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Tournament of Champions, Round 3: day 10

today's main post, about clutch hitting, is directly below. today we commence with another 2 series from the round of 16; the last 2 start tomorrow.

i've been negligent in posting links to Cardinal70's tourney tracker page; will try to link regularly from now on. summaries are after the jump.

Game 1, 1926 v 1943
Game 1, 1886 v 1934

1926 CARDINALS v. 1943 CARDINALS
Game 1

summary by cardsfanunion

It’s a matchup any WWI veteran would cherish: the 1926 Cards against the 1943 squad. Anyone old enough to remember both these teams probably looks at the internet the same way Wolf Blitzer looks at that massive delegate screen on CNN --- with total bewilderment. So I offer the following history. It’s a little incomplete, but probably wildly inaccurate anyway. . . . .

The 1926 Cardinals were led by player/manager Rogers Hornsby who, along with GM Branch Rickey, gave the St. Louis Cardinals their first pennant and World Series championship. Before Ricky came along in the late 1910s, St. Louis was referred to as "first in booze and shoes, but last in the league." Rickey brought his innovative thinking to the front office after being a mediocre player for the American League version of the St. Louis Browns.

Rickey’s greatest career innovation was breaking the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson for the Dodgers. But nearly 30 years before that, he showed his ability to think outside the box by inventing the modern farm system. He built the first one in St. Louis (yet despite the Birds’ head start, we apparently can’t muster enough talent to trade for Erik Bedard or Johan Santana . . . . . grrrrrrrrr). There’s a great summary of the pennant push by the 1926 Cards in Branch Rickey’s biography, entitled "Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman." Click here for a Google excerpt.

The ’26 team was led by Hornsby, who, unlike a lot of player/managers, was still near his prime. The Hall of Famer had a down year in 1926, but seven of his eight starters hit .293 or better and posted OBPs better than .364. They led the league in scoring. Their pitching staff was led by blue-blood Flint Rhem, who hailed from Rhems, SC. Yes, the town was named after his family, which meant they had some cash. The key to the pennant drive, however, was the midseason acquisition of Grover Cleveland Alexander. It was a watershed moment in Cardinal history. The Cards and Cubs were among four teams in contention for the pennant in late June. The Cubs became disenchanted with the 39-year-old Alexander and his heavy drinking and waived the veteran. Drinking wasn’t the same sin in St. Louis, and Hornsby brought Ol’ Pete into the fold. In his Cardinal debut Alexander pitched a complete game victory against --- who else? --- the Cubs. The Cards never looked back, and the rivalry with Chicago intensified. Since Alexander became a Cardinal, the Birds have won 10 World Series titles. I can’t seem to find a record of the Cubs winning one since. It is hard to prove a negative, but try as I might, there seems to be absolutely no record of any Cub championship since 1926. Not just in baseball, either --- the Cubs haven’t won in a lot of sports. Again, I’m still checking. Maybe that curse about the goat should be associated with Ol’ Pete instead.

Alexander played a huge role in the Cards’ victory over the vaunted Yankees in the Series. With New York ahead 3 games to 2 and the Series shifting back to Yankee Stadium, Alexander coolly won Game 6 to force the 7th game. In the seventh inning of that game, with the Cards leading 3-2, St. Louis starter Jesse Haines loaded the bases. When Hornsby went to the mound, he noticed Haines bleeding from his fingertips, having burst several blisters. Haines was through. In the pen, Rhem and Bill Sherdel were warming. Ol’ Pete was sitting on the ground, leaning against the bench. Most agree Alexander was at least hungover; some say he was flat-out drunk. It is a confirmed fact that he wasn’t warmed up. Hornsby brought Ol’ Pete in.

At the mound, one of the classic exchanges in baseball history occurred. I simply don’t have room for it here, but you should read it. After throwing just three warm-up tosses, Alexander struck out Tony Lazerri with the bases loaded and closed out Game 7 to clinch the Cardinals’ first World Series title. It was a defining moment not only for the franchise but for the city, which spent the entire winter celebrating the championship.

The 1943 Cards were managed by Billy Southworth, a starting outfielder on the 1926 team and one of the team’s best hitters. He won three pennants and two World Series championships in his tenure as Cardinal skipper (1940-45). His 1943 team lost in the World Series but dominated the NL with 105 wins. The offense was led by a young Stan Musial, who won the first of his three MVP’s in ’43. He was surrounded by Walker Cooper, the perennial All-Star catcher; Whitey Kurowski, the soon to be slugger; and Marty Marion, who was the first, and only, Cardinal SS to win an MVP with his glove. The pitching was led by Mort Cooper and Max Lanier, who led the team in starts and tied for second in saves. Seven pitchers started at least ten games, and another three started at least seven. The Birds led the league in ERA and allowed the fewest runs in the league. In short, this was a powerhouse team in the middle of a great multiyear run, comparable to the 2004 team in many ways.

With only 89 wins, the 1926 Cardinals are seeded 13th, making them heavy underdogs against the 4th-seeded ’43 Cards. However, the ’26 team beat the ’26 Yankees, who were a mere year away from fielding what most consider the best team in the history of the game. I wouldn’t bet against them. Further, much of the Cardinals success in the ‘40’s occurred when many big-league players were absent, off fighting World War II. Hard to know if, or how, the sim will take that into account.

Game 1 features Mort Cooper against Flint Rhem. All of Rhems, SC, will be breathless. Here are the lineups:

Both teams put a runner aboard in the first, but the 26ers lose theirs when Southworth is gunned down stealing by Walker Cooper. Southworth (the manager) has to wonder what Southworth (the player) was thinking. In the bottom of the first, Klein doubles to lead off, and Walker lines a shot up the middle that seems destined for center. Hornsby makes an amazing diving catch, though, and Klein has to remain at second, where he stays for the rest of the inning.

All is quiet until the bottom of the fourth, when The Man leads off with a single and advances to second on a groundout by Cooper. Kurowski and Sanders both walk, and the bases are drunk for Danny Litwhiler. He promptly smokes a single to center to plate Musial and Kurowski. Slick-fielding shortstop and frequent Winter Warm-up attendee (YOU LISTENING KENNEDY????) Marty Marion follows with a bloop double to score Sanders, and the fourth ends with Team ’43 leading 3-0.

It’s still 3-0 in the top of the sixth when Southworth singles and steals second. One out later he scores on Hornsby’s single to left, beating Litwhiler’s strong throw with a deft slide around the tag. After allowing another single to Bottomley, Cooper bears down and strikes out both Bell and Hafey to end the frame. The 1926ers keep the pressure on in the next inning, getting a one-out single by Thevenow. Jake Flowers, pinch hitting, follows with a double to put the tying runs in scoring position. But Cooper gets a huge strikeout, fanning Douthit to bring Southworth to the plate. Like Grover Cleveland, Southworth was a midseason acquisition in 1926 --- Rickey picked him up in exchange for Heinie Mueller. Not a typical trade for Mr. Rickey, insofar as he dealt a younger (read: cheaper) player for an over-30 veteran. Indeed, upon his arrival Southworth became the oldest position player on the team. It was a huge pickup, because Southworth hit 11 homers after joining the Cardinals, an aberrantly high total --- he never topped 7 homers in any other season of his career.

Here, batting against the team he will one day manage, he comes up huge --- his single plates 2 to tie the game. Old Southworth has seen enough of Cooper and opts for Murray Dickson, but Young Southworth continues to make trouble: he steals second to get into scoring position. Dickson pitches around Hornsby to bring up Bottomley, a questionable move insofar as he loses the platoon advantage. Bottomley, the team leader in RBIs, comes through with a base hit to put his team into the lead. The brings up Les Bell, 2d on the team in both homers (17) and RBIs (100). Dickson fires, and Bell strokes one high and deep the other way. It goes over the wall in right-center --- a 3-run homer. What a reversal --- the 6-run inning gives the 26ers a commanding 7-3 lead.

The stunned 1943 hitters don’t mount much of a comeback. They only get two baserunners the rest of the way, as Art Reinhart and Syl Johnson finish out the game with three scoreless innings. The underdog 26ers steal one on the road, and they lead this series 1 game to 0.

BOX SCORE

* * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * 1886 BROWNS v. 1934 CARDINALS
Game 1

summary by Zubin

Just a quick intro today, since I am behind on my write-ups. Like most of the other Brownie series I have covered, this one it pits teams with contrasting styles against each other. It isn’t quite Bob Gibson v. Silver King, but this series features two of the winningest pitching seasons in franchise history: David Foutz ’86 and Dizzy Dean ’34. Foutz’s 41 wins rank second only to Silver King’s 45 wins in 1888 on the single-season leaderboard. Dean’s 30 wins rank 10th (tied with 1886 Bob Caruthers), but it’s the highest total in modern franchise history. The series also features the tournament’s second-best hitter in terms of OPS+, Bob Caruthers. In real life Bob pitched every third day and platooned with Foutz in right field on their days off. His 200 OPS+ led the league in what must be the best hitting year for pitcher in MLB history. (Guy Hecker, a pitcher for Louisville, won the batting crown the same year.) But in the sim, Bob will pitch and bat only every 3rd day --- a huge disadvantage for the Browns.

In part for that reason, the 1934 offense should have the advantage in this series, while the 1886 pitching staff holds the edge. However the pitching is much closer than one might first guess. Number 1 starters Foutz and Dean posted very similar ERA+ numbers at 163 and 159, respectively. The difference in the number 2 pairs is a bit more pronounced in 1886’s favor, as Bob Caruthers’s 148 ERA+ significantly tops Bill Walker’s 135 ERA+ But 1934’s number 3, Paul Dean (123 era+), figures to be better than 1886’s Nat Hudson (119 era+). Diz and Dave take the mound for Game 1. If the series goes the distance, we will see the same pair for a decisive Game 7.

1926 1943
Taylor Douthit, cf Lou Klein, 2b
Billy Southworth, rf Harry Walker, cf
Rogers Hornsby, 2b Stan Musial, rf
Jim Bottomley, 1b Walker Cooper, c
Les Bell, 3b Whitey Kurowski, 3b
Chick Hafey, lf Ray Sanders, 1b
Bob O’Farrell, c Danny Litwhiler, lf
Tommy Thevenow, ss Marty Marion, ss
Flint Rhem, p Mort Cooper, p

Both pitchers roll through the first inning. The 1934s first reach base in the second. Collins hits a Texas League single; an out later Ernie Orsatti reaches via an E6. But Leo "The Lip" flys out to Tip O’Neill to end the threat. The Browns get their first baserunner in the very next frame when The Lip boots Curt Welch’s grounder. Welch, however, is erased almost immediately when he is thrown out trying to steal second.

The 1934s draw first blood in the third. Diz reaches on Gleason’s throwing error and advances when Foutz issues an untimely wild pitch. Neither Martin nor Rothcock can get Diz home, but with 2 outs 1934’s skipper, Frankie Frisch, comes through with a line drive single to right. Ducky Wucky Medwick follows with another single, but Rip Collins pops out to end the frame. 1934 leads 1-0 --- and it stays that way for quite a while, ‘cause Diz is at the top of his game. Despite the Browns’ 3 hits though 6 innings, Dean faces the minimum thanks to the throwing arm of catcher Bill Delancy --- he nails all 3 men trying to steal. The 1886s finally string two hits together in the seventh, tying things up on a line-drive single by O’Neill and a bloop double by Commey. The run effectively takes Ol’ Diz out of the game; when he leads off the following inning, it’s a tie game and the 1934s need a baserunner, so Frisch pinch-hits for him. Nothing happens, and Jesse Haines takes over in the 8th. He pitches a perfect frame, and the game moves into the ninth deadlocked.

Foutz has been absolutely dominant since the third inning, retiring 16 Cardinals in a row. But in the ninth he begins to tire. Frisch leads things off with a single but is erased when he tries to steal second. With two outs, Collins keeps the inning alive with another liner to center for a single, and Bill Delancy follows with a Texas Leaguer to put runners on the corners for Ernie Orsatti. That’s three hits in four batters; Foutz looks hittable. Orsatti takes a rip and powers a single into right field, plating the go-ahead run. Another line drive by Durocher brings home an insurance run. Foutz finally gets out of the inning by fanning Buster Mills, but plenty of damage is done. The 1934s send 7 men to the plate, and 5 of them reach base. They take a 3-1 lead into the 9th.

To close things out the sim sends in James Mooney, a terrible choice. This guy posted a 5.47 ERA in 1934, the worst mark on the staff among pitchers with more than a handful of innings. Sure enough, he immediately gets into trouble, walking Foutz to lead off the inning. Latham follows with a chopper to short, and Durocher opts for the sure and easy out at first. After Gleason flys out to center, Mooney is just an out away. But O’Neill continues the rally by grounding one past a diving Frisch; Foutz scores, and it’s a 3-2 game. Mooney then gets a ball up in the zone to Commey, and he rips it into the gap in right center. O’Neill scores to tie the game. With the winning run down at 2d base, Frisch brings in Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance to face Welch --- Vance should have been in there to start the inning --- and he gets out of the inning on a grounder to 3d.

An exhausted Foutz heads back to the mound in the tenth. He gets the first two Cardinal batters, Martin and Rothcock, but Frisch reaches on a flyball single. Medwick then rolls a ball toward short that dies in the grass just beyond the pitcher’s mound; Gleason has to charge from deep on the infield, and by the time he gets to the ball Medwick is safe at first. Foutz is now well over 120 pitches as Ripper Collins digs in against him, 2 for 4 on th eday; he hits another ball hard, and it finds the gap in right-center. Frisch trots home, Medwick races around to join him, and Collins winds up on 2d with a clutch double that gives the Birds a 5-3 lead. After an IBB to the slugging Delancey, Foutz takes on Orsatti again --- the same guy who just an inning ago gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. He gets the better of Foutz again, singling into right-center to plate Rip. Sim-Comiskey has seen enough and lifts Foutz for Jumbo McGinnis, who gets Durocher to end the frame. Foutz’s line is a shambles --- 12 hits, 5 earned runs in 9.2 innings. Too bad; he deserved better.

The Browns won’t go quietly against Vance. Robinson and Bushong start the inning with outs, but Nicol lines one to center to keep the Browns’ hopes alive and McGinnis walks, bringing up Latham as the potential tying run. Unfortunately for Browns fans, it’s just a tease: Latham swings at the first pitch he sees and rolls the ball straight to Frank Frisch. The throw to Rip is in plenty of time, and the Cardinals take Game 1 by a final of 6-3.

Game 2 is tomorrow with probable pitchers Bob Caruthers and Bill Walker. See you then!

BOX SCORE

1934 1886
Pepper Martin, 3b Arlie Latham, 3b
Jack Rothrock, rf Bill Gleason, ss
Frankie Frisch, 2b Tip O’Neill, lf
Joe Medwick, lf Charlie Comiskey, 1b
Ripper Collins, 1b Curt Welch, cf
Bill Delancey, c Yank Robinson, 2b
Ernie Orsatti, cf Doc Bushong, c
Leo Durocher, ss Hugh Nicol, rf
Dizzy Dean, p Dave Foutz, p