Under former Cardinal star and 1964 NL MVP winner Kenny Boyer the Redbirds dropped to last place, which is not tolerable and a great baseball town like St. Louis. At 18-33 GM John Claiborne replaced Boyer with the man who won their last pennant in 1968, Red Schoendienst. The team played .500 ball for Red, but they still weren’t going anywhere. Ownership then made a move that would have a resounding affect on the future of the franchise. On August 26th Claiborne was gone and Whitey Herzog assumed both the manager and the GM roles. The “White Rat” whipped the team into shape and got them to play over .500 ball during his run. During that time he began to weed out the hackers and start to build himself a championship team. The Cardinals got on base, and then stole bases. They led the league in average and OBP. 5 of their 8 starters hit over .300. They even got 20+ homer seasons from catcher Ted Simmons and Silent George Hendrick. The bench was rock solid too. The issue was pitching. When you staff finishes 12th in a 12 team league you’re going to find yourself somewhere in the 2nd division. Their pen was average, but it missed a go to closer. Imagine how good they would do if they had someone like Bruce Sutter? Well that won’t happen for another 2 years, but it will be well worth the wait. Pete Vuckovich (12-9, 3.40) was the ace. After that it really dropped off. Keith Hernandez would win himself another gold glove in a season where he followed up his 1979 MVP in fine fashion. The only weak spot in their lineup was a fading Bobby Bonds who hit just .203 while making the rounds on a new team each year.
23 new cards were added to the set
I’m putting out an APB for a color photo of Joe DeSa. The man is almost impossible to find in B&W, let alone color. A larger picture of Al Olmsted wouldn’t hurt either. I love the look Whitey has in this picture. You know he’s thinking, “Now I get the chance to stick it to the Mets for letting me go after I helped them build their ‘69 championship team”. The George Frazier and Bonds photos were colorized. Tommy Herr still looks like he could be a dead ringer for Patrick Swayze. Pedro Borbon looks like a man looking to hang on and steal a paycheck. Jim Kaat must have found himself photographed during one of the colder March nights in St. Pete, because he’s buttoned up to the top and his hands are in his pocket. Shame he couldn’t get to 300 wins.