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St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals
Originally part of the American Association as the St. Louis Browns, St. Louis joined the National League when the American Association became defunct in 1891. In 1900, they changed their named to the Cardinals.
The Cardinals played in relative mediocrity, having not been able to finish any higher than third place. It was not until the team hired Branch Rickey as team President and General Manager in 1916 that the team began enjoying the success that has characterized the franchise.
Dissatisfied with unsuccessful attempts to sign major league talent with the low budget he was given, Rickey thought that there must be a better way for his team to get better in the future. He came up with an idea that revolutionized the way Major League baseball operates. Rickey felt that young talent could be developed for his St. Louis Cardinals rather than signing already established players looking for lucrative contracts. Rickey than invested in several minor league baseball clubs, and used them to develop future talent for his Cardinals roster. This farm system proved to be successful as the Cardinals were able to field competitive teams year after year. Soon, all Major League clubs adopted the farm system. A large part of the Cardinal’s success was Rickey’s strong ability for assessing young talent. He built a strong reputation around the league as being a shrewd businessman, with an excellent eye for raw talent and ability to work out successful thrifty deals.
The first great St. Louis Cardinal was Roger ’Rajah’ Hornsby. One of the greatest hitters of all time, Hornsby won the Triple Crown in 1922 with 42 home runs, 152 RBI and a .401 batting average. 424 average, the highest mark in the National League since 1900. In 1924, Hornsby’s led the league with a .424 batting average was the highest mark in the 20th century. His .358 career average trails only Ty Cobb (.366) on the all-time list. In 1925, Hornsby won a second triple crown with 39 home runs, 143 RBI and a .403 average. From 1920 to 1925, Hornsby led his league in batting average all six years, in RBI four years, and in home runs twice. In 1925, Hornsby became player-manager of the club. In 1926, Hornsby led his team to their first World Series title when the Cards edged the powerful New York Yankees in 7 games. He won the National League MVP twice, in 1925 and 1929. His career batting average of .358 is the highest ever for a National League player, and second highest in Major League history, after Ty Cobb. In 1931, the Cardinals won their second World Championship over the Philadelphia Athletics.
During the 1930’s, the Cardinals were labeled the Gas House Gang – a nickname to describe the Cardinals’ fiery attitude toward the game and their fun-loving style of play. The Gas House Gang personified Depression-era America. The players were underpaid, wore uniforms that were almost always torn and dirty, and had wandered into professional baseball from small towns in the Midwest where other jobs were scarce. The Gang was led by colorful pitcher Dizzy Dean, OF-Joe ’Muscle’ Medwick, 3B-Pepper Martin, and OF-Enos ’Country’ Slaughter.
In 1934, the Gas House Gang won the National League pennant on the final day of the season behind the pitching of Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul. That season, Dizzy Dean predicted 45 wins between himself and his brother, Paul, a rookie. Dizzy won 30, his brother 19, for a total of 49. The World Series featured the Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers. St. Louis prevailed in seven games, with both Deans winning two games each in the Series. This was the second Cardinal World Championship. In 1937, Joe Medwick became the last National Leaguer to win the Triple Crown.
In 1942, Stan ’The Man’ Musial entered the rookie season, and became the next successor in the line of great Cardinals after Roger Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, and Joe Medwick. The 1941 Cardinals team finished the season with a 106-28, and winning 43 out of their last 51 games. Led by Musial, Slaughter, and pitcher, Mort Cooper – who won the MVP for that year, the Cardinals easily defeated the New York Yankees in 5 games, claiming their forth World Series Championship. The Cardinals would become the powerhouse of the National league during this decade and Stan Musial would lead the Cardinals to World Series Championships in 1944 and 1946. Musial, who won seven N.L. batting titles and 4 MVPs in his 22-year career with the Cardinals, had a lifetime batting average of .331.
The 1960s saw the next great St. Louis Cardinal era. Led by dominating fireballers, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, and ultra-fast, havoc-causing outfielders, Lou Brock and Curt Flood, the Cardinals relied on their pitching and speed to bring them success. World Series Championships were won in 1964, where they upset the New York Yankees in seven games, and in 1967, where Gibson dominated the Boston Red Sox to win the title also in seven games, to ruin the Red Sox’s impossible dream season.
The next and last St. Louis World Championship was in 1982. The Cardinals boasted a team that lacked home run power but had an abundance of speed behind Lonnie Smith, Ozzie Smith, and Willie McGee, and strong pitchers in John Tudor and Bruce Sutter. The Cards beat the Milwaukee Brewers this year in seven games, giving the Cardinals their ninth World Championship.
The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals may rekindle the next great era. Armed with a strong defensive team featuring future legend in the making, Albert Pujols, and consistent stars – Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Larry Walker, and Edgar Renteria, and a pitching staff that remained healthy all year and exceeded expectations. The 2004 Cardinals cruised to the best record in the Major Leagues with 105 wins. Clearly the class of the league, the Cardinals easily defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros in the playoffs to face the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
Through their illustrious history, St. Louis has been the most successful team in the National League. They have won 16 National League Pennants and 9 World Series. Only the American League’s New York Yankees can boast a more storied franchise than St. Louis.