Editor’s note: As those who followed the countdown of our Top 15 St. Louis Cardinals teams of all time over the last few weeks know, the selection of the master list was a melding of the individual views from four of us here at The Birdhouse, stlcardinals.scout.com.
As a result, several deserving teams from each of our personal lists ultimately did not make the consolidated Top 15. This is the second of four articles where each of us remember those clubs – our “Best of the Rest”.
As a reminder, here is the overall Top 15, with Ray Mileur’s list next to it. Highlighted are the clubs unique to each list.
In summary, the two clubs that made the group’s Top 15 but were ranked lower on Ray’s list are the National League Champions of 1985 and Central Division Champs of 2002. On the other side of the ledger, the two clubs Ray ranked higher than the others are the 1928 and 1945 teams. They are the subject of this report.
In the case of 1928, Ray joined Brian Walton as a backer of that club, but Mileur stood alone among the four voters in saluting the 1945 Cardinals team. The former lost in the World Series, while the latter came in second place in the NL.
Two of the teams that I ranked among my Top 15 St. Louis Cardinals teams, failed to make the cut in our combined rankings, the 1928 and 1945 teams, that I ranked 13th and 14th respectively.
It’s hard to dispute the final collective rankings when you consider that the makeup of the panel included Rob Rains, Jerry Modene and Brian Walton.
The 1928 World Champions and the 1945 ballclub that finished second in the National League with a 95-59 record, just made the cut on my list, just ahead of the 2005 Redbirds that I had ranked at #15.
1928 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Bill McKechnie
Regular season record: 95-59 (.617), first in National League
Post-season: Lost World Series to New York Yankees (4-0)
Comments (individual top 15 rankings in parens)
(13) The 1928 team won only the second National League championship in the franchise’s history, had won its second NL crown in only three seasons and was just two years away from their first-ever world title, when they defeated the great Yankees in the 1926 fall classic. In 1928, the Yankees got their revenge when they swept St. Louis in four straight, bringing the postseason to a sudden end.
The 1928 Cardinals could boast of five future Hall of Famers. First baseman Jim Bottomley won the MVP Award in 1928, batting .314 with 29 home runs and 137 RBI. Outfielder Chick Hafey had a terrific season that year as well, hitting .337 with 27 home runs and 111 RBI. Frankie Frisch hit .300 with 10 home runs and 86 RBI. Off the mound, Hall of Famers Jesse Haines, who pitched in more games than anyone else in St. Louis Cardinals history, won 20 with Grover Pete Alexander winning 16 games. Starter Bill Sherdel added 21 wins to his resume.
At the time, the 1928 team, winning 95 games, was the most successful team in franchise history. The 1926 team had won only 89 games during the regular season, before winning the first World Championship for St. Louis. If the 1928 Cardinals could have avoided the sweep by the Yankees or at least extended the series to six or seven games, they likely would have been ranked higher by my colleagues.
1945 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Billy Southworth
Regular season record: 95-59 (.617), second in National League
(14) The 1945 Cardinals represents the last team managed by Billy Southworth. Southworth and his team had a chance to do something that only the 1921-24 New York Giants had ever done and that was to win four consecutive National League Championships.
The Cardinals lost several star players that season due to the war to include Stan Musial, Walker Cooper and Max Lanier, but they still managed to make a run for the money. They actually beat the eventual National League Champions, the Chicago Cubs, 16 times in their 22 matchups.
The 1945 team is the only club that I ranked in my top 15 that didn't win a National League title and it’s because I think, people take winning, at times, for granted. The Cardinals had come off of three consecutive 100 win seasons (1942, ‘43, ‘44), and managing a team that has experienced great success can often be a more difficult challenge than managing one that is still reaching for the ring for the first time.
That team will likely be remembered by most as the last team that Southworth managed, or, as the season of the Major League debut of future Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst or even as the debut of the unique style and outspoken personality of Harry Caray, the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1945-1969.
I will remember a team that wasn’t spoiled by its success and that faced significant lineup challenges with the loss of key players to the war effort, but still managed to rack up an impressive 95 wins. If my math is correct, only 10 other teams in the 107-year franchise history have won more than 95 games. That, and my affection for Southworth, earned them my ranking at #14.
Note: To access our entire list of top 15 Cardinals teams of all time and wealth of associated articles, all free, click here. You can also read each of the voters’ philosophies in making their selections. Next up tomorrow will be Rob Rains’ “Best of the Rest”.
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