1942 St. Louis Cardinals
106 – 48 (0.688)
Considered by many to be too young and inexperienced to compete for the pennant, the 1942 Cardinals went on a tear in early August. Winning 43 out of their last 51 games, St. Louis erased a 10 1/2 game deficit and passed Brooklyn on September 13th, finally finishing two games ahead of the 104-50 Dodgers. It was the first of three consecutive pennants for the Cardinals, who under Branch Rickey had been the first team to sign raw, unproven ballplayers and develop them in a farm system.
Rickey’s strategy paid off big in 1942, when home-grown future Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter paced a potent offense, and twenty-game winners Mort Cooper and Johnny Beazley sparked an equally young yet solid pitching staff. In the World Series, the Cards blew past the mighty Yankees in five games, handing Joe McCarthy his first and only Series loss as the Yankee skipper.
Statistics don’t do justice to the offensive talents of the 1942 Cards. No hitter topped 13 home runs, 98 RBI or a .318 average. But the Cardinals backed up Billy Southworth’s smart strategy with clutch hitting to edge out the Dodgers for the pennant and trample the Yankees in the World Series. Leadoff hitter Jimmy Brown hit .400 in the World Series; Terry Moore, another homegrown talent, hit in 20 consecutive games and made his fourth straight All-Star appearance. Slaughter led the league with 188 hits and 17 triples. Stan Musial had yet to distinguish himself as “Stan The Man”, but still batted .315 over 140 games in his rookie season. Walker Cooper caught the pitching staff (which included his brother, Mort) with great success, and made his first All-Star team in only his sophomore season. Shortstop Marty Marion, abnormally large for the position at 6’2″, led the league with 38 doubles.
Since the Cardinals had to squeeze out a lot of games, the importance of the pitching staff was magnified. Mort Cooper accepted the challenge, pitching 10 shutouts on his way to a league-best 22 victories and National League MVP honors. Johnny Beazley was almost as valuable, winning 21 games in his first full year in the majors. Rebounding from a sore arm, which would plague him throughout his career, Ernie White pitched solidly down the stretch, and became the first pitcher since 1926 to shut out the Yanks in a World Series game — a great accomplishment, since the Yankees had played in 10 Fall Classics over that period. The bullpen, anchored by occasional starters Harry Gumbert, Max Lanier and Howie Krist, was solid, rising to the occasion when Mort Cooper faltered in the pivotal fifth game of the World Series.