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The St Louis Cardinals are one of the oldest, and most successful, baseball teams in American Major League Baseball. They have won the World Series more times (ten) than any other National League team, and only trail the New York Yankees of the American League for the top-spot in both leagues1.
The team is a perfect contrast to its 'neighbouring' rivals, the Chicago Cubs. The rivalry between these two teams goes back far, partially due to the closeness of the two cities. When the Cardinals play the Cubs, many fans of the visiting team will make the trip to watch the game. However, there is more to it than location, since it is still a five to six-hour drive by car.
Being in the same league and the same division for most of their histories, they have played many games against one another, and there have been several trades and other incidents between the two teams that have cemented the rivalry. For example:
In 1964 the Chicago Cubs traded Lou Brock to the St Louis Cardinals for Ernie Broglio. This was one of the most lopsided trades in the history of major league baseball.
In 1969 beloved announcer Harry Caray, who'd been broadcasting Cardinals games since 1945, left St Louis and broadcasted for the Oakland A's and the Chicago White Sox for a few years before finishing his career as a broadcaster for the Cubs on the WGN cable station2.
1800s - 1919
In the 1880s St Louis started and folded a baseball team a couple of times, but they've fielded a team in the National League every year since 1892. Originally named the St Louis Perfectos, and then the St Louis Browns, they were named the Cardinals in 1898 and have kept that name ever since.
In 1898, Frank and Stanley Robison bought the Cardinals. At the time they also owned a club in Cleveland, Ohio. Between the 1898 and 1899 seasons, in addition to changing the name of the club, the Robison brothers decided that a good team would draw more fans in St Louis than Cleveland. The St Louis team had finished last place out of 12 the year before, and Cleveland had finished fifth. The solution was probably the biggest trade there ever was and ever will be in Major League Baseball. St Louis players moved to Cleveland, and Cleveland players moved to St Louis. Immortal pitcher Cy Young was among the players to move to St Louis, though he didn't last long there.
Prior to the 1900 season the National League decided to drop its four weakest franchises. If the Robison brothers hadn't made the switch, St Louis wouldn't have had a team in 1900. Instead, Cleveland had no team. Cy Young had the worst season of his career, so the Robison brothers traded him to Boston, which was a huge mistake. Cy Young's poor year was a fluke, and he'd average 30 wins a year over the next four.
In 1918, for the eighth time in their first 27 years, the Cardinals finished last place in the National League. However, they never finished last again in the remaining 82 years of the 20th Century.
World Champions - 1926
Rogers Hornsby is the only right-handed batter to ever hit over .400 in a season three times, and managed to exceed a .400 average across five seasons between 1921 and 1925. He ended his career with a .358 batting average second only to Ty Cobb. After the 1926 season he was traded to the Giants for Frankie Frisch. In his last full season as a player, 1929, he won his second MVP award - for the Chicago Cubs. Hornsby finished up his playing career with four seasons (1934 - 37) in St Louis, but for the American League Browns, and only played in a total 56 games.
Memorial Day 1922, an otherwise forgettable player Cliff Heathcote may have become the only player in major league history to play for two teams on the same day. Between games of a doubleheader, the Cardinals traded him to the opposing team - the Cubs.
1930s - Gashouse Gang
World Champions - 1931 and 1934
1933 was the first All-Star Game. The Cardinals had four starters on the field, including Pepper Martin at third and Frankie Frisch at second. Frisch hit a home run, the first for the National League, though Babe Ruth of the Yankees had hit one already for the American.
In 1934, Pitcher Jay Dean, better known as Dizzy, won 30 games, the last NL pitcher to accomplish this feat. His brother, Paul, known as Daffy, won 19. The brothers pitched all four victories for the team in a seven-game World Series.
Dizzy won 120 games across his first five seasons, and may have continued, but his career was cut short by injury. In the 1937 All-star game, a line-drive hit Dizzy on the foot and broke his toe. Dean didn't allow the toe to heal completely before re-entering the rotation, his pitching motion ended up being affected, which in turn led to a sore arm that ended his career. The Cardinals traded Dean to the Cubs at the end of the 1937 season, and he helped the Cubs win the pennant in 1938, but he won only nine games over the next three years. The St Louis Browns brought him out of retirement in 1947 for four innings of one game, and he allowed three hits and one walk, but no earned runs. He even had a hit. Later on, he was a radio and television announcer that English teachers grew to hate. Some of his lines have become classics, such as, 'The baserunners have returned to their respectable bases' and 'he slud into second'.
Frisch holds the record for most World Series doubles over a career, with ten, and led the league in stolen bases twice for the Cardinals, in 1927 and 1931. Martin holds the record for the highest World Series batting average over a career, with .418, and led the league in stolen bases in 1933, 1934 and 1936. Several times over their franchise history, the Cardinals of the Gashouse Gang era were known for their speed.
World Champions - 1942, 1944 and 1946
With a lifetime .331 batting average, 24 all-star games, seven batting titles, and three world series rings, it's not a surprise Stan 'the Man' Musial is in the Hall of Fame and his statue stands in Saint Louis. In 1954, in a doubleheader against the New York Giants, he became the first player ever to hit five home runs in one day.
In 1944, the Cardinals won the National League pennant and the St Louis Browns won the American League pennant. In this 'Streetcar Series' all the games of the World Series were played on the same playing field, and the Cardinals won in six. While some point out that World War II had taken some of the top players from the game, the Cardinals returned to the World Series in 1946 with basically the same team, against much stronger competition.
While bereft of post-season play, the 1950s did have some bright spots. In 1954 rookie Wally Moon earned Rookie of the Year with a .304 batting average and the Cardinals led the league in runs scored, with Musial scoring over 100 for the eleventh straight season. However, they were also second highest in the league in runs allowed.
The Cardinals finished second in the NL in 1957, with an outfield consisting of Wally Moon, Ken Boyer and Del Ennis who hit more homers than any previous Cardinals outfield. But the Milwaukee Braves were just better that year. In a playing career that spanned 1945 - 1963, Red Schoendienst spent 15 of those years with the Cardinals, playing all but a handful of games at second base. From 1965 - 1976 he managed the team, and he returned in the 1980s and 1990s in various capacities from coach to manager spending six decades wearing the Cardinals uniform.
World Champions - 1964 and 1967
The Cardinals went to the World Series three times in the 1960s - in 1964, 1967 and 1968 - each time with the base-stealing phenomenon they stole from the Cubs. In 1967, Lou Brock stole a World Series-record seven bases, and then repeated the feat in 1968 setting a career World Series record of 14. In the 1968 season he led the league in doubles, triples and stolen bases, and was the first person to accomplish this feat since Honus Wagner in 1908. In 1978, the National League announced that the annual stolen base leader would receive the Lou Brock Award, thus earning him the distinction of being the first active player ever to have an award named after him. He retired after the 1979 season.
While Lou Brock was running the basepaths, Bob Gibson was shutting down the opposing team. He pitched an unprecedented seven straight World Series wins across the three World Series3. While out of the 1967 season for eight weeks due to a fractured left leg, in that year's World Series he pitched three complete games, allowing only three runs. It was the 1968 season that many fans remember most clearly. He pitched 13 shut-outs and allowed a total of two earned runs over one 95-inning stretch to wind up with an 1.12 ERA breaking Walter Johnson's 1913 single-season record. In 1974, he became the second pitcher to throw 3000 career strikeouts - Johnson being the only other before him. He retired after the 1975 season.
1969 was the year that the National League and the American League were split into East and West divisions, adding 'playoffs' to post-season play.
Curt Flood played for the Cardinals in the 1960s, hitting .301 over the nine seasons from 1961 to 1969. However, he is best known for what happened in 1970. At the end of the '69 season, the Cardinals sent four players to the Philidelphia Phillies for four of their players. Curt Flood, among those traded, refused, and took baseball's reserve clause to court.
Flood lost, the US Supreme Court declaring baseball's antitrust exemption could only be eliminated by Congress. Meanwhile, St Louis had already sent a replacement player to the Phillies, so Flood was out of a job. The Washington Senators picked him up in 1971, but he only played for one more year.
Gibson was still pitching for the Cardinals in the first half of the decade, and Brock played throughout the 1970s, and the two posted impressive individual records, but it wasn't enough to lead the team to any post-season play.
World Champions - 1982
At the end of the 1980 season Whitey Herzog took over the position of general manager for the Cardinals, and within a period of six days added nine players to the team, and subtracted 13. The trades paid off. In 1981, the Cardinals had the best record in the National League Eastern division. In any normal year this would have meant they were in the playoffs. However, there was a strike in 1981 that split the season in two halves. The Cardinals didn't have the best record for either half, trailing Philidelphia in the first half, and Montreal in the second4.
One of the players Whitey obtained was Ozzie Smith. Not much of a hitter when he first started playing for the Cardinals, in his later years he'd improve in that area. However, it was for his fielding and his speed that Whitey wanted him. The Cardinals of 1982 were a fast team, leading the league in stolen bases, with Ozzie, Willie McGee, and Lonnie Smith. The pitching was solid. No single pitcher had more than 15 wins, but the team had the lowest ERA of the league. They won the division, swept the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs, and were victorious over the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series. The Cardinals returned to the World Series in 1985 and 1987, but lost to the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins, respectively.
In 1996 the Cardinals made it to the playoffs, but their competition, the Atlanta Braves, advanced to the World Series. In 1997 the Cardinals obtained Mark McGwire mid-season, who finished the season with 58 home runs - three short of Roger Maris' all-time single-season home run record. Since in 1997 he had a better home run record while with the Cardinals than with his prior team, the Oakland A's, St Louis fans had reason to hope he'd break it the next year. However, there were two things they did not expect:
- How much he'd break it by
- He wouldn't be the only player to break it
In 1998, Mark McGwire set a new single-season record of an astonishing 70 home runs. Not far behind him, though, was Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, with 66. There are many who claim without the competition neither may have done as well, as it was clear they were both pushing each other to excel.
In 1999, there was a repeat of the competition, with slightly less spectacular results, but both surpassed Roger Maris' former record again: McGwire finishing with 65 and Sosa with 63.
World Champions - 2006
In 2000, McGwire injured himself and was out most of the latter half of the season, finishing with only 32 home runs. Sosa led the National League with 50, and another Cardinal, Jim Edmunds, finished not too far behind with 42. The Cardinals advanced to postseason play and swept the Braves in the first round of the division playoffs, but lost to the New York Mets in the second round.
Albert Pujols became the first Cardinals rookie to play in an All Star game since 1949. His first season in the majors was littered with broken records and he was unanimously selected as the National League Rookie of the Year in 2001. This, along with a host of other spectacular Cardinals pitching and hitting stats resulted in a 93 - 69 season, tying Houston for the first-ever shared division championship. They were, however, eliminated in the first round of playoffs by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Defying all expectations, the Cardinals finished the 2004 season with an amazing 105 wins, defeated Los Angeles and Houston in the post season, claimed their first National League title in 17 years and faced the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. It was a shock to many - well, maybe not to Boston fans - when Boston swept the series for their first championship since 1918, breaking the Curse of the Bambino.
The Cardinals opened their new ballpark in 2006 with a season fraught with losing streaks and skids. By September, even most of the die-hard fans had given up playoff hopes. In early October the Cardinals just edged out Houston by one game to take the division title. Their post-season record of 11 - 5 gave them their first World Series Championship in 24 years, the longest stretch in club history.
St Louis Fans
Are they really the best fans in baseball?
Many cities claim to have the best fans in baseball. Whenever there are rankings, St Louis usually is seen high on the list. Why is this the case?
There is no question that St Louis is a 'baseball town'. When power slugger Jack Clark left the Cardinals, at about the same time the Cardinals Football team moved to Arizona, the St Louis Post-Dispatch conducted a survey: which was the greater loss? The football Cardinals won, but by only 51% to 49%. Ironically, McGwire moved to St Louis from Oakland, California, at about the same time the football Rams moved to St Louis from Los Angeles, California.
At the beginning of the 2000 season, the newspaper USA Today ranked the fans, and St Louis came in second - to Cleveland - perhaps proving the Robisons wrong a century later. But during the Cardinals' final season in Old Busch Stadium, Fox Sports Networks placed a billboard ad for the post season inside the stadium stating 'You are in the home of baseball's greatest fans'.