January 2009

Cardinals Ricky Horton and the story of the 1985 locker room celebration champagne bottle


Many of the great St. Louis Cardinal Legends are in Jupiter, FL January 21-25, 2009 playing against 102 Cardinal fantasy campers at Roger Dean Stadium to benefit Hire Heroes USA. Hire Heroes USA is dedicated to providing job assistance to our wounded and disabled military personnel returning from conflicts overseas.

St. Louis Cardinal Camp coordinator Sara Trask invited me to camp for a meeting with St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Ricky Horton. First, I had a chance to see the Cardinal Legend team play and I spotted pitcher Ken Dayley in right field and also said “Hi” to catcher Mike Matheny. Many former Cardinals participate in camp including Lou Brock (instructor), John Tudor, Mike Lavalliere and Joe Magrane just to name a few.

This is Field of Dreams Cardinal style.

Oh yeah, and while I was waiting for Rick Horton we had to find a glove for Lou Brock so he could play in the afternoon game. Pinch me am I dreaming?

Rick Horton is the St. Louis Cardinals Legends Camp Commissioner and also is one of the Cardinals television color commentators.  He arrived in his golf cart by the batting cages where we met for our interview. I shook Rick’s hand and told him this was not the first time we had met and that I had something to show him.


 
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Ricky Horton reviews his 1985 Cardinals DYNASTY League Baseball card in the shadow of the 1985 celebration champagne bottle 

I had boxed and packed what I was about to show Rick like it was the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the lost ark. Rick watched wide-eyed as I unwrapped a champagne bottle from the Cardinals locker room on Saturday October 5, 1985. The Cardinals had just clinched the NL East Pennant in a 7-1 win vs. the Cubs with John Tudor getting the win. On the bottle are the signatures signed in the champagne drenched locker room of John Tudor, Andy Van Slyke, Jack Clark, Joaquin Andujar (#47), Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee (1985 MVP) and Ricky Horton

Rick’s reaction was “WOW! This is so cool! We have to show this to John Tudor and the rest of the guys.”

Rick’s signature was the only one in ink (the rest were from a sharpie that Willie McGee was nice enough to borrow me) and was faded. After our interview, Rick re-signed his signature with a sharpie so this one of a kind piece of Cardinal memorabilia would not forget him.

The champagne was flowing that day in the Cardinal Busch Stadium locker room. I was in the locker room after meeting with Mike Rappaport of the old St. Louis Globe Democrat who wrote a column in which we pre-played the key October 1-3 series vs. the rival New York Mets in a thrilling pennant race that went right down to the wire.

After Willie McGee borrowed me his sharpie, I went locker to locker to congratulate the players and record the moment on the champagne bottle. As I walked out of Busch Stadium with my prize firmly in hand, waiting outside were thousands of fans. I was like Moses parting the red sea of Cardinal fans as they cheered loudly realizing what I had in hand had come from the victorious locker room. What a moment!

Rick was one of the key pitchers out of Whitey Herzog’s bullpen for the 1985 Cardinals. The 1985 Cardinals are part of Greatest Teams 1 so everyone pull out your Ricky Horton DYNASTY League Baseball player card or fire up the DYNASTY League Baseball Windows version and load a game with the 1985 Cardinals (maybe vs. the 1986 rival NY Mets?) to view Rick’s player card.


 


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“Is my 7/A (-2) pickoff hold rating good?” – Ricky Horton

I handed an uncut sheet of 1985 Cardinal player cards to Rick with the Ricky Horton card in the upper left-hand corner of the sheet. Rick studied his player card and immediately asked if his Pickoff/Hold rating of 7/A (-2) was good?

I explained that the 7 Pickoff rating was excellent on a scale of 1-10 and that the A Hold rating was excellent at preventing runners from attempting to steal and the (-2) reduced the SB success percentage of opposing base stealers.

I then went on to show Rick the Deep Drive Ball park chart distance numbers in feet with the various power ratings, wind and temperature adjustments along with the Ball Park charts of Busch Stadium 2 from both 1966-1969 and 1977-1991.

“I used to play Strat-O-Matic, but DYNASTY League Baseball is much more realistic.”, said Rick.

Then we went on for a few questions:

MC: You were especially tough vs. LH batters (.219 BA vs. LH in 1985). Which pitches did you feel were your best pitches vs. LH batters?

RH: “Slider away and fastball in were the pitches that I used most to get LH batters out.”

MC: Did you feel that the Cardinals had an advantage over other teams with Whitey Herzog managing?

RH: “Absolutely.” “I saw many times how Whitey boxed other Mangers in.” “Whitey was an incredible Manager and always was thinking one step ahead.”

I followed up by saying that Whitey Herzog has to be in the Hall of Fame as a Manager and Rick agreed that there is no question he has to be in the Hall of Fame.

MC: You were an excellent fielder. Is fielding ability something that you took extra pride in given that the Cardinals were such a great defensive team?

RH: “The bar was set high with the Cardinals.” Rick said that there was a team influence and emphasis on defense. Since he was not a power pitcher, fielding was one of the things he focused on.

MC: In 1985 you lead the Cardinal staff with 3 pickoffs pitching only 89 innings.

You had a very good pick off move and ability to hold runners. Were you especially conscious of stopping the running game since it was such a big part of the Cardinal attack?

RH: “When I was in college I would look in the mirror to work on my pickoff move instead of studying for calculus.” Whitey Herzog told Rick that since he was not an overpowering pitcher that it was important to do the little things right. Rick mentioned that in 1986 he was voted Best Move in the League by NL Managers.

We ended exchanging contact info and the real prospect of DYNASTY League Baseball becoming a sponsor of St. Louis Cardinals Legends Camp. So stay tuned and hopefully we’ll have much more with Ricky Horton and the rest of the Cardinal Legends with their take on DYNASTY League Baseball.

 

 

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