Ed Bauta overcame a difficult beginning to his big-league career with the Cardinals and gained the confidence of his manager.
A right-handed sinkerball specialist, Bauta was a Pirates prospect when the Cardinals acquired him and second baseman Julian Javier in 1960.
The Cardinals wanted Bauta, even though they knew his right knee was injured.
Frustrated by the slow healing process, Bauta nearly quit before pitching a game for the Cardinals. When he finally made his debut with them, it went badly.
Bolstered by the support of trainer Bob Bauman, Bauta persevered and went on to pitch in 80 games over four seasons with the Cardinals. He was 87 when he died on July 6, 2022, 62 years to the day after his Cardinals debut.
Eduardo Bauta was raised on a family farm in central Cuba. Doing farm chores and cutting sugar cane as a youth enabled him to develop a strong work ethic, according to his obituary.
Bauta was a catcher as an amateur until a ball struck him in the throat. “I could take only liquids for 15 days,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Attending a Pirates tryout camp, he got a chance to pitch and impressed scout Howie Haak, who signed him. Bauta was 21 when he played his first season in the Pirates’ system at Clinton, Iowa.
In 1960, Bauta had an 0.95 ERA in 12 relief appearances for the Pirates’ Columbus (Ohio) affiliate. Eddie Stanky, special assistant to Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, scouted Bauta and recommended him.
Soon after, Bauta made a wager with a Columbus teammate that he could get a base hit during batting practice. Swinging mightily at a pitch and missing, Bauta fell and tore ligaments in his right knee, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The Cardinals had agreed to send pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell and infielder Dick Gray to the Pirates for Julian Javier and a pitching prospect. Bauta was one of four pitchers the Pirates offered. Aware of his knee injury, the Cardinals chose him on the strength of Stanky’s scouting report.
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Bauta joined the Cardinals on June 12, 1960, and reported to trainer Bob Bauman for treatment of the damaged knee. Frustrated with being sidelined, Bauta said Bauman helped restore his confidence as well as strengthen his knee.
“Doc talked me out of quitting,” Bauta told the Post-Dispatch. “Doc spent a lot of time with me every day. He said, ‘Eddie, you’re not going to quit as long as I’m around here.’ “
On July 6, 1960, the Cubs were routing the Cardinals at Wrigley Field in Chicago when Bauta was called into the game to make his major-league debut. He hadn’t pitched in a game since injuring his knee in May.
Bauta gave up a three-run home run to George Altman in the seventh, and then another three-run home run to Altman in the eighth. Boxscore
“I got Altman out most of the time in the (Caribbean) winter league,” Bauta said to the Post-Dispatch, “but I couldn’t put the ball where I wanted it today.”
A month later, on Aug. 10, after three consecutive scoreless outings, Bauta was brought in to protect a one-run lead against the Phillies in the bottom of the 10th at Philadelphia.
He retired two batters, but gave up a single and walked two, loading the bases and prompting manager Solly Hemus to visit the mound.
“I had Ronnie Kline warmed up and I was thinking of making a move,” Hemus told the Post-Dispatch.
Hemus asked Bauta, “How do you feel?’ The rookie replied, “I can get them, Skip.”
“Go get them,” Hemus said before returning to the dugout.
Clay Dalrymple swung at Bauta’s first pitch and lofted a fly to center for the final out. Bauta had his first save in the majors. “He showed me something,” Hemus said to the Post-Dispatch. “Anyone who can do that can pitch for me.” Boxscore
Back and forth
Assigned to minor-league Portland (Ore.) in 1961, Bauta was 9-1 with a 1.95 ERA when he got called up to the Cardinals in July. He got his first big-league win on Aug. 23 against the Dodgers. Boxscore
In 13 relief appearances for the 1961 Cardinals, Bauta was 2-0 with five saves and a 1.40 ERA.
Based on that performance, Bauta was in the Cardinals’ plans for 1962. The season began promisingly for him. On April 25, he pitched eight scoreless innings of relief against the Houston Colt .45s. Boxscore
(The game ended in a tie after 17 innings because of a local curfew in Houston that forbid starting an inning after 12:50 a.m. The game was replayed on another date but all the statistics counted.)
After 11 relief appearances in 1962, Bauta had an 0.93 ERA, but then he had a terrible June. After he gave up two home runs to Smoky Burgess of the Pirates on June 30, the Cardinals demoted Bauta to their Atlanta farm club. Boxscore
On the road again
Bauta was back with the Cardinals in 1963. He was 3-4 with three saves when the Cardinals dealt him to the Mets on Aug. 5 for reliever Ken MacKenzie.
(MacKenzie was a Yale graduate. One time, when MacKenzie was brought in at a critical point in a game, Mets manager Casey Stengel said to him, “Make like those guys are the Harvards.”)
In four seasons (1960-63) with the Cardinals, Bauta was 6-4 with 10 saves.
When Bauta faced the Cardinals for the first time after the trade, he pitched 2.1 scoreless innings and struck out Stan Musial. Boxscore
The 1964 season was Bauta’s last in the majors, but he continued to play until 1974, primarily in the Mexican League. In 1973, Bauta, 38, was a starting pitcher for Petroleros de Poza Rica and was 23-5 with a 2.25 ERA.