Cardinals Clubhouse
Cardinals Post-Season Play - 1946: National League Playoff
The 1946 National League pennant competition was a two-horse race from the beginning. After the first week, the St. Louis Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers, General Manager Branch Rickey's old team and his new team, occupied the top two positions for the rest of the season.

Both teams got many star players back from the service following the end of World War II in August 1945.

  • The Cardinals lost their manager but gained 22 players who had spent all or most of the 1945 season in the service.
  • Eddie Dyer became the manager for 1946, replacing Billy Southworth, who left to manage the Boston Braves.
  • Dyer made some changes. Stan Musial moved to first base, replacing Ray San­ders. Red Schoendienst took over second base from Emil Verban. Rookie Joe Garagiola would get playing time behind the plate.
  • The pitching staff would lead the league in earned run average (3.5rpg) with Leo Durocher's Dodgers close behind (3.6).
  • The Cards and Dodgers would also lead on offense, with the Redbirds again edging the Bums (4.6rpg to 4.5).
  • In a preseason poll of sportswriters, the Cardinals came within four votes of being a unanimous choice to win the National League pennant.

L-R: Joe Garagiola, Dick Sisler, Whitey Kurowski, Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial
In the eight-team National League, the Dodgers and Cards met in six series for a total of 22 games for the season.
  1. The Cards won both games at Ebbets Field in May to pull into a first-place tie with the Dodgers. Max Lanier pitched all 11 innings in the 7-5 victory in the first game, and southpaw Howie Pollet (from New Orleans) outdueled Brook­lyn's Les Webber 1-0.

The Cardinals lost three key players before the next series with the Dodgers. Lanier, 2B Lou Klein, and P Fred Martin signed contracts with the wealthy Pasquel brothers who were raiding U.S. teams to stock their new Mexican League that the siblings hoped would rival the American and National Leagues.

  1. When the Dodgers came to Sportsman's Park in early June, they led the Red­birds by two games. The Cards cut the deficit in half by winning two of three.

Pollet quickly became the Cards' ace starter. Heading into July, he had pitched five complete game victories and compiled a 7-3 record. After the departure of Lanier and Martin, Pollet went to Dyer and volunteered to pitch in relief in between his starts. "I know I can't make up for those three fellows, but I'll tell you what I can do. You let me start one day and give me one day of rest, and I can go in and relieve for you the next day. One more day off, and I can start again the day after that."
Dyer took him up on it, and Pollet finished five victories during the rest of the season (before saves were a statistic).

  1. Brooklyn came to St. Louis for a four-game series in July on top by 4.5 games. When they departed, they led by only a half game after the Cardinals swept all four games. Musial's homer in the 12th inning of the nightcap capped off the doubleheader sweep to start the series. In the fourth game, the Cards trailed 4-2 entering the last of the ninth but pulled victory from the jaws of defeat on Erv Dusak's three-run homer.
  2. The Cards faded to 2.5 behind when they traveled to Brooklyn for three games at the end of July. The Birds bounced back from an opening loss to win the next two to knock a game off the deficit. Murry Dickson pitched a complete game for the first victory, 10-3. Then Harry Brecheen held the Dodgers to one run in 7 2/3 innings before handing the ball to Pollet, who completed the victory.
  3. The teams met in St. Louis in late August after being tied for four straight days. The teams remained deadlocked after splitting the series. The Dodgers handed Pollet his first setback in three weeks in the opener, 3-2. Dickson won his 12th victory in Game 3 of the series when he made the two runs the Cards scored in the first hold up.
  4. The last series took place in Flatbush in mid-September. The Cards went in up 1.5 games and left only a half-game ahead after losing two of three. Pollet cruis­ed to his 19th victory 10-2 in the opener. A four-run first inning enabled the Dod­gers to win the second game 4-3. Then Durocher came up with a surprise start­er for the rubber game. 20-year-old Ralph Branca had spent most of the season in the bullpen thanks to a sore arm and poor control. Had Leo gone mad? No, he had a plan. If he started righthander Branca, Dyer would pack his lineup with lefthanded hitters. After the youngster pitched to one batter, Leo would bring in southpaw Vic Lombardi. "It's a percentage move that may work," Durocher ex­plained in private. The move didn't work out as Leo planned. It worked out better than he planned. With Lombardi throwing in the bullpen, Branca retired the first batter, then the second, then the third. The innings went by with goose egg after goose egg on the scoreboard. By the end of the afternoon, Branca had pitched a three-hit shutout!
The race came down to the last weekend.
  • As the Cards started a three-game home series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, September 27, they led the Dodgers by a half game. The Redbirds lost 7-2 to fall into a tie.
  • Brooklyn hosted the Braves in a two-game series Saturday and Sunday. The Dodgers won the first game 7-4 while the Cards beat the Cubs 4-1 behind Harry Brecheen.
  • So the 154-game season came down to the last day. If one team won and the other lost, the season was over for the loser.
  • But two 96-win teams both lost. The Cubs thumped the Cards 8-3, and the Braves slammed the Dodgers 8-4.

The first tie in major league history would be settled by a best-of-three playoff.

  • National League President Ford Frick flipped a coin, and the Dodgers won the toss.
  • Manager Leo Durocher elected to play the opener in St. Louis and host the re­maining two games in Brooklyn.
  • So the Dodgers boarded a train on Monday, September 30 for the 970-mile journey to the Mound City.

Game One: Sportsman's Park
Attendance: 26,012 Time of Game: 2:48
Cardinals 4 Dodgers 2
WP: Howie Pollet; LP: Ralph Branca

  • Surprising no one, Dyer went with Pollet, who had been pitching with muscular pain below his left shoulder for the past several weeks. Durocher chose Branca, who had followed his shutout of the Cards with another shutout over the Pi­rates. Returning to the bullpen, Ralph pitched the last 1 1/3 innings of a win over Boston before getting shellacked in a start against the Phillies, giving up four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
  • But this time Branca couldn't handle the pressure.
  • The Cards scored a run in the first on Garagiola's two-out single with the bases loaded. It was the third hit of the inning, matching the total the Birds got against Branca in his earlier start.
  • 1B Howie Schultz tied the game in the top of the third with a homer to deep left field.
  • The Redbirds bounced back in the bottom of the third with two runs to send Branca to the showers. With one out, Musial walked, and Slaughter singled Stan to third. He scored on Kurowski's groundout as the Dodgers missed com­pleting the double play. When Harry Walker singled in another run, Durocher brought in Kirby Higbe to get out of the inning.
  • The game stayed 3-1 until the top of the 7th when singles by SS Pee Wee Reese, C Bruce Edwards, and Schultz made it 3-2.
  • The Redbirds got that run right back in the bottom of the 7th on Musial's triple and another Garagiola two-out base hit.
  • Pollet stranded two runners in the 8th, then set the Dodgers down 1-2-3 in the 9th.
In Boston that day, the American League champion Red Sox started an exhibition game series against an American League All-Star team to get some action while waiting for the National League playoff to end. Boston slugger Ted Williams suffer­ed a bruised right elbow when struck by a pitch. The team doctor ordered Ted to miss the remaining games with the All-Stars to avoid aggravating the injury.

The two teams traveled on separate trains to Brooklyn for Game 2 two days later. For the Dodgers, it was their second 970-mile journey in three days.

Martin Marion throws to first after forcing Eddie Stanky at second in the first playoff game.
Game Two: Ebbets Field
Attendance: 31,437 Time of Game: 2:44
Cardinals 8 Dodgers 4
WP: Murry Dickson; LP: Joe Hatten
  • Dyer went with righty Murry Dickson rather than southpaw Harry Brecheen. Both won 15 games during the season.
  • Durocher chose lefty Joe Hatten, who had the best ERA (2.84) among the Brooklyn starters.
  • The Dodgers drew first blood in the first on 3B Augie Galan's two-out single, a walk to RF Dixie Walker, and a single by 1B Ed Stevens.
  • The Cards took the lead with two in the second. Dusak rapped a triple and scored on Marty Marion's fly. C Clyde Kluttz singled and Dickson, a good-hit­ting pitcher, smashed a triple to center.
  • His trip around the bases didn't affect Murry's pitching at all. He didn't allow a hit in the next seven innings. Meanwhile, the Cards added to their lead.
    Three in the 5th on Slaughter's two-run triple and Dusak's single.
    One in the 7th on two walks, a sacrifice, and Marion's squeeze bunt.
    Two in the 8th when Schoendienst singled, CF Terry Moore doubled, and Ku­rowski singled them home.
  • The Dodgers finally got to Dickson in the 9th, driving him from the mound after a a double, triple, single, and a walk. Brecheen came in allowed a single to score the third run of the inning. But that was too little too late as Harry ended with a flourish - two strikeouts with the bases loaded.
The Cardinals celebrated their fourth pennant in the last five years.

Eddie Dyer

Cardinals 2B Red Schoendienst
Red Schoendienst

Leo Durocher

Max Lanier

Cardinals P Howie Pollet
Howie Pollet

Erv Dusak

Harry Brecheen pitching in Game 2 of 1946 World Series
Harry Brecheen

Ralph Branca

Harry Walker

Clyde Kluttz

Joe Hatton