June 19, 2003: Bo Hart makes his debut and sparks the Cardinals

The Cardinals got more than they bargained for when they called Bo Hart up from Triple-A Memphis to replace injured infielder Miguel Cairo.

A 33rd-round pick in the 1999 draft who was signed for $1,000,[1] Hart was an unlikely major leaguer. After playing his college baseball as a shortstop at Gonzaga, Hart hit just .184 in his first professional season at Low-A New Jersey. After batting .256 in 314 plate appearances in High-A, Hart hit .305 in 2001, followed by a .249 campaign in Double-A in 2002 after he broke a thumb.

A utility player playing second base, third base, and shortstop, Hart was batting .297 in Triple-A Memphis and had just hit his seventh home run of the season on June 18 when he abruptly was pulled from the game.

“After about 20 seconds, (Memphis manager Danny) Scheaffer came down to shake my hand and tell me I was going up,” Hart said. “I probably walked around for 20 minutes like my head was cut off.”[2]

The Cardinals needed Hart because Cairo had been hit on the hand by a pitch from Brewers righthander Danny Kolb that evening, breaking Cairo’s fifth metacarpal.[3] Cairo was in the lineup because Fernando Vina had suffered a ruptured tendon in May.

The next 24 hours were a blur for Hart, who caught a red-eye flight from Seattle to Pittsburgh, then to Milwaukee. He reached Miller Park at about 10 a.m. and found his name in the starting lineup.[4]

“Tony (La Russa) pulled me in the minute I walked in the door and asked if I was ready to play,” Hart said. “I said yes. No way I was going to turn that down today. I felt really good. I was floating all day.”[5]

Brewers starter Ruben Quevedo retired the first two batters he faced before Albert Pujols homered to left for his 20th blast of the season. The Brewers’ Geoff Jenkins answered with an RBI double off Cardinals starter Brett Tomko that tied the score 1-1 after an inning.

After Joe Girardi laid down an unsuccessful bunt attempt, Hart came to the plate for his first career major-league at-bat. On the third pitch he saw, he grounded a double into the left-field corner.

“I just played the game,” Hart said. “It’s what I do – play baseball. It’s just that the stadium’s bigger and there are more people.”[6]

Tomko followed with a single and Orlando Palmeiro doubled to score Hart. Eduardo Perez added a sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.

Hart and the Cardinals broke the game open in the fifth inning. J.D. Drew started the scoring with a two-run triple and Edgar Renteria followed with an RBI single. With runners on first and second, Hart tripled over center fielder Scott Podsednik’s head to give St. Louis an 8-1 lead.

“I hit that one a little better and that got my heart pumping a little bit,” Hart said. “The butterflies started going away.”[7]

Hart wasn’t the only one whose heart was beating faster.

“He charged up the dugout,” La Russa said. “The guys were really excited. He’s a very intense guy with a lot of good body language.”[8]

“When you pay your dues and get a chance to do something like that, it’s special,” said Drew, who was batting .319 after doubling and tripling.

Tomko, who entered the game just 2-5 with a 6.20 ERA, earned the win after allowing two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. He credited a phone call from a friend who suggested that he make a mechanical adjustment.[9]

“Before, there were about 50 thoughts in my head,” Tomko said. “Today I was just concentrating on one or two. The main thing I was concentrating on was getting the ball down in the zone. If I was going to miss, I was going to miss down. That allows me to get out front and get extended instead of trying to make my sinker sink. My fastball was 100% improved.”[10]

After the game, Hart called his former Gonzaga roommate, George Arnott.

“He said it was unbelievable,” Arnott said. “Everything he ever dreamed of and more. He couldn’t believe he was turning double plays with Edgar Renteria during warmups and taking batting practice with Scott Rolen.”[11]

Hart remained one of the hottest players in baseball upon his arrival in the majors and quickly became a favorite among Cardinals fans. He had hits in each of his first seven games, including multiple hits in six of those contests and four hits in a June 24 loss to the Reds. A week into his career, he was batting .514 with a homer and five RBIs.

Hart was still batting .311 by the end of July and finished the season with a .277 average to go along with four homers and 28 RBIs.

Unfortunately, Hart was unable to convert his magical summer of 2003 into a major-league career. After going 2-for-13 in the first month of the 2004 season, he was demoted to Triple-A and never returned to the majors. He remained in the Cardinals’ system until 2005 and continued playing for the Rockies’, Orioles’, and Cubs’ minor league systems. He played independent baseball in 2008 before retiring.


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[1] Dan O’Neill, “Bo-Dacious,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 2003.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[6] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[7] “Hart makes quick impact,” Belleville News-Democrat, June 20, 2003.

[8] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[9] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[10] Joe Strauss, “Redbirds show some Hart,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2003.

[11] Jim Seimas, “Hart & Soul,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 20, 2003.