Over the last 90 years, the Cardinals are the only National League franchise to have won three consecutive pennants.

harry_brecheenSeventy years ago, on Sept. 21, 1944, the Cardinals swept a doubleheader from the Braves, clinching the pennant for the third season in a row. No National League franchise has matched that feat since.

Before the Cardinals’ stretch of pennants from 1942-44, the last National League franchise to win three consecutive pennants was the Giants. They won four in a row from 1921-24.

Since 1900, the only other franchises that have won three National League pennants in a row are: Pirates (1901-03), Cubs (1906-08) and Giants (1911-13).

Managed by Billy Southworth, the 1942-44 Cardinals also were the first National League teams with 100 or more wins in each of three consecutive seasons.

Familiar feeling

In 1944, the Cardinals took the National League lead on April 29 and never relinquished it. A September slump kept them from clinching early in the month. They entered the Sept. 21 doubleheader against the Braves at Boston having lost eight of their last nine and 15 of their last 20.

In the doubleheader opener, the Cardinals broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth when backup second baseman George Fallon singled to right with two outs, scoring Whitey Kurowski from second.

Harry Brecheen pitched five innings in relief of starter Mort Cooper and got the win. Brecheen, usually a starter, yielded one run and three hits in five innings.

The 5-4 victory clinched the pennant for the Cardinals, giving them a 13-game lead over the second-place Pirates with 12 remaining. Boxscore

Wrote The Sporting News, “The Redbirds walked off the field as if it had been an ordinary game, probably one of the least demonstrative reactions that has followed a pennant clincher. Except for the customary picture showing the players in a jubilant mood, there was no celebration in the clubhouse.”

Keep on rolling

In the second game, Cardinals pinch-hitter Walker Cooper slugged a two-run home run off starter Jim Tobin in the ninth, tying the score at 5-5, and Marty Marion drove in Ken O’Dea from second with a single in the 10th, lifting St. Louis to a 6-5 victory.

Brecheen pitched two scoreless innings, the ninth and 10th, to get his second win of the day and improve his record to 15-5. Boxscore

In saluting the 1944 Cardinals on their pennant-clinching day, The Sporting News noted, “Every player except two _ Danny Litwhiler and Debs Garms _ bears the Cardinals trademark, having come up through the club’s farm system.”

In an interview with author Peter Golenbock for the book “The Spirit of St. Louis” (2000, Avon), Litwhiler said, “In 1944, we played the same Billy Southworth baseball. He never went for the big inning. Get a man on and get him over. At the time, we defined National League baseball. What I remember most about ’44 was that every day you knew you were going to win … It was so easy. And it wasn’t one person who did it. It was always someone new.”

The Cardinals finished the 1944 season at 105-49, 14.5 games ahead of the runner-up Pirates, and clinched the World Series championship with four wins in six games against the crosstown Browns.

Previously: Why the Cardinals played baseball in Delaware on D-Day

Three years after he left the Busch Stadium mound with his pitching career _ as well as his pitches _ spiraling out of control, Rick Ankiel returned to St. Louis as a confident Cardinals reliever embraced by the fans.

rick_ankiel6Ten years ago, on Sept. 19, 2004, Ankiel made his first Busch Stadium appearance since 2001 and pitched two hitless innings against the Diamondbacks, departing to a standing ovation.

In his previous home appearance, on May 10, 2001, Ankiel regressed against the Pirates, yielding three runs, three hits, five walks and two wild pitches in three innings, departing with his head down and bolting the ballpark without talking with reporters. Boxscore

After that debacle, Ankiel went to the minor leagues and pitched there for the remainder of 2001. After sitting out the 2002 season because of a left elbow sprain, Ankiel pitched in the minors in 2003 until undergoing left elbow surgery in July.

Ankiel spent most of the 2004 season on the disabled list, returned to the minors in August that summer and was called up by the Cardinals in September. Ankiel made a pair of scoreless one-inning stints at San Diego against the Padres and at Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

Welcome home

On Sept. 19, 2004, a Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium, Ankiel relieved starter Jeff Suppan to start the fifth inning. As he walked to the mound, Ankiel tipped his cap to an appreciative crowd of 41,279.

“You walk out there with the electricity of the crowd and you feel like you’re floating,” Ankiel said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s pretty indescribable.”

Mixing a 91 mph fastball with a 66 mph curve, Ankiel faced three batters _ Luis Terrero, Alex Cintron and Danny Bautista _ in the fifth and struck out all three.

“His fastball was running and sinking hard,” Cintron said to the Post-Dispatch. “His curveball _ I’ve never faced anything like it in my life. He’s the Rick Ankiel everyone expected him to be.’

Facing Ankiel in the sixth, Shea Hillenbrand grounded out, Chad Tracy walked, Chris Snyder struck out and Doug DeVore lined out to right. “He was tricky,” Snyder said to the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat. “He was pretty deceptive. He had a good fastball and a good snap to his curveball.”

Said Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny: “He’s got good tempo … That curve’s amazing. You can hear it spinning all the way up there.”

Walking off the mound, Ankiel again tipped his cap to a standing ovation.

“Unbelievable … I was pretty much in the sky,” Ankiel said to the News-Democrat. Boxscore

Last hurrah

In his next appearance, at Colorado, Ankiel yielded five runs in two innings. He rebounded five days later, on Oct. 1, in limiting the Brewers to a run in four innings.

It would be Ankiel’s final big-league game as a pitcher.

Ankiel declared he would convert into an outfielder and abandon his pitching career.

In 2007, Ankiel returned to the Cardinals and spent seven seasons in the big leagues as a power-hitting and strong-armed outfielder.

Previously: Rick Ankiel joins Babe Ruth, Joe Wood in postseason lore

Aided by the ineptness of a Cubs club that could neither field nor pitch effectively, the 1964 Cardinals achieved a feat that remains unmatched in franchise history.

dick_groat2Fifty years ago, on Sept. 13, 1964, the Cardinals scored in each of the nine innings and beat the Cubs, 15-2, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

It was only the second time since 1900 that a National League team scored in all nine innings. The Giants did it in a 22-8 victory over the Phillies on June 1, 1923, at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. Boxscore

The Rockies are the only National League team to achieve the feat since the Cardinals did it. On May 5, 1999, the Rockies scored in each of the nine innings and defeated the Cubs, 13-6, at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

Culpable Cubs

In the same ballpark, 35 years earlier, the Cubs committed seven errors and yielded 18 hits and two walks, giving the Cardinals the opportunities to score in every inning.

Second baseman Joe Amalfitano and shortstop Andre Rodgers each made two errors.

The Cardinals scored against five pitchers _ starter Dick Ellsworth and relievers Don Elston, Sterling Slaughter, John Flavin and Lee Gregory. Rookies Flavin and Gregory never again would appear in a major-league game.

Dick Groat had four hits for the Cardinals. Curt Flood and Julian Javier had three apiece.

Five Cardinals _ Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, Flood, Groat and Javier _ each scored two runs. Five others _ Dal Maxvill, Bill White, Mike Shannon, Bob Uecker and Curt Simmons _ scored one apiece.

Simmons, the Cardinals’ starting pitcher, got an easy win despite yielding eight hits and five walks in eight innings. “How could anyone struggle with a 15-2 victory?” Simmons said to The Sporting News. “I was wilder than I had been all year.”

Ray Washburn, pitching the ninth, made his first Cardinals appearance since going on the disabled list July 22.

1 through 9

A look at each Cardinals inning:

_ First inning, 2 runs: The Cardinals scored twice. Flood scored from third on Boyer’s single. Groat scored from third on White’s ground out.

_ Second inning, 1 run: Javier homered.

_ Third inning, 2 runs: Shannon’s two-run single scored Groat and Boyer.

_ Fourth inning, 2 runs: Brock homered. White scored from second when Rodgers made an error on Shannon’s grounder to short.

_ Fifth inning, 2 runs: Groat’s two-run single scored Uecker and Simmons.

_ Sixth inning, 1 run: Shannon homered.

_ Seventh inning, 3 runs: Groat’s two-run double scored Flood and Brock. Maxvill, who ran for Groat, scored on Boyer’s single.

_ Eighth inning, 1 run: Flood’s single scored Javier.

_ Ninth inning, 1 run: Shannon’s sacrifice fly to center scored Boyer from third, completing the streak of runs in nine consecutive innings. Boxscore

Previously: Cubs knew Lou Brock was on verge of stardom in 1964

In the last 40 years, no National League game has gone more innings than the one played by the Cardinals and Mets on Sept. 11-12, 1974.

bake_mcbride2Beginning at 8:08 p.m. on Sept. 11 and ending at 3:15 a.m. on Sept, 12, the Cardinals beat the Mets, 4-3, in 25 innings at New York’s Shea Stadium. Started before a crowd of 13,460, it ended before about 1,000 spectators, including baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, his wife and their son.

The Cardinals-Mets marathon remains the longest National League night game in innings played.

In the longest major-league game by innings, the Dodgers and Braves played to a 1-1 tie in 26 innings on May 1, 1920. That National League game was played on a Saturday afternoon at Braves Field in Boston. Boxscore

Only one 25-inning game has been played in the major leagues since the Cardinals-Mets classic in 1974. In an American League game, the White Sox, managed by Tony La Russa, beat the Brewers, 7-6, in 25 innings at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. That game began on a Tuesday night, May 8, 1984, was suspended after 17 innings with the score tied at 3-3 and completed on May 9. Boxscore

With no National League curfew, the Cardinals and Mets played their 25-inning game without a stop in play.

When it ended, Cardinals outfielder Reggie Smith told his teammates, “There’s no way that your wives are going to believe you guys were out playing baseball all night.”

Reitz to the rescue

The Mets had been within an out of winning the game in nine innings.

Behind starter Jerry Koosman, the Mets took a 3-1 lead into the ninth. After Joe Torre struck out, Ted Simmons singled and was replaced by pinch-runner Larry Herndon. When Koosman unleashed a wild pitch while pitching to Bake McBride, Herndon advanced to second.

McBride struck out.

The Cardinals’ last hope was Ken Reitz. He had hit just one home run since July.

Reitz lofted a two-run home run against Koosman, tying the score at 3-3.

Cardinals reliever Claude Osteen, who had a clear view of the home run from his perch in the bullpen, held his hands less than a foot apart when he told United Press International that the ball “went out by about that much.”

Scoreless relief

For the next 15 innings, Cardinals and Mets relievers threw shutouts.

Al Hrabosky, Rich Folkers, Ray Bare, Osteen and Sonny Siebert were the Cardinals relievers who stopped the Mets in extra innings. Osteen pitched 9.1 innings _ the equivalent of a complete-game shutout.

A pair of former Cardinals, Harry Parker and Bob Miller, joined Bob Apodaca and Jerry Cram as the Mets relievers who stopped the Cardinals. Cram pitched eight innings.

They escaped several jams.

_ Torre was out at the plate trying to score on a single by McBride in the 13th.

_ In the 20th, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, no outs, until Smith was picked off at second and the threat fizzled.

_ In the 23rd, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs before Cleon Jones flied out.

_ Both teams loaded the bases with two outs in the 24th but failed to score.

Bake was cooking

Hank Webb, making his first appearance of the season for the Mets, relieved Cram in the 25th inning. The first batter he faced, McBride, got an infield single. Reitz was up next.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst gave the hit-and-run sign. Webb, sensing McBride might be running, made a pickoff throw, but it sailed over first baseman John Milner and rolled into foul territory in right field.

“I figured I could get to third,” McBride told the Associated Press. “Then, when I turned second, I said to myself, ‘I’m going all the way.’ “

McBride raced around third without looking toward coach Vern Benson. “He was going too fast to see any sign anyway,” Benson said.

Milner, who had retrieved the ball, fired a throw to catcher Ron Hodges. McBride and the ball arrived at the plate about the same time. Hodges caught the ball, then dropped it before he could attempt a tag.

“I don’t think he would have had me, even if he had held the ball,” McBride said. “He was out in front of the plate and I was past him.”

The run gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead, but the Mets still had their turn to bat.

Happy ending

Siebert retired the first two batters, Ken Boswell and Felix Millan, on fly outs.

Brock Pemberton, appearing in his second big-league game, pinch-hit for Webb. He singled, prolonging the drama with his first big-league hit. When the ball was removed from the game so that Pemberton would have a keepsake, Mets pitcher Tom Seaver yelled from the dugout, “Don’t give it to him. It’s the last ball we’ve got left.” (Fifteen dozen balls were used in the game, The Sporting News reported.)

Milner, the Mets’ top home run hitter, batted next.

Siebert struck him out, ending the game at 7 hours, 4 minutes. Boxscore

Dizzying stats

The Cardinals used 26 players and the Mets, 24. The Cardinals stranded 20 base runners and the Mets, 25.

Nine players played the entire game. They were McBride, Reitz, Smith, Torre and Ted Sizemore for the Cardinals; Millan, Milner, Wayne Garrett and Dave Schneck for the Mets.

McBride, Reitz and Millan each had four hits in 10 at-bats. Garrett was 0-for-10 with four strikeouts. Lou Brock, the Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer, was 1-for-9 and was caught stealing in his lone attempt.

The home plate umpire, Ed Sudol, also had worked the plate in a 23-inning game between the Mets and Giants in 1964 and a 24-inning game between the Mets and Astros in 1968.

Asked to sum up the long night, Mets pitcher Tug McGraw said, “The only thing I regret now is that all the eating places are closed. I’ll have to go home and make myself a baloney sandwich.”

Previously: Reggie Smith and the Cardinals’ after-hours club

On the night he broke the record for stolen bases in a season, Lou Brock triggered a wide range of emotions. Cool Papa Bell was delighted. Maury Wills was melancholy. Bob Boone was bitter.

lou_brock10Brock was relieved.

“I’m glad to get it behind me,” Brock said to the Associated Press.

Forty years ago, on Sept. 10, 1974, in an 8-2 Phillies victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis, Brock got his 104th and 105th stolen bases of the season, surpassing the mark of 104 established by Maury Wills of the 1962 Dodgers. The steals were the 739th and 740th of Brock’s career and made him the all-time National League leader, surpassing Max Carey, who swiped 738 for the Pirates and Dodgers from 1910-29.

In achieving the record, Brock stole second base 100 times and third base five times.

Sorry, Maury

Brock, 35, achieved his 105 steals in 134 games. Wills got his 104 steals in 165 games. (The Dodgers had a three-game playoff with the Giants after finishing the 162-game schedule in a tie for first place.)

“I never thought anyone would approach the record this soon, probably not in my lifetime,” Wills told the Associated Press. “I just feel that was my record. I was very proud of it … I don’t think anyone looks forward to seeing his own record broken.”

Asked by The Sporting News to compare his skills with Brock’s, Wills replied, “I had more finesse and got a better lead, but I guess Brock has more speed.”

Hometown hero

The game against the Phillies on Sept. 10 was the Cardinals’ last at home before embarking on a trip to New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Brock was motivated to break the record at home.

“The only pressure was that which I’d put on myself by saying I wanted to do this at home,” Brock said.

In the first inning, before 27,285 at Busch Stadium II, Brock led off with a single against Dick Ruthven. On the second pitch to the next batter, Ron Hunt, Brock broke for second and beat Boone’s throw, which bounced into center field. Brock was credited with a steal of second and advanced to third on the error.

Brock led off the seventh with a single. On Ruthven’s second pitch to Hunt, Brock took off and beat a wide throw from Boone to shortstop Larry Bowa for the record-breaking 105th steal.

“On 105, I felt my legs swaying just before I reached the base,” Brock told The Sporting News. “I didn’t even have enough energy to pop up with my slide. I guess I was pretty well spent.”

Salute to Lou

As Cardinals fans chanted “Lou, Lou, Lou,” the game was halted and Brock was honored in an on-field ceremony. Second-base umpire John McSherry shook hands with Brock. Bowa did, too.

Bell, a Negro League speedster who had been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, presented Brock with the second-base bag. “We decided to give him his 105th base because if we didn’t he was going to steal it anyway,” Bell said.

Addressing the crowd, Brock thanked Ted Sizemore _ “My partner in crime.” _ who had batted behind him for most of the season and patiently took pitches in order to provide Brock with the chances to attempt steals.

Brock also thanked teammates Bake McBride and Reggie Smith “for helping me clock the pitcher’s delivery” and trainer Gene Gieselmann because he “pumps my legs up every day.”

Said Brock of the record: “The key to it all was getting on base enough and staying healthy.”

Sour grapes

Two innings later, with the Cardinals trailing by six, Brock led off the ninth and reached first on Bowa’s error. Brock tried to swipe second, but was caught by Boone.

Afterward, Boone ripped Brock for trying to steal a base with the Cardinals so far behind.

“I thought it was brutal,” Boone said to the Associated Press. “When anybody tries to steal with his club six runs behind, he better darn sure make it. I lost a lot of respect for the man when he tried that … You just can’t get thrown out in that situation.

“My dad played with a guy named Jungle Jim Rivera and he was paid by the number of bases he stole. Maybe Brock’s got something like that in his contract, too. I don’t know why he did it. It wasn’t good baseball.”

Said Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt of Brock: “What the hell’s he stealing for in the ninth inning?”

Replied Brock: “Sometimes you can make things happen by the unexpected.”

Green means go

Several Phillies defended Brock.

“Everybody knows he’s going to run and he still does and makes it most of the time,” Bowa said.

Said Phillies second baseman Dave Cash: “When a man steals 104 or 105 bases, you don’t put the red light on.”

Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton, Brock’s former Cardinals teammate, said, “These people came to see him run.” Boxscore

Brock finished the 1974 season with 118 steals. It was the only time in 19 big-league seasons that he swiped more than 74. Video

Eight years later, Rickey Henderson broke Brock’s record by swiping 130 for the 1982 Athletics.

Henderson is the big-league career leader in steals at 1,406. Brock is second at 938.

Previously: Hot leadoff hitting helped Lou Brock earn steals record

Previously: The real story on Lou Brock and his steals of home

In a performance that was as remarkable as it was messy, Al Hrabosky and the Cardinals turned the last home game of the 1974 season into a classic.

al_hrabosky2Forty years later, Cardinals reliever Tyler Lyons brought that 1974 game back into the spotlight.

On Aug. 30, 2014, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at St. Louis, Lyons struck out eight in 4.2 innings of relief. Boxscore Those were the most strikeouts by a Cardinals left-handed reliever since Hrabosky struck out nine in 6.1 innings versus the Pirates on Sept. 25, 1974, at St. Louis.

Hrabosky’s effort was among many dramatic, unusual feats in a wild 13-12 victory that gave the Cardinals an edge in their pursuit of a National League East division title.

“Never in my life have I seen a game like that,” Cardinals first baseman Joe Torre told the Alton (Ill.) Telegraph.

Battle for first

The Cardinals entered the game that Wednesday night trailing the first-place Pirates by a half-game with a week remaining in the season. Facing a season-ending trip to Chicago and Montreal, the Cardinals needed to beat the Pirates to have momentum as well as the division lead.

Rookie right-hander Bob Forsch, who started for the Cardinals, gave up five runs in the first inning before being yanked.

Because the Pirates had stacked their lineup with left-handed batters  _ Richie Hebner, Al Oliver, Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and Ed Kirkpatrick _ Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst went with left-handed relievers. First, he used Rich Folkers. Then, Claude Osteen.

The Cardinals rallied for six runs in the third off Ken Brett and Larry Demery.

In the fifth, the Pirates got a run against Osteen, tying the score at 6-6. The Pirates had runners on first and second with no outs when Schoendienst replaced Osteen with his third left-handed reliever, Hrabosky.

Decent curve

Hrabosky got the Cardinals out of that jam without either runner scoring. In the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals scored three, taking a 9-6 lead.

The Pirates scored twice off Hrabosky in the sixth. Entering the ninth, the Cardinals clung to a 9-8 lead.

Hrabosky struck out Stargell, but then hit Parker with a pitch. Manny Sanguillen singled and, when center fielder Bake McBride made an error on the play, Parker raced home, tying the score at 9-9.

“I was discouraged because the club had given me a three-run lead and I couldn’t hold it,” Hrabosky said. “I didn’t feel like I had a good fastball, but I did have a decent curve.”

Hrabosky struck out at least one batter in each of the seven innings he worked.

In the 11th, though, he began to falter. “I was tired and the Pirates didn’t help it,” Hrabosky said. “They took the rest of the life I had left.”

Hrabosky gave up three runs on three singles and a double before he was relieved by Mike Garman with one out in the 11th. Hrabosky’s line: 6.1 innings, 6 runs, 10 hits, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts. The innings, runs, hits and strikeouts are single-game highs for Hrabosky in his 13-year big-league career.

Garman retired the two batters he faced, but the Pirates led, 12-9.

“We knew where we were at and it was now or never for us,” Torre said.

Rally time

The Pirates had used five pitchers, including their two best relievers, Dave Giusti and Ramon Hernandez. Danny Murtaugh, Pirates manager, brought in rookie Juan Jimenez to nail down the win. Jimenez had appeared in two big-league games.

“It was a kid pitching out there and he wanted to throw strikes,” Torre said. “When he couldn’t, he started to aim the ball.”

Ted Sizemore led off with a single. Reggie Smith walked. Ted Simmons was up next.

“I figured if he walked Smith I was going to swing at the first pitch in the strike zone,” Simmons said.

Simmons launched a double to right, scoring Sizemore and cutting the Pirates lead to 12-10.

Pirates unravel

Murtaugh lifted Jimenez and replaced him with another rookie, Jim Minshall, appearing in his third game. The first batter he faced was Torre.

“I wanted to hit the ball the other way to at least score Smith (from third) and get Simmons to third base,” Torre said.

Torre hit a broken-bat grounder to the right of second base. Rennie Stennett, the second baseman, fielded the ball, but his throw to first was wild. Smith and Simmons scampered home, tying the score at 12-12, and Torre advanced to second. Larry Herndon pinch-ran for Torre.

McBride bunted for a single and Herndon moved to third. Ken Reitz struck out _ the first out of the inning.

Due to bat was Jack Heidemann, a light-hitting shortstop. Schoendienst sent Jim Dwyer, a reserve outfielder batting .282, to pinch-hit.

Dwyer lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Herndon from third with the winning run.

Said Dwyer: ” I was on the spot … That is my biggest contribution to the team this season.”

Down the stretch

Steve Porter, covering the game for the Alton Telegraph wrote, “It was more than just a baseball game … It was a whole season unfolding over 11 innings and a pennant race hanging in the balance for one inning.” Boxscore

The improbable four-run uprising gave the Cardinals a 13-12 victory and propelled them into first place.

The Cardinals would win three of their next five. The Pirates, though, would win five of their next six.

On Oct. 2, the final day of the season, the Pirates held a one-game lead over the Cardinals. To finish in a tie and force a playoff, the Cardinals needed to beat the Expos that day and the Cubs needed to beat the Pirates.

Instead, the Pirates beat the Cubs, 5-4, in 10 innings. The Cardinals-Expos game was called off because of rain and wasn’t rescheduled. The Pirates were NL East champions, finishing 1.5 games ahead of the Cardinals.

Previously: Cardinals century club: Mark Littell, Trevor Rosenthal


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