Tag Archive | "New Legends"

2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Al Hrabosky

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The final inductee for 2011 is, appropriately, former Cardinals and Royals closer, Al Hrabosky.

St. Louis (1970 – 1977)

Alan Thomas Hrabosky, or as we would soon call him affectionately, The Mad Hungarian, was originally drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1967. Opting to wait for a better offer, that came along in 1969 when the Cardinals selected Hrabosky in the first round. They would send him to their Class A affiliate in Modesto, California and the young left-hander would dominate the league. In 13 starts, he would post an 8-2 record with an ERA of 2.48. That was not what caught the attention of the front office, it was his 112 strikeouts in 98 innings. Combined with the ability to miss bats (less than 1 hit per inning pitched) got Hrabosky a promotion to Arkansas (AA) to finish out 1969.

He would stay in Arkansas to start the 1970 season, but not for long. Trouble was brewing in St. Louis and a most promising start to the season was about to fall apart. George Culver, a big veteran right hander, had gotten off to a quick start for the season, winning his first three starts with a mind boggling ERA just over 1 run per game. Then things started falling apart and he would soon be heading to Houston. Nelson Briles was also struggling and newcomer and former Reds pitcher, Billy McCool was about to make his last major league appearance. All of that turmoil created an opportunity for Hrabosky, and he was called up from AA in early June. And he did not disappoint.

His second appearance was in a long extra inning game at Chicago on June 19. In two innings of work, he would retire all six men he faced, three by way of the strikeout. Thanks to bases loaded single by Ted Simmons in the seventeenth inning, Hrabosky would earn his first major league win. He would continue to pitch late in games through July and into early August, when the Cardinals finally fell out of contention. Even though the 1970 Cardinals had been somewhat of a disappointment, the 20 year old hard throwing lefty had made quite an impression. He would go back to Arkansas to finish out the season, but would return late in September when the rosters expanded.

Hrabosky would continue his development in the minor leagues, mostly as a starter, occasionally getting a call up to St. Louis to fill in for an injured pitcher. The last call was in June 1973, when the Cardinals traded Jim Bibby to the Texas Rangers. Hrabosky would take his spot, initially as a setup man to veteran closer, Diego Segui. By the end of the season, it was Hrabosky that was closing out games, and he would continue to do so for the next four years.

1974 would be big year for Hrabosky as he and right hander, Mike Garman, took turns closing out games for the Cardinals. They were a most effective tandem, providing late inning heat from both the right and left side. Hrabosky would post an impressive 8-1 record with an ERA of 2.95. His 9 saves may not seem like a lot, but when you have starters like Lynn McGlothen and Bob Gibson in the rotation, there just aren’t a lot of save opportunities to be found. But when called upon, Hrabosky held the game with regularity. He was a big part of the Cardinals late divisional race, falling just a few runs short of a post-season opportunity. For his effort, Hrabosky would get a few Cy Young votes, coming in fifth in the voting.

Taking one for the Team

The date was September 25, the last home game of the 1974 season. Thanks to a series of bad games, the bullpen had been used a lot and needed Bob Forsch to go deep into the game. He did not make it out of the first inning. Rich Folkers was able to get the last two outs, but not before the Pirates had a commanding 5-0 lead. A wiped out bullpen would have to finish this game, and that meant somebody would have to take one for the team.

Since the Pirates were somewhat vulnerable to left handed pitching, especially since they planned on facing the right handed Bob Forsch, manager Red Schoendienst ran out all the lefties he had. Following Rich Folkers, it was veteran Claude Osteen. While Osteen was on the mound, the Cardinals rallied and had taken a 6-5 lead.

Osteen got into trouble in the fifth inning, and again the call would go to the bullpen. This time it was Al Hrabosky. The Cardinals extended the lead to 9-5 but Hrabosky gave most of those runs back. In the ninth inning, Hungo was still pitching for the Cardinals when he Dave Parker with a pitch. Parker would score the tying run when Manny Sanguillen singles. Into extra innings we go.

Hrabosky pitches a scoreless tenth inning but gets into trouble in the eleventh. It all unraveled quickly with only one ball hit with any authority. Mike Garman came into to relieve Hrabosky and get the final two outs, but Pittsburgh had taken a 12-9 lead. That would not be the final score as the Cardinals roared back for four runs in the bottom of the inning with pinch hitter, Jim Dwyer, getting the game winning RBI with a sacrifice fly. The win probability chart from this game tells you all you needed to know about this game. Game Six of the World Series, anybody ? Well, almost.

Even though he had struggled, and had given up the lead in the ninth inning, Hrabosky took one for the team with 6 1/3 innings of relief. It wasn’t pretty and those earned runs he allowed ballooned his ERA by about 1/3 of a run per game. It was a gutsy performance, just one of the many that we would come to appreciate.

Fireman of the Year

If not for Mike Marshall pitching in nearly every Expos game in 1974, Al Hrabosky might have won the Fireman of the Year award for his outstanding relief work. He would win that award in 1975, a career year for Hungo and one of the best ever for a Cardinals reliever. In 65 appearances, he would post a 13-3 record with an ERA of 1.66. He averaged about 1 1/2 innings per appearance, so these were no short outings. His 22 saves would lead the National League. His strikeout total had started to fall off, but he more than made up for it by continuing to miss bats with an increased consistency. In addition to his Fireman of the Year award, he would come in third in Cy Young voting, behind Tom Seaver and Randy Jones, both of whom won more than 20 games. Hrabosky was the only reliever to receive any votes.

1976 would be another good year for Hrabosky, but the strikeouts kept falling and the number of hits allowed has started increasing. This would continue in 1977, but the story of that year would be the continual clashing with new manager, Vern Rapp.

Rapp was an old school authoritarian and was not handling a lot of the changes in the game, most notably more player freedoms in the new free agency era. Long hair and ridiculous facial hair was the new form of expression, and Hrabosky had some of the wildest of both. Rapp failed to notice that it was all part of Hrabosky’s on the field persona. He would go behind the mound and talk to himself. He would pop the ball into the glove, spin around and take his position on the mound. He would stare at the catcher with his eyes barely visible between his cap pulled down low and a glove held high on his face. Then, from what can only be called a maelstrom of arms and legs, comes a pitch somewhere in the confluence of body parts, and it is likely very hard and could quite possibly be well inside.

The crazy hair and outlandish mustache was just a part of Hrabosky’s act, and it had been most effective. But Rapp was having none of that, and wanted his players clean shaven and hair kept at a respectable length. They may finish dead last in the division, but they were going to look professional.

Throw in the emergence of an exciting young flame thrower named John Urrea and 1977 would be Hrabosky’s last season in St. Louis. He would be traded to the Kansas City for their former closer, Mark Littell. In 8 years in St. Louis, Al Hrabosky would finish with a 40-20 record, ERA of 2.93 and collect 59 saves, a big total for that era of baseball.

Kansas City (1978 – 1979)

It could have been the change of scenery, facing hitters in a new league or maybe it was just getting some distance between him and Vern Rapp, but 1978 would be something of a comeback year for the now veteran left hander. He would collect 20 saves in his first season with the Royals, which is a very good number considering that starters threw 53 complete games. His strikeout rate continued to fall, but he would lead all Royals pitchers. Where he was most effective was in missing American League bats, just as he had been doing in the National League. He was just as likely to walk a batter as let them get a hit. All of that added up to a stingy 2.88 ERA, third on the staff.

1978 would also be the only time that Hrabosky would appear in post-season, pitching in three of the four ALCS games against the New York Yankees.

Al Hrabosky would have another fine season for Kansas City in 1979, but a quirky young reliever make his major league debut that year – a redheaded right handed submariner named Dan Quisenberry. Quisenberry would entertain teammates and terrorize opposing batters for the next decade, so it was time for Al to move on.

The Royals let Hrabosky test the new free agency market and the Atlanta Braves signed him to a contract for the 1980 season.

Atlanta (1980 – 1982)

The former closer took on a new role with the Atlanta Braves, the setup man to Rick Camp and then later for Gene Garber. His best year for the Braves was the strike shortened 1981 where he posted a miniscule 1.07 ERA as a one inning specialist. Unfortunately for the Mad Hungarian, his career would come to an end in August 1982 and he would miss the chance to pitch against his former team in the NLCS.

Al Hrabosky pitched effectively for all three teams where he played. He was dominating closer in both leagues and proved to be an effective setup man at the end of his career. The final tally on Al was a 64-35 record with an ERA of 3.10 (ERA+ of 123, not bad). He had a positive win-loss record with all three teams, and he would finish with 97 saves.

Life after Baseball

After his playing days were over, Al returned to the St. Louis area and started a career as a broadcaster. He has been a commentator for the Cardinals since 1985 and can now be found doing most of the television broadcasts on the Cardinal Fox station, Fox Sports Midwest.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at On the Outside Corner. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Gregg Jefferies

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The next inductee is infielder Gregg Jefferies.

Jefferies emerged onto the Major League scene in 1987 as a part of the New York Mets organization. A highly touted second base/third base prospect, he would find his way permanently onto the team and in the lineup in 1989 when he would finish third in the voting for the Jackie Robinson Award for the most outstanding rookie player in the National League.

In December of 1991, Jefferies would find himself being traded from New York along with Kevin McReynolds to the Kansas City Royals organization.

Jefferies would spend the 1992 season in Kansas City posting career highs to that point in batting average (.285), runs batted in (75), and hits (172). Those numbers would generate an off season trade to the opposite side of the state and his arrival in St. Louis. The Royals dealt Jefferies and minor leaguer Ed Gerald to the Cardinals for Felix Jose and Craig Wilson.

Jefferies career year would occur with his arrival to St. Louis and his move to first base. The Cardinals, with a unique mixture of talent, saw the opportunity for the athletic, yet diminutive at just five foot eleven, fielder to convert to the first base position. Jefferies would reach the All Star game for the first time in his career during the 1993 campaign. He would post his best season of his fourteen year career in batting average (.342), home runs (16), runs batted in (83), runs scored (89), on base percentage (.408), walks (62) and stolen bases (46). His stellar performance would earn him and eleventh place finish in the Most Valuable Player voting at the end of the season.

Jefferies’ second and final year with the Cardinals would see him continue to produce well while adjusting to the first base position. While his numbers were down from the career performance he turned in the prior season, he would still produce a season that earned him his second and last All Star appearance. He would post a slash line of .325/.489/.880 while hitting 12 home runs and knocking in 55 runs as well as scoring 52 of his own. His .489 slugging percentage would go down as the best of his career.

Jefferies would take his talents to Philadelphia the following season where he would eventually find himself in left field more than on first base. A short stay in Anaheim and two years in Detroit would round out his 14 year career.

Jefferies career would finish with 1593 hits (487 for the Royals and Cardinals combined), 300 doubles (87 for i70), 126 home runs (38 for i70), 663 runs batted in (213 for i70) and a career .289 batting average (.315 for i70).

Gregg Jefferies enjoyed three of his best years while wearing the colors of the I-70 teams and for that, we welcome him into the Hall Of Legends.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, Classic, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, I-70 Hall Of Legends, RoyalsComments (0)

2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Mark Grudzielanek

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The next inductee is second baseman Mark Grudzielanek.

Grudzielanek’s career began outside of the Missouri borders. In fact, to be more specific, his major league baseball career began outside of the borders of the United States with his 1995 debut for the Montreal Expos. A speedy second baseman with what could only be described as “gap power”, Grudzielanek would propel himself to his first All Star Game during just his second season in the league. That 1996 season would see him achieve over 200 hits for the one and only time in his career. It would also mark his only appearance in the mid summer classic.

After the first three and a half seasons of his career, Grudzielanek would be traded from Montreal out west to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles would be home for Grudzielanek until another trade prior to the 2003 season would land him in Chicago with the Cubs.

With 1456 career hits, Grudzielanek would sign a free agent contract to join the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2005 season. His only season in Cardinal red was productive and solid for a franchise that had a revolving door at the position throughout the first decade of the twenty first century. While he was anything but spectacular, he was solid and brought some semblance of normalcy to the position, playing in 137 games and driving in 59 runs over the course of the season. His RBI total that year would be the second highest of his career.

The Cardinals would fail to retain him after that season, however, and Grudzielanek would make the trip across interstate 70 to join the Kansas City Royals for the next three seasons. From 2006-2008, he would provide more of the same, solid play at second base that had defined his career. In 2007, he would be recognized for his defensive prowess with the Gold Glove Award at second base. He would keep his average near the .300 mark, his runs batted in near 50, and his strikeouts below 70 for the three season that he wore Royal Blue.

Grudzielanek would finish his 15 year career with 2040 hits, 391 doubles, 640 runs batted in, 946 runs scored, and a .289 career batting average.

For his consistent play, his Gold Glove defense, and because sometimes you need a player that is dependable over one that is flashy, I-70 Baseball places Mark Grudzielanek in the Hall Of Legends.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, Classic, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, I-70 Hall Of Legends, RoyalsComments (1)

2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Cookie Rojas

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The first inductee for 2011 was Vince Coleman. Today, we welcome Cookie Rojas.

There might not be a better example of how the game of baseball has changed in the last half century than Octavio Victor “Cuqui” Rojas. Born in Havana, Cuba on March 6, 1939, Rojas was an acrobatic middle infielder that played in the major leagues for 16 season, even though he was a career .263 hitter with an on-base percentage barely over .300. In the game today, every player is expected to contribute offensively and Rojas probably doesn’t make it out of the minor leagues. That would be such a loss for baseball because fans would be deprived of one of the best loved and perhaps smartest players to play the game.

There might not be a more easily recognized player either. If you somehow missed the translucent plastic frames holding those giant lenses, or the effervescent smile that can only come from somebody that loves what they are doing, just wait a few moments. Rojas will be the one diving for a ground ball or leaping high in the air to avoid a base runner while tuning a double play. In the end, he will leave you with a similar smile because you have just become another in a long line of Cookie Rojas fans.

Reds (1962)

Rojas was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, at the age of just 17. His dad had wanted him to be a doctor, but the young infielder had different ideas. He progressed through the Reds minor league system, playing for West Palm Beach (D) in 1956, Wassau (C) in 1957 and Savanah (A) in 1958. Although his power numbers improved and his glove was always solid, his overall batting average dropped at each level.

In 1959, he returned to his home town of Havana, which happened to be the Reds AAA affiliate. His batting average continued to fall, reaching a new low point of .233. With Leo Cardenas and Elio Chacon both hitting better than Rojas, Cookie would return to Havana for the 1960 season, a most unusual one for the franchise. When Fidel Castro nationalized all US-owned businesses in Cuba, the Reds moved the Sugar Kings to Jersey City for the remainder of the season. Rojas continued to struggle at the plate.

With Chacon and Cardenas with the big club, Rojas got more playing time with the Jersey City Jerseys (AAA) in 1961, and he made the best of it. His offensive numbers improved significantly, his batting average jumping to .265. He would also drive in 44 runs. This would turn out to be the story of Rojas career – the more playing time he got, the better his production at the plate.

Rojas make the Reds out of spring training to start the 1962 season, and made his major league debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 10. In his first major league at-bat, he would lay down a sacrifice bunt, moving Eddie Kasko over to third base ahead of Vada Pinson and Frank Robinson. That would be another trademark of Rojas career – although he didn’t hit with power or any great regularity, he could handle the bat in sacrifice situations. After two months of struggling at the plate, Rojas would finish the season with the Reds new AAA Affiliate, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers, but he would be back soon, as a September callup.

With the Reds infield looking set for the foreseeable future, they traded Rojas to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1962 . In return, the Reds got a right handed pitcher named Jim “Bear” Owens. Owens would not last long in Cincinnati. He would be sent down to the minors and Houston would claim him in the Rule 5 draft.

Philadelphia (1963 – 1969)

Philadelphia had two very good middle infielders, Bobby Wine and Tony Taylor, but Rojas found a way to get into games, first backing up Taylor at second base and then occasionally in the outfield. As his hitting improved in 1963, the Phillies found any way they could to get Rojas into games. He would play all eight defensive positions in 1964, and again in 1965. With a batting average finally over .300, Rojas would get an invitation to play in the 1965 All Star Game, as a second baseman. He would also receive some MVP votes, recognition for his improvement and ability to play anywhere he was needed.

What was originally a stunt to keep him in the lineup had become yet another trademark of his major league career – the ultimate utility player. But even that would eventually come to an end as Rojas became the every day second baseman, taking over those duties from Tony Taylor in 1966. He and Bobby Wine would turn into one of the best double play combinations in baseball. Fans would start calling duo the plays of “Wine and Rojas”, referring to the popular song, “The Days of Wine and Roses”.

The one position Rojas had yet to play was pitcher, and that changed in a blowout against the Giants on June 30, 1967. Trailing 12-3, Rojas came into the game in the ninth inning. He gave up a single to Tom Haller. Hal Lanier reached base on an error. Rojas then retired Tito Fuentes, Juan Marichal and Willie Mays to end the inning, stranding both base runners. That would be his only relief appearance, so his career ERA stands at 0.00 and his WHIP is just 1.000.

With a young infield prospect named Denny Doyle turning heads in the Phillies farm system, Rojas would be traded away to make room at the end of the 1969 season. The Cardinals were also ready to shake up their roster, and the two teams agreed on a multi-player deal that would alter baseball history. St. Louis would send Tim McCarver, Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Curt Flood to Philadelphia for Rojas, Richie Allen and Jerry Johnson. Curt Flood would refuse to report to the Phillies and the Cardinals were forced to send prospects Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to complete the deal. Flood would challenge the reserve clause in 1970, eventually losing, but that would make way for a successful challenge four years later.

St. Louis (1970)

Cardinals fans were excited to see Rojas in a Cardinals uniform after all the years of watching him as a member of the Phillies. With injuries and age starting to catch up to Julian Javier, the happiness over Rojas was tempered by sadness in the realization that Javier’s Cardinals days were coming to an end. Surprisingly, it was Rojas that left first, not Javier. But not before one exciting play.

The date was April 14 and the Montreal Expos were in St. Louis. In a rare rough outing from Bob Gibson, an early 3-0 Cardinals lead had turned into a 4-3 deficit in the top of the seventh inning. Thanks to some outstanding relief pitching and a Jose Cardenal home run in the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals tied the game, and it went into extra innings.

In the top of the tenth inning, Sal Campisi gives up a 2 out walk to Mack Jones. Marv Staehle triples Jones home to give Montreal a 5-4 lead. Howie Reed tries to close out the game for the Expos, but the Cardinals had a much different plan. Leron Lee leads off the bottom of the tenth with a single. Joe Hague reaches base when Bob Bailey boots a ground ball. Julian Javier fails to advance the runners, forcing Lee at third base on a fielders choice. Pinch hitter, Jim Campbell singles home Hague to tie the game. Vic Davalillo is intentionally walked to load the bases, setting up the double play at just about any base. Cookie Rojas comes off the bench to pinch hit for Sal Campisi and hits a slow roller to third base. It is too slow to turn a double play and Javier scores easily with the winning run. Leave it to Rojas to deliver a walk off single and the ball never leaves the infield.

That would be the lone highlight of Rojas Cardinals career as he would be traded to Kansas City in early June.

Kansas City (1970 – 1977)

Even though he failed to find a home in St. Louis, Cookie couldn’t have found a better place to launch his second career than with the expansion Kansas City Royals. He immediately took over second base duties, and just as he had done in Philadelphia, raised his batting average back to a respectable level. He would hit .260 for the rest of the 1970 season and .268 for his entire time with the Royals.

Fans immediately fell in love with Rojas and his acrobatic plays at second base. One of them was captured by the Topps baseball card photographer and his 1971 card remains one of my all time favorites. That image says everything you need to know about Cookie Rojas.

1971 would be a very good year for Rojas, hitting .300 for the second time in his career. He would also set a new career high for on-base percentage (.357) and slugging (.406). He would also be rewarded with his second All Star Game invitation, the first of four consecutive in which he would represent the Royals. He also received more than a token nod in the MVP ballots.

Perhaps his greatest moment as a member of the Royals came in the 1972 All Star Game. With the American League trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning, Rojas steps up to the plate with Carlton Fisk on first base and two outs. Rojas pulls a Bill Stoneman pitch deep into the Atlanta left field seats for a 2 run homer, giving the American League a 3-2 lead. That home run was also historic in that it was the first AL homer to be hit by a non-American born player. Unfortunately for Rojas, Wilbur Wood could not make the one run lead hold up and the National League would win 5-4 in 10 innings.

Rojas continued to play well for the Royals, but as in Philadelphia, he was about to lose his job to a younger and more talented prospect. This time it would be Frank White, but instead of being traded away, Kansas City was smart and kept Rojas around for the rest of his career, which ended in 1977. That also helped the fans who were slow to embrace White, preferring to see their favorite, Rojas, playing every day. Once again, Rojas versatility came into play, backing up White at second base, occasionally playing third and even, ironically, as a designated hitter.

Rojas playing career ended in 1977, but that was not the end of his baseball career.

The Rest of the Story

For his long and productive major league career, Cookie Rojas has been honored as a member of both the Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as in his homeland of Cuba.

Rojas stayed involved with baseball, first as a scout and then as a coach. In 1988, he managed the California Angels, but after failing to reach .500, was replaced with 8 games remaining in the season. Rojas returned to coaching with the Florida Marlins, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.

You can find Cookie Rojas today as the Spanish language broadcaster with Fox Sports Florida, providing color commentary on all Marlins home games. His son, Victor, is also also a broadcaster, first with the Texas Rangers and now with the California Angels.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at On the Outside Corner. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Vince Coleman

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The first inductee for 2011 is Vince Coleman.

Coleman was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 and it did not take long for him to race (pun intended) onto the scene at the big league level. The speedy outfielder was built for the Whiteyball area of the St. Louis Cardinals and the team quickly had him in the leadoff role as the 1985 season got underway.

That rookie year was not perfect by any means, but the young man managed to reach base at a .320 clip while hitting .267. It was what he did when he was on base that captured the focus of fans across the nation. Coleman successfully stole 110 bases that year while also being caught 25 times, leading the league in both categories and capturing the Rookie Of The Year Award (later named the Jackie Robinson Award in 1987) in the National League that season. His 110 steals would fall just short of Cardinal legend Lou Brock‘s national league record of 118, but would establish the record that still stands today of steals by a rookie.

The dreaded sophomore slump would gRip Coleman‘s batting average and on base percentage, dropping the former to .232 and the latter to .301. As the old saying toes, however, speed doesn’t slump. Despite his drop in ability to reach base safely, he would lead the league again in stolen bases, this time with 107. He would also cut down the amount of times he was caught on the bases, being thrown out a paltry 14 times over the course of the season.

Coleman’s third year in the majors wearing the birds on the bat would see him achieve another etching in the record books. In arguably the most successful seasons of his career, Coleman would raise his batting average to .289 and his on base percentage to .363. The batting average would eventually prove to be the second best average Coleman would ever post and his on base percentage would rank as his best of his 13 year career. His increased time spent on the base paths would yield 109 stolen bases, the first player in history to steal 100 or more bases for three consecutive season.

As the 1988 season developed, Coleman would find himself once again atop the league in stolen bases, this time for the fourth consecutive season. He would fail to top 100 stolen bases for the first time in his career, swiping just 81 while being caught 27 times. Coleman would make the first of his two career all star appearances in that year’s mid summer classic. His production would slip again in 1989, falling to just 65 stolen bases, which was still good enough to lead the league. He would make is final appearance in the All Star Game that year. The remarkable thing happened for Coleman was a record that started in 1988 and was completed in 1989.

In the top of the sixth inning of a contest between the Cubs and the Cardinals in Chicago on September 18, Vince Coleman would swipe second base off of Greg Maddux and Jody Davis with Jose Oquendo at the plate. It led to the Cardinals’ fourth run of the contest, a game they would eventually win 5-4. Fast forward to July 26, 1989 as the Cubs would meet the Cardinals in St. Louis. In a game once again won by the Cardinals, Coleman would steal second base in the bottom of the third off of Cubs hurler Rick Sutcliffe and catcher Joe Giradi. The following game, played on July 28 in Montreal, Coleman would be thrown out in the fourth inning attempting to steal second base off of Pascual Perez and cather Nelson Santovenia. It would bring to end a treak of 50 straight stolen bases by Coleman, another record that is still standing today.

Coleman would spend his final season in St. Louis in 1990, stealing 77 bases and leading the league for the final time in his career, the sixth consecutive time. He would post his highest batting average of his career at .292 before departing the city via free agency to head to the bright lights of New York City to join the Mets.

Three injury ridden years in New York would come to a close after the 1993 season when Coleman was traded back into the midwest to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Kevin McReynolds. Coleman’s health would rebound in 1994 as he put together a decent season for the Royals, stealing 50 bases. He would steal another 26 bases in a Royals uniform the following season before being dealt to the Seattle Mariners for the stretch run of 1995.

Coleman would steal 625 bases combined for the I-70 franchises, winning the Rookie Of The Year Award and appearing in two all star games. He “leads-off” the 2011 selections for the Hall Of Legends.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, Classic, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, I-70 Hall Of Legends, RoyalsComments (0)


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