Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 29, 1971: Briles Heads To Pittsburgh; Matty Heads To The Lou

     On January 29, 1971, the Cardinals traded pitcher Nelson Briles and outfielder Vic Davalillo to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for outfielder Matty Alou and a lefty reliever by the name of George Brunet.

     The key pieces of this deal were Briles and Alou. The 27-year-old Briles had great deal of success with the Cardinals. He helped the club win the World Series in '67 by posting a 14-5 record in the regular season before locking down a complete game victory in Game 3 of the Fall Classic. The victory was a big one for the series that was destined to go seven games before the Birds celebrated their second title of the decade. Briles returned to the mound in '68 a champion, and he pitched like one by posting a career high 19 wins. After winning 15 more games in '69 things took a turn for the hurler; 1970 was just not his year. He fought through injury, and struggled to the finish line with a 6-7 record. Just like that Briles became expendable. Alou was 32-years-old, and he was a solid veteran hitter who hit .300 or better consistently. The deal seemed to be on that was a good one for both teams.

       To analyze this trade in hindsight I would say that Pittsburgh won the deal. Simply put Briles became part of a championship puzzle, as he helped the Pirates win the National League Crown. He went on to pitch a complete game winner in Game 5 of the Fall Classic that had the Bucs prevail over the Orioles in a hard fought seven game battle. Briles pitched three seasons in the Steel City, before being moved to the Royals in '74. While I do believe the Pirates won the deal, I do not think Cardinals completely lost on it either. Alou lived up to his expectations by cranking out a .315 average in '71. Then in August of '72 he was hitting .314 when he was traded to the A's. The trade that sent him packing amounted to virtually nothing for the Birds, while Matty helped the A's charge toward a title.

     Alou did wear the Birds on the Bat again. Just briefly in 1973 after he was purchased from the Yankees late in that season. On the other hand, Briles did not return to the Gateway City as a player, but he did pitch until 1978, and even though he left he remained one of  many heroes that wore a Cardinals uniform during the late sixties.

Couple sidenotes about the the other players involved in the deal: Davalillo was a platoon type player, and a good bat off the bench. He gave the Bucs two solid seasons before watching his numbers tail off. George Brunet spent 15 years in the big leagues. He made just seven appearances with the Birds before being released in May of that year. Interestingly enough Brunet's career in baseball extended all the way until 1989. His days on the diamond as a professional began in 1953. After the Cardinals released him he bounced around the minors before heading to Mexico where he set multiple records, and pitched until he was 50 years of age.  You can read a great piece about him here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 28, 1953: Cardinals Owner Fred Saigh Gets Sentenced To Prison

     On January 28, 1953, the owner of the Cardinals, Fred Saigh was convicted of tax evasion, and sentenced to 15 monthes in a Federal Penitentiary. The embattled owner became the talk of baseball. He soon realized that he would have to sell his stock in the team, and men with deep pockets stepped up in both Milwaukee and Houston with thoughts of moving the club. However, Saigh made a last minute deal with August Busch III to purchase the club. While Saigh made some bad choices, which led to the prison sentence, he was also a man who wanted to keep the Cardinals in the City of St. Louis. His time with the team was short, yet significant, and even today it has a continued impact on the club that calls St. Louis home.

     Saigh made a fortune as a lawyer, an investor, and an owner of commercial property as well. In 1947, Saigh along with a well established businessman by the name of Robert Hannegan purchased the club from long time owner Sam Breadon whose health was in decline. Just two years later Hannegan suffered health issues of his own, which led to Saigh purchasing the team outright. Then came the tax trouble. In April of 1952, the 47-year-old Saigh was indicted on five counts of tax evasion. The indictment accused him of avoiding $49,620 between 1946 and 1949. Less than a year later the charges had been reduced to two charges that totaled nearly $20,000. At that point Saigh gave up the idea of fighting it anymore, so he plead no contest.

     The wheels were in motion immediately as Saigh had a short period of time to get his affairs in order. The sale would happen with haste. Two days after the conviction Saigh stood in front of Ford C. Frick where he made it be known that he would not embarrass baseball by fighting to keep his club. Busch purchased the club on February 20, 1953. Just two weeks before the announcement that Busch would be the new owner, the team employees had been told that if they wished to move with the club to Milwaukee the organization would pay the expenses. That is how close they were to a deal. Two weeks later the beer baron had saved the day. Fred Saigh had saved the day as well. If Saigh would have taken the higher offer Stan Musial would have had another city's name across his chest. The impact on the history of the club cannot be overstated when it comes to that decision. Just think of all the great games, accomplishments  , milestones, and Game 6 in 2011 moments that have happened since.

      Bill Veeck and the Browns organization had to see this legal battle as a way to take claim of sole proprietorship when it came to baseball in St. Louis. The fact of the matter is the city was not big enough for both teams and one of them would be heading for another city before too long. Once Gussie Busch stepped into the picture Veeck knew he was no match for the money that the brewery owner brought to the table. In 1954, Veeck decided to shift his club to Baltimore and sell the old ballpark to Busch. A new era had begun.

     While the pages were being turned to that next era in Cardinals ownership Saigh served five months of his 15 month sentence before being released. After several years of legal wrangling Saigh settled on some civil suit, and moved on from the tax issues. He was able to gain wealth once again with wise investments, which included a large portion of stock in Anhueser Busch. Saigh had his sites set on purchasing the Washington Senators in 1971 before pulling his name out of the hat due to his past. However, Saigh would go onto amass nearly $500 million before passing away in 1999 at the age of 94. He was one of the wealthiest people in St. Louis at the time. He donated a substantial amount of money to charity in his will, and established The Fred Saigh Foundation. To this day his contributions to his fellow man still go on. When mentioned among those who know their baseball history the first thing that may come up might be the tax case. It may have helped define his legacy, but in this fan's opinion it was unfortunate bump in the road of life. A life that turned out to be great. His character stood tall even after he heard a judgement come down against him in a court of law. If he were here today I would shake his hand before thanking him for helping keep the Birds right where they belong.

You can read a short bio about Saigh's life on here:   

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 7, 1985: Lou Brock Joins The Immortal Bunch

     On January 7, 1985, the news hit the wires that Lou Brock had been selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It was his first time on the ballot. Brock's illustrious career took off after being traded to the Birds in the Summer of '64, as he quickly became one of the most feared runners in all of baseball.

     Brock's well documented achievements included 3,023 hits, 938 stolen bases, 900 RBI, and two World Championship rings as well. His induction came later that year, and during his speech he spoke of listening to Cardinals games on KMOX as a child in Louisiana. At that time the game was changing, and America was changing as well. Jackie Robinson had broke the color barrier, and Brock had found a dream. His dream became a reality, and that dream led to hallowed halls in Cooperstown, New York.

     Brock was joined by the famed knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, who had not thrown a pitch off a major league diamond until he was 28 years of age. Another legendary player from the Cardinals past would join Brock in the '85 Hall of Fame class would be Enos Slaughter. Slaughter was selected by a Veteran's Committee, who also selected the late Arky Vaughan also. On this day that we remember the day Lou heard the news I would like to congratulate the newest members of baseball's immortal bunch.  So here is a tip of the cap to Randy Johnson, Pedro Martiniez, Craig Biggio, and former Cardinal, John Smoltz. And last, but not least: Louuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!! Go Cards!!!

If you have the time I urge you to listen to Brock's Hall of Fame speech:

Stats of a legend: