In The Cardinals and Yankees, 1926: A Classic Season and St. Louis in Seven, Paul E. Doutrich tells the stories of the American and National League pennant winners in the titular season.
The two teams provide practically a who’s who of 1920s baseball, from New York’s Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Bob Meusel to St. Louis’s Branch Rickey, Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley, Jesse Haines, and Pete Alexander. There’s a lot to enjoy about this period in baseball history, and Doutrich introduces readers to a slew of colorful personalities, contrasting the New York Yankees, who already had appeared in three World Series and won one that decade, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who were making their franchise’s first appearance in the fall classic.
Doutrich also contrasts the teams’ seasons, in which the Yankees jumped out to a fast start and then held off the Cleveland Indians, while the Cardinals started slowly and only captured the pennant after a late season surge.
Throughout the book, Doutrich bounces between the two teams, covering a month or so at a time before returning to the other. There are a lot of game recaps, and while Doutrich takes the time to introduce the key characters, it can get dry at times as he recounts midseason series and dives into the box scores. I think the book may have been more entertaining had he focused on a single team and dove deeper into the players and their personalities, but it’s hard to criticize the book for detailing both teams’ path to the World Series.
For Cardinals fans, this is an often overlooked period in franchise history. In Hornsby, the Cardinals were managed by one of the greatest players in franchise history, though injuries prevented him from playing to his full abilities in 1926. With Rickey’s farm system beginning to pay dividends, 1926 marked the beginning of a run of success for the Cardinals that culminated in the beloved 1934 Gashouse Gang. While the squad’s fame hasn’t endured in quite the same manner, there’s a lot to be said for the Cardinals’ first World Series champions, and this book does a good job of introducing readers to the team and the foundation they laid for the franchise’s success.
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