Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 30, 1936: Johnny Mize Hits His First Big Fly

     On April 30, 1936, Johnny Mize hit his first career home run during a 3-2 victory over the New York Giants at Sportsman's Park. Paul Dean also locked down his first victory of the year despite giving up 11 hits, which included 4 hits to Giants outfielder Jo Jo Moore who knocked in both of the Giants runs.

     Mize helped the Birds get on the board in the second inning after he followed up a Charlie Gelbert walk with a double. Leo Durocher then came up big with a two out double that brought both runners into score. Al Smith had gotten the start for the Giants and the southpaw gave them six inning before being pulled. He handed the ball over to Harry Gumbert who served Mize up his first career home run in the seventh. the long ball gave the Birds a 3-1 advantage that would prove to be crucial in the victory.  Moore tried to rally the Giants in the ninth by knocking in his second run of the day. The rally died with the tying run on the basepaths, as Dean  struck out Mark Koenig to end the ballgame.

     While Dean locked down his first victory of the year, the '36 season proved to be a tough one for Dizzy's brother. He posted a 5-5 record as he struggled with injury. Dean had won 19 games a season for two seasons in a row before that '36 season, and had showed all the promise of a great career. Unfortunately, the promise would go unfulfilled, as he won just 12 games over 7 years after winning 38 total in his first two years in the league. Even with that fact, Paul will forever be remembered as one of the greats who played ball with the Gashouse Gang.

     Mize hit 359 home runs in a career that spanned over 15 years. 158 of those came in a Cardinals uniform. 25 of them came against the Cardinals after he was traded in 1941. He teed off on the Brooklyn Dodgers more than any other team, as he hit 51 dingers against them, while the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs came in a close second and third.

Check out the box score here:

You can check out Mize's career home run log here:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29, 1989: The Secret Weapon Strikes In The Eleventh

     On April 29, 1989, Jose Oquendo came up with the hit of the day, when he connected on a two-out walk off single in the bottom of the eleventh at Busch to give the Cardinals 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. This contest featured great pitching, as well as a game being played under protest, before Oquendo ended it with his clutch hit.

     Fernando Valenzuela started for the Dodgers, while rookie hurler Ken Hill got the call for St. Louis. Valenzuela went seven strong for the L.A. club, while the rookie gave the Birds eight strong innings. Both hurlers scattered 4 hits and walked a man before being pulled. Valenzuela struck out one, and Hill sat down five men via the K. When the game landed in the hands of the bullpens the duel continued.

      In the tenth a commotion ensued that caused the Dodgers to play the game under protest. It all started when the Cardinals were threatening with two men on and no one out in the inning. Whitey Herzog called on Willie McGee to pinch hit. McGee who had been nursing a rib injury still posed a serious threat. The Dodgers pitching coach Ron Perranoski made a quick trip to the mound to talk over the approach that reliever Alejandro Pena would take with McGee. Perranoski came out of the dugout again during the at bat and got booted for arguing.

     While the argument was going on the manager of the L.A. club Tommy Lasorda made a mound visit. Under the rules, it was the second trip to the mound. Pena would be able to finish the pitching to McGee, but then he would have to be replaced. While Lasorda chose to play under protest, the situation did not burn them in the inning. McGee lined out, and Ray Searage relieved Pena. Searage got Tom Pagnozzi (who had pinch hit for Todd Worrell) to hit a pop fly, and the threat had been eliminated.

     Ken Dayley came into pitch for Hill in the ninth. He struck out a man, before allowing a double to Jeff Hamilton. Dayley gave way to Todd Worrell after he put on Eddie Murray on with an intentional walk. Worell set the next two men down in succession, then set the three men he faced in the top of the tenth down in order as well.

     After the proverbial dust seemed to have settled after the tenth inning commotion with the Dodgers, and Worrell was out of the game, the ball was handed to Cris Carpenter who would be the eventual winner. Carpenter was able to retire two men before giving up a single Jeff Hamilton. The hurler shook it off and got Eddie Murray to ground out to set up for the exciting eleventh inning finish.

     With Searage still pitching for the Dodgers,Vince Coleman led the eleventh with a double. Ozzie Smith moved him to third with a sacrifice, before Terry Pendleton was put on intentionally to set up the double play. This ended the day for Searage who handed the ball to Tim Crews in hopes that he could work out of his jam. That proved to be a false hope. Crews loaded the bases by walking Pedro Guerrero. He was able to get Tom Brunansky to fly out, which simply set up for the 2 out late inning heroics Oquendo would later say "You can't be looking for any particular pitch in a situation like that. You just want to see a good ball and hit it." He did exactly that after falling being 0 and 2, Searge dropped one down and in, Oquendo laced a single into right, Coleman came trotting home, and the Redbirds were winners.

     Jose Oquendo enjoyed quite the year in '89. Known as "The Secret Weapon", he had been a super utility player that could do it all. In '89 he became an everyday second baseman who batted .291. He also led all National League second baseman in fielding percentage, putouts, assists, and double plays, as he stood along side the "Wizard of Oz" in the middle infield.

Check out the box score here:

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 28, 1963: Boyer's 2 Big Blasts Lead The Charge In L.A.

     On April 28, 1963, Ken Boyer led the way in a 15 hit attack with two home runs in a 9-5 victory over the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The victory capped off a series sweep, and extended the Cardinals winning streak at Dodger Stadium to seven straight games. The Cardinals enjoyed great success in L.A., since the start of the '62 season they had won more games there than any other stadium they had visited. Unfortunately the streak would come to an end the next time the team headed to Chavez Ravine. Boyer knocked 24 balls out of the yard during that '63 season, and he led the team with 111 RBIs. On that day in L.A. he most definitely made his presence known .

If you haven't already, check out this page: The author, Kevin McCann, is currently working on a book about Boyer's life that I am proud to have contributed to. Give his page a "like".

Check out the box score here:

Check out Ken Boyer's career numbers here:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 1933: The Bats Come Alive In The Ninth

     On April 27, 1933, the Cardinals found themselves trailing the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 headed into the bottom of the ninth, before the bats came alive and the team scored 3 runs on their way to victory. Dizzy Dean gave the Birds eight strong innings of 4-hit ball, but was victimized by errors that put the team in the 2-0 hole. In the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals skipper Gabby Street called on Tex Carleton to pinch hit for Dean. Carleton did not do any damage with his bat, but he did pitch a scoreless ninth and would go on to earn the W.  Larry Benton, who had gotten the start for the Reds had pitched a gem of his own, until he saw it all unravel in the ninth. Benton gave up consecutive singles to Ripper Collins, Rogers Hornsby, and Ducky Medwick before the Reds skipper Donie Bush took the ball out of his hands. He called on Benny Frey to put the fire out, however, Frey did not bring a big enough bucket of water, or he might have just brought a bucket and forgot the water altogether. The reliever proceeded to give up a single to Pepper Martin to close the Cardinals gap to 2-1, then he issued a free pass to the Redbirds catcher Jimmie Wilson that tied it up. Street called on Ethan Allen to pinch hit for Carleton, and Allen did his job by hitting a sac fly that brought the winning run across the plate.

Check out the box score here:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26, 1969: The Birds Bury The Phillies With a Six Run Ninth

     On April 26, 1969, tied 4-4 with two outs in the top of the ninth at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, the Cardinals exploded for 6 runs on their way to a 10-4 victory over the Phillies. The huge inning was sparked by a solo shot by Lou Brock. The long ball was followed by singles off the bats of Curt Flood and Bill White, then the Moon Man Mike Shannon added to the lead with an RBI single that brought Flood trotting into score the sixth Cardinals run of the contest. The hit parade was not done just yet. Vada Pinson singled to load the bases, then Tim McCarver clear'em all with a Grand Slam that gave the Cardinals the commanding 10-4 lead. The Birds were down 3-1 earlier in the contest before Shannon connected on a three run shot in the eighth that gave them 4-3 edge. The lead was short lived though, because in the bottom of the eighth Richie Allen parked one over the wall to tie it. Allen's homer simply set up for an exciting finish by the Cards who called in Joe Hoerner after the offensive explosion to close out the game. Hoerner made quick work of the Phillies with a 1-2-3 inning that added a Big Red W to the win column.

Check out the box score here:

Friday, April 25, 2014

April 25, 1951: Poholsky Earns His First W

     On April 25, 1951, rookie hurler Tom Poholsky earned his first major league win in convincing fashion by allowing just two hits in a 4-0 victory over the Pirates at Sportsman's Park. The two hits allowed by the young righty were both singles, before the kid set down the last 19 men he faced. Peanut's Lowery, Don Richmond, and Solly Hemus all had an RBI in the contest, as well as Enos Slaughter who picked up the biggest ribbie of the game with a solo shot in the sixth inning. The Cardinals organization had high hopes for Poholsky as he had just came up from Rochester as a highly touted prospect. However, his career was not what you would call a storybook as he posted a 30-45 record over 5 seasons with the Birds, before being shipped to the Cubs via trade. While there is no storybook ending to the career of Tom Poholsky, there was a storybook ending on that day at Sportsman's Park as he hurled his way into the rich history of Cardinals baseball.

Here's the box score:

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Poholsky called St. Louis home until he passed away in 2001. You can check out his stats here:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24, 1982: 12 Straight Wins For The Birds

     On April 24, 1982, the Cardinals rattled off their twelfth consecutive win with a 7-4 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia. Much to the dismay of Cardinal Nation, the streak came to an end the next day with former Redbird and future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton leading Philadelphia to an 8-4 victory. The 12 game winning streak fell just two short of the franchise record of 14 that had been set by Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang in '34, but much like the Gashouse Gang, the '82 gang went onto win the World Series.

Check out the box score here:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23, 1999: Tatis + Grand Slam X 2 = Historic

     On April 23, 1999, Fernando Tatis became the first player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit two grand slams in one inning as he led the way in an 11 run outburst during the third inning of a 12-5 win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The Birds found themselves trailing 2-0 going into that third frame before Tatis earned himself a spot in the record books. Both grand slams came off of pitches delivered by Chan Ho Park. The first came on a 2-0 pitch with no outs, and the second came with two outs on a 3-2 pitch that instantly made history as it sailed over the left field wall.

Watch the historic moment here:

Check out the box score here:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 22, 1925: The Rickeymen Pummel The Reds In The Home Opener

      On April 22, 1925, the Cardinals kicked off their home schedule with a 12-3 beatdown of the Cincinnati Reds at Sportsman's Park. The boys came out swinging early, plating 11 runs on 12 hits in the first inning. 11 of the 12 hits were singles, and the other was a double. The Mayor of St. Louis Victor Miller had been sworn in the day before, and was on hand to throw out the first pitch before the offensive explosion at the ballpark. Every Cardinals batter picked up a hit with rightfielder Wattie Holm leading the Cardinal hit parade with three, while third baseman Les Bell led the team in ribbies with three.

Check out the box score here:

     I got a kick out of how the newspaper article referred to the team as "The Rickeymen" in reference to manager Branch Rickey. He managed the club for 38 games in '25 before Rogers Hornsby took over as skipper. Rickey spent seven years as the Redbirds skipper before the change was made. His record 458-485. Despite the mediocre managerial record, Rickey was an instrumental part of building the Cardinals into a Championship caliber club.

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21, 1991: Watch Out Daulton... Here Comes Ray!!!

     On April 21, 1991, the Cardinals prevailed 7-6 over the Philadelphia Phillies in 10 innings at Busch. The winning run scored in a rather untraditional way when Ray Lankford scored from second on a groundout off the bat of Gerald Perry. When Perry hit the ball Lankford was off and running, he took the turn at third, then came barreling into Darren Daulton who could not hold onto the ball at the plate. The Cardinals found themselves trailing 6-1 in the contest before scoring four runs in the seventh, tying it in the ninth, then winning it on the dramatic play at the plate in the tenth.

You can watch the play here:

Check out the box score: 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20, 1977: Simba Leads The Birds To Victory

     On April 20, 1977, Ted Simmons drove in all four runs of a 4-2 Cardinals victory over the New York Mets at Busch Stadium.  Simba hit a three run shot in the sixth, then added a ribbie with a single in the eighth. Simmons led the team in homeruns in '77 with 21. He was selected to the All Star game, carried a .318 average on the season, and finished 9th in MVP voting.


     I have recently seen the voting for the Cardinals Hall of Fame, and I can tell you this: Simba is a no brainer. He not only belongs in the Cardinals Hall of Fame, he belongs in Cooperstown.

Check out the box score here:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19, 1986: Tim Conroy Draws a Game Winning Walk In The 17th

     On April 19, 1986, the Cardinals took down the Expos 9-6 in a 17-inning marathon in Montreal.  The Expos looked like they were going to sail to victory until the Birds tied it up 4-4 in the ninth. Each team scored in the thirteenth and fourteenth innings to keep the contest going, before an unlikely hero put the Cardinals up for good in the seventeenth. The hero was reliever Tim Conroy, who came to the plate with the bases loaded, worked a walk, and forced in Terry Pendleton to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead. It was Conroy's first major league at-bat, who had been in the big leagues for 8 seasons up to that point. Willie McGee followed Conroy with a two-run double for a little insurance, before Conroy set down the side in order to secure the win. 5 hours and 22 minutes after the game began the Cardinals were victorious.

Check out the box score here:

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18, 1950: The First Ever Opening Day Night Game Happens In The Lou

     On April 18, 1950, the first ever Opening Day night game was played at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. A crowd of 20,871 witness the historic occasion, and they watched the hometown Cardinals walk away with a 4-2 victory. The contest took just 1 hour and 49 minutes with Gerry Staley pitching the complete game for the Redbirds. Red Schoendienst and Stan "The Man" Musial homered in the contest.

     Schoendienst  was the second man up in the bottom half of the first and he gave the Birds a quick lead with a solo shot that landed on the roof in right field. Musial added to the Redbirds lead with a solo shot of his own to lead off the third, while Staley was in cruise control on the mound. The Cardinals hurler only gave up two hits through the first five innings before running into a hiccup of a sixth inning. After putting the first two men on, the Bucs first baseman Johnny tied it up with a two-rbi single. The Birds would bounce right back in the bottom of the frame with Joe Garagiola coming up with a big rbi that gave the Cards a 3-2 lead.

     In the top of the seventh Staley put the first two men on, and momentarily looked like he might be in a bit of trouble. Then he set the next three batters down in order. Enos Slaughter added another run with a ribbie in the bottom of the frame, and from there Staley set the next nine batters down in a row to secure the complete game victory.

Check out the box score here:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 17, 1934: Dizzy and The Gang Take Down The Pirates on Opening Day

     On April 17, 1934, with 7,500 fans in the stands at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis the Cardinals opened the season with a 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was marked by a dominating performance by Dizzy Dean who locked down his first of 30 wins for the club who would go onto win the World Series later that same year.

     The Bucs called on Heine Meine to start the Opening Day contest. Meine, a native St. Louisan was roughed up early and often. In the second inning the Birds rocked out three hits, which included a double by Pepper Martin on the way to scoring two runs.

     The Bucs threatened in the third, but Dizzy was able to work around a two-out bases loaded jam by getting future Hall of Famer Pie Traynor to ground out to second. With the threat eliminated the Cardinals bats went back to work in the bottom of third. Martin picked up his second double of the day in the frame, and two batters later Ducky Medwick parked one in the seats to extend the lead to 4-0. Medwick finished the day 3 for 4 with the bomb and two singles.

      The Pirates only run came in the top of the fourth after Arky Vaughan led the inning off with a double. After being moved over to third on an out by Gus Suhr, Cookie Lavagetto hit a sacrifice fly that brought Vaughan trotting in. It was all they were going to get out of Dean. In the bottom of the inning Waite Hoyt took over pitching duties for the Bucs and he didn't have a lot of luck either as the Cardinals bats were alive and well. Hoyt worked one scoreless inning, before being tagged for three runs in the fifth to extend the Redbirds lead to 7-1. Hoyt worked a scoreless sixth before handing the ball over to Ralph Birkofer who was able to keep the Birds off the board. However, the damage had been done, and behind the complete game effort of Dean the Cardinals walked away victorious.

     That 1934 campaign was a legendary season for Dizzy Dean. He posted a 30-7 record along with a 2.66 earned run average. He tossed 311 2/3 innings over 50 games. Most of them were starts, however, Dean also picked up seven saves in 16 relief appearances. He led the majors with 195 strikeouts, 24 complete games, and took home the National League MVP award. The only pitcher to record 30 or more wins since Dean's 1934 season was Denny McLain who went 31-6 in 1968. Dean's '34 season is one that will never be forgotten. He did more than win 30 games. He became a Champion, and he was a guiding force on a team that affectionately became known as the Gashouse Gang.

Check out the box score here:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16, 1957: The Cardinals Blowout The Reds On Opening Day

     On April 16, 1957, the Cardinals opened the season up by beating the Reds 13-4 in Cincinnati. It was the Reds worst Opening Day loss since 1911 when the Pirates blew them out with a 14-0 rout. The Birds had a variety of heroes in the contest but one stood above the rest and he wore the number 6 on his back. Musial went 4 for 4 with two singles and two doubles, and two ribbies. Al Dark rocked out three hits, Wally Moon hit a "moon shot", rookie Bobby Smith homered, Del Ennis knocked in three runs, and Herm Wehmeier went the distance to earn the complete game victory. This was the 775th consecutive game played for Musial who reached 895 before sitting out a game in August of that same year. That streak stands as the eighth best on the all time list.

Another Cardinals batter that had success that day was catcher Hal Smith who went 2 for 5 with an RBI. Smith passed away last Saturday, so I dedicate this fact to him in memoriam. Smith spent six years with the Redbirds. He represented the club in the All Star game in '57 then again in '59. A health condition forced him to retire early. However, he was able to live a long life and will be remembered by many. You can read about his life here: There are several videos of Smith on the site as well. I think this one is a true treasure:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 1947: Jackie Opens The Door

     On April 15, 1947, with 25,623 Dodgers fan in attendance at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to join the ranks of Major League Baseball. In his first regular season contest Robinson went 0 for 3, but did work the count for a walk which led to a run in the 5-3 Opening Day victory over the Braves. The numbers on the scorecard did not matter as much as the long lasting impact that Robinson would have on sports and society as a whole. Robinson endured and overcame racism on his way to becoming a legend. He averaged .311 over his ten years in the big leagues, won the batting title and the National League MVP in 1949, and became World Series Champion in 1955.

     Robinson helped open a door that had been closed for more than 60 years, and countless great players have been able to walk through that door. One of those players was Bob Gibson. Gibson made his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals on April 15, 1959; 12 years to the day that Robinson made his major league debut. The 23-year-old Gibson was facing Robinson's former club that had relocated to Los Angeles. Gibson came in relief at the Coliseum in L.A. and gave up a home run to 3rd baseman Jim Baxes. That would give him the distinction of being the first future Hall of Famer to serve up a long ball to the first batter he faced. The Cardinals fell to the Dodgers 5-0 in that contest, however, a storied career  had just begun. Like Robinson, Gibson would become a legend.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14, 1914: Chief Wilson Leads The Birds To Victory

     On April 14, 1914, in front of 7,500 fans at Robison Field in St. Louis, the Cardinals opened up the season with a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game winning run came in the bottom of the ninth when Chief Wilson hit a walkoff single that scored Art Butler from third base. Wilson was making his debut with the club that day. He had spent the first six years in Pittsburgh before a trade landed him in St. Louis. Wilson is best known for setting the still standing record for triples in a season with 36, which is something he accomplished in 1912. When he joined the Cardinals in 1914, his numbers were in decline. Despite that fact he still rocked out 12 triples that season, which was good for 2nd best in the National League. Wilson spent three seasons with the Cardinals before his days in the majors came to an end after the 1916 season.

     The game was a well fought battle on both ends. Babe Adams toed the rubber for the Buccos, while Dan Griner got the call for the Birds. Adams was tagged for six hits, and Griner gave up just five. According to the Pittsburgh Press the following day Griner got hit hard, but the Cardinals defense came up big behind him. The Cards grabbed a run in the first inning, before Pittsburgh grabbed their only run of the contest, that came on an error when Cardinals outfielder Cozy Dolan overthrew his target in the second inning. What should have been a single off the bat of Ed Konetchy (who was part of the Wilson deal) ended with the former Cardinal at third base. The Bucs second baseman Jim Viox then knocked Konetchy in with a double to right. Since the error put Konetchy in position to score the run was not charged to Griner who would go on to earn a complete game shutout.

     With the score knotted at 1 the Birds went to work in the bottom of the ninth. Miller Huggins picked up a base hit to lead things off, before Lee Magee flied out.  The Cardinals shortstop Art Butler come to the plate hoping to win it, but ended up hitting into a fielders choice that retired Huggins. However, Butler did some damage on the basepaths and stole second base to set the table for Wilson who laced one right up the middle that brought Butler into score. The Birds got the season started the right way.

     The 1914 season in Cardinal Nation was one in which the club surprised the National League. The team had been cellar dwellers in 1913 as they had posted a National League worst 51-99 record. In 1914 they went 81-72 and were in the thick of the pennant race until late August.  The team was still a number of years off when it came to bringing postseason glory to the fans in St. Louis, however, they were simply writing the early chapters for what has become one of the greatest history books that baseball has ever seen.

Read about the life and career of Chief Wilson here:

You can view Wilson's career numbers here:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 1954: Tom Alston Breaks The Cardinals Color Barrier

     On April 13, 1954, the Cardinals opened up the season with a disappointing 13-4 loss to the Cubs in St. Louis. While the numbers in the runs scored column leaned toward the wrong team, the game was notable for many reasons which included Wally Moon hitting a home run in his first major league at bat, Stan "The Man" Musial hitting a solo shot, and perhaps the most notable thing to happen that day was Tom Alston was penciled in at first base. The moment Alston took to the field he became the first African American player to suit up for the Cardinals in a regular season contest.

     The next day Moon was the headliner in the newspapers. The young centerfielder was filling the shoes of Enos Slaughter who had been traded to the New York Yankees. Moon would later say that he was much more nervous in the field than he was at the plate. His comfortability at the plate showed after being issued two balls before connecting on the third Paul Minner pitch that sailed 350 feet and over the wall. Moon proclaimed "It was quite a thrill." He was just the second Cardinals player to accomplish the feat in his first at bat. To date, eight Cardinals have hit a home run in their first at bat, with the latest coming in 2008 off the bat of Mark Worrell.

     The debut of Tom Alston with the Cardinals came seven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Brooklyn. Alston was regarded as a can't miss prospect when he was purchased from the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast league for an estimated $100,000. However, he played in career high 66 games during that '54 season, and would only hit .244 over four years in the big leagues. Regardless of what he did on the field, or at the plate, Alston is a very important figure in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cardinals ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard on that day in April, Alston helped opened the door for men like Bob Gibson, Bill White, Curt Flood and countless other African American as well as Latino players who have worn the birds on the bat. A new era had begun in St. Louis.

You can view the box score here:


Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12, 1953: Things Get Heated at The Ole Ballpark

     On April 12, 1953, tempers flared at the newly christened Busch Stadium as the Browns and Cardinals came to near blows during the second inning of a contest that had the Browns come out on top 8-5. (The article appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel the following day.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11, 1952: The Pride of St. Louis Premieres

     On April 11, 1952, the life story of Dizzy Dean titled "The Pride of St. Louis" premiered at the Missouri Theatre in St. Louis. The Mayor of St. Louis Joseph Darst declared the entire week "Dizzy Dean" week in the city to celebrate the film that had Dan Dailey playing Dizzy, Joanne Dru playing his wife Patricia, and Richard Crenna playing his brother Paul. After the premiere Dizzy Dean joined Mayor Darst, Bill Veeck, Rogers Hornsby, along with the entire cast of the film on stage to take a bow. What followed the premiere was an over the top celebration, that included a six-mile long parade that began on Washington Avenue through downtown to Grand Avenue where they headed to the gates of Sportsman's Park.

You can watch the movie here:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10, 1968: Gibby Starts Strong and Ricketts Comes Up Big

     On April 10, 1968, with 34,740 fans in the stands at Busch the Cardinals kicked off the season with a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. The game was highlighted by dominant performance by Bob Gibson who pitched seven strong innings, and Dave Ricketts who won the game with a pinch hit walk off single in the bottom of the ninth. This game marked the beginning of what was a legendary season for Bob Gibson and the Cardinals.

     The only run the Braves put on the board came on an error by Lou Brock in the second inning of  the game where the Cardinals struggled to find an offensive spark. In fact, they didn't pick up their first hit off of the Braves starter Pat Jarvis until Gibson laced a single into right in the sixth. When Gibby was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh he had allowed just 3 hits, walked a man, and despite being dominant he did not record a strikeout.

     On the Braves side of the diamond Jarvis remained strong. He kept the Birds off the board until Orlando Cepeda doubled in the bottom of the eighth that scored Curt Flood from first base. It was a whole new ballgame, and Ray Washburn who took over pitching duties for Gibson gave the team two perfect innings as they battled their way to victory. With Jarvis still on the mound in the ninth Dal Maxvill slapped a one out double into left that set the table for Ricketts who was called on to pinch hit for Washburn. When Red Schoendienst made the switch he also called on Dick Simpson to pinch run for Maxvill. The Braves skipper Lum Harris countered with a pitching change, bringing in Ken Johnson to face Ricketts. The Cardinals batter who recorded all of five RBIs during that '68 season came up big with RBI number one that sent the fans in the stands home happy.

     The Opening Day start was a bit unusual for Gibby since he didn't finish the ballgame. He went onto complete 28 of his 34 starts on his way to posting a 22-9 record, and that included 13 shutouts. The eye popping number that came out of the '68 season is the 1.12 earned run average that Gibson put on the back of the baseball card. It was the third lowest e.r.a. since 1900, and it still stands as the lowest e.r.a. posted in the modern era. The win by the club marked win #1 out of 97. They would lockdown the National League Pennant and fought a hard seven-game battle with the Detroit Tigers in the Fall Classic, which included Gibson's famous 17 strikeout performance in Game 1 of the Series. While the Tigers took the crown, the season was one to remember, and it began on this day with Bob Gibson on the bump.

Check out the box score:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 9, 1953: Busch Buys The Ballpark

     On April 9, 1953, it was announced that August A. Busch had purchased Sportsman's Park from the Browns for an estimated $800,000. By today's standards that would equate to more than $7 million. The Browns who were already trying to shift their club to Baltimore were financially strapped and it was reported that they were forced to sell the ballpark just to keep operating. After the purchase, Busch gave the ballpark a facelift. Under the Browns ownership the park had fell into disrepair. In his official statement Busch said "The park was not maintained on a scale we regard as meeting major league standards." The facelift included a name change, wider seats, and a huge neon Anheuser Busch Eagle over the scoreboard in left field that would flap its wings when a player hit a home run.
     The day the deal was announced Busch made it be known  that the name of the old ballpark would be changing to Budweiser Stadium. However, the name change was met with great disdain by a number of groups, as well as National League owners who did not want a park named after an alcoholic beverage, so the Cardinals owner then changed the name to Busch Stadium instead.  Less than a year after he decided to go with Busch Stadium, Busch Bavarian Beer was born (pretty slick move by Gussie).

     Along with the wider seats and the eagle over the scoreboard, Busch added new restrooms, concession stands, drinking fountains, turnstiles, ticket offices gate entrances, and improved the dugouts as well. One of the biggest improvements in the eyes of the players was a state-of-the-art drainage system. While the club was renting from the Browns the field was regarded as one of the worst playing fields in all of baseball. It was said that the Browns even let the tarp fall into such disarray that there were holes in it that would leave puddles on the field after a rain delay. The ballpark was also painted red, green, jade, and metallic blue, which were selected by a color specialist who proclaimed that the color scheme would enhance the atmosphere for the fans. Over a two-year period Busch invested an estimated $1.5 million into the park. It truly was a complete renovation.

     The Cardinals called Sportsman's Park home until 1966 when Busch Stadium II opened. The team had called the site home from 1882 to 1892, then again from 1920 until the day that it closed. It was the original Baseball Heaven. While I might be too young to remember the old ballpark, through pictures, and old films, it is easy for me to close my eyes and dream of the days when the boys played their ball at Grand and Dodier.

Check this out for a glimpse into baseball's past:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8, 1927: Rogers Hornsby Sells His Stock In The Birds

     On April 8, 1927, Rogers Hornsby sold 1,167 shares of stock in the team back to Cardinals President Sam Breadon for an estimated $116,700. The former Cardinal who had been traded to the New York Giants just months after leading the team to their first championship was prohibited by rule to own stock in a team while playing for another. While many speculated that the transaction would be quick and painless, the negotiations came to a stalemate, until the Commissioner of Baseball Kennesaw Mountain Landis stepped in along with a group of National League Presidents to resolve the issue.

     Hornsby and his attorney met the group of National League executives, along with the commissioner at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. The commissioner had appointed a neutral committee to come up with a number that was fair for both sides. Hornsby was hardly willing to budge on the issue, and he had the control. There had been talk of the Giants organization selling the stock on the open market, but Breadon had an option in the original deal that stated he had the first opportunity to purchase it if it was sold; Breadon wanted it back in his hands.

     When the two parties met in Pittsburgh they spent two hours behind closed doors before an agreement had been reached. This statement by National League President John Heydler followed. "An agreement has been reached for the purchase of Hornsby's stock in the St. Louis club at a price satisfactory to all concerned. In bringing about this solution concessions were made by Hornsby, the St. Louis and New York clubs and the National League. The stock will revert to Samuel Breadon, President of the Cardinals, for the benefits of the St. Louis club."

     The concessions that Heydler spoke of were in large part on the side of the Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and the Giants club as well. Breadon paid $87,000, the Giants contributed $12,000, and each owner of a National League club contributed $2,000. After it was all said and done Breadon simply stated that he was happy to put it behind him. Hornsby did return to the Cardinals in 1933, but played just 46 games before being released by the club in July of that season. Hornsby stayed in St.Louis though he just changed uniforms as he signed with the Browns on the same day he was released.

     This story about Hornsby's relationship with the Cardinals is one of money and business. If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture you will quickly realize it is just one chapter in a book that ended with a plaque in Cooperstown. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players to step on the field as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Over thirteen years with the club, Hornsby hit .359, knocked in more than a 1,000 runs. From 1920 to 1925 he did not bat under .370, during that span he won two triple crowns. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what he accomplished with a Cardinals uniform on, as he is at or near the top in many offensive categories still today.

You can view those stats here:

Here is a story I did about the trade in December of '26 that sent Hornsby to New York. While I was researching this fact I ran across other articles that revealed Breadon had issues with Hornsby's attitude on the field, as well as gambling allegations. Albeit, Hornsby was betting on horses, yet it still caused great dissention between him and the Cardinals owner which led to the trade. There were also investigations into Hornsby's off-field activities that I will sure to be cover in great detail on another day.

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7, 1987: The Birds Open The Season With A Win At Wrigley

     On April 7, 1987, with 38,240 in the stands on Opening Day at Wrigley Field in Chicago the Cardinals christened the new season with a 9-3 win over the Cubs. There were a handful of heroes in this game which included: Tito Landrum, Ozzie Smith, Jim Lindeman, and John Tudor who all had two RBIs in the contests, along with pitcher Bill Dawley who was virtually untouchable in four innings of relief.

     John Tudor got the call to start the game for the Birds. He had to overcome a rough start after giving up three runs in the first two frames. The early deficit was erased in the third when the Cardinals bats rocked Chicago starter Rick Sutcliffe with a five-run third inning. Sutcliffe opened the inning with a quick out before losing his control. After he walked Ozzie Smith, Tommy Herr singled, then Sutcliffe issued another free pass to Jack Clark to load the bases. Jim Lindeman delivered with a single that scored Smith and Herr. Still trying to hold onto the slim 3-2 lead, Sutcliffe remained wild and issued a free pass to Tony Pena. The wheels were falling off the Cubs bus.

     With the bases loaded and one out it looked like a crooked number would be posted on the Cardinals side of the scoreboard. Sutcliffe was able to get Terry Pendleton to fly out, but then he walked Tito Landrum which tied the ballgame. Next man up was John Tudor, so all Sutcliffe needed to do was set down the Cardinals pitcher to hold onto the tie; Tudor had other ideas. He rapped a single into right to score Lindeman and Landrum and the Birds were up 5-3. Sutcliffe issued one more free pass before being yanked from the ballgame. The Cubs hurler was charged with all 5 runs and he had walked 7 men.

     The results posted by Tudor were far less ominous than those of Sutcliffe, although, it was not the strongest start of his career. After getting 91 pitches out of his starter, Whitey Herzog called on Bill Dawley to pitch the sixth. Dawley was in cruise control right out of the gate as he retired the first nine batters he faced, and only gave up 1 hit as he earned a four-inning save. In the seventh, the Cardinals added four more runs on RBIs by Landrum, Smith, and Herr. It was all Cardinals from there with Dawley mowing down batter after batter.

     After the game Tudor said that the only thing he contributed was the two RBIs in the fifth, and that Dawley was the one who should have recorded the win. Dawley credited pitching coach Mike Roarke with his success for helping him straightening some flaws in his delivery. The win was the first of 95 wins for a team that would go onto win National League Pennant.

Check out the box score here:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6, 2001: Vina Goes 5 for 5 and Pujols Hits His First Dinger

     On April 6, 2001, Fernando Vina went 5 for 5 which included a triple, and three ribbies as the Cardinals knocked off the Diamondbacks 12-9 on Opening Day in Arizona. The big inning for the Birds came in the fifth when they broke a 2-2 tie by scoring eight runs in the frame. One inning before the offensive explosion a 21-year-old rookie by the name of Albert Pujols hit the first home run of his career, it was a 2 run shot that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the day. Pujols parked 445 balls in the seats while wearing the Birds on the Bat.

Check out the box score here:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April 5, 1974: The Birds Win a Wild Season Opener

     On April 5, 1974, a single off the bat of Ted Sizemore capped off a 6-5, 10 inning win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on Opening Day. The Cardinals came into the bottom of the frame trailing 5-4 after Willie Stargell singled in Richie Hebner in the top half of the inning. Hebner had one helluva day as he had hit a pair of home runs off of Bob Gibson earlier in the ballgame, before picking up a double in the tenth that led to the go ahead run. Hebner's day would be spoiled in what turned out to be a wild finish at the ole ballpark.

     Bake McBride opened up the bottom of the 10th with a bunt single off of Dave Guisti. The speedster darted to third when Kenny Reitz picked up a single, then was knocked in by Tim McCarver, who snuck one by second baseman Rennie Stennett to tie the ballgame. Following McCarver's ribbie Jose Cruz came into pinch hit for Al Hrabosky and found his way to first base with a bunt single to load the bases. The bunt single by Cruz ended Guisti's day, and Ramon Hernandez took over pitching duties for the Bucco's. The first man Hernandez had to face was Lou Brock who was hoping to send the fans home happy.

     Unfortunately for Brock, he hit into a bizarre double play that will leave you scratching your head. It started with a liner into right that was trapped by Gene Clines. The baserunners not knowing if it was caught or not held up, and an alert Clines fired the ball to the plate to force Jim Dwyer who had come into run for Reitz. The Pirates catcher Mike Ryan then fired the ball to Hebener at third base to force McCarver, then Hebner threw it to second where Stennett put a tag on McCarver rather than step on the bag. If he would have stepped on the bag it would have been a triple play with Brock standing at first while Cruz was trying to get to second in time to avoid being forced. With the triple play disaster averted Sizemore shot a single into left to give the Birds their first win of the campaign.

Check out the box score here:

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4, 1988: Joe Magrane Goes Deep on Opening Day

     On April 4, 1988, Joe Magrane became just the second Cardinals pitcher to hit a home run on Opening Day. The only other time it was accomplished was by Jack Powell in 1901. Magrane's big blast was a three-run shot that came in the fourth inning and propelled the Birds to a 4-1 lead. Unfortunately for Magrane and the Birds, errors would haunt them as the Reds came back to tie it, then win the game with an RBI from Kal Daniels in the 12th inning. Daniels had also hit a solo shot earlier in the ballgame. While most days I would pick a fact that involves a win over a loss, I was surprised to learn that only Magrane and Powell were the only two Cardinals pitchers to accomplish the Opening Day feat. When Powell did it on 1901 the team lost 8-7, so maybe it is best for a pitcher to simply pitch the ballgame on Opening Day rather than breakout the boomstick.

Check out the box score along with the play by play:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3, 1969: Welcome Back Bill White

     On April 3, 1969, Bing Devine sent utility infielder Jerry Buchek and catcher Jim Hutto to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for first baseman Bill White. It was the second go around for White with the Cardinals organization. White played in just 49 games that season, primarily as a pinch hitter, before calling it a career.

     He had been acquired by the club in 1959 in a swap with the San Francisco Giants and would go onto enjoy his best years in the Gateway City, which included  the 1964 Championship run. In October of  '65, White along with Bob Uecker, and Dick Groat were sent to Philadelphia  in exchange for Art Mahaffey, Alex Johnson, and Pat Corrales. None of the players involved in that deal panned out for the Birds, however, White was also in a downturn when it came to his career. He hit .258 in his 3 years in Philly before being sent back to the Cardinals.

     In 8 years with the Cardinals, White hit .298 and parked 140 balls in the seats. He is also 1 of 18 Cardinals to hit for the cycle, a feat he accomplished in 1960. After his playing career came to a close he spent 18 years behind the mic, before taking a job as President of the National League in 1989. It was a post he held until 1994.

Check out Bill White's numbers here:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April 2, 1937: The Gashouse Gang and The Battle of Tampa

     On April 2, 1937, Dizzy Dean, Ducky Medwick, and the Gashouse Gang got into a fight with two reporters at a hotel in Tampa, Florida. The fight started over something that Jack Miley of the New York Daily News had written about Dean's wife Pat wearing the pants in their family. It all went down when the team arrived at the hotel after a spring training loss against the Reds. With Dean and the rest of the boys still in uniform coming into the hotel, Dean's wife pointed the reporter out to husband. Dizzy approached him, and let him know that he didn't appreciate the article. As words continued to exchange, one man pushed another, then cleats, bats, and fists began to fly as the Gashouse Gang fought what was dubbed the "Battle of Tampa."

     Irving Kupcinet from the Chicago Daily Times came to the defense of his fellow sportswriter, while most of the Cardinals roster came to the defense of Dean. The only two Cardinals that refrained from joining in the festivities were Pepper Martin and Leo Durocher. When it was all said and done, property had been damaged, Miley had a cut on his head from the spike of a cleat, and Kupcinet walked away with a black eye. Kupcinet refused to let it go, he challenged Dean to a one on one fight. According to Pittsburgh Press, Kupcinet said "You yellow bellied hen pecked husband you wouldn't fight a baby. I'll fight you any place, any time, you just name it."  Kupcinet was was an athlete as well, he had played quarterback for North Dakota, then the Philadelphia Eagles, and he was one who could hold his own. In the days that followed, it was reported that Dean wanted no part of that battle.

     Following the incident, the Cardinals skipper Frankie Frisch condemned the actions of Dean and the rest of the men involved. However, Kupcinet continued to bash the Cardinals through his newspaper, while Dean, who always had a gift for gab, defended his actions. In the end they both had to get over it. Some more recent publications said that the players involved issued an apology, although, I was not able to find any newspaper articles that mentioned a formal apology. However, I did find an article that was printed more than a year after the incident that had Dean refusing to talk with Martin McCarthy who was the boss of Kupcinet at the Chicago Daily Times. Dean, who had been traded to the Cubs almost a month before that article was printed eventually came around and talked with McCarthy who was considered to have grabbed a scoop from the former Cardinal. As the water flowed under the bridge, time moved on, and one more tale had been told from the days of the Gashouse Gang.

Go Cards!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1, 1987: The Cards Send Van Slyke and Company To Pittsburgh For Tony Pena

     On April 1, 1987, Dal Maxvill sent outfielder Andy Van Slyke, catcher Mike LaValliere, and a minor league pitcher by the name of Mike Dunne to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for three time All Star catcher Tony Pena. Van Slyke thought it was an April Fools joke, while Pena openly wept when he was informed of the deal.

     In hindsight the deal might not have been the best ever made in the history of the Cardinals organization, as Van Slyke lived up to his true potential in Pittsburgh. At the time of the trade Van Slyke was 26-years-old and had played 521 games, hitting .259, with 41 homers. He had fell short of expectations, but many thought he had the tools to become an All Star caliber player, which he did in Pittsburgh, as he went to the mid summer classic three times representing the Buccos.

     Pena had a rough year in '87, just three games into his stay with the Cardinals he broke his thumb, and went onto hit just .214, however, he found his stride near the end of the season and helped the Cardinals win the National League East. Pena then went onto hit .381 in the NLCS, which was key in helping the Cardinals reach the World Series.

     Pena caught more than 140 games in each of the next two seasons that he wore the Birds on the Bat. In 1989 he returned to the All Star game as one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball. Following that '89 campaign Pena was granted his release from the club and inked a deal with the Boston Red Sox. Meanwhile in the Steel City, Van Slyke developed into a star. He wore the Pirates uniform until the end of the '94 season. In his 8 years in Pittsburgh, Van Slyke hit .283 and knocked 117 home runs out of the yard. Comparatively, Pena hit just .253 in his three years with the Birds and parked 19 balls in the seats.

     The other players involved: Mike Dunne and Mike LaValliere had some success. Dunne won 13 games for the Pirates during the '87 season, but arm issues kept him from finding great success. LaValliere and Van Slyke helped the Pirates reach the NLCS for three consecutive years from '90-'92. However, that is as far as they got. LaVallier spent 7 seasons with the Pirates and hit .278 in that time. While this trade might not have been the best one ever made for the Birds it was a trade that wrote another chapter in the rich history of the organization.

If you would like to look over the numbers of each of the ballplayers involved in the deal you can check them out here.
Tony Pena:
Andy Van Slyke:
Mike LaValliere:
Mike Dunne: