History of the St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals, which officially began major league play in 1882, are a professional Major League baseball organization based in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States of America. Their history spans from 1875 to the present. For more information on specific periods in the St. Louis Cardinals' history, refer to one of the following articles:
- History of the St. Louis Cardinals (1875-1919)
- History of the St. Louis Cardinals (1920-1952)
- History of the St. Louis Cardinals (1953-1989)
- History of the St. Louis Cardinals (1990-Present)
Naming and affiliation timeline
Although the St. Louis Cardinals are currently known as a National League team that plays in the Central Division, their early history contains a complicated procession of naming and competitive association, beginning as the Brown Stockings:
- Franchise names
- 1875-1882: St. Louis Brown Stockings
- 1883-1898: St. Louis Browns
- 1899: St. Louis Perfectos
- 1900-Present: St. Louis Cardinals
- 1875: National Association
- 1876-1877: National League
- 1878-1881: Independent
- 1882-1891: American Association
- 1892-Present: National League
Despite participating in the National League from 1876 to 1877, only the current era beginning in 1892 is recognized, and that is the only period recognized as part of their Major League history.
The team was formed as part of the American Association in 1882 where they enjoyed great success under flamboyant owner Chris von der Ahe. Initially they were known as the "Brown Stockings", named for a previous professional team in the city, whose name was one of several "Stockings" teams inspired by the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. This new team's nickname was quickly shortened to "Browns". The Browns set up shop at Sportsman's Park. They won four American Association pennants in a row, 1885–88, and played in an early version of the World Series four times, twice against the National League's Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs). The Series of 1885 ended in dispute and with no resolution. St. Louis won the 1886 Series outright, the only Series of that era that was won by the AA against the NL. The vigorous St. Louis-Chicago rivalry continues to this day.
During the mid-1880s, the National League also had a St. Louis entry, the Maroons, which had come in from the Union Association. The Maroons were by far the strongest entry in the UA, but they had the misfortune of arriving at the time when the Browns were in their glory. After the 1886 season, they were sold and moved to Indianapolis, becoming the Hoosiers.
The Browns joined the National League in 1892 following the bankruptcy of the American Association. The next year they opened a new ballpark, initially called "New Sportsman's Park", a few blocks north-northwest from their previous home field. They were briefly called the Perfectos in 1899 before settling on their present name, a name reportedly inspired by switching their uniform colors from brown to red. There was already a "Reds" team at Cincinnati, so the St. Louis team became "Cardinals" (reportedly because a woman spectator exclaimed that the uniform was "a lovely shade of Cardinal.") With Saint Louis' overwhelming Catholic population, the name "Saint Louis Cardinals" was most likely an allusion to this heritage as the bird concept came much later (see below).
Also in 1899, Chris von der Ahe was forced to sell the Cardinals due to financial troubles. The team was sold to E.C. Becker who by 1887 had a minority share in the team and was known as Chris' angel. Within Becker's first year of ownership, he rekindled a deal from two years earlier with Frank and Stanley Robison, who also owned the Cleveland Spiders. The three owners, dissatisfied with the Cardinals 1898 performance (twelfth place, 39 wins, 111 losses), and Cleveland's poor attendance, transferred much of the talent from the Spiders to the St. Louis franchise. This brought the infamous pitcher, Cy Young, to the St Louis mound. A photo of Cy Young in uniform with the St Louis team before Opening Day 1899 was recently found and is the only known photo of the hurler with his new team.
This trade led to the spectacular demise of the Spiders, who fell to 20–134 (.130), along with significant improvement of the St. Louis club, which jumped from last (twelfth) place to fifth place. In effect, Cleveland and St. Louis switched places in the standings. The St. Louis-Cleveland chicanery destroyed the Spiders franchise and helped lead to contraction of the National League, which opened the door to the establishment of the American League as a rival to the National.
The change of name led to the adoption of the "St. Louis Browns" moniker by the American League franchise formerly known as the Milwaukee Brewers (the future Baltimore Orioles) upon their move to St. Louis in 1902. The Browns acquired the old Sportsman's Park property, creating a direct rivalry with the Cardinals, whose ballpark (now called Robison Field) was within walking distance of Sportsman's Park.
1920s-1950s: A renaissance and the first World Series championship
The move to the National League proved problematic for a franchise that had dominated in the American Association. The 1899 season was the only time in the Cardinals' first nineteen seasons in the National League that they finished above .500. During that period St. Louis finished last or next-to-last ten times. In general, the Browns fielded more competitive teams and frequently outdrew the Cardinals at the box office.
The Cardinals showed marginal improvement in the 1910s but did not approach their American Association success until the 1920s. It was then that Branch Rickey, who had previously worked for the Browns, came to the Cardinals as general manager, developing the first farm system in baseball and stockpiling the team with talent. The Cardinals, recognizing the defects in their home ballpark (by then known as Cardinal Field), abandoned the old place in June 1920 and began leasing Sportsman's Park from the Browns. One of Rickey's recruits for the Browns, George Sisler, became a major star in the early 1920s, and the Browns came within a game of winning the pennant in 1922, outdrawing their tenants substantially. But the tide was about to turn in the Cardinals' favor.
1926 was the breakthrough year. Led by second baseman / manager Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis in 1926 won its first pennant in 39 years, and then shocked the baseball world by knocking off the powerful New York Yankees in seven games in the World Series. The storied Game 7 reached its climax in the seventh inning when the previous day's winning pitcher, the aging Grover Cleveland Alexander, was summoned in relief to face slugger Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded (some fans feared that Alexander might have been a little "loaded" himself after celebrating the previous day's win). After giving up a long foul ball, "Ol' Pete" then struck out Lazzeri swinging on 3 low fastballs. A closely guarded secret at the time was that both men in that confrontation happened to suffer from epilepsy. In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, with the Cardinals clinging to a 3–2 lead, Babe Ruth drew a walk. With two outs, and hoping to put a runner in scoring position, Ruth attempted to steal second, but was thrown out, giving the Cardinals their first World Series championship.
The Cardinals fell just short in 1927, then won the pennant again in 1928, edging out the resurging Chicago Cubs and the perennially contending New York Giants. The Cardinals did not fare so well in the World Series, as the Yankees continued their dominance from 1927 and shot down the Cardinals in four straight.
Regardless, the stage was set for the new order of the National League. Rickey's farm system would produce great players and keep the Cardinals in contention for the next two decades. Between 1926 and 1946, the Cardinals, Cubs and Giants would become fierce rivals, that trio winning 17 of the NL pennants during those 21 seasons.
1930s: Ol' Diz and the "Gang"
The Cardinals lost the 1930 World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics 4 games to 2, but came back strong the following year, playing an aggressive game of "inside" ball that broke the back of the A's in 7 games, in what would prove to be the A's swan song in post-season play.
In 1934, Dizzy and his younger brother, Paul, combined to win 49 games - still a single season record for brothers. Dizzy, whose real name was Jerome Hanna Dean and was called "Jay" by his pals, won 30 of them, with Paul (facetiously nicknamed "Daffy" by the press) contributing 19 wins. Dean's country humor made him a popular favorite, particularly in the rural south and midwest where Cardinals fans were numerous. The outgoing "Diz" and the shy "Daf" (a pair that Diz called "Me an' Paul") sometimes teamed up in doubleheaders. On September 21, 1934, Dizzy won the first game and then Paul pitched a no-hitter in the second game. Later, Diz jokingly remarked that he wished Paul had told him he was going to throw a no-hitter, because "Then I'd've pitched one too!"
The Dean brothers formed part what proved to be one of baseball's most legendary teams — the so-called "Gashouse Gang", whose hard play and wild antics endeared them to a wide following in a nation mired in the depths of the Great Depression. Led by playing manager Frankie Frisch and the hard-nosed Leo Durocher — and stars like Dean, Joe Medwick, Ripper Collins, and Pepper Martin — the '34 Cardinals won 95 games, the NL Pennant, and beat the Detroit Tigers in 7 games to win the World Series. The final game, an 11-0 blowout, earned the series the moniker of the "Garbage Series", thanks to the debris hurled onto the field by a Detroit crowd incensed by Medwick's outfield antics.
In 1935 the Cardinals were overcome and defeated by the Chicago Cubs, who reeled off 21 straight wins in September. The Cubs clinched the pennant in St. Louis, although their streak had been snapped by then.
In 1937, Dizzy Dean's toe was broken by a line drive in the All-Star Game, and he injured his arm during the recovery process, losing his famous fastball, and signalling a brief decline by the Cardinals. Dean would go on to become a popular sportscaster for the Cardinals.
1940s: The war years and a young "Man"
In the early 1940s, the Cardinals dominated the National League, thanks to a deep farm system constructed by general manager Branch Rickey. The 1942 "St. Louis Swifties" won 106 games, the most in franchise history, and are widely regarded as among the greatest baseball teams of all time, defeating the Yankees in the World Series in five games. Outfielder Stan Musial played his first full season with the 1942 Cardinals. Known to loyal fans as "The Man", Musial spent 22 years in a Cardinals uniform, 1941–1944, 1946–1963. He won seven batting titles and three MVP awards, and his 3,630 hits remain the 4th highest in baseball history. In August 1968, a statue of Musial was dedicated outside Busch Memorial Stadium. In 1943 and again in 1944 they posted the second-best records in team history at 105–49. The Yankees got revenge in the 1943 World Series, beating the Cardinals in five games. The 1944 World Series was particularly memorable as they met their crosstown rivals, the St. Louis Browns, in the "Streetcar Series". The Cardinals won four games to two. All six games were played in Sportsman's Park, which the two teams shared. Billy Southworth, the manager for all three of those seasons, remains the only Cardinal manager to guide his team to three straight pennants.
The Cardinals finished 3 games behind the Cubs in 1945 without Musial, who was in the U.S. Navy serving in World War II. After the season, Southworth left the Cardinals to manage the Boston Braves. Eddie Dyer was hired to replace him, and St. Louis came back to tie for the pennant in 1946, ousting the Brooklyn Dodgers in a playoff series to get to the World Series. They faced a powerful Boston Red Sox team and defeated them in 7 games, the eventual winning run in Game 7 coming in the eighth inning on Enos Slaughter's famous "mad dash" around the bases on a hit to shallow left center field. The latest in a resounding series of dominating seasons by the Cardinals, the 1946 Series would prove to be the Cardinals' last for 18 years, and leadership of the National League gradually passed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, now helmed by none other than Rickey, fired in 1942 after disputes with team ownership.
This job-switch between league powerhouses set the stage for a more profound upheaval in the game — breaking of the color barrier. In 1947, the Cardinals (who were effectively the southernmost major league team until the 1960s) gained notoriety by allegedly (the accusation is disputed) threatening to boycott games against the Brooklyn Dodgers to protest the Dodgers' signing of a black player, Jackie Robinson, by Rickey, who was now building the Dodgers into a perpetual contender as he had previously done with the Cardinals. The alleged ringleader of the boycott was Enos Slaughter. National League president Ford Frick threatened to ban any players who boycotted any games, and the boycott never materialized. The Cardinals did not sign a black player until 1954 with part-timer Tom Alston and did not sign a black regular until Curt Flood in 1958. The Cardinals' resistance to the trend of hiring minority talent contributed to a team slump that ran from the late 1940s until the early 1960s. However, the organization was also the first Major League team to integrate spring training housing a decade later.
1950s-1980s: Anheuser-Busch takes over
1990s-present: Big Mac, Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa era
Other historical notes
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- For much of the last half of the 20th century, the Cardinals' radio flagship was St. Louis powerhouse 1120 KMOX-AM. Over the years such announcers as Harry Caray and Jack Buck (Baseball Hall of Fame honorees), the latter's son Joe Buck, and former Cardinal player Mike Shannon broadcast games over KMOX and its affiliate network.
- Between 1960 and 1987, St. Louis was home to two big-league Cardinals teams, baseball and football. Sports fans and local news coverage got into the habit of saying "the Baseball Cardinals" or "the Football Cardinals" to distinguish the two. Locals also got into the habit of using "Redbirds" to refer specifically to the baseball team. This nickname had been commonly used decades before the football team came to town. As a result, the Football Cardinals became known as the "Gridbirds" or the "Big Red."
- St. Louis-Chicago Cubs rivalry draws sell-outs on a regular basis. The Cubs lead the all time series 1096-1054. The Cardinals lead the National League in pennants won with 18, followed by the Cubs with 16. Head-to-Head Records for St. Louis Cardinals against the listed opponents from 1901 to 2011
- The Cardinals are one of two teams that do not use a third jersey, the other being the New York Yankees.
- The Cardinals are second only to the New York Yankees in the number of World Series championships won. The Cardinals are the only one of the eight oldest National League teams to hold an edge over the Yankees in Series play, 3 to 2.
- Of the eight original National League teams, St. Louis was the last to win a league championship, capturing its first NL pennant in 1926 and going on to defeat the heavily favored New York Yankees in the World Series. In all, the Cardinals have won 18 pennants, tied with the Giants and Dodgers in the NL; only the Yankees in the AL have won more league titles.
- Portions of the romantic comedy Fever Pitch were filmed during Game 4 of the 2004 World Series. Hollywood movie stars Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon were filmed celebrating together on the field of Busch Stadium after the Red Sox victory. A brief shot of the filming could be seen live on the Fox broadcast of the World Series. The last out of this game and the ensuing celebration were also briefly shown in a Season 3 episode of Lost.
- In 2005, the Cardinals played their final season in old Busch Stadium. Beginning in their championship season of 2006, new Busch Stadium became the new home of the baseball Cardinals, making them one of the few teams to open a stadium with a World Series title in its inaugural year. The last was the 1923 New York Yankees.
- The team's 83 victories during the 2006 regular season are the fewest total victories for a team that went on to win the World Series in a non-strike season. The previous record-holder was the 1987 Minnesota Twins, who had 85 wins in the regular season, but defeated the Cardinals for the championship that year. This was in contrast to the previous two years, when they had the most victories in baseball each year but did not win the Series.
- Becker attended the 1897 National Owners meeting with von der Ahe. http://beckerboys.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/nl-club-owners-1897.jpg
- Golenbock, Peter. The Spirit of St. Louis: A History Of The St. Louis Cardinals And Browns.
- About KMOX|http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/about-kmox/