The St. Louis Cardinals' fan base - still reeling from the untimely death of highly acclaimed prospect Oscar Taveras last month - received another dose of unwelcome news when it was learned that Ray Sadecki had passed away on Monday.
The veteran of 18 major league seasons, Sadecki wore the Birds on the Bat in eight campaigns from 1960 - 1966 and again in 1975. Sadecki's brightest moments in baseball came during the 1964 season when he combined with fellow starting pitchers Bob Gibson and Curt Simmons to form a "Big Three" that combined to win 57 regular season games and three more in the World Series triumph over the New York Yankees. Sadecki sparkled during the 1964 stretch drive that saw the Birds overcome a 6.5 game deficit with 13 to play. He earned the win in four consecutive starts between Sept 15 and Sept 29, throwing a combined 17 shutout innings in the two middle games. The fourth game was the win that pulled the Redbirds into a first place tie for the National League lead and was Sadecki's 20th victory.
The southpaw drew the Game 1 assignment in the World Series. He was roughed up for three runs in the second inning but got one back by singling home a run off future Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Pitching on three days rest, Sadecki held the Bronx Bombers to a single run over his final four innings and was credited with the win when Mike Shannon's mammoth home run off the left field scoreboard keyed a four run rally that led to a 9 - 5 victory.
Earlier this year, fellow 1964 Cardinal hurler Ray Washburn had this to say about Sadecki, "Ray was a solid pitcher. I remember that he loved to talk about pitching. He hated to walk guys. He was proudest of his no walk outings."
Sadecki was born on the Kansas side of Kansas City. At Bishop Ward High School (the school that also produced Cardinal pitchers Neil Allen and Diego Segui as well as Diego's son David) he led the team to an 18-0 record and the Kansas state championship in 1958.
Still just 17, Sadecki signed with the Cardinals and spent the summer of 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba with St. Louis' Class C affiliate. Promoted to the AAA Omaha Cardinals for the 1959 season, Sadecki teamed with fellow prospect and Omaha native Bob Gibson to lead their team to the championship of the West Division of the American Association. Gibby and Sadecki began the 1960 campaign with Rochester in the International League, but both were early season call ups to the parent club. Sadecki debuted at the major league level at the age of 19 and posted a promising 2.0 bWAR in 26 starts while splitting 18 decisions.
Sadecki represented the bookends in a trio of memorable St. Louis Cardinal trades. Early in the 1966 season, he was dealt to the San Francisco Giants for Orlando ("Viva El Birdos") Cepeda. Almost three years later, Cha Cha was swapped to the Atlanta Braves for Joe Torre. Finally, Sadecki boomeranged back to the Cardinals in an October, 1974 trade as Torre was sent to the New York Mets.
The lefty became the first player to go to an arbitration hearing against the Cards as they were unable to bridge a $5,000 gap between the player offer and the team offer. Sadecki won and was awarded a $52,000 salary (that's $230,000 in 2014 dollars) for the 1975 season. Gussie got even by trading Sadecki to Atlanta three months later after 11 innings pitched across eight games.
Sadecki finished his Cardinal career with a win loss record of 68-64. The 68 wins ties him for 33rd place on the Redbird victory list with Joaquin Andujar and Ray Washburn. 135-131 for his MLB career, he is tied for 317th place in wins with 1964 rival Chris Short of the Phillies, Joe Nuxhall from the Cincinnati Reds and long-time Los Angeles Dodger Ramon Martinez.
Sadecki died at 73 in his home in Mesa, AZ due to complications from blood cancer. He is the third member of the 1964 core to depart, having been preceded in death by Kenny Boyer in 1982 and Curt Flood in 1997.