Monday, December 14, 2009

PTWSW #23: The 1926 St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Rogers Hornsby
Record: 89-65
Ballpark: Sportsman's Park
Owner: Sam Breadon
GM: Branch Rickey
Coaches: Bill Killefer, Otto Williams

Future Hall of Famers: Pete Alexander, Jim Bottomley, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines, Rogers Hornsby, Billy Southworth

Team Leaders, Batting

Les Bell, .325
OBP: Ray Blades, .409
SLG: Les Bell, .518
OPS: Les Bell, .901
2B: Jim Bottomley, 40 (NL leader)
3B: Les Bell, Jim Bottomley, 14
HR: Jim Bottomley, 19
RBI: Jim Bottomley, 120 (NL leader)
BB: Ray Blades, 62
SB: Taylor Douthit, 23

Team Leaders, Pitching

Flint Rhem, 20 (NL leader)
SO: Flint Rhem, 72
ERA: Flint Rhem, 3.21
IP: Flint Rhem, 258
CG: Flint Rhem, 20
SHO: Jesse Haines, Bill Sherdel, 3
K/BB: Bill Sherdel, 1.20
SV: Pete Alexander, Hi Bell, 2


Oldest Player: Pete Alexander (b. February 26, 1887)

Youngest Player: Ed Clough (b. October 28, 1906)

First to Leave Us: Allen Sothoron (d. June 17, 1939)

Last Survivor: Specs Toporczer (d. May 17, 1989). Wow. If Toporczer had survived one month longer he'd have made it to the 50th anniversary of Sothoron's death.

First in Majors: Pete Alexander (debut April 15, 1911)

Last in Majors: Syl Johnson (final game September 26, 1940)

First to Play For the Franchise: Rogers Hornsby (September 10, 1915)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Jesse Haines (September 10, 1937)

Pre-union Team: The 1921-25 Cubs had three: Pete Alexander, Vic Keen and Bob O'Farrell.

Reunion Team: The 1934 Reds had five: Jim Bottomley, Jake Flowers, Chick Hafey, Syl Johnson and Bob O'Farrell. O'Farrell also served as player-manager for half the season.


Bob O'Farrell, NL MVP

Season Summary

In 1924 and 1925 the Cardinals had three hitting stars and little else: Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley and Ray Blades. In 1926 they had offensive strength at every position but shortstop, where Tommy Thevenow's 59 OPS+ was tolerated due to his fine glovework. Player-manager Hornsby's OPS+ was 124, the worst of his career to that point (mainly due to a back injury he sustained in May), but the rest of the lineup picked up the slack. A career year from third baseman Les Bell and an MVP season from catcher Bob O'Farrell were chief among this newfound balanced attack. The Cardinals led the league in home runs and finished second in OPS+, and their run prevention was pretty good too; their DER was best in the NL, and their ERA+ was third-best.

The Cardinals got off to a poor start, bouncing around the second division for most of the first month and a half. It wasn't until they swept a June 5 doubleheader in Philadelphia that they pulled above .500 for good. On June 14 they acquired Billy Southworth from the Giants to fill their hole in right, a move which paid off when Southworth delivered an OPS+ of 124 along with several clutch hits. On August 17 they lost left fielder Blades to a knee injury, which pressed young Chick Hafey and his 94 OPS+ into duty. Two days later they finally climbed their way into a tie for first place. September was no cakewalk. The Cards were in first most of the month, but the Pirates and Reds were right in the thick of things, with the Cubs lurking in the shadows. It wasn't until they defeated the Giants on September 24 that they could rest easy knowing they were finally National League champs.

Three days before the World Series began, and less than a week after the Cardinals clinched, Rogers Hornsby's ailing mother passed away. Though Hornsby was grief-stricken, he honored his mother's wishes to play in the World Series. It took seven games, but the Cardinals defeated the Yankees to win the franchise's first world championship. The pitching and hitting stars of the Series were both somewhat unlikely. The Redbirds' best offensive weapon was none other than Tommy Thevenow, who hit .417 with a home run and an OPS of 1.023. Their star hurler was Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander, who'd been claimed off waivers in June from the Cubs. He'd been a top-notch addition to their staff during the season, but at the age of 39 many wondered if he still had enough in the tank to beat the powerful Yankee lineup. In fact, he pitched complete game victories in Games 2 and 6, and his relief appearance in Game 7 proved to be the Series' highlight. With the bases loaded and two out in the seventh the Cardinals held a one-run lead. Alexander entered the game and struck out Tony Lazzeri to end the inning, then held the Yanks hitless for the final two innings to nail down the victory.

After the season ended Hornsby was traded to the Giants over a contract dispute. O'Farrell would become the new player-manager.


Baseball Reference
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