1931 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Gabby Street
Regular season record: 101-53 (.656), first in National League
Post-season: Won World Series over Philadelphia Athletics (4-3)
Staff Comments (individual rankings in parens)
Ray Mileur (2) The 1931 World Series was a rematch of the 1930 World Series teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Athletics. The Athletics won the 1930 series in six games and the Cardinals came back in ‘31 loaded for bear seeking their second World Championship in franchise history.
In the highly anticipated rematch, it was rookie, 27-year-old, Pepper Martin leading the charge. Martin hit .500 in the seven game series, with 12 hits in 24 at-bats, including four doubles, a home run and five RBI. Martin also had five stolen bases and scored five times. Considering the club hit a combined .236 off of the A’s pitchers, with two home runs and 17 RBI, only makes Martin’s contribution more significant.
Cardinals starting pitcher Burleigh Grimes, who had lost two games to the A’s in the 1930 series, redeemed himself in ‘31, winning his two starts, finishing with a 2-0 record and a 2.04 ERA. Teammate Bill Hallahan chipped in, picking up two wins for St. Louis, giving up just one earned run in 18.1 innings pitched.
The A’s had baseball legends and future Hall of Famers; pitchers Lefty Grove and Waite Hoyt, outfielders, Jimmy Foxx and Al Simmons and catcher Mickey Cochrane (Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle was named after Mickey Cochrane).
They also had a starting pitcher named George Earnshaw, the hero of the 1930 series. In the 1930 matchup, Earnshaw posted a record of 2-0 in three starts with a 0.72 ERA (not a typo, a 0.72 ERA). Earnshaw gave up only two earned runs in 25 innings pitched. Earnshaw had another remarkable postseason performance in 1931 and deserved a much better fate than his 1-2 won-loss record would suggest. In three starts, Earnshaw gave up just five earn runs in 24 innings pitched, giving him an ERA of 1.88.
The Cardinals had their job cut out for them in 1931. Philadelphia had put together four straight of the best seasons in baseball history. The A’s finished 13½ games ahead of the New York Yankees in the regular season in 1931. They had won the 1929 and 1930 World Championship and finished second in the American League in 1928 with 98 wins. The Cardinals 101 regular season victories and World Series Championship over the Athletics dynasty earned them my second place ranking.
Jerry Modene (8) The 1931 Cardinals didn’t hit as well as their 1930 predecessors (who had hit .314 as a team before losing the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics) but they didn’t need to, as they ran roughshod over the league, leading wire-to-wire and then flummoxing the A’s in what many people had thought would be a repeat performance in the World Series.
Outfielder Pepper Martin may have been the first of the “scrappy hustlers” that Cards fans have so long admired; he hit just .300 with seven home runs and 16 stolen bases that season, but seems to have epitomized the spirit of the ballclub even though Jim Bottomley (above), Chick Hafey, and future skipper Frankie Frisch (below) were the best overall players on the team. I have to admit I didn’t rate the 1931 squad as highly as my peers did, but they’re still a worthy member of our rankings.
Rob Rains (2) Clearly the first great Cardinals team, the first to win 100-plus games, the first to lead the league for the entire season and the first to win an easy pennant, finishing 13 games ahead of the New York Giants. The team capped off the season with a seven-game victory over the Philadelphia A’s in the World Series.
In many ways this was a transition team as first baseman Jim Bottomley played only one more year with the Cardinals, and pitcher Burleigh Grimes and outfielder Chick Hafey were gone before the start of the 1932 season. With Frankie Frisch winning the MVP award, and rookie centerfielder Pepper Martin, however, the Cardinals were positioning themselves to be a quality team for years to come.
Martin turned in a solid regular season, hitting .300, but showed his true potential in the World Series as he hit .500, stole five bases in six attempts and tied a World Series record with 12 hits, including four doubles and a homer.
Brian Walton (3) This club dominated, leading the league from April on, winning the title by 13-1/2 games. Some believed at the time that they could have won 110 games if pressed. Still, this was the first Cardinals team to win 100 games in the regular season and their .656 winning percentage is fourth-best in franchise history.
Hitting a career-best .349, future Hall of Fame outfielder Chick Hafey (pictured above) led Gabby Street’s Cards to their fourth pennant in six seasons and their second-ever World Championship. They defeated Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s in seven games, a club led by Al Simmons and Lefty Grove that won 107 games in the regular season themselves.
Six top 40 all-time Cardinals were on this club: pitchers Jesse “Pop” Haines and Dizzy Dean, infielders Sunny Jim Bottomley and Frankie Frisch plus outfielders Hafey and Pepper Martin.
First baseman Bottomley batted .348, while Frisch sparked the lineup, stealing 28 bases and knocking in 82. Frisch became the fourth Cardinals MVP in seven years. Martin joined the two in batting .300 in the regular season, bumped it up to .500 in the Series and was named the AP’s “Athlete of the Year”. Little-known third baseman Sparky Adams smacked 46 doubles, tops in the Senior Circuit.
On the mound, another relatively-unknown player, Syl Johnson, won 11 games and posted a team-best 3.00 ERA, lefty Bill Hallahan won 19 to lead the league, rookie Paul Derringer added 18 victories and veteran spitballer Burleigh Grimes won 17.
Key: NR = not ranked
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