Over 77 total drafts in MLB history, the Cardinals have selected 20 high school position players in the true first round. In Part One of this series here, I discussed the first four: Leron Lee, Ted Simmons, James (Butch) Hairston and Ed Kurpiel. I continue the series in this piece.
1973: 3B Joe Edelen: 0.8 Career WARP, 0.4 Cardinal WARP
Edelen was 17 at the time he was drafted #12 overall as the Oklahoma high school player of the year. In addition to hitting .403 and swatting 28 home runs in a 60-game American Legion season after his senior year of high school, he also had a 19-1 record as a pitcher. When he got to the minor leagues in professional baseball, however, he couldn’t hit. In his first season with Rookie level Sarasota in the Gulf Coast League, he slashed .218/.326/.358 in 194 PA with 5 HRs. That was arguably his best season with the bat, as he would never top that .684 OPS over a full season. Although he did get 221 PA with AA Arkansas in 1975 (where he slashed only .187/.257/.306) he ended every season from 1974-1976 with Class A St. Petersburg in the Florida State League. He didn’t strike out an insane amount of times and would take a walk, but he just couldn’t put good wood on the ball.
Knowing that Edelen had a solid arm, the club tried him as reliever for 5 games with St. Petersburg in 1975 after he was demoted from Arkansas. Edelen didn’t pitch for Arkansas to start 1976, but was demoted to St. Petersburg in June after 39 games at third base and a .229/.311/.321 slash line. At this point, the 20-year old Edelen tried the Bob Forsch career track, moving to the mound full time for the rest of 1976 with St. Petersburg over 15 games and 12 starts. He started the 1977 season once again with St. Petersburg, but was dedicated to full-time pitching for the first time. Like many pitchers of the day, he was not a strikeout machine (only 5.4 per 9), but he otherwise tore up the league, allowing only 75 hits in 97 IP in 13 games with just 1 home run. With his 2.04 ERA atop the charts, he was promoted to AA Arkansas in June. He held his own, again allowing fewer hits than innings pitched and posting his best SO/BB ratio in his career up to that point. He also got the win in the game that clinched the 1977 Texas League Championship. That season convinced the club to add Edelen to the 40-man roster October 1977.
At this point, Edelen’s career stalled for a couple of seasons. He started 1978 with Arkansas and was actually promoted to AAA Springfield, but he didn’t do well there, walking almost as many hitters as he struck out with a total ERA of over 5.00. Trying to repeat Springfield in 1979, he was sent down to Arkansas in late June when his ERA had soared to 6.72 with control issues. The Cards outrighted Edelen to AAA Springfield in October 1979. Edelen would later say that he was trying to be too fine and was afraid to challenge the hitters.
Edelen turned his fortunes around in 1980 in his fourth spin with AA Arkansas, where he posted a Texas League leading 2.63 ERA in 24 starts and 161 IP. Whitey Herzog—then only the Cards’ general manager before he decided to hire himself back to manage the club—saw Edelen pitch a game in the AA Texas League playoffs where he pitched a shutout, picked 3 men off of first base, knocked down a few line drives, and hit a grand slam home run along with two doubles off the wall. Shortly after that, Edelen was added back to the 40-man roster and invited to 1981 spring training. With Mark Littell placed on the disabled list because he was still recovering from July 1980 elbow surgery, a job opened up in the bullpen and Edelen was chosen, despite his pitching almost exclusively as a starter in the minors.
Now 25 years old, Edelen cracked the Cardinals’ opening day roster in 1981 alongside Bob Forsch, Silvio Martinez, Lary Sorenson, Andy Rincon, Bob Shirley, Bob Sykes, Jim Otten, Jim Kaat and Bruce Sutter to form a 10-man pitching staff. He made his major league debut on April 18th against the Cincinnati Reds, a game in which Tom Seaver recorded his 3,000th strikeout. Edelen came into the game in the bottom of the 7th with 1 out. The Cardinals were ahead 9-3 and runners were on 2nd and 3rd. Despite allowing a sacrifice fly to the first batter, he was credited with 2.2 IP of scoreless relief to finish the game, allowing only one hit. Edelen picked up his first career victory on March 3rd. Entering the game in the top of the 9th against the Cincinnati Reds, he pitched 3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing only 2 hits. One of those hits was a double by Johnny Bench in the top of the 11th that luckily bounced over the wall for a ground rule double which would have otherwise scored the lead runner. The Cardinals won the game in the bottom of the 11th on a walk-off walk by Darrell Porter.
This would be about as good as it would get for Edelen. Over 17.1 IP in 13 games, he gave up 29 hits, even if he might have been a bit BABIP unlucky with a .391 mark. His other peripherals were actually not bad at all, with 10 strikeouts to only 2 unintentional walks, but he ended up being too hittable, and he did not perform well with runners on base. Eleven of his thirteen games pitched were before the strike, and in the four games that he entered the contest with runners on base, he allowed 5 out of 7 inherited runners to score. After Edelen blew a tie game with Atlanta on May 6th in the top of the 6th that included 5 hits, a triple, a balk and a wild pitch over 1.1 IP, Herzog never brought him in again with the game close.
On May 24th, Edelen was optioned to AAA Springfield because Porter was on the disabled list with a bum shoulder and Herzog wanted Glenn Brummer to serve as a third catcher. Because the minor league players were not on strike, Edelen was able to pitch 96 innings over 16 starts. He was then recalled to the big club on September 3rd after Springfield was knocked out of the playoffs. He pitched two more games in a series in which the Cards were swept in a critical series against the Cubs and over the two games he allowed 9 hits and 6 runs over 5 IP. His ERA at this point was 9.35, a number inflated by the fact that all six of the runners that he left on the bases were allowed to score by the pitchers that relieved him. Seeking some bullpen help, on September 10th, the Cards traded Edelen with St. Louis native Neil Fiala to the Cincinnati Reds for reliever Doug Bair, who became a key setup man for the 1982 club.
Supposedly, the Reds pitching coach Bill Fischer noticed a flaw in Edelen’s delivery in practice and fixed it, and Edelen pitched fine over 5 games the rest of the 1981 season for the Reds. Now out of options, Edelen made the Reds out of spring training in 1982, but would only pitch 9 games. In his last game on May 15th, Edelen was brought into the game in the bottom of the 3rd with 2 outs after starter Dan Pastore had spotted the Pirates 6 runs. He promptly gave up a double, an RBI single and a 2-run HR to the pitcher Rick Rhoden. Then in the 4th, he gave up a walk, 3 singles and a sacrifice fly to give the Pirates 3 more runs. Five days later with his ERA at an unlucky 8.80, Edelen was outrighted to AAA Indianapolis so the club could recall Greg Harris, who Edelen beat out for the final pitching job in camp. Harris ended up pitching through the 1995 season, throwing his final pitch a couple months shy of his 40th birthday.
Edelen made 13 starts for AAA Indianapolis in 1982, where he got mostly crushed. He came back to Indianapolis in 1983 to pitch in relief, spent time on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and on May 15th, gave up 3 ER in just two-thirds of an inning, with 2 walks and a 3-run HR. He was released the next day, having given up 8 HR in 19.1 IP and never pitched professionally again, done with baseball at age 27.
1974: SS Garry Templeton: 22.4 Career WARP, 14.3 Cardinal WARP
The Cards drafted Templeton #13 overall out of a Santa Ana, California high school, where he had only played shortstop for a couple of years. He had played center field on the varsity as a freshman, and then second base, which was his favorite position. Templeton was a natural right-handed hitter, but on the first day of practice, Cardinal personnel forced him to learn to switch hit. The organization in those days essentially tried to force any natural right-handed player with speed to switch hit, figuring the player would leg out more infield singles from the left side of the plate. He hadn’t seemed too interested in switch-hitting in the past. When Bob Fontaine, the farm director of the Padres who would later become general manager, put Templeton through a private workout before the draft, he asked Templeton to show him what he could do from the left side. Templeton swung about 6 times, said “You’ve seen enough,” and just walked out of the workout.
Templeton stuck with it this time. After 18 games with Sarasota of the Rookie Gulf Coast League, the Cards sent Templeton to Class A St. Petersburg for 23 games, where he slashed .211/.232/.221 over 100 plate appearances as an 18-year old. Templeton started the 1975 season with St. Petersburg again and slashed .264/.286/.338 before a July 9th promotion to AA Arkansas. It was primarily Templeton’s speed and range at short that wowed Cardinal personnel. St. Petersburg manager Jack Krol said the following about the Cards’ young shortstop to the Tampa Times.
If he’s not a major league ballplayer, then I’m in the wrong business. Templeton’s got the ability, he’s got the tools, and his attitude is good. If he gets that knee corrected, perhaps by surgery this winter, he’ll make it. He’s got super range. He makes plays on balls that no one else would get to.
Krol believed that Templeton’s throwing errors would straighten out with a little more experience. Nick Leyva, who would later be a base coach under Whitey Herzog, replaced Templeton in the St. Petersburg lineup at short the next day, a lineup which also included Scott Boras at second base. Ken Oberkfell took over at short for St. Pete for the rest of that year. Templeton got hot at Arkansas and slashed an uncharacteristic .401/.424/.531 over 184 plate appearances. He also had surgery after the 1975 season to repair damaged cartilage in his left knee, an injury he sustained in 1974 which would eventually wreck his career.
The Cardinals’ shortstop situation had essentially been in shambles after the Cards traded Dal Maxvill to the Oakland Athletics on August 30th, 1972. Since that time, the Cards had tried Mick Kelleher, Ed Crosby, Dwain Anderson, Ray Busse, Luis Alvarado, Jack Heidemann, Mario Guerrero and Ed Brinkman at short. The Cards kept trying to give the job to anyone other than Mike Tyson, who manned the position most of the time from 1973 through 1975. But Tyson was slow, and didn’t exactly have the range the club preferred for the position. After the 1975 season, the Cards decided to trade RHP Mike Garman and a player to be named later to the Chicago Cubs for Don Kessinger, who had won gold gloves at the position in 1969 and 1970 and played on 6 All-Star teams. The thinking was that the 33-year old Kessinger would be able to hold down the fort until Templeton was ready, Ted Sizemore would either be benched or traded and Mike Tyson would be moved to his natural and better position at second base.
Templeton started the 1976 season as a 20-year old with Tulsa in the AAA American Association. As Templeton toiled in AAA, the Cardinals were having an awful season in what turned out to be Red Schoendienst’s final season as a non-interim manager. Their defense was especially atrocious. Both Hector Cruz at third base (-18) and Kessinger at short (-11.4) were rated the worst defensively at their positions in the majors by Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) metric. Mike Tyson was a good defender, but he was limited by injury to only 74 games in the field. This forced the club to play Lee Richard and Vic Harris at second base, in addition to Kessinger, and all were far worse on defense. Lou Brock was awful in left field and Willie Crawford was a negative defender in right. Other than Tyson, only 1B Keith Hernandez and CFs Bake McBride and Jerry Mumphrey were positive defenders.
In those days, the Cards played an annual exhibition game against the AAA club in the middle of the season. Playing at short for Tulsa against the Cards in an exhibition game in June of 1976 with veterans Ed Crosby and Luis Alvarado, Templeton said “I listen when they start talking about hitting, but there’s not much they can tell me about playing in the field.” Gussie Busch had a meeting with the players on July 28th, 1976 and said that Templeton would be brought up to play shortstop as soon as the players ratified the 1976 Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the Cards had purchased his contract before then, he could have played the 1977 season on a renewal without a signed contract and then he would have become a free agent at the end of that year.
As soon as the CBA was ratified, the Cards added Templeton to both the 40-man and active rosters on August 9th, 1976 and immediately installed him as the starting shortstop in the number 2 hole. At this point, the club was 46-61, 5th in the 6-team National League East and 26 games behind the 1st place Philadelphia Phillies. Templeton had slashed .321/.351/.483 in 106 games with AAA Tulsa. Tulsa manager Ken Boyer said “I’d pay to watch him play,” and “It’s a question of knowledge of the game catching up with him, but physically he’s ready. He’s one of the best I’ve seen.” Templeton himself wondered what took the Cards so long. “They had no offense, and I thought I’d be called up much earlier,” he told the media. “In fact, when they signed me out of high school I thought then that I could have come right in and played,” he boasted, and said that if he were sent down to the minor leagues, he would either go home or ask to be traded. Manager Schoendienst said Templeton reminded him of a young Hank Aaron when he hit from the right side. Third base coach Preston Gomez said Templeton’s instincts and thought process reminded him of Maury Wills.
The Cards left Templeton out of the starting lineup in only 4 games out of the remaining 54 games of the season after August 9th. Two of those games were second games of a doubleheader and one was a game after he had started both ends of a doubleheader the day before. He was always placed in the second spot in the order, almost always behind CF Jerry Mumphrey, with Lou Brock batting 3rd. At 20 years old and the youngest player in the National League, Templeton slashed .291/.314/.362, and had an astonishing 24 errors in 53 games at short. Templeton was a negative defender, but actually not as bad as Kessinger, who had few errors, but much worse range.
Templeton finished 4th in the 1977 National League All-Star voting behind Dave Concepcion, Larry Bowa and Bill Russell. Initially, Templeton said that he might refuse and take those days off. “If I can’t start, I don’t want to go,” he claimed. Then when manager Sparky Anderson surprisingly named him to the squad as a reserve over Bowa and Russell, he figured he would go, saying “I’m not excited, but it’ll be fun.” At the time he was named to the squad, Templeton was slashing .312/.321/.414. Templeton came into the game in the bottom of the 6th. He booted what should have been an inning-ending double play ball by Graig Nettles in the bottom of the 7th, which led to a run scoring. Then he came up in the top of the 8th against Yankees’ pitcher Sparky Lyle and showed his speed.
Although Templeton batted mostly second in the order, manager Vern Rapp dabbled with leading him off, and batted him third most of the time for the final month-and-a-half. Templeton ended the 1977 season with a slash line of .322/.336/.449. His 200 hits led the Cardinal club. At 21 years old, Templeton was the youngest shortstop since 1900 to get 200 hits, and was only the 14th shortstop ever to accomplish the feat, the last being Dick Groat of the 1963 Cardinals. Templeton’s 18 triples led the majors and was the highest total since Willie Mays hit 20 triples for the 1957 New York Giants. And it was the highest total by a Cardinal since Stan Musial hit 20 triples in 1946. Among all regular major league shortstops, Templeton was first in hits (200), singles (155) and triples (18), tied for first in home runs (8), first in runs scored (94), total bases (279), RBIs (79), AVG (.322), SLG (.449), ISO (.127) and DRC+ (99). Only Rick Burleson had a better OBP, and it was only 2 points higher. Templeton was 5th among shortstops with a 2.6 WARP, behind only Ivan DeJesus, Dave Concepcion, Bert Campaneris and Bill Russell. This was all because of defense, where he lagged far behind with a -5 FRAA, the worst number outside a handful of starters. Templeton would get to balls no other shortstop would, but he would boot routine grounders and make errant throws. His 32 errors at shortstop were 5th most among shortstops.
Templeton needed to work on his throwing, and he established a tradition of preferring to take poison than a walk (2.3% BB rate, with only 1 walk in 245 PA batting right-handed). He also was caught stealing way too many times (24 times in 52 tries) but with all his accomplishments as the youngest regular shortstop in the league, the future looked bright. His 200 hits led the Cards by a substantial margin, and was the first time since 1971 that a Cardinal had 200 hits, when both Joe Torre and Lou Brock did it. During the St. Louis chapter’s BBWAA dinner where he shared the J.G. Taylor Spink award as the St. Louis Baseball Man of the Year, a confident Templeton said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
On February 8th, 1978, Templeton signed a 1-year, $100,000 contract, which was believed to be the largest one-year deal ever signed for a 2nd year player. Fred Lynn of the Red Sox made $165,000 in his second year in 1976, but that was part of a multi-year deal designed to stave off free agency. When asked about a possible sophomore jinx, Templeton quipped “What’s a sophomore jinx? When I was a sophomore in high school, I hit .400.” Bob Broeg wrote a column in the Post-Dispatch suggesting that of all shortstops who could hit, field and run, only Honus Wagner was better than Templeton, and that Templeton could be the best player the Cards ever developed. Lou Brock said the Templeton had the bat and legs to bat .400. The Cards’ new all-turf infield for 1978 would put the theory to the test.
As it turned out, 1978 was a down year for Templeton. Some observers felt that Templeton was too nonchalant in the field, scooping up grounders like a pebble and throwing the ball with the minimum force necessary to first. Templeton said that he had been playing that way since he was little, and it was nothing more than a smooth and fluid style. But he had 17 errors in his first 46 games, and 25 at the All-Star Break. Templeton was being booed and started not talking to the press. He was the fourth in the All-Star voting once again, but was not selected as a reserve this time, probably because of his defense and the fact that he was slashing .240/.263/.320 at the break. Templeton improved with the bat after talking with his father, telling the Post-Dispatch that Mo (Mo Mozzali, the Cardinal hitting coach) hadn’t done anything for him. Templeton finished the season with a .280/.303/.377 slash line with a 73 DRC+, He led the National League with 13 triples and also in errors at all positions with 40. Templeton would typically post BABIPs in the .340 to .350 range when he was with the Cardinals, but in 1978, it was only .319, a factor which must have affected his numbers. The FRAA metric actually had Templeton at +3.3 for his fielding, suggesting that his tremendous range overcompensated for his mistakes.
Manager Ken Boyer, who had been hired in late April to take over for the fired Vern Rapp, was rehired for 1979, despite the club’s 69-93 record, the most losses for the Cardinals since 1924 and the worst winning percentage since war-shortened 1918. Boyer said that one of his foremost priorities for 1979 was to take Templeton and make him think defense first. “He’s a great offensive player,” Boyer said, “but in order for a ballclub to win, you’ve got to have solid play at shortstop, whether the guy hits .230 or .250.” Boyer noted that he didn’t think Templeton fully understood the impact of how important a shortstop was to a team. Templeton just said he would play like he always did, and he was happy with his performance.
General manager Bing Devine, however, did not escape the ax. Before he was fired for the second time in October of 1978, he actually had a tentative deal in place with the California Angels to trade Templeton for infielder Dickie Thon and left-handed pitcher Frank Tanana. Devine denied it to the press as a wild rumor at the time, but would confirm it in an oral history published in 1987 by the Society of American Baseball Research. New General Manager John Claiborne did not make the trade, but one of his first orders of business as the new general manager was to offer Templeton a 1979 contract with a 10% pay cut, citing attendance drops from a poor season. That was really the beginning of the end with Templeton in St. Louis. Claiborne would later acknowledge he made a mistake, and soon offered Templeton a $15,000 raise, but the damage had been done. Templeton had said towards the end of the 1978 season that he should have been included in a package deal with Jerry Morales, Jerry Mumphrey and Tony Scott. After the Claiborne snub, Templeton reiterated his desire to be traded and noted that other than offering to dock his pay, Claiborne had not spoken to him since he took the General Manager job. He felt the contract offers were insults, claiming that there were guys making more in baseball than he was who couldn’t even tie his shoestrings.
In those days, players were eligible for arbitration if they had 2 years of MLB service, with service in at least parts of 3 seasons. Templeton settled with the Cardinals on a $130,000 contract the week of the scheduled arbitration hearing. Templeton remained angry, saying it wasn’t enough money. Tired of the discussion about his errors, Templeton said “If I come back and play conservatively and let those balls go through, then what are they going to say?” When told most of the criticism was about his throwing errors, he jabbed “If I don’t make the play, I don’t have to throw it. I could say they aren’t paying me enough to make that play.” But he still said he would do the best he could. Shortly after that, Templeton and Claiborne supposedly settled their differences in a closed-door meeting.
But Templeton popped off again during spring training, when he was asked what he thought about the suggestions that he wasn’t putting out 100% in spring training:
I’m not going to play hard. I’m not going to do my best here. Hopefully, I’ll be traded if the Cards aren’t too chicken to trade me. I’ll put out what I want to put out. I’m going to mind my own business. If they want to put on my uniform and go out to shortstop, that’s fine. Then we’ll see what kinds of asses they make out of themselves. I’ll sit in the stands and woof at them. If they don’t like it, tough. I’m playing at my own pace, and I’m not going to hurry for anybody. Either get me traded or get me more money. They can take the Cardinal uniform and shove it. I’m going to do my thing because it is my thing. If they don’t like it, then get me the hell out of here. Get me where I’ll be more comfortable.
The next day, a press conference was held, where Templeton apologized for comments he said he made in a state of anger and walked back his desire to be traded. He said the crux of the problem was that management had criticized his style of playing shortstop. Manager Ken Boyer hired Dal Maxvill to be his first base coach and put him in charge of the infielders. Maxvill tried to work with Templeton on his defense, urging him to field the ball with two hands, instead of with just one, which resulted in an inconsistent release point for his throws. But Templeton insisted that his way of playing had become second nature to him because he had been doing it since childhood, and he felt it game him more speed, mobility and range. He said he was willing to make changes and improvements without affecting his basic skills, and his disagreement with the club over that issue boiled over. Boyer finally gave Templeton the green light to play his way.
On April 22nd, Boyer made Templeton happy by putting him in the leadoff spot and kept him there the rest of the year, moving Brock to the #2 hole when he played. Templeton was slashing .317/.339/.449 at the All-Star Break, but again finished fourth in the voting behind Larry Bowa, Dave Concepcion and Ozzie Smith. Manager Tommy Lasorda named him as a reserve to the squad when Concepcion backed out with an injury, but Templeton refused to go, preferring to take time off to be with his family. Weeks earlier, Templeton was the KMOX star of the game one night, and Jack Buck asked him about the All-Star Game. When Templeton indicated that he might not go, Jack Buck said something like “So, in other words, if you ain’t startin’, you ain’t departin’?” Templeton agreed with that assessment, although many years later he was still credited with coming up with the line on his own. Cardinal fans booed him during the first game back from the break.
1979 ended up being the best overall season of Templeton’s career with a 4.4 WARP (3rd among all shortstops), and although he was second in all of baseball with 34 errors, Baseball Prospecus gave him a +8.8 mark in FRAA. He slashed .314/.331/.458 with a career high 9 home runs. He also became the first player in history to log 100 hits from each side of the plate, batting right-handed against right-handed pitching for the last 8 games to accomplish the feat. His 211 hits were second in baseball only to George Brett’s 212. Templeton actually had one more hit than co-MVP Keith Hernandez in two fewer plate appearances, but Hernandez won the batting title (.344) because he had 80 walks to Templeton’s 18 and thus had 62 fewer official at-bats. Templeton led the league in triples for the third year in a row.
Templeton would sign a 1-year deal for a reported $300,000 for 1980 just minutes before the deadline to file for arbitration. Two weeks later, however, he would sign a 6-year, $4 million deal. The deal had an average annual value of $666,667, and bought out 3 additional arbitration years and Templeton’s first 3 years of free agency. Templeton was allowed to list six clubs to which he could not be traded. Templeton said he had grown to love St. Louis and the fans, that his mouth was closed, and he had nothing bad to say. Shortly after the contract was announced, Templeton agreed to buy 50 box seats for every home game at Busch Stadium in June, July and August to be expressly donated to underprivileged and handicapped children. “When you mature, you tend to change,” Templeton said. “A change was needed for me. I couldn’t go on being the bad guy.”
Templeton finished 3rd in the 1980 All-Star balloting behind Bill Russell and Dave Concepcion, and everyone was dumbfounded. Templeton was slashing .327/.355/.419 at the break, and at the time the final results were announced, his average was 3rd best in the National League and he had more hits than anyone in the majors. Manager Chuck Tanner would probably have picked Templeton as a reserve, but Templeton said in advance that he just wanted the extra days off. Templeton was well on his way to a batting title in 1980 when he fractured the bone between the first joint and fingernail of his left thumb while sliding into first base in a July 23rd game against the Dodgers. He slid headfirst into first base trying to beat out a groundball and attempting to elude a tag from pitcher Bob Welch.
Templeton returned to the lineup on August 14th, but didn’t last long, as he broke the index finger on his right hand when he dove for a grounder in batting practice on August 22nd. He returned to the Cards on September 9th, but did not start a game at shortstop or get a plate appearance until September 17th. He finished the year at .317/.342/.417 with 29 errors in only 115 games in the field. Baseball Prospectus rated it as his best fielding year ever with +8.8 FRAA. His batting average was third in the NL behind Bill Buckner (.324) and Keith Hernandez (.321).
Whitey Herzog engineered several trades in the December 1980 winter meetings to reconstruct his club for 1981 and said that Templeton was the only untouchable. Starting on May 22nd, 1981, Templeton sat out of the starting lineup for 3 days because of a sinus infection and the flu. Herzog batted Tommy Herr leadoff, left him there when Templeton came back, and kept him there through the date the players voted to strike. This was a total of 16 games that Templeton was left out of his customary leadoff spot. At that time, Templeton only had 7 unintentional walks, and his OBP was .315. On May 28th, Templeton complained to the Post-Dispatch about his spot in the lineup, saying he should bat leadoff and his best friend Tony Scott should bat second. Upset at being dropped in the order, he said “I really don’t feel comfortable where I’m hitting. My thinking is hurt. I’m completely messed up.” On May 31st, the complaining continued. In a discussion with Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, Templeton was reminded of a conversation about Steve Carlton and that Carlton had gone on to haunt the Cardinals. “Maybe I should do that,” Templeton said. “I’d like to be traded. Put me and Tony Scott in a package deal and send us to San Diego.” He continued:
This organization has had enough of me. I’m tired of this. I want to go somewhere else. Send me to the West Coast. Back home. It’s not the people, it’s not the fans, it’s not St. Louis. I just want to go somewhere else. They trade guys like me every day. I want to be one of them. I want to go home. I just don’t like playing here anymore. I’m tired of driving across the country, back and forth. Write in the paper. I won’t have to tell everybody.
Templeton sat out a June 4th afternoon home game against Montreal because he told Whitey Herzog he was too tired to play. The Cards traded Tony Scott to the Houston Astros for Joaquin Andujar a few days later. Templeton slashed .265/.302/.395 before the strike. When play resumed after the strike, Herzog put Templeton back in the leadoff spot. The Cards’ first game back was a Monday night baseball game on ABC, televised nationally on August 10th. The game was broadcast by Al Michaels and Bob Uecker. During the game, the crew played a pre-game interview Michaels had with Templeton, where Templeton said “If they (the Cardinals) can continue to make me happy there, I’d like to stay there, but if not, then I’d like to move on to the West Coast.” Templeton came out of the August 20th game with knee soreness, then he sat out the Saturday game on August 22nd. He was supposed to have x-rays that morning to determine the extent of the injuries, but he didn’t wake up in time to show up for the appointment with Dr. Stan London. He missed the Sunday, August 23rd game as well, complaining of ankle and hamstring injuries.
It was on Wednesday, August 26th, 1981, that Templeton sealed his exit out of St. Louis. It was a getaway day game after a night game, the type of game which the 25-year old Templeton had previously told Herzog he didn’t wish to play. There was a 1 hour and 28 minute rain delay before the afternoon Ladies’ Day crowd of about 7,700 fans at Busch Stadium. Leading off the bottom of the first inning, Templeton struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt from Giants’ left-hander Gary Lavelle. The ball bounced in front of catcher Milt May. Templeton jogged a few paces towards first base, then when he reached about the half-way mark, he veered towards the Cardinal dugout. Templeton had no real shot to make it, but the St. Louis fans didn’t appreciate his lack of hustle. As Templeton walked towards the dugout, he had his batting helmet on the knob of his bat, which he handed to the bat-boy, who came rushing out to get it. Immediately after handing the bat to the bat-boy, Templeton crossed his left arm over his chest, while simultaneously putting his right hand under it, and sticking his right fist in the air, as if to say “Up yours.” He then extended his middle finger to the crowd.
The 12:30 p.m. game was not televised in St. Louis, and my check of the San Francisco Examiner shows that it was not televised in San Francisco either. There is footage of it somewhere, however, because MLB Network actually showed the sequence I described above in a special it aired this spring on the 1980s Cardinals called Birds of a Feather. I have it stored on my DVR, but I have no idea how to get it onto a hard drive and upload it here. In any case, home plate umpire Bruce Froemming warned Templeton after this. But the boos and jeers continued as Templeton went out to his position in the top of the 2nd and 3rd innings. In the bottom of the 3rd, Templeton was on deck when Cards’ starter Joaquin Andujar flied out to center field. Tired of the continued booing, Templeton flipped off the fans again.
At this point, Froemming ejected Templeton, who then stopped by the front step of the dugout, yelled to the crowd and grabbed his crotch.
Whitey Herzog caught this, went to the top of the dugout, yanked Templeton in the dugout and a scuffle ensued.
According to the Post-Dispatch, Herzog yelled to Templeton:
Get out of here. I don’t want you on the road trip. I don’t want you around my players. I don’t want to see you. You make $690,000 and you go out and make an ass out of yourself. I don’t need that and my boys don’t need that.
Mike Ramsey replaced Templeton at shortstop. At the time, the Cards were down, 2-0, but came back to win 9-4 after an 8-run outburst in the bottom of the 5th. After players and coaches separated Herzog and Templeton, Herzog told Templeton to wait for him, but Templeton ignored the order and left Busch Stadium under police escort. Herzog fined Templeton $5,000 and placed him on the club’s suspended list.
What was going on here? The next day, Templeton met with Dr. Stan London and apparently was “very receptive, almost anxious” to pursue psychiatric help. Herzog would later say that Templeton got messed up on drugs. In this linked video below, which captures Herzog speaking to a group of chiropractors in 2008, Herzog discusses the Templeton incident starting around the 32:20 mark.
The Cardinals played the next night after the incident in San Diego, then had an off day the following day. During the off day, he got two phone calls. Unknown to anyone, the first was from Gussie Busch, who told Herzog to release Templeton immediately. Herzog had a lot of clout with Gussie and reminded him that his trade of Steve Carlton probably cost the club 5 pennants. Herzog promised Gussie that he would release Templeton by spring training of 1982 if he couldn’t make a trade before then, and Gussie agreed. The second phone call was from Dr. Stan London, the team doctor, who told Herzog that he couldn’t put Templeton on the suspended list. When informed that he had already done so, London said Herzog had to take him off because of the drugs that Templeton was on. Templeton was soon admitted to a hospital with what were called “emotional problems.” Herzog then transferred Templeton from the suspended list to the disabled list, retroactive to August 28th, meaning the incident only cost Templeton the $5,000 fine plus around $4,000 for one day’s pay.
For the rest of the period that Templeton was away, this was described as a depression issue, and both Templeton and his agent would strongly deny any drug connection. There may have been a legitimate issue of clinical depression. Herzog would later say in one of his books that Templeton was not himself the whole season of 1981, and that when Templeton came up to him one day and said he didn’t want to play day games after night games anymore, he knew that wasn’t the real Templeton. But there is also evidence that drugs were a factor. In addition to the Herzog video, Ken Reitz would tell Sports Illustrated in 1986 that Templeton introduced him to cocaine in 1978. One Cardinal told the Sporting News, “We knew Templeton was hanging around with a drug pusher in Florida. The pusher got killed in a car wreck and Garry was okay for a while, but when we went to Montreal early in the season, he got messed up again and kicked away two ball games. This thing has been building up for some time.”
Templeton would later tell an entirely different story to Brad Balukjian, a professor of biology and environmental management at Merritt College. Balukjian is a life long baseball fan, and wrote 2020 a book called The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife. The book tells the story of his journey to hit 30 states in 48 days to try to track down and interview 14 players from a wax pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards. One of the players was Templeton. Templeton said “Whitey stabbed me in the fucking back.” Templeton said that when he went to team doctors in late August, they told him he had torn cartilage in his knee and sprained ligaments in his ankle. It was for this reason that Templeton asked out for some games. Templeton had asked out for the game on the date of the incident, but Herzog told him that they needed him for the stretch run. He then told Templeton not to run in a routine situation where he knew he would be out, because Herzog didn’t want Templeton to seriously hurt himself.
So when Templeton barely jogged halfway to first on the strikeout play, knowing he had no chance to beat the throw to first, he thought he was just following orders. In addition to being booed, Templeton said fans near the dugout threw ice at him, and shouted racial slurs at him, including the “N word.” After a couple innings worth of the “N word,” Templeton had enough and grabbed his crotch. Templeton insisted that Herzog and his teammates must have heard the slurs, but nothing about that came out in the press, and everyone threw him under the bus. Nobody acknowledged it or defended him. Indeed, Herzog would tell a group in a speech:
He doesn’t want to play in St. Louis. He doesn’t want to play on artificial turf. He doesn’t want to play when we go into Montreal. He doesn’t want to play in the Astrodome. He doesn’t want to play in the rain. The other 80 games, he’s all right.
While he was portrayed as a lazy, spoiled ballplayer, Templeton describes his conduct as his reaction to a racially motivated incident. He insists that although the press was told that he had depression and a chemical imbalance, there was nothing wrong with him at all, and that was just him toeing the party line in order to get back on the field. He describes his time in the hospital as him playing ping pong and he said he flushed all the medication they gave him down the toilet. The author of the book told that part of the story to Derrick Goold in this podcast. If this is true, it certainly fooled the doctors who treated him, who said that he had a serious problem that stemmed from childhood.
Templeton ended up apologizing and returning to the club on September 15th for a doubleheader at Montreal. Although Templeton would start in every game but one the rest of the season, the Cards finished the second half of the season one-half game behind Montreal and out of the playoffs. He requested a trade when Herzog visited him in the hospital, and after a lengthy negotiation that deserves its own article, the Cards finally traded Templeton to the Padres for Ozzie Smith in February of 1982. Templeton’s chronic knee injury robbed him of his speed and range, and he was never the same ballplayer. Although he would play through the 1991 season, get to the NLCS with the Padres in 1984 and put up a 3.2 WARP season in 1985, Templeton had only one additional season in which he put up at least 1 WARP. In almost every season thereafter, Templeton’s AVG and OPB were in the twos, and he never again had even an average offensive season at the plate.
Templeton settled down in San Diego and was inducted in the Padres’ Hall of Fame. He would manage in the minor leagues and independent leagues for several years. But there are surely several Cardinal fans that wonder what would have happened if things had been able to work out with Templeton. One thing is for sure, and that is that we never would have gotten Ozzie.