The 100 Greatest Cardinals: 91-100
NO. 94: LHP RAY SADECKI
The Cardinals signed 17-year-old Ray Sadecki straight out of Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City with a hefty $50,000 bonus and an additional $18,000 to be spread out over his first three years. But it didn’t take him that long to reach the major leagues.
With 56 games in the minors, Sadecki had notched 24 wins while striking out 372 batters and was just 19 years old when Cardinals’ manager Solly Hemus summoned him to St. Louis to make his big league debut.
Four years and 40 wins later, when the Cardinals went to their National League rivals in Chicago with interest in a young outfielder named Lou Brock, it was Sadecki the Cubs wanted in return. General manager Bing Devine instead offered up Ernie Broglio, who was coming off an 18-win season in 1963 and had won an NL-best 21 just three years earlier.
The San Francisco Giants also made overtures for Sadecki, dangling an exchange for all-star outfielder Felipe Alou. But Devine held tight to the former “bonus baby.”
And he may have regretted both decisions.
With little more than a month left to play in the 1964 season, the Cardinals were mired in fourth place, 11 games behind the NL-leading Philadelphia Phillies. Frustrated by not having seen the post season in 10 years under his ownership, Gussie Busch rashly fired Devine and his staff.
But Sadecki won five of his next six decisions, Brock batted. 348 with 33 stolen bases, and the Cardinals rallied to a 21-win September to catch the Phillies and claim the pennant.
Sadecki, still just 23 years old, finished that season with a staff-best 20 wins, not counting his victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series, which St. Louis went on to win in seven games.
That was the high-water mark for Sadecki in St. Louis. His ERA ballooned to 5.21 in 1965 and with a 5-8 record the following season was traded to San Francisco for Orlando Cepeda, who would also be a World Series hero for the Cardinals.
The Giants got some good years from Sadecki, who somehow managed to lead the NL with 18 losses in 1968, despite a 2.91 ERA in a career-high 253.2 innings. He wrapped up an 18-year career with 135 wins, 68 of which he earned wearing the Birds on the Bat.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1960-’65, 1975
135 career wins | 5.8 K/9 inn. | 5.6 WAR
TOP 100 SCORE: 2.03