Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog quit his manager's post in the middle of the year, was briefly replaced by Red Schoendienst, who eventually gave way for a permanent manager in the person of Joe Torre. The vets lost playing time in favor of young players like Ray Lankford, Geronimo Pena, Bernard Gilkey, Felix Jose, and Todd Zeile.
Lankford turned out to be the best of that group, but Zeile was actually a much more highly regarded prospect. Hard to believe, but Zeile was actually ranked as a Top 10 prospect entering the 1990 season by Baseball America.
The Cardinals actually had four players on the Top 100 with Zeile, Lankford (19), John Ericks (32), and Brian Jordan (98). By the end of the year the team ended up with Felix Jose (54) who was in the Willie McGee trade with the A's.
Zeile was a big deal with Cardinals fans when he first came up at the end of the 1989 season and there were some pretty high hopes for him after he took over the starting catchers job in 1990. The Cardinals even let Tony Pena walk to give him the starting catcher's job.
As a baseball card loving middle schooler there living in St. Louis Zeile cards were really popular. There are a bunch of them, but his 1990 Topps cards had to be the most popular. I pulled my first copy out of a pack of cards from the Webster Groves Ben Franklin.....
Love the Future Stars label at the bottom of the card. This card was not as cool as a Ken Griffey Jr. card, but was probably easily the most popular current Cardinals card at this point in time. For a team that was really lacking star power, Zeile offered hope. Plus, as a card collector, it's always nice when one of those really good players is on your team. Makes opening the packs of cards a little bit more fun.
This is my actual original Zeile card which had one glaring problem, which is why I know this is the original card.....
The faded back was a crusher at the time I pulled this card. Sure, the back is a little off center too, but the faded ink always really pissed me off. Luckily the angry feeling did not last too long. That and the card is worth about $0.02. I am pretty sure that there are five of these in my card closet.
Ultimately Zeile became sort of a scapegoat for Cardinals fans in the mid 1990s. He never hit for the power that was promised, he was moved from catcher to third to first, and had some pretty rough years. Eventually he was traded to the Cubs in the middle of 1995 and then wandered the league for the better part of a decade playing for the Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees, and Expos.