Monday, July 4, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM Omitted Bios (Chapter 14 St. Louis Cardinals 1964-1968)

The Cardinals of the mid-to-late '60s were not a traditional dynasty. After shocking the heavily favored Yankees in the 1964 World Series, they slumped to seventh place the following year. Improvement was only slightly evident in 1966 as they finished with an 83-79 record (good enough for sixth place). Over the next two seasons, Cardinal players lived up to their vast potential, carrying the club to consecutive World Series berths. If not for the brilliant performance turned in by Tiger southpaw Mickey Lolich in the '68 Fall Classic, the Cardinals might have won their third championship in a five-year span. Lolich won all three of his starts, including a Game 7 duel with Cardinal ace Bob Gibson. 

When the bio section of this chapter became overcrowded, I eliminated Mike Shannon and Julian Javier from the mix. Both were excellent players in their own right, but their contributions paled in comparison to the other men being profiled. 

BEST RECORD: 101-60/ 1967
HALL OF FAMERS: Red Schonedienst (MGR), Lou Brock (OF), Bob Gibson (P), Steve Carlton (P), Orlando Cepeda (1B)


Mike Shannon
Outfield/ Third Base
            Shannon grew up in St. Louis. He attended the University of Missouri, but left in 1958 when the Cardinals offered him a contract. Shannon was also a college football star and remarked that, if professional players had been paid better during the 1950s, he might have stayed at college and pursued a career on the gridiron. Shannon’s coach, Frank Broyles, remarked that he could have won a Heisman Trophy.
            Shannon languished in the Cardinal farm system for portions of eight seasons. At Memphis in 1960, he committed an ungainly total of 19 outfield errors—a mark he never came close to matching in any other year. He was called to the big leagues in ‘62/’63, but didn’t stick. He started the ‘64 campaign with the Cardinals and was demoted after going hitless in scattered appearances during April and early-May. Recalled in July, he found his swing, hitting .261 in eighty-eight games.
            Shannon fared poorly at the plate in ’65, compiling a .221 batting average, but he turned things around in the seasons that followed. From 1966 through 1969, he finished in double digits for homers every year. He enjoyed his finest offensive campaign in ‘68, reaching personal best marks in hits (153), doubles (29) and RBIs (79). In three World Series, he collected 19 base hits and scored 12 runs. He went deep in each Fall Classic he appeared in. In Game 3 of the ‘67 affair, his 2-run homer held up as the game-winner.
            Shannon was moved from the outfield to third base in 1967 and finished his career at that position. He placed among the top five in fielding percentage twice at the hot corner. He led NL right fielders in that category during the ‘66 slate. In 1970, Shannon was diagnosed with nephritis—a kidney disease that ended his career. He joined the Cardinals’ promotional staff in ’71 and became a radio broadcaster the following year.
For nearly three decades, Shannon worked alongside Hall of Fame analyst Jack Buck. When Buck passed away in 2002, Shannon assumed the lead role, teaming with several different color commentators. He received an Emmy for his work in 1985. In addition to his broadcasting endeavors, he is the owner of Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood in St. Louis. On Saturday nights after Cardinals home games, he typically hosts a sports talk show from his restaurant, which is within walking distance of Busch Stadium.

Julian Javier
Second Base
            Javier was among the first Dominican standouts along with Felipe Alou, Juan Marichal and Zoilo Versalles. Signed by the Pirates as a teenager, he spent five years on the farm, getting better as he moved up the ladder. While playing in the minors, he earned a reputation as “the fastest man in baseball.” He was hitting .288 with Columbus of the International League in 1960 when his contract was sold to the Cardinals. Javier remained with the club for twelve years, setting a franchise record for games at second base.
            The speedy infielder lived up to his billing on the base paths, leading the Cardinals in steals from 1960 to 1963. During the latter season, he made an All-Star appearance when Bill Mazeroski was scratched due to an injury. The NL starting lineup that year included an all-St. Louis infield with Bill White at first, Javier at second, Dick Groat at short and Ken Boyer at third.
            Javier was referred to as “Hoolie” by most teammates, but catcher Tim McCarver called him “The Phantom” in deference to his uncanny knack for avoiding sliding runners at second base. Though he led the league twice in errors, he placed among the top five in double plays and assists six times between 1960 and 1966.
After driving in a career-high 65 runs during the ’64 slate, Javier made just one appearance in the World Series due to a bruised hip. He created quite a stir in the offseason while playing for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican League. He hit umpire Emmett Ashford in the face over a disputed strike call, ending up with a fine and three-day suspension. Ashford was so incensed by the leniency of Javier’s sentence that he resigned. He changed his mind when Javier issued a public apology.
            With lingering physical issues, Javier was limited to seventy-seven games in 1965. He struggled tremendously at the plate, managing a meager .227 average. After another off year in ’66, he got back on track, hitting .281 while collecting a career-high 14 homers. In Game 2 of the ‘67 World Series, he broke up a no-hit bid by Jim Lonborg. Facing the Boston ace again in Game 7, he smashed a 3-run homer that helped carry the Cardinals to a 7-3 win.
            Traded to Cincinnati in 1972, Javier performed poorly and dropped from the major league ranks. He returned to the Dominican Republic, where he founded the Khoury League, which was renamed the Roberto Clemente League in honor of the fallen superstar. Javier also played a major role in forming the Gigantes del Cibao—an expansion team in the Dominican Winter League. There is a stadium named after him in his hometown of San Francisco de Marcoris. Javier’s son Stan had a successful major league career that stretched from 1984-2001 and included a World Series ring with the A’s in 1989. 

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