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