This burly Kentuckian signed as a pitcher but made it to the majors with his bat. Jeoff (which rhymes with “off”) Long could hit balls a long way. That got him into 56 games in 1963 and 1964 as a first baseman/outfielder, first with the St. Louis Cardinals and then with the Chicago White Sox. A bad knee limited his career, however – he first hurt it playing high-school football and reinjured it while with the White Sox.
Jeoffrey Keith Long was born in Covington, Kentucky, on October 9, 1941. Covington lies just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati His father, Chester Long, and his uncle Oren were entrepreneurs. They founded the Long Brothers Bag Company in 1944; two years later they started Cincinnati Drum Service. Over the next several decades, Chester and Oren’s hard work built a remarkable little empire. It remains today a classic American success story.
Chester and his wife, Pauline Bramel Long, had four more sons and five daughters after Jeoff, their oldest child. Pauline was a homemaker. When she died in 2002 Jeoff described her as “a quiet Christian who served faithfully. She loved her family dearly and her church.” This industrious Baptist family loved sports too. Chester played football and Oren basketball, but as Pauline said when Jeoff turned pro, “There are baseballs flying around here most of the time.”1
Years after his retirement his heart remained with the Cardinals, but as one would expect, Long was a Reds fan growing up. He attended many games at old Crosley Field. “I used to go out to the park whenever I had a chance,” he said. “This was when I was 12 years old, and like most kids I had my heroes. Johnny Temple used to be one of my favorites. One particular day I remember, I yelled at Temple every time he came in from the field. I was sitting behind the Redleg dugout. Finally, around the seventh inning, he came over and said: ‘What’s with you, kid? Why don’t you get off my back?’ Well that really cut me. I thought the whole world had come to an end.”2
Long attended Lloyd Memorial High School in Erlanger, Kentucky, eight miles southwest of Covington. In a state mad for basketball, he played on the varsity for three years. He also played football for half of his sophomore year and was named the team’s quarterback in his junior year. An idea of Jeoff’s strong right arm came from Harry Fanok, who was his roommate with the Tulsa Oilers in 1961 and also played for the Cardinals in 1963-64. Harry remembered, “He was the most naturally strong guy you could find. At my home in Jersey, we were tossing a football. I seen him throw one flatfooted about 60 yards.”3
In his only game as a junior, Long twisted his knee handing the ball off. “I split the cartilage,” he recalled in 2008. “That was when I had my first operation. It wound up becoming an accumulation of problems. They didn’t have the medical technology back then – no arthroscopes or anything like that.” He stayed off the gridiron in his senior year.
Baseball was where Jeoff really stood out, though. As a senior, the righty batted .590 while playing the outfield and pitching, where he had an impressive 8-1 record. “I played some catcher and third base too,” he noted. “I always liked playing every day. I played church-league ball in the summer too.”
Near midnight on June 19, 1959, Cardinals scouts Maurice “Mo” Mozzali and Eddie Lyons signed the 17-year-old hurler. Mozzali was a St. Louis farmhand from 1946 to 1958 who became a Cards coach in 1977-78 after nearly two decades as a scout. He was born in Louisville and so Kentucky was the base of his scouting zone. “He covered Indiana and Michigan too,” Long observed. “Mo scouted Ted Simmons. I talked to all the teams pretty much, there were 16 back then. It came down to the Reds and Cards, the Reds being there at home, but I thought a lot of Mo. He was really good to me. It was a situation that I couldn’t turn down.”
It’s something that Jeoff was very modest about, but St. Louis gave him a sizable bonus. The amount was reported at various points between $50,000 and $100,000, but the consensus is $70,000 (paid in four yearly installments). He downplayed it in 2008, much as he did in 1961:
“Sure I like dollar bills, but all I was interested in was playing baseball. My dad handled most of the monetary details. He’s a real good businessman, and got me the best possible deal. But truthfully, I didn’t much care what the final figure was.”4
Three days after he signed, the teenager reported to his first pro team, Wytheville in the Appalachian League. An emotional Pauline Long said, “He seems awfully young to be leaving home.”5 Jeoff played in Virginia just briefly (0-1, 6.00 in three games) before going to another Class D squad, Keokuk in the Midwest League. He formed a battery with another Cardinals bonus boy who signed around the same time out of Tennessee: Tim McCarver ($75,000). Two other young men got lavish money (for the time) from St. Louis. Jim “Charlie” O’Rourke ($60,000) got two at-bats in St. Louis that June, and did not resurface for the remainder of his four-year pro career. Future University of New Orleans coach Tom Schwaner ($50,000) also lasted four years in the minors but never made the big leagues.
Despite unimpressive stats with Keokuk (2-7, 5.10 earned-run average, 67 walks in 67 innings across 12 starts), Long showed enough to win a promotion to Class B in 1960. With Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, he went 0-6, 7.64 in 15 games (eight starts). Wildness – 55 more walks in 48? innings – remained a major factor. However, Jeoff said that arm problems ended his days as a pitching prospect. “I pitched a 13-inning game in the district championship my senior year. I got twinges in my shoulder, and it hung with me. The arm just wasn’t what it should have been. I just didn’t have the stuff.”
“I asked my manager at Winston-Salem, Chase Riddle, if there was anything else I could do to help.” Thus the organization looked to convert him to a position player.
As the experiment took shape, Long dropped back a level to Winnipeg (Class C Northern League) to start 1961. Despite suffering a cracked wrist bone in May, he hit strongly (.299, 14 home runs, 45 runs batted in in just 55 games). He was still raw in the field – and a cutup off it, observed Don Blanchard, columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. “‘Big Joe’ will go on imitating people . . . television announcers, army generals, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame . . . but he’ll bear one objective in mind. That is to make the grade at bat and in [the] field.”6 Blanchard later noted, “You can’t teach an individual to plant bat on ball and send the pellet orbiting 500 feet.”7 “Blanchie was a great character,” Jeoff remembered. “He called me the Kentucky Clouter.”
Long credited Goldeyes manager Grover Resinger for his development, but to round out his fielding skills, Mo Mozzali was also on hand for part of that season. Don Blanchard reported in mid-July that “the ex-first baseman . . . has been hitting ground balls at the big guy until he hates the sight of them. ‘Jeoff needs a lot of work,’ admitted Mo, ‘but when he learns to play first, they’re going to have a hard time holding him down.’ ”8
Shortly after, “the apple-cheeked kid with the big bat, weak glove, and, we suspect, faked nonchalant attitude toward baseball” (as Blanchard described him)9 jumped to the Double-A Texas League. “The Cardinals . . . are highly interested in finding out what the big guy can do against tough company,” wrote Blanchard, who suggested that the organization might look to recoup some of its investment via the Rule 5 or expansion drafts.10 Jeoff hit seven homers and drove in 25 runs in 37 games for the Oilers, though his average was just .225 as he adjusted.
The 20-year-old had a torrid start in 1962, cracking 16 homers in the Oilers’ first 31 games. Inevitably he cooled off after that, but he still finished with 30 home runs, 80 RBIs, and a .284 average. He added four more round-trippers in the playoffs as Tulsa swept Albuquerque, 3-0, and knocked off Austin, 3-1, en route to the Texas League title. Meanwhile, pal Harry Fanok’s Atlanta Crackers had won the Little World Series. To celebrate their success, the young men spent two weeks in Stuttgart, Arkansas – the duck-hunting capital of the world – pursuing their favorite hobby.
After a stint in the Instructional League, Long was promoted again for the 1963 season, joining the Crackers in the International League. In 86 games, he had 43 RBIs while batting .274 – but he hit just five homers. There was a good reason for the dropoff, though. Jeoff noted, “They’d removed the inner cyclone fence, and that made it a lot deeper for a right-handed batter.” Indeed, Atlanta general manager Joe Ryan had removed the four-foot wire fence in July 196211, restoring old Ponce de Leon Park’s former cavernous dimensions (365 feet to left field and 448 to straightaway center, up from 330 and 410).
At the time, he met the big club’s needs, and so St. Louis summoned him on July 28. “The Redbirds, desperate at times for a right-handed pinch-hitter, called up Jeoff Long. Duke Carmel, a left-handed swinger . . . was sent to the Mets in a waiver deal to make room for Long.”12
Jeoff made his debut on July 31 as a pinch-hitter for Bob Gibson, striking out against the Reds’ Jim O’Toole. Over the next month, he pinch-hit four more times without appearing in the field. In his last at-bat that year, on August 27, Long got his first major-league hit -- a single off Jack Sanford of San Francisco. He remained with the Cards through the end of the season but saw no more action.
Long then went once again to the Instructional League. He remembered in particular being on the field when the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was announced. There were happier memories of his autumns in Florida, though.
“One year we had a great team – we won the league over Detroit, which had guys like Willie Horton and Jim Northrup. But my favorite memory is from an NL vs. AL all-star game. Eddie Stanky was the manager, and he wanted me to pinch-hit. I couldn’t find my bat, and Pete Rose said, ‘Here, take this one – it’s got a lot of hits in it.’ Sure enough, I lined a single, and when I came back to the dugout, Pete said, ‘See, I told you!’ ” Of course, Rose’s bats wound up with 4,256 big-league hits in them.
Jeoff proceeded to win a roster spot with the Cards in the spring of 1964. Two old St. Louis stars who knew the prospect from Tulsa remarked on his promise. “‘He’s built like Jimmie Foxx and can hit a ball a mile,’ said old Gashouser [and Drillers coach] Pepper Martin. . . . Said [manager] Whitey Kurowski, ‘He hit one ball at Tulsa that would have landed at the Fairgrounds Hotel if he had been swinging at Busch Stadium.’ ” Sheldon “Chief” Bender, associate director of player development, added, “Remember that at Atlanta last year, he was shooting at a 450-foot alley in left-center.”13
Long remembered, “I had a good spring. I hit a few homers, did real well [.319], and after one big game against the Mets, I was on Howard Cosell’s show as star of the game. I had a double off the right-center wall against Sandy Koufax the first time I faced him.”
“Then in my first regular-season at-bat that year, Opening Night, in front of over 50,000 fans [at Dodger Stadium], I got another hit off Sandy. I remember it was a drive off the 410 mark in dead center, over Willie Davis’s head. I thought, ‘Gee whiz, this is terrific stuff.’ ” Long settled for a single and then left for a pinch-runner, but his performance against Koufax remains “one of my biggest thrills in the game. I always hit lefties well.”
Still, the rookie played only sporadically over the season’s first few months. His career highlight came on May 15, against the Milwaukee Braves in his second career start. Bill White’s streak of 284 consecutive games played, then the longest current run in the National League, ended with a muscle strain. Batting fifth, Long hit his only major-league homer, off knuckleballer Bobby Tiefenauer. The two-run shot in the seventh inning was “a towering drive that bounced off the top of the scoreboard in left field, over 400 feet away.”14 It snapped a 6-6 tie, and St. Louis went on to win, 10-6.
Jeoff remembered, “Yep, it was a knuckleball. It was one of the longest shots at the old Busch Stadium, off the top of the Redbird, to the left of the eagle.”
Long got five more starts during May, two at first base and three in right field. From Memorial Day on, though, he saw only pinch-hitting duty. On July 7, the Cardinals sold him to the White Sox for an undisclosed amount to make room for Mike Shannon. It was a pivotal move for the team during its run to the championship, as Shannon took over right field. Lou Brock, who had arrived from the Cubs a few weeks before, and Shannon flanked Curt Flood in a revamped outfield.
“I was shocked to leave the Cardinals,” said Long. “It was my organization, who I signed with, where my heart was. And it was a great team.”
The Sporting News stated that Long “could be a big help for the Sox, who are sorely lacking in punch from the right side of the plate.”15 Less than a week later, though, as Jeoff pointed out, “they made a deal with the Senators for Moose Skowron and put him at first base. Al Lopez asked me if I’d mind moving to left field. It was a rainy night in Boston [July 15], it was a wet field, and I slipped. I hurt my knee again.”
Jeoff had to leave the game after the mishap on Frank Malzone’s single. He missed five days and started just twice over the rest of the season. “I also got hit in the back by a foul ball in Detroit and cracked a rib. Things just didn’t go my way physically.”
Long collected only five singles in 35 at-bats for the White Sox, driving in five runs. Together with his 10-for-43 mark for St. Louis, he hit .192. A start against the Los Angeles Angels on September 23 proved to be Jeoff’s last game in the majors. He finished with a lifetime average of .193.
The Cardinals voted Long a half-share, $4,311.64, of the winners’ World Series money. (However, it appears his name may have been left out of the published lists by mistake!) He also got a half-share of American League second-place cash, $733.01, from the White Sox. On December 1 Chicago traded pitcher Ray Herbert to Philadelphia for Danny Cater. As part of the deal, Long was swapped for future major-league manager Lee Elia. He went from Indianapolis (Chicago’s top farm club) to Arkansas (then a Phillies affiliate in the Pacific Coast League).
A rash of injuries – instep, hand, ankle, and the knee – kept Long sidelined for most of spring training in 1965.16 He appeared in only 14 games for the Travelers, going hitless with one RBI in 18 at-bats. In May, after the knee flared up again, the Travs invoked a condition in the deal to return the first baseman to the Chicago organization, which assigned him to Double-A Lynchburg. After hitting .195 in 24 games there, he was released – but the Cardinals picked him up and assigned him to Triple-A Jacksonville (.250 in eight games). Chief Bender said in Jeoff’s defense, “He’s had water on the knee since high school and people have thought he’s been dogging it.”17
That offseason, though he’d considered Instructional League, Long tried to get his bum knee fixed. In 1969, he remarked, “It wasn’t worth a darn the whole season of 1965, so I decided to have it cut. Well, I had some bad luck. There were some complications, infection and hemorrhaging, so I had it done all over.”18 When spring 1966 rolled around, though, he still wasn’t right. Said Chief Bender, “The operation did not relieve the stiffness in the knee and I doubt that Long will be able to play much, if at all.” Jeoff had been assigned to Double-A Arkansas but would have had the opportunity to make Tulsa’s squad.19
However, he wound up missing not only that season but also the next two. He went back to work in the family business and underwent another operation in 1967, “to try to loosen up the frozen joint. I went back to winter ball in 1968 – I think it was George Silvey with the Cardinals who gave me the chance.”
Jeoff started the 1969 season with Arkansas (Double-A). Travelers manager Ray Hathaway told The Sporting News, “He’s had I don’t know how many operations and he’s paid for them himself. He loves the game that much. People who saw him before say he’s 50 percent improved.”20 In the same article, Long observed as he rubbed his scarred right knee, “I’ve got a motion problem. It pulls quite a bit. You see that? That’s as far back as it will go, but it seems to be giving a little. I’m here just trying it out. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do.”21
Even though Long hit only .162 in 18 games for the Travelers, he still got the call from Triple-A Tulsa to replace the injured Willie Montañez on May 9. Back with the Oilers for the first time in seven years, he batted.263 with two homers and 18 RBIs and even pitched a little again (he’d also relieved once in Little Rock). Manager Warren Spahn used him to mop up for a few innings in a blowout on May 29, commenting, “Long showed me he could get the ball over the plate. And on this staff, that means a lot.”22
Ultimately, though, the physical problems were too much. “I never regained but about 60 percent of the motion in that knee,” said Long in 2008. “I just couldn’t get it back. I could hit, but I couldn’t do much with the wheels. So it was involuntary retirement.”
After that he rejoined Cincinnati Drum, becoming a foreman. Jeoff and Katherine “Kathy” Martin Long were married in June 1975; they had one daughter, Lindsay, who became a national champion diver at Southern Methodist University.
Just before his wedding Jeoff made national news in a different game, showing that he was still a long hitter. With a blast of 322 yards 28 inches, he won the first National Open Long Driving contest at Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook, Illinois. Looking back, Golf Digest noted in 1999, “Jeoff Long, a 15-handicap amateur from Fort Mitchell, KY . . . defeated a host of PGA Tour pros, including fourth-place finisher Jim Dent, who would go on to lead the senior tour in driving distance six consecutive years (1989-94).”
Long won a prize of $12,000, but he turned it over to the PGA Junior Golf Fund because he would have had to turn pro to accept. “I could have used the money,” Long said. “I’m getting married this weekend. . . . I got started when I was playing with the Cards. Some of us would just get together and go out to the driving range and beat on some balls.”23
Harry Fanok offered a jovial memory of those days. “The long driving deal started when Jeoff and I were in spring training. After the workouts, we’d head on out to a place called Ted Peters Smoked Mullet [a Tampa institution]. They had the good food there. Then we’d hit the driving range to see who could smoke the ball the farthest. He’d always win. Sometimes we’d be there at night time. There was a movie drive-in right next to the driving range. Bad idea! We’d shank many a ball amongst the folks trying to watch a flick or make out.”24
Long was runner-up in the 1976 contest and competed through 1984. “I never could find the fairway again,” he observed. “I was lucky to find it that first time!”
Jeoff remained in management at Cincinnati Drum for many years, but in 2010, “We decided to sell our business, it was a family decision. We still have a small real estate deal we are part of.” He still follows baseball and his original team remains in his heart. “I was glad the Cardinals won the World Series,” Long said in November 2011. “I believe they were the best team, although Texas deserves a lot of credit.”
Long looked back on his brief big-league career fondly in 2008. In a mild Kentucky drawl, he said, “I don’t want to brag, but barring the physical situation, I think I’d have done fine. It didn’t work out, but it was an enjoyable trip. I got to play the game I dreamed of playing for a little while, and I love the time I was involved in it and the people. That was the main thing, just being a Cardinal.”
Grateful acknowledgement to Jeoff Long for his personal memories (telephone interviews on March 20 and 21, 2008; e-mail update on November 2, 2011). Thanks also to Harry Fanok.
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1 “Schoolboy Gets $70,000 Bonus.” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, June 21, 1959, p. 5D.
2 Blanchard, Don. “Goldeye Glints: He Came to Play.” Winnipeg Free Press, May 3, 1961: 44.
3 E-mail from Harry Fanok to the author, June 7, 2007.
4 Blanchard, op. cit.
5 “Mom Wept When Cards’ $70,000 Long Left Home.” The Sporting News, July 15, 1959: 2.
6 Blanchard, “He Came to Play.”
7 Blanchard, Don. “Goldeye Glints: The Trial of Jeoff Long.” Winnipeg Free Press, July 22, 1961: 48.
8 Blanchard, Don. “Cards’ Silvey Arrives, Goldies’ Lucky Charm?” Winnipeg Free Press, July 12, 1961: 47.
9 Blanchard, “The Trial of Jeoff Long.”
11 “Too Many Visitors’ Homers, Atlanta Takes Down Fence.” The Sporting News, August 4, 1962: 38.
12 Russo, Neal. “Flashy Flood’s Sock Shower Helps Whet Cards’ Flag Appetite.” The Sporting News, August 10, 1963: 8.
13 Russo, Neal. “Cardinals Look to Longshot Long as Long Ball Hope.” The Sporting News, February 22, 1964: 19.
14 “Cubs, Giants Cut Short All-Star Rest.” Manitowoc (Wisconsin) Times-Herald, July 8, 1964: 10-M.
15 “Cards Slug to 10-6 Win Over Braves.” Syracuse Post-Standard, May 16, 1964: 12.
16 “Injuries Hamper Jeoff Long.” The Sporting News, April 24, 1965: 30.
17 Russo, Neal. “Jeoff Long Undergoes Knee Surgery; Slugger Stakes Claim to Redbird Job.” The Sporting News, December 6, 1965: 20.
18 Wirth, Ned. “Do-or-Die Season for Guindon and Long.” The Sporting News, May 10, 1969: 39.
19 “Jeoff Long Doubtful.” The Sporting News, April 2, 1966: 34.
20 Wirth, op. cit.
22 “Cisco Sets Trend.” The Sporting News, June 14, 1969: 36.
23 “Blast of 322 yard wins long driving championship.” Greeley (Colorado) Tribune, June 25, 1975: 14.
24 E-mail from Harry Fanok to the author, February 11, 2008.