Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23, 2004: Eckstein Becomes a Cardinal

     On December 23, 2004, David Eckstein signed a three year deal that made him a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The club was in need of a shortstop after the Boston Red Sox had lured Edgar Renteria to Beantown, which opened the door for the scraptastic player who had spent his first four years in Anaheim with the Angels and helped them win the World Series in 2002. By the end of 2006, Eckstein would celebrate as a champion once again. He was part of an 83 win team that made and unlikely run as a wildcard contender. By the time it was wrapped up Eckstein was the World Series MVP. David moved on after the 2007 season, however, he will forever be revered in St. Louis, and when his name comes up in Cardinal Nation a smile will cross the face of the fans as they remember the days he wore the Birds on the Bat.

Thank you for the memories David.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December 8, 1966: Maris Joins The Birds

     On December 8, 1966, Cardinals GM Bob Howsam made a deal with Yankees GM Lee McPhail that put the Birds on the Bat across the front of Roger Maris' uniform, while a third baseman by the name of Charlie Smith would be wearing the pinstripes in New York. Maris would become a big part of a Championship club with the Redbirds in 1967, and he helped them take home the National League pennant in 1968 as well. He retired following the '68 campaign, calling his time in St. Louis the best two years of his career.

     Maris had broken Babe Ruth's longstanding home run record during in '61 with 61 big blasts. However, that historic campaign was not easy for him. He was in a head-to-head battle with fan favorite Mickey Mantle who too had visions of catching the Great Bambino in the history books. In the end Maris won the battle. however, the toll it took on him was great. The stress Maris suffered during that home run race caused him to lose his hair and sleep as well. He broke the record on the final day of the season, However, what should have been a celebrated feat ended up being something that ended with the media and fans turning on the outfielder in the years to come.

      The home run total dropped to 33 in 1962. In 1963 his home run total ended up at 23 and he was only able to play in 90 games due to injury. He bounced back with a solid season in '64. With that said, his Yankee squad ran into a team of destiny in the Cardinals who capitalized on an epic collapse by the Philadelphia Phillies, then put the Bronx Bombers to bed in the Fall Classic. The 1965 season was the worst year for Maris in New York. He played in a career low 46 games due to a misdiagnosed broken hand, and the press and fans alike turned on him completely. The team had finished in sixth place, and by Yankees standards this was not acceptable and he happened to be a scapegoat, despite the fact that other teammates also missed a great deal of time due to injury. Even Mickey Mantle missed significant time, but that did not matter because Mantle was held in much higher regard. The 1966 season was not as bad, however, Maris did play in just 119 games and hit just 13 homers. he had become a whipping boy in The Big Apple, and once that season came to a close he was ready to hang up the cleats.

     When Maris got word of the trade he was not surprised. He even said he thought the club would have moved him back in 1962. While he did intend on leaving baseball after the '66 season. He had even informed the Yankees of his intentions. With that said, once the deal went down he decided to go ahead and play another year because he did not want the same writers who raked him over the coals to say the trade was why he retired. The reason he wanted out was in large part due to a great deal of those men who put print in the newspapers daily.

     It turned out to be a great deal for Maris. He found new life in St. Louis. He found fans that appreciated him, a manager in Red Schoendienst that embraced him as a veteran who would produce when called upon, and a much more forgiving press corp who were about to enjoy a year that would end with a parade in Downtown St. Louis. In his two seasons in St. Louis Maris hit .258 with 9 homers, and 100 RBI's. Perhaps his greatest run in the Gateway City came during the run to glory in 1967 when he hit .385 and knocked in seven runs during the World Series. Unfortunately for Maris Father Time knocked at his door the next year, and he answered. However, he did put his name in the history books with the Cardinals, and right next to it says World Champion. In my view Roger Maris will forever be a Cardinal.
If you would like to read more about the life and times of Roger Maris you can read his SABR biography here: