Less than two weeks after they finished the 1936 season tied for second place in the National League, the Cardinals and Cubs determined each had what the other needed in order to win a pennant.
The Cardinals, whose team ERA of 4.47 ranked seventh in the eight-team NL in 1936, needed a reliable starting pitcher to pair with their ace, Dizzy Dean.
The Cubs, whose 76 home runs ranked a mundane fifth in the league, wanted a slugger.
Eighty years ago, on Oct. 8, 1936, the Cubs traded a premier pitcher, Lon Warneke, to the Cardinals for power-hitting first baseman Rip Collins and pitcher Roy Parmelee.
The blockbuster deal between the rivals rocked the baseball world.
The Cardinals and Cubs each had finished the 1936 season at 87-67, five games behind the champion Giants.
Cubs owner Phil Wrigley directed manager Charlie Grimm to make any trade necessary to improve the club’s chances of winning the 1937 pennant.
Grimm wanted more production from his first baseman. Phil Cavarretta hit nine home runs as the everyday first baseman for the 1936 Cubs. Grimm wanted to move Cavarretta to center field in 1937.
Collins, who had been the Cardinals’ everyday first baseman from 1932-35, had hit 35 home runs _ a franchise record for a switch hitter _ in 1934. He became expendable when Johnny Mize took over the position for St. Louis in 1936.
Collins, 32, batted .307 with 852 hits in 777 games for the Cardinals from 1931-36. His best season was 1934 when he led the NL in slugging percentage (.615), extra-base hits (87) and total bases (369). He batted .333 with 200 hits for the NL champions that season. In the 1934 World Series versus the Tigers, Collins batted .367 (11-for-30) with four runs scored.
According to the Associated Press, Grimm told Wrigley “he offered the Cardinals … every other hurler on the staff. The Cardinals, however, insisted on Warneke. Grimm, determined to get Collins, yielded.”
Said Collins to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “It’s a great break for me … The front office at St. Louis might have traded me to a second-division club, but they didn’t.”
Warneke, 27, a right-hander, earned 100 wins for the Cubs from 1931-36. At the time of the trade, The Sporting News described him as “one of the few great pitchers in the league.”
Warneke compiled 20 wins or more for the Cubs three times between 1932-35. He was 16-13 with a 3.45 ERA in 1936.
“With Dizzy Dean and Warneke, the Cardinals assured themselves of a nucleus for what may be the best pitching staff in the major leagues,” the Associated Press wrote.
Said Dean to United Press: “Warneke is a good pitcher, a great player.”
Grimm said he “hated like hell to part with Warneke” and praised him as a “great pitcher and a loyal, faithful player.”
The Sporting News said the Cubs had “given up a lot in Warneke,” adding that “with the Cardinals, he should be even better. He’ll be pitching for a team able to give him some runs, a pleasure he seldom experienced as a Cub.”
The third player in the deal, Parmelee, 29, had posted an 11-11 record and 4.56 ERA in his lone season with the Cardinals after being acquired the year before from the Giants.
Coming up short
Even though Warneke and Collins delivered, the trade didn’t bring the results in the standings either team wanted.
The 1937 Giants repeated as NL champions at 95-57. The Cubs placed second at 93-61 and the Cardinals were fourth at 81-73.
Warneke had a stellar season, leading the 1937 Cardinals in wins with an 18-11 record. He would play six seasons (1937-42) with the Cardinals, posting an 83-49 record (a .629 winning percentage).
Collins batted .274 with 16 home runs and 71 RBI for the 1937 Cubs. In two seasons with Chicago, Collins totaled 29 home runs and 132 RBI.
Parmelee was 7-8 with a 5.13 ERA in 1937, his lone season with the Cubs.