounding out. DeRosa said Jones vowed that if he got another 3-2 changeup late in the game, he was "going deep." "He got that 3-2 changeup again and hit it dead center. We ended up winning game," DeRosa said. "I just remember being like, 'Wow, I need to get much better.'"
"Against most hitters, if it worked in April, it's going to work in June," Maddux said. "But not necessarily with Chipper. If you got him out a certain way, he had the ability to sit on it, look for it and try to take that pitch away from a P. And he would do damage with it, not just take it. A lot of guys will wait for the pitch they want to hit, where Chipper was good enough to hit the pitcher's pitch."
Albert Is Back!
Stan McNeal, Cardinals Magazine, Spring 2019
Surely, June 21 is circled in red on your calendar. That night, Albert Pujols is ex­pected to take his first swings at Busch Stadium in nearly eight years. The last time he stood in that batter's box, in 2011, the Cardinals were about to wrap up the franchise's 11th World Series championship. Like then, he'll be wearing his familiar No. 5, but not for the home team. No Cardinal has donned that number since Pujols' last hurrah in 2011. And that's no coincidence. Cooperstown will be calling. ...
Many fans have been counting the years and the games (more than 1,000) since Pujols was last introduced at Busch. Now, he will finally get to play in his old ball­park again.
"I can't wait," Pujols told Cardinal Nation.
August 2000: A Short(s) Stay
We're not pulling your leg by saying Pujols made short work of the minor leagues. At 20 years old, he zoomed through the system in only one season, a year after the club drafted him in the 13th round. Pujols began 2000 at low-A Peoria and finished at Triple-A Memphis with a walkoff homer that won the decisive game of the Pacific Coast League championship. (He'd be named MVP of the PCL playoffs.) In between the two stops, Pujols played 21 games for the high-A Potomac Cannons. Like teammate Jose Nunez, he did his work and followed the lead of his coaches, including former Cardinals catcher Glenn Brummer. There was no special treatment for a special talent, even one who'd hit .324 with 55 extra-base hits at Peoria - a performance that earned MVP honors in the Midwest League.
St. Louis drafted Pujols in 1999 (402nd overall), but he spent that summer play­ing in the amateur Jayhawk League because he didn't agree to terms until Aug. 17. Once he signed (for a reported $60,000 bonus), he hardly looked back on his way to the majors.
Pujols: I wouldn't say the minors were easy for me, but playing 2 1/2 months in the Jayhawk League had really helped me. Going from metal (in junior college) to wood (bats) was a huge change, and that league also prepared me on a competitive level because most of the players were older, and better. It took my game to the next level. The Cardinals sent me to fall instructional league after I signed, and in those six weeks I learned a lot and matured as a professional.
The next year in the minors was big for me, and I ended up playing a lot of games (133). Deidre was pregnant with our first son that summer, too, and about when I thought my season should be ending, I was sent to Potomac. I was there a few weeks, and again it felt like (it was time) to go home. But I went on to Triple-A. It was an unbelievable run, only one year but great memories.

L-R: Glen Brummer, Jose Nunez, Albert Pujols; Pujols after his opening day HR
April 9, 2001: Hello, St. Louis!
It took only two innings for a sold-out Busch Stadium to fall in love with Albert. Oh, they knew the rookie was coming after he'd landed the last Opening Day roster spot due to a late spring injury to Bobby Bonilla. And he'd only heightened the anticipation by hitting. 348 with a homer and eight RBIs on the Cardinals' six-game road trip to open the schedule. But leave it to Pujols to provide a "pinch-me, I must be dreaming moment" for 48,702 fans witnessing his first game in St. Louis.
Playing third base and hitting No. 7 in the order, Pujols did what only a dreamer would ask a rookie to do in his first at-bat: go deep. His two-run homer in the second inning off Colorado lefthander Denny Neagle helped the Cardinals to a 3-2 win and initiated the first of countless curtain calls for No. 5.
Pujols would be a unanimous selection as NL Rookie of the Year after delvering one of the greatest first-year campaigns in history. In 161 games, he hit .329, mashed 37 homers, drove in 130 runs and scored 112 - the first .300-30-100 season with 100 runs scored by an NL rookie. It remained Pujols' standard, as he became the majors' first player to begin a career with 10 consecutive .300-30 HR-100 RBI campaigns.
Pujols: Opening the season on the road was the best thing for me. I was able to get my feet wet and gain a little experience. Remember, I had gone 1-for-9 in my first three games at Colorado, and veteran Bobby Bonilla was close to returning. I didn't know how that would work out for me. Then we went to Arizona and I tore it up, 7-for-14 with eight RBIs, and thought that I would stick around. That first week prepared me for the home opener, which some of the Latin guys had told me how much they were looking forward to. But I really didn't know what to expect.
Obviously, I was able to enjoy that day. I hit my first home run at Busch Stadium and got my first curtain call. Well, my first in the big leagues. I had one in Memphis when I hit a walk-off that clinched the Pacific Coast League championship. I wonder how many curtain calls I ended up having in St. Louis? It was an unbelievable career.




The Road Stockings

Give Back That Ball!

"He was a major league pitcher right then."

Gehrig's Streak Ends

Lou Brock: It's All in the Mind's Eye

Still a Unique Feat

A Mad Dash That Changed My Life

Punching Out the Astros

Family Guy

Albert Is Back!


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