photo: Branch Rickey
Over time, multiple members of many families have been members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Lou Roesch recalls multiples.
The St. Louis Cardinals are a storied franchise – and like any other they have a legacy of players – some great and some not so great who passed through their annals of history. Over the decades, the Cardinals have employed some of the finest players to ever wear a uniform competing on the ball diamonds in and around St. Louis. More than 2,000 players have suited up for the organization since its inception in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings. Records for the early years are sketchy at best and as such we will pick up where the Cardinals began to flourish under the guidance of then-owner Sam Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey in the mid 1920’s. This article will provide insight into the assertion that baseball truly is a family sport by highlighting a variety of Cardinals’ players and their bloodlines in baseball.
Rickey’s legacy has now transcended generations. His son Branch Jr. spent many years as his father’s right-hand man and his grandson Branch Rickey III was the last president of the Pacific Coast League that ceased operation for 2021. Under his grandfather’s tutelage, the team gained three players in outfielders Wally Roettger and Chick Hafey and infielder Billy Southworth who had some pretty good baseball bloodlines.
Roettger spent the years 1927 through 1929 and again in 1931 with the Redbirds. Over that span, he hit .293 with more than half his 200 hits going for extra bases. The youngest of three brothers, the right-handed hitting Roettger had the first hit and scored the first run of the 1931 World Series.
The St. Louis native had two brothers involved with professional baseball. Roettger’s older brother Harold (Hal) was an executive assistant to Rickey for more then 20 years until his death in 1955. Oscar, the oldest of the three, appeared in 37 major league games for three different teams including the 1927 New York Yankees. He became more well known as the chief sales executive for Rawlings working into the mid 1980’s.
Baseball and Cardinals Hall of Famer Chick Hafey became the first player to wear glasses primarily due to double vision. For six of his seven years, he was a main figure in the St. Louis lineup. Rickey once said,” I always thought that if Hafey had been blessed with normal eyesight, he might have been the best right-handed hitter baseball had ever known. Hafey was selected to the National League’s first All-Star Game in 1933 and collected the first hit.
Hafey’s brother Albert and cousins Tom and Bud all played professional baseball. Albert never made it to the big show, but Tom and Bud did. Bud spent 12 years among four different teams even including a brief stint in the Cardinals minor league organization in 1936. Tom spent parts of two seasons in the majors debuting with the New York Giants in 1939.
The last of this trio, Billy Southworth, came to the Cardinals in 1926. A pretty darn good hitter, the infielder hit .345 in the 1926 World Series playing in all seven games. St. Louis saw Southworth as more then just a good ballplayer. They liked his leadership skills and eventually gave him the opportunity to manage the team. His first managing stint didn’t end well but the second time around his teams won three pennants and two World Series titles from 1940-1945. Southworth was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 and is in the Cardinals Hall as well.
Southworth’s son Billy Jr. also played professionally as did cousin Bill Southworth. Although Billy Jr. did not make it to the majors like his father, he was a decorated bomber pilot during World War II. After playing at Webster Groves High School, cousin Bill reached the majors as a third baseman for the Milwaukee Braves in 1964. A right-handed hitter like the rest of the Southworth clan, he went 2 for 7 in his brief career with his one of his hits a two-run home run in his final game on October 4, 1964. At the age of 18, he was the youngest to homer in Braves history.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Cardinals had at least three different baseball families run through the organization with strong baseball genes.
The Cruz family is possibly the most well-known of the three. Jose Cruz Sr., an undrafted free agent signed straight out of high school, reached the big leagues in 1970 with the Cardinals. Three years later, his brother Hector ascended to the Cardinals as well. Although in a limited capacity, brother Tommy also came to the bigs with the 1973 Cardinals, giving St. Louis all three Cruz brothers on the roster at the same time. Together the three brothers combined for 28 plus years of major league baseball experience. The Cruz lineage does not stop there as Jose Cruz Jr., son of the elder Cruz, enjoyed a 12-year major league career before becoming the head coach at Rice University in Houston, Texas. At Rice, Cruz coached his son Trei, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft.
Vic Davallio, known more to older Cardinals’ fans, was the epitome of premier pinch hitters. The outfielder arrived via trade in 1969 and instantly made his presence felt. In his first at-bat as a Cardinal, Davallio hit a three-run home run. Almost a month to the day of that home run, the native Venezuelan launched a grand slam to key another Cardinals win. After a solid 1969 season with the Cardinals, Davallio hit .310 as a pinch hitter, going 23-for-74, setting the record for pinch hits in a season. His older brother Pompeyo preceded him to the majors with the then-Cincinnati Redlegs.
Ed Spezio is another Cardinals ballplayer to have another generation follow him into professional baseball. Known as the “Joliet Jolter,” Spezio hit .205 during his five years with the Cardinals and earned World Series rings 1964 and 1967 as a spot player. On a side note after being traded to the expansion San Diego Padres, the third baseman had the first hit, first home run, and first run scored in team history.
Ed’s son Scott had a 12-year major league career primarily as a reserve player and pinch hitter. In 2006, Spezio signed a free agent minor league contract with the Cardinals and earned a roster spot coming out of spring training. Scott’s arrival in St. Louis gave the Cardinals their third father-son duo in team history.
In 2007, when the Cardinals presented their World Series rings, Ed was there to hand Scott his. They became the first father-son to earn a World Series ring with the same team.
The late 1970’s brought two more family bloodlines to the Cardinals in the person of Dane Iorg and Tommy Herr. Iorg came to the Cardinals in a trade that sent 1974 Rookie of the Year Bake McBride to the Philadelphia Phillies. Iorg played all four corner positions and was a valuable pinch-hitter for Whitey Herzog’s small-ball Redbirds. Iorg led the Cardinals in hits (9) and extra base-hits (5) in just 17 at bats in the 1982 World Series.
Iorg’s brother Garth also enjoyed a major league career and his other brother Lee reached the AAA level with the New York Mets. All three of Iorg’s sons played minor league baseball as well.
Herr debuted with the Cardinals on August 13, 1979. The second baseman reached the 100 RBI plateau and was a National League All-Star in 1985. He played in three Fall Classics, winning it all in 1982. His sons Jordan and Aaron played minor league ball. Aaron competed one year for the Cardinals AA affiliate Springfield hitting .298. Jordan was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the 41st round in the 2007 draft. Tommy was voted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2020.
This article began with one of baseball’s most famous names in Branch Rickey and ends with one of the greatest Cardinals of them all – Red Schoendienst. The Germantown native spent 67 of his 76 years in baseball with St. Louis. His five brothers all played professional baseball, although none attained the Hall of Fame status of the “Old Redhead.” Red’s son Kevin played two seasons in the Chicago Cubs organization.
The names highlighted in the article are just a sample of those that have passed through St. Louis. Names like Schofield, Molina, Boyer, Drew, Tatis and even the DeWitt family who currently own the Cardinals, could have been included, among others. No matter who you root for, it is always exciting to remember when and where you first heard a name, especially when it brings back memories of years gone by.
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