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The St. Louis Swifties

St. Louis Cardinals Logo - 1940s
(How about some background music?)
Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Nobody in baseball gave the Cardinals a chance to accomplish much of anything in 1942, and before the first pitch of the year was thrown, most baseball writers had already crowned the Dodgers as the National League pennant winner.  In fact, the Dodgers were a great team that year.  They St. Louis Swiftycruised through the first two-thirds of the season and held a 10 game lead over St. Louis on 15 August.  Then, the Cardinals caught fire, and the Dodgers never knew what hit them.  St. Louis won 43 of their last 51 games to pass Brooklyn on 13 September and finish the year in first place with a 106-48 record (the Cardinals' best ever season).  As far as Brooklyn was concerned, the Cardinals had stolen the pennant using some type of slight of hand.  William Mullin, the New York based sports cartoonist, most famous for his Brooklyn Bums character, published a drawing depicting the Cardinal team as "St. Louis Swifty," a slick, mustachioed, riverboat gambler, and this nickname stuck too, just like his earlier caricature of the Gashouse Gang.

Baseball superstitions being what they are, some attributed the Cardinals incredible string of victories to the novelty hit,
Pass the Biscuits Mirandy
, which had been recently recorded by Spike Jones an His City Slickers and was played repeatedly in the Cardinals dugout by their trainer, Doc Weaver.  Actually, the Cardinals won because Branch Rickey's farm system continued to staff the parent club with star performers like Johnny Beazley, Mort and Walker Cooper, Whitey Kurowski, Max Lanier, Marty Marion, Terry Moore, Harry Walker, Enos Slaughter, and Stan Musial. 
Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore, and Stan Musial
While only Slaughter and Musial hit above .300, the team's pitching was incredible.  Mort Cooper ended the regular season with a 1.77 era, a 22-7
Stan Musial record, and a Most Valuable Player award.  The Cardinal defense was terrific, and to a man, they indeed were all swift.  As St. Louis sportswriter Bob Broeg noted, "The prize was defense and pitching depth, highlighted by incredible speed, reflected more in how many bases they took audaciously than in stolen bases."

Still, when the World Series began in New York, few thought the Cardinals would stand a chance against Joe DiMaggio and the powerful Yankees.  In Game 1, things look bleak for the Redbirds as they were held hitless into the eighth inning by the Yankee starter, Red Ruffing.  Then down 7-0 with two outs in the ninth, the Cardinals batted around in the order only to come up short when Stan Musial grounded out with the bases loaded.  While the Cardinals lost the game, that inning badly rattled the Yankees and was the turning 1942 World Series Logopoint of the series.  The Cardinals swept the next four games.  Game Two ended when Enos Slaughter threw out a runner at third.  Game Three saw Slaugther rob Joe DiMaggio of a probable inside-the-park homerun with a diving catch; then he and Musial leapt high to pull two other homeruns back from the stands.  The Cardinals ran wild on the basepaths in Game Four, and Whitey Kurowski, put the Yankees away in Game Five with a two run homer in the top of the ninth.

The Swifties streak continued throughout the 1940s as the Cardinals won three more National League Championships and two more World Series titles, beating their in-town rivals, the Browns, in the "Streetcar Series" of 1944 and the Boston Red Sox in 1946. 

1944 World Series Program       1946 World Series Program

Ted Williams ShiftAt the start of the 1946 World Series, most of baseball writers' eyes were on Ted Williams who was expected to give Cardinal pitching fits.  It never happened.  The Cardinals employed the "Ted Williams shift" designed earlier that summer by Cleveland Indians manager, Lou Boudreau, and Williams had a miserable series, batting just .200 with five hits and only one rbi. 

One of the most memorable plays in Cardinal history occurred with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth in Game 7 against the Red Sox in the 1946 Series.  With Enos Slaughter on first, Harry Walker lined a shot into left center field.  Slaughter took off with the contact and never looked back. His daring "mad dash" caught the Red Sox cut-off man, Johnny Pesky, sleeping, and Slaughter scored the winning run all the way from first base.
Slaughter's Mad Dash from First

In December, 1947, Sam Breadon shocked the baseball world by announcing that he had just sold the St. Louis Cardinals to Robert Hannegan (then the Postmaster General of the United States) and Fred Saigh, a prominent regional tax attorney, for $3.5 million, the most ever for a sports team.  At the time, reporters and fans could not fathom why Breadon made the sale.  At the press conference announcing the sale, Breadon appeared troubled and shaken, which was quite unusual for the man who had braved incredible fan hostility when he traded Rogers Hornsby and sold Dizzy Dean at the height of both men's fame.  Some suspected that Breadon may have realized the team would be unable to sustain its success without Branch Rickey, who had left the Cardinals for the Dodgers several years before following a dispute over business strategy.  When questioned as to why he was selling the Cardinals just as they had reached their zenith, Breadon, cryptically responded, "Every day I am less sufficient, and at my age it's time to quit."  The truth was, as all discovered when Breadon died 18 months later, he had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

One year after the sale, Hannegan's health failed as well, and he sold his share of the team to his partner, and Fred Saigh became the Cardinals sole owner.

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