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.

Pomp but no circumstance

Opening Day 2015Yesterday was the Cardinals’ home opener, and as always, expectations ran high.  It poured down rain Monday morning, but by 10 AM, the rain had stopped.  The sun did its best to break through the clouds, but it unfortunately didn’t succeed.  The overcast weather, however, didn’t keep the citizens of Cardinals Nation from flooding into downtown St. Louis to all the pep rally locations, even if they didn’t have tickets to the game (like me).  Opening Day is an unofficial St. Louis civic holiday.  The boys are back in town and all is well with the world.

There were long lines to get into Busch Stadium yesterday due to the new metal detectors that were installed in the off-season. There was plenty of advance notice about the new metal detectors – maybe folks should have gotten moving to the stadium sooner. The on-field pre-game festivities began promptly at 2:30, whether you were in your seat or not. Various civic personalities were introduced.  The beloved Clydesdales made their annual trip around the warning track.  Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Tony LaRussa, Lou Brock, Whitey Herzog, and Red Schoendiest were introduced.  Then the St. Louis Cardinals Museum and Hall of Famers Willie McGee, Mike Shannon, and Jim Edmonds that were there were introduced.  Why do I always tear up during the introduction of the Hall of Famers?  Is it just me? Or am I just a sentimental female?  I tear up as well during the Cooperstown Hall of Fame ceremonies when they introduce the players. I can’t blame it on the hormones anymore – I’m too old.  😦

All the current players then made their way around the warning track to home plate.  They all greeted the Hall of Famers (except for Jason Heyward, who forgot) and took their place along the first base line.  Lance Lynn showed a lot of class and respect for the Hall of Famers by removing his cap when he shook their hands.  That man’s mama raised him right.

An American bald eagle was released and he flew around the stadium for a good 5 minutes. I didn’t think he would ever go back to his handler.  The poor bird probably enjoyed his temporary freedom.  I understand he got a mouse for a treat.  He was probably hungry after all that flying around.

Then came the beautiful video tribute for Oscar Tavares, and a moment of silence for Oscar, his girlfriend Edila and Post-Dispatch sports writer Bryan Burwell, who passed away last winter.  The Cardinals did a classy thing and left a spot and a press pass in the press box for Bryan.  Lynn was seen putting his arm around Carlos Martinez’ shoulders during the Oscar tribute, a gesture of support and empathy.

The National Anthem was performed awesomely by Retired U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Generald Wilson.  What a voice! It gave me goosebumps.

The Opening Day ceremonies went off without a hitch (with the exception of Heyward’s faux pas), but the game itself was not without its problems.  The Brewers scored a run in the first inning without the benefit of a hit.  Wainwright’s pitching was inconsistent, and it could be that there was too long of a time between starts for him, due to the days off on Tuesday and Thursday last week.  Wainwright had to pitch a longer game yesterday, because Matheny used 5 bullpen pitchers in Sunday’s game.  Kolten Wong’s defense was sloppy – he made two errors, and brave Kolten tried to take the brunt of the loss upon himself but there were other factors that led to yesterday’s loss.

The Cardinals got within one run, but they lost the game, 5-4. Tradition met today, but today was sadly lacking. I know we’re only 6 games into the season, but the lack of offense, continuing over from last season, is concerning.  Lance Lynn pitches tomorrow evening and I will be attending my first game of the season.  I hope to bring home a win.

My next post will be after the annual blogger event next Sunday evening. See you then! Thanks for reading!

Diane

When the pitcher isn’t a pitcher

The gray sky over downtown St. Louis today matches their fans’ mood after last night’s game – a 17-5 loss, against the Cubs, which makes it completely embarrassing. Cubs fans will never let us live down last night’s game. The Cardinals are definitely not playing like a team who won the National League pennant last year. There’s an old saying that goes, “You have to hit bottom before you can get back up.” Hopefully, last night’s game was the bottom and the Cardinals will regroup and figure out what’s going wrong. It’s still early in the season, but the problems need to get fixed now before they get even worse. The Cards did make some roster moves today, putting last night’s starter, LHP Tyler Lyons, on the DL with a left shoulder strain (hmm, could this be why 7 runs were scored off him?), optioned RHP Eric Fortunato to Memphis, and recalled LHP Sam Freeman and RFP Jorge Rondon from Memphis.

There are many reasons for the Cardinals’ implosion, and they are being covered very well by my fellow Cardinals bloggers. But this post isn’t about that. Daniel Descalso was brought into the game to pitch last night, and it reminded me of a time when another utility player was brought in to pitch.

On May 14, 1988, the Cards played the Braves at Busch Stadium II. The game was tied 5-5 when manager Whitey Herzog brought in utility player Jose Oquendo (a/k/a “The Secret Weapon”) to pitch in the 16th inning after running out of pitchers. Amazingly, Jose pitched 3 scoreless innings before being tagged for a 2 run double by Ken Griffey, Jr. in the 19th inning, and he took the loss. Jose was the first non-pitcher in 20 years to get a decision. His pitching line was 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 1 SO. This was also one of Whitey’s many games where he pulled a double switch and had a pitcher play in the outfield, who in this case was Jose DeLeon. You can read more about this game in greater detail at the link here.

I remember this game well.  It was a Saturday night, and I was at a bar called Gilligan’s (which was not named after the TV show) shooting darts with my then-boyfriend Andrew and our buddy Gene. I looked up at the game on the bar’s TV to see how the game was going and was shocked to see Jose on the mound. I turned to Andrew and said, “Have I drunk too many beers or is that Jose Oquendo pitching?” My eyesight had not failed me, nor had I had too much to drink; it was indeed Jose on the mound.

My hubby (who was just a friend then; we didn’t start dating until 1990) was at the game that night with another friend of ours and her boyfriend. He made the mistake of mentioning before the game that he had never been to an extra inning game before. Bad move there, Mike!

Tomorrow is the 26th anniversary of the game in which Jose was called on to pitch. Will fans be saying 26 years from now, “Remember that horrible 17-5 loss to the Cubs when Daniel Descalso was brought in to pitch?” Probably not. Adam Wainwright is the starter tonight, and hopefully he will be able to turn the floundering S.S. Cardinals around and keep it from sinking.

Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane

Bibliography:

“Jose Oquendo,” Wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Oquendo

Los Angeles Times, “St. Louis’ Oquendo Pitches 4 Innings, Loses in 19th,” http://articles.latimes.com/1988-05-15/sports/sp-4246_1_st-louis-cardinals

The Hardball Times, “25th Anniversary:  The Jose Oquendo Game,” http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/25th-anniversary-the-jose-oquendo-game/

A call from the Hall for the White Rat

Congratulations to Whitey Herzog on his call from the Hall!  It was long overdue.  As a fellow southern Illinoisan (Whitey is from New Athens, and I’m from Belleville), I’m pleased as punch that a homestate boy is being inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Whitey Herzog was Cardinal baseball in the 1980’s.  Before Whitey came to St. Louis, the Cards were a sub-par team.  Whitey came in and cleaned house.  As a GM, he wheeled and dealed to get the players he wanted.  He had a great working relationship with Gussie Busch, then the Cards’ owner. 

Whitey created his own brand of baseball, better known as “Whiteyball.”  Whiteyball consisted of stealing bases and manufacturing runs, among other things.  Whiteyball put fans in the stands, excited the baseball faithful, and led to a World Series win for the first time in 15 years.  The Cards also won 2 NL pennants under Whitey’s management, one in 1985 and 1987.  After Whitey left the Cards, he went to the Angels where he helped build that team too. 

I have lots of great memories of Whiteyball.  Thanks to my BFF who bought a lot of Cards tickets on her credit cards, we went to lots of Cards games in the 1980’s.  I used to take my daughter to the Cardinals game.  Bleacher seats were $4.00, and if she could walk under the turnstile, she got in free. Can’t do that anymore!  But she went to the dark side and became a Cubs fan.  That’s one of the ultimate acts of rebellion! 

As Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch puts it so eloquently here, it’s long past time to retire Whitey’s uniform number 24. In my opinion, it should have been on the wall of the new Busch Stadium when it opened.  I look forward to seeing Whitey inducted into the Hall on MLB TV, and if only I could win the lottery, I could be there in person.  I know, I know, I have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than winning the lottery.

In other news, it appears that the Cardinals are giving us another early Christmas present by signing pitcher Brad Penny, once he passes his physical.  Penny will be another reclamation project for Dave Duncan.  The winter meetings are not over yet, so maybe Cardinals fans will receive more Christmas presents in the days ahead.

Time for me to fly!  See you all soon!

Diane