Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25, 1947: Sam Breadon Sells The Birds

On November 25, 1947, it was announced that Robert Hannegan, Fred Saigh, along a group of local investors would be purchasing the St. Louis Cardinals from longtime owner Sam Breadon. The decision by Breadon to sell came as he was in failing health and did not want to leave his family with a financial burden that the inheritance would leave them with. Breadon had been a part of the organization since 1917 when he invested $200 into Cardinals stock as a civic gesture. Over time the ownership found themselves struggling financially and eventually the automobile dealer turned investor would buy enough shares to become the majority owner by 1920. He was a business man who was tight with his money but would also spend for a winner. Breadon made moves such as sell Robison Field and lease Sportsman's Park, in turn he let Branch Rickey develop a minor league system that would transform the Cardinals from the doormat of the National League into a Championship ballclub. Over the course of his 27 years at the helm of the Redbirds, Breadon saw the team win nine National League Pennants and six World Series Titles. When he was stricken with cancer in his later years he quietly shopped the team in an effort to assure they would stay in the city of St. Louis. The deal with Saigh and Hannegan was estimated close to $4 million a record amount at the time. While he walked away from the game richer than most people could ever dream of walking away from the game was far from easy for the 71 year old Breadon. His press conference alone showed how hard it was for him to sell the team as he announced with tears rolling down cheeks that the team would be sold. He let several longtime members of his staff speak before handing over the keys to Hannegan who would be the new team President. The former Postmaster General from the Truman administration reiterated that he would no longer have any association with politics and his focus would be on the team along with his partner. Before Fred Saigh found himself as a member of the baseball world he was a tax lawyer and an investor who owned several office buildings in downtown St. Louis. Together they came up with a little more than $60,000 in cash and Saigh masterminded a variety of loans to finish the deal. The 44 year old Hannegan had grown up a fan of the Cardinals. He talked about how he used to sell peanuts in the bleachers at Robison Field when he was boy, saying the reason he sold peanuts was simply to watch the Cardinals play. It had to be a dream come true as he stood before the press and announced that he would now own that team he grew up a fan of . There are several unfortunate things that go along with the story of the sale of the team in  '47.  The first one is the former owner Sam Breadon succumbed to cancer in May of 1949. In October of that same year Hannegan passed away after a bout with heart disease that he could not overcome. Just a few months earlier he had sold his shares to Saigh as he could see the writing on the wall. Saigh would have his own share of trouble, luckily for him it wasn't health, but he did find himself in a mess with tax evasion. On January 28, 1953, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison. Although, he served just 5 of those 15 months. He chose not to fight for his right to retain the team, acknowledging that he would not want to embarrass baseball as a whole. Saigh turned down significantly higher offers from investors out of Milwaukee and Houston to make sure the team would remain in St. Louis. Less than a month after his conviction Saigh sold the team to August Busch Jr, the St. Louis beer baron would owned the team until he passed away in 1989. The ownership of Saigh and Breadon might have been short lived but t is a very important part of the history of the organization. Without each of these men mentioned in this piece the Browns might just be the team playing in downtown St. Louis today.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19, 1962: Bing Devine Trades For Dick Groat

    On November 19, 1962, Cardinals General Manager Bing Devine engineered a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates that brought shortstop Dick Groat along with relief pitcher Diomedes Olivio to St. Louis in exchange for pitchers Don Cardwell and Julio Gotay.

     The 32 year old Groat was the lynchpin of the deal for the Cards and he would end up becoming an integral part of the 1964 World Championship club. Olivio was a 42 year old rookie lefty reliever who had posted a 5-1 record and recorded 7 saves during the '62 campaign but he never found his footing with the Cardinals and spent most of the '63 season in the minors. On the Pittsburgh side of the trade their General Manager Joe Brown was looking for younger athletes and he got them with Cardwell being 27 and Gotay just 23 years old. However, neither pitcher lived up to what the fans in Pittsburgh hoped for while Groat became a leader in the St. Louis clubhouse.

     Groat began his major league career with the Pirates in 1952. He stood beside second baseman Bill Mazeroski and formed one of the better defensive duos in the game. After hitting .284 during his rookie season he found himself in the rookie of the year conversation and his star was just beginning to shine in the Steel City. After missing the '53 and '54 seasons due to military service, Groat returned and got back to work for the Buccos.

     Like any young player his bat was a little slow to develop but his defense was a force to be reckoned with. In that '55 season he led the National League in putouts which was a feat he would accomplish several more times in a Pirates uniform. He could do more than flash the leather; he could also swing the stick. Over his 9 years in Pittsburgh he carried a .290 average. His best season came in 1960, he helped lead the Pirates to a World Championship by leading the league with a .325 average  on his way to winning the National League MVP award.

     The reason I include all this information about his days with the Pirates is to show how much of an established major leaguer the Cardinals got when they made the deal late in '62. The Cardinals had a need at short and Groat didn't disappoint.

     In his first season in St. Louis he led the league with 43 doubles and hit .319 which was good for third in the National League batting race. The '64 season started a bit rough for Groat, however, he was able to get it together, and hit .292 on the year while playing in every regular season game for the Pennant winning Cardinals.

     In the '64 World Series he hit just .192, however, in Game 4 when Ken Boyer hit his famous grand slam Groat was one of the men who scored as he got on base with an error. He also pulled off the hidden ball trick in that same game by tagging out Mickey Mantle in the third inning. It was only the second time that happened in the World Series and it hasn't happened since.

     That Cardinals infield included Bill White at first, Julian Javier at second, Ken Boyer at third, and Groat at short. This easily is one of the best all around infields in the history of the organization. While the trade worked out great for the Birds all good things must come to an end, and with his numbers in decline he was traded to the Phillies along with Bill White following the '65 season. Groat wore the birds on the bat for three seasons, over the course of those seasons he was at or near the top in putouts and assists, and carried a .289 average while picking up 104 doubles, and 22 triples. It's hard to say for sure, but if the deal to bring Dick Groat to St. Louis never took place there is a good chance that when you look up at those World Championship flags at the ballpark there might be one missing.

Check out his career numbers here:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 16, 1932: Cardinals Shortstop Charlie Gelbert Is Injured In a Hunting Accident

On November 16, 1932, Cardinals shortstop Charlie Gelbert was out hunting rabbits in the mountains of Pennsylvania when he accidentally shot himself in the ankle after tripping over vine. Gelbert was just 26 years old at the time of the accident and it would sideline his promising career. Gelbert came to the Cardinals had in 1929, he was a 23 year old kid, coming off .340 season for the Rochester Red Wings. He hit .262 in his rookie season, then followed it up with a .304 season as the Cardinals won the first of back-to-back National League Pennants in 1930. The Birds would fall to the Yankees in six but not because of the defense of Charlie Gelbert. During the 1930 series he began a streak of 80 chances without committing an error.The streak would extend to the 1931 World Championship Cardinals that took down the Philadelphia A's in seven games. After the disappointing season of '32, Gelbert and every other man that wore those birds on the bat had hopes of a bounce back season in '33. Unfortunately for Gelbert the accident happened and his career in baseball would be changed forever. He had to undergo several operations to repair nerve damage, then gangrene set in which required another surgery before he began to try and work his way back to the game he knew and loved. He finally did return to the diamond in 1935. At that point the Cardinals had acquired Leo Durocher who was the everyday shortstop. In 62 games he hit .292, then played in 93 the next season hitting just .229 before the Cardinals moved him as a part of a three team deal that brought the Birds Spud Davis. Davis started 107 games for the Championship winning Cardinals in '34. Gelbert bounced around with a few teams as a utility guy until his playing days ended in 1941. While his playing days came to an end, his career in baseball was far from over. He coached the baseball team at Lafayette College out of Eaton, Pennsylvania for 21 years and compiled more than 300 victories while guiding the Leopards to 5 College World Series appearances before he passed away in 1967. In 2004 Gelbert's #20 was retired by the school. He might not have been able to put together the career he had hoped for after the accident, but he led a life that would be remembered by many.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10, 2005: Chris Carpenter Wins The Cy Young

On November 10, 2005, Cardinals hurler Chris Carpenter took home the Cy Young award after posting a 21-5 record along with a 2.83 E.R.A. during the regular season. The road that Carpenter took to the Cy Young was a long road indeed. Just a couple of years before while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, Carpenter had suffered an arm injury that required surgery. He went through a slow rehab and right when it looked like he might be poised for a comeback he suffered a setback that had him questioning if he would be able to continue to play baseball. After he was encouraged to continue to follow his dream by his wife Alyson, Carp underwent another surgery. After the surgery the Blue Jays organization wanted to send him to the minors. He decided to opt for free agency instead and signed with the Cardinals December of '02. He still had a long rehab ahead of him and had to sit out all of '03 before making a triumphant return in 2004. In his first year back he posted a 15-5 record for the National League Champion Cardinals and was named Comeback Player of the Year. The 21-5 campaign in '05 earned him 19 of the 32 first place votes in the Cy Young balloting, beating out Marlins hurler Dontrelle Willis for the award. The road that Carpenter traveled to get to that point made winning one of baseball's most prestigious awards that much sweeter. To date, Carpenter is one of two Cardinals to take home the Cy Young award. When he won the award on that day in 2005 he joined the legendary Bob Gibson who had won the award in 1968 and 1970. While we all know that Carpenter would be forced to battle through injuries later in his career he would be a key force in both the 2006 and 2011 championship titles. I know that I truly appreciate Chris Carpenter and everything that he has done for the Cardinals organization. He is more than the last Cardinal to take home the Cy Young, in my opinion he is a legendary member of some of the great Cardinals teams that we have seen in the recent past.

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 4, 1963: The Redbirds Trade For Roger Craig

On November 4, 1963, Cardinals GM Bing Devine sent outfielder George Altman and pitcher Bill Wakefield to the New York Mets in exchange for hard luck hurler Roger Craig. The 6 foot 4 righthander had posted the most losses in the National League in back-to-back seasons with 24 losses in '62, then 22 losses in '63. A move to St. Louis didn't provide an instant turnaround for him as he posted just a 7-9 record during the regular season but it was what he did in the postseason that made the trade a great one. Craig turned in a relief performance in Game 4 of the '64 World Series that earned him a win and a key victory in a battle that would take 7 games for the Cardinals to prevail over the New York Yankees. When it came to the players that the Cardinals sent to New York, only Altman would play significant time in the major leagues. He never did hit higher than .235 after he was shipped out of St. Louis. While Craig spent just one season with the Cardinals, it was a season that ended with a World Series ring.

You can read about Craig's victory in the Fall Classic here:

This is a story did for On This Day In Sports that is  about Craig putting his losing streak to bed during the '63 season in New York: