Tag Archive | "Royce Clayton"

Cooperstown Choices: Royce Clayton

With the Hall Of Fame election announcement coming on January 9, 2013, it is time to review the ballot, go over the names, and decide who belongs in the Hall Of Fame.

There are twenty four men on the ballot for the first time this year and we will take a look at each one individually prior to official announcements. You can find all of the profiles in the I-70 Baseball Exclusives: Cooperstown Choices 2013 menu at the top of the page.

In this article, we take a look at Royce Clayton



Royce Clayton
Clayton’s 17 year major league career would see him play for 11 different teams, most notably the Giants and the Cardinals.  It was in St. Louis in 1997 that he would make his lone All Star roster.

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1991 SFG 9 26 0 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 6 .115 .148 .154 .302 -13
1992 SFG 98 321 31 72 7 4 4 24 8 26 63 .224 .281 .308 .589 71
1993 SFG 153 549 54 155 21 5 6 70 11 38 91 .282 .331 .372 .702 92
1994 SFG 108 385 38 91 14 6 3 30 23 30 74 .236 .295 .327 .623 67
1995 SFG 138 509 56 124 29 3 5 58 24 38 109 .244 .298 .342 .640 73
1996 STL 129 491 64 136 20 4 6 35 33 33 89 .277 .321 .371 .692 83
1997 STL 154 576 75 153 39 5 9 61 30 33 109 .266 .306 .398 .704 84
1998 TOT 142 541 89 136 31 2 9 53 24 53 83 .251 .319 .366 .685 79
1998 STL 90 355 59 83 19 1 4 29 19 40 51 .234 .313 .327 .640 69
1998 TEX 52 186 30 53 12 1 5 24 5 13 32 .285 .330 .441 .771 96
1999 TEX 133 465 69 134 21 5 14 52 8 39 100 .288 .346 .445 .792 98
2000 TEX 148 513 70 124 21 5 14 54 11 42 92 .242 .301 .384 .685 72
2001 CHW 135 433 62 114 21 4 9 60 10 33 72 .263 .315 .393 .708 83
2002 CHW 112 342 51 86 14 2 7 35 5 20 67 .251 .295 .365 .661 74
2003 MIL 146 483 49 110 16 1 11 39 5 49 92 .228 .301 .333 .634 67
2004 COL 146 574 95 160 36 4 8 54 10 48 125 .279 .338 .397 .735 80
2005 ARI 143 522 59 141 28 4 2 44 13 38 105 .270 .320 .351 .670 74
2006 TOT 137 454 49 117 30 1 2 40 14 30 85 .258 .307 .341 .648 69
2006 WSN 87 305 36 82 22 1 0 27 8 19 53 .269 .315 .348 .663 75
2006 CIN 50 149 13 35 8 0 2 13 6 11 32 .235 .290 .329 .619 56
2007 TOT 77 195 24 48 14 0 1 12 2 14 53 .246 .296 .333 .629 66
2007 TOR 69 189 23 48 14 0 1 12 2 14 50 .254 .304 .344 .648 71
2007 BOS 8 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
17 Yrs 2108 7379 935 1904 363 55 110 723 231 565 1415 .258 .312 .367 .679 78
162 Game Avg. 162 567 72 146 28 4 8 56 18 43 109 .258 .312 .367 .679 78
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
SFG (5 yrs) 506 1790 179 445 72 18 18 184 66 133 343 .249 .302 .339 .641 76
STL (3 yrs) 373 1422 198 372 78 10 19 125 82 106 249 .262 .313 .371 .684 80
TEX (3 yrs) 333 1164 169 311 54 11 33 130 24 94 224 .267 .324 .418 .741 86
CHW (2 yrs) 247 775 113 200 35 6 16 95 15 53 139 .258 .307 .381 .687 79
ARI (1 yr) 143 522 59 141 28 4 2 44 13 38 105 .270 .320 .351 .670 74
COL (1 yr) 146 574 95 160 36 4 8 54 10 48 125 .279 .338 .397 .735 80
BOS (1 yr) 8 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
CIN (1 yr) 50 149 13 35 8 0 2 13 6 11 32 .235 .290 .329 .619 56
WSN (1 yr) 87 305 36 82 22 1 0 27 8 19 53 .269 .315 .348 .663 75
TOR (1 yr) 69 189 23 48 14 0 1 12 2 14 50 .254 .304 .344 .648 71
MIL (1 yr) 146 483 49 110 16 1 11 39 5 49 92 .228 .301 .333 .634 67
NL (12 yrs) 1451 5245 629 1345 260 38 60 486 190 404 999 .256 .311 .355 .666 76
AL (6 yrs) 657 2134 306 559 103 17 50 237 41 161 416 .262 .315 .396 .711 82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2012.

Why He Should Get In
His lengthy career spanned both leagues for extended periods of time, seeing him as one of the top second-tier players at his position during his career.

Why He Should Not Get In
While his career was lengthy, it is hard to put a finger on any part of it that would warrant him being a Hall Of Famer.  While he enjoyed a few above average years, he was never quite remarkable enough to stand out as one of the game’s best.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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La Russa’s Departure Could Mark Return Of Dormant Cardinals History

The St. Louis Cardinals opened Spring Training camp Saturday with a markedly different cast compared to the past 16 seasons.

Former manager Tony La Russa wasn’t in Jupiter, Fla., this weekend to lead a new group of Cardinals through their calisthenics and everything that comes with the first few weeks of Spring Training. Instead, La Russa retired days after winning the World Series, and he will now help out his buddy Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers.

As La Russa moves on to do whatever he wants during his retirement, Cardinals camp will start to look a lot more like it did in the decades before La Russa showed up in 1996.

Most notably, Whitey Herzog and Ozzie Smith will be at camp to help out the current group of Cardinals. That should be a welcome sight to Cardinals fans.

Even though La Russa won baseball games for the Cardinals (1,408 to be exact), he didn’t always have a good relationship with important members of Cardinals history. Smith played his final season in 1996 for La Russa, but the two developed a frosty relationship as La Russa tried to install Royce Clayton as the new shortstop to replace Smith.

Smith hasn’t been at a Cardinals Spring Training camp since.

This isn’t to say La Russa discarded the history and tradition of the St. Louis Cardinals. He was well aware of how important the history of the franchise is to the community and even pushed to bring the Budweiser Clydesdales back to Busch Stadium to circle the field as they did back when Gussie Busch owned the team.

La Russa also kept former second baseman and manager Red Schoendienst on staff as an assistant both in Spring Training and during the season. And, La Russa chafed at the idea of passing Schoendienst on the all-time win list for Cardinals managers, even though he eventually surpassed Schoendienst’s mark by nearly 400 wins.

Still, La Russa always had his own way of doing things, and his methods often did not include advice from other Cardinals heroes. But, this year Herzog, Smith, Schoendienst, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson are all expected to be central figures in Cardinals Spring Training camp under new manager Mike Matheny.

In addition, former centerfielder Jim Edmonds will return to the team as an instructor for Spring Training and former closer Ryan Franklin will be an assistant to general manger John Mozeliak.

Edmonds’ return to the team as an instructor surely wouldn’t have happened if La Russa was still the manager. Although Edmonds and La Russa had a great run together during the 2000s, their relationship soured once the Cardinals traded Edmonds to the San Diego Padres following the 2007 season and he eventually ended up with the hated Chicago Cubs.

This season was going to be the beginning of a new era in Cardinals history regardless of how Matheny set up camp, but it is nice to see some of the Cardinals legends wear the red jersey with the birds on the bat logo across their chest.

So as the doors to 2012 Spring Training open, hopefully this year’s team adds to the impressive history set forth by many of the people who will lend a helping hand for the next six weeks.

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UCB: Top Five Iconic Moments

The United Cardinal Bloggers puts together monthly projects and post ideas for the group of us to chime in on.  Next month will start another run of round-table discussions, a personal favorite.  This month they have asked us each to summarize our top five iconic moments in St. Louis Cardinal history.

That’s a lot of history to pour through, even for a historian like myself.  My top five will be moments that I personally remember, whether on television or in attendance, that are ingrained in my mind and truly define my love for that franchise.

Number Five: Where 1998 Started
A lot of writers will plug in the great home run chase into their top fives, but I’m not sure many would utilize Opening Day of the 1998 season.

As a fan, it is one of my favorite games to attend.  The fanfare and celebrations around the city are a holiday like no other.  From the parade of champions to the player introductions, it is a ballgame that rivals any other.  In 1998, long before anyone realized the special season we were about to witness, the player we would all cheer for to chase the unreachable record would start things off in grand style.

During a scoreless game entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Dodger starter Ramon Martinez would find himself in some trouble.  A lead off double to Gary Gaetti followed by a base hit by Tom Lampkin would have runners at the corners with no one out.  Back-to-back strikeouts of Cardinal hurler Todd Stottlemeyer and lead off man Royce Clayton had Martinez back on top.  When the Dodger pitcher failed to retire Delino DeShields, Mark McGwire stepped to the plate with the bases full.  The one ball, no strike pitch to McGwire landed deep in the left field seats, an opening day home run in front of a crowd of just under 48,000.  The city of St. Louis would erupt in the middle of the game and while home runs 61, 62 and 70 would not only be etched in the record books, it was the opening day grand slam that I was in attendance for that started it all.

Number Four: The Passing Of The Guard
A tumultuous few years seen a Cardinals franchise changed forever.  Fan favorite manager Whitey Herzog would leave, former popular player Joe Torre would arrive and take the reigns of a team that had very little support from upper management, and a new era would be ushered in with the arrival of Tony LaRussa.

Tony would stick around for a long time, making decisions that would make the most die hard fan question his methods, only to find that his methods lead to victories, and championships, along the way.  The biggest change, and the one that most fans could not bring themselves to move past, happened after the arrival of LaRussa, however.

Prior to that arrival, in 1992, franchise legend Ozzie Smith had filed for free agency.  By December, the team had reached an agreement on what was being called a “Lifetime Contract”.  That contract guaranteed the short stop three million dollars a year and automatically renewed the following season if he reached a modest amount of plate appearances.  The contract also included a $500,000 signing bonus, payable upon retirement, and a 10-year personal services contract.

in 1996, with the arrival of Tony LaRussa, Walt Jocketty, and a new ownership, the team reached an agreement with former Giants short stop Royce Clayton.  It was the beginning of the end for the man known as “The Wizard”, Ozzie’s playing time was cut drastically and his contract would not roll over.  While Ozzie had reached the age of 41, many fans believed him still capable of handling the position and was forced out of the league by the new regime.  Ozzie would retire after the season and enter the Hall Of Fame later as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, but the decision to remove him from the short stop position in St. Louis was the single most iconic personnel change in my life at the time.

Number Three: Go Crazy Folks
On a personal note, my family moved to Missouri in 1985.  I was a young, eight year old boy that was just truly discovering the beauty of the game.  That summer, I attended a Cardinals game against the Chicago Cubs and had fallen in love with the beauty of listening to the game on the radio.

I was sitting on the living room floor, not to far from our console television, with the sound on mute so that we could hear Jack Buck instead of the national announcers.  I can remember the feeling of anxious anticipation with Ozzie at the plate.  No one, not one baseball fan anywhere, can say honestly that they expected what happened next.

Angela at Diamond Diaries explains that reprinting the words and recounting the scene does not do it justice.  The moment, as provided by Ozzie Smith, was shared by Jack Buck.  It was the combination of the two that created a moment in my mind that will live forever.  Without Jack’s call, it was a great walk off moment.  But with Jack Buck on the mic and Ozzie Smith hitting his first home run of the year from the left side of the plate, the moment became iconic.

Number Two: Grief
It is hard to believe that number two on our countdown will have happened 10 years ago by this summer.

I remember the news on June 18, 2022 announcing the passing of a man that I had grown to idolize.  The reason I wanted to write and do radio and continue being around this game was Jack Buck.  The sight of him, frail and suffering, in front of a crowd days after the September 11th tragedy was hard to watch and harder to process.  Legends like him are not supposed to die.  When he passed away, I wept openly.  A man I had never met face to face, yet I felt I spent a portion of my adult life with, was gone and I reacted as if he was family.  Because he was.  One of my first articles for Baseball Digest contained the simple phrase “I miss Jack Buck…” and I don’t think I have written another line with as much feeling as I did that day.

As iconic of a moment as the passing of Jack Buck was, it was four days later that the moment came to close in Chicago.  Settling in to watch a game with the Cubs, I could not understand what the delay was.  The game was delayed but there was no rain and the announcers were not saying why, other than an emergency.  A tearful Joe Girardi, the Cubs catcher and team captain at the time, approached a microphone near the plate and announced that the game would be postponed due to “a death within the Cardinal family”.  We would later find out that Darryl Kile, the Cardinals ace of their pitching staff, had lost his life in his hotel room the night before.  Ironically, Kile’s last pitching performance was a 7-2 Cardinal victory over the Anaheim Angels on the day Jack Buck passed away.

In four short days, the Cardinals family had been shaken to the core.  The moment, all four days of it, is etched in our minds.

Number One: We Will See You Tomorrow Night
Maybe it ranks this high because it was so recent.  Maybe it is because I am a sucker for announcers.  Maybe it is because of who I watched the game with.  Maybe it is all of those reasons.  However you count it, this past post season was magical.

The night of Game Six was amazing, no doubt.  From the game tying hits, the come from behind moments, and the “they just won’t go away” moments, it was an emotional roller coaster ride that I had never experienced as a fan.  The end of the game, however, is what ensured that I would never forget it.

David Freese would send the crowd home happy with a game winning home run to center field that would fit the mold of the season.  A game-six, walk off home run was enough to make it iconic.  What came across the television cinched it as a moment I will never forget.  When I heard Joe Buck exclaim as the ball landed in the grass beyond the center field wall, “We will see you …. tomorrow night,” I immediately commented that he used his father’s call.  A moment for the ages suddenly spanned a generation of fans.  It brought back memories of Jack.  It created a new found respect for Joe.  It wasn’t forced.  It didn’t feel scripted.  It simply flowed across the screen and then, as friend Bob Netherton points out, he and Tim McCarver did the thing that most broadcasters fail to do.  They shut up.  The let the fans at home be overflowed with the emotion of the moment and share in the joy of the fans at the park.  Cardinal Nation, from coast to coast, was united.  It was an amazing, and iconic, feeling.

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.

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The Short Of It: Rollins, Furcal, Theriot, Greene… Or Someone Else?

For those of you who consider yourselves to be “big”Cardinals fans, I have a challenge for you: Name the Cardinals’ starting shortstops over the past 4 seasons. It doesn’t sound like a hard question, but I myself could not come up with all of them without doing a little research. It’s not a trick question, I’m not including any one-day minor league call-ups here, I’m simply asking for the names of the players who’ve been given a legitimate opportunity to claim the starting job as their own. I’ll give you a hint: since World Series MVP David Eckstein left town following the 2007 season, there’s been EIGHT of them…and that’s exactly what makes the question so hard to answer. Eight different starting shortstops over the past four seasons for a franchise that had only four different starters at that position over the previous 25 years: Ozzie Smith (’82-’96), Royce Clayton (’96-’98), Edgar Renteria (’99-’04), and David Eckstein (’05-’07). It’s hard to believe, really.

We’ll get to the answer of the question in a little bit, but first I want to look at a different question: “Who is going to be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop in 2012?” There are plenty of options, and some are better than others, but for a team needing some stability up the middle, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the job. Let’s take a closer look at some of the options.

Raefael Furcal
Rafael Furcal battled through injuries most of the season, but provided a big jolt to the Cardinals’ offense. He had a disappointing World Series at the plate, but had several key hits in the Cardinals’ frantic playoff run and in the NLDS and NLCS. Furcal just turned 34 years old, and has seen his stolen base total plummet over the past four seasons. Furcal is exceptional in the field defensively, and though his batting average was only .231 this year, he typically hits around .280 and draws a decent amount of walks. He also blended well with the other Cardinals’ players and helped the team to a World Series title. It remains unclear whether the Cardinals plan on keeping Furcal, who’s now a free agent.

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins is the most interesting free agent shortstop on the market now that Jose Reyes has signed with the Miami Marlins. Defensively, Rollins is sound like Furcal, committing just 7 errors last season at short. Rollins is a year younger than Furcal, and also brings a little more power to the plate… but those numbers have faded a bit, and it’s important to keep in mind that Citizen’s Bank Park is one of the friendliest hitter’s parks in the league. Rollins carries a .268 career batting average, and has never hit .300+ for a season. The perception is that Rollins will be the most expensive shortstop on the market, so it’s unclear whether the Cardinals’ management team thinks he’d be worth significantly more money than Furcal

Ryan Theriot
Theriot is a decent hitter who brings a little power and didn’t strike out much last season, but his he has to hit better than .271 to make up for his deficiencies on defense. Theriot had 17 errors in just 91 games last season, and doesn’t have the range that Rollins and Furcal have. Theriot will be 32 years old heading into the 2012 season.

Tyler Greene
If Tyler Greene is the starting shortstop for St. Louis next season, I will be shocked. Is he an inexpensive stop-gap while the team looks for a long term solution at short…yes… but he has done nothing at the big league level to show he’s ready to take over the everyday starting job. Greene’s defense and offense have struggled, and at 28, he just may not be everyday big league material.

By all accounts, the Cardinals send one of these players out to play between second and third on Opening Day next season, but none of them appear to be long term solutions (though Rollins would likely sign for a few years). With that in mind, it’s time to go back to our original question: “Can you name all eight of the Cardinals’ starting shortstops over the past four seasons?” We’ve already named three of them in Furcal, Theriot, and Greene. We’re missing Brendan Ryan, Julio Lugo, Felipe Lopez, Cesar Izturis, and Khalil Greene. If you knew them all off the top of your head, I’m thoroughly impressed. Let’s just hope this question doesn’t become even harder in the years to come.

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Rangers Bring Back Cardinal Memories

The Texas Rangers will open this year’s World Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. It will mark the first time in franchise history that the Rangers will have played a game on that field. Remarkably, they become the final Major League Baseball team to do so.

So throw away your match up calculators and your sabermetrical slide rules, this one might just be old fashioned baseball. The way the World Series was intended to be. Back before Interleague play and wild cards. When two teams seen each other for the first time and went to battle.

That’s not to say that a few Rangers will not cause some flashbacks for Cardinal fans, however.

A look through the Texas roster reveals a few players the Cardinals know well from their time with other franchises. Guys like Yorvit Torrealba and Adrian Beltre spent their share of time around the National League. Matt Treanor, who started and ended the year in Texas, spent some time in Kansas City this year with our Royals’ fans. But, there are two names that jump off the page.

Darren Oliver
Darren Oliver has played ten seasons for the Rangers over three different stints in his career. That is ten of his total 18. Admist those 18 seasons, he has played in eight different teams’ uniforms. It was on the trading deadline in 1998 that Oliver was traded from the Texas Rangers with Fernando Tatis and a player to be named later (Mark Little) to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Todd Stottlemyre and Royce Clayton.

He spent the next year and half in a Cardinal uniform as a starting pitcher. The lefty would post a 13-13 record over 40 starts. He was far from dominant but found himself serviceable and consistent. He posted an earned run average of 4.26 the last half of 1998 and remarkably posted the same over the course 1999. He would sign once again with the Texas Rangers before the 2000 season.

Endy Chavez
Endy Chavez has never played for the Cardinals. A defensive stand out when he was younger, he did find himself on the opposite end of a National League Championship Series from the Cardinals in 2006. During the nail biting game seven of that series, with Jim Edmonds on first Scott Rolen drove a ball to deep left field and it was Chavez that, well, did this:

Cardinal fans will see a few familiar faces in the Texas dugout but not many.

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.

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Opening Day Starters – 1996 to present

In this third and final part to the series looking back at opening day starting pitchers, we turn our attention to the Tony La Russa era (1996 – 2010).

Andy Benes (1996) 1 no decision

Andy Benes

The Tony La Russa era got off to a great start when an old friend stepped into the batters box at Shea Stadium, just before 1pm on April Fools Day. Willie McGee had spent the last few years with Oakland, San Francisco and Boston, but had come home when he signed a free agent contact with the Cardinals in the off-season. Even though he grounded out to start the game, something was right when we saw Willie wearing the Birds on the Bat. That enthusiasm was short-lived when Royce Clayton stepped up to the plate following the McGee groundout. That was a clear signal that Clayton would be La Russa’s shortst0p in 1996, not Ozzie Smith – even though the Wizard seemed to have plenty in the tank at age 41.

The Mets starter, Bobby Jones, struggled terribly in his short outing, not making it out of the fourth inning. He wasn’t fooling anybody and the Cardinals hit him hard, and often. A pair of home runs by John Mabry and Willie McGee in the fourth inning forced Mets manager Dallas Green to go to his bullpen early. At that point the Cardinals had a commanding 6-0 lead, but that would disappear in a hurry. Blas Minor, Jerry DiPoto, Doug Henry and John Franco would combine for 5 1/3 scoreless innings.

Pitching at a brisk pace, as you should with a big lead, Benes got into a bit of trouble with a pair of long balls from the bats of Todd Hundley and former Cardinal Bernard Gilkey. Gilkey’s homer in the sixth woke up Benes as he struck out the Mets 3-4-5 hitters to end his day. He left the game with a 6-3 lead. If the bullpen could just hold it.

They didn’t and it all happened in the span of about 10 minutes. Rick Honeycutt would retire the first two batters he faced, but then two consecutive singles brought the tying run to the plate. And it brought Tony La Russa out of the dugout. Cory Bailey would face just one batter, Chris Jones who was pinch hitting for Jerry DiPoto. Jones would single, driving in a run and putting runners at the corners. Again, Tony La Russa makes the trip to the mound, this time calling on Tony Fossas. A dribbler down the 3rd base line and a line drive barely over the head of the second baseman tied the game at six. The winning run would score on a sacrifice fly that the Cardinals would turn into an inning ending double play when Bernard Gilkey didn’t anticipate the throw home being cut off, ending up in a rundown.

That’s where the game would end with the Mets taking the season opener, 7-6. Tony Fossas would take the loss in relief.

Not a good way to start the Tony La Russa era, 88 wins later, the Cardinals found themselves in first place in the newly formed NL Central. They would sweep the Padres in the NL Divisional Series, but lose the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves, after being up 3 games to 1 in the series.

Todd Stottlemyre (1997-1998 ) 1-0 1 no decision

Todd Stottlemyre

Todd Stottlemyre would get the 1997 season opener in Montreal. He would face Jim Bullinger in a pitchers duel. Both men were sharp early. A leadoff single in the third inning by Shane Andrews would give the Expos their first run in the game when he would be sacrificed into scoring position, and then scored on a single by Mark Grudzielanek. The Cardinals tied it in the sixth when Delino DeShields led off with a triple, and scored on a wild pitch.

The Expos would take a 1-1 tie into the bottom of the ninth inning when the Cardinals bullpen failed, as they had in the previous season. And the victim would again be Tony Fossas. Rich Batchelor would start the inning after pitching a rather uninteresting eighth. A dribbler of a hit would put a runner on first base. In comes Fossas and bad things happened quickly. A single and intentional walk would load the bases. Initially this would seem to be working out when Fossas coaxed an infield ground out, forcing the runner at the plate. But then a bit of wildness ended the game as Fossas walked in the winning run. Batchelor would take the hard luck loss in this one.

A week later, the same two teams would meet for the St. Louis home opener. Alan Benes, the younger brother of Andy Benes, would get the start for the Cardinals and would pitch extremely well. He would allow just a single run in five innings of work. Jeff Juden of the Expos was just as good in his six innings. This game would be in the hands of the relievers, and the Cardinals Mark Petkovsek would the hero of this game. In four innings of relief, he would allow just two hits, while striking out three and walking nobody. As with the season opener, the game would go into the bottom of the ninth, tied at 1 run apiece. Until Willie McGee stepped up to the plate with 2 outs. He would send the big crowd home happy when he hit a walk-off home run off Ugueth Urbina.

Todd Stottlemyre would get one more opening day start when the Dodgers visited St. Louis on March 31, 1998. The big right-hander was brilliant, throwing seven shutout innings. For the first three innings, Dodger starter Ramon Martinez matched Stottlemyre, pitch for pitch – but then came the fourth inning. Gary Gaetti would lead off with a double, followed by a Tom Lampkin single. The Cardinals played for a big inning and held Gaetti at third. Martinez would toughen as he strikes out Todd Stottlemyre and Royce Clayton. With two men now out, the pivotal moment of the game would come as Delino DeSheilds works a walk out of Martinez, loading the bases. Up to the plate stepped Mark McGwire and it was very quickly 4-0. The only noise louder than Big Mac’s contact of the baseball was the cheering of the huge crowd.

The Dodgers bullpen would give up two more runs late, but the game was well over by then. Stottlemyre would pitch into the eighth inning, and Lance Painter, John Frascatore and Braden Looper would finish the game, not allowing a Dodgers run.

Donovan Osborne (1999) 1 no decision

Donovan Osborne

A former number 1 draft pick, and top minor league prospect, the troubled lefty would get the opening day start in 1999. In case you are wondering why, the remainder of the rotation was Kent Bottenfield, Darren Oliver, Kent Merker and Jose Jimenez. Since a hot start to his rookie season in 1992, Osborne had struggled. He also had injury troubles that cost him at least a year of his career, and in another month, they would come back to take away the remainder of his 1999 season.

The Milwaukee Brewers would open the 1999 season in St. Louis, and it was one ugly game.

Troubles for the Cardinals started in the third inning when Osborne had to be taken out of the game. You don’t expect your starter to throw a complete game right out of spring training, but you also don’t expect to be into your bullpen after just two innings.

The first man in was Mike Busby. After one quiet inning of work, he got lit up like a Christmas Tree in the fourth inning. The Brewers would send eight men to the plate, and then the smoke finally cleared, they had a 5-1 lead. They would extend that lead to 7-1 when Manny Aybar gives up a 2 run homer to Jeremy Burnitz the next inning.

The lone Cardinals highlight would come in the home half of the sixth inning. David Weathers was in to pitch and Mark McGwire would step up to the plate. We know that Albert Pujols likes to hit home runs off of Weathers, and so does Big Mac as he launches a moon shot.

The Cardinals actually pulled to within two runs, thanks to an eighth inning meltdown by Brewers reliever, Chad Fox. Sadly, the hopes of a ninth inning miracle would quickly fade. Juan Acevado would retire the first two Brewers to start the ninth inning, but a pair of two out walks would prove disastrous when Sean Berry launches a three run homer to break the game open. Those three runs turned out to be significant because the Cardinals managed to score three runs themselves in the bottom of the ninth. Instead of a thrilling 8-7 comeback win, the Cardinals fall to the Brewers, 10-8.

After just six starts, injuries would end Osborne’s season, and Cardinals career. Garrett Stephenson would replace him in the rotation. Osborne would resurface for a few appearances in 2002 with the Cubs, and finally in 2004 with the Yankees.

Darryl Kile (2000-2001) 1-1

Darryl Kile

Tony La Russa and the Cardinals fortunes improved significantly in 2000. After a few years of struggling, a new pitcher came into St. Louis to terrorize National League hitters. Darryl Kile had been a good pitcher for Houston, and then signed a monster free agent deal with the Colorado Rockies. Somewhere in Denver, Kyle learned how to master the curveball, and it had become one of the best in the game. That was largely lost thanks to the thin air at Coors Field, but in the muggy St. Louis summers, it turned into solid gold. Kile would go on to win 20 games in 2000 for the only time in his career. That started with with a brilliant 6 inning performance in the 2000 opener against the Chicago Cubs.

There were many new faces on the Cardinals 2000 roster, and some of them made a big impression in this game. Shawon Dunston and Craig Pauquette would each homer in their Cardinals debut. Eric Davis would also add a homer. Newcomer Fernando Vina would go 3-5, including a triple in his first at-bat. Perhaps the most important thing about the 2000 opener is the debut of new center fielder, Jim Edmonds.

Things would not be so kind for Kile in 2001. He would again draw opening day duties, but it would be back in Denver, where the thin air messes with his curveball. And it didn’t fool many Rockies batters in his five innings of work. He would face left-hander, Mike Hampton, who retired from Major League Baseball earlier this week. Hampton had followed Kile by signing a big free agent contract with the Rockies. And like Kile, he would see him numbers balloon at the higher elevation of Denver.

Hampton would pitch into the ninth inning, ironically giving way to former Cardinal Jose Jimenez, who was part of the Darryl Kile trade a year earlier. Hampton and Jimenez would combine to shut out the Cardinals, but don’t feel too badly. 93 wins later, the Cardinals would capture the NL Wildcard and battle the Arizona Diamondbacks for a full five games in the NL Divisional Series, falling just short of playing for the NL title.

The 2001 season opener has one more memorable moment. In the second inning, left fielder Albert Pujols takes his first major league at-bat.

The same two teams would meet a week later for the St. Louis home opener. Denny Neagle would get the start for the Rockies, Andy Benes for the Cardinals. Both pitchers were sharp. Each pitcher would surrender a two run homer, and little else in their six innings of work. The two homers ? Albert Pujols and future Cardinal Larry Walker.

In an eerie reprise of the 1997 season opener, this game would be decided by bases loaded walk. This time it would be in the Cardinals favor, as former Cardinal, Jose Jimenez walked Eli Marrero to give the Cardinals the win.

Matt Morris (2002-2004) 1-1 1 no decision

Matt Morris

Matt Morris would get opening day duties to start the 2002 season. His opponent would would be Mike Hampton of the Colorado Rockies. This game got out of hand early as the Cardinals scored runs in all but two innings. Albert Pujols was a wrecking crew at the top of the order with a pair of doubles and three RBIs, but it was the bottom of the batting order (Mike DeFelice, Edgar Renteria and Tino Martinez) that did most of the damage. Steve Kline and Jason Isringhausen would close out the game, preserving the win for Matt Morris. Mike Hampton would take the loss.

With the sudden passing of Darryl Kile in 2002, there was little question who would be on the mound when the Milwaukee Brewers game to town to start the 2003 season. Matt Morris would get the start for the Cardinals, Ben Sheets for the Brewers. It would be a back and forth battle until the bottom of the 8th inning when the Cardinals would explode for 6 runs. The big blow was a three run homer off the bat of Scott Rolen, who had been obtained in a mid-season deal in 2002.

The bullpen was shaky in the last two innings, but Russ Springer would earn the win and Steve Kline would pick up the save.

Ben Sheets and Matt Morris would again hook up in the 2004 opener. Neither pitcher was particular effective. Sheets would be gone in the fourth inning. Morris would pitch six innings, but give up seven runs, thanks to some iffy defense. The story would be the Brewers bullpen who keep the Cardinals at bay for nearly five innings. Matt Morris would take the loss and Dave Burba would pick up the win in relief.

Chris Carpenter (2005-2007, 2010) 3-1

Two of the best right-handers in the National League would meet in the 2005 season opener in Houston. Chris Carpenter would take the mount for the Cardinals and Roy Oswalt for the Astros. Home runs were the play of the day as Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker and Reggie Sanders each went deep. With Chris Carpenter only allowing a single run in seven innings or work., the game was over long before the game was turned over the to bullpen.

Mark Mulder would earn the home opener three days later against Cory Lidle and the Philadelphia Phillies. Mulder would struggle early, giving the Phillies a 5-1 lead before turning the game over to the bullpen. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they would start mounting a comeback in Lidle’s last inning of work. That comeback would be complete as Ryan Madsen would walk the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. That gave no margin for error for incoming reliever Aron Fultz, who walked both Larry Walker and Albert Pujols, forcing in the tying and go-ahead runs.

There would be little relaxation though as Jason Isringhausen closed out the ninth inning wth troubles of his own. He managed to escape without allowing a run – we’re still not sure how he did that. Alberto (not Anthony) Reyes would earn the win in relief.

Carpenter and Mulder would again share opening day duties in the 2006 World Championship season. Carpenter would beat the Phillies in Philadelphia in a laugher. Mulder would pitch 8 strong innings in the home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Chris Carpenter would again throw out the first pitch in 2007. His opponent would be Tom Glavine and the New York Mets. A bad pitch to Carlos Beltran in the third inning, and a pair of seeing-eye singles in the fourth were the difference as Carpenter would be tagged for 5 of the 6 Mets runs. Glavine was strong in six innins, and the Mets bullpen kept the Cards pinned. It would be the only opening day loss for Carpenter ….. so far.

After missing nearly two years to injury, Carpenter would follow up his amazing 2009 season with an opening day start against the Cincinnati Reds in 2010. The story of the game would be the long ball – specifically two off the bat of Albert Pujols plus one each from Yadier Molina and Colby Rasmus. The Cardinals would win this game easily, although the bullpen was a bit shaky. Chris Carpenter would earn the win, his third opening day victory. That would give him the most of any Cardinals pitcher in the last fifty years, including Hall of Famer, Bob Gibson.

Adam Wainwright would get the home opener against Wandy Rodriguez and the Houston Astros. As he would do most of 2010, Wainwright was masterful as he shut down the Astros for 8 innings. He would not allow a run and would strike out 7 along the way. Jason Motte would pitch a scoreless ninth inning in a non-save situation as the Cardinals shut out the Astros, 5-0. David Freese, Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols did the offensive damage for the Cardinal, mostly coming against Rodriquez.

Kyle Lohse (2008) 1 no decision

Kyle Lohse

Poor weather conspired to take away Adam Wainwright’s first opening day start when the first game of 2008 was postponed. That assignment would fall on Kyle Lohse, who just two weeks earlier had signed a free agent contract with the Cardinals. His opponent would be former Cardinal, Kip Wells. This doesn’t quite create the mental imagery of “Clash of the Titans”, does it ?

Surprisingly, both pitchers would do well in their 2008 debuts. Lohse could only go five innings, due to missing nearly half of spring training, but left the game without giving up a run. On the other side of the diamond, Wells was cruising until a Chris Duncan walk followed by an Albert Pujols single in the sixth inning caused him an early shower. The only run of the game thus far was a Yadier Molina solo home run.

Kyle McClellan and Russ Springer would each follow Lohse with an inning of scoreless baseball. Unfortunately, there were still two innings to go, and one of those would prove problematic for the Cardinals. Ryan Franklin and Randy Flores had a tough time getting out of the eighth inning. Franklin started things off with a leadoff walk to Troy Tulowitzki. We know about leadoff walks, right ? A ground rule double off the bat of Todd Helton followed by a Troy Glaus error tied the game at 1. Franklin then walked Matt Holliday to load the bases – leading to another early shower. Randy Flores would strike out the first two men he faced, but coming in with the bases loaded in a tie game left no margin for error. That would hurt the Cardinals when Flored walked Jayson Nix, forcing in what would eventually be the winning run.

It was a disappointing loss to be sure, but at the same time, there was a lot to like in what we saw out of Kyle Lohse. He would be one to keep an eye on as 2008 unfolded.

Adam Wainwright (2009) 1 no decision

Adam Wainwright

After getting denied his opening day start due to weather in 2008, Wainwright took the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates to open 2009. Wainwright pitched well, but a high pitch count in the sixth inning led to a pair of walks and an early exit for the tall right hander. A rare bad outing by Trever Miller allowed the Pirates to tie the game and gave Wainwright a no-decision on the night. When Ryan Ludwick led off the bottom of the 8th inning with a go-ahead home run, the huge home town crowd erupted. When David Freese tacked on an insurance run later in the inning, the crowd noise grew to a cacophony of cheering. But we still remember how the game ended – the one day experiment with Jason Motte as the closer. Motte gave up 4 runs in his first save chance since winning the spot in spring training. He would take the loss on the night, and that would eventually lead to the Chinzilla (Ryan Franklin) taking over as the new Cardinals closer.

The Cardinals would soon recover from the opening day meltdown, and they would go on to win the NL Central. Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter turned in the best 1-2 pitching performances since John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar in 1985.

Chris Carpenter (2011) ?

In a few days we will know how Chris Carpenter fared in his 2011 debut. Until then, we can look back at the last 50 years and marvel at some of the names that took the baseball on the opening day. Bob Gibson, Curt Simmons, Joaquin Andujar, John Tudor, Darryl Kile, Matt Morris – but the best record belongs to the man who will start against the Padres on March 31. Chris Carpenter.

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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The Cardinals In Time: Long Home Runs And Tony’s Arrival

During the offseason we have been taking a look at the past, giving readers a timeline of St. Louis baseball throughout history. Last time we learned about the some tough times for the Cardinals as the roster was weak, the front office was in shambles, and the team was going nowhere fast. In 1995 Anheuser-Busch put the team up for sale and the team finished the season without a manager. Who was coming in to take over?

Walt Jocketty wasted little time trying to turn things around after taking over as general manager of the Cardinals. He had to show a little patience, however, to get the manager he wanted. Joe Torre was out after roughly five rather lackluster years, and at the end of the 1995 season Jocketty got his man. He called up good friend Tony LaRussa and lured him to the Gateway City after spending ten years in Oakland, picking up three AL pennants and one World Series title.

Tony had his own way of doing things, and many fans initially balked at some of his decisions. The number one choice? Choosing to give a stronger portion of playing time to young shortstop Royce Clayton rather than stalwart and fan favorite Ozzie Smith. Ozzie still had a strong year at the plate, hitting .282/.358/.370 over 82 games, and his competition was weaker. Clayton had a .277/.321/.371 line.

The turnover in players between 1995 and 1996 was startling. The pitching rotation added Andy Benes and Todd Stottlemyre in the rotation as well as closer Dennis Eckersley, while the starting nine saw newcomers Gary Gaetti, Ron Gant, and old friend Willie McGee. The biggest switch on the field for the year was the actual field – the team returned to natural grass after using Astroturf since 1970.

The team started slowly, going just 41-40 in the first half. After the All-Star game, they started to climb. An eight game winning streak from August 30 to September 7 took Tony’s team from 2.5 back to 1.5 up, and they never looked back. After winning the division on the backs of Andy Benes’ 18 win season, the team ran into the machine known as the 1990’s Braves in the NLCS. They battled, but could not win out over the starting rotation of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Denny Neagle. For a young Cardinals’ fan experiencing her first memories of Cardinals postseason baseball, this was a bittersweet end to the season. I still hold a grudge.

A 88-74 season in 1996 went almost completely backwards in 1997, as the team finished 73-89 and found themselves fourth in the five team NL Central. Rookie Matt Morris had a strong year for the starting rotation, finishing with a team best 12-9 record, 3.19 ERA, 217 innings pitched and 1.276 WHIP. This earned him second place in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Never over .500, Jocketty nevertheless made a July 31 trade with the A’s. The Cardinals passed Eric Ludwick, TJ Matthews and Blake Stein to the A’s in return for Mark McGwire. McGwire hit 24 home runs over the final two months, but only hit .253. In fact, no one on the team hit over .300 on the season. The closest was none other than Willie McGee, who hit .300 exactly. Four outfielders played in 115+ games – some things never change with LaRussa.

Does anyone remember anything about the 1998 season besides the home run chase? I do not. Considering Houston absolutely ran away with the division, winning 102 games, no one cared about anything besides waiting for Big Mac to hit his next blast. The team was already back 10.5 games at the break, and although they did put together an 18-7 September, they were much too far out of contention to ever put any pressure on the division leaders.

Yes, the real story for the Cardinals was McGwire. He and Cubs’ outfielder Sammy Sosa were neck and neck all season, trading blasts and actually becoming somewhat of friends over the course of the season. On September 7, McGwire tied the single season record of 61 home runs in a season, only to break it the next night with Roger Maris’ family in attendance, against Sosa’s Cubs no less! Baseball was on the way back up after having received such a large black eye with the 1994 strike. People were finding reasons to come back to the ballpark, and baseball was smiling again.

As for the team, 1999 was another forgetful year. I absolutely did not remember how dominant Houston was for a few years. It makes the Astros current issues that much more awful. This year did not have much to offer the Cardinals. McGwire had 65 home runs, and Kent Bottenfield had the only good year of his career, going 18-7, but this team was going nowhere fast, and no one seemed to care.

One interesting footnote to this season is 25 year old rookie starting pitcher Jose Jimenez. His season looks unremarkable, his career even more so, but for two games in 1999, Jimenez outdueled a future Hall of Famer. On June 25 in Arizona, Jimenez faced Randy Johnson and matched him out for out through the first eight innings. In the top of the ninth the Cardinals pushed a run across through two walks and a single to left. Jimenez closed out the ninth to finish a no hitter. It is not every day that a rookie outdoes Randy Johnson, but then he did it twice. Just two starts later the two squared off again, this time in St. Louis. Jimenez again came out on top of a 1-0 score, although this time the Cardinals only made him wait until the fourth to get a run, and he gave up two hits. These were literally the two greatest games of his career, and they came in the course of three games on the way to a 5-14, 5.85 ERA season.

2000 showed a team that started out very strong in April (17-8), then fluctuated for the next 4 months, playing a little better than .500 ball from May through August. However, two trades in July bringing relief pitcher Mike Timlin and veteran infielder Will Clark to the Cardinals primed the team to finish the year strong. Rookie pitcher Rick Ankiel showed his phenom status by going 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA, which earned him a second place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. Newcomer Darryl Kile felt a career resurgence in his first year out of the thin Denver air and went 20-9, the only twenty win season of his career that ended too soon. All five starting pitchers had eleven or more wins.

On the offensive side, another newcomer in centerfielder Jim Edmonds led the team with a .295/.411/.583 batting line, racking up 103 walks, 167 strikeouts (does the term ‘free swinger’ mean anything to you?), 42 home runs and 108 runs batted in. With all that he eventually accomplished in St. Louis, it almost seems unreal that he was 30 years old already when he arrived to the Cardinals.

The team made a solid run in the postseason, pushing past the Braves in the Division Series despite a bout of wildness by starting pitcher Rick Ankiel. However, they were run over by the scorching hot Mets in the NLCS, and the Mets were the ones that went on to the Series, squaring off against the Yankees in the Subway Series.

Tony had pushed the team back into the upper half of baseball, and the team had the pieces in place to stay there for awhile. Would they?

Angela Weinhold covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and writes at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter here or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

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