Quick Takes


    It does appear that Boston is currently the city of champions. The Red Sox and the Patriots are for real, and the Celtics and Bruins are quite improved, as is Boston College in football. It must be the beans.


    Colorado may be the sixth best team in the American League. A sad World Series, to be sure.


Story of the Week


    Let’s start off with a little-known fact. Originally part of the American Association as the St. Louis Browns, St. Louis joined the National League when the American Association became defunct in 1891. In 1900, they changed their named to the Cardinals.


    The Cardinals played in relative mediocrity, having been unable to finish any higher than third place. It was not until the team hired Branch Rickey (the same Branch Rickey who signed Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn) as team President and General Manager in 1916 that the team began enjoying the success that has characterized the franchise.


    Dissatisfied with unsuccessful attempts to sign major league talent with the low budget he was given, Rickey thought that there must be a better way for his team to improve in the future. He came up with an idea that revolutionized the way major league baseball operates. Rickey felt that young talent could be developed for his St. Louis Cardinals rather than signing already established players looking for lucrative contracts. Rickey then invested in several minor league baseball clubs, and used them to develop future talent for his Cardinals roster. 


    This farm system proved to be successful as the Cardinals were able to field competitive teams year after year. Soon, all major league clubs adopted the farm system. A large part of the Cardinals success was Rickey’s strong ability for assessing young talent. He built a strong reputation around the league as being a shrewd businessman, with an excellent eye for raw talent and ability to work out successful thrifty deals.


    The first great St. Louis Cardinal was Rogers ’Rajah’ Hornsby. One of the greatest hitters of all time, Hornsby won the Triple Crown in 1922 with 42 home runs, 152 RBI and a .401 batting average, the highest mark in the National League since 1900. In 1924, Hornsby led the league with a .424 batting average, the highest mark in the 20th century. His .358 career average trails only Ty Cobb (.366) on the all-time list. In 1925, Hornsby won a second triple crown with 39 home runs, 143 RBI and a .403 average.


    From 1920 to 1925, Hornsby led his league in batting all six years, in RBI four years, and in home runs twice. In 1925, Hornsby became player-manager of the club.  In 1926, Hornsby led his team to their first World Series title when the Cards edged the powerful New York Yankees in seven games.  He won the National League MVP twice, in 1925 and 1929. His career batting average of .358 is the highest ever for a National League player, and second highest in major league history, after Ty Cobb. In 1931, the Cardinals won their second World Championship over the Philadelphia Athletics.


    During the 1930s, the Cardinals were labeled the Gas House Gang, a nickname to describe the Cardinals’ fiery attitude toward the game and their fun-loving style of play. The Gas House Gang personified Depression-era America. The players were underpaid, wore uniforms that were almost always torn and dirty, and had wandered into professional baseball from small towns in the Midwest where other jobs were scarce. The Gang was led by colorful pitcher Dizzy Dean, OF Joe ’Muscle’ Medwick, 3B Pepper Martin and OF Enos ’Country’ Slaughter.


    In 1934, the Gas House Gang won the National League pennant on the final day of the season behind the pitching of Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul. That season, Dizzy Dean predicted 45 wins between himself and his brother, Paul, a rookie. Dizzy won 30, his brother 19, for a total of 49. The World Series featured the Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers. St. Louis prevailed in seven games, with both Deans winning two games each in the Series. This was the second Cardinals World Championship. In 1937, Joe Medwick became the last National Leaguer to win the Triple Crown.


    In 1942, Stan ’The Man’ Musial entered the rookie season, and became the next successor in the line of great Cardinals after Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, and Joe Medwick. The 1941 Cardinals team finished the season with a 106-28, and winning 43 out of their last 51 games. Led by Musial, Slaughter, and pitcher, Mort Cooper, who won the MVP for that year, the Cardinals easily defeated the New York Yankees in five games, claiming their forth World Series Championship. 


    The Cardinals would become the powerhouse of the National league during this decade, and Stan Musial would lead the Cardinals to World Series Championships in 1944 and 1946. Musial, who won seven N.L. batting titles and four MVPs in his 22-year career with the Cardinals, had a lifetime batting average of .331.


    The 1960s saw the next great St. Louis Cardinals era.  Led by dominating fireballers, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, and ultra-fast, havoc-causing outfielders, Lou Brock and Curt Flood, the Cardinals relied on their pitching and speed to bring them success. World Series Championships were won in 1964, when they upset the New York Yankees in seven games, and in 1967, when Gibson dominated the Boston Red Sox to win the title, also in seven games. This era was my favorite Cardinals team.  


    The next St. Louis World Championship was in 1982. The Cardinals boasted a team that lacked home run power but had an abundance of speed behind Lonnie Smith, Ozzie Smith, and Willie McGee, and strong pitchers in John Tudor and Bruce Sutter. The Cards beat the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982, giving them their ninth World Championship. Armed with Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen among others, they added #10 in 2006 by defeating the Detroit Tigers in the Fall Classic.


    Through their illustrious history, St. Louis has been the most successful team in the National League.  They have won 17 National League Pennants and 10 World Series. Only the American League’s New York Yankees can boast a more storied franchise than St. Louis.


Last Week’s Trivia


    When was the first NFL Monday Night Football game played, who played, who won?


    It’s not the game you’re thinking about. It was actually a Pete Rozelle experiment. The game was played on September 28, 1964. Detroit hosted and lost to Green Bay, the game was a sellout, but not televised. Rozelle experimented further until he decided that it was time for a televised package to one specific network. Only ABC showed interest, and MNF as we know it was born.


    On September 21, 1970, the Cleveland Browns defeated the New York Jets 31-21 in Cleveland. ABC producer Roone Arledge had set out to create an entertainment "spectacle" as much as a simple sports broadcast. Chet Forte, the director of the program for over 22 years, ordered twice the usual number of cameras to cover the game. He created the "color man" position and used graphic design within the show as well as "instant replay". The controversial sports broadcaster Howard Cosell commented on the action, along with former Cowboys QB Don Meredith and veteran football commentator Keith Jackson. Rozelle, Arledge and Forte, to state the very least, had brilliant instinct.


Trivia Question of the Week


    What player holds the all-time NCAA mark for most rushing yards in a game? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.