Famous Teams: The Gashouse Gang of 1934

Here they are in their not-so-shiny glory.

Branch Rickey became the manager of the 1919 St. Louis Cardinals, but by most accounts, he wasn’t very good. His teams were just mediocre, so in 1926, the team was turned over to Rogers Hornsby, the Hall of Fame second baseman. Hornsby was abrasive, but he got the most out of his team as the Cardinals went on to win the NL pennant and the World Series over the New York Yankees’ Murderers’ Row. Astonishingly, the Cardinals then traded Hornsby, who had slightly declined but was only 30, to the New York Giants for the younger second baseman Frankie Frisch, who had a falling-out with John McGraw. Frisch became a Hall of Famer and would come to lead some of the best Cardinals teams ever in the early thirties.

Though there is some contention, the term “Gashouse Gang” generally refers to the 1934 team, though it very well could have been the nickname for a period of years. The team earned this nickname through their scrappy play which gave them a dirty appearance. Gas houses were where coal was manufactured into energy, and they were generally in the worst part of the city and smelled horribly. The workers were always dirty, and shortstop Lou Durocher coined the term in reference to his team’s play and how the AL didn’t think the Cardinals were any good.

The team turned out to be plenty good. April started a little rough at 4-7, but they quickly turned things around by going 21-6 in May. June was mediocre at 13-14, but the team gradually improved over the next two months, which set up a showdown with the Giants. The Cardinals were 5.5 games back and would be 7 games back in a couple days at the beginning of September, but the Cardinals went on a tear, going 21-7 for the month. With a commanding lead, the Giants went 13-14 in the final month and lost their last 5 games. Frisch, getting his revenge, and the Cardinals, on the other hand, took advantage of the last-place Reds and swept the final four-game series.

The 1934 World Series pitted the Cardinals versus the Detroit Tigers. The series would last seven games with the Cardinals winning. The Dean brothers, Dizzy and Paul, would be the heroes of the series as each won two games. Dean almost didn’t, though. In Game 4, he pinch-ran and broke up a double play by using his head, literally. He was rushed to the hospital, and the headline the next day said, “X-ray of Dean’s Head Shows Nothing”. Another interesting episode, Joe Medwick slid into third baseman Marv Owen in Game 7 in Detroit, and the two scuffled for a moment. With the game lost (9-0 at that point), the crowd vented by hurling insults and produce at the outfielder.

Offensively, the team was led by Ripper Collins who stroked 35 HR and 128 RBI. Frisch added a decent but unspectacular season. Medwick added 18 HR and 106 RBI. Pitching, however, was the team strength. Dizzy Dean won 30, his brother Paul won 19, Tex Carleton won 16, and Bill Walker added 12 wins and a 3.12 ERA.

Fun Fact: The team had two interestingly similar and odd names. Dizzy Dean and Dazzy Vance.


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