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by Harold Friend
The Yankees acquired the services of Enos Slaughter from the St. Louis Cardinals on April 11, 1954, in exchange for Bill Virdon, Mel Wright, and Emil Tellinger. Slaughter, who had been with the Cardinals since 1938, broke down and cried when he learned that he was traded to the Yankees.
The Biggest Shock of Slaughter's Life
"This is the biggest shock of my life. Something I never expected to happen. I've given my life to this organization, and they let you go when they think you're getting old." There was no mistaking Slaughter's bitterness.
The Cardinals Were Building a Younger Team
Cardinals' owner August A. Busch explained that Slaughter was traded because the team had to get younger. "We have just traded one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals are trying to build a young ball club. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to participate in."
A Cruel Move
Trading Enos Slaughter was a cruel move that ignored the loyalty of a great player who wanted to "die with his boots on in a Cardinals' uniform." Slaughter was the symbol of the hustling, never-say-die players of the old gas house gang, although he arrived on the scene a few years after their glory days. It was universally agreed that no player gave a more valiant, consistent, all-out effort. His flaming effort provided a spark to the Cardinals that cannot be quantified.
Enos Slaughter Was Confident
Enos Slaughter was confident because he knew he was good. When spring training opened in 1954, the 38 year-old outfielder simply declared, "From what I've seen from them young outfielders in camp, they ain't none of 'em gonna take my job away from me." Cardinals' manager Eddie Stanky seemed to agree. "Enos Slaughter, the most remarkable ball player I ever saw, probably will last forever."
The Yankees Didn't Appear to Need Enos Slaughter
On the surface, it appeared that the Yankees didn't need Slaughter. Their outfield was solid with Gene Woodling in left field, Mickey Mantle in center, and Hank Bauer in right. Irv Noren would back up Mickey, who was coming off an operation to remove a cyst from his leg, and rookie Bob Cerv would be the fifth outfielder, but Yankees' manager Casey Stengel loved to maneuver, which is what he intended to do with the addition of Slaughter.
Enos Slaughter Paid Great Dividends
Enos Slaughter paid great dividends, but not in 1954, when he batted only .248 with 1 home run in 125 at bats. The Yankees' didn't win the World Series for the first time since 1948, and in early 1955, they sent Enos Slaughter to Kansas City for non-descript pitcher Sonny Dixon, but Enos would return.
On August 25, 1956, the Yankees released Phil Rizzuto to open a spot for Slaughter. The Yankees won the pennant, but lost the first 2 games of the World Series to Brooklyn. In Game 3, Enos hit a key home run that helped the Yankees get started. He batted .350 as the Yankees won in 7 games.
Bill Virdon Haunts the Yankees
Bill Virdon, who was the key player in the 1954 trade that first made Slaughter a Yankee, was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1955. In the seventh game of the1960 World Series, Virdon hit a potential double play grounder to Yankees' shortstop Tony Kubek. The ball hit a pebble and then hit Kubek in the throat, costing the Yankees the championship. In 1974, Virdon became the Yankees' manager.
By ARTHUR DALEY. (1954, April 13). Sports of The Times :Cure for Complacency?. New York Times (1857-Current file),42. Retrieved May 12, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 83872545).
Trade News Moves Player to Tears. (1954, April 12). New York Times (1857-Current File),33. Retrieved May 12, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 83871548).
By ARTHUR DALEY. (1954, March 2). Sports of The Times :It's in the Cards . New York Times (1857-Current File),28. Retrieved May 12, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 83747911).
Building a Young Club, Cards' Owner Explains. (1954, April 12). New York Times (1857-Current file),33. Retrieved May 12, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 83871549).