Pitcher Gary Blaylock hit two home runs for the Cardinals and he did it in consecutive at-bats.
On May 12, 1959, in his final at-bat of the game, Blaylock hit a two-run home run against Reds reliever Jim O’Toole.
Four days later, on May 16, Blaylock took his next at-bat, against Phillies starter Jim Owens, and hit another two-run home run.
The home runs in consecutive at-bats were the only ones Blaylock hit in the majors. The 1959 season, Blaylock’s lone year as a big-league player, was split between the Cardinals and Yankees.
Blaylock was born in the Missouri Bootheel, the southeasternmost part of the state, in the town of Clarkton, and grew up on a farm in nearby Malden.
A right-hander, he developed his arm strength milking cows, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Blaylock was 18 when he signed with the Cardinals in 1950.
Blaylock spent nine seasons in the Cardinals’ farm system. He had success, winning 23 for Johnson City in 1951 and 14 for Rochester in 1958, for instance. The Sporting News noted he “has appeared close to stardom at times,” but Blaylock repeatedly was passed over for a spot in the big leagues.
“We always have considered him a fine prospect,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told The Sporting News, “but he was young and found it difficult to control his temper. He fought himself and was, by and large, a thrower instead of a pitcher.”
The Cardinals liked what they saw of Blaylock, 27, at spring training in 1959.
“He has matured,” Devine said. “He’s a pitcher now.”
Cardinals manager Solly Hemus told The Sporting News, “I’ll bet that if the state of the ballclub permits the use of Gary every fourth day, he’ll win 12 games. If he is used only in spots and not as a regular starter, he’ll win at least seven.”
On the run
The Cardinals opened the 1959 season with a starting rotation of Larry Jackson, Ernie Broglio, Vinegar Bend Mizell and Lindy McDaniel. Hemus said rookies Blaylock and Bob Gibson would be relievers and sport starters.
After waiting since 1950 to reach the big leagues, Blaylock made his debut on Opening Day at St. Louis, but not as a pitcher. He entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-runner for Stan Musial, and it was quite an adventure.
Taking a big lead in anticipation of a hit-and-run play, Blaylock became trapped when Giants pitcher Johnny Antonelli made a pickoff throw to first.
“All I could think of _ and I thought of a lot in a split second _ was, ‘My gosh, I’ve been in baseball 10 years, waiting to get into a big-league game, and now look what I’ve done,’ ” Blaylock told the Post-Dispatch.
Blaylock made a desperate dash toward second. A throw to shortstop Andre Rodgers, covering second, arrived ahead of the runner, but Blaylock made a belated slide, eluded “a slow, careless tag” by Rodgers, and was called safe, The Sporting News reported.
Blaylock advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an Alex Grammas single. Boxscore
Hot and cold
Six days later, on April 16, Blaylock pitched in a big-league game for the first time. Appearing in relief against the Dodgers at Los Angeles, Blaylock tossed two scoreless innings, retiring all six batters he faced. Boxscore
Hemus rewarded him with a start against the Cubs at Chicago on April 21. Blaylock pitched a complete game, but the Cubs won, 1-0, behind Glen Hobbie’s one-hitter. Musial got the Cardinals’ lone hit, a double with two outs in the seventh. Sammy Taylor drove in the Cubs’ run in the second. Boxscore
In May, Hemus put Blaylock in the starting rotation. On May 12 at St. Louis, he held the Reds scoreless for five innings. With the Cardinals ahead 5-0, Blaylock hit a two-run home run deep into the seats in left-center in the bottom of the fifth.
“I’ve always been a fair hitter,” Blaylock told the Post-Dispatch.
He pitched 6.2 innings for the win, but was lifted before he had another at-bat. Boxscore
In his next appearance, a start versus the Phillies at St. Louis, Blaylock broke a scoreless tie with a two-run home run in his first at-bat of the game in the third. Blaylock went the distance and got the win, boosting his record to 3-1. Boxscore
After that, Blaylock’s season unraveled. He never won another start and was sent to the bullpen in the middle of June. In July, the Cardinals put him on waivers and the Yankees claimed him.
In 26 appearances for the 1959 Cardinals, Blaylock was 4-5 with a 5.13 ERA. He was 3-4 as a starter and 1-1 in relief. As a batter, Blaylock was 4-for-34 with 17 strikeouts.
Blaylock was an effective reliever for the 1959 Yankees. He had a 2.59 ERA in 14 relief appearances for them. A highlight came on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium when he pitched five scoreless innings and drove in Norm Siebern with a double. Boxscore
Shelled in his one start, against the Tigers, Blaylock finished the season 0-1 with a 3.50 ERA for the Yankees.
Blaylock pitched in the Yankees’ farm system from 1960-63, then moved into managing. He was a minor-league manager for the Yankees and Royals.
In 1971, when Blaylock managed the Royals’ farm team in Billings, Mont., his shortstop was George Brett, 18, who was in his first season as a professional. According to the Kansas City Star, Blaylock said he wasn’t convinced Brett “had enough arm to be a top-flight shortstop” and moved him to third.
“I was thoroughly impressed with him as a kid and as a guy that liked to play,” Blaylock said, “but I wasn’t impressed to the point that I thought he’d be a star.”
Blaylock also served as a scout and minor-league pitching instructor for the Royals. He mentored pitching prospects Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza.
“He understands me more than anybody except my family,” Gubicza told the Kansas City Star.
The Royals named Blaylock pitching coach on the staff of manager Dick Howser in 1984. Blaylock succeeded another former Cardinal, Cloyd Boyer.
Blaylock was Royals pitching coach from 1984-87.
His coaching highlight came in 1985 when the Royals became World Series champions, defeating the Cardinals.
Royals pitchers limited the Cardinals to 13 runs in seven games. Saberhagen was 2-0 with an 0.50 ERA and won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. He also was the recipient of the 1985 American League Cy Young Award.
Note: Special thanks to Cardinals researcher Tom Orf for providing the inspiration to research and write this post.