Cardinals Clubhouse
Profile: Rogers Hornsby - V
In the offseason before the 1924 campaign, the Cardinals made a serious effort to grant Rogers Hornsby's wish to be traded.
  • Prolonged negotiations with the New York Giants failed to produce a deal because manager John McGraw refused to part with his captain and favorite player, 2B Frankie Frisch. McGraw told the press, So far as I am concerned, the proposed deal for Hornsby is off for all time ... I wouldn't trade Frisch for Hornsby or any player in baseball.
  • Soon afterward, manager Branch Rickey summoned reporters in St. Louis to announce that he and Hornsby had reached "a settlement or whatever you call it" to end their feud. Hornsby added, There is no longer any misunderstanding between us. I want to have the best year in baseball I have ever had and I want the Cardinal club to have the best year it has ever had.
Rogers improved his own performance considerably from 1923.
  • Remarried right before the season began, he hit .424, his high average to that point in his career.
  • That led the league as did his 227 H, 121 R, 43 2B, 373 TB, and 89 BB. He also finished 2nd in the league in HRs with 25.
    The high point in Rogers' season was an incredible series against the Giants at Sportsman's Park in August when the Cardinal 2B punished the team that wouldn't trade for him by smacking 13 hits in 14 ABs. NL President John Heydler, who watched the performance, proclaimed Hornsby "the greatest batsman of all time."
  • St. Louis sportswriter John B. Sheridan described Hornsby's unique approach to hitting like this: Rogers used a thin-handled bat with a big knob, held it at the end and stood as far back and way from the plate as he could and still remain inside the batter's box. He used his bat like a golf driver, its weight and thus its "driving power" concentrated in the end, and attacked the ball not as most men did - by stepping toward the pitcher - but by stepping toward the plate at right angles to the pitcher. He was an outstanding curveball hitter who rarely pulled a ball down the left field line but could hit with power to all fields.
  • Hornsby himself explained his hitting philosophy like this. A batter should never at any time change his style of batting to meet just one certain condition. He should perfect his style, and stick to it in all details.
  • As a 2B, Rogers didn't have much range but everyone agreed that he was one of the best at pivoting to turn the double play - in part because, with a runner on 1B, he liked to "cheat" in from the outfield grass and toward 2B.

Despite his great performance, the Cardinals did not improve.

  • They fell from fifth place in '23 to sixth place with a 65-89 record.
  • When the team quickly fell out of contention, Rickey and owner Sam Breadon decided to go with youth.
    The end of the season brought controversy over the MVP balloting. A committee consisting of one reporter from each of the eight NL cities ranked 10 players from 10 points to 1. The player with the most points was P Dazzy Vance, who went 28-6 to help the Brooklyn Robins finish 2nd. The Cardinals had no argument with the result until they found out that the Cincinnati voter didn't include Hornsby in his Top Ten. When confronted, Jack Ryder explained, This contest supposedly is for a player who is most valuable to his team. I will concede Hornsby is a most valuable player to himself, but not to his team. On that basis I couldn't give him a solitary vote.

1924 marked the last year of Rogers' three-year contract worth $18,500 per year.

  • He wanted another three-year deal for a lot more money.
  • Keeping Rickey out of the loop, Breadon and Hornsby quickly settled on $100,000 for 1925-27. That figure compared favorably the contract for any other player in baseball except for the immortal Babe Ruth, who was in the middle of a five-year deal paying him $52,000 annually.

Rickey named Hornsby team captain as the 1925 spring training began.

  • When the Cardinals started 13-25, Breadon pulled the plug on Branch as manager and elevated Hornsby to the position.
    Breadon made the decision when he checked on pregame sales for a Sunday home game and learned that almost no tickets had been sold. He then took the train to Pittsburgh where the Cards were playing and told Rickey he was fired. Branch urged the owner to promote his coach, Burt Shotton, but Fred was sold on Rogers, who accepted the job with no increase in salary provided Sam persuaded Rickey to sell his stock to the 2B.
  • In contrast to Rickey, who was criticized for "overmanaging," Hornsby cut down the number of meetings to just one at the beginning of each series to go over the scouting report on the opponent.
  • He also urged his players to follow the same rules he personally followed. Concerned about harming his eyes, he never went to the movies or even read a book. He also went to bed early each night.
  • He instituted $50 fines for each P when the batter hit an 0-2 pitch and for any batter who took a 3rd strike with a runner on 2nd or 3rd.
  • The club responded to his leadership by winning 64 and losing 51 the rest of the way to move up to 4th with a 77-75 mark.
  • The burden of managing had little effect on Hornsby's batting prowess. He surpassed the .400 mark for the third time in four years, finishing at .403 to lead the league for the sixth straight season. He also led the league in HR (39), RBI (143), and Total Bases (381).

The stage was set for the greatest season in the Cardinals' 27-year history.

To be continued ...

Reference: Rogers Hornsby: A Biography, Charles C. Alexander (1995)

Frankie Frisch

John McGraw

Branch Rickey

Sam Breadon

Dazzy Vance
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