Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20, 1926: Hornsby For Frisch

     On December 20, 1926, in what was called the biggest deal since the Yankees purchased Babe Ruth, the Cardinals stunned the baseball world by sending second baseman Rogers Hornsby to the New York Giants in exchange for second baseman Frankie Frisch and pitcher Jimmy Ring.

     Hornsby and Cardinals President Sam Breadon were at odds over a contract dispute in which the star second baseman was demanding a three year contract as well as a substantial raise. Breadon offered him $50,000 for one year, it was a raise of $20,000, but the length of the contract was not enough for the man who had just guided the Birds to the first title in the history of the franchise.

     The list of accomplishments for Hornsby in St. Louis is long. He began his career with the Birds in 1919 and developed into one of the best hitters in the game, winning two Triple Crowns, an MVP award, then topped it off with the World Series title.

     After the deal was announced the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor of the city Victor Miller contacted the Commissioner of Baseball Kennesaw Mountain Landis hoping they could get the trade voided to no avail. The divorce between the owner and the player was an ugly one. Hornsby said that leaving the fans in St. Louis was one of the hardest blows of his life. However, he was upset with some of the statements that Breadon made about him and in a letter to his former employer he wrote "If you say that I wanted to leave St. Louis that is untrue, but to terminate relations with you, that is the truth." Breadon believed that after the '26 season that saw Hornsby's average fall from his MVP total of .425 in '25 to .317 in '26 that he was clearly in decline and was not going to offer him a multiyear deal. Despite Breadon's assumptions Hornsby had a lot of great years ahead of him.

     The fans in St. Louis were upset about the deal that sent Hornsby to the Big Apple, Breadon even had to disconnect his home phone after receiving numerous harassing phone calls. While the fans in the Lou weren't happy the deal was not a bad one at all. Frisch otherwise known as the "Fordham Flash" had already appeared in four World Series with the Giants, winning two titles. In St. Louis, he appeared in four more World Series and won two more rings along the way. After falling just short of the title in '28, then again in '30, Frisch and the Birds won it all in '31. After being named player/manager in '33, Frisch was described as the "driving force" behind the Gashouse Gang as he guided the club to the 1934 World Series title. When he first stepped to the plate in St. Louis, Frisch would listen to the crowd chant "We want Hornsby!!" "We want Hornsby!!!", by the time he retired in 1937, Frisch was a Cardinal legend and I'm sure many of those fans were glad he that wore those birds on the bat.

You can checkout the career numbers of Horsby and Frisch here

Sidenote: Ring went 0-4 with the Cards then retired after posting a 4-17 record with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1928.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 1966: Maris Traded To The Birds

On December 8, 1966, Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam sent a journeyman third baseman by the name of Charley Smith to the New York Yankees in exchange for Roger Maris. Smith arrived in St. Louis as a part of a deal that sent Ken Boyer to the Mets in '65. In his one season as a Cardinal he hit 10 homers, knocked 43 runs, .266 over 116 games. With the Yankees shopping the man who broke Babe Ruth's home run record Howsam saw it as a good fit that could add a bit of pop to the team, play the outfield, as well as become a solid option off the bench. What the Cardinals were receiving was a two time MVP that had capped off the second MVP campaign with 61 bombs in the '61 season. He was also a champion before he arrived in the Lou, winning back-to-back titles as a member of the Yankees in '61 and '62. Despite all the success the media and fans alike turned on him. During the great home run chase of '61 Mickey Mantle looked to be the true favorite amongst both parties which made it a season of great success for Maris, however, it was a season of undue stress and criticism. It was something he had to battle through. After the second championship in New York, Maris was hampered by injuries. He had an off year in '63, back on in '64, then a hand injury limited him to just 46 games in '65 which led to the decision to shop him. The Cardinals were buying, with Smith headed to New York they plugged Mike Shannon in at third, had Maris playing right and would go on a run that ended with a parade downtown. During that '67 campaign he played in 125 games, hitting .261, 9 homers, and 55 ribbies. It was during the postseason that the trade paid true dividends. In the World Series he hit .385, parked a ball over the wall, and knocked in 7 runs on 10 hits he won his third championship ring. After helping the Cardinals return to the Fall Classic in '68 Maris called it a career. Smith played one more full season in the bigs which simply hammers home it was a great deal by Cardinals management. However, it was more than a great deal for the Cardinals it was a great deal for Maris as well. He found new life in St. Louis being out of the scrutiny of New York was a breath of fresh air for him. He was closer to his family that lived in Independence, Missouri and it didn't take long for him to endear himself to the fans and his teammates. In his first at bat with a Cardinal uniform on he stretched an apparent single into a double and the fans gave a loud ovation to their newest Cardinal. Curt Flood once said that the Cardinals wouldn't have won the National League Pennant in '67 without his quiet leadership and intensity. When he was on the field it was said he never made a fundamental mistake which helped each of those players around him work that much harder to be the best they could be. In the end Maris was another piece to a Championship puzzle and he was a perfect fit. When he was asked if he was happy in St. Louis he said " I've never been happier in my life."  I might be too young to have watched him play but I can tell you as a lifelong  fan of the St. Louis Cardinals I am happy that he wore those Birds on the Bat.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2, 1948: Stan The Man Wins His Third MVP Award

On December 2, 1948, Stan "The Man" Musial was named the National League's Most Valuable player. It was was the greatest season of his legendary career. The 27 year old led the league with a .376 batting average, 230 hits, 135 runs scored, 46 doubles, and 18 triples. He also hit a career high 39 home runs during the campaign. Ralph Kiner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Johnny Mize of the New York Giants both hit 40 which denied Musial the Triple Crown. When it came to the MVP voting Musial received 18 of the 24 first place votes, Boston Braves ace Johnny Sain came in second place in the voting after posting a 24-15 record. Stan's longest slump lasted four days in which he went to bat 13 times without a hit. Even over those four days he was parking the ball on the warning track they just happened to be caught by the outfielder. He opened the season on fire and the fire burned all season long. Musial hit safely in 121 out of 155 games played. The month of June was a nightmare for any pitcher that had to face him as he hit .412. In 68 games he picked up at least two hits and in 79 games he picked up at least one extra base hit. The team that had the best pitching in the league resided in Brooklyn and Musial owned them which is how and where he got his nickname. In one, three game series against those Bums he went to bat 16 times and picked up 11 hits, which included a homer, a triple, and four doubles. Unfortunately those same Bums would win the National League pennant by 6.5 games over the Redbirds, by no means does that take away from the absolutely legendary season for the one they called The Man.

MVP!!! MVP!!! MVP!!!