Julian Javier

Why the Cardinals traded Vinegar Bend Mizell for Julian Javier

When the Cardinals traded Vinegar Bend Mizell and Dick Gray to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Julian Javier and Ed Bauta, St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg had three questions: Why couldn’t the Cardinals get more for Mizell? Who was going to pitch for the Cardinals now? And who in the world was Javier?[1]

As it turned out, Javier was the man who would hold down the St. Louis second base job for the next dozen years, making two all-star games and winning three National League pennants over that span. At the time of the trade, however, Javier was a little-known prospect batting .288 for Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio.

The Cardinals, however, had taken note of the speedy infielder.

“He’s one of the fastest right-handed batters I’ve ever seen,” Cardinals scout Eddie Stanky said, adding that he consider Javier one of the top three infielders in all the minor leagues.[2]




Stanky went on to describe Javier: “Good range. Arm adequate. Line drive hitter. Not a finished hitter, but quite a few present major leaguers still aren’t finished hitters. Could be very exciting player.”[3]

“We have been following the progress of Javier for some time and from all sources state that Javier is a player with great potential,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine said. “He is one of the fastest runners in baseball, comparing favorably with Vada Pinson of the Cincinnati Reds, and is an outstanding glove man as well as an improving fielder. We consider this a major addition to the Cardinal regular lineup now and for the future.”[4]

In response to Broeg’s question as to how the Cardinals were unable to acquire more for the veteran Mizell than a player who was about to make his major-league debut, Clyde King, the manager of the Cardinals’ affiliate in Rochester, suggested that Pittsburgh likely wouldn’t have traded Javier for Mizell in a one-for-one deal.[5]

“When Bill Mazeroski was going bad last season, all the talk was about bringing up Javier, but they decided he’d be better off getting more experience in the minors,” said pitcher Ron Kline, who had come from Pittsburgh to St. Louis in a recent trade.[6]




Javier signed with the Pirates as a 19-year-old in 1956 but saw his first two seasons limited by injury. After batting .231 for Class A Lincoln in 1958, Javier hit .274 in 1959 for Triple-A Columbus. Javier credited Pirates hitting coach George Sisler and the glasses he had begun wearing that season for his improved hitting.[7]

“I was really surprised when I was told to head for St. Louis and join the Cardinals,” Javier said. “I don’t know how I’ll do, but I’m confident that I’ll make the grade.”[8]

“If he hits .250 his first year, I’ll be satisfied,” Hemus said.[9]

In his Post-Dispatch article regarding the trade, sportswriter Neal Russo noted that Javier had been “recommended by everybody except Duncan Hines and Good Housekeeping,” and added that “Redbird fans hope that the indorsements for the second baseman ring truer than the ‘Lefthanded Dizzy Dean’ label hung on Wilmer Mizell when he came up from the minors.”[10]




Indeed, the Cardinals’ trading of Mizell indicated their resignation that the lefthander was never going to become the pitcher they had once anticipated. The pitcher who grew up in Vinegar Bend, Arkansas, had drawn considerable excitement as a prospect, winning 17 games as a 19-year-old at Class B Winston-Salem, then winning 16 games with a 1.97 ERA for the Double-A Houston Buffaloes the following year.

Mizell won a combined 23 games in his first two seasons with the Cardinals, though he also walked 217 batters in 414 1/3 innings, then missed the next two years due to military service. When he returned, he didn’t seem to have the same heat on his fastball, and the 25-year-old allowed 20 home runs in 1956. He finished the year with a 14-14 record and a 3.62 ERA.

In 1959, Mizell went 13-10 with a 4.20 ERA, and he was 1-3 with a 4.55 ERA at the time of the May 28 trade.

“At 30, Mizell still could become a big winner, but the Cardinals obviously don’t think so and we’d have to agree, reluctantly,” Broeg wrote. “Since he came out of service in 1956, Vinegar hasn’t seemed as fast. Recently he has been niftier, a bit more pitcher than thrower, and the foe doesn’t quite run as recklessly as before. But he’s a still-muscled man, no natural athlete, and besides, recurrent back miseries seem to stop him whenever he appeared ready to put together five good months.”[11]




Nonetheless, the Pirates believed Mizell could provide an immediate boost to their starting rotation in their pursuit of the National League pennant.

“We are giving up one of the finest young prospects in the minor leagues in Javier, but we are trying to do this job in 1960 and let the future take care of itself,” Pirates general manager Joe Brown said. “In Mizell, we are getting an established major league pitcher with good equipment.”[12]

“Mizell should win in Pittsburgh because of their big park and their good defense,” Cardinals manager Solly Hemus said.[13]

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams approved of the trade in a column published two days later.




“Any time a ball club gets a seasoned starting pitcher as the Pirates did in Wilmer ‘Vinegar Bend’ Mizell without having to give up anything for him in the way of needed players now, it has to be a good trade,” he wrote. “How Joe L. Brown did it, I don’t know.”[14]

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Broeg expressed cautious optimism around the deal.

“It took courage to give up a player of some reputation for one with none at the major league level, an absolute unknown,” he wrote. “To one who worshipped the speed the Cardinals used to have, Javier does sound exciting and fires the imagination.”[15]

The trade ended up working out for both teams. Mizell went 13-5 for the Pirates down the stretch, posting a 3.12 ERA over 155 2/3 innings. With Mizell pitching alongside Bob Friend, Vern Law, and Harvey Haddix, the Pirates went 95-59-1 to win the National League pennant, then beat the Yankees in a seven-game World Series. Unfortunately, Mizell struggled in the World Series, allowing four earned runs in just 1/3 of an inning in a 10-0 defeat in Game 3.




In 1961, Mizell went 7-10 with a 5.04 ERA. The following May, the Pirates traded him to the Mets for Jim Marshall, and the Mets released him that August. He retired with a 90-88 career record and a 3.85 ERA.

Javier went on to play 12 seasons for the Cardinals and become a key member of the team’s success in the 1960s. Known for his superb defensive play, Javier made his first all-star team in 1963, and enjoyed arguably his best season during the Cardinals’ world championship season of 1967, when he hit .281 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs and finished ninth in the National League MVP voting. Javier was named an all-star again in 1968.

In 15 World Series games with the Cardinals, Javier hit .346. He hit .360 in the 1967 Fall Classic and hit a three-run home run off Jim Lonborg in Game 7. In the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, he hit .333 and drove in three runs.

On March 24, 1972, the Cardinals traded Javier to the Reds for Tony Cloninger. The 35-year-old Javier, who had appeared in 1,578 games for the Cardinals, played one season with Cincinnati before retiring with a .257 career batting average over a 13-year big-league career.

In 2022, Javier was named to the Cardinals Hall of Fame.





Enjoy this post? Find similar stories listed by decade or by player.


[1] Bob Broeg, “Sports Comment,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

[2] Neal Russo, “Mizell, Gray Traded To Pirates for Javier And Unnamed Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 28, 1960.

[3] Neal Russo, “Javier Gives Up His No. 6, With a Smile,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

[4] Harry Mitauer, “Cards Trade Mizell To Pittsburgh,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 28, 1960.

[5] Bob Broeg, “Sports Comment,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

[6] Neal Russo, “Javier Gives Up His No. 6, With a Smile,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

[7] Neal Russo, “Javier Gives Up His No. 6, With a Smile,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

[8] “Javier Feels ‘Confident’ He’ll Stick,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 29, 1960.

[9] Neal Russo, “Javier Gives Up His No. 6, With a Smile,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

[10] Neal Russo, “Mizell, Gray Traded To Pirates for Javier And Unnamed Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 28, 1960.

[11] Bob Broeg, “Sports Comment,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

[12] Jack Hernon, “Pirates, ‘Shooting for 1960,’ Get Mizell,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 28, 1960.

[13] Neal Russo, “Mizell, Gray Traded To Pirates for Javier And Unnamed Pitcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 28, 1960.

[14] Al Abrams, “Sidelights on Sports,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 30, 1960.

[15] Bob Broeg, “Sports Comment,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29, 1960.

Verified by MonsterInsights