On Monday night, April 5, 2011, Kyle McClellan reached an important career milestone. After two arm surgeries and three years in the Cardinals bullpen, the Hazelwood West graduate was finally making his first major league start. When Adam Wainwright went down to an elbow injury early in spring training, a spot in the rotation opened it. Throughout all of spring training, McClellan out-pitched both Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson, forcing the managers hand in the same manner as Jaime Garcia did in 2010.
Shortly before McClellan took the mound, sportswriter Rob Rains shared this interesting piece of information.
A few moments later, Rob gave us the first two names on this list: Cliff Politte (1998) and Al Omsted (1980). You knew we couldn’t leave it at that, right ? Of course not.
Looking back at the last 100 years of Cardinals history, and perhaps casting a wider net over the St. Louis area to include De Soto, Missouri and Batchtown, Illinois, here is the list of those home town starters for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kyle McClellan – Hazelwood West (Hazelwood, Mo). 1 start in 2011, and counting. And what an impressive start it was. In six innings of work, McClellan put aside any concerns about his ability to work through the opponents batting order more than once. He would face all but the bottom of the order three times, and over that span he would allow just six hits while striking out seven. The two Pirates runs came on a Lyle Overbay home run in the first inning, teaching the youngster a valuable lesson – veteran power hitters can smack a flat curve ball a long way. To his credit, McClellan adapted, and Overbay never saw another mediocre breaking ball. The bullpen would combine for three more scoreless innings, allowing a late rally to give the Cardinals a much needed win. McClellan would not get a decision, but earned the admiration of the big hometown crowd that was in attendance.
Cliff Politte – Vianney (Kirkwood). Cliff Politte would compile a 2-3 record in 8 starts for the Cardinals in 1998. He would then be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where he would get a few more starts before being moved to the bullpen. That’s where Politte enjoyed his greatest success as a major leaguer, the best being with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Politte would return to the Cardinals, pitching for Memphis (AAA) before retiring from baseball in 2008.
There was another Cliff Politte in the Cardinals farm system in the early 1960s. He too was from St. Louis, and a pitcher, although from the port side. This Cliff Politte made it as far as AA, appearing in 10 games with the Tulsa Oilers in 1964. His minor league numbers suggest that he struggled with his control, but yet was impressive at both the A and AA levels. When a lefty like that disappears suddenly, an arm injury seems the most likely culprit.
What are the odds of two unrelated Cliff Politte’s from the St. Louis area, both pitching for the Cardinals ? Although I can find nothing linking the two of them, their ages are consistent for a father and son twosome.
Al Olmsted – Hazelwood East (Hazelwood, Mo). The big left-hander had a monster season for the Springfield Redbirds (AAA) in 1980, which prompted a September callup with the big club. He would make five starts in September, including an impressive 9 1/3 scoreless inning effort against the Philadelphia Phillies in his debut.
Olmsted would become part of Whitey Herzog’s team overhaul in 1981, being sent to the San Diego Padres in the Rollie Fingers deal. What makes this interesting is Olmsted would return to St. Louis a year later as the “player to be named later” in the Ozzie Smith trade. Injuries, including a torn triceps muscle, would keep Olmsted from returning to the major leagues after that impressive September in 1980.
John Fulgham – Pattonville (NW St. Louis County, Mo). Fulgham was part of a core of young pitchers, including Silvio Martinez, Al Olmsted and Andy Rincon, that the Cardinals hoped would take them back into post-season play. Injuries shut all of them down far too early in their career, but in their brief time with the Cardinals, all were impressive. Especially Fulgham. The big right-hander has a most distinctive career statistic – all 14 of his career wins were complete games. His last start would come against the Houston Astros on August 27, 1980. He would be taken out of the game after just one inning. He would miss the entire 1981 season before trying to make a comeback in 1982. After struggling for two years in the Cardinals minor league system, Fulgham would retire from baseball in 1983.
Sonny Siebert – Bayless (St. Louis, Mo). The big right-hander had been an All Star starter in the American League with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, earning one mid-season classic invitation with each club. He made a brief stop through his home town at the tail end of his career. At age 37, Siebert made 20 starts for the St. Louis in 1974. His last Cardinals win would come in relief, pitching the last 2 1/3 of the 25 inning marathon with the Mets, on September 11. In that game, another aging veteran turned back the clock when Claude Osteen threw 9 1/3 scoreless innings to set up the win for Seibert.
Jerry Reuss – Ritenour (Overland, Mo). Jerry Reuss was a tall left-hander that the Cardinals drafted out of high school in 1967. He went on to a long and productive career, winning 220 games over his 22 year career. Those 220 wins puts Reuss at #75 on the major league wins list with Tim Wakefield (193) and Roy Halladay (169) being the closest active pitchers. Not known as a strikeout pitcher, his 1,907 is good enough for #79 on the all time list, although he will soon be passed by Johan Santana (1,877), Livan Hernandez (1,832) and CC Sabathia (1,794). To learn more about the career of Jerry Reuss, listen to the United Cardinal Bloggers show from Feb 19, 2011 where Daniel Shoptaw and I interview the former Cardinal hurler.
Harry Parker – Collinsville (Collinsville, Il). Primarily a reliever in his major league career with the Cardinals, Mets and Indians, Parker did make four starts with the Cardinals in 1970. All three of his decisions in St. Louis (1-2) would come in relief. Parker pitched a brilliant came against Carl Morton and the Montreal Expos on September 27, 1970. In nine innings of work, he would hold the Expos scoreless. Unfortunately for Parker, Morton was even better, throwing 11 scoreless innings. Tom Hilgendorf would take the loss in relief when Adolpho Phillips (remember that name?) singled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Expos a 1-0 victory.
Bob Miller – Beaumont (St. Louis). Bob Miller had a long and productive career as a reliever, playing for many teams over his 17 seasons. From 1957 to 1961, Miller would get 22 starts for the Cardinals, before being the first player selected by the New York Mets in the 1962 expansion draft. After one season in New York, Miller would be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he would enjoy his best years in the majors.
Jack Faszholz was born in St. Louis, but grew up in Berkeley, California. He did get one start for the Cardinals in 1953, but should probably not be on this list. At least not without an asterisk.
Eldred “Bud” Byerly – Webster Groves (Webster Groves, Mo). Bud Byerly pitched for the Cardinals between 1943 and 1945, making 14 starts. He would go on to pitch for Cincinnati, Washington, Boston and San Francisco. In addition to 237 major league appearances, Bud also pitched in 509 minor league games, as late as 1961.
Bill McGee – Batchtown Il. Bill is another pitcher that probably didn’t make Rob Rains’ list. Batchtown is a small community on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. It is west of Pere Marquette Park and Grafton and due north of St. Peters. In the 1930’s, they might not have considered themselves part of the St. Louis metro area, but they are close enough for me.
McGee pitched for the Cardinals for between 1935 and 1941 before being traded to the New York Giants where he would spend his last two seasons. While in St. Louis, he would make 144 starts. He had a career high of 16 wins in 1940.
Bill Walker – East St. Louis (East St. Louis, Il). Bill Walker was a left handed pitcher who was originally signed by the New York Giants. He would be traded to St. Louis in 1933. In 4 years, Walker would make 77 starts with his last being against his former club on September 14, 1936.
Leo Dickerman – De Soto, Mo. Like Bill Walker, Dickerman started his major league career in New York, but with the other National League team – the Brooklyn Dodgers. He would spend the last 2 years of his rather short major league career in St. Louis (1924-1925) where he would start 31 games.
Henry “Hi” Jasper – St. Louis, Mo. In his short major league career, Jasper would pitch for the White Sox, Cardinals and Indians. In 1916, Jasper would start 9 games for his home town team.
Gene Dale – St. Louis, Mo. Gene Dale was a tall right hander who pitched for the Cardinals in 1911 and 1912. He would start 5 games over that two year period.