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The nickname, by most accounts, came from the team's generally very shabby appearance and rough-and-tumble tactics. An opponent[who?] once stated that the Cardinals players usually went into the field in unwashed, dirty, and smelly uniforms, which alone spread horror among their rivals. According to one account, shortstop Leo Durocher coined the term. He and his teammates were speaking derisively of the American League, and the consensus was that the Redbirds—should they prevail in the National League race—would handle whoever won the AL pennant. "Why, they wouldn't even let us in that league over there",[this quote needs a citation] Durocher, who had played for the New York Yankees, observed. "They think we're just a bunch of gashousers." The phrase gas house referred to factories that turned coal into town gas for lighting and cooking. Common in U.S. cities until the widespread use of natural gas, the plants were noted for their foul smell and were typically located near railroad yards in the poorest neighborhood in the city. Another explanation holds that the name comes from Dizzy Dean, who played at City Park (renamed McKechnie Field in 1962), in Bradenton, Florida, for spring training in the 1930s. The story goes that Dean liked the city so much, he bought a local gas station and hung out there when he wasn't playing.
The team was led by playing manager Frankie Frisch and included other stars such as Joe Medwick and Ripper Collins. Many of the players on the Cardinal roster, including the Dean brothers, Bill DeLancey, Pepper Martin, Spud Davis, and Burgess Whitehead, were Southerners or Southwesterners from working-class backgrounds.
The team featured five regulars who hit at least .300, a 30-game winner in Dizzy Dean (the last National League pitcher to win 30 games in a single season, and the last pitcher in Major League Baseball to do so until Denny McLain accomplished the feat for the 1968 Detroit Tigers), and four All-Stars, including player-manager Frisch. Not among the All-Stars was Collins, the first baseman who led the team in sixteen offensive categories with stats like a .333 batting average, a .615 slugging percentage, 35 home runs, and 128 runs batted in.
In the World Series, the Cards and Tigers split the first two games in Detroit, and the Tigers took two of the next three in St. Louis. St. Louis proceeded to win the next two, including an 11–0 embarrassment of the Tigers in Detroit to win the Series. The stars for the Cards were Medwick, who had a .379 batting average with one of St. Louis's two home runs and a series-high five RBI, and the Dean Brothers, who combined for all four of the teams wins with 28 strikeouts and a 1.43 earned run average.
In popular culture
- One of the teams in the 1946 Warner Bros. cartoon Baseball Bugs was the "Gashouse Gorillas".
- Country-bluegrass band Old Crow Medicine Show refers to them in the song "Caroline" on their 2008 album Tennessee Pusher.
- In the 1938 George Cukor remake of the 1930 Romantic comedy film Holiday, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, Professor Potter (played by Edward Everett Horton) and his wife (played by Jean Dixon) enter a sophisticated and pompous New Year's Eve Party where they feel uncomfortably under dressed and out of place. They escape to the fourth floor where they hear simple music coming from Hepburn's room, and Professor Potter happily says, "It's the Gashouse Gang, darling."
- In 2015, author Carolyn E. Mueller and illustrator Ed Koehler, in association with Reedy Press, LLC published an illustrated book titled "Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang." (ISBN 978-1-68106-002-6) The book showcases the antics of Dizzy and his brother Paul Dean, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin, player/manager Frankie Frisch, and the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals season in their quest to win their third World Series.
- "Dizzy, Dazzy and Ducky". thisgreatgame.com. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
- Robinson, Alan (March 30, 2007). "Turn on the lights; party's over as McKechnie Field gets lights". USA Today. Retrieved February 14, 2012.