Combining an effective hitting stroke with a strikeout pitch that dazzled a lineup stacked with fellow future Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley and Chick Hafey, Dazzy Vance gave one of the best individual performances all-time against the Cardinals.
Ninety years later, on May 13, 2015, Corey Kluber, 29, struck out 18 in eight innings, lifting the Indians to a 2-0 victory over the Cardinals at Cleveland. Boxscore
Kluber’s strikeouts are the most by one pitcher against the Cardinals, topping the mark held by Vance.
A right-hander, Vance didn’t get his first big-league win until he was 31 in 1922.
He was named winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1924 when he was 28-6 for Brooklyn and led the league in wins, ERA (2.16), strikeouts (262) and complete games (30).
Mixing a powerful fastball with a sweeping curve, Vance led the NL in strikeouts with Brooklyn for seven consecutive years (1922-28). His 17 against St. Louis represented his single-game high in 16 big-league seasons.
Vance struck out every player in the Cardinals lineup that day except shortstop Specs Toporcer, who got his nickname because he wore eyeglasses.
Hornsby and Bottomley each struck out three times, tying career highs. Hafey struck out once.
Unlike Kluber, who held the 2015 Cardinals to one hit, Vance wasn’t untouchable against the 1925 Cardinals. He yielded nine hits and walked six. Vance used his bat as well as his strikeout pitches to put himself in position to win.
In the first inning, Vance walked the first two batters, Max Flack and Ralph Shinners, then struck out Hornsby and Bottomley and got Hafey to fly out to right.
Vance quickly found a groove. He struck out the last two batters of the second and the first two batters of the third.
The Cardinals’ starter, left-hander Duster Mails, was effective early, too, holding Brooklyn scoreless in the first three innings.
In the fourth, Les Bell reached Vance for a two-run single, breaking the scoreless tie.
Vance responded in the fifth, hitting a two-run home run.
Vance hit .143 in 1925 and .150 for his big-league career. Most of his hits came against off-speed pitches. Known for his wit, Vance explained his approach to hitting in the 1976 book “The Gashouse Gang” by Robert Hood:
“I was a slow-ball hitter,” Vance said. “I found that out years ago when I was a boy on a farm. We were plagued with rats, so we got a ferret and shoved him down a hole. I stood at another hole with a baseball bat. When a rat ran out, I swung and missed. Another came and I swung and missed. I must have missed half a dozen.
“Then out came this fellow nice and slow and I clouted him good. Unfortunately, it was the ferret. From then on, I knew I was a slow-ball hitter.”
In the eighth, with Hornsby on first, one out and the score still tied at 2-2, Vance struck out Bottomley and Hafey. Vance singled leading off the bottom half of the inning and Brooklyn got the go-ahead run on Milt Stock’s RBI-double.
The Cardinals tied the score at 3-3 in the ninth when Toporcer tripled and Bell singled for his third RBI of the game.
After nine innings, Vance had struck out 15, tying his career high. Rube Waddell of the 1908 Browns had established the big-league record for strikeouts in nine innings with 16 against the Athletics.
In the 10th, Vance struck out Hornsby and Bottomley, giving him his total of 17.
After catcher Hank DeBerry led off the bottom of the 10th with a double and was lifted for pinch-runner Johnny Mitchell, Vance followed with a single, scoring Mitchell with the run that gave Vance the win and Brooklyn a 4-3 victory. Boxscore
Vance finished the 1925 season with a 22-9 record and 221 strikeouts in 265.1 innings.
Vance pitched for the Cardinals in 1933 and ’34, giving St. Louis a tandem of Dazzy and Dizzy (Dean). Vance appeared in his lone World Series in 1934 for St. Louis against the Tigers. His career record is 197-140 (190 wins for Brooklyn and seven for St. Louis) with 2,045 strikeouts.
He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
Previously: Stan Musial: Bob Feller was best pitcher