The 100 Greatest Cardinals: 71-80
NOTE: The BND has endeavored to identify an objective list of the top 100 St. Louis Cardinals players of all time, based on statistical formulas developed through sabermetrics. We’ll count down the list daily, player by player, until April 4, the day of the Cardinals’ 2019 home opener. The running list and player bios can be found at bnd.com.
NO. 69: JOAQUIN ANDUJAR
From his deep trove of anecdotes garnered from his life in baseball, Whitey Herzog goes frequently to those stories involving visits with Joaquin Andujar on a pitcher’s mound.
One story in particular is non-specific in date, place or opponent, but makes clear the extent of the Dominican right-hander’s confidence and lengths he would go through to keep himself in a ballgame. The conversation went something like this:
Andujar: “What are you doing out here?”
Herzog: “Sorry Goombah, but I’ve gotta get you some help.”
Andujar: “Let me get this guy, Whitey. I struck him out the last time I faced him.”
Herzog: “Yeah, but that was this inning.”
There was another time in May of 1984 when Andujar was beating the Braves in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. With a career .127 average, he strode to the plate with the bases loaded, turned around to bat left-handed, called his shot ala Babe Ruth, then hit a grand slam. “A miracle,” Herzog would say.
Andujar was a handful for sure, mercurial even to some, but Herzog knew how to handle the self-proclaimed “One Tough Dominican.”
“Everybody knew he didn’t operate with a full deck most of the time, and when you had Joaquin on your ballclub, you were sitting on a firecracker every day,” Herzog said.
But Andujar was as fiery as he was flakey and as competitive as he was theatrical.
He had spent his first five major league seasons in Houston being bounced between the bullpen and starting rotation. Herzog brought him to St. Louis in June of 1981 in a trade for outfielder Tony Scott.
The Cardinals finished the season with the best overall record in the National League East, but were shut out of the playoffs because they didn’t finish in first place in either half of the strike-interrupted season. Andujar did his part by winning six of his first eight starts in St. Louis.
The following year, 1982, he and Bob Forsch won 15 games each to lead the Cardinals to the National League pennant.
Andujar got the win over the Brewers in Game 3 of the World Series at County Stadium, thanks in part to rookie Willie McGee’s two home runs and his fence-climbing catch to rob Milwaukee’s Gorman Thomas of his own.
But in the seventh inning, former Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons knocked Andujar to the turf, writhing in pain, with a sharp one-hopper off his knee. Even after being carried off the field by teammates, Andujar vowed he’d return before the series was over. True to his word, he limped to the mound for Game 7 and picked up the championship-clinching victory.
He led the NL with 20 wins, four shutouts and 261.1 innings pitched to finish fourth in the NL Cy Young Award vote in 1984, then won 21 more in ‘85 to earn his fourth All-Star selection and lead St. Louis to another pennant.
But he’d make his final appearance in a Cardinals uniform in Game 7 of that season’s World Series, so ordered by owner Gussie Busch himself.
Still red-hot from a tragic Game 6 loss, precipitated by umpire Don Denkinger’s infamous blown call in the ninth, the unfocused Cardinals fell behind Kansas City 9-0 in the decisive seventh game and turned to Andujar in relief. He lasted two batters before being ejected by Denkinger, who was working home plate.
Andujar used a bat to take out his frustrations on a clubhouse toilet and, by December, was traded to Oakland for catcher Mike Heath.
It was an inauspicious end to an entertaining run. But when Andujar died in 2015 at the age of 62, Herzog could only remember the good times.
“He is just great. He was my daddy. He is a special man,” he said.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1981-1985
68-53 in St. Louis | 3.33 Cardinals ERA |4x All-Star | 1 WS ring | 12.9 WAR
TOP 100 SCORE: 2.58