Cardinals Clubhouse
Season in Time - 1934

This is the story of the season that made "The Gashouse Gang" one of the most famous teams in baseball history
Reference: The Dizziest Season: The Gashouse Gang Chases the Pennant, G. H. Fleming (1984)

Part II: May and June

Part I: Spring Training and April
Jay Hanna Dean and his wife Pat headed to Florida early for the 1934 spring training.
  • The couple arrived in Bradenton December 22. "Dizzy" enjoyed hunting, fishing, and playing golf as he awaited the arrival of his St. Louis Cardinals teammates.
  • Dean had burst onto the National League scene in 1932 when he went 18-15 and led the league in innings pitched (286) and strikeouts (191).
  • He reached the 20-win plateau in '33 although he lost 18. He topped the NL in games (48), complete games (26), and whiffs (199).
  • After winning the World Series in 1931, the Cardinals had fallen on hard times.
    --1932: 72-82, 6th place, 18 games behind
    --1933: 82-71, 5th place, 9.5 games behind
  • Dizzy, the congenital braggart, predicted as early as January 18 that he and his younger brother Paul would lead the Cards to the pennant. "How are they going to stop us? Paul's going to be a sensation. He'll win 18 or 20 games. I'll count 20 to 25 for myself." That was quite a boast considering Paul had yet to throw a big league pitch.
  • Dean the Elder looked forward to firing the newly-designed baseballs, which were livelier than the ones used in the NL in previous years.
Frankie Frisch, age 36, had taken over as manager of the Redbirds from Gabby Street during the 1933 season, winning 36 against 26 losses the rest of the way.
  • Once the darling of Giants manager John McGraw, Frisch had come to St. Louis in a trade of outstanding second basemen with Rogers Hornsby heading to the Big Apple.
  • The switch-hitting Frisch continued to ably man 2B and hit .303 in '33 after having his streak of .300+ seasons snapped in '32.
  • The "Fordham Flash" made no bones about the fact that he would manage in the style of McGraw, for whom he played eight years. Some players referred to the Cards skipper as "John McGraw Jr."
  • Considered a hard taskmaster, Frisch nevertheless enjoyed the "unqualified loyalty" of his players. He was fair, considerate and insisted on sound, fundamental baseball.
  • "I'm the boss," said Frank. "I'll call all the shots. The boys will come to me for all instructions. No one will nod me off on a signal. I'm the yes-guy on this ball club."
    Cardinals vice president Branch Rickey (who today would be called General Manager) had hired Gene Karst as the first-ever public relations man in sports. Late in his life, Karst recalled a conversation with his boss during spring training. "On a number of occasions, he would think out loud in my presence. This time he said to me, 'Gene, you know what I should do? I've been thinking about this. Frisch has lost a lot of speed at 2B. And I don't think I can win the pennant with Frisch at 2B. Also, I don't like Virgil Davis as my C. ... What I really should do is fly to St. Louis and convince (owner) Sam Breadon to trade Frisch. I think I can make a deal with the Boston club to send them Frisch for Al Spohrer (the Braves C). I would have Burgess Whitehead play 2B. Rickey knew Frisch really was Breadon's pet. ... After thinking it over, Rickey dropped the idea. He said, 'I don't think I can do it.' His not doing it changed history."

Baseball writers agreed that the New York Giants, were the team to beat in the National League in '34.

  • Like the Cards, the Giants were led by a player-manager - 1B Bill Terry. Like Frisch, Memphis Bill had taken over the managerial duties during the middle of a season - 1932, when McGraw shocked the baseball world by announcing his retirement.
  • In his first full season at the helm, Terry took a team predicted to finish sixth and led them to a 91-61 record to win the pennant by five games over the Pirates. Then New York needed only five games to dispatch the Washington Senators in the World Series.
  • Terry took a trip to New York to talk with writers January 25. He proclaimed Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago as the teams to beat. When asked "Do you fear Brooklyn?", Big Bill gave an answer that would come back to haunt him. "Is Brooklyn still in the league?"

When the Cardinals reported to Bradenton March 5, one player was absent.

  • Paul Dean, who won 22 and lost 7 for AAA Columbus in '33, held out for $1,500 more than the Cardinals offered. He had the complete endorsement of his older brother. "Yes, sir, Paul has a job all lined up, and he's not going to pitch unless the Cardinals pay him. The club offered him a raise over what he got at Columbus, but it wasn't enough for a man of his skill. It was the same salary the club offered other young pitchers, and Paul ain't an ordinary pitcher. He's a great pitcher. He's even greater than I am, if that's possible."
  • Paul arrived in Bradenton and signed his contract March 11. Although salary terms were not disclosed, both sides declared they were satisfied.
  • The Dean brothers met the press and, as always, Dizzy did all the talking. "We're going to win between us 40 or 45 games this year." When asked, "How many will Paul win?" Jay replied, "I don't know, but I guess he'll win more than me. You know Paul's a great pitcher, got lots of stuff ..."
  • Spotting Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, Dizzy called out, "If we don't win 40 or 45 games between us, we'll give the money back to you ..."
  • Dizzy confidently predicted a pennant. "It will require about 95 games to win the pennant, and the Giants can't take that many. That's why we will win."
    One writer described the brothers Dean like this: "Both are tall, rangy. Diz is almost four inches over six feet. Paul is about an inch shorter. They weight about the same, between 190 and 200 pounds. Paul looks his age, 20 1/2 years. Dizzy, 23, seems older. But if you look only at their pitching motions, their windup, their delivery, they are identical twins."
    Paul contrasted his pitching approach with his brother's this way: "I was an overhand pitcher, but I'm side arm now, just like Dizzy. .... after he came back from his first year in the minors, 1930, ... he showed me how he pitched. So I took after him." Dizzy said his fast ball is not as fast as Paul's, but his curve is better. But Paul said this: "We both rely on our fast ball more than our curve. I didn't have much of a curve until last year, when it started to break well."

With the Great Depression still plaguing the economy, almost all ML teams cut salaries for many players.

  • Two Cardinals unhappy with what GM Branch Rickey offered were SS Leo Durocher and OF Ernie Orsatti.
  • Durocher was asked to take a cut of $3,500. "I realize that conditions require most of us to accept smaller salaries. But when you ask a man to take $5,000 instead of $8,500, that's too much."
  • Orsati: "I thought I was fair in my salary demands, but Mr. Rickey insisted that I accept a 25 percent cut. That's too much."
  • But only the most talented ballplayers had any leverage in negotiations in that pre-free-agency era. So all the Redbirds signed their contracts.

A poll of sports writers on the outcome of the NL race was relieved just before the start of the season.

  • 40 of the 97 reporters picked the Giants to win the pennant.
  • 34 chose the Cubs while only 13 selected the Cardinals.
St. Louis fans showed their excitement for the '34 season with the largest opening day crowd at Sportsman's Park in three years.
  • 7,500 turned out on a Wednesday afternoon to watch Dizzy Dean twirl a 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • A Pittsburgh scribe wrote, "Jerome the Dizzy hurled a fine game as he limited the Pirates to six hits. His fast ball was smacking like a pistol in Spud Davis' mitt in the closing rounds."
  • The Redbirds' opening day lineup read like this.

    Gene Moore CF
    Frankie Frisch 2B
    Pepper Martin 3B
    Jack Rothrock LF
    Joe Medwick RF
    Ripper Collins 1B
    Spud Davis C
    Leo Durocher SS
    Dizzy Dean P

  • The much heralded younger Dean toed the slab the next day but "the Bucs gave Paul Dean a terrific shellacking in his first big league appearance. Dizzy's younger brother, who pitched only six innings during spring training, lasted only two ... the Pirates rushing 4 runs across on 5 hits ..."
  • That was the first of five straight losses for the Redbirds and seven of the next eight. Included in the dreadful streak were a game in which the Pirates scored 14 and another in which Cubs crossed the plate 15 times.
  • After nine games, RF Rothrock was hitting only .214 and slugging 1B Collins just .200. SS Durocher stood at .179, but he was in the lineup for his fielding and leadership, not his bat. Frisch was still searching for a reliable CF.
    Lippy Leo had an excuse for his poor start at the plate. On April 18, he was granted a divorce from his wife on grounds of her infidelity. He was ordered to pay $25 a week for the support of their three-year-old daughter.
  • Dizzy lost his second and third starts and had an ERA of 6.60. Paul was even worse at 12.00. Not the start the elder Dean imagined when he predicted 45 wins between the two of them.
  • The National League standings looked like this on the morning of May 1.

      Team Record GB
    1 Chicago 10-2 --
    2 New York 8-3 1.5
    3 Boston 6-5 3.5
    4 Pittsburgh 5-5 4
    5 Brooklyn 5-6 4.5
    6 St. Louis 4-7 5.5
    7 Philadelphia 3-8 6.5
    7 Cincinnati 3-8 6.5

Continued below ...

Dizzy Dean

Frank Frisch

Virgil "Spud" Davis

Bill Terry

Sam Breadon

Branch Rickey

Paul Dean

Jack Rothrock

Leo Durocher

Part II: May and June

The 1934 Cardinals entered May in 6th place in the eight-team National League 5 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs.

  • However, the Redbirds were in the midst of a seven-game winning streak in a stretch where they would win 12 of 13 to vault within a half-game of the league-leading New York Giants May 11.
  • First, Frankie Frisch's boys completed a three-game sweep of Cincinnati at Sportsman's Park, with Dizzy Dean, whom the Reds had pounded in the first game, getting the save in the getaway game.

The Cards then hosted the four eastern teams of the league, as was the scheduling custom of the day.

  • The Phillies lost all three with Paul Dean winning the first game despite not looking sharp in the 8-7 slugfest and Dizzy setting down the visitors 7-1 in the finale for his first victory since Opening Day. The Redbird defense continued to sparkle - six double plays in the last two games and 12 in the last five.
    Saturday, May 5 was Ladies' day, a staple of Cardinals baseball since 1917. 2,000 members of the fair sex took advantage of the free admission.
  • The Cards were getting solid hitting from the usual sources - 3B Pepper Martin (.324 as of May 5), LF Joe Medwick (.365), and 1B Ripper Collins (.302). In addition, though, C Spud Davis was hitting .352.
  • The Boston Braves won the first game of their visit, a feisty affair dotted with verbal disputes that broke the home team's seven-game win streak. But the Redbirds won the next two.
    Before the middle game of the series, southpaw P Bill Walker suffered a broken bone in his left forearm when struck by a ball off Medwick's bat in batting practice.
Next came the defending World Series champion Giants to St. Louis for a four-game set.
  • Player-manager Bill Terry told a New York reporter that he expected the Cardinals to be a threat in August and September. So imagine his surprise when St. Louis took the first three games of the series.
  • Dizzy, who loved pitching against the Giants more than any other opponent, twirled a five-hit shutout to win 4-0. Terry almost conceded the game by choosing rookie Johnny Salveson to make his first major league start.
  • The next day, the visitors drove Bill Hallahan from the mound in the third inning to gain a 3-0 advantage. However, miscues in the next four innings helped the Redbirds to move ahead on their way to a 5-4 victory. SS Leo Durocher got singles in his first two ABs on a pop fly that neither C Gus Mancuso nor 3B Johnny Vergez went for. Later The Lip hit another fly that RF Homer Peel lost in the wind. Martin singled and when 2B Blondy Ryan walked to the mound to talk to Hal Schumacher, Martin raced to the uncovered sack. Finally, with Redbirds on the corners and the infield playing in with only one out, Ryan fielded a sharp grounder. Instead on stepping on 2nd and throwing to 1st for an inning-ending DP, Blondy threw home too late to nab Medwick.
  • The third game pitted Paul Dean against the incomparable Carl Hubbell before a Ladies' Day crowd of 6,500. The rookie matched the veteran as the game went into the 10th tied at two. According to a New York reporter, the fans helped their Redbirds plate the winning run. "The score was tied with one down and Durocher on 2nd. Paul Dean hit a fly over short right, and Ryan and Frank 'Lefty' O'Doul both tried for it. Each yelled he had it, but neither could hear the other because of the feminine fans making such a racket. Each slowed up, fearing a collision, and the ball feel free."
  • New York salvaged the finale 6-4 as Tex Carleton faltered after entering the 8th with a 4-1 lead.
  • The Birds split two games with Brooklyn to finish the homestand tied with the Giants for 3rd place just 1.5 games behind the Cubs.
    During batting practice before the last game of the homestand, Medwick and Carleton got into a fist fight. Carleton objected to Medwick taking a turn at the plate while the pitchers were hitting. To which Joe shouted, "I'm tired of taking your abuse!" "Well, let's go," Carleton shouted back. Fisticuffs ensued, each landing a punch before other players pulled them apart. Later the two combatants shook hands and agreed to let bygones be bygones.
    In his next start, Tex pitched his best game of the young season. "His curve never crackled through the strike zone more effectively" in the 2-1 win over the Braves in Boston.

The four western teams now made their first tour of the eastern cities with the Cards also visiting Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before returning home. The Frischmen won 11 and lost six.

  • The highlight of the trip was a duel between Dizzy and Hubbell before 40,000 fans Sunday, May 20 at the Polo Grounds. Neither ace pitched well. The Giants' "Meal Ticket" gave up seven runs in five innings while Diz coasted after the Cards took a 7-1 lead. The final score was 9-5. The teams split the next two games.
    The next day, Freddy Fitzsimmons was warming up in front of the grandstand to start for the Giants when a bat flew outo f the hands of one of his teammates during batting practice and plunked him in the kidneys. So Terry called on Joe Bowman who held the Cards to two runs while the Giants plated five. It was one of only five victories for Bowman that season.
  • The Cards moved across town to Brooklyn, where they split two games, the third being rained out.
    Before the series at Ebbets Field, Dodgers manager Casey Stengel opined, "Not a championship club. Frisch isn't what he once was, the shortstop can't hit, they have a good hitting catcher, and one swell outfielder."
    Harold Parrott of the Brooklyn Eagle wrote this: "Frisch is the strictest manager in either league. He makes the Redbirds check in by 11, insists they eat at regular hours, and he does a bit of snooping. Yet the Cardinals all swear by him."
As the Redbirds moved to Philly, Dizzy announced that "me and Paul" were on the verge of a two-man strike for higher wages.
The pair had engaged in extended negotiations with the club in March. Unhappy at the $3000 contract he was offered, Paul held out for a long time before finally signing. Dizzy now felt Paul made a mistake and, after winning four games in a row, should be paid more.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals lost $83,000 in 1933 in the depths of the Great Depression. Rickey, who had been tight-fisted with money even before the depression, had announced across-the-board salary cuts. So the chances of Paul gaining a raise were slim and none, especially during the season.
  • Dean the Elder took the mound against the Phillies, apparently content to postpone negotiations until the team returned to St. Louis. Showing no signs of being distracted, Dizzy allowed only two runs as the Cards won in ten, 5-2. He also clouted a homer into the LF bleachers against a 40mph gale.
    On the off day for travel from Philadelphia to Cincinnati, the Deans called off their strike. "That's just Dizzy popping off," explained owner Sam Breadon.
  • Paul got the W in the first game of a Memorial Day doubleheader in Cincinnati although he allowed six runs and needed Diz to pitch the final 1 2/3 innings for what today would be classified as a Save.
  • The younger Dean got the Save to complete the three-game sweep over the Reds, giving the Birds six in a row to take over first place by 1.5 games.
    J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote this: "Anyone who questions the esprit de corps of Frankie Frisch's team should have seen yesterday's game. They should have seen Paul Dean go to the hill to hurl the tenth frame, although he worked 7 1/3 hard innings the day before. And as Paul powered the ball through the strike zone, throwing with all his strength, his brother Dizzy was warming up."
    As it turned out, Stockton's assessment was premature.

When the Cardinals arrived in Pittsburgh, the Dean brothers announced they would pitch no more until their salary differences were settled.

  • Dizzy told his manager that he was unable to pitch the opener against the Pirates as scheduled because of a sore arm.
    Diz's decision was the aftermath of Branch Rickey's visit to Cincinnati, where the vice president held a conference with Frisch. Dizzy then went to Frank's hotel room, hoping to settle the controversy. Instead, Frisch told Dizzy that he would not ask Breadon to give Paul a salary boost. When Dean responded with a verbal tongue lashing, the manager told his star hurler, "If you don't want to pitch, go home."
    "If Paul had my nerve," said Diz, "we'd both be back in St. Louis. I don't need a second invitation to leave when I'm not appreciated."
    Paul joined the conversation to say that he too had a sore arm that would knock him out of action for some time to come.
    "Paul must get $1,000 cash, and there will be no compromising," explained Diz to Ray Gillespie of the St. Louis Star-Times. "When Paul and I went on strike in New York, Frisch promised he'd go to the office in St. Louis and plead our case. Now Frank has turned his back on us. Paul and I aren't running out on the other players - we'd do everything possible to help win the pennant and an extra $5,000 apiece, but we feel that we're getting the run-around by the club, and if the management doesn't care about the extra money, why should we?"
  • The Cards lost the opener to the Pirates 4-3.
    Frisch explained afterward that he had conferred with Breadon via telephone and been assured that the owner would support him in handling the situation. When Dizzy was informed of Breadon's attitude, he abandoned plans to quit the club.
  • "My arm's getting better fast," Diz announced the night before a Saturday doubleheader. He then got the victory 13-4 in the opener. However, the Cards lost the second game and again the next day.
  • Amid the turmoil, the Redbirds, who had been in 1st place by 1.5 games after the sweep in Cincy, lost three of four and headed home June 3 in a three-way tie for 1st with the Giants and Cubs.
    A big reason for the Cards' success on the road trip was Joe Medwick, who smacked 26 hits in 53 ABs, including a HR, four triples and four doubles.

Playing at home through June 29 with the Dean controversy settled, the Cardinals had a chance to take over 1st place by themselves.

  • Instead they won 12 and lost 9 to fall to 3rd, two games behind the Giants in the tight three-team race.
  • The Deans won four games each - 2/3 of the team's total - and lost only two. That ran their combined record to 22-4. The rest of the staff was 16-21.
    These facts supported what reporters around the league were writing. For example, Joe Williams in the New Yor World-Telegram: "That the Deans were not permitted to walk out is proof enough that the management recognized their value and realized it all the time. Without the Deans, St. Louis would be lucky to finish in the first division."
  • Hallahan went into a tailspin, going 0-4 on the homestand and not finishing any of his starts.
    "I don't know what's wrong with me," said Wild Bill, the bell cow of the 1931 World Series champion Cardinals' staff. "I've lost a few games because I didn't get the breaks, but on the whole I've been a mess. Maybe I'm trying too hard."
    Frisch on his slumping southpaw: "I've tried everything. I've rested him. I've worked him oftener than his regular schedule. I've advised him to use more fast balls, and then I've asked him to specialize on the curve. When a great pitcher gets in a rut he has to pitch himself out of it. A manager can't help him."
National League Standings
as of June 27
  Team Record GB
1 New York 41-24 --
2 Chicago 40-26 1.5
3 St. Louis 38-25 2
4 Pittsburgh 34-28 5.5
5 Boston 34-29 6
6 Brooklyn 26-39 15
7 Philadelphia 23-41 17.5
8 Cincinnati 19-43 20.5

To be continued ...

Pepper Martin

Joe Medwick

Ripper Collins

Spud Davis

Bill Walker

Bill Terry

Bill Hallahan

Carl Hubbell

Tex Carleton

Casey Stengel

Paul and Dizzy Dean

Branch Rickey