RIP Joaquín Andújar

JoaquinCardinal Nation is in mourning today at the sad news of the passing of Joaquín Andújar.  Those of us who followed Cardinals baseball in the 1980s know Joaquín well.  He was a fiery, passionate pitcher, who loved the game and loved pitching.  Joaquín called himself One Tough Dominican. The St. Louis radio DJ’s called him Walking Underwear due to Joaquín’s thick accent.  It was fun watching him on and off the mound. Here’s one of my favorite stories about Joaquín from Whitey Herzog’s book You’re Missin’ a Great Game:

Ozzie still tells the damnedest stories.  Like the day in Montreal I came out to the mound to talk to talk to Goombah about pitching to Al Oliver. Ozzie’s on the mound as usual, with his arms folded, looking annoyed.  Joaquin wants to stay in there, of course, even though Oliver’s a good left-handed hitter. So I just say, “Look, I’ll leave you in, but be careful.” Joaquin looks at me like I’ve insulted his manhood.  He frowns and points at his chest. “He one tough hitter,” he says.  “Me one tough pitcher!”

Before I can even put my foot in the dugout, the ball’s going over the left centerfield fence.  And Ozzie comes back to the mound laughing, slaps Goombah on the back and says, “Hey Jack! You one tough pitcher, he one better batter!”

Joaquín started his career in 1969 after signing with the Mets, just a month shy of his 17th birthday.  He played in the Reds’ farm system for 6 years until he was traded to the Astros after the 1975 season. Joaquín made his major league debut against, ironically, the Reds in 1976. In 1977, Joaquín was named to the All-Star Game as the Astros’ representative, but could not play due to an injury he sustained in his last start before the All-Star Game.

Joaquín pitched out of the Astros’ bullpen in 1978.  He began the 1979 season in the bullpen, but was put in the starting rotation.  His work in the rotation earned him another start in the All-Star Game, but Joaquín could not attend.

In 1980, Joaquín split his pitching between the bullpen and the starting rotation.  Joaquín made his first post-season appearance in 1980 because of a one-game playoff between the Astros and the Dodgers. Joaquín got a save in game 2 of the NLCS against the Phillies. Joaquín was traded to the Cardinals for Tony Scott in 1981 just before the players’ strike.

Joaquín’s best career years were with the Cardinals.  Joaquín was put in the starting rotation after the 1981 players’ strike and had a 6-1 record.  1982 was a great year for Joaquín – he had a 15-10 record, and he pitched 265.2 innings.  Joaquín started and won game 3 of the NLCS against the Braves.  In the World Series, he started and won games 3 and 7.

Joaquín  had a career year in 1984, with a 20-14 record and a 3.34 ERA.  He also led the league in wins, innings pitched (261.1), and shutouts (4).  Joaquín was also selected to the All-Star Game for the fourth time.  He also won the Gold Glove.  Andújar was also arguably the ace of the Cardinals’ staff – in 1982 and 1984, he led the team in ERA, wins, games started, complete games, innings pitched, shutouts and strikeouts.

In 1985, Andújar was selected to the All-Star Game for the fourth time after starting with a 12-1 record.  1985 was the year of the bitter rivalry between the Cards and the Mets. The radio DJ’s back in the 1980 (namely, J.C. Corcoran and his crew) really stirred the rivalry pot, calling the Mets “pond scum.” The Cards ended up winning the NL East over the Mets and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS to get to the World Series.

Sadly, the 1985 World Series didn’t go well for Joaquín.  He started but lost game 3.  Whitey decided to go with John Tudor for game 7 due to John’s low postseason ERA.  Tudor had a rare bad start and Joaquín was called in for mop up duty. Joaquín disagreed with Don Denkinger’s bad call of a ball.  After the next call, Joaquín had to be restrained and he was ejected from the game.  Joaquín was so angry about getting ejected that he assaulted a toilet in the men’s room at Kaufmann Stadium with a bat.

In 1986, the Cards traded Joaquín to the A’s for Tim Conroy and Mike Heath,  At the beginning of the season, Joaquín served a 5 game suspension for the World Series incident. Commissioner Peter Uberroth handed out year long suspensions to those who had admitted cocaine use during the Pittsburgh drug trials, including Joaquín, who had also dealt drugs to Lonnie Smith in 1982. The suspensions were downgraded to anti-drug donations and community service.

Joaquín only pitched for the A’s in 1986 and 1987.  He came home to the Astros in 1988 and pitched in the bullpen, but made some starts due to injuries.  Joaquín signed a one year contract with the Expos in 1989, but didn’t make the team.

After retiring from baseball, Joaquín started a trucking company in his native Dominican Republic and was involved in youth baseball activities.  He passed away today at the age of 62 from complications from diabetes.  One Tough Dominican should be too tough to die, at the young age of 62 or any other age. Joaquín, my sympathies and condolences are with your family.  Thanks for the memories and thanks for the great baseball.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Diane

Bibliography:

“Joaquín Andújar,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joaqu%C3%ADn_And%C3%BAjar

You’re Missin’ a Great Game by Whitey Herzog and Jonathan Pitts, Berkley Books, 1999.

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