The St. Louis Cardinals’ franchise is the most successful franchises in National League history and second only to the New York Yankees in World Series wins with the Cardinals raking in 10 while the Yankees hold a dominant record 27 World Series Victories.
The Cardinals began life in the National League as the St. Louis Browns in 1892, playing ball at Sportsman’s Park. Their addition gave the National League 12 teams. The team was then owned by Chris Von der Ahe who held on to the franchise until he went bankrupt in 1898. It was then that Frank and Stanley Robinson bought the team and the following season changed the name of the team to the St. Louis Perfectos. A St. Louis reporter began using the nickname Cardinals which struck a chord with everyday fans. In 1900, the franchise officially changed their name from the Perfectos to the Cardinals.
The ownership of the team changed hands again in 1920 when auto dealer Sam Breadon purchased the team and moved them to Sportsman’s Park where their American League counterparts (the St. Louis Browns) played ball. Breadon would go on to invest in and pioneer a new minor league farm system. It would be five seasons until the Cardinals would find success.
In their first World Series appearance in 1926, the team was led by future Hall of Fame Player/Manager Rogers Hornsby who up until then had won two Triple Crowns (1922 and 1925). The 1926 team was a powerful force leading the National League in eight offensive categories and led the league with 90 home runs. Their 82 triple plays were good for second and had 83 stolen bases. The bullpen was led by Grover Cleveland who racked up victories in games two and six then came on to save the seventh game as the Cardinals beat the heavily favored New York Yankees.
Try as they may, the Cardinals fell short of repeating a World Series but luck came back to them in 1928 when they again faced the New York Yankees in the World Series. This time, the Yankees would take their revenge, sweeping the Cardinals in four games. Two seasons later, the team was again the NL Champions and met the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1930 World Series, losing in six games. They again returned to the World Series in 1931 and again faced the Oakland Athletics only this time won in seven games.
The 1940’s saw the Cardinals win four National League Pennants, two of which led to the World Series. The 1942 club won a record 106 games (With their NL mates Brooklyn Dodgers winning 104) and they met the New York Yankees in the World Series, winning in five games. The team would return in 1944 to face their AL counterparts the St. Louis Browns. Both still played at Sportsman’s Park and the series marked only the third time in World Series History that both teams claimed home field in what was known as the “Trolley Series” and the “St. Louis Showdown.” The 1946 season was also a great one for the Card’s as they met the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. The series would go seven games and the Boston team featured superstar Ted Williams but the Red Sox could not overcome and lost the series to the Cardinals four games to three. The team was purchased by the Anheuser-Busch brewery in 1953.
It would not be until the 1964 season that the Cardinals would again strike gold when, in what was largely perceived as a lopsided trade not favoring the Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs traded Lou Brock and two players for star pitcher Ernie Broglio and two players. Brock made good and successfully replaced Stan Musial who retired in 1963. The Cardinals faced the New York Yankees again and again defeated them in seven games. The Yankees fired manager Yogi Berra after the series. The 1967 team also featured a high powered offense that featured future Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Olrando Cepeda, and Lue Brock. The team would win 101 games and meet the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. The Cards beat the Sox four games to three to take the World Series Crown. The following season, the Cardinals would win their second straight pennant and met Detroit Tigers who would win the series four games to three to capture their first World Series Championship since 1945. MLB would reorganize and expand into 24 teams and 4 divisions. The following season would be the final for famed Radio announcer Harry Carey and the Cardinals unexpectedly fired him at the end of the season.
The ‘70’s were mostly quiet for the franchise with a few exceptions. Joe Torre led the NL in hitting, hits and RBI’s in 1971; Lou Brock stole 118 bases breaking the single season mark and Bob Gibson struck out batter number 3,000 while drawing the franchises 3rd best overall attendance record (1,800,000 fans) in 1974. In 1976, John Denny won the NL ERA title at age 23, and Lou Brock got his 2700th hit of his career while coming within 27 of tying Ty Cobb’s stolen base record. Brock would break Cobb’s record in August of ’77 and Garry Templeton became the youngest ML shortstop to reach 200 hits in a season and led baseball with 18 triples. In the ’78 season, Ted Simmons set a club and career record with 22 home runs (for a catcher) and Busch Memorial Stadium gets new Astroturf.
The ‘80’s was another breakout decade for the Cards as they finished with the best record in the NL in 1980, a strike shortened season but failed to get into the playoffs as the Phillies of Philadelphia had a 1 ½ game lead on the Cards prestrike. The franchise would get back to the playoffs the following season, winning the NL East title, sweeping the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS and facing the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series. It would again take the Card’s 7-games but the team won their ninth World Series. The 1985 season was the Card’s 10th attempt at a World Series featured the Cardinals against the Kansas City Royals. The series was dubbed the “I-70 Series.” The team would skip a season as the N.L. East champs but would regain that title in 1987 as they met the Minnesota Twins in the World Series. The Cards would win all their home games but so would the Twins. This was the first series in history that the home team won every game. The Cards lost the series four games to three. The 1989 squad finished in 5th place in the NL East but SS Ozzie Smith won another Golden Glove Award.
The new decade brought major changes to the franchise as team owner August Busch Jr. died at the end of 1989. Manager Whitey Herzog resigned and was replaced by Red Schoendienst who was in turn replaced by Joe Torre. For the majority of the decade the franchise failed to make the playoffs. The franchise was moved to the new NL Central in 1994 and was then sold in 1995/96 to a group led by Drew Baur, Fred Hanser and William DeWitt Jr. The franchise then went out and signed Tony La Russa as the manager and the team reached the playoffs for the first time since the ’87 season. Although they were defeated by the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, the team franchise was again on an upswing. The following season 1B Mark McGwire broke the 37-year old single season home run record held by Roger Maris.
The new millennium has been great for the Cardinals franchise as the team would win seven Central Division Titles in the first decade, (2000, 01, 02 ,04, 05, 06 and 2009). But it wasn’t until the 2006 season that the franchise returned to the World Series, meeting the Detroit Tigers. The contest was settled in six games with the Cards winning four games to one with David Eckstein winning the MVP.
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