Cardinals Clubhouse
Profile: Rogers Hornsby - VI
Rogers Hornsby began his first spring training as a manager with a confident declaration to his players.
  • We are going to win the pennant, and anyone who doesn't believe it can go right home now.
  • His managerial style was decidedly different from that of his predecessor, Branch Rickey, who now functioned only as team president (a position more akin to today's General Manager).
    Stung by his dismissal as manager, Rickey threw himself into the development of his farm system that had produced 15 of the 25 players on the Cardinals' 1926 roster.
  • Hornsby's training regimen was less intense than Rickey's - just one four-hour practice each day and no morning and evening chalk talks.
  • Rogers took preseason seriously because they could get the team into the winning habit. As a result, the Redbirds finished the preseason 22-1.
The changes in the St. Louis lineup from 1925 all improved the club.
  • Tommy Thevenow took over SS from Specs Toporcer. While not quite the hitter that Specs was, Thevenow greatly improved the infield defense. His range caused him to have 155 more assists than anyother SS in the NL.
  • Taylor Douthit for Heinie Mueller in CF represented an upgrade both offensively and defensively as did Billy Southworth's arrival from the Giants at the June 15 trading deadline.
  • On the mound, Flint Rhem jumped from 8-13/4.92 in '25 to 20-7/3.21. Veterans Jesse Haines and Bill Sherdel remained solid in the starting rotation.
  • Still, the pitching staff didn't reach the pennant contention level until the acquisition in late June of 39-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander on waivers from the Chicago Cubs. "Old Pete" compiled a 2.91 ERA in winning nine games and would make a major contribution in the postseason.
    Rickey had nothing to do with Alexander coming to St. Louis. Branch was out of town visiting farm clubs when Pete's name appeared on the waiver wire. Hornsby, who had Sam Breadon's ear more than Rickey, persuaded the frugal owner to take a chance on Alexander at the $4,000 waiver price.

The Cards took a while to hit their stride.

  • They spent all but one day of May in the second division of the eight-team league.
  • But they began June with two six-game winning streaks separated by a single loss and ended the month in second place behind Cincinnati.
  • The Birds spent most of July in third place but never more than 4 games off the pace.
  • An 18-3 stretch in August propelled Hornsby's club into first place as the race boiled down to the Reds, Pirates, and Cards, with as little as one game separating the teams for days at a time.
  • A six-game winning streak August 30-September 2, including two doubleheader sweeps, put the Redbirds in first place, where they would remain the rest of the campaign except for a one day fall to second by only a half game.
  • When the Cardinals seized first place on Labor Day, it marked the latest in a 20th-century season they had led the league.
  • The amazing feature of their September success was that they played all but the first game on the road that month.
  • While his club was playing well, Hornsby worried about his mother, who was in critical condition in Texas. He also seethed over Rickey's interference with his team. Branch dropped by the clubhouse or leaned over the railing near the Cardinals' dugout to offer unsolicited advice to the players. He also hired a federal prohibition agent to follow Alexander and other tipplers on road trips. Rogers told Breadon that he wouldn't manage or play for the Cardinals in 1927 if Rickey were still around.
  • When the Cardinals clinched the pennant on the last Friday of the season in New York, pandemonium broke out in the Mound City where a large crowd of people gathered downtown to listen to an account of the game on loudspeakers. Fans danced in the streets and threw confetti from offices for nine hours. Read a detailed account of the exciting 1926 pennant race ...
    One homemade banner proclaimed Hornsby for President - All Other Cardinals Cabinet Members.
    Rickey celebrated his first pennant quietly at home. He felt happiness for the loyal fans of St. Louis and even shrugged off a ghostwritten story in the Post-Dispatch in which Hornsby said the Cardinals won because they played aggressive baseball while having the fewest signs in the league - a swipe at Branch's complicated system as manager.

Plagued by injuries and the burden of managing, Hornsby "slumped" to .317 after six straight seasons of .370 or higher. But other hitters took up the slack.

  • C Bob O'Farrell, an excellent backstop and handler of pitchers, improved from .278 in '25 to .293 and from 32 RBI to 68.
  • While his batting average dropped 68 points to .299, 1B Jim Bottomley led the league in doubles (40) and RBI (120).
  • 3B Les Bell improved from .285 to .325 and from 88 RBI to 100.
  • All three outfielders hit over .300 - Southworth (.317), Ray Blades (.305), and Douthit (.308).
  • The result was a league-leading offense of 5.2 runs per game to go with a third-place finish in runs allowed per game (4.35).

The Cardinals' opponent in the World Series was the New York Yankees, who were returning to the Fall Classic after a two-year drought.

Tommy Thevenow

Billy Southworth

Flint Rhem

Jesse Haines

Jim Bottomley

Ray Blades

Taylor Douthit

Bill Sherdel

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Bob O'Farrell

To be continued ...

References: Rogers Hornsby: A Biography, Charles C. Alexander (1995)
Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman, Lee Lowenfish (2007)

Cardinals Quiz
The Cardinals had only one 20-game winner during the 1950s. Who was he?
  1. Bob Gibson
  2. Harvey Haddix
  3. Larry Jackson
  4. Brooks Lawrence
  5. Vinegar Bend Mizell




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