ST. LOUIS — Joaquin Andujar, a star pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s who called himself “One tough Dominican,” has died in his native Dominican Republic. He was 62.
“He was a joy to manage,” said former manager Whitey Herzog. “Everybody knew he didn’t operate with a full deck most of the time, but when you had Joaquin on your ballclub, you were sitting on a firecracker every day.”
The team said he died Tuesday. Leonardo Matos Berrido, president of the Dominican Baseball League, said the cause was diabetes complications.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of the best pitchers in Cardinals history,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends and his teammates today.”
Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, who like Andujar is from San Pedro de Macoris, wrote on his Instagram account that Andujar’s death was a “big pain for all baseball fans, especially all Dominicans, but even more so for all of us who had the chance to know you and learn from your example.”
The Cardinals planned a tribute to the fiery right-hander, who threw as hard to first base as to the hitters, before playing the Cubs.
“Joaquin was just a big personality,” said Cardinals broadcaster Al Hrabosky, a colorful performer himself known as the Mad Hungarian during his playing career.
“He was good for the ballclub, not just for the wins but also to help keep people loose. There were times for levity and Joaquin was good at that.”
Andujar was a two-time All-Star during five seasons with the Cardinals from 1981-85. He had 20-win seasons in 1984 and ’85, led the National League in victories in ’84 and was a 15-game winner on the Cardinals’ World Series title team in ’82, also winning Game 7 of the Series against the Brewers.
He won 21 games in 1985 for an NL championship team and was ejected from Game 7 of the 1985 World Series against the Royals for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Don Denkinger.
Herzog said Andujar often would arrive cranky at Busch Stadium ready to air grievances. The manager would stall, promising to talk later, and leaned on teammates Ozzie Smith and George Hendrick to get Andujar into a better mood.
Herzog fondly recalled that Andujar sent his wife and all the coaches’ wives charms with diamonds after the 1982 championship.
“People don’t realize what a good heart he had,” Herzog said. “I’ve never had a ballplayer do it, and I knew it cost him some bucks.”
For his career, Andujar was four-time All-Star, finishing 127-118 with a 3.58 ERA and winning one Gold Glove. He debuted with the Houston Astros in 1976, going 42-48 with a 3.64 ERA before being traded to St. Louis in the middle of the 1981 season. He made two All-Star teams during his time with the Astros.
“Andujar distinguished himself for being a great competitor on the field, and for defending the Dominican players,” said former major-league pitcher Mario Soto, president of the National Federation of Professional Players in the Dominican Republic.
“He always worked for Dominican players to be respected and valued in the United States.”
Enos Cabell, a special assistant to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, played with Andujar for five seasons at the beginning of the pitcher’s career. Andujar also played for Oakland.
“Joaquin was a great competitor and very entertaining as a teammate,” Cabell said. “He went on to become one of the best pitchers in the league.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny remembers watching Andujar play on television.
“I heard a lot of great stories on the field as a competitor and stories in the clubhouse, about the personality he was, and as a teammate,” Matheny said.