The actions of their manager, not the behavior of fans, led to the Cardinals last having to forfeit a game. Cardinals fans were so disgusted by manager Eddie Stanky’s methods that they cheered when the public address announcer declared the umpires had awarded a victory to the Phillies.
On July 18, 1954, the Cardinals forfeited a brawl-marred game to the Phillies because umpires ruled the combative Stanky, nicknamed “The Brat,” intentionally used stalling tactics in an attempt to avoid a loss.
Stanky’s actions led to a suspension by National League president Warren Giles and prompted Stanky to issue an emotional public apology.
The topic of forfeiture arose during the 2012 NL wild-card playoff game between the Cardinals and Braves when fans at Turner Field in Atlanta threw bottles and debris in protest of an umpire’s infield fly rule call. The Oct. 5 incident prompted a look at forfeitures in Cardinals history.
As noted in my Oct. 6 item, umpires forfeited a game on Aug. 10, 1995, to the Cardinals after fans at Dodger Stadium threw a barrage of souvenir baseballs and other items onto the field.
That game was the first forfeit in the NL since the action involving Stanky in 1954.
Booed with increasing regularity by Cardinals fans because his team was mired in sixth place in the eight-team NL, Stanky was dealing with a series of setbacks and strains.
On July 17, a Saturday afternoon when the temperature reached 100 degrees, the first-place Giants built a 9-0 lead after three innings against the Cardinals at St. Louis. The Cardinals fought back impressively, scoring five runs in the sixth, three in the seventh and one in the eighth, tying the score. But the Giants won, 10-9, with a run in the 11th, dropping the Cardinals 17 games out of first with a 41-44 record. Boxscore
The next day, Sunday, July 18, the Phillies were in St. Louis for a doubleheader with the Cardinals.
With speculation growing that Stanky’s job was in jeopardy, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch issued a vote of confidence, saying, “I know that there are many loyal Cardinal fans all over the country who are impatient and unhappy with the present standing … But I think it is altogether too simple and too easy to blame the manager every time something goes wrong or doesn’t work out exactly as it should.”
Adding to the drama that day was the matchup between Stanky and his Phillies counterpart. Three days earlier, the Phillies had fired manager Steve O’Neill and replaced him with Terry Moore, the former Cardinals center fielder. When Stanky became Cardinals manager in 1952, Moore was on his coaching staff. Stanky fired him after that season. Moore reacted by ripping Stanky, telling reporters at that time, “When he loses a ballgame, he acts more like a 9-year-old boy than a manager. The job is too big for him. Stanky is temperamentally unsuited for the job of manager.”
It was under this backdrop _ the booing by Cardinals fans, the speculation about his job status and the sight of Moore managing against him _ that Stanky approached the first game of the July 18 doubleheader.
It didn’t unfold as Stanky had hoped. The game was delayed 1 hour and 18 minutes by rain in the seventh. The Cardinals led 8-7 after eight. The Phillies scored three in the ninth for a 10-8 lead. Again, the Cardinals rallied, tying the score in the bottom half of the inning on a two-out, two-run single by shortstop Solly Hemus. But Philadelphia scored in the 10th, the Cardinals stranded Wally Moon on third with one out in the bottom half of the inning (Red Schoendienst and Stan Musial couldn’t deliver), and Philadelphia won, 11-10. Boxscore
In consecutive games, the Cardinals had scored 19 total runs _ and lost each by a run in extra innings.
Because of the rain delay and extra inning in the opener, the second game of the doubleheader didn’t begin until after 6 p.m. The Cardinals and the umpires mistakenly thought a NL rule prohibited ballpark lights from being turned on for a Sunday game beginning after 6. (The rule had been erased before the 1954 season.)
So when the Phillies took an 8-1 lead, Stanky began making a series of deliberate pitching changes, apparently in an effort to prevent the game from becoming official. As each reliever entered, he appeared to work slowly and issue pitches outside the strike zone. Tensions built as the game inched into the top of the fifth and darkness approached.
Suddenly, Cardinals catcher Sal Yvars and Phillies first baseman Earl Torgeson, who had a long-running feud, began fighting one another on the field. Moore raced toward the pair and grabbed Yvars. Stanky bolted toward the combatants and tackled Moore. The benches emptied and fighting continued so fiercely that police had to break up the melee.
Soon thereafter, Stanky went to the mound to make another pitching change. It was then that umpire Babe Pinelli declared a forfeit in favor of the Phillies. Cardinals fans cheered the decision.
Giles quickly backed his umpires, saying “the tactics employed in the game were palpably designed to delay the game.”
Stanky disagreed, telling the Associated Press: “My pitchers have been wild and ineffective all season, not only during this game.”
The next day, Giles suspended Stanky for five days and fined him $100. Yvars was suspended for three days and Torgeson for two.
Humbled, Stanky apologized for his actions and read a statement. Some excerpts:
“I called this press conference because of the impression I received Sunday when I heard the St. Louis people applaud Pinelli’s decision, forfeiting the game to the Phillies. I know in my heart indirectly that I have embarrassed and hurt the St. Louis people, baseball nationally, my reputation as a baseball man … and Gussie Busch and the Cardinals’ front office.
“… My spirit and desire to win could never be broken. However, my human and public relations will be improved. This affair Sunday has opened my eyes.”
Said Cardinals general manager Dick Meyer: “It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to make the type of statement Eddie made unsolicited.”
Some were skeptical. “He said the same thing in 1952 right after he got the job, but the reform didn’t last long,” Moore said to the Associated Press.
Stanky survived the season, but was fired in May 1955 after the Cardinals got off to a 17-19 start. Moore returned to the Cardinals in 1956 as a coach for manager Fred Hutchinson.