Random Redbirds: Todd Zeile (St. Louis Cardinals 1989-1995)
Todd Zeile was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 30th round of the free-agent draft June 6, 1983 out of high school, yet opted not to sign. Instead choosing to attend UCLA. On June 2, 1986 the St. Louis Cardinals selected Zeile with the last pick (55th overall) of the 2nd round.
During the ‘86 season, he played his natural position, catcher in short-season A ball for the Erie Cardinals in the New York-Pennsylvania League (Wrigley Division). The following year, he moved up to the then single A affiliate Springfield Cardinals where he started to really find a groove. In 130 games, he ended the season with a slash line of .292/.380/.511 belted 25 HR, hit 24 doubles and had a whopping 106 RBI earning himself the MVP of the Midwest League. In 1988, Todd moved up to AA Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League and again put up good numbers as well as started to catch the attention of the big league club.
He got called up for a stint with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1989 season hitting his first career home run, but spent the majority of that year back in the minors for AAA Louisville Redbirds where he posted a .289 avg. with 19 HRs.
In 1990, Zeile got his break. He was brought in to be the Cardinals catcher, while also playing a bit of 1B & 3B. He finished 6th in Rookie of the Year balloting, with a line of .244/.333/.398 along with 15 HR and 25 doubles. He was undoubtedly a prospect that St. Louis was high on, but manager Joe Torre believed it would be more beneficial to move Zeile from behind the plate to make way for catcher Tom Pagnozzi. The youngster was reluctant to make the switch to 1B and then 3B, but agreed to the move.
1991 saw Zeile as the everyday third baseman. He played in 154 games at 3B and put up a .280 avg., 11 HR with 81 RBI. Then in ‘92, he slipped a bit off pace a bit. His averaged dipped to .257 with only 7 HR and 48 RBI.
The next two seasons were an improvement as he hit .277 with 17 HR and 103 RBI in ‘93, followed by a .267 avg., 19 HR and 75 RBI in ‘94.
In June of 1995, the St. Louis Cardinals were a team that was struggling. And on June, 16th with a record of 20-27, Walt Jocketty (who took over general manager duties from Dal Maxvill from ‘94) was feeling the heat, and decided to make some changes to appease a very unhappy fan base.
On that date, Jocketty fired the Cardinals manager Joe Torre (a mid-season firing that the franchise hadn’t done since, up until the 2018 season with Mike Matheny) and also traded the then cleanup hitter and first baseman Zeile who was batting .291 with 5 HR and 22 RBIs, and who was replaced by (none other than the other 2018 coaching firing), first base rookie John Mabry.
Zeile (29) was dealt to the Chicago Cubs along with cash, for pitcher Mike Morgan (35), and a pair of minor leaguers 1B Paul Torres & C Francisco Morales.
An eventual bust for the Cubs, Zeile basically became a journeyman. He played for Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees & Expos throughout a 16 year career. Notably the biggest trade that he was part of, was being dealt alongside HOFer Mike Piazza from the Dodgers, to the Marlins for Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Manuel Barrios & Jim Eisenreich.
Todd finished his career by getting a chance to play the position he came up as, catcher, that he hadn’t played in 14 seasons. On Oct. 3, 2004 for the New York Mets in what would be his last game, in his last at-bat, Zeile blasted a 3-run HR in the 6th inning vs the Montreal Expos.
It was also the last home run ever hit vs the Expos, as they moved the following season becoming the Washington Nationals.
Zeile had hit at least one HR for each of the eleven teams he played for in his career and also hit 10 or more HRs for eleven straight seasons. He ended his MLB career with an overall .265 avg. 253 HR and 1,110 RBI.
While Todd Zeile had better individual seasons with other clubs than he had in St. Louis, his career totals in a Cardinal uniform were the most noteworthy. In those 7 seasons he had slash line of 267/.349/.415 with 75 HR, 394 RBI, 719 hits (149 doubles & 13 triples) in 757 games.
For a quick comparison at a glance, David Freese had a slashline of .286/.356/.427 with 44 HR, 237 RBI, 448 hits (81 doubles & 4 triples) in 466 games during his 5 year Cardinals career.
Fun Fact: Zeile also holds the MLB record for home runs by a player with the last name starting with the letter “Z”.
After retiring from professional baseball, Zeile chose to pursue a career in acting/producing. He was executive producer of the 2005 film Dirty Deeds, appeared in a couple of episodes of the T.V. series The King of queens, produced the movie, I AM in 2010, appeared in the 2011 movie Zookeeper, and produced 41 episodes of the FX comedy Anger Management with Charlie Sheen (2012-2014).