Tuesday, May 3, 2022

May 3, 1941: Gornicki Debuts With A Gem

     On May 3, 1941, 30-year-old rookie Hank Gornicki led the Cardinals to a 6-0 victory over the Phillies with a one hit effort at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. While the hurler turned in a performance to remember, it would be his only start as a member of the Cardinals and, less than a month later, he would be back in the minor leagues. 

    Gornicki had no run support until the fourth, when Don Padgett hit a solo shot to put the Birds up 1-0. The Cardinals rookie carried a no-hitter into the sixth before Stan Benjamin broke it up with a two out single for the Phillies, but Gornicki sat the next man down with a fly ball that landed in Terry Moore's glove.  

     Still 1-0, Gornicki had to hold his opponents in check and he was up to the task, allowing only one man to reach second base and striking out five batters.  While he did walk five men, his defense was working nicely behind him at the same time he was getting the job done in front of them. 

    The Cardinals gave their pitcher some breathing room with a four run seventh inning, capped off with an RBI-scoring double from Terry Moore that brought Creepy Crespi home for the fifth Redbird run of the day.  Crespi later scored the sixth run with a homer in the ninth. 

    While Hank Gornicki never did start another game for the Cardinals, his days in Major League Baseball were not over. In the fall of 1941, he was sent to the Cubs in a deal that brought cash back to St. Louis.  However, after appearing in just four games for the Cubbies, the deal was voided by the commissioner of baseball forcing  Gornicki back to the Cardinals organization where  hereturned to the minor league affiliate. The Cardinals had a wealth of pitching at the time and there was no place for him on the big league roster. 

    In December of 1941, the Pirates selected Gornicki off of waivers, when he went on to pitch a total of 259 innings in 1942 and 1943. In 1943 he had the distinction of being the winning pitcher on both ends of a doubleheader. He served his country in 1944 and 1945 before returning to the Pirates in 1946. He pitched a little more than a dozen innings for the Pirates that season before being optioned to the minors. His days on a big league diamond may have been over, but there were many memories made on that diamond that he would carry with him throughout the rest of his life. Those memories included the day he stepped on the mound and spun a one hit gem as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals against the Phillies at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. 

Check out the box score here: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI194105030.shtml


Saturday, April 16, 2022

April 16, 1978: Forsch No-Hits The Phillies

     On April 16, 1978,  Cardinals hurler Bob Forsch recorded the seventh no-hitter in franchise history, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 in St. Louis. The masterful performance by Forsch included just two walks and three strikeouts. Bob's brother Ken accomplished the feat less than a year later as a member of the Astros, making the two the only brothers to toss no-hitters in the history of Major League Baseball.  In 1983, Bob pitched the second no-hitter of his career, making him the only pitcher to do it twice in a Cardinals uniform. 

    Phillies starter Randy Lerch held the Cardinals scoreless until the fourth, when Kenny Reitz knocked in Ted Simmons with a two out single to make it 1-0. The Cardinals extended their lead to 4-0 in the sixth when Roger Freed came through with a three run pinch hit double. Reliever Gene Garber gave up the fifth run of the day in the eighth on a bases loaded walk to Dane Iorg. Forsch had more than enough run support as he finished on the mound in historic fashion for the Redbirds.

    In the top of the eighth, there was some controversy when Reitz committed an error at third base. The Philadelphia Inquirer's headline  read "NO HITTER: Error disputed as the Phillies fall to Forsch".  The play in question came when Phillies centerfielder Gary Maddox hit one down the line just to the left of  Reitz. The ball went under his glove and Maddox was standing at first. While those on the Cardinals side of the ball saw it as a definite error, the visitors disagreed. It took longer than usual for the official scorer to make the decision, but when it was announced, Forsch's no-hitter was still intact. Reitz himself said that it was a play that he would make 99 out of 100 times. That just happened to be the one in a hundred and it was an error. 

    After the call was made, Forsch induced a double play and retired the next man he faced with a lineout to short to end the eighth. In the top of the ninth the final three batters of the game all grounded out. Forsch and his catcher, Ted Simmons, embraced on the mound, and Cardinals came flying in from all directions celebrating the historic outing. With the fans on their feet and an ovation coming down up him and his teammates Bob Forsch had etched his name into the history books.  

Friday, April 15, 2022

April 15, 1942: Gumbert and The Boys Get Win #1

     On April 15, 1942, behind a four-hit complete game effort by Harry Gumbert, the Cardinals won their first game of the season, beating the Cubs 4-2 at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. Win number one of 1942 would mark the first of a 106 win season, which stands as the most wins by a Cardinals team in franchise history. 

    Gumbert found himself trailing early after an error led to a run in the second, then he gave up another run in the fourth when Cubs starting pitcher Jake Mooty knocked a runner home with a single. While it may have been a bumpy start for the Cardinals righty, it smoothed out nicely. Not one more batter reached base after Mooty, with Gumbert retiring the next 16 batters to help lead the Cardinals to victory.

    Down 2-0, Gumbert needed run support and it was on the way as the Cardinals tied the ballgame 2-2 in the fourth. The game-tying rally began with a Terry Moore triple, followed by a walk to Enos Slaughter. Mooty picked up two outs before Gus Mancuso and Marty Marion picked up back-to-back RBI singles to knot it up. 

    The Cardinals then took the lead in the sixth with Mooty still on the bump for the Baby Bears. The hurler gave up a one out single to Ray Sanders who scored on a double by Jimmy Brown. The Cards were up 3-2. Moments later, Marion got his second RBI of the day with a single to score Brown to make it 4-2. With Gumbert locked in, the Cubs came to the plate and went back to the bench 1-2-3 time and time again as the Cardinals coasted to victory. 

    The team that was destined to win 106 games total was also destined to win a World Championship during that season. There were players on that roster whose names are known by each and every Cardinals fan; there were others many may not know. While they may not have their number on the stadium wall or their name in Cooperstown, they were still pieces to a puzzle

    Harry Gumbert was a piece to the 1942 Championship winning Cardinals puzzle.  He went 9-5 for the team that season and recorded 5 saves. He made just two appearance in the World Series. However, once the final out was recorded I'm sure he stormed the field alongside his teammates who had brought yet another title to St. Louis.  

Check out the box score here: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN194204150.shtml

Monday, April 11, 2022

April 11, 1954: The Trade That Made Slaughter Weep

    On April 11, 1954, Enos Slaughter openly wept when being informed that he had been traded to the New York Yankees. The Cardinals were set to receive outfielder Bill Virdon, pitcher Mel Wright, and minor league outfielder Emil Tellinger. The trade marked the end of an era for the team and the player who had been wearing a Cardinals uniform since April 19, 1938. He played 13 seasons for the Redbirds, winning two World Championships, and forever weaving himself into the fabric of the history of the team as one of the greatest players to wear the Birds on the Bat. 

    As the Cardinals prepared for another season in St. Louis, the team had visons of rookie Wally Moon becoming a regular in center. That meant that good ol' Country Slaughter would have to embrace a part-time role, which he didn't seem completely on board with, so General Manager Dick Meyer began shopping the veteran around. After being passed over by the National League clubs, the GM of the Yankees took the call that led to the deal bringing Slaughter to The Bronx.

    Tears flowed as the news was delivered to Slaughter. His manager Eddie Stanky tried his best to console him, but Slaughter seemed inconsolable, saying to The Globe Democrat "This is a helluva way to treat a fellow...This is the biggest shock of my life." He would also go onto say that Casey Stengel and the Yankees would be getting 100% from him as he moved forward. 

    Slaughter proved he had a few good years left in the tank, playing for the Yankees, A's, and Braves before retiring in 1959. He was able to add two more championship rings as a member of the Yankees with World Series wins in 1956 and 1958. After retiring he was a coach in the minor leagues and then with Duke University for a number of years.

    To this day, Enos Slaughter ranks in the Cardinals Top 10 in too many categories to list.  He ranks sixth on the team leaderboard in all time hits with 2,064, he ranks fifth in all time runs scored with 1,071, and he ranks third in all time RBIs with 1,148.

    Forever a celebrated member of the Cardinals, Slaughter was inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, had his number 9 retired by the club in 1996, and was inducted into The Cardinals Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 2014. Perhaps the most memorable moment of Slaughter's career is the Mad Dash that brought him into score the winning run in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series. Slaughter and The Mad Dash are memorialized in bronze outside of Busch Stadium today. 

    When we look back at a player's career with our favorite teams, we rarely reflect on the day they were traded or had to retire from the great game of baseball. When you think about it that's how it should be. We reflect on the great moments that took place. What they brought to the game and the joy that we as fans have been able to take from that. Ultimately, baseball is a business and players come and go, but a great deal of them stay with us for the rest of time. Enos Slaughter is one of those players.  

If you would like to read more about the baseball life of Enos Slaughter check out his SABR bio here: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/enos-slaughter/

Check out stats leaders in Cardinals history: https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/STL/leaders_bat.shtml

Sunday, April 10, 2022

April 10, 1978: Tyson's Round Tripper Caps Off A Big First Inning

    On April 10, 1978, a Mike Tyson three run home run capped off a six run first inning for the Cardinals who went onto beat the Pirates 11-2 in their home opener at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. John Denny took care of business from the mound, pitching a complete game, while striking out four. Along with Tyson and Denny's efforts, Keith Hernandez went 4 for 5 that included 2 RBI, a double and a stolen base.

    Not known for his thump, Tyson hit just 27 home runs in career. 22 of those home runs came wearing the Birds on the Bat. A solid defensive player, Tyson played second base and shortstop for the Cardinals from 1972 to 1979. He was traded to the Cubs after the season ended in 1979 and played two more seasons before hanging up his cleats. 

Check out the box score with details of all of the scoring here: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN197804100.shtml

Another highlight of that day in 1978 was the birth of my friend Doug Harmon who was a Cardinals fan from day one and is still a huge fan today. Happy Birthday, Doug! Compete!!!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

April 9, 1953: Busch Buys The Ballpark


    On April 9, 1953, it was announced that St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck was selling Sportsman's Park to Cardinals owner August A. Busch Jr. for a cost of $800,000. By today's standards that would equate to $8.5 million. The park was long overdue for repair and Busch had a plan in place for an extensive renovation that included a planned name change to Budweiser Stadium, wider seats, and an Anheuser Busch eagle over the left field wall that would flap its wings when a player hit a home run. 

    The sale came on the heels of the American League rejecting a proposed move to Baltimore for Veeck's club, which turned Veeck from landlord into tenant, as he signed a 5 year lease for the Browns to occupy the ballpark. However, as we all know the Browns move to Baltimore would ultimately be approved and 1953 was the last season the Browns called St. Louis home.

    Busch had big plans for the stadium. Over the next couple of years more than $1.5 million was invested into the ballpark. Before the sale took place the park had fallen into such disrepair the cash strapped Browns could not seem to so much as replace the tarp that was used during a rain delay. It was said that the tarp was so bad that when they pulled it off the field there were puddles everywhere. Along with the wider seats and the Anheuser Busch eagle, Gussie invested into a state-of-the-art drainage system, new restrooms, concessions stands, drinking fountains, turnstiles, and improved dugouts. The ballpark was also painted green, red, and metallic blue to enhance the fan's experience while taking in a game. 

    One thing that Busch did not get his way with was changing the name to Budweiser Stadium. MLB Commissioner Ford Frick and others did not want to commercialize the game by letting an owner name his stadium after an alcoholic beverage. Therefore, Busch went with his family name and Busch Stadium was born. Less than a year later Busch Bavarian Beer was born and the Cardinals owner was able to get the last laugh with that one. 

    The site of the ballpark that sat at Grand and Dodier was the home of baseball as early as 1867. The team that became the Cardinals had played on the grounds from 1882 to 1892 before moving into Robison Field in 1893. The Browns opened the new version of Sportsman's Park on the site in 1902 as a member of the American League. The Cardinals returned as tenants in 1920 and celebrated nine pennant winning seasons there as well as six World Championships. It was known as home of the St. Louis Cardinals until Busch Stadium II opened in May of 1966.  

    Sportsman's Park was the original Baseball Heaven. Just to think of the memories that were made within those walls is something that one can hardly wrap the mind around. All these years and two ballparks later when we join our friends, family and other fans within the walls of the stadium that we call Busch be sure to remember how special it truly is. 

Check out this video about Sportsman's Park



Friday, April 8, 2022

April 8, 1997: Walk It Off Willie!!!

     On April 8, 1997, 38 year old Willie McGee hit a walk off home run that lifted the Cardinals to
a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Expos in their home opener at Busch. The walk off shot could not have come at a better time, as the Redbirds had lost six in a row to start the season. It was Willie's first walk off home run of his career. Tony LaRussa called it something right out of The Natural. The always humble McGee scoffed at the idea, saying, "That's fantasy. This is hard work for me." Hard work pays off. It certainly paid off for Willie that day. 

    Alan Benes got the nod to start in front of more than 47,000 fans that packed Busch Stadium. He received run support in the second when Gary Gaetti scored on a Roberto Mejia sac fly, only to watch the Expos tie it up 1-1 in the third when Mike Lansing knocked in a run with a single. Benes was able to work his way through the fifth before being lifted for a pinch hitter. 

    Mark Petkovsek took over on the bump in the sixth and got the job done by keeping Montreal off the board as he pitched into the ninth inning. Expos closer Ugueth Urbina had worked his way out of a bases loaded mess late in the eighth after he walked two before striking out Gaetti.  Urbina came out in the bottom of the ninth, sat Tom Lampkin down on a pop fly and struck Mejia out to end the inning. With the pitcher due up in the lineup, it was the end of the day for Petkovsek when Tony called on number 51 to pinch hit.  All it took was one pitch as Willie's bat came around and got a hold of the ball that sailed over the wall in right. His teammates mobbed him at that plate as the cheers rained down upon him. Willie and the Birds were walk off winners.

  Watch the historic blast