1942 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Billy Southworth
Regular season record: 106-48 (.688), first in National League
Post-season: Won World Series over New York Yankees (4-1)
Staff Comments (individual rankings in parens)
Ray Mileur (1) The 1942 Cardinals won a franchise record of 106 games and went on to defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series in just five games. The Yankees had won the American League Championship in six of the previous seven seasons and hadn’t lost a World Series since 1926.
Winning 106 games, it doesn’t get much better than that, though they tried, with the Cardinals winning 105 games in 1943 and 1944. Billy Southworth, the manager of all three teams finally got his just due recently, with the announcement, at the Baseball Winter Meetings, that he had finally been elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
At one time during the season the Cardinals were 10 games back of the Dodgers. At the All-Star break the Cardinals were not given much chance by anyone (other than Southworth) to compete that season, let alone win the National League Championship and a World Series title. On August the 6th the Cardinals started flying winning 43 of its last 52 games, finishing two games ahead of the Dodgers who won a remarkable 104 games.
It was one of the youngest teams to ever win a World Series Championship; outfielder Terry Moore was the elder statesman on the club at the ripe old age of 30. Stan Musial hit .314, with 10 home runs and 72 RBI, in his rookie season while Enos Slaughter led the club in most offensive categories, .318 AVG, 13 HR, 98 RBI, 188 hits, 17 triples and 100 runs scored.
When Billy Southworth took over the Cardinals in 1940, the club had a winning percentage of .341. They would go on to play at a .633 clip in the 109 games they played under Southworth that season. A team riddled with injuries derailed Southworth’s hopes for a Pennant in 1941, but from 1942-1944, the Cardinals won 100 games three consecutive times, making them the most dominate team in National League history. It is my opinion that the 1942 club was the best team and the best job ever done by a manager in St. Louis Cardinals history.
Jerry Modene (1) And here we have the eventual champion, the Top Dog (or should that be, Top Bird?) in our rankings – the 1942 “St. Louis Swifties”. This was a team that hit just 60 home runs (including 10 by the rookie outfielder, Stan Musial), but who led the league in virtually every other offensive category and combined their running offense (an obvious precursor to Whiteyball!) with solid pitching from MVP Mort Cooper, who nearly pitched his arm off (he chewed aspirins during his starts) to win 22 games.
The 1942 team is most remembered, of course, for their stunning upset over the New York Yankees in the World Series – not until 2006 would a Cardinals team pull off such a surprising post-season upset – but what should be pointed out by this squad’s ranking as #1 (as well as the high rankings of the 1943, 1944 and even the 1945 Cardinals (the 1945 team finished as one of our seven “honorable mentions”) is the common thread – no, not Stan Musial, although he obviously played a huge role in the success of the 1940’s Cardinals – but manager Billy Southworth, who in the 5 2/3 years he managed the Cards from mid-1940 to 1945 won 577 games while losing only 301, a winning percentage of .657 (!), and who then went to Boston and proved he could (in the words of Durocher) “win a pennant without necessarily having the best talent”.
With Southworth’s (below) induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame coming up this summer, it seems appropriate that so many of his teams wind up ranking so highly in our listing of the Greatest Cardinals Teams of All Time.
Rob Rains (5) When you realize that four of the top nine Cardinal teams in this ranking played between 1942 and 1946 there can be little doubt about what truly was the greatest era in franchise history.
Trying to separate and differentiate from one of those clubs to the next is virtually impossible as they had many of the same players and only the 1946 club had Eddie Dyer as manager instead of Billy Southworth. There are reasons, however, why 1942 was special.
It was Branch Rickey’s final year in St. Louis, and the team had to win 106 games to beat out Brooklyn’s 104 wins for the pennant. The Cardinals went 21-4 down the stretch in September and like all of the clubs in that era, could hit well, pitch well and played great defense. They truly were teams without a weakness.
The pitching staff was led by 22-game winner Mort Cooper and 21-game winner Johnny Beazley. Ten of Cooper’s wins were shutouts and he led the NL with a 1.78 ERA. The starting outfield of Musial, Enos Slaughter and Terry Moore might be the greatest combination in franchise history. The infield included catcher Walker Cooper, third baseman Whitey Kurowski and shortstop Marty Marion. It was Kurowski’s ninth-inning homer in game five of the World Series which clinched the victory over the Yankees.
Brian Walton (1) Delivering the first of three world championships in five years, Billy Southworth’s club dominated NL competition. They posted the highest winning percentage in team history, .688, while winning 106 games, the most in the NL in 39 years.
It wasn’t easy, however. They were ten games out on August 6, but went a blistering 43-9 the rest of the way. After battling Leo Durocher’s Brooklyn Dodgers down to the wire in the NL, they handled the New York Yankees in the Series, four games to one.
Five top Cardinals were on this club: pitcher and National League Most Valuable Player Mort Cooper, shortstop Marty Marion and outfielders Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter and Terry Moore. Foreshadowing the next few seasons, they became the youngest World Champion team ever to-date, with Moore the oldest starter at just 30 years of age.
Slaughter led the way with the bat, posting team-high marks in many hitting categories, including a .318 batting average, supplemented by the 21-year-old rookie outfielder Musial, who hit .315 himself.
Mort Cooper starred on the mound, winning 22 games with a team-low 1.78 ERA, both league-leading. In fact, the ERA was the fourth-best in franchise history and his ten shutouts were third most ever by a Cardinal. Freshman Johnny Beazley added 21 wins and reliever Howie Krist’s .813 winning percentage is tied for number one all time among single-season performances by a Cardinal.
Key: NR = not ranked
To follow our entire list of top 15 Cardinals teams of all time as they were unveiled daily, click here. You can also read each of the voters’ philosophies in making their selections.
Coming up next is “Top 15 All-Time Cards Teams - The Final Tally”, where our four voters’ preferences are compared and contrasted. Following will be the “Best of the Rest”, in which each of the four recap their best Cardinals teams that missed the consolidated top 15.
We will conclude our series on the best Cards clubs of all time with a group of four articles from Jerry Modene wondering how the top Cardinals players would have fared on the best teams in the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove Awards, had they all existed since the very beginning. That will make a total of 24 articles in the series.
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