1934 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Frankie Frisch
Regular season record: 95-58 (.621), first in National League
Post-season: Won World Series over Detroit Tigers (4-3)
Staff Comments (individual rankings in parens)
Ray Mileur (10) The 1934 “Gas House Gang” Cardinals were one of two teams from that decade to make my top 10 list. Led by player-manager Frankie Frisch, the 1934 ballclub featured stars like Ripper Collins, Joe Medwick, Leo Durocher, Paul and Dizzy Dean. Not familiar with Ripper Collins? He led the team with 35 home runs and 128 RBI, amazing stats at the time, heck I’d take those now.
A key player that season almost forgotten in Cardinals history was right-handed pitcher Tex Carleton. He led the club during the regular season with wild pitches, hits batsmen and earned runs and he had a rough World Series, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks in just 3.2 innings pitched, but his 16 regular season victories, and 16 complete games, helped lead the Cardinals to the National League Pennant. Carleton would appear in two more World Series for the Cubs and finished his career with the St. Louis Browns.
Though the Cardinals failed to clinch the NL title until the final game of the season, they did it in style, winning 21 of 28 games in September. The Cardinals would go on and defeat the Detroit Tigers in seven games to capture the crown, giving the Redbirds their third World Championship. After winning a combined 49 games for the Redbirds during the regular season, the Dean brothers, Dizzy and Paul accounted for all four victories for the Cardinals.
Jerry Modene (11) One of the most famous, yet also perhaps the most over-rated team in Cardinals history, thanks to Dizzy Dean and the Gas House Gang. I tend to agree with what Leo Durocher (right) wrote in his 1975 autobiography, that the 1934 team (which didn’t even get the “Gas House Gang” moniker until the following season) couldn’t hold a candle to the truly great teams in baseball history.
Nevertheless, this was a team with one of the most easily-identifiable personalities in baseball history, and to many people, the 1934 Cardinals epitomize the “romantic” side of baseball; that is, a simple game played by simple men in the “good old days” (before free agents and steroids), just for the love of the game - or, as Pepper Martin once said when Branch Rickey, reminiscing, said he thought the boys would have played for nothing, “Mr. Rickey, we almost did!”
The 1934 team had some very real talent, of course. Not just the pitching brothers of Dizzy and Paul Dean, who combined for 49 wins (and all four wins in the World Series) but many others on the team; first baseman Ripper Collins led the league in homers; outfielder Joe Medwick was perhaps the most feared hitter in the NL at that point, the double-play combo of Frankie Frisch (admittedly, past his prime but still an effective player) and Leo Durocher, and of course the firebrand spirit of third baseman Pepper Martin (who made up for his lack of ability at the hot corner with sheer exuberance).
Overrated? Yes. But still fondly remembered, and the 1934 Gas House Gang certainly deserves its fame.
Rob Rains (6) One of the most legendary teams in Cardinal history, the legend might actually be greater than the actual performance of the club. The Gas House Gang didn’t even move until first place until there were only three games left to play in the season and won the pennant by only two games over the New York Giants.
Still, the legend of players such as Pepper Martin, Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher and of course, Dizzy Dean, made this a memorable club. The team’s best player, who gets virtually no recognition, was first baseman Rip Collins, who tied Mel Ott for the league lead with 35 homers, finished second in the league with 128 RBI and had the fourth best average in the league, .333.
Dean won 30 games in the regular season, the final one on the season’s final day, and brother Paul joined the big league club and added 19 wins. The Cardinals took on Detroit in the World Series, and rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win the world championship, earning the last two victories in Detroit. The Dean brothers combined for all four series wins.
Brian Walton (5) This club saved their push until the end, not moving into the NL lead until they swept the Reds in the season-ending four-game series. Dizzy Dean started and won two of the final three games with Paul Dean taking the other. The week prior, Paul authored a no-hitter to help the Cards pull closer.
This season is all about Dizzy’s coming-out party. The Cardinals’ fifth MVP in ten years’ .811 winning percentage is still the third-best single-season mark in team history and Dean’s seven shutouts tied for fifth-most in a single St. Louis season all-time. No major league pitcher won 30 games again for 34 years.
Four other top 40 all-time Cardinals joined Dean on this 95-win club: veteran pitcher Jesse “Pop” Haines, player/manager Frankie Frisch and outfielders Pepper Martin and Ducky Medwick.
As noted above, Ripper Collins was the main power source, with his 35 home runs almost doubling the next-closest Cardinal hitter. Martin fueled the offense, as his 23 stolen bases led the NL.
Medwick’s hard slide into third base on a triple in Game Seven of the World Series (right) led to a near riot in Detroit and caused the left fielder to be removed from the game for safety reasons. Ducky and the gang had the last laugh, though.
Key: NR = not ranked
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