Thursday, December 17, 2015

1971 St. Louis Cardinals (2nd): 90-72, .556, 7GB

The Redbirds started out strong holding a share of first place as far as June 9th.  A rough middle of the season saw them fall back by double digits.  Then a late run got them to withing 4 1/2 games of Pittsburgh by early September, but the Bucs were just too good to catch by then.

1971 for all intents and purposes was the last hurrah for the great Cardinals teams of the mid to late 60's, before the franchise would spiral into a decade of mediocrity.  Three years removed from their last pennant this Cardinal offering blended players from the "glory years" along with the next generation of stars.  Guys like Brock and Gibson were more than just productive and youngsters like Ted Simmons (.301-7-77) and newly acquired Ted Sizemore (.264-3-42) looked ready to assume prime time roles and quite possibly dominance.  With Tim McCarver long gone, Simmons picked up the baton and played like a future All-Star.  Joe Torre, who would go on to win the NL MVP had a monster year (.363-24-137).  You can be 100% sure that he didn't get any cheap infield hits on his way to the MVP award and batting title.  Unfortunately for "St. Joe", the rest of the lineup had little or no pop.  Joe Hague (.226-16-54) was the only other player to hit double figures in homers.  A very young Jose Cruz (.274-9-27) looked like he could be a fixture in the Cardinal outfield for years to come.  Thirty Two year old Lou Brock hit .313 and still managed to swipe 64 bags.  Matty Alou, who played every OF position hit .315 with 19 steals.  The Cardinals got on base and they sure scored runs.  They were #2 in the league in runs scored and #1 in OBP.  With just a bit more power this team might have been able to make up the 7 game delta with Pittsburgh.  The Cards had two reliable starters.  Both were destined for the HOF.  One's HOF resume was already printed, while the other needed a change of scenery to build his.  The latter, Bob Gibson (16-13, 3.04) was a St. Louis legend heading into the sunset of an historic career.  Gibby always matched up vs the opposition's ace, which is why he "only" posted 16 wins.  Lefty Steve Carlton (20-9, 3.56) definitely got more run support.  The rest of the starters had high ERA's, but did log over 200 innings.  22 year old Jerry Reuss (14-14, 4.78) was still a few years away from consistency.  The pen, led by veteran Moe Drabowsk (6-1, 3.43, 8sv) was reliable and at times outstanding.  Joining Moe were veterans Chuck Taylor (3-1, 3.53, 3sv) and Frank Linzy (4-3, 2.12, 6sv).  The only knock on this group would be the fact that they didn't have a lefty arm for the late innings.

With the Cardinals roster in flux it too 26 new cards to round out the set, which is probably the most needed for a 90 win team since I started this project 4-5 years ago.  As usual the photos were a combo of those furnished by Jeff D and ones that I found.

The "Mad Hungarian" was just a clean shave kid back in '71, where he got into one game and pitched two scoreless innings.  By the middle of the decade he would put together 3 successive years as the NL's top closer before being dealt to the Royals for their closer Mark Litell.
Arrived in STL on May 8th after being traded from SD for Leron Lee and Fred Norman.  Went 0-2 in 49 innings of work.  Over the course of 3 seasons 1970-72 he wound up in an 0-12 stretch before finally getting a win.  Didn't produce much and was farmed out during the '73 season and did not make it back to the show.
Hit .296 for the Redbirds and led the NL with 14 pinch hits, which was by far his best season ever.  This was his second stint with the Cardinals.  His first came back in 1962.  During his career he rode that shuttle back and forth between AAA and the bigs.  His career .224 average was spread out over 6 seasons and 4 franchises.

To create this card I used a team issue B&W shot that I had to colorize.
Not much to say about a guy who had two cups of joe in the bigs equaling 15 games with a lifetime 8.84 ERA.  He got into 1 game during the '71 season and gave up 2 runs in 2 innings of work.  He spent two more years in the minors representing San Diego before hanging it up at the age of 27.
Reynolds tossed 7 innings in 4 games for the Cards in '71 and had a hyper inflated 10.29 ERA.  He would move on to Baltimore and have a couple of decent seasons before bottoming out in 1975 where he split time with 3 franchises (BAL, DET, CLE) before hanging it up.
On October 5, 1970, Stinson was traded along with Ted Sizemore to the St. Louis Cardinals for Dick Allen. He appeared in 17 games in 1971 for the Cardinals.  He hit .211 (4-19) in limited action during his only season in St. Louis.  He would bounce around between one former expansion team and another for the next 9 seasons.  His 4 years in Seattle were his most productive.  1980 would be the switch hitting catcher's final MLB season at the age of 34.
After bouncing between the majors and minor with Houston and KC Zachary was given every opportunity to succeed in the Cardinals pen.  His 3-10, 5.32 record shows he clearly did not make the most of his opportunity.  He moved on to Detroit in 1972 and was 1-1, 1.41 in 38 innings where he pitched in the ALCS vs Oakland and gave up 1 run without ever recording an out for a "infinity" ERA.
Patterson peaked back in 1968 during his rookie season, where he went 2-3, 2.12 with 7 saves for the World Champion Tigers.  He even pitched 3 scoreless innings during the Fall classic.  Progressively year by year his numbers got worse and his appearances became less.  In 1971 he tossed 26 innings for the Cardinals and was 0-1, 4.39.  He would spent the next 2 seasons in the minors before getting a final shot with the Pirates, which saw him win 2, lose 1 and give up a boat load of runs.
Higgins appeared in 3 games for the Cards in '71 and compiled a 1-0, 3.86 record in 7 innings.  Prior to that he completed 5 successful seasons as a reliever for the Chisox, Senators and Indians.  Sadly he played in the wrong era.  If he was in the game today he would be a "7th inning guy" who would have enjoyed a nice 10-15 year career, instead of a 7 year resume.  1972 would be his final season.  He bounced back and forth between the minors and the parent club then hung it up.  His career record was 22-23, 3.42.
By 1971 "Ducky's" career looked to have come full circle.  The 19 year utility man started in St. Louis back in 1953 as a young bonus baby.  After making the rounds (PIT, SFG, NYY, LAD, STL, BOS) he hoped to finish out his career back where it started.  After hitting just .217 in 34 games he was sent to Milwaukee in a deal that brought Ted Kubiak back to STL in July.  In total he appeared in 1321 major league games.  His best season was 1960, where he it .333 in 65 games as Dick Groat's (broken wrist) replacement.  Ducky's success with both the bat and leather drove the Bucs to the 1960 NL Pennant and subsequent World Championship over the Yankees in 7 games.  Schofield had 3 stints with the Cardinals:  1953-58, 1968 & 1971.
Shaw pitched all or part of five seasons in the majors, between 1967 and 1972, for the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics.  1971 would be his best season.  Shaw was 7-2, 2.65 and was a key reliever for a very solid bullpen group.  He pitched in 45 games and logged 51 innings.  1972, however, was his nadir.  In just 8 games his ERA balooned to 9.00.  He was traded to Oakland, but did worse (0-1, 16.88).  He spent more time that season in Iowa (OAK-AAA) than he did up in the bigs.  After the season he was shipped to Detroit, where he was assigned to their AAA-Toldeo affiliate.  After going 3-4, 4.72 he was released at the age of 29.
I had a lot of fun colorizing this photo.  Yes I was too lazy to colorize the grandstand background, but I still like the photo just the same !  The original card was a BHNH card that was off center and showed more of Florida than of Fred.  Mr. Norman, who's 7 year career (to this point) was marred by failure and injure.  He saw limited action with STL (4 games, 3.2 IP) before being shipped out to SD as part of the Al Santorini deal.  Once in SD he began to pitch regularly, and like most crafty lefties he developed late.  In 1973 he was dealt to Cincy and blossomed into a double digit winner for 7 straight year on some great Big Red Machine teams that won 2 championships.
St. Louis was the 9th and final stop for Brunet.  During his 15 year career this flexible lefty pitched both out of the pen or in the rotation.  In successive years (1967-68) he led the AL with losses, despite the fact that his ERA was 3.31 and 2.86.  He would become famous after the 1970 season when Jim Bouton's seminal book Ball 4 was released.  During the '69 season Brunet was traded to the expansion Pilots and some of his exploits and idiosyncrasies were chronicled in the book including the fact that he didn't wear underwear ("I might lose them").  His 7 game stint in STL during the '71 season was his last in the majors.  He would return to the minors, where he built on his all time record for strikeouts.  Eventually he wound up in the Mexican league where he pitched well into his 50's.
Parker appeared in just 4 games for the Cards.  All in relief.  He would hit his stride in 1973 as a member of the "Ya Gotta Believe" Mets going 8-4, 3.35 with 5 saves.  That would be the apex of his career as his numbers would steadily drop after that season.  By 1977 he was out of baseball after attempting a comeback with STL in 1975 and one final go around in CLE the following year.
34 year old backup catcher Jerry McNertney hit .285 with 4 homers and 22 RBI's in 128 AB's.  By far his best year, in regards to average.  After spending 4 seasons with the Chisox he was drafted by the Pilots in 1969 and became their starting catcher.  In his only season in the biggs as a starter he went .241-8-55.  He would play one more season in STL then a handful of games in PIT in 1973 before moving on to coaching.
Roque, who went 3-10 in a brief 3 game stint with STL in 1971 was a career Minor and Mexican leaguer.  Never a big time prospect, Roque never impressed the Cardinal brass enough to get extended action.  After the 72 season he was traded to Montreal where he hit .148 and was cut.  He would head to the Mexican league for 6 successful seasons after leaving MLB.
It just never worked out for Cheo in STL.  In all or parts of 5 seasons he was given ample chance to be a regular corner outfielder.  Inconsistent play forced the Redbirds to sell his contract to Houston, where he flourished into one of the best professional hitters in baseball for well over a decade.  Cruz would play until 40 and amass 2251 hits and a lifetime .284 average to go along with 317 stolen bases.  Always a tough out, Cruz won 2 Silver Slugger awards, along with 2 All-Star selections.  In 1971 he hit a solid .274 with 9 homers in 83 games.  His OBP was .377.
Meléndez hit just .225 in 88 games for the Cards as a platoon player in the outfield.  This is a role that he would hold down for the next 5 seasons before being traded to SD.  By 1977 his major league career was over.  Following his playing career, Meléndez was a minor league manager and coach in the Cardinals and Phillies systems, winning the South Atlantic League championship with the Savannah Cardinals in 1994. He has also managed in the Puerto Rico Baseball League. He was most recently a coach for the Gulf Coast Phillies from 2006 to 2009.
Jackson's whole Cardinal career consisted of 2/3 of an innings worth of work where he didn't allow a run, but allowed 1 hit and 1 walk.  This career minor leaguer bounced around 4 organizations.  His career MLB line was 2-3, 5.80 in 23 games over 4 seasons.  His minor league numbers:  65-53, 3.90 were not all that impressive either.
Known to all as the clown prince of the bullpen Drabowsky had a solid year anchoring the Cardinals pen.  Moe spent 1971 with the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom he finished 6-1 with eight saves in 51 games. Off the mound, his return to the National League gave him a new set of victims. He threw cherry bombs in Chief Noc-A-Homa’s teepee in Atlanta, and twice gave sportswriter Hal Bock a hotfoot on a road trip to New York (the last act drawing a censure from National League President Chub Feeney). After starting the next year with the Cardinals, he ended up back in the American League with the Chicago White Sox. He was pitching to Tommy Harper one day in August. “I threw a fastball,” he told a reporter, “and I watched that ball go to the plate, and I said, ‘When in the world is that ball going to get to the plate?’ I said, ‘Hey, my career is over.’ (from SABR)
After two cups of coffee (1969 & 1971) Cleveland finally stuck with the big club in '71 going 12-12, 4.01.  This would be the first of 4 straight years where he logged over 200 innings.  After a successful 1973 season he was dealt to Boston where he would get to pitch in the 1975 fall classic.  In total he played 13 years in the majors with a 105-106, 4.01 record.
11 2/3 innings over 9 games was the story of Arroyo's major league and Cardinal career.  All of that action occurred during the '71 season.  His 0-1, 5.40 record impressed no one, so he was farmed out...never to return.  Not only was he farmed out, he was sent down to Double AA and then Single A, where he posted a 6.00 ERA or worse.  After bottoming out in the Florida league in 1974 he was released.

In limited action (10 innings) Guzman did not allow a run for the '71 Cards.  He was a late season call-up during 4 successive seasons, but he wasn't able to secure a job.  After his 1 game shot in 1972 he was relegated to the minors for the next few years then released.
After pitching poorly for the Twins in the early half of the season Williams was dealt to the Cardinals where he was 3-0, 1.42 in ten relief appearances.  Near the end of the road he moved on to Boston the following season and was out of baseball as an active player.  Williams would then embark on his second career as a successful pitching coach.  After that he started his 3rd career as a major league scout, which he continued doing until 2010.
“Being a utility player wasn’t a pleasant way to spend your time in the major leagues,” said Ted Kubiak in 1987. “But it was a living.” Twenty years later, he said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that my ten-year major-league career was because of my defensive ability.”  In 2011 he expanded further. “It took quite a while for me to be comfortable with the role and I don’t think I ever really did. I hit enough to keep a job but it was my glove that made my career.” (from SABR).  Kubiak arrived mid season and hit .250 in 32 games.  His .231 career average would not afford him a regular role, so he settled into being a super sub.  The highlight of his career was playing on 3 straight A's championship teams from 1972-1974.
The 1969 NL-ROY arrived in the off-season in exchange for the enigmatic Dick, don't call me Richie Allen.  Sizemore assumed the role of starting second-baseman for the Cards and kept it for 5 years until he was dealt back to the Dodgers.  In 135 games he hit .264.  At times he was asked to play short or the corner OF spots.  After leaving LA a second time he played 2 seasons in Philly, one on the north side of Chicago and parts of two in Boston.

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