Cardinals Clubhouse


Tommy McCarthy

Bill White

Elton "Icebox" Chamberlain

Nat Hudson

Jim Mutrie

Tim Keefe

Roger Connor

John Montgomery Ward

Mike Tiernan

Ed Crane

Mickey Welch

Harry Lyons

Buck Ewing

Four Pennants in a Row - 1888
The St. Louis Browns won the American Association championship four straight years from 1885 to 1888.
The Browns became the St. Louis Perfectos in 1899 and the Cardinals in 1900.

Pundits figured 1888 would be the year the Browns would be unseated after three years atop the Association.

  • The league had one change in membership. The Kansas City Cowboys replaced the New York Metropolitans and promptly finished eighth (last), 47.5 games off the pace.
  • St. Louis player-manager Charles Comiskey had to rebuild his pitching staff after his second and third best starters from '87, Bob Caruthers (29-9) and Dave Foutz (25-12), along with C Doc Bushong were sold to Brooklyn.
    Comiskey claimed that the cause of the sale was the fact that Browns' owner Chris Von der Ahe needed the cash to cover his real estate losses. But Sporting Life magazine reported: Very few people know that the sale of Welch, Foutz, and Caruthers was made more at Comiskey's request than at Von der Ahe's desire. Comiskey wants no man on the team who does not obey him.
  • In addition, the Browns owner traded SS Bill Gleason and OF Curt Welch to the Philadelphia Athletics for Fred Mann, 2B Chippy McGarr, C Jocko Milligan, and $3,000.

But the critics underestimated Comiskey's ability to get the most out of his ball club.

  • He got outstanding performances from OF Tip O'Neill, who led the league with a .335 average and the team with 98 RBI, and 2B Yank Robertson, who hit only .231 but drew a league-best 116 walks.
  • 3B Arlie Latham hit .265 and led the league with 109 stolen bases - a big factor in his leading the team with 119 runs.
  • Latham wasn't the only terror on the bases. OF Tommy McCarthy, in his first full season in the big leagues, pilfered 93 bags and scored 107 times.
  • Midway through the season, the Browns acquired an excellent SS, Bill White, from Louisville to replace Gleason.
    White was available for the same reason that Caruthers and Foutz were dealt. Bill asked his manager to let him sit out a game on a hot day. When the skipper refused the request, the SS intentionally made several errors.
  • The undisputed mound leader was 20-year-old Silver King, the rookie sensation of '87. King topped his 32-12 mark from that season by winning 45 (almost half of the club's 92 triumphs) and losing just 20 with a 1.63 ERA. He led the league in games (66), games started (64), complete games (64), innings pitched (584 2/3) and shutouts (6).
  • Nat Hudson, age 19, contributed 25 victories against only 10 losses.
    Hudson left the team in July to get married and ever returned that year. To replace his #2 starter, Comiskey purchased Elton "Icebox" Chamberlain, Louisville's top P, in August. One of three pitchers known to pitch both right- and lefthanded during the 19th century, Chamberlain won 11 and lost only 2 down the stretch.

The Browns needed all those top-notch performances to fend off Brooklyn, which improved tremendously with the addition of the three former Browns.

  • St. Louis moved between 2nd and 3rd place through the spring and into the summer.
  • Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms seized first place on Memorial Day and surged to a 6.5 game lead following a streak of 14 wins in 16 games.
    Known as the Grays in 1887, the Brooklyn team was christened the Bridegrooms because their '88 roster included seven newlyweds, including Caruthers, who defeated his former mates four times during the '88 season.
  • The competition between the St. Louis and Brooklyn teams, already ratcheted up by the offseason trade, intensified during a four-game series at Sportsman's Park July 6-10. A. J. Bushong, who caught for the Browns the previous three pennant-winning seasons, sent a letter to Comiskey's star LF Tip O'Neill suggesting that Tip should slack off to infuriate Von der Ahe so that the volatile owner would release him. That would clear the way for O'Neill to sign with Brooklyn. There is no evidence that O'Neill gave anything less than his best effort in the four games.
  • When the visitors swept, Comiskey publicly castigated umpire Robert Ferguson, a Brooklyn native. Of the last four games with Brooklyn, we would have won three had it not been for the work of Ferguson. The St. Louis-based Sporting News agreed with the Browns skipper. No sane man living west of the Alleghenies ... will believe that Ferguson gave St. Louis a fair deal. Von der Ahe couldn't resist jumping into the dispute. He alleged "collusion" between Ferguson and Brooklyn owner Charles Byrne.
  • Finally, a streak in which the Browns won 12 of 16 moved them into 1st place July 22 a half-game ahead of Brooklyn.
    The Sporting News had predicted the Browns' surge. In a June 2 editorial entitled "The Browns Will Get There," the publication warned the league: If the Browns were to be beaten this year, it was to be in the opening quarter of the race and before the new men had been broken in. They were not beaten in the opening quarter and the inference to be drawn from this fact is as conclusive as it is obvious - the Browns will win the ... pennant again.
  • Aided by a torrid 18-3 stretch in August, the Browns would not relinquish their hold on the top spot for the rest of season.
  • The St. Louisans won the pennant by 7.5 games over Brooklyn.
    It wouldn't have been a "normal" St. Louis season without Von der Ahe meddling in the club.
    • In July, the owner suspended Tip O'Neill after the OF played poorly in a series against Brooklyn. Chris suspected Tip's former teammate and friend Bushong of encouraging O'Neill to play badly so St. Louis would trade him to Brooklyn.
    • The owner also fined ace hurler Silver King $1,000 for pitching poorly against Brooklyn July 10.
The Browns faced the National League winning New York Giants in the championship series.
  • The team that reached six wins first would be declared the series winner.
  • The first three games would be played at the Polo Grounds. Then, after Game 4 in Brooklyn, another game at the Polo Grounds before the teams hit the road.
  • Game 6, scheduled for Philadelphia, is the last World Series game played at a neutral site.
  • Any additional games needed to determine the winner would take place in St. Louis.
Tuesday, October 16: Game One at Polo Grounds, New York
Rain early in the day reduced the crowd to about 5,000 in the Giants' brand new ballpark. Jim Mutrie's ace, Tim Keefe (35-12) outdueled Silver King . Both teams got only three hits, but the home club plated two runs to the visitors' one. The Giants scored in the bottom of the 2nd on a single by 1B Roger Connor, a safe bunt by SS John Ward, a wild pitch, and a fly ball. The Browns evened the score in the top of the 3rd when Latham drew a one-out walk, then stole 2nd and continued to 3rd on a wild throw. A base knock by O'Neill plated the run. King retired the first two batters in the bottom of the inning, one of a "brilliant catch" by McCarthy only to have a carbon copy of the top of the inning take place. RF Mike Tiernan got a base on ball. He set out for 2nd and drew a wild throw from C Jack Boyle that allowed him to come all the way home. Neither team dented the plate after that.

Polo Grounds 1888

Wednesday, October 17: Game Two at Polo Grounds, New York
The 5,500 who gathered on a cool, cheerless day saw "Icebox" Chamberlain shut out New York on five hits in an hour and 40 minutes. The Browns scored one in the 2nd and iced the game with two in the 9th off Mickey Welch (26-19). McCarthy started the first rally with a single, then ran all the way to 3rd on a muffed third strike on CF Harry Lyons. When Lyons faked a steal, C Buck Ewing took the bait and threw wildly to allow Mac to score. Then hits by O'Neill, Comiskey, and McCarthy plated the pair of runs in the final frame.

Thursday, October 18: Game Three at Polo Grounds, New York
Keefe and King returned to the box, and New York took a 2-1 lead in games with a 4-2 triumph in 2:05. Ward banged out two of the Giants' five hits as the home team moved out to a 4-0 lead after seven. St. Louis plated single runs in the 8th and 9th. By the end of the game, the ball could hardly be seen in the gathering darkness.

Friday, October 19: Game Four at Washington Park, Brooklyn
Playing the role of the visiting team on the American Association diamond, the Giants knocked Chamberlain around to the tune of eight hits and six runs to cop a 6-3 victory behind Ed Crane, who was only 5-6 for the season.
Von der Ahe blamed the defeat on the "muddy grounds."

Washington Park, Brooklyn
Saturday, October 20: Game Five at Polo Grounds, New York
Pitching again on one day's rest, the aces faced each other for a third time. The Browns suffered their most disheartening defeat yet as they blew a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th. Held to four hits by King, the Giants erupted with five more, including triples by Ewing and Connor. The rally was aided by a crucial error by White. When the fifth run of the inning crossed the plate, Umpire Gaffney called the game on account of darkness.

Monday, October 22: Game Six at Philadelphia Baseball Grounds
The Browns jumped in front again, leading 4-0 after three innings. But after plating just a single tally against Chamberlain's curves in the first five frames, the Giants, buoyed by 200 New Yorkers who took the 9 AM train to join the crowd of 5,000, erupted for 11 runs in the next three to win going away, 12-5.
Von der Ahe, always looking for an excuse for his team's failure, accused umpires John Kelly and John Gaffney of betting on the Giants. The Browns owner also singled out White for blame. The work of my shortstop could not have been worse. He could neither hold a ball nor bat. When the train carrying the teams and umpires to St. Louis for the rest of the series, the umpires threatened to quit. But as usual, Von der Ahe weaseled out, claiming he had been misquoted.

Philadelphia Quakers at their Baseball Grounds
Wednesday, October 24: Game Seven at Sportsman's Park, St. Louis
After a travel day, the Browns finally won another game to prevent the New Yorkers from clinching the series. They scored four in the bottom of the 8th for a 7-5 triumph before 5,000. Two Giants fell victim to injuries. First, Connor hurt his leg in a collision with King, the winning P.
Then C Bill Brown broke his thumb on a foul tip. His replacement, Pat Murphy, couldn't handle Crane's speedy delivery, and the big P was compelled to let up. That's when the Browns started to overcome the 3-0 deficit. Comiskey's triple sparked the winning rally.

Thursday, October 25: Game Eight at Sportsman's Park, St. Louis
The Giants belted Chamberlain again to win their sixth game and the championship. Leading only 5-3 in the 9th, New York exploded for six runs to win going away. The New York Times report contains this strange passage. Whenever the Giants made a hit or a run or a good stop or executed any of the sensational manuevers usually executed by good ball players, the solemnity of the scene was interrupted by the screeching of horns, the ding-donging of the cowbells, and the triumphant yells of a certain home element that likes to see the Browns go down. Keefe won his fourth game of the series against no losses.

Even though New York had clinched the series, Von der Ahe insisted that two more games be played in his home ballpark. With many Giants departing after the clinching victory, including Ward, Ewing, and Keefe, the Browns won two slugfests, 14-11 and 18-7.

True to form, sore loser Von der Ahe refused to pay his players after they lost the series and pocketed all the receipts from the series.

The embittered Browns' pennant streak finally came to an end in 1889 amid some strange goings-on. At one point, the players threatened to strike. They decided to travel to the next series where they lost three games in a row, all in the late innings. Despite inconsistent play - whatever the cause - St. Louis finished only two games behind pennant-winning Brooklyn.

References: Before They Were Cardinals: Major League Baseball
in Nineteenth-Century St. Louis
, Jon David Cash (2002)
The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns,
Peter Golenbock (2000)