Generations of fans experienced the thrill of a new season at the sight of Cardinals Hall of Famers in their red jackets on Opening Day. While not Opening Day just yet, as we turn over the calendar to a new year, we are reminded of the passing of the greatest Cardinal ever just one year ago on Jan. 19. Shown here is Stan Musial's red blazer, which was donated to the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum by the Musial family.
One of the more notable trades in Cardinals history was announced in December of 1981. The general manager and manager, Whitey Herzog, determined that the team needed to move in a different direction and set his sights on Ozzie Smith of the San Diego Padres. It took a couple more months for the trade to be finalized, but in hindsight that extra time was more than worth it as Ozzie would lead the club to the 1982 World Series championship and two NL pennants in 1985 and 1987.
On Nov. 7, 1851, the first owner of the franchise that is now the Cardinals was born. Chris Von der Ahe moved to St. Louis by age 16, opened his own saloon by the 1870s, purchased the St. Louis Browns by age 29 and moved them into the American Association where they won four League titles. He made a fortune selling beer at baseball games and oversaw the club's inclusion in the National League in 1892, but ultimately lost his wealth after numerous legal problems and sold the franchise in 1899 due to bankruptcy.
Tony La Russa's hiring on Oct. 23, 1995, paved the way for change in an organization known for stability since the 1950s. Just three days later, Anheuser-Busch announced they were putting the Cardinals up for sale while the Astroturf playing surface was being removed. By Opening Day 1996, however, La Russa was ushering in a new era of Cardinals baseball with new ownership and a return to natural grass. The winning ways also returned as La Russa would guide the club to two World Series championships during his tenure.
There's nothing like a championship parade in St. Louis -- and following a few decades of baseball mediocrity -- there was great enthusiasm when the city claimed its first National League pennant. The Cardinals won a heated race for the NL crown with the Reds after defeating the New York Giants on Sept. 24, 1926. After their final game in Cincinnati, the Cards went straight to New York to prepare to face the Yankees in the World Series, but enjoyed the NL championship parade upon their return home -- in the middle of the World Series!
On Aug. 1, 1985, Vince Coleman and Willie McGee shared a unique moment in Cardinals history -- they stole four bases on one pitch. In the first inning at Wrigley Field, Coleman broke for third; McGee followed suit and stole second but Coleman slid over third base. With nowhere to go, Coleman broke for home and scored after the Cubs failed to cover the plate. McGee stole third behind him, and both players went on to receive Postseason honors with Coleman taking the NL Rookie of the Year Award while McGee won the NL MVP.
After opening a new downtown stadium, the Cardinals hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 12, 1966. Enthusiasm among the fans reached a fevered pitch along with the weather! A reported crowd of 49,936 spectators endured temperatures as high as 105 degrees for the Mid-Summer Classic. The game was in extra innings when Cardinals All-Star Tim McCarver scored the winning run on a single by Maury Wills.
Following the Cardinals World Series championship in 2011, fans looked forward to the ring presentation during the Opening Series in 2012. But can you imagine having to wait until mid-season for the rings to be awarded? That's how it occurred following the 1946 championship as the players didn't receive their World Series rings until June 27, 1947. Talk about extending the celebration! Unfortunately, the championship hardware didn't rub off as the Cardinals would not return to the World Series until 1964.
It was in May of 1990 that the Cardinals acquired one of the most dominant closers in MLB history. Lee Smith came to the Redbirds in a trade with the Boston Red Sox for Tom Brunansky on May 4. Smith would go on to have three consecutive 40-plus save seasons from 1991-94, and was the franchise's saves leader until Jason Isringhausen claimed the title in 2006. Smith collected his 300 career save in 1991 with the Cardinals (see photo), and was MLB's all-time saves leader at the time of his retirement in 1997 with 478.
On April 13, 1954, Wally Moon hit a home run in his first big league at-bat. While not the first in franchise history to do so, he would go on to become the first Cardinal named as the Rookie of the Year. Moon is one of eight Cardinals who hit home runs in their first MLB at-bats and is the only one to have accomplished the feat on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. The other seven "first at-bat sluggers" are Eddie Morgan, Keith McDonald, Chris Richard, Gene Stechshulte, Hector Luna, Adam Wainwright and Mark Worrell.
Rarely in baseball does a trade occur including two MVP-caliber players, but this was precisely the case on March 17, 1969, when the Cardinals dealt former NL MVP Orlando Cepeda for future NL MVP Joe Torre. Many fans were upset with the move, as Cepeda was a popular player and a driving force behind back-to-back pennant winners in 1967 and 1968. Torre was no slouch though, and proved himself as a Redbird as he captured the 1971 MVP title and batted over .300 during his time in St. Louis.
Stan Musial's following extended throughout Cardinals Nation all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. With Presidents Day this month, it's interesting to note that "The Man" met eleven U.S. presidents including Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, Bush (43) and Obama. From serving as the director of President Johnson's Council on Physical Fitness to being awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama, it's clear that Musial has had an impact on the Oval Office.
January 16 marks the birthday of one of the greatest Cardinals, Dizzy Dean. Born Jay Hanna Dean in 1910 in Lucas, Ark., Dizzy claimed that his education ended after the second grade and that he honed his baseball skills by throwing hickory nuts at squirrels. After he retired from pitching, he broadcast games for the Cardinals and Browns and would even break into song. Shown here is 'The Dizzy Dean Dictionary,' created to humorously help fans better understand his 'language' such as when he used slud for slid.
On Dec. 5, 1957, a magnificent Flood hit the Cardinals. His name was Curt. Acquired in a trade from the Reds for three obscure pitchers, Curt Flood would soon make his mark on the Cardinals and help them to three World Series appearances. A favorite with the fans for his superior defensive play, Flood would win seven consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Awards from 1963-69. Shown here is his home jersey from 1967, his second world championship season.
One of the greatest seasons from a Redbird was honored in The Sporting News on Nov. 27, 1946, when Stan Musial was named the National League's Most Valuable Player. Musial, who had returned from his service in the U.S. Navy in 1945, led the league in batting average (.365), runs scored (124), hits (228), total bases (366), doubles (50) and triples (20). The Cardinals wrapped up the season by defeating the Boston Red Sox to claim their sixth World Series crown. Featured here is "The Man's" 1946 home jersey.
The 2006 Cardinals struggled down the stretch, but captured the NL Central Division title on the final day of the season. Plagued by injuries during the season, the finally-healthy club fought their way to the seventh game of the National League Championship Series. With the game tied 1-1 in the ninth inning, Yadier Molina used this bat to hit a two-run home run which ultimately sent the Cardinals to the World Series. The Redbirds would go on to defeat the Detroit Tigers and capture the franchise's 10th World Series crown.
With little sleep the night before, Stan Musial stepped to the plate on Sept. 10, 1963, and provided a moment never before seen in the history of Major League Baseball. He had been up the previous evening waiting for the birth of his first grandchild, and in his first at-bat to follow, Musial clubbed a round-tripper, making him the first grandfather in MLB history to hit a home run. Featured here is Musial's trophy ball, which now resides in the Cardinals' museum collection, awarded to Musial for his "grand" moment.
August 1980 provided a unique twist in Cardinals history. Whitey Herzog succeeded Jack Krol as manager of the Redbirds, but turned his managerial duties over to Red Schoendienst when he was named the General Manager of the club on August 29. The itch to get back in the dugout for Herzog would be too strong, as he came back to the post during the offseason. Herzog would go on to lead the club to three World Series in the 1980s. Pictured here is Herzog's "Victory Blue" 1981 jersey.
Bob Gibson is one of the greatest pitchers in Cardinals history, but for all of his work off the mound he holds one of the most unique records for Cardinals' hurlers: He has hit the most grand slams. There have been 11 pitchers in franchise history to drive in four on a round-tripper, but Gibson holds the mark with two. His second, and record-setting grand slam, came on July 26, 1973, at home against the New York Mets. Featured here is one of Gibson's jerseys from that era.
June marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of two Cardinals greats, Jack Buck and Darryl Kile. Following the deaths of Buck (6/18/2002) and Kile (6/22/2002) within one week of one another, a makeshift memorial appeared outside of Busch Stadium as fans left notes, flowers and other items. The team also donned patches on their jerseys for each man. But, Kile's jersey included just one patch for Buck; where every other player would receive a second memorializing Kile.
Stan Musial collected his 3,000th career hit on May 13, 1958. The historic moment occurred in Chicago at Wrigley Field. Stan was left out of the line-up in hopes that the achievement would come in St. Louis, but with the Cardinals trailing by two, manager Fred Hutchinson called upon Musial in the sixth inning. He hit a pinch double off Moe Drabowsky. The following day Musial was honored at Sportsman's Park in pre-game ceremonies and provided fans with another thrill -- a home run in the first inning.
Happy Bird-day! 90 years ago on April 8th, the birds on the bat made their debut on the Cardinals' uniforms during a pre-season "city series" game against the American League St. Louis Browns. The now-iconic redbirds have enjoyed their perch as they have stayed on the jerseys in some form since their debut, except for a brief vacation in 1956.
Plans for a new downtown ballpark were announced on March 12, 1963, with this scale model of Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium. Crafted by Theodore Conrad Model Makers, this piece includes spectators, automobiles and even landscaping so that civic leaders and fans alike could visualize the new facility before ground would be broken just over a year later.
February's themes include an equipment bag used in the 1970s by Hall of Fame outfielder Lou Brock, an interesting fact about Red Schoendienst and a poem written by Mary Schoendienst.
The themes for January cover the groundbreaking at Busch Stadium III, commemorative "black bats" awarded by Louisville Slugger and Diamond Elite model gloves worn by Dave Freese.