The telephone company and the telegraph company are sure to keep Bing Devine high on their Christmas card list. Not content to sit tight with a pennant winner from last season, the Cardinals general manager kept in close touch, as usual, with the nine other N.L. clubs as the June 15 trading deadline approached.
The night before the deadline, Der Bingle had sounded pessimistic about making a deal. At that time, he said there was nothing hot. But when a guy recalls that he obtained Lou Brock right on the deadline in 1964 and two days earlier had acquired Bob Skinner, who turned out to be a helpful reserve in that pennant year, he’s bound to be eager to deal, even if it’s not on a large scale. So it was that Devine called Spec Richardson, his counter-part on the Astros, about 11 p.m., St. Louis time, June 15 and landed Ron Davis, Houston’s regular center fielder.
“Houston insisted on something extra and Hal Gilson was expendable anyway, so we let him go along with Dick Simpson,” Bing said. In a way, the departure of Simpson was something of a surprise inasmuch as Devine had obtained him from the Reds for Alex Johnson just last January 11. At the time, Simpson was advertised as being mainly a backup man for Curt Flood in case anything happened to the supreme center fielder. Simpson, platooned in right field with Roger Maris in the early weeks of the season, and batted an anemic .190. Devine discounted the negative aspects of Simpson’s performance and noted that he had batted .333 in the last 30 days (in only 9 games). Devine also noted that because of Flood’s indestructibility, the Redbirds weren’t even able to find out about Simpson’s ability to play center. So when they got a chance to to grab a highly talented man like Davis, who had been the Astros’ No. 1 center fielder all season, they didn’t think twice.
Davis’ glove work is unquestioned. He has a good arm, covers lots of ground and hustles always, even when his club is completely out of a game. He has shown good power as he was tied for second on the club with two home runs. When Davis left the Astros, he was batting .259 with 14 RBI and 2 stolen bases. The outfielder couldn’t erase the big smile hours after joining the Cardinals late in the morning of June 16. “I still can’t believe it,” Ron said of his unexpected switch from a tailender to a league leader. “I had no idea I’d be traded. This is just great.”
Gilson, who had been the No. 2 lefthander in the bullpen, showed several good flashes. To fill Gilson’s spot, the Cardinals immediately called up Mel Nelson, a seasoned southpaw from Tulsa (Pacfic Coast). Nelson had broken into the Redbird system as an outfielder. Nelson was the third from the Tulsa finishing school to the varsity mound staff in about as many weeks. Righthanders Wayne Granger and Pete Mikkelsen had advanced before Nelson.