The United Cardinal Bloggers project this month presented a bit of a challenge. An interesting challenge, though, because the task was to identify our favorite “obscure” Cardinal players.
Now, what exactly qualifies them as “obscure” was left pretty much up to our imagination. As long as they don’t have a spot in the Hall of Fame, they are valid options. That narrows it down, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is one of those scrappy role players that made a splash here and there with exceptional effort. Maybe it was someone who wasn’t around long enough to build a massive following. Regardless, their time in Cardinal red left an imprint on our minds.
This is the part where we here at AMF give an obligatory “obscure favorite” nod to our namesake, Sir Scrappy himself, Aaron Miles. (Though, in reality he’s anything but obscure in our corner of Cardinal Nation!) Now, though, we offer our selections for obscure players and moments in Cardinal history.
This project was quite the task. I changed my mind several times, as I debated what deemed a player “obscure,” what memories I had of such players, and who could be considered a favorite. However, once I settled on the one, I knew!
He was the first (and only, if I’m correct!) Japanese-born player to wear the Birds on the Bat, after signing with the Cardinals as a free agent in 2002. He was already 33 years old. Four years later, he would become the first Japanese National League player to win a World Series ring.
The 2006 World Series was the first championship in my lifetime, so it yielded plenty of precious memories. Taguchi was often a part of those moments.
For instance, during the NLCS against the Mets (a series certainly known for other lasting memories!), the “So-man,” as Mike Shannon called him, battled back from an 0-2 count against Billy Wagner. But as all good-and-scrappy Cardinals do, he battled back, just as the Cards had (from down 3-0, 4-2 and 6-4) all night.
With the count full, Taguchi took Wagner yard to give the Cardinals their first lead of the night. Oh, and that was his second home run in as many at bats in the ’06 postseason. Not bad for a defensive substitution, eh?
Needless to say, I was pretty pumped to watch So celebrate with the guys after Adam Wainwright closed out the World Series win. I’ll never forget the pictures of the Taguchi family — little son, Kan, up on dad’s shoulders as the confetti fell!
In case you’re wondering, Taguchi also because the first Japanese player to win a World Series with two different teams after winning with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
Not bad, indeed!
Honorable mention: Scott Spiezio, who had a big night in this NLCS game, too. And who didn’t love that Cardinal-red goatee?!
My choice provides a little twist on the topic. None of my favorite Cardinals since I became a fan in 2000 have necessarily been obscure — Mark McGwire, Rick Ankiel, Matt Morris, Chris Carpenter — and even other guys that I’ve liked were pretty much familiar names, like Larry Walker or Jeff Suppan (pre-2010). And, as Tara mentioned, one perfect candidate — Aaron Miles — was a little too obvious.
So I went with my favorite moment by an obscure Cardinal. It was one I witnessed in person, at old Busch Stadium during the June 12, 2005, Yankees vs. Cardinals game. And, if you’re looking at the picture to the right and thinking “Seabol? Who?” — yeah, pretty much proves the point.
Scott Seabol was briefly a Cardinal, for 59 games in 2005. He also appeared in one game for the Yankees in 2001. His Baseball Reference profile lists his position as pinch-hitter first but, since he played for Tony La Russa, of course he also played both third and second base.
My friend Kat, a Yankees fan, and I attended the Saturday and Sunday games of that series in St. Louis — the only time the Yankees have visited the Cardinals during the 15 years of inter-league play so far. I’d been excited for Saturday’s game, since Mark Mulder was pitching against Randy Johnson. And the Big Unit did not disappoint. Mulder, on the other hand, gave up four runs in six innings as the Cardinals lost 5-0.
Sunday promised to be better, with Matt Morris taking on Carl Pavano. It was a pitcher’s duel, with each starter allowing only one earned run during the six innings he pitched. The game was tied at three in the seventh inning when Seabol came out to pinch-hit for Ray King. Yadier Molina had singled just before.
And all Scott did was hit his first, and only, major league home run that put the Cards up 5-3 (which was the final score). Here’s a description of the action:
Four years ago, Scott Seabol popped out in his only major league at-bat with the New York Yankees. On Sunday, he beat the team that picked him in the 88th round of the 1996 draft with his first career home run.
Seabol’s two-run, pinch-hit shot in the seventh inning provided the go-ahead run in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 5-3 victory over the sputtering Yankees.
“I’m just looking for a pitch I can take a good swing at and hit it hard,” Seabol said. “Fortunately, I kind of did both. I couldn’t be happier.”
Seabol, 30, had a little extra adrenaline for the Yankees, saying “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.”
Yankees manager Joe Torre vaguely recalled Seabol.”We had him for a handful of days,” Torre said. “We knew he was strong, we knew he could do what we saw him do today. We just made a bad pitch.”
As the picture above shows, he also received his first — and I’m sure only — Busch Stadium curtain call. It was definitely an amazing moment for an obscure, if not pretty much completely forgotten, Cardinal. But one that still stands out for me seven years later.
Bo Hart was my favorite obscure Cardinal.
Bo brought a lot of
Hart err … heart to the bench and scrap to the infield when he was called up to the big league team in 2003 and 2004. He actually played 77 games with the Cards in 2003, splitting time between second base and shortstop. In that time, he had a .277 batting average, 13 doubles, five triples, four homers, 28 runs batted in and three stolen bases. He only played in 11 games in the ’04 season.
He was with the Colorado Rockies farm team in 2005, and in 2006, came back to the Cardinals.
I was lucky enough to be in Memphis during one hot August evening as little Bo Hart took the field at AutoZone Park. I remember the game was won in walk off fashion with Bo Hart providing the dramatics. I thought for sure he was going to get called up to the bigs again. He never was called up during the ’06 championship run. In 2007, he spent some time in the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles systems. And that was it.
Bo Hart … his legend was huge!
Hart is now part of the radio broadcast team for the Memphis Redbirds.
Read about more of the UCB obscure favorites HERE.