In a bid to bolster their offense, the Cardinals acquired one of the top run producers of the 1950s. The move helped them become contenders again.
On Nov. 20, 1956, the Cardinals got outfielder Del Ennis from the Phillies for outfielder Rip Repulski and infielder Bobby Morgan.
At the time, the only active major leaguers with more career RBI than Ennis were Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Vernon and Enos Slaughter, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane said.
The deal was a steal for the Cardinals.
Placed in a batting order with Musial and Ken Boyer, Ennis hit .286 with 24 home runs and 105 RBI for the 1957 Cardinals.
St. Louis, which had finished in fourth place in the National League at 76-78 in 1956, placed second at 87-67 in 1957. It was the Cardinals’ first finish of second or higher since 1949 and their first winning season since 1953.
Ennis had a lot to do with that turnaround.
A Philadelphia native, Ennis had played 11 seasons (1946-56) with the Phillies, batting .286 and producing 1,812 hits and 1,124 RBI. He six times had seasons of 100 or more RBI with the Phillies. In 1950, when the Phillies won the pennant, Ennis led the NL in RBI with 126, eight ahead of the Pirates’ Ralph Kiner.
The Cardinals had interest in Ennis for several years. In 1949, Cardinals owner Fred Saigh offered Phillies owner Bob Carpenter $200,000 for Ennis, according to Ed Pollock of the Philadelphia Bulletin.
“We have the fellow you want, but we won’t take money for him,” Carpenter said to Saigh. “You can have Ennis and we’ll take Musial.”
That ended the discussion.
Still, despite his success, Ennis was “a favorite target of abuse for the Phillies’ bleacher fans,” who expected even more from the hometown player, The Sporting News reported.
Ennis told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I don’t think I’ve been helped either by the boos back there (in Philadelphia) because, though I’ve tried to accept them and shrug them off, I believe maybe I’ve tried too hard.”
Ennis added, “I’ll confess there were times I would have liked to have gone into the stands to get a particularly vicious heckler.”
During the 1956 World Series, Lane met with Phillies general manager Roy Hamey to discuss a trade. The Phillies wanted Repulski. They saw Repulski, 28, as a younger version of Ennis, 31.
Repulski’s best season with the Cardinals was 1954 when he produced 175 hits, 39 doubles, 19 home runs and 79 RBI. In 1955, he had 23 home runs and 73 RBI. In 1956, slowed by a hairline wrist fracture, Repulski was limited to 112 games, producing 11 home runs and 55 RBI.
To sweeten the deal, Lane included Morgan, whom the Phillies had dealt to the Cardinals in May 1956 for infielder Solly Hemus. Lane knew the Phillies liked Morgan as a utility player.
The 1956 Cardinals had ranked fourth in the NL in runs (678) and sixth in home runs (124).
Said Lane: “Our crying need has been for power … and we feel Ennis ought to help provide the punch … Ennis is a good whacker.”
Some were surprised the Cardinals were able to acquire Ennis.
“I don’t think Repulski is going to drive in as many runs as Ennis,” Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella said to The Sporting News. “That guy drives them in pretty good every year and he’s been doing it for a long time.”
Ennis started slowly for the 1957 Cardinals. He was batting .225 at the end of May. He heated up with the summer, hitting .317 in June, .308 in July and .357 in September. Overall, Ennis hit .299 with runners in scoring position.
His 105 RBI for the 1957 Cardinals ranked second in the NL, trailing only Hank Aaron of the Braves at 132. Musial had 102 RBI. Ennis and Musial became the first Cardinals teammates to produce 100 or more RBI in a season since Musial (126) and Ray Jablonski (104) in 1954.
Musial (29), Ennis (24) and Wally Moon (24) also gave the 1957 Cardinals three players with 20 or more home runs in a season for the first time since Musial (30), Steve Bilko (21) and Jablonski (21) in 1953.
The 1957 Cardinals ranked third in the NL in runs with 737 _ 59 more than they’d scored in 1956.
Repulski had 20 home runs and 68 RBI for the 1957 Phillies, who finished in fifth place at 77-77.
In 1958, Ennis’ production tailed off. He hit .261 with three home runs and 47 RBI for the Cardinals. After that season, he was traded to the Reds.