St. Louis Cardinals: Knowing Alan “Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1975: Al Hrabosky #39 of the St Louis Cardinals pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1975. Hrabosky played for the Cardinals from 1970-77. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1975: Al Hrabosky #39 of the St Louis Cardinals pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1975. Hrabosky played for the Cardinals from 1970-77. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Al Hrabosky isn’t just a personality for FSMW, he also was a fiery pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1970s.

It was 1973 and all my passion revolved around the St. Louis Cardinals. I lived in Houston and used to follow them during their road games. I would go see them at Busch Stadium in St. Louis where I had the opportunity to talk with many players on the dugout during their workouts.

On one of their visits to Houston, I met the Cardinals team at the Shamrock Hotel, which was located just across from the now-demolished Astrodome in Houston. There, in the lobby of the hotel, I was talking to Joe Torre, Tim McCarver, and veteran pitcher Orlando Pena, when suddenly Al Hrabosky approached the group. I didn’t know Hrabosky personally even though he had already had a few cups of coffee with St. Louis’ main team in 1970, 1971, and 1972.

When I was introduced to Hrabosky, he was a 23-year-old boy who still didn’t have a beard or mustache. He said he liked to intimidate rival hitters, but if he had long hair it gave him a strong resemblance to the famous Spaniard bullfighter Manuel Benítez “El Cordobés.”  I talked with him about the journeys of his previous year when he played for the Algodoneros de Guasave team in the Mexican Pacific Coast Winter League, as part of an agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Guasave was a small farming town and was practically a new team with limited resources that served as an opponent for large and powerful teams like Hermosillo, Mazatlan, and Culiacan where it showed off major league players such as reliever Kent Tekulve, Bobby Darwin, Dave Winfield, Hector Espino, and Aurelio Rodriguez among others.

On Guasave’s roster, not only was therer Hrabosky, there was Jim Campanis, Terry Fox, and the Norwegian pitcher Thor Skogan who achieved the only championship that Guasave has in its history. This happened with a 2-1 win over the Culiacan team in the playoffs with Thor Skogan earning the win and the save for Alan Hraboski in the face of the cheers of the fans. This earned Guasave the right to represent Mexico in the Caribbean Series

Hrabosky was much loved in Guasave where he had many admirers for his manly carriage and long hair like “The Beatles.” In Guasave, Hrabosky was known for his long hair and similar face and that earned him the nickname “El Cordobés,” that he proudly carried for the fame and bravery enjoyed by the Spaniard bullfighter.

Hrabosky was also remembered for his generosity, as during the Christmas Holidays in the company of other players he gave toys to the under-resourced children of that community.

All these comments were heard by the group composed from Torre, McCarver, Peña and Ken Reitz and Bake McBride who had joined to the group and who could not believe that of Hrabosky, who boasted his nickname “El Cordobés” in the face of the mockery that he was subjected by his teammates.

Whoever saw Hrabosky play during his eight seasons (three of them partial) that he played in St. Louis, will always remember how he acted when he was called from the bullpen. Watching him run out from the depths of right field to go to the pitching mound, banging his fist against his left glove and listening to Hungarian Rhapsody (Magyar Rapszódiák by Franz Liszt) booming across the stadium.

Once on the pitching mound, Hrabosky turned his back on the batter, and after he walked a few steps towards the second base, rubbed the ball heavily with his hands several times, breathed deeply, and hit the ball against his glove. Returning to the mound to look down to the batter as the crowd roared, this spectacle was not enjoyed by the batter.

More from St Louis Cardinals History

Hrabosky was a pitcher who depended on his fastball 90% of the time and liked to intimidate hitters, always alluding to the help of his long hair, beard, and horseshoe mustache. However, when Vern Rapp arrived as manager of St. Louis Cardinals in 1977 he asked all his players to cut their hair and shave their beards and mustaches, which resulted in Hrabosky commenting that without his usual appearance he “would look like a golf pro.”

The relations between Rapp and Hrabosky caused him to be traded to KC Royals at the end of 1977 for fellow reliever Mark Littell and the catcher Buck Martinez into a totally unpopular trade. Hrabosky spent two years in Kansas City and in 1979, as a free agent, signed a multi-year contract with the Atlanta Braves. He retired playing for Atlanta on August 18, 1982.

One of his memorable games with St. Louis was on May 9, 1977, playing against the Cincinnati Reds.

While the score was tied for at 5-5 in the opening of the ninth inning, Hrabosky (Left-handed pitcher) awarded walks to the three left-handed hitters he faced first. Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen, faithful to his routine described above. Hrabosky then proceeded to strikeout right-handed hitters George Foster, Johnny Bench, and pinch hitter Bob Bailey in the face of the roar of the crowd. St. Louis won the game 6–5 with a homer from Ted Simmons in the 10th inning.

A great man

Al Hrabosky, known as the “The Mad Hungarian” for his unusual last name his colorful character, left a mark of a 40–20 win-loss record with 59 saves during his tenure in St. Louis, with a 2.95 ERA in 1974 a 1.66 ERA with 22 saves in 1975 that earned him the “NL Fireman of the Year” trophy awarded to him by Sporting News. In the 13 years he played in MLB, he left had 97 saves with a 3.10 ERA

On one occasion, I was at his home outside St. Louis where I met his wife June. Hrabosky was also impressive as a homely, pleasant, and respectful type, the opposite of the character he showed on the playing field. I still have a red Cardinals Jacket with the number 39 with a redbird that he gifted me on that occasion.

dark. Next. News: Details on MLB’s proposed economic plan

Al Hrabosky joined in 1985 as St. Louis Cardinals games commentator and remains in that position to date, having been inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.