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Cardinals of Yore: Mike Gonzalez

To put it in a nutshell, Mike Gonzalez was and earlier day Jose Oquendo.

He was a very useful -- if not spectacular -- player with the team for many years before becoming a distinguished coach with the club during the most successful run in franchise history: the 1930s and 40s. The Cuban born Gonzalez helped Cardinals players learn what it took to be well-rounded, hard-nosed ballplayers.

Gonzalez played with the Redbirds in three stints: 1915-18, 1924-25 and 1931-32 was a solid backup catcher known more for his defense than his hitting with a .253 career average in 2,829 at bats. But where he really left his mark was as a coach and scout with St. Louis beginning in 1933 when he was named manager of the Cardinals Columbus Redbirds farm team. In 1934 he joined the parent club and was a coach on player-manager Frank Frisch's staff. He stayed after Frisch was fired in 1938, working under Ray Blades and Billy Southworth before ending his Cardinals career following the 1946 World Series.

blog post photo

Mike Gonzalez, second from right, during the first day of spring training in 1946 

In that '46 fall classic, which the Cardinals won with a play called "Slaughter's Mad Dash," Gonzalez was the St. Louis third base coach. According to reports, with the score tied 3-3 and Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter standing at first base with two outs in the eighth inning of game 7, ran through Gonzalez's stop sign when Red Sox shortstop momentarily held the relay throw from outfielder Leon Culberson. But photos and video of the play seem to indicate that Gonzalez was waiving Slaughter home when he passed third. Time Magazine named the play the ninth greatest World Series moment.

Legend has it that Gonzalez coined a common baseball phrase when he was sent as a scout to watch a player in winter league. Impressed by his glove but not his batting ability, Gonzalez sent a telegram back to St. Louis in broken English: "Good field, no hit." 

After his retirement, Gonzalez went back to his homeland where he was trapped after the 1959 comunist revolution. He died in Havana in 1977.