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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

RetroSimba: Bill White: We thought Brock deal was nuts

And even more imbroglios with Bob Gibson!

Q. You were part of an all-star infield with third baseman Ken Boyer, shortstop Dick Groat and second baseman Julian Javier. Was that the best infield you’ve ever seen?

Bill White: It was a good infield. It probably was not the best. Ken Boyer might have been the best third baseman I’d seen or played with. Groat had mobility problems. He understood how to play the hitters, but he had very little range and he didn’t have that real good arm. Javier was a pretty good second baseman. He made a great double play and he could go way out to center field for pop-ups because Curt Flood played a deep center field.

It was a good infield, the best infield that I was on, but I’m not sure it was the best ever. It might have been the best Cardinals infield.

Q: In 1964, the Cardinals’ offense was struggling. On June 15, the Cardinals acquired Lou Brock from the Cubs for Ernie Broglio. Did you know then the trade would turn out so well for the Cardinals?

Bill White: None of us did. We all thought it was nuts. Lou was a raw talent. At that point, he didn’t really understand baseball. He might try to steal while 10 runs up or 10 runs down.

When he got to St. Louis, Johnny Keane told him what he expected of him, and he turned him loose. I think Lou relaxed in St. Louis. Now he’s in the Hall of Fame. Without Brock, we would not have won.

Repoz Posted: March 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: books, cardinals, history, phillies

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   1. stanmvp48 Posted: March 29, 2011 at 03:20 PM (#3780489)
He also didn't have to play centerfield in St Louis as he did in Chicago-correct me if I am wrong. He still had terrible fielding percentages in left field.
   2. OCF Posted: March 29, 2011 at 03:37 PM (#3780502)
The Cubs had already abandoned the idea of Brock playing CF. He was actually playing RF for them, with Billy WIlliams in left.

The Cardinal portion of Brock's 1964 season is an outlier of an otherwise remarkably steady career, and it's a BABIP fluke. See my discussion here.
   3. just plain joe Posted: March 29, 2011 at 03:39 PM (#3780505)
When the Brock-Broglio trade was made (there were other players involved on both sides) it was generally agreed that the Cubs got the best end of the deal. Broglio was coming off a four season stretch in which his ERA+ ranged 150/108/144/120 and he had won 60 games. If there were warning signs it was that he had been worked hard (averaging well over 200 innings per year) and his K/9 rate was going down (7.5 in 1960/5.2 in 1963). In the meantime Brock had "proved" that he didn't have the arm to stick in right field; whether or not he could have eventually learned to play CF is open to debate. Given enough reps he might have been able to master the position. IIRC the reason that Brock's fielding percentage was so low was that he had trouble fielding ground balls; you wouldn't think that would be a problem with an outfielder but for him apparently it was.
   4. Steve Treder Posted: March 29, 2011 at 03:44 PM (#3780515)
When the Brock-Broglio trade was made (there were other players involved on both sides) it was generally agreed that the Cubs got the best end of the deal.

And that was the correct assessment. It was simply Brock-for-Broglio, it was Brock, Paul Toth, and Jack Spring for Broglio, Doug Clemens, and Bobby Shantz. If I'm the Cubs at that point, I make that deal ten out of ten times.
   5. OCF Posted: March 29, 2011 at 03:52 PM (#3780524)
Broglio was coming off a four season stretch in which his ERA+ ranged 150/108/144/120 and he had won 60 games.

The way I usually put it: Broglio was the exact same age as Bob Gibson, and had arguably had the better career than Gibson through 1963. (Yes, it is true that Gibson, with the higher strikeout rate, should have been seen as the better bet going forward, but there's no way you would have projected Gibson's '68-'69 peak from the evidence at hand.)
   6. Steve Treder Posted: March 29, 2011 at 03:55 PM (#3780528)
The way I usually put it: Broglio was the exact same age as Bob Gibson, and had arguably had the better career than Gibson through 1963. (Yes, it is true that Gibson, with the higher strikeout rate, should have been seen as the better bet going forward, but there's no way you would have projected Gibson's '68-'69 peak from the evidence at hand.)

Absolutely right. Moreover, Brock wasn't all that young: he was 25. Few 25-year-olds with a profile as raw as his was at that point make dramatic improvement.
   7. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 29, 2011 at 04:16 PM (#3780549)
Kudos to Bill White for not falling into the classic old-ballplayer trap of saying his (very good) teammates were the Best Ever.
His comments about each of those infielders' abilities are quite fair and accurate, I think.
   8. Steve Treder Posted: March 29, 2011 at 04:21 PM (#3780556)
His comments about each of those infielders' abilities are quite fair and accurate, I think.

Agreed, it's refreshingly candid and insightful.
   9. stanmvp48 Posted: March 29, 2011 at 04:48 PM (#3780582)
Also the Boyer MVP struck me as at least debatable.
   10. bjhanke Posted: March 29, 2011 at 09:17 PM (#3780822)
I think, and vaguely remember it being mentioned at the time, that the Boyer MVP came from leading the league in RBI, the only black ink on Ken's resume. I'm a Cards fan who is old enough to have seen the 64 team, and I agree that it's a dicey MVP. For one thing, Ken's RBI totals are partially the result of Brock's stealing bases and being in scoring position all the time.

The interesting thing about Bill White and Lou Brock is that they are reasonably similar players with vastly different roles and reputations. Both were lefties who ran very fast. They had good but not great power, good batting averages and poor walk totals (Lou even worse than Bill). But Lou was a career leadoff man, while White hit cleanup for the Cards because he had as much power as anyone else on the team except maybe Boyer.

But they were very different on defense. Both could run, but White was a lousy outfielder, although a Gold Glove at first base. He could run and he had good hands, but he could not judge fly balls. His adventures in the outfield, particularly in center, were the results of a Cardinal team that had both him and Joe Cunningham, who could also only play first, and the manager of the team at the time thought that Stan Musial was in decline so badly he should be moved to first. And all three of them hit lefty. That created a logjam. It was never that Bill White was a serious outfielder, but Curt Flood did require a few days off a year, and the alternatives were Cunningham, who could not run, and Musial (the years when White played center are 1960 and 1959; Solly Hemus was the manager who came up with this brilliant idea). Brock, on the other hand, was a poor outfielder because he had bad hands, which affected his abilities on grounders more than on flies, but overall meant that his defense was always going to be bad. But he was never going to be a first baseman, with those hands.

I got to talk to Bing Devine a bit about trading for Brock. What Bing saw is just what is described here: A 25-year-old with lousy fundamentals but loads of potential. Lou had gone to a small college, and was then in the Cubbie farm system, which was not the best at teaching. Bing saw, or so he said, that Brock was one good outfield coach from being a star leadoff man and left fielder, and the Cards could accommodate him there. If nothing else, he could play out there in left and watch Curt Flood teach a master class on how to deal with fly balls.

The one oddity that never gets mentioned any more is that the trade for Brock was essentially driven by the retirement of Stan Musial, the incumbent left fielder. The team had a good group of starting pitchers, but no replacement for Stan. Brock is that replacement. Bing said that if Stan had not retired, there was no way he was going to give up Broglio and Shantz for a left field gamble, no matter how good a gamble it looked like to him. So Stan's classy realization that he was not helping a good team win the pennant any more is partially responsible for Lou Brock. Like we needed another good thing to say about Stan.

- Brock Hanke
   11. bjhanke Posted: March 29, 2011 at 09:19 PM (#3780823)
Edit: Steve Treder is right; Bobby Shantz came TO the Cards in the Brock trade, not from them.
   12. The District Attorney Posted: March 29, 2011 at 09:24 PM (#3780828)
Bing said that if Stan had not retired, there was no way he was going to give up Broglio and Shantz for a left field gamble, no matter how good a gamble it looked like to him. So Stan's classy realization that he was not helping a good team win the pennant any more is partially responsible for Lou Brock.
Chass: MUSIAL TO BLAME FOR HALF-CENTURY OF CUB FAN AGONY
   13. Steve Treder Posted: March 29, 2011 at 09:32 PM (#3780837)
Bobby Shantz came TO the Cards in the Brock trade, not from them.

No, he didn't. Just the opposite.
   14. Mark Armour Posted: March 29, 2011 at 09:56 PM (#3780854)
There was no MVP hype for Boyer in 1964 because Johnny Callison had the award wrapped up from mid-season on. The Phillies were the story and Callison was considered the leader of the team. (Yes, Allen was their best player, but awards did not work that way at the time.) When the Phillies collapsed, picking a Cardinal was pretty much mandatory. They could have just given it to Mays every year, of course.

The guy the Cards wanted to play left field was Charlie James, who showed some potential in 1963 but regressed the next year.
   15. Steve Treder Posted: March 29, 2011 at 10:19 PM (#3780866)
The guy the Cards wanted to play left field was Charlie James, who showed some potential in 1963 but regressed the next year.

That is who they pegged for the job, as James started most of the games until they traded for Brock. But even though the Cards were obviously hopeful regarding James, it doesn't appear that the hope was very well-founded: in 1961-62-63, they'd given him 300-400 PAs each year, and he'd never hit remotely close to the way a starting corner outfielder needs to hit. He projected as nothing more than a platoon guy (his platoon split was extremely pronounced) or straight backup.
   16. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: March 29, 2011 at 10:34 PM (#3780872)
Alright, can we stop talking about 1964 please? I didn't get over it until the WS Parade in 2008.
   17. stanmvp48 Posted: March 29, 2011 at 11:32 PM (#3780886)
Wasn't there an article in a recent SABR journal about the Phillies collapse (sorry #16). The first time Mauch used Bunning on two days rest was against Houston. I also recall that Callison and Allen each sacrificed 6 times that season. I believe Callison was only 25 at the time which I didn't realize until much later.
   18. AndrewJ Posted: March 30, 2011 at 12:37 AM (#3780918)
There was no MVP hype for Boyer in 1964 because Johnny Callison had the award wrapped up from mid-season on. The Phillies were the story and Callison was considered the leader of the team. (Yes, Allen was their best player, but awards did not work that way at the time.)

Dick Allen had a monster rookie season, but the contemporary writers obsessed that he a) struck out 138 times and b) committed 41 errors at third base.
   19. bjhanke Posted: March 30, 2011 at 12:57 AM (#3780927)
RE: Steve #13 - And you're right again. I wrote my comment #10, checked it over against what had already been posted, and managed to MISREAD your comment #4. So, I had it right in the first pace, and then misread your comment and put up a false edit to my own. My fault. I have no idea how I misread your #4. It seems completely clear to me now. Oh, well. Thanks for correcting me. - Brock
   20. True Blue Posted: March 30, 2011 at 02:34 AM (#3780968)
I don't remember the debate for the 1964 NL MVP but I remember in 1975 there was kind of a "can we really give an MVP to a rookie like Fred Lynn". It happened not happened before and the only one to do it since is Ichiro Suzuki, who is a special case as a Japanese veteran. But I remember reading people thought that Callison would have won if the Phillies had won. MVP awards have gone to players whose teams collapse such as Campanella in 1951 and George Bell in 1987. But it does seem weird if it happens.

A few years ago Chris Russo interviewed Jack Buck and asked if Stan Musial could have returned for the 1964 season. Buck said no, that he was clearly on his last legs in 1963.

I'm not sure of the time frame but during 1964, Gussie Busch brought in 935 year old Branch Rickey as a special advisor which undermined Devine and later Keane. Rickey thought the Cardinals would not contend and should rebuild. Which almost happened except for the Phillie collapse and the Reds losing 4 out of the last 5 games. It's also interesting that White liked Johnny Keane but I don't think you could find any Yankees from 1965-66 to say anything good about him. As Jim Bouton said "We liked and respected Houk. We liked but didn't respect Yogi> And we didn't like and respect Keane".

Maury Allen in his book "All Roads Lead to October" mentions how many Yankees denounced the trade that sent four pitchers for Chris Chambliss, Tidrow and Upshaw. Allen felt that players aren't a good judge of trades involving their teammates as they tend to think of them as car-playing buddies, etc.
   21. djrelays Posted: March 30, 2011 at 03:36 AM (#3781003)
I remember White rupturing his achilles tendon, but haven't found what year that was. I'm guessing it was 1967, his second with the Phillies, when he played 110 games. Before that, and going back to his rookie year of 1956, the fewest games he'd played when he had a full season (his '58 season was a partial as he spent most of the year in the service) was 138.

But while trying to find out about the achilles rupture, I came across this in his wiki bio: "White is also one of the few MLB players who have hit at least .300 and driven in at least 100 runs in three consecutive seasons."

Really?! How few is "few?"
   22. OCF Posted: March 30, 2011 at 03:44 AM (#3781009)
I'm not sure of the time frame but during 1964, Gussie Busch brought in 935 year old Branch Rickey as a special advisor which undermined Devine and later Keane. Rickey thought the Cardinals would not contend and should rebuild.

Of course, Brock, age 25, was a new piece, replacing the retired Musial. And Tim McCarver was already a veteran at age 22. After the team won the pennant in '64, they froze, making no moves that changed the everyday starting lineup. And the old guys got older, and the '65 Cardinals fell all the way to the second division.

The signature of that '64 team was the infield - White, Javier, Groat, Boyer, with White (30), Groat (33), and Boyer (33) being the three oldest starters on the team. LF and RF had both been unsettled; Brock settled LF, and a 24-year-old Shannon was getting more playing time in right.

After that bad '65 year, the management (whoever was actually calling the shots) pulled the trigger, and got rid of the legendary old infield all at once. Groat and White went to the Phillies, for a package of players who were never starters for St. Louis but must have contributed some entertainment value - including Alex Johnson and Pat Corrales. Boyer got sent to the Mets, for a pitcher (Al Jackson) and a nothing-special infielder (Charley Smith, not to be confused with the outfielder Charlie James discussed above.) And at the same time, they traded a younger pitcher (Ray Sadecki) to the Giants for Orlando Cepeda. (Steve is still fuming about that one, of course.)

So Cepeda replaced White at 1B, Smith replaced Boyer at 3B, and they decided to live with Dal Maxvill's bat in exchange for his glove at SS, replacing Groat. (Maxvill had been around for a while).

That '66 team was nothing special. The only everyday move they made for '67 was to shift Shannon from RF to 3B and acquire Roger Maris to fill RF. Those doesn't seem like a big move. What was big was Cepeda going from 123 games at a 130 OPS+ to 151 games at 164 OPS+, Flood going from 84 OPS+ to 128, and McCarver going from 105 OPS+ to 136. And various miracles happening in an injury-stressed pitching staff, including the 29-year-old rookie, Dick Hughes.

The simple narrative would be that the team won, got old, rebuilt, then won again 3 years later. But the everyday lineup of the '67 team was essentially the same age as the '64 team. McCarver, Javier, Brock, and Flood were each 3 years older in '67 than they had been in '64. A 30-year-old White was replaced by a 29-year-old Cepeda. Groat and Boyer (33, 33) got replaced by Maxvill and Maris (28, 34). OK, the '67 pitching staff was younger than the '64 staff, on average.

It is interesting that White, Groat, and Boyer -the core of the team, as it were - all got traded at once rather than leave any of them behind.
   23. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: March 30, 2011 at 04:10 AM (#3781021)
But while trying to find out about the achilles rupture, I came across this in his wiki bio: "White is also one of the few MLB players who have hit at least .300 and driven in at least 100 runs in three consecutive seasons."

Really?! How few is "few?"


Maybe he meant one of the few first basemen who once played for the Cardinals:

Jake Beckley
Jacques Fournier
Jim Bottomley
Johnny Mize
Stan Musial
Andres Galarraga
Albert Pujols
   24. Mark Armour Posted: March 30, 2011 at 05:44 AM (#3781033)
FWIW, Bing Devine built the 1964 team, mainly with a series of excellent trades over a period of years (Flood, White, Groat, Javier), but was fired in August 1964 by Busch (at the apparent suggestion of Rickey). His replacement was Bob Howsam, who of course did nothing that season other than sit back and watch the Cardinals win the World Series. To Howsam's credit, he always pimped Devine as the builder of the team. After the season, Devine won the Executive of the Year award, as he had in 1963. By this time, he was now working for the Mets.

Of interest is what happened next. Devine is the guy who is largely responsible for the building of the Mets. He made a few key trades, he was the guy who convinced George Weiss to enter the Seaver lottery, and he hired Hodges to manage. However, he left New York after the 1967 season to return to St. Louis (his hometown) because Busch realized he had screwed up and asked him back.

Meanwhile, Howsam is the guy who rebuilt the 1964 Cardinals into the 1967 Cardinals. As a Rickey disciple, it was he who convinced Busch to cut bait on the popular veterans (Boyer, White and Groat). He made the trades for Cepeda and Maris. However, he was not there for the payoff, as he left in early 1967 to take over the Reds. His reason--absolute authority. The owners were not involved at all, Howsam attended the owners meetings for the next 10 years. So Howsam was in the winning locker room in 1964, for a team he did not build, but not in 1967, for a team he did build.

You will note that Howsam left St. Louis before 1967, and Devine returned after 1967. So who was there in 1967? Stan Musial, who served exactly one year as GM in his life, and won the World Series. He left of his own accord.
   25. OCF Posted: March 30, 2011 at 06:40 AM (#3781040)
Stan Musial, who served exactly one year as GM in his life, and won the World Series. He left of his own accord.

Without knowing any more than that, I'll speculate the following:

- Musial never really wanted to be GM; it wasn't a burning desire.
- He took the job because Busch asked him to, citing the good of the team.
- He may very well have given Busch a timetable - "I'll only do it for a year, then you have to find someone else."
- Whether his skill set matched the job at all and whether he could possibly have had any success going forward is and must remain an untested proposition.

I'm not giving anyone credit for the success of Dick Hughes. Someone had to eat those innings, and there's no way to have foreseen just how well Hughes would do that year. He was in the right place at the right time.
   26. bjhanke Posted: March 30, 2011 at 08:34 AM (#3781045)
Mark Armour and OCF have the story right. I do have a couple of things to add:

1) Rickey was famous for thinking that players, especially stars, should be traded as soon as they hit 30. So the dismantling of the 64 infield is nothing more than "Rickey being Rickey."

2) I've forgotten the exact incident, and can't find my copy of Bing's autobiography right at hand, but what happened was that Gussie found out about a Bing player move of some sort before Bing himself told him. That always made Gussie mad, and with Branch pushing him, he went over the brink and fired Bing. When Rickey did not turn out to have the brilliance he once had had, Gussie eventually fired him, too. Keane, I think, got fired mostly for not being a Rickey man. Look up Bing's autobiography for the details.

3) In general, my analysis of Branch Rickey is that the defining features of his GM tenures were a) he was a control freak, and b) he was always looking out for a new untapped source of talent. The Cards of the 20s and 30s were largely, though not entirely, built by mining the south and southwest, especially rural areas (hence the Gashouse Gang). Everyone knows about the negro leaguers. And I think that, while with Pittsburgh, Rickey was among the pioneers at exploiting Latin America in quantity, although I find it hard to document that. One of the things that he did not have in 1964 was a new source of talent to mine. All he could do was get rid of anyone over 30.

4) Gussie Busch, as an owner, was a meddling control freak who was prey to whoever managed to charm him. That's essentially how Solly Hemus ended up as manager. Whitey Herzog talks about this at length in his biography, although he's not about to list this as a character weakness of Gussie's. But still, he does mention how his relationship with Gussie was largely driven by Whitey showing up at Gussie's place with a pound of head cheese or souse and shooting the breeze with his owner. He did not need, of course, to bring the beer. It was the combination of Rickey's personality with Gussie's that was Bing's and Johnny Keane's downfall.
   27. True Blue Posted: March 30, 2011 at 08:52 AM (#3781047)
I assume Musial left the GM job to concentrate on keeping riffraff like Joe Garagiola and Murray Chass out of his restaurant. But taking the job out of loyalty and discovering he didn't like it seems reasonable.

In the "1999 Big Bad Baseball Manual" it says that when Devine was fired, Rickey sent a memo urging the Cardinals to send Mike Shannon to the minors, unload reliever Barney Schultz, and recall pitchers Steve Carlton, Dave Dowling and Nelson Briles. He didn't see much of a future for a number of players like Julian Javier and Dal Maxvill. The team rallied, the memo got leaked and Rickey got fired after being snubbed at a team victory dinner.

Devine did good things with the Mets (although in Peter Golenbock's book "Amazins" Devine says it was M Donald Grant who told him to interview Senators manager Gil Hodges and if thought he was a good candidate, the Mets would get him from Washington. Devine spoke highly of Grant in leaving him alone, in contrast to what Whitey Herzog has said about Grant driving Devine away). But his second tour of duty didn't turn out so well. He traded a top outfield prospect Bobby Tolan and reliever Wayne Granger for a fading Vada Pinson. It's interesting to wonder if the whole mess with the Curt Flood court case could have been avoided by not trading him (and McCarver) for Dick Allen, whom they traded a year later. Allen traded away could have been an ownership order but it is strange to trade for a star and a year later unload him. He gave up too early on pitchers like Jerry Reuss, Mike Torrez and Reggie Cleveland as well as outfielder Jose Cruz. You could include Jim Bibby. The Steve Carlton for Rick Wise seemed like a balance swap at the time and was probably triggered by a salary dispute. Carlton also didn't become a physical fitness freak until he was a Phillie.
   28. Mark Armour Posted: March 30, 2011 at 04:00 PM (#3781330)
2) I've forgotten the exact incident, and can't find my copy of Bing's autobiography right at hand, but what happened was that Gussie found out about a Bing player move of some sort before Bing himself told him. That always made Gussie mad, and with Branch pushing him, he went over the brink and fired Bing. When Rickey did not turn out to have the brilliance he once had had, Gussie eventually fired him, too. Keane, I think, got fired mostly for not being a Rickey man. Look up Bing's autobiography for the details.


What happened was that there was an argument in the clubhouse between Keane and Groat. Groat was (according to all versions of the incident) mad that Keane would not let him hit-and-run on his own, and started popping off about it. Keane confronted him, and Groat apologized to the team. Incident over. A few weeks later Busch heard about through one of the wives, and blew his top at Devine for not telling him. Devine told him it was a minor incident and resolved. Busch fired him, saying something "what else are you not telling me?" Busch owned up to this version of the story later.

Keane was not fired--he quit to take the Yankee job. He quit largely as a result of the Devine firing, and because he knew Busch had considered firing him as well--and would have had the Cards not rallied and won the World Series. Busch called a press conference to announce Keane's rehiring, and instead listened as Keane quit. The 1964 victory, rather than being a celebration for Busch, became a humiliation, as the victory was credited to the fired Devine and the noble Keane.

Busch, as an owner, was pretty hands off until he wasn't. He actually had a guy, Dick Meyer, who was his advisor within the teams front office. Meyer got along well with Devine, and usually managed to smooth things over with the boss. Two big exceptions were the trades of Carlton and Reuss, both of which Busch demanded because the players were ungrateful heathens who were not signing their contracts. Busch was an absolute hawk on player relations matters, which was the principal reason for the decline of the Cardinals in the 1970s.

Musial resigned as GM because he wanted to spend more time with his restaurant and fanily. He didn't really like the hours or the stress associated with the job.
   29. esseff Posted: March 30, 2011 at 04:29 PM (#3781370)
Musial resigned as GM because he wanted to spend more time with his restaurant and fanily.


Biggie Garagnani died in early 1968, so this makes sense. But, really, Musial was never cut out to be a GM. When he was hired, the Cardinals also brought in Bob Stewart, former AD at St. Louis University, to handle administration, and longtime front-office guy Jim Toomey knew the baseball technicalities inside and out.
   30. Mark Armour Posted: March 30, 2011 at 04:42 PM (#3781392)
Yes, I think was largely a PR move. When Keane resigned, Busch wanted to hire Durocher--in fact, he had told Durocher that he was going to take over (prior to their comeback/championship). Howsam argued that Busch was getting creamed in the city for the upheaval, and that getting Schoendienst or Musial to manage was the best solution. I don't know if Musial was offered the job first or not. Getting Stan to be the GM three years later was likely keeping with his idea.

Rickey, who advised Busch for two years (1963-64 basically), wanted to force Musial to retire but Busch overruled him.
   31. esseff Posted: March 30, 2011 at 04:52 PM (#3781404)
btw, if anyone who hasn't been put to sleep by this discussion wants to know more, David Halberstam's "October 1964" and Bob Broeg's memoir cover most of it.
   32. Mark Armour Posted: March 30, 2011 at 04:58 PM (#3781414)
As does Golenbock's book on the Cardinals, Devine's memoir, and Howsam's memoir. Also an upcoming chapter of a book I am working on. :-)

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