Monday, May 30, 2016

May 30, 1925: Rickey Out; Hornsby In As The Cardinals Skipper

     On May 30, 1925, Sam Breadon informed Branch Rickey that Rogers Hornsby would take over as a player/manager of the St. Louis Cardinals after the club stumbled out of the gate with a 13-25 record. The club had lost five in a row when Breadon made the move to his star batsman. It proved to be what was best for the team, as Hornsby led the club to a 64-51 record the rest of the way, then would go onto lead the way to a World Championship in 1926.

     The move seemingly sparked the club, as they rattled off four wins in a row under the guidance of Hornsby. While Breadon did declare that all was good with Rickey, it has been said that he considered quitting before embracing his role in the front office. The fact of the matter is, Rickey was not the best manager. He could see talent in a field on a passing train, however, his record from the end of the bench speaks for itself. He posted a 458-485 record over seven seasons, never finishing better than third in the National League. Only three of those seasons were winning seasons, and only twice was he able to guide the club to more than 80 wins.

     Not only did this decision by Breadon help the team win their first championship with Hornsby captaining the ship, it also helped Rickey find his true calling as a GM. Rickey had already started the minor league system at that point, but in this new role he would help expand the system, which would lead to sustained success for the Redbirds. Decade after successful decade would follow, as the club won nine pennants and six championships between 1926 and 1946.

     Hornsby managed the club through the end of that 1926 season, celebrated as a the hero who brought home a title, then was traded away in the offseason. The same man who he took over for would pull the trigger on the deal that sent Hornsby to New York, which proved to be quite the deal for the Cardinals as well, as Frankie Frisch was who came to St. Louis in return. Breadon and Rickey alike were not afraid to ruffle some feathers if it meant the Cardinals would be flying atop the standings, at that is exactly what they did.

     Rickey left the club in the Fall of '42, however, he forever left his mark on the team. He even made his way back in 1964. Although, his time has come and gone, and  his effectiveness as a senior consultant was less than what was expected to say the least. With that said, what Rickey did with the Cardinals will always make him an elite member from the organization's past.

     A lesson that can be taken from what was probably a bad day for Branch Rickey after being told he would no longer be managing the club: Focus on the things to come. Know that great things can spawn out of bad moments in your life. At times, those bad moments build character, give you drive, then lead you to the roads you are destined to travel on.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 19, 1962, Musial Becomes The National League's All-Time Hit King

     On May 19, 1962, Stan "The Man" Musial surpassed Honus Wagner's National League hit record by picking up the 3,431st hit of his career during an 8-1 win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The historic single came in the ninth inning, as he removed and 0 for 4 collar by lining a Ron Perranoski curveball into right. Once Musial reached first base an enormous message flashed across the scoreboard that Musial was the new hit king in the National League. The Cardinals skipper Johnny Keane let Musial soak in moment, before removing him for a pinch runner. It was quite the moment indeed, as Stan's former teammate Wally Moon handed him the ball, with the crowd of 50,000 standing on their feet cheering the National League's all-time hits leader.

     Musial had been in a bit of a slump coming into the contest. Once he reached 3,429 hits he stalled a bit, going hitless in 15 at bats, before tying the record in San Fran on the 16th of May. He then continued to struggle at the dish, then finally punched it through on that night in Los Angeles. Musial would say "I never worked for two hits so hard in my life." He acknowledged the pressure got to him a bit, and was relieved the moment he had recorded the hit.

     The record set by Wagner had stood for nearly 45 years, as the man they called "The Flying Dutchman had recorded his last hit in September of 1917. As we sit here today, only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and Hank Aaron have recorded more hits than Stan Musial. The Man rapped out 3,630 hits over the course 22 seasons. 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road; a perfect split for baseball's perfect knight.  His first hit came on September 17, 1941, and his last came on September 29, 1963. So many stories and accomplishments achieved in between those days, as Musial became one of the greatest players to step onto a diamond.

Check out the box score here:

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May 14, 1988: Oquendo Gets The Decison

     On May 14, 1988, Jose Oquendo became the first non-pitcher since 1968 to record a decision for his club. Unfortunately, that decision was a loss,as the Cardinals fell 7-5 to the Braves in 19 innings at Busch. With that said Oquendo, who was the eighth Redbird hurler of the day, pitched three scoreless innings, before Ken Griffey Sr. ripped a two-run double in the 19th that proved to be the game winning hit of the ballgame. 

     While the game did not end the way those in Cardinal Nation would have hoped for, it was certainly one to remember. Oquendo played every single position on the diamond for the Redbirds, which earned him his nickname "The Secret Weapon." Many of the headlines that followed his pitching loss against the Braves asked the question: Can he catch? The answer was yes. He caught a game later that year in September. His value to the team could never be overstated. In my opinion he deserves to be a member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame at Ballpark Village. 

     Another interesting thing to note that happened during that 19 inning affair in '88 was Whitey Herzog made the decision to have another Cardinal pitcher, Jose DeLeon, come in and play the outfield in the sixteenth. The "White Rat" didn't stop there. He alternated DeLeon with Tom Brunansky in right and left depending on the batter Oquendo was facing. It is too bad Oquendo did not walk away with a win. His final pitching line was four hits allowed, a strikeout, six walks, and the two earned runs that put an L on his pitching record. Life would go on, as Jose and the rest of his teammates would be able to look back and laugh about the day he tried his best to pitch them to a win. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

May 6, 1967, Cepeda Breaks Out The Big Stick at Wrigley

     On May 6, 1967, with the wind blowing in at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Orlando Cepeda belted two home runs, as he helped lead the way to a 5-3 Cardinals victory.

     The Cardinals had fallen in a 2-0 hole after Ron Santo and Ernie Banks knocked in a pair of runs in the first, then Cepeda went to work by leading off the second with a solo shot to cut the lead in half. Before the inning was over, Tim McCarver, Julian Javier, and Dal Maxvill picked up three successive one out singles to tie it up. The Cards jumped on top in the third when Cepeda and Mike Shannon hit a pair of solo shots back-to-back to put the club up 4-2, then in the sixth the lead was extended to 5-2 when the day's starting pitcher Al Jackson got in on the action by knocking in Javier with a single.

     Jackson pitched into the ninth, but got into a little trouble after Billy Williams led of the frame with a double. Moments later Ernie Banks struck again, knocking in the runner to make it 5-3. Red Schoendienst called on Ron Willis to finish things off and he did the job by getting Randy Hundley to strikeout looking, then retiring Lee Thomas on a foul flyball that landed in Tim McCarver's mitt behind the dish.

     Another impressive feat that happened during this game in Chi-Town was Curt Flood extended his errorless streak to 205 games, tying the National League record. That streak would reach 226 before it came to a close, which was a team record until Jon Jay went 245 games without committing an error between 2011 and 2013.

Check out the box score here:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 3, 1941, Gornicki Tosses a One-Hitter In Philly

     On May 3, 1941, rookie hurler Hank Gornicki made his first major league start at Shibe Park in Philadelphia and turned in a one-hit performance. His effort led the way to a 6-0 Cardinals victory and the team's eighth win in a row. The rookie was assisted by home runs that came off the bats of left fielder Don Padgett and second baseman Creepy Crespi. Padgett's big blast was a solo shot in the fourth that got things going for the Birds, while Crespi's long ball came in the ninth to finish the day's scoring off. The true story of the day was the rookie who stood on the bump. The only hit he had allowed was a sixth inning single to Stan Benjamin. At the end of the day not one other batter could touch him. He final line was five strikeouts, five walks, and the lone hit. He was another rabbit pulled out of the Cardinals hat, as another rookie, Howie Krist had turned in a five-hit performance against those same Phillies the day before.

     While Gornicki grabbed the headlines after the game was in the books, that start would be his only start for the Cardinals. The club was pitching rich at the time, so he never did find a spot in the rotation. He appeared in four games out of the bullpen, then was sent down to Rochester. Gornicki was sent to the Cubs for cash in September of that same season, however, the deal was vetoed by the commissioner of baseball. After it was all said and done the Pirates grabbed him off of waivers. Gornicki spent the '42, '43, and '46 seasons in Pittsburgh.He spent 1944 and 1945 in the service.

      Once the career of Hank Gornicki came to a close he had posted a 15-19 record. In the eyes of some  a guy like him may be looked at as insignificant. However, 75 years ago today Hank Gornicki came oh so close to tossing a no-no with the Birds on the Bat across his chest. That in itself is pretty significant. After his days on the diamond were over Hank Gornicki would live a long life. He passed away in 1996 at the age of 85. Usually, I am able to find quite a bit more about what former player did after their career ended, but was not able to do so in his case. I would imagine he lived a good life, and looked back at his days as a player with gleam in his eye. Every man who makes it to the big leagues, even if those days are short, should have that gleam in the eye when they look back. I certainly hope Hank did.

Check out the box score here:

This article provide some more information about Hank Gornicki: