Posts Tagged ‘Billy Southworth’

The Old and the New: the ’42 Cardinals

March 10, 2016
Billy Southworth in 1940

Billy Southworth in 1940

If the Yankees represented the old guard of 1940s baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals were the new guys. They’d been bad to terrible in the first 25 years of the 20th Century, then had a nice run for 10 years from 1926 through 1935, but hadn’t won since the 1934 “Gas House Gang.” By 1942 they were again competitive enough to win.
Three years into his second stint with the Cards, Hall of Fame manager Billy Southworth (a St. Louis stalwart during the 1920s run) had a young team. It finished first in the National League in runs, hits, doubles, triples, average, total bases, slugging, OBP while coming in second in stolen bases, third in walks, and sixth (of eight) in home runs. The pitching was first in runs, hits, strikeouts, ERA, and shutouts. It was second in walks and sixth in homers. In fielding they were solidly in the middle of the pack.

From first around to third the infield consisted of Johnny Hopp, Jimmy Brown, Marty Marion, and Whitey Kurowski. None were household names. Hopp, a transplanted outfielder, led the team with 14 stolen bases while Brown’s 71 RBIs were third on the team (only one RBI out of second place). Marion led the infield in average at .276 and was considered one of the absolutely finest shortstops of his era. Kurowski who was famous for clutch hitting had nine home runs, good for third on the team. In one of those bits of trivia that only baseball can give you, three of the four (Hopp, Marion, and Kurowski) had an identical OPS+ number of 103 (Brown’s was 80). Marion’s 4.7 WAR was tops in the infield and fourth on the team. At 1.9, Kurowski was the only other infielder to have a WAR in the team’s top 10. The backups were Creepy Crespi, who spelled Brown a lot at second and Ray Sanders who took over at first when Hopp sat out. Sanders’ five home runs and .252 average were both better than Crespi. Erv Dusak was a multipurpose player who did some outfield work and took over on occasion for Kurowski. He hit under .200 with no power.

The outfield was better. It consisted of two Hall of Famers and Terry Moore. Moore, along with Brown, was the only starter above 29 (he was 30 and Brown 32). He’d been the regular center fielder for a few years and had established himself as a decent fielder who hit in the .280s with little power. In 1942 he hit .288 with six home runs and 10 stolen bases. The stolen base total was second to Hopp on the team. His OPS+ was 114 and his WAR was 2.6. Enos Slaughter was the Hall of Fame right fielder.  His 13 home runs and 98 RBIs led the team. He also led the team in both hits and runs scored, walks, average (.318), and all the other triple slash stats. His OPS+ was a team leading 156 and his 6.2 WAR was first among hitter. The left fielder was a 21-year-old rookie named Stan Musial (“The Man” nickname would come later). He hit .315, had 72 RBIs, 10 triples, 10 homers, a 151 OPS+, and 5.3 WAR. Everybody agreed he was good. No one yet quite knew that he was Hall of Fame material. Harry “the Hat” Walker and Coaker Triplett were the backups. Walker (who would later win a batting title) hit .314. Triplett hit .273 and had the only home run between them. He led the pair in RBIs, while Walker took the lead in runs scored.

Walker Cooper was 27 and Ken O’Dea was 29. Between them they did most of the catching. Cooper was the primary catcher hitting .281 with seven home runs and seven triples. His 65 RBIs were fourth on the team. His OPS+ topped out at 115 and he produced 2.4 WAR. O’Dea hit .234 with five home runs, only an OPS+ of 85 and 0.5 WAR.

They caught a fairly typical Cardinals staff. Through the 20th Century the Cardinals seldom produced a great pitcher who lasted very long (see Dizzy Dean as an example). What they did produce (Bob Gibson being the greatest exception) was a series of solid pitchers who gave the team several good years and frequently one or two outstanding years. There was the occasional Harry Breechen or Bob Forsch who stayed around for a long while, but generally St. Louis relied on a “staff” rather than one pitcher. In 1942 they had “one pitcher,” sort of. Mort Cooper (Walker’s older brother) was the staff ace. He won 22 games and an MVP. His 8.4 WAR easily led the team. The 1942 season was the beginning of a three-year run for him which faltered quickly. The rest of the staff was made up of solid pitchers who fit very much into the Cardinals mold. Max Lanier and Johnny Beazley both won in double figures (Beazley had 21 wins), had ERA’s under 3.00, and struck out more men than they walked. Lanier’s WAR was 4.4, Beazley’s was 4.2. Ernie White and Harry Gumbert were the only other two pitchers to start 15 or more games. Gumbert doubled as the main stopper out of the bullpen (that meant all of five saves in 1942).

The 1942 Cardinals were a better team than most people seemed to believe. New York was, understandably, the favorite. But the Cards were good and promised to make the World Series competitive.

 

 

Taking on Murderer’s Row: the last games in New York

July 21, 2015

With the Yankees up three games to two and needing only one win to clinch the 1926 World Series, the Series returned to Yankee Stadium. Needing two wins to capture the title, the St. Louis Cardinals went with their most experienced pitcher in game six and with a tried veteran for game seven.

Game 6

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Game six was a second start for Grover Cleveland Alexander. For New York, the Yankees sent Bob Shawkey to the mound. It was his first start, although he’d relieved in two previous games. He was in trouble from the beginning. It started with a single to Wattie Holm, playing center field for Taylor Douthit. A force at second put him out, but put Billy Southworth on first. A walk to Rogers Hornsby sent Southworth to second and a double by Jim Bottomley plated him. A followup single by Les Bell brought both Hornsby and Bottomley home.

It was all Alexander needed. The Yanks got a run in the fourth on a Bob Meusel triple and a Lou Gehrig grounder to first, but the Cardinals got it right back in the fifth on two singles sandwiched between a bunt sacrifice.

With the score already 4-1, the Cards exploded for five runs in the seventh. A couple of singles, a double, and a Bell two run home run made it 9-1. New York managed one in the bottom of the inning, but St. Louis tacked on one more in the ninth on a Southworth triple and a Hornsby grounder to make the final 10-2.

Alexander was superb, giving up two runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out six and scored a run. Flush with victory he, according to legend, went on something akin to a real bender that evening. He was, at least so he thought, finished with his World Series chores.

Game 7

Tommy Thevenow

Tommy Thevenow

Game seven of the 1926 World Series occurred 9 October. It featured pitchers Jesse Haines taking on Waite Hoyt. Both men had already won a game in the Series: Haines game three and Hoyt game four. It was to become famous for a single moment, one of the more well known and  most frequently written about moments in World Series lore.

Both teams started slow. Although there were a number of base runners, no one scored until the bottom of the third when Babe Ruth launched a shot into deep right field to put New York up 1-0. St. Louis struck back in the top of the fourth. With one out Jim Bottomley singled, then Les Bell reached first on an error by Yankees shortstop Mark Koenig. Chick Hafey singled to load the bases. Then Bob O’Farrell lifted a fly to left field that Yank outfield Bob Meusel dropped. Bottomley scored to tie up the game. That brought up eight hitter shortstop Tommy Thevenow. He singled to right, scoring both Bell and Hafey. A strikeout and grounder ended the inning with the score St. Louis 3, New York 1. That held up until the bottom of the sixth when, with two out, Joe Dugan singled and a Hank Severeid double plated Dugan with the second Yankees run. A ground out ended the inning.

In the top of the seventh, the Cards went in order. That brought up the Yanks in the bottom of the seventh and set the stage for one of the most famous of all World Series moments. Earle Combs led off the inning with a single and went to second on a bunt. An intentional walk put Ruth on first. A grounder to Bell led to a force of Ruth at second, but left runners on first and third with two outs. Haines then proceeded to walk Lou Gehrig.

At this point legend takes over and facts get a little obscured. One version of what happens next has Haines having to leave the game with a finger blister, forcing manager Hornsby to change pitchers. Another version has Hornsby deciding Haines was done and calling for a new pitcher without reference to Haines’ finger. Whichever is true, Haines was out and Hornsby called for Grover Cleveland Alexander from the bullpen.

And now another legend takes over. According to one version of what happened, Alexander was in the bullpen sleeping off a hangover when Hornsby called for him. Another version says he was sober, but unready to pitch because he presumed that having gone nine innings the day before he wouldn’t be pitching at all on 9 October. Yet a third version says he’d just begun to warm up. I don’t think anyone knows for sure which is true. The SABR version of the event states Alexander was sober.

Whichever is true, in came Alexander to face rookie Tony Lazzeri with two outs and the bases full of Yankees (Combs on first, Meusel on second, and Gehrig at first). The first pitch was a strike. The second was fouled off deep down the left field line just missing the foul pole. With two strikes, Lazzeri swung and missed the next pitch to record the final out of the inning. It is, arguably the most famous strikeout in baseball history.

St. Louis got a couple of men on in the eighth, but didn’t score. New York went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, as did the Cardinals in the top of the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth Alexander got Combs and Koenig on groundouts which brought up Ruth, who walked. With Meusel at bat and Gehrig on deck, Ruth tried to surprise the Cards by stealing second. O’Farrell threw to Hornsby, the tag was applied, and the St. Louis Cardinals won their first ever World Series.

It was a good Series, especially for the hitters. The Cardinals hit .272 as a team with Thevenow hitting .417. He joined Hornsby and Southworth by driving in four runs, but Bottomley topped all three with five and Les Bell led the team with six. Southworth led St. Louis with six runs scored and Thevenow was just behind with five. Thevenow, Southworth, Bell, and pitcher Haines each had one home run, while Bottomley had three doubles, and Southworth picked up the only triple as well as led the team with 10 total hits.

Although the Yanks hit only .242 as a team, Combs and Gehrig hit above .345 while Ruth hit an even .300 and Joe Dugan was at .333.. Ruth had five RBIs while Gehrig, in his rookie Series, had four. Ruth’s six runs scored easily led the team. He also hit all four of the team’s home runs, including three in one game. Combs led New York with 10 hits. He and Gehrig each had two doubles and Meusel got the only triple.

Among pitchers, Alexander was the big hero. He had two wins and the famous save in game seven. But Haines’ had an even better ERA (1.08 to 1.33) while picking up the other two wins. Bill Sherdel had two of the losses, but only a 2.12 ERA. Alexander led the team with 14 strikeouts. For New York Herb Pennock posted two wins with Hoyt getting the other. His 10 strikeouts led the team.

For both teams it was a beginning. For St. Louis it was their first 20th Century title. They would win again in 1928 (and end up losing to New York) and then win three times in the 1930s, four times in the 1940s, and still carry on a winning tradition into the 21st Century. The Yankees began a great period of consistent excellence in 1926, winning with great regularity into the 1960s and, like the Cardinals, continuing on into the 21st Century. That makes 1926 something of a watershed and makes it a Series worth remembering for more than just one strikeout.

 

 

 

 

Taking on Murderer’s Row: The St. Louis Games

July 9, 2015

With the 1926 World Series tied at one game each, the third through fifth games were held in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. If either team could sweep the games, the Series would end. Any kind of split would send the Series back to New York for up to two games. Game three was played 5 October.

Jesse Haines

Jesse Haines

For game three, Cardinals manager Rogers Hornsby decided to send Jesse Haines in to pitch. It turned out to be a good choice. Haines didn’t allow a man on base until the third inning, but got out of a mini-jam with a grounder to first. His opponent, Dutch Reuther, was doing almost as well. He’d allowed a couple more men on base, but no one scored.

In the fourth St. Louis finally broke through. A leadoff single to third sacker Les Bell, a bunt to advance him to second, and a walk to catcher Bob O’Farrell, brought up shortstop Tommy Thevenow. He rolled one to short, but the failure to complete a double played allowed Bell to score and kept the inning alive. Haines, who’d had one RBI all year, promptly hit a two-run homer to put the Cards up 3-0. They added one more in the fifth on consecutive singles and a ground out.

It was all Haines needed. He shutout Murderer’s Row on five hits and three walks. He struck out three. He’d also struck the biggest blow with his home run.

Game 4

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

In the 6 October game St. Louis made a huge blunder. They decided to pitch to Babe Ruth. Consequently, the game became the Babe Ruth show. Cardinals pitcher Flint Rhem, and later reliever Art Reinhart, was simply unable to cope with the Babe’s batting. In the first inning, Ruth hit a home run to right. Yankees hurler Waite Hoyt gave it right back on three consecutive singles by Taylor Douthit, Billy Southworth, and Hornesby. Hornesby’s hit driving in Douthit.

In the third inning, Ruth connected for his second consecutive home run, putting New York back in the lead. A walk and a double in the fourth made it 3-1, when St. Louis staged a big inning. With one out, Chick Hafey singled. An error by Mark Koenig, let Bob O’Farrell on. Then Thevenow doubled to scored Hafey. The second out, a long fly to left, scored O’Farrell, then a double by Douthit brought in Thevenow. It could have been worse, but Douthit was thrown out at home by Bob Meusel’s accurate throw. At the end of four it was 4-3 in favor of the Cardinals.

In manufacturing the three runs in the fourth. A pinch hitter took Rhem out of the game. Art Reinhart took his place. In the top of the fifth he walked Earle Combs. A Koenig double tied the score. Reinhart managed to keep Ruth from hitting a home run by walking him. Another walk to Meusel loaded the bases and Lou Gehrig picked up an RBI when Reinhart walked him. That was all for Reinhart, who’d managed to get no one out. Hi Bell replaced him and induced a long sacrifice fly that brought home Ruth. A ground out scored Meusel, then a balk and a walk reloaded the bases. Fortunately for St. Louis pitcher Hoyt didn’t hit much and ended the inning with a grounder to Hornsby at second. The score was 7-4.

But the Yanks, and Ruth, weren’t through. They tacked on two more in the sixth when Ruth hit his third home run of the game with Koenig on base and got one more in the seventh on a single, a bunt, and a double to make the score 10-4. In the eighth, Wild Bill Hallahan, now pitching for St. Louis, walked Ruth, but didn’t allow a run. The Cards got one more in the ninth on a two out single by Les Bell making 10-5 the final.

Ruth went three for three with two walks for the game. He had three home runs, scored four runs and had four RBIs. Art Reinhart, on the other hand got no one out, gave up four earned runs on four walks and one hit.

With the Yankees win, the Series was tied two games each. That ensured that there would be at least one more game in New York.

Game 5

Tony Lazzeri

Tony Lazzeri

Game five was played 7 October. The pitching matchup was a rehash of game one with Bill Sherdel taking on Herb Pennock. Both pitchers got through the first three innings without damage. In the bottom of the fourth, with one out, Jim Bottomley doubled and came home on a Les Bell single. It held up until the top of the sixth when Pennock doubled and was picked off second. Except that he wasn’t. Shortstop Thevenow dropped the ball and Pennock remained at second. A Mark Koenig single brought Pennock home with the tying run.

The Cards went back ahead on a double by Bell and a O’Farrell single to make the score 2-1. Sherdel went into the top of the ninth needing three outs to put St. Louis up three games to two. He was met with a Lou Gehrig double and a Tony Lazzeri single that put Gehrig on third. Pinch hitter Ben Paschal then singled to center to re-tie the game. Sherdel then settled down to get three groundouts to end the inning. Two pop ups and a grounder got Pennock out of the ninth and the game into extra innings.

In the tenth, Koenig singled, went to second on a wild pitch. Then a walk to Ruth brought up Meusel. His sacrifice bunt sent Koenig to third and Ruth to second. Sherdel walked Gehrig to set up a force. It didn’t do much good as Lazzeri drove a long fly to left that scored Koenig and recorded the second out. One out later, Pennock took the mound with a 3-2 lead. With one out, Thevenow singled but didn’t go anywhere when a pop up and a grounder ended the game.

The 1926 World Series was going back to New York. The Yanks needed one win to take their second title (1923) while the Cardinals had to win two in a row to take their first.

Taking on Murderer’s Row: The Opening Salvos

July 9, 2015

The opening games of the 1926 World Series were played in New York on 2 and 3 October. The Yankees were favorites over the St. Louis Cardinals, a team making their inaugural Series appearance. The format was two games in New York, three in St. Louis, and then a return to New York if the sixth and seventh game were necessary.

Game 1

Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig

For game one, the Yankees sent ace Herb Pennock to the mound against St. Louis stalwart Bill Sherdel. The Yanks made a minor change in their normal roster, starting backup catcher Hank Severeid over normal starter Pat Collins.

The game started out as if it was going to be a high scoring contest. The Cards’ leadoff hitter Taylor Douthit doubled to start the game, went to third on a ground out, then scored on a single. Pennock got out of it without further damage and the Yankees game to bat in the bottom of the first. Earle Combs led off the inning with a walk, then after an out, consecutive walks loaded the bases for New York first baseman Lou Gehrig. He hit one to short, but the Cardinals were unable to complete the double play and Combs scored to tie the game.

After that the two pitchers settled down to match shutout innings through the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth Babe Ruth singled, went to second on a bunt, and scored on a Gehrig single. It was all the run support Pennock needed. He shutout St. Louis for the remainder of the game, giving up only the one run, while allowing three hits, and striking out four (he also walked three). Sherdel did well enough, going seven innings, giving up the two runs, and allowing six hits with three walks and a single strikeout. The big hero was Gehrig who had both RBIs.

Game 2

Billy Southworth

Billy Southworth

The next day, the Yankees sent Urban Shocker to the mound to face St. Louis’ Grover Cleveland Alexander. Alexander was 39, considered over the hill and ready for retirement. In the second inning he looked it. A single to Bob Meusel, a move up grounder by Gehrig, and a single by rookie Tony Lazzeri plated the first run. A single sent him to third, then with two outs he attempted to steal home. He was safe when Alexander threw wildly to catcher Bob O’Farrell. So New York broke on top 2-0. But that would be all the damage Alexander allowed. He gave up four total hits, walked one (Combs), and struck out 10 (every starter except Combs and pitcher Shocker fanned twice). Meanwhile the Cardinals went to work. They got both runs back in the top of the third when back-to-back singles by Douthit and Billy Southworth put two men on. A sacrifice sent them to second and third, and a Jim Bottomley single tied the score.

It stayed tied through six innings, when the Cardinals erupted for three runs. With O’Farrell and Tommy Thevenow on base, Southworth clubbed a three run homer to right to put St. Louis up 5-2. In the ninth, Thevenow hit one deep into right field that eluded Ruth and Thevenow circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run. The final scored was 6-2 as Alexander shut the Yanks down in the ninth.

So the Series was tied 1-1 after the first two games in New York. After an all night train ride, the two teams would resume play on the 5th of October. What people knew was that there would be three games in St. Louis.

Taking on Murderer’s Row: The Cards

July 9, 2015
1926 St. Louis Cardinals

1926 St. Louis Cardinals

In the 1880s, the St. Louis team, then called the Browns, were a powerhouse in the American Association. In the 1890s they moved to the National League and became a doormat. By 1926 every National League team existing in the 20th Century had won at least one pennant, except for St. Louis, now called the Cardinals. That changed when the Cards won the 1926 NL pennant.

St. Louis won the pennant by two games over Cincinnati. With 89 wins, they featured a good hitting team with mid-range power. They led the NL in hits, runs, home runs, walks, slugging, and OPS while finishing second in average, OBP, and doubles. As a rule, their numbers weren’t as spectacular as the Yankees numbers.  Their pitching staff, like that of New York, finished in the middle of the pack in many categories.

The infield consisted of two Hall of Fame players, a third baseman having a career year, and a 22-year-old shortstop. Jim Bottomley played first, hit .293 with 19 home runs, nine triples, a team leading 120 RBIs, 144 hits, and an OPS of .804. Player-manager Rogers Hornsby held down second. Coming off several consecutive great seasons, Hornsby’s numbers were down in 1926. He was 30, but the assumption was that his managerial duties were hurting his statistics. He still managed to hit .317 with 11 home runs, 167 hits, an OPS of .851, and 93 RBIs. At 22, shortstop Tommy Thevenow was in his third season. He didn’t hit all that much (.256), but was a good shortstop and led the NL in putouts and assists, and was second in double plays turned at short. Les Bell had a career year. He hit a career high .325 (he never hit .300 in any other season), had another career high in home runs with 17 and in RBIs with an even 100. His 85 runs and 189 hits were also career highs. His Baseball Reference.com WAR for 1926 was 4.4 (second to Hornsby). He never had another year of more than 1.8 WAR. Specs Toporcer and Jake Flowers were the primary infield subs. Toporcer hit .250 and Flowers .270, but Flowers also had three home runs in 40 games.

Five men did the outfield work. Billy Southworth started 99 games in right field. He’d come over from the Giants during the season and hit .317 with 11 home runs. He would later manage the Cards to two pennants and a World Series championship. He made the Hall of Fame in 2008. Taylor Douthit was the speedy center fielder. He hit .308, stole 23 bases (third in the league) and led the league in putouts and assists for a center fielder. Ray Blades was in left. He hit .305 and scored 81 runs. The backups were Hall of Fame member Chick Hafey and Heinie Muller. Hafey hit .271, had four homers. Muller hit .267 and had three home runs.

Bob O’Farrell did almost all the catching. In 140 games he hit .293, had an OPS of .804, seven home runs, and 213 total bases. All that got him the NL MVP award for 1926. His backups were Ernie Vick and Bill Warwick. Warwick hit .357 in nine games, and in 24 games Vick hit .196.

For the season six pitchers started 10 or more games. Bill Sherdel and Art Reinhart were the sole lefties. Sherdel started 29 games, won 16 of them, gave up more hits than he had innings pitched, and put up an ERA of 3.49. Reinhart had a 10-5 record in 11 starts and 27 games. His ERA was north of four and he gave up more hits than he had innings pitched and also walked more than he struck out. Flint Rhem had the most wins with 20. His ERA was 3.21. Unlike the southpaws he had more innings pitched than hits allowed, but like Reinhart he walked more than he struck out (75 to 72). Vic Keen started 22 games, went 10-9, over 26 games (21 starts) and joined Reinhart in both giving up more hits than innings pitched and walking more than he struck out. His ERA was 4.56. Hall of Famers Jesse Haines and Grover Cleveland Alexander were the staff geezers. Haines, aged 32, posted a 13-4 record in 20 starts (33 total games) and tied for the team lead with two saves. He had a nice ERA (3.25) but continued the pattern of more walks and hits than strikeouts and innings pitched. At 39, Alexander was considered through by a lot of people. He started the year with the Cubs, was released after a 3-3 start and was picked up by the Cardinals. He went 9-7 at St. Louis, but posted a team low ERA of 2.91 (OK, Duster Mails had a 0.00 ERA but only pitched one inning). Unlike the rest of the staff, he’s struck out more than he walked and had fewer hits given up than innings pitched.  He also had two saves (he’d get one more).

Hi Bell was the main bullpen man with only eight starts in 27 games. His ERA was 3.18 and he had the team’s other two saves. For a change he had more innings pitched and strikeouts than otherwise. Syl Johnson, lefty Bill Hallahan, and southpaw Allan Sothoron rounded out the men who pitched in 10 or more games.

The Cardinals were underdogs. The Murderer’s Row Yankees were considered superior at almost every position except maybe second where Hornsby was an all-time great. Much of that has to do with the American League being considered the superior league. Because St. Louis statistics aren’t especially weaker than New York numbers, a fact a lot of pundits seem to have overlooked. The World Series began in New York on 2 October.

 

 

1924: The Con Job

March 17, 2015

(A DISCLAIMER: I don’t know how this happened, but the post concerning the 3 games held in New York posted out of order. It is currently four posts below this one and appears to be the first post in the set on the 1924 World Series. I have no idea how this happened; nor do I know how to fix it. If you’re interested, take a second to scroll down and read it. It is titled, “1924: The Senators Steal One.” Sorry, team.)

Needing two wins, the Washington Senators got the last two games of the 1924 World Series at home. If they could sweep, they would win Washington its first ever World’s Championship. New York needed one of the two to return the title to the Big Apple.

Game 6

Washington Player-Manager Bucky Harris

Washington Player-Manager Bucky Harris

Game 6 was played 9 October 1924 with the Senators needing a win to force a game seven. Tom Zachary, game 2 winner, was sent to the mound by Washington to insure that happened. Art Nehf opposed him. In the top of the first, Fred Lindstrom led off with a bunt that failed. Frankie Frisch then doubled. When he tried to advance to third on a Ross Youngs tapper back to the mound, Zachary gunned him down at third while Youngs advanced to second. A Highpockets Kelly single to center scored Youngs with the first run. The score remained 1-0 into the bottom of the fifth. Roger Peckinpaugh led off the Senators half of the inning with a single. A bunt sacrifice sent him to second. A Zachary grounder sent him to third. With two outs Earl McNeely walked, then stole second. With two outs and two on, Washington’s player-manager Bucky Harris singled to drive in both runs. Through the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth, New York managed one single was the score stayed 2-1 into the ninth. With one out in the ninth, Highpockets Kelly singled, but a ground out forced pinch runner Billy Southworth at second. Needing one out to force a game seven, Zachary fanned Hack Wilson to end the game. Zachary was great in game six. He gave up a single run in the first inning, then shutout the Giants. He gave up seven hits, walked none, and struck out three. Harris’ single provided all the runs he needed. Nehf wasn’t bad, even though he lost. He went seven innings (Rosy Ryan pitched the eighth) giving up only two runs, four hits, and four walks. He also struck out four. It set up game seven.

Game 7

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Game seven of the 1924 World Series became one of the most famous of all World Series games. It was played 10 October in Washington and its outcome was caused, in part, by one of the great con jobs in Series history. Senators manager believed that Giants player Bill Terry had trouble hitting left-handed pitching so he announced that righty Curly Ogden, who hadn’t pitched all Series, would start game seven. New York manager John McGraw responded by inserting Terry into the lineup (he hit fifth) over normal left fielder Irish Meusel (the regular five hitter). Terry went to first and Highpockets Kelly, the usual first baseman took Meusel’s place in left. It turned out to be a great con.

Ogden pitched to two men, striking out the first and walking the second. In came George Mogridge, who would normally have pitched game seven. Mogridge was left-handed and McGraw chose not to pull Terry in the first inning. Washington broke on top in the fourth when Harris homered to left. The run held up until the sixth when Ross Youngs walked and a Kelly single sent him to third. McGraw sent Meusel in to hit for Terry. Harris replaced Mogridge with relief ace Firpo Marberry. Marberry immediately gave up a sacrifice fly that tied the score and a Hack Wilson single sent Kelly to third. An error by first baseman Joe Judge brought in Kelly with the lead run. Then another error, this one by shortstop Ossie Bluege, gave the Giants a third run. New York hurler Virgil Barnes kept the Senators at bay until the eighth when a double, a single and a walk loaded the bases. With two outs, Harris singled to left tying up the game at 3-3. During the eighth, Washington pinch hit for Marberry. Needing a new pitcher, they went to Walter Johnson, who was 0-2 so far for the Series. Johnson had a great career, had a very good season, but he was 36 and pitching on one day’s rest (he’d lost game five). But he was Walter Johnson and he did what Walter Johnson normally did. Through the ninth, the tenth, the eleventh, and the twelfth inning, he shut down New York. He gave up three hits and walked three, but he also struck out five. He was in trouble in every inning but the tenth, but no Giants scored. Of course no Senator scored either. By the bottom of the twelfth he was tired. With an out, Muddy Ruel lifted a foul ball that catcher Hank Gowdy dropped. Given a second chance, Ruel doubled. Johnson was up. He hit one to short, but a misplay put him on. Up came leadoff hitter Earl McNeely. He dropped a roller to third. As third baseman Fred Lindstrom came in to field it and make a play on Ruel who was heading to third, the ball hit a pebble and bounced over Lindstrom’s head for a double. Ruel was slow, but he was quick enough to score and give Washington its first and only championship. Johnson finally had his Series win.

It was an excellent Series, arguably the best of the 1920s. The Giants actually outhit the Senators .261 to .246. Both teams had nine doubles and Washington out homered New York five to four. The Giants put up 27 runs to the Senators 26. But only 18 of Washington’s runs were earned as opposed to 23 New York earned runs. Individually, Goslin hit .344 with three home runs and seven RBIs. Harris had the other two homers and also seven RBIs while hitting .333. McNeely, Judge, and Goslin all scored four runs, while Harris led the team with five. For the Giants it was more of a mixed bag. No one hit more than one home run and both Kelly and Lindstrom had four RBIs. Kelly scored seven runs, but no one else had more than four (Gowdy).

Pitching-wise Zachary was terrific, going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA but only three strikeouts. Marberry didn’t do well. He picked up a couple of saves, but took a loss and blew a save situation. On the other hand his ERA was a tiny 1.13. And Walter Johnson finally got a win. He went 1-2 with an ERA of 3.00 and 20 strikeouts. For the Giants Bentley took two losses, but pitched the best game for the team to give him a 1-2 record and a team high 10 strikeouts. Ryan pitched well in critical situations.

It marked a couple of milestones. It was John McGraw’s last World Series. The Giants would make it back to the Series in 1933 (against the Senators again), but Bill Terry would be the manager. George Mogridge won a game on the road. In all their history, the Senators/Twins would win only one more road game in their history (and Johnson would get it). Marberry picked up the only Senators/Twins road save ever. And the Giants? Well, in game seven they started seven Hall of Famers (all but the battery) and managed to lose. It happens.

 

1924: Derailing the Big Train

March 11, 2015

The first two games of the 1924 World Series were in Washington, D.C. There had never been playoff baseball in Washington. Even the President showed up.

Game 1

Bill Terry

Bill Terry

Game one, 4 October 1924, saw the Giants send Art Nehf to the mound to face D.C.’s ace Walter Johnson. Neither man pitched all that well, but it became a great game anyway. New York struck first when George “High Pockets” Kelly slammed a Johnson pitch into the left field seats to lead off the second inning. In the top of the fourth, Bill Terry drove a Johnson pitch to almost the same spot. The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Earl McNeely doubled, went to third on a ground out, and scored Sam Rice’s grounder to second. The score remained 2-1 into the bottom of the ninth. Two outs from losing game one, Ossie Bluege singled, then tied the game when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled. The tenth and eleventh innings were scoreless with both teams getting men as far as second, but being unable to get a key hit. That changed in the 12th. Giants catcher Hank Gowdy walked, went to second on a single by pitcher Nehf, then on to third when McNeely threw the ball away trying to catch Nehf off first. A walk to pinch hitter Jake Bentley loaded the bases. Frankie Frisch then grounded to shortstop Peckinpaugh. He flicked the ball to second baseman and manager Bucky Harris who then gunned down Gowdy trying to score, leaving the force at second intact. That let Nehf go to third and Bentley on to second (and Frisch was safe at first). Billy Southworth pinch ran for Bentley. A single by Ross Youngs brought home Nehf with the go ahead run and a Kelly sacrifice fly brought home Southworth. With the score now 4-2, the Senators rallied when Mule Shirley reached second on an error and, one out later, scored on a Harris single. Nehf got the next two men and the game ended 4-3.

The big heroes for the Giants were Terry with a home run, Kelly with a homer and a sacrifice fly that scored the winning run, and Nehf who pitched a complete game, and scored a run. He gave up 10 hits and walked five, but only gave up three runs, two of them earned (the first two), while striking out three. Johnson didn’t pitch all that well. He gave up four earned runs on 14 hits, two home runs, and six walks. He did, however, strike out 12.

Game 2

Goose Goslin

Goose Goslin

Game two occurred 5 October 1924 and was in many ways as exciting as game one. Tom Zachary took the hill for the Senators while game one pinch hitter Jake Bentley started for New York. Washington jumped on Bentley immediately, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. With two outs and Sam Rice on second, Goose Goslin parked a two-run homer to right center for a 2-0 Senators lead. They picked up another run in the fifth when Bucky Harris put one over the fence in left for a 3-0 lead. It held up until the top of the seventh, when a walk and a single put runners on first and third with no outs. Hack Wilson hit into a double play that scored High Pockets Kelly with the Giants first run. They got two more in the ninth (just as Washington had done the day before) with a walk, a long single with one out that scored the runner on first, and a single after a second out that tied the game. For the first time in the Series, a new pitcher entered the game when Zachary gave way to Firpo Marberry, who promptly fanned Travis Jackson to end the inning with the scored tied 3-3. In the bottom of the ninth Joe Judge walked, went to second on a single, and scored the winning run when Roger Peckinpaugh doubled to left. Bentley pitched well, giving up four runs on six hits while walking four and striking out three. Two of the hits were home runs. For Washington there were a lot of heroes. Goslin and Harris had homers, and Zachary went eight and two-thirds giving up three runs on six hits and three walks. Under the rules of the day, Zachary was the winning pitcher while Marberry picked up a save (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet).

So after two games the Series was knotted at 1-1. It now became a best of five Series as both teams did what they needed (the Giants won a game on the road and the Senators weren’t swept). New York held home field advantage.

1924: McGraw’s Last Throw

March 9, 2015
Travis Jackson

Travis Jackson

After three consecutive National League pennants and two World Series victories (1921 and 1922), the New York Giants rolled to their fourth straight pennant in 1924. It was still John McGraw’s team, but it was a vastly different team from his Deadball teams. Those relied to pitching and timely hitting. This was a team that hit well and the pitching was a notch down from those 1904-1913 teams. It was also McGraw’s final pennant winner.

The infield consisted of five Hall of Famers and one pretty good player. George “High Pockets” Kelly held down first. He led the team with 21 home runs and 136 RBIs. The RBI total led the NL and the homers ranked fourth. He was being challenged at first by second year player Bill Terry. Kelly was, in 1924, still the better player, but McGraw was keen on installing Terry in the lineup. Frankie Frisch played second, hit .328, stole 22 bases, had 198 hits (third in the NL), and scored a league leading 121 runs. The shortstop was 20-year old Travis Jackson, currently in his third year with the Giants. He managed to hit .300 (.302) for the first time in 1924, hit 11 home runs (good for second on the team), and played a good short. At 34, Heinie Groh was the old man on the team, and the only one not later enshrined in Cooperstown. He was famous for the odd shape of his bat (“Bottlebat”), but also played a good third while hitting .281. He was hurt during the season, which allowed the Giants to bring up 18-year old Fred Lindstrom who hit only .253 in 1924, but was considered a coming star. He would figure in one of the most famous plays of the World Series.

Five men, two of them in the Hall of Fame, manned the outfield. The Hall of Famers were Ross Youngs and Hack Wilson. Youngs was the regular right fielder. His .356 led the team in hitting. His 10 home runs were third and his 112 runs scored were second on the team. He would have two years left before being felled by Bright’s Disease. Wilson did much of the center field work. He was not yet the fearsome power hitter he became in the late 1920s at Chicago. He tied Youngs with 10 homers and hit .295. Emil “Irish” Meusel (the brother of Yankees left fielder Bob Meusel) was the primary left fielder. He hit .310 with 102 RBIs. Billy Southworth (who also made the Hall of Fame, but this time as a manager) and Jimmy O’Connell spelled the other three. O’Connell hit .317 and Southworth .256. Neither showed much power.

McGraw used two catchers during the season. Hank Gowdy, who did less during the regular season, did almost all the catching in the World Series. His partner was Frank Snyder. Neither had much power (Snyder had five homers, Gowdy four) and Snyder hit .302 to Gowdy’s .325. Both were right-handed hitters so they weren’t used in a platoon situation.

They caught a staff that was weaker than the old Giants pitching staffs. There was no Mathewson or McGinnity or even a Marquard on the staff (there may have been a Red Ames or two). Six men pitched double figure games: right-handers Virgil Barnes, Hugh McQuillan, Wayland Dean, Mule Watson, and lefties Jack Bentley and Art Nehf. Bentley and Barnes both won 16 games, while Dean actually had a losing record (6-12). Barnes, Bentley, Dean, and Watson all gave up more hits than they had innings pitched while both Dean and Watson walked more men than they struck out. For the Senators Firpo Marberry had 15 saves. The entire Giants staff had 19 with Rosy Ryan leading with five. If it came to the staff and the bullpen, Washington had a distinct advantage.

The 1924 Series was held over seven consecutive days (no day off) with the Senators getting games one, two, six, and seven at home. The papers of the day (at least the ones I’ve found) felt it was going to be Washington pitching against New York hitting. It turned out to be a great series with an unforgettable game seven.

 

The Kid vs The Man: St. Louis

August 20, 2014
Stan The Man

Stan The Man

If Boston was new at winning pennants, to St. Louis it was something like old hat. The Cards had picked up two pennants in the 1920s (one Series championship), three in the 1930s (two championships), and three in the 1940s (winning two championships). But the team underwent changes in the aftermath of World War II, including losing former MVP Mort Cooper to the Braves along with his brother Walker to the Giants. Long time manager (and Hall of Famer) Billy Southworth was gone. In his place was rookie manager Eddie Dyer. He managed to get the team to a 96-58 record and a tie with Brooklyn for first place. In the best of three playoff format of the era, the Cards won the first two games (4-2 and 8-4) to claim the pennant and advance to the 1946 World Series.

The Cardinals infield consisted of Hall of Famer and 1946 MVP Stan Musial at first (he also played 42 games in the outfield). It was a fairly typical Musial year leading the National League in runs, hits, doubles, triples, batting average, slugging, total bases. Throughout their 1940s pennant run, St. Louis had burned through a series of second basemen with names like Creepy Crespi and Emil Verban. In 1946 they finally decided to move a new outfielder named Red Schoendienst into second base. It worked. He hit .281, stole 12 bases (tied for the team lead), scored 94 runs, and eventually made the Hall of Fame. Marty Marion held down shortstop. He had his usual solid season in the field leading the NL in defensive WAR (Baseball Reference.com version), assists, putouts, and double plays. Unfortunately, he hit only .233. At third, Whitey Kurowski hit .301 with 14 home runs, and 89 RBIs.

The outfield was in transition. Musial spent more time at first and center field stalwart Terry Moore became the fourth outfielder for much of the year (although by the World Series he was doing most of the center field work). Hall of Fame right fielder Enos Slaughter had a good year hitting .300 with 18 home runs (which led the team), and driving in 130 runs (which also led the team). Harry “the Hat” Walker (Dixie Walker’s brother) took over the bulk of the center field work but hit only .237 (he’d win a batting title later). It got him sent into something like a platoon situation in left field by the time the World Series came around. He also had 12 stolen bases to tie Schoendienst for the team lead. Erv Dusak played left field more often than anyone else, but hit only .240 with nine home runs. Joe Garagiola, who went on to fame as a broadcaster (he won a spot at the Hall of Fame as both a broadcaster and humanitarian) was a 20-year-old catcher. He hit .237 with neither power nor speed. Del Rice did a lot of the backup catching.

For much of their history, the Cardinals have produced a slew of pitchers who were very good for a short period of time, then faded for whatever reason. The 1946 staff was right inline with that tradition. With former ace Max Lanier in Mexico (and banned from the Major Leagues for five years), the Cards relied to two right handers: Johnny Beazley and Ken Burkhart. Both gave up more hits than they had innings pitched and had more walks than strikeouts. From the left side Harry Brecheen (the old man of the lot at 30) and Howie Pollet had ERA’s under 2.50 and had more strikeouts than walks. They also had more innings pitched than hits allowed. Both Murry Dickson and Al Brazle split time between starting and the bullpen with Ted Wilks and Red Barrett working mostly out of the bullpen.

All in all the team was not as formidable as the 1942 version (which some people still insist is the best ever Cardinals team) but was solid. The stretch run and playoffs against the Dodgers helped make the team more seasoned than the Red Sox (who coasted to victory). For the World Series, they would have home field.

 

 

Missouri Waltz: the 1944 Cardinals

June 18, 2013
Johnny Hopp and Stan Musial

Johnny Hopp and Stan Musial

The 1944 season was completely different. Many quality players were off to war. A lot of diamond geezers were suddenly young again. A whole bunch of never-was types were playing in the Major Leagues. And the World Series came to St. Louis and stayed. For the only time prior to 1974, both pennant winners were from west of the Mississippi River. To top it off, Senator Harry S Truman of Missouri was nominated and later elected Vice President of the United States. It was quite a year for Missouri.

The Cardinals were returning National League champions having won pennants in both 1942 and 1943 (and picking up the win in the 1942 World Series). So they were expected to contend for a third consecutive pennant. Manager Billy Southworth’s team was much the same team that had swept to victory the two previous seasons. But there were changes that impacted the team. On the staff, Mort Cooper was still the ace and Max Lanier remained the number two man, but the remainder of the staff underwent significant overhaul. Harry Breechen went from 13 to 22 starts and settled in as the second lefty (behind Lanier) while rookie Ted Wilks led the NL in winning percentage.

Mort Cooper’s brother Walker was the regular catcher. His batting average dropped a couple of points, and his RBIs dropped by 10, but he went from nine to thirteen homers and saw his OPS+ jump to 136 (third on the team). In the field he managed to cut down on both his errors and passed balls. He was never going to be the best catcher of his era, but he was improving.

The infield was much the same. Ray Sanders held down first both seasons, Whitey Kurowski was at third, and Marty Marion (who would win the 1944 National League MVP) was at short. Both Sanders and Kurowski had double figure home runs (12 and 20) with Kurowski leading the team. There was a new second baseman. Second was a problem for the Cards through the entire first half of the 1940s with only Creepy Crespi spending more than one season (he got two) as the primary second sacker. The 1944 version featured Emil Verban. he managed to hit in the .270s for his career but had only one homer ever (and it wasn’t in 1944). He was a decent middle infielder but hit eighth for a  reason. The Cards would finally solve the problem when they brought up Red Schoendienst in 1945 and installed him at second the next year.

The outfield, unlike the infield, had seen great turnover. Gone to war were veteran center fielder (and one of the great undervalued Cardinals) Terry Moore and Hall of Fame right fielder Enos Slaughter. In their place were Danny Litwhiler in right. He’d replaced Slaughter in 1943 and hung around the next season. He was second on the team with 15 home runs. The new center fielder was Johnny Hopp. Hopp had been around St. Louis since 1939 splitting time between first and the outfield. He was fast (leading the team with 15 stolen bases) and a capable fielder. So although both were relatively new as starters, they’d been around the team for a while. Of course the other outfielder was Stan Musial. He hit .347, had an OPS of .990 (OPS+ of 174–the team high), and had 12 home runs to go with 14 triples and 197 hits.

During the war years, benches tended to suffer. The Cardinals bench was, at best, indifferent. Backup catcher Ken O’Dea was 31 and hit .249. Debs Garms was 37, did much of the backup work in the outfield and at third and hit all of .201. Pepper Martin, out of retirement, was even older. At 40 he got into 40 games and hit .279 and ended up with an OPS+ of 118 one point higher than the other backup outfielder, Augie Bergamo.

The Cards won 105 games, the same as the year before, finishing 14.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh. As mentioned above, Marion brought home the MVP with Musial finishing fourth and the Cooper brothers finishing eighth (Walker) and ninth (Mort). Sanders, Hopp, Wilks, and Kurowski also picked up a handful of MVP votes.

They would go into the World Series heavily favored. Not only were they defending NL champions, but their opponent had never won a pennant before. They were going to face their crosstown rival Browns.