Archive for the ‘Famous Teams’ Category

Famous Teams: The Gashouse Gang of 1934

March 27, 2009
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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Famous Teams: The Miracle Braves (1914)

January 27, 2009
Here they are.

An underdog story for the ages, the Boston Braves of 1914 made a remarkable comeback to win the division and the World Series.

Before 1901, the Boston Beaneaters were a very successful major-league team in the National League, but with the arrival of the Boston Americans, an American League team, the Beaneaters ran into some bad luck. The best players, like on so many other teams, ran to the newly-formed American League in search of better salaries, and the Beaneaters’ owners didn’t even bother to try to match the offers. The Boston Americans would become the Red Sox, and the Beaneaters would become the Doves (frightening), the Rustlers, and, finally, the Braves in 1912. Two years later, they would finally break their string of bad luck.

The bad luck, however, seemed as though it wouldn’t stop. Through May 20, the Braves were a dismal 4-18, and they had just lost 9 of 11 (one of the other two was a tie). They were also 11.5 games back. Coming up to July 4, the Braves were 26-38, but with two losses in a doubleheader on Independence Day, the Braves fell to 26-40 and were 15 games back. For the next 53 games, the team looked completely different. Instead of losing 40 more games, they won 41 of the next 53 to take first place from the New York Giants on September 8th. With the pressure on, the Braves would win 25 of 31, but the Giants would play .500 ball (16-16) and lose the division. They became the first team to ever come back from last place on July 4th to win the pennant. Not only did they win the division, they won it by 10.5 games (an amazing 25.5 game turnaround).

Despite this, the “Miracle Braves” were severe underdogs to Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics for the World Series. However, just like the rest of the season, the Braves would prove the doubters wrong and sweep the World Series from the A’s. It was, in fact, the first four-game World Series sweep (Game 1 of the 1907 World Series ended in a tie on account of darkness — yeah a World Series game ended in a tie, take that Selig). Some believe that the A’s players were upset with A’s management and refused to play hard, and others believe that the Series was fixed. Neither has any real evidence.

The 1914 Boston “Miracle” Braves rode the backs of three, relatively unknown starting pitchers. Bill James led the way going 26-7 with a 1.96 ERA, but he was unsuccessful otherwise and his career basically ended when he signed up for the military in 1916. Dick Rudolph would add 26 more wins and a 2.35 ERA, and while he went on to have a few more good seasons, I like him for the fact that he was a spitball pitcher (one of those who was able to continue even after the pitch became illegal). Lefty Tyler added his own 16 wins and 2.69, and he stayed a solid but relatively unspectacular pitcher for the next four seasons. From July 26th on, James and Rudolph were a combined 35-2. The offense was decent with key contributions from OF Joe Connolly (.306, 9 HR, 65 RBI) and 1B Butch Schmidt (.285, 1, 71), but the pitching was the key.

An interesting note — the last game played at the South End Grounds (the Braves home park) was August 11, 1914, and the Braves would play the remaining home games in Fenway Park until the next season when Braves Field became available.