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Trevor Rosenthal is the youngest Cardinals reliever to earn 40 saves in the regular season. If he learns to reduce the number of walks he allows, Rosenthal should challenge Lee Smith for most 40-save seasons by a Cardinals pitcher.

trevor_rosenthalRosenthal had 45 saves for the 2014 Cardinals. He is the only pitcher younger than 30 to achieve 40 saves in a season for St. Louis. Rosenthal turned 24 on May 29, 2014.

The other four Cardinals pitchers with 40 saves in a season _ Bruce Sutter, Jason Isringhausen, Jason Motte and Smith _ all were at least 30 when they achieved the feat:

_ Sutter turned 31 in 1984 when he had 45 saves for St. Louis.

_ Smith turned 34 in 1991 when he had 47 saves for St. Louis. He also had 43 saves for the Cardinals in 1992 and again in 1993. He is the only Cardinals pitcher to get 40 saves in a season more than once.

_ Isringhausen turned 32 in 2004 when he matched Smith’s franchise mark with 47 saves for St. Louis.

_ Motte turned 30 in 2012 when he had 42 saves for St. Louis.

Like Rosenthal, all are right-handers.

Get in control

Of the five pitchers to get 40 saves in a season for the Cardinals, Rosenthal had the most strikeouts (87) even though he pitched the second-fewest innings (70.1).

Rosenthal also issued the most walks (42) of any Cardinals pitcher with 40 saves in a season. None of the others had more than 26 walks in a season in which he earned 40 saves.

In 2014, Rosenthal allowed 99 batters to reach base by hits (57) or walks (42).

After averaging 2.4 walks per nine innings for the Cardinals in 2013, Rosenthal averaged 5.4 walks per nine innings in 2014.

He walked 22 right-handed batters and 20 left-handed batters.

Command is key

If Rosenthal throws a first-pitch strike, he’s far less likely to walk a batter.

In 2014, Rosenthal issued 33 walks after falling behind 1-and-0 in the count. He walked only nine after throwing a strike on the first pitch, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Only two batters in 2014 worked a walk off Rosenthal after falling behind 0-and-2 in the count.

Rosenthal has 48 career saves with the Cardinals. With 12 more, Rosenthal will surpass Al Hrabosky (59) for 10th place on the Cardinals all-time saves list.

If Rosenthal gets 40 saves in 2015, he’ll move ahead of Ryan Franklin (84) for the fifth spot among Cardinals saves leaders.

The top four in Cardinals career saves are: Isringhausen (217), Smith (160), Todd Worrell (129) and Sutter (127).

Previously: Cardinals century club: Mark Littell, Trevor Rosenthal

Previously: Al Hrabosky and incredible 1974 Cardinals home finale

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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

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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

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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

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Joe Cunningham usually hit for average, not for power. So the three home runs he produced in his first two big-league games with the Cardinals were surprising.

joe_cunninghamTwo rookies with the 2014 Cubs, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, joined Cunningham as the only players since 1900 to hit three home runs in their first three major-league games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Baez hit a home run in his first major-league game on Aug. 5, 2014, at Colorado and followed that with two homers in his third game on Aug. 7 at Colorado.

Soler homered in his first big-league game on Aug. 27, 2014, at Cincinnati and hit two more in his third game on Aug. 29 at St. Louis.

Cunningham did them one better. He’s the only player since 1900 to hit three home runs in his first two big-league games.

Mid-season replacement

A left-handed batter and first baseman, Cunningham, 22, began the 1954 season at Class AAA Rochester. On June 28, 1954, the Cardinals came to Rochester to play an exhibition game versus the Red Wings. Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky said the prospect he was most interested in seeing was Cunningham.

Cunningham produced two singles and walked twice in four plate appearances.

Impressed, the Cardinals decided to promote Cunningham. On June 29, before the Red Wings played a doubleheader against Havana at Rochester, Cunningham was told he would be joining the Cardinals in Cincinnati the next day.

Cunningham was replacing rookie first baseman Tom Alston. In 66 games, Alston, the Cardinals’ first black player, hit .246 with four homers and 34 RBI. But he slumped in June (.181 batting average for the month) and produced only seven RBI in his last 42 games.

Whirlwind journey

Cunningham planned to catch an overnight train from Rochester to Cincinnati after playing both games of the doubleheader against Havana. He went hitless  _ “I was so happy and surprised (about the promotion) I hardly could see up there at the plate,” Cunningham said to The Sporting News. _ but because of the length of the games, he missed the train.

“I just had to get there,” Cunningham said.

A member of the Rochester publicity staff agreed to drive Cunningham from Rochester to the Buffalo airport the morning of June 30. Cunningham took a flight from Buffalo to Cincinnati, arrived in the afternoon, signed a big-league contract and went to the ballpark.

Stanky put Cunningham in the starting lineup, batting him fifth against the Reds that night.

St. Louis slugger

Cunningham hit into force outs in his first two at-bats. In the fifth, facing Art Fowler, a 32-year-old rookie right-hander, Cunningham hit a three-run home run for his first big-league hit. He followed that with a two-run single off left-hander Harry Perkowski in the seventh. Cunningham’s five-RBI performance carried the Cardinals to an 11-3 victory. Boxscore

Immediately afterward, the Cardinals traveled to Milwaukee for a game the next day, July 1, against the Braves and their ace, left-hander Warren Spahn. Stanky put Cunningham in the lineup, batting sixth.

Cunningham hit two home runs off Spahn. The first was a 390-foot solo shot to right in the second inning. In the fifth, he connected for a three-run homer that landed just inside the right-field foul pole. The Cardinals won, 9-2. Boxscore

Dream come true

“This is just like a dream,” Cunningham said to the Associated Press. “I always wanted to be a big leaguer, but I had no idea it would come so soon.”

He had just one problem. “I left the minors in such a hurry I only brought along one pair of trousers,” Cunningham said. “I guess I’m still in a sort of shock. I had all my stuff at the cleaners and the only pants I’ve got are the ones I’ve been wearing.”

The next day, July 2, playing in his third game in his third city in three days, Cunningham was 1-for-3 with a single and a walk against the Cubs at Chicago. Boxscore

Cunningham finished the 1954 season with a .284 batting average, 11 home runs and 50 RBI in 85 games for the Cardinals. In 12 big-league seasons, seven with the Cardinals, Cunningham hit .291 with 64 homers. His single-season high in home runs was 12 for the 1958 Cardinals.

Previously: The story of how Tom Alston integrated Cardinals

Previously: Jim Brosnan: Combination Cardinals chronicler, closer

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An overachiever with a team-oriented attitude, Joe McEwing was Tony La Russa’s kind of Cardinals player.

joe_mcewingMcEwing also might be La Russa’s kind of manager.

Speculation is McEwing, the former Cardinals second baseman, might be approached by La Russa to become manager of the Diamondbacks.

McEwing has been a coach with the White Sox since 2012. Before that, he was a manager for three seasons in the White Sox minor-league system. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a close friend of La Russa, whose first big-league managing job was with the White Sox.

La Russa, chief baseball officer for the Diamondbacks, hasn’t said whether he’ll retain Kirk Gibson as manager. That’s fueled speculation about who else La Russa might consider.

Sub to starter

McEwing played for the Cardinals in 1998 and 1999 when La Russa was their manager. Called up from the minors in September 1998, McEwing, 25, made his big-league debut with the Cardinals and played in 10 games that month, batting .200 (4-for-20).

Ticketed for a utility role with the 1999 Cardinals, McEwing earned the second base job over Placido Polanco.

McEwing endeared himself to La Russa and Cardinals fans by putting together a 25-game hitting streak from June 8-July 4. He broke the Cardinals rookie record held by Johnny Mize (22-game streak in 1936). McEwing’s streak was the longest by a Cardinals player since Lou Brock (26 consecutive games) in 1971.

“I appreciate Cardinal history,” McEwing said to columnist Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch during the streak. “I’m a big fan of the game and to be mentioned in the same sentence with Johnny Mize, Lou Brock, Hall of Famers. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Asked whether he thought of the streak when he awoke each morning, McEwing replied to Miklasz, “When I get up, I worry about getting my coffee and doughnuts.”

Super streak

The streak began with a pair of singles against Royals starter Chris Fussell on June 8 at Kansas City. Boxscore

It reached 25 games in a row on July 4 with a home run off Diamondbacks starter Andy Benes, a former Cardinal. Boxscore

“He plays each game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series,” La Russa said of McEwing during the streak. “He is never different.”

Willie McGee, who had a 22-game streak for the 1990 Cardinals, said McEwing “deserves it. He works hard … He’s an outstanding person and an outstanding player.”

Beaten by the best

McEwing’s streak was snapped by Diamondbacks left-hander Randy Johnson on July 5. McEwing was 0-for-4 that day against Johnson, who won the National League ERA title and the second of his five Cy Young awards in 1999. In his last at-bat, McEwing lined out to left in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs. Boxscore

“I told him he just got beat by a Hall of Famer,” La Russa said.

Added McEwing: “It was a good run and I enjoyed it.”

McEwing hit .318 during the streak, with 13 runs scored.

Fifteen years later, his hitting streak remains the longest by a Cardinals rookie.

McEwing would finish the 1999 season with a .275 batting average and 141 hits, including 28 doubles, in 152 games. He paced the Cardinals with 16 infield hits and grounded into only three double plays in 513 at-bats. McEwing made 85 starts at second base, 18 in center field, 16 in left and eight in right.

After the season, the Cardinals acquired second baseman Fernando Vina from the Brewers. During spring training in March 2000, the Cardinals traded McEwing to the Mets for reliever Jesse Orosco. McEwing helped the Mets win their first pennant in 14 years, eliminating the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

In eight big-league season with the Cardinals, Mets, Royals and Astros, McEwing batted .251 with 443 hits. That’s better than La Russa, who batted .199 with 35 hits in six seasons with the Athletics, Braves and Cubs before going on to a Hall of Fame managerial career.

Previously: How Tony La Russa can learn from Whitey Herzog mistakes

Previously: Tony La Russa successor follows Cardinals pattern

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