May 5, 1935: Dizzy Dean faces Babe Ruth

In many ways, the 1934 season marked the passing of a torch.

Babe Ruth, the premier slugger of his era, played his final season with the New York Yankees. As Ruth’s career was winding down, young Dizzy Dean vaulted to the national spotlight. As the Oklahoma farmboy led the Gashouse Gang to the World Series championship, he charmed fans across the nation with his boyish charisma and lighthearted antics.

Dean was a fan of Ruth and even called the Yankees slugger following his Game 1 World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers and invited him to stop by the Cardinals’ clubhouse.[1] After the series concluded, no less an authority than Grantland Rice, known as the “Dean of American Sports Writers” (no pun intended), wrote that Dean’s legacy would come to match those of Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Ty Cobb in the years ahead.

“As Babe Ruth fades out, the bounding Deans arrive just in time to fill the gap against the skyline,” Rice wrote.[2]

Though everyone expected Ruth to retire at the end of the season, the Boston Braves offered him an opportunity to extend his career as a player, assistant manager, and team vice president. When Dean and the Cardinals squared off against Boston on May 5, 1935, at Braves Field, the 40-year-old Ruth was penciled in at left field, batting third in the lineup.

Dean entered the game with a 2-2 record and a 2.08 ERA, and quickly overpowered the Braves, who would finish last in the National League with a 38-115 record. Dean retired Billy Urbanski and Buck Jordan, then respectfully tipped his cap as Ruth stepped to the plate.[3] Ruth drew a walk before Dean retired Wally Berger.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning. Catcher Spud Davis hit an RBI triple to score Ripper Collins, and Terry Moore followed with a two-run homer. With two outs, Dean strolled to the plate. With the Boston fans greeting him with a mix of cheers and boos, he gave the crowd a bow before hitting a slow curve into the stands in left center field.[4] Following Dean’s home run, Jack Rothrock hit an RBI double and Charlie Wilson brought him home with a single.

“From that point, it was a gallop for Dizzy,” sports editor Sid C. Keener wrote for the St. Louis Star and Times. “He laughed and joked with the Braves.”[5]

In the fourth inning, Dean still held a 6-0 lead when he struck out Ruth with a high fastball[6] for his ninth consecutive out. Two innings later, Collins tripled and Terry Moore hit a sacrifice fly to left to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 7-0.

In the bottom of the sixth, Ruth led off the inning with a groundout to the shortstop. After the inning ended, Braves manager Bill McKechnie replaced Ruth with Joe Mowry.

“I hated stealin’ the show from him like that,” Dean later said, referring to Ruth.[7]

Dean worked around a single and a walk in the ninth inning to secure the complete-game victory. He improved to 3-2 on the season while scattering 10 hits and striking out three. Ed Brandt took the loss for Boston.

Exactly two weeks later, on May 19, Dean and Ruth met again for the second and final time. One day earlier, Dean injured his right knee during practice and there were fears that the injury might prevent him from making his start against Ruth and the Braves.[8]

When game time came, however, Dean was ready for the rematch. He struck out Ruth in the first inning, but the veteran made up for it when he raced to deep left field and leaped to catch a deep drive off Collins’ bat.

“It was a great catch, reminiscent of the kind Babe used to make in his heyday as a star,” Ray J. Gillespie wrote for the St. Louis Star and Times. “The play brought down the place in thunderous applause and the big fellow doffed his cap and smiled broadly as he marched to the dugout between innings.”[9]

Ruth hit sharply into an inning-ending double play in the third, then grounded out to Dean and hit a foul pop fly to third base. He finished the day 0-for-4, dropping his batting average for the season to .156.

Dean again pitched a complete game, allowing three runs on seven hits, including a two-run homer by Randy Moore.

Dean led the league with 28 wins in 1935. His 325 1/3 innings pitched and 190 strikeouts also paced the circuit as he finished second in the National League MVP voting behind Gabby Hartnett.

Ruth played in just 25 games in 1935, batting .181 with six homers and 12 RBIs. Less than a week after facing Dean for the final time, on May 25, Ruth hit three homers and drove in six runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ruth’s third homer of the day, the 714th and final blast of his incredible career, cleared the right field roof for the longest home run ever hit at Forbes Field.[10]

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[1] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 147.

[2] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 171.

[3] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 175.

[4] Sid C. Keener, “Cards, Two Games Behind Leading Giants, Oppose Robins Next,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 6, 1935.

[5] Sid C. Keener, “Cards, Two Games Behind Leading Giants, Oppose Robins Next,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 6, 1935.

[6] Associated Press, “Dizzy Toys With Braves As Cards Triumph, 7-0,” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, May 6, 1935.

[7] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 176.

[8] “Dizzy Dean Hurt In Fall, But He May Pitch Today,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19, 1935.

[9] Ray J. Gillespie, “Dizzy Dean and Ruth Provide Thrills As Cards Trim Braves 7 To 3,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 20, 1935.

[10] Allan Wood, “Babe Ruth,” Society for American Baseball Research,

What I’m Reading: “Dizzy and the Gashouse Gang” by Doug Feldmann

Doug Feldmann has become one of my favorite sources for well-researched books about the most fascinating teams in Cardinals history, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed his 2000 book, Dizzy and the Gashouse Gang, about the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals.

This particular team provides plenty of fodder for a writer like Feldmann, and he does a great job of describing the near-constant antics of this colorful team. In the opening chapters, he provides background of the Cardinals’ history to that point, including their difficulties prior to the arrival of Branch Rickey.

In subsequent chapters, before diving into the ups and downs of the 1934 season, Feldmann introduces the key personalities, including Rickey, owner Sam Breadon, Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin, Leo Durocher, and, of course, Dizzy Dean and Paul Dean.

Given Rickey’s reputation as a religious man (so much so that he refused to manage games on Sundays), it is perhaps surprising that the team he put together in 1934 was as irascible a collection of players as has ever been assembled. Among the stories Feldmann shares:

  • a pregame fight between Medwick and pitcher Tex Carleton that ended with Carleton laying on the ground in a heap. “Hey Frankie,” Durocher shouted to the manager. “You’d better find another starting pitcher for the game today, because right now we don’t have one.”
  • a 1935 confrontation in the dugout in which Medwick grabbed a bat and was ready to fight both Dean brothers: “Keep on a-comin’, brothers Dean – I’ll separate ya real good,” he promised.
  • Martin’s penchant for throwing water balloons from hotel windows onto passersby on the street blow.
  • The night Martin, Medwick, and Dizzy Dean intruded on a hotel banquet for a boys’ club pretending to be repairmen. Interrupting the speaker as they busted a wall with a sledgehammer, cut up the carpet, and bumped into guests with a stepladder, Dizzy finally was recognized by the boys, who had the time of their lives meeting the Cardinals’ stars. Nonetheless, the team was kicked out of yet another hotel.

Of course, any book about the Gashouse Gang comes to center largely around Dizzy Dean. Feldmann shares a story from Dean’s first major-league game, which happened to be attended by St. Louis mayor Victor Miller. As Gabby Street warned the mayor, “I think he’s going to be a great pitcher, but I’m afraid we’ll never know from one minute to the next what he’s going to do.”

That included Dizzy and Paul’s strike during the 1934 season, and the time that Dizzy visited the Boston Braves’ dugout prior to a game in 1935 and said that if a pitcher was good enough he didn’t need to use breaking balls or offspeed pitches. He then proceeded to beat the Braves using just his fastball.

With all these stories to share, Dizzy and the Gashouse Gang makes for fun reading. For fans interested in learning more about Dizzy Dean and the 1934 Cardinals, this book is a great choice, and joins John Heidenry’s “The Gashouse Gang” as my favorite chronicles of one of the most exciting seasons in St. Louis baseball history.

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May 7, 1940: Cardinals clobber seven home runs in 18-2 rout of the Dodgers

Just three weeks into the season, the 1940 St. Louis Cardinals already were in dire straits.

Heading into their May 7 contest against the first-place Brooklyn Dodgers, the Cardinals had won just five of their first 15 ballgames. They opened the season by losing six of their first eight, and had already lost their first two games in the Brooklyn series.

To compound matters, shortstop Marty Marion had injured his knee and center fielder Terry Moore sprained his shoulder in the first game against the Dodgers, leaving the Cardinals short-handed and desperate for a win.

They would respond with a historic offensive performance that featured 20 hits, including seven homers, four doubles, and two triples in an 18-2 drubbing. The Cardinals’ 49 bases on the day broke the modern National League record of 47, set by the New York Giants in 1931, and their 13 extra-base hits tied a modern major league record set by the Tigers and Cardinals in 1925 and the Cardinals again in 1931.[1] Their seven home runs also tied the National League record. Along the way, the Cardinals had a hit in each inning and every player in the lineup had an extra-base hit, scored, and drove in a run.

After Brooklyn’s Hugh Casey worked around a single by Enos Slaughter in the first inning, Don Padgett got the Cardinals on the scoreboard with a second-inning home run that landed just beyond the 422-foot measurement in center field. He hit the ball so hard that Dodgers center fielder Charlie Gilbert gave up on the play 25 feet short of the outfield wall.[2]

The Cardinals rallied for five more runs in the third. Eddie Lake led off the inning with a home run, then Stu Martin singled and scored on a triple by Slaughter. Joe Medwick hit an RBI single to score Slaughter, and Johnny Mize blasted a two-run homer to make it 6-0.

At that point, former Cardinal shortstop Leo Durocher, now managing the Dodgers, removed himself from the game and inserted rookie Pee Wee Reese to play the remainder of the game. The future Hall of Famer had little impact on the game’s outcome, as the Cardinals continued to build upon their lead.

Martin added a solo homer in the fourth, and in the fifth Johnny Hopp hit an RBI double and Lake added a two-run double. Casey walked Slaughter to lead off the sixth inning, setting up a two-run homer by Medwick. Jimmy Brown added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to make the score 13-0.

Lon Warneke had shut out the Dodgers through the first seven innings – including a stretch in which he retired 14 consecutive batters – before they finally got on the scoreboard with four hits in the eighth. Casey was replaced with a pinch hitter in the inning, mercifully allowing him to exit after allowing 13 runs on 15 hits, including five home runs and 10 extra-base hits.

“He asked to stay in there,” Durocher said. “He hadn’t had much work, and as long as the game was gone, I let him continue.”[3]

Former Cardinals pitcher Max Macon took the mound for the Dodgers in the ninth and didn’t fare any better, as Mize and Lake each homered, Hopp hit an RBI single, and Warneke added an RBI double.

For the game, Lake finished with two homers, a double, and five RBIs to lead the Cardinals’ effort. Mize had three hits, including two homers and a double, to finish with three RBIs, and Martin added three hits, including a home run.

Warneke finished the Dodgers off in the ninth to capture his first win of the season. For the day, he allowed two earned runs on nine hits and a walk.

Warneke pitched the ninth inning to catcher Bill DeLancey, who entered the game in place of Padgett for his first major-league appearance in almost five years. DeLancey had caught every inning of the 1934 World Series for the Gashouse Gang and was considered by Branch Rickey to be one of the best catchers he ever saw. In 1935, however, he fell ill with serious lung ailments and retired to Phoenix, Arizona, where it was believed the dry air would assist his recovery. DeLancey missed the entire 1936 season and became a player-manager for the Cardinals’ minor-league affiliate in Albuquerque in 1937.

DeLancey was declared fit to play for the Cardinals in a part-time role in 1940, and he was credited with helping the development of prospect Mickey Owen, who was only four years younger than DeLancey.

“DeLancey, as he strode to the plate, drew even greater cheers than the Cardinals’ tremendous hitting had attracted,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.[4]

DeLancey played in just 15 games, and the next two seasons he served as a minor-league manager. Following the 1942 season, DeLancey left baseball as his health deteriorated once again. He died on his 35th birthday in November 1946.

After the Cardinals made history with their win over the Dodgers, Brooklyn’s ballclub made its own history. With their flight from St. Louis to Chicago, the Dodgers became the first major league team to travel by plane.[5]

Meanwhile, the win didn’t turn the Redbirds’ season around, but it did show their terrifying offensive potential. After a 9-5 loss to Brooklyn on June 6 that dropped the Cardinals’ record to 14-24, manager Ray Blades was removed from his position. Mike Gonzalez served as interim manager for six games (losing five) before Billy Southworth was named manager.

Southworth guided the team to a 69-40 record for the remainder of the season, good for third place in the final National League standings. Southworth’s Cardinals won 97 games to place second behind the Dodgers in 1941 before winning the National League title and the World Series in 1942.

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[1] Martin J. Haley, “Cards Break 2 Records and Equal 7 in Routing Dodgers, 18-2,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 8, 1940.

[2] Martin J. Haley, “Cards Break 2 Records and Equal 7 in Routing Dodgers, 18-2,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 8, 1940.

[3] “Casey Wanted to Stay In,” The Sporting News, May 16, 1940.

[4] Martin J. Haley, “Cards Break 2 Records and Equal 7 in Routing Dodgers, 18-2,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 8, 1940.

[5] “Dodgers in Chicago After First Mass Plane Flight by Major League Team,” Brooklyn Citizen, May 8, 1940.

May 5, 1933: Pepper Martin hits for the cycle in 5-3 win vs. the Phillies

On May 5, 1933, Pepper Martin, “the wild horse of the Osage” himself, ran wild on Frank Pearce and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Batting leadoff, Martin singled, doubled, tripled, and homered while scoring four times in a 5-3 St. Louis win. Martin’s assault on Phillies pitching even surpassed the swings of two female fans who struck umpire Charlie Moran with their umbrellas after the game.

A native of Oklahoma, Martin was one of the characters who would make up the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang in 1934. To comlement their on-field activities, he formed a band with teammates Lon Warneke, Max Lanier, Bill McGee, Bob Weiland, and Frenchy Bordagaray called the Mississippi Mudcats. He also raced midget cars and was known to hunt rattlesnakes with a stick and burlap sack.[1]

Martin made his major league debut in 1928, but spent the entire 1929 season and most of 1930 in the minors. In 1931, after batting .363 with 20 homers for Rochester the previous year, Martin enjoyed a breakout rookie campaign, hitting .300 with seven homers, 75 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. In the World Series against the defending champion Philadelphia Athletics, Martin tied a record with 12 hits, batting .500 with one homer, five RBIs, and five stolen bases.

The 1932 season was a down year for Martin, as he hit just .238 in 85 games, but 1933 would prove one of the best years of his career. Heading into the May 5 game against the Phillies, Martin was batting .298 with a .411 on-base percentage.

He continued that success in his first at-bat against Pearce, a rookie right-hander from Middletown, Kentucky. Martin singled to left field to open the game, then scored on a two-out single by Rogers Hornsby.

The Phillies answered in the bottom of the first against Cardinals starting pitcher Bill Walker. A two-time National League ERA champion for the New York Giants, the 29-year-old Walker went just 8-12 with a 4.14 ERA in 1932 and was traded to the Cardinals that offseason.

Philadelphia left fielder Alta Cohen, making his debut in the Phillies outfield, welcomed Walker to the game with a leadoff double and Chick Fullis hit an RBI single to center to tie the score, 1-1.

Martin helped the Cardinals regain the lead in the third with a leadoff triple to center field. Two batters later, Pat Crawford grounded out, allowing Martin to score.

Martin homered to left field in the fifth to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead, and Chuck Klein homered in the sixth to cut the Cardinals’ lead in half.

In the top of the eighth, Martin capped off his four-hit day with a double to left field. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Hornsby.

Fullis added another RBI single off walker in the eighth, but in the ninth Joe Medwick doubled and Jimmie Wilson drove him home with a single to make the score 5-3.

Walker retired all three batters he faced in the ninth to secure his first win of the season. The final batter, Al Todd, hit a swinging bunt that Moran called fair for the final out of the game. Todd and Phillies manager Burt Shotton each debated the call, and several women – celebrating Ladies’ Day at the ballpark – joined the Phillies on the field to dispute the call.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer’s accounting of the incident:

“They milled about the umpire, verbally assaulting him with such music as ‘You’re a bum – robber – thief,’ – ‘You’re as blind as my husband and twice as dumb,’ – ‘If I was married to you I would put arsenic in your coffee.’

Moran took all this with a smile … but when two of the feminine contingent lifted their umbrellas (although it was not raining) and started to impress their thoughts on his head, he demurred.[2]

Eventually, Shotton calmed matters enough to allow the umpire to leave the field.

Walker earned his first win of the season, scattering eight hits and a walk over nine innings. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s J. Roy Stockton wrote that, “Walker showed his best form of the season … and while he didn’t have the speed that made him the league’s outstanding pitcher in 1931, he was putting his curve just where he wanted it.”[3]

The win marked the Cardinal’s fourth consecutive victory and improved their record to 9-9 on the season. The team finished the year 82-71, good for fifth place in the National League.

Martin went on to bat .316 with eight homers and 57 RBIs, and led the National League with 26 stolen bases and 122 runs scored. He was named to the first of four career all-star games and was fifth in the National League MVP vote at the end of the season.

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[1] John Heidenry (2007), “The Gashouse Gang,” PublicAffairs, 95.

[2] Stan Baumgartner, “Martin Runs Wild As Redbirds Top Phils,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 6, 1933.

[3] J. Roy Stockton, “Martin Bats Cardinals To 5-3 Victory Over Phillies,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1933.

May 18, 1996: John Mabry hits for the cycle

Despite his prior success at Coors Field, John Mabry was an unlikely candidate to hit for the cycle heading into the Cardinals’ May 19, 1996, game against the Rockies.

In his rookie campaign in 1995, Mabry tied for fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting after batting .307 with five homers and 41 RBIs. That performance included 12 hits in 23 at-bats at Coors Field, but also included just one triple in 418 plate appearances.

On this day, however, he collected the second triple and the seventh home run of his career on his way to hitting for the cycle. Unfortunately, his historic accomplishment came the same night that the Rockies rallied for a five-run ninth inning to beat the Cardinals, 9-8.

“This is a really strange feeling,” Mabry said. “You’ve got to win the game. That’s all I know.”[1]

Mabry’s day began with a single up the middle against Colorado’s Marvin Freeman, a 6-foot-7 veteran right-hander who placed fourth in the Cy Young Award voting in 1994 but was now in the final season of his major-league career.

After Gary Gaetti hit a solo home run to lead off the fourth, Mabry followed with a ground-ball double down the right-field line, but was stranded at third base.

Mabry was part of a four-run rally in the fifth. After Brian Jordan drew a one-out walk, Ray Lankford homered to left field. Gaetti drew a walk before Mabry tripled over the head of Rockies center fielder Larry Walker, scoring Gaetti. Tom Pagnozzi scored Mabry with an RBI single that gave St. Louis a 5-1 lead.

Walker and Jeff Reed each homered in the sixth to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-3, but Mabry answered in the seventh with a two-run homer off left-handed reliever Mike Munoz to become the 212th player in major-league history to hit the cycle. It also made him the 15th Cardinal to accomplish the feat and the first since Lankford did it in 1991.[2]

After the game, he said he was unaware of the potential cycle until his teammates congratulated him.

“I thought they were just congratulating me for the home run,” he said.[3]

Lankford said, “If it had been brought to his attention, it probably would have messed him up, but he was able to go up there relaxed in the seventh and he was just trying to make contact. Fortunately, he hit it out of the ballpark.”[4]

When Mabry came to the plate with Lankford on third base in the top of the ninth, Rockies pitcher John Habyan intentionally walked him. Lankford later scored when Habyan threw a wild pitch that got past Reed, giving the Cardinals an 8-4 lead.

The Rockies, however, would erase that deficit in the bottom of the ninth, as Ellis Burks hit a two-run homer and John Vander Wal hit a walk-off, three-run homer off Dennis Eckersley to win the game, 9-8.

“I didn’t have anything tonight,” Eckersley said. “I couldn’t make a pitch and you’ve got no time to find it. It was unbelievable.”[5]

One day later, Eckersley returned to St. Louis to have an MRI exam on his right elbow.[6]

“How can we not be in here celebrating John Mabry’s cycle?” asked Tony La Russa. “But nobody feels worse than Eckersley.”[7]

The loss dropped the Cardinals to a 17-25 record and the bottom of the National League East Division. Two days later, however, the Cardinals began a five-game win streak that marked the beginning of their resurrection. Led by Jordan, Lankford, and Ron Gant, the Cardinals battled back. An eight-game win streak between August 30 and September 7 catapulted the club into the NL East lead, and by season’s end, the Cardinals led the division by six games with an 88-74 record.

Mabry hit .297 in 1996 with a career-high 13 homers and 74 RBIs. He played with the Cardinals through the 1998 season, then signed with Seattle. In 2001, he briefly returned to St. Louis, appearing in five games before the Cardinals traded him to the Marlins. In 2004, Mabry again signed with the Cardinals and played two more seasons in St. Louis. His 14-year career included eight years in St. Louis. He hit .281 with 53 homers and 272 RBIs while wearing the birds on the bat.

After his playing career ended, Mabry spent one season as an analyst on Cardinals’ pre- and post-game shows for Fox Sports Midwest. In 2012, Mabry was named the Cardinals’ assistant hitting coach under Mark McGwire, then was promoted to hitting coach after McGwire took the same position with the Dodgers. Mabry served as the Cardinals’ hitting coach until July 2018. In 2020, he joined the Royals’ coaching staff.

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[1] Rick Hummel, “Mabry Goes For A Ride On The Cycle,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19, 1996.

[2] “Eck, Cards lose again to Rockies,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, May 19, 1996.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Mabry Goes For A Ride On The Cycle,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19, 1996.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Mabry Goes For A Ride On The Cycle,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19, 1996.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Stunned Cardinals Are Victims In Another Rockies’ Horror Show,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19, 1996.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Turns Out, Eckersley’s Sore Because Of Elbow, Not Ump,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 20, 1996.

[7] [7] Rick Hummel, “Stunned Cardinals Are Victims In Another Rockies’ Horror Show,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19, 1996.