Monday, August 20, 2012

1934 World Series: The Gashouse Gang

The Teams
National League: St. Louis Cardinals (95-58) - Fifth World Series (Won in 1926, 1931)
American League: Detroit Tigers (101-53) - Fourth World Series 

What Happened
The bravado started in spring training when Jay "Dizzy" Dean, the Cardinals ace known as much for his bravado as his pitching prowess, told the gathered reporters that "Me and Paul will win 50 games this year." Paul was Dizzy's younger brother, and 1934 was his first year in the Majors. For Dizzy to suggest that his rookie brother would match him in wins was beyond ridiculous, but statements like that were expected from Dizzy.

Turns out that Dizzy was something like a prophet. He won 30 games, Paul won 19, and the two brothers led the team that would become known as the Gashouse Gang. The name fit, as they looked and played like the poor, dirty, Depression-era small town fans who grew to love them. They ran their way into contention in the National League, entering the final weekend trailing the Giants by a half game. The St. Louis swept four straight from the Reds - with the Dean brothers winning three of those - while the Giants were getting swept in Brooklyn, and the Cardinals advanced to the World Series.

The 1934 Detroit Tigers didn't have a fancy nickname, but maybe they should of. Their No. 2 through 5 spots in the batting order were all occupied by Hall of Famers, and the four men comprising their starting infield missed only one game between them. They were good, and they took advantage of the aging Yankees to run away with the American League pennant with ease.

While the Tigers were good, they were inexperienced - the franchise had never won the World Series, and only two players on their playoff roster - player-manager Mickey Cochrane and outfielder Goose Goslin - had seen the promised land. That inexperience showed in Game 1, as the Tigers committed 5 errors. Since they were batting against Dizzy Dean, that was about four too many. After the Tigers evened the series in Game 2, it was Paul Dean's turn to shut them down, and the Cardinals took a 2-1 series lead.

The legend of Dizzy Dean grew in Game 4 when, sent into the game as a pinch-runner, he didn't bother to slide breaking up a double play and took a throw to the head. He was knocked unconscious and sent to the hospital, where is stay led to the famous headline "X-Ray of Dean's Head Reveals Nothing." The press got a good laugh at that, but the Cardinals weren't laughing, as they were down 3-2 in the series and heading back to Detroit for the final two games.

Paul Dean responded to the challenge in Game 6, throwing a complete game, getting the great Hank Greenberg to pop out to end an eighth-inning threat, and winning the game to force Game 7. Game 7 was ... well, the Tiger fans were throwing fruit and vegetables and paper on the field by the end of the third inning, during which the Cardinals scored seven runs to put the series away. Dizzy Dean - probably mostly recovered from his beaning - got two hits in the big inning, then threw strikes the rest of the way. With the Cardinals still piling on the runs and the crowd getting downright angry, all the tension finally came to a head in the sixth inning.

With two outs in the inning, Ducky Medwick hit a gapper and started running, not stopping until he was sliding - spikes first - into third. His slide knocked down Detroit's Marv Owen, which just made the crowd furious. They picked up the yelling and throwing stuff with a vengence, continuing as the Cardinals added two more runs, then really picking it up when Medwick took his normal spot in left field in the bottom of the inning. The umpires stopped the game twice to restore order, but to no avail; the chaos didn't end until Medwick was removed from the game by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. It was an unfair decision, of course, but since the Cardinals were up 11-0 nothing at that point, it didn't really matter. The Gashouse Gang had their title. And while they seemed primed for a National League dynasty, this Cardinals team fizzled out after their one glorious season. For all their fame and bravado, the Gashouse Gang only played in one World Series.

Defining Game
While the Cardinals had the Dean brothers, the Tigers had a great pitcher of their own in Schoolboy Rowe (Dizzy? Ducky? Schoolboy? What happened to all the great nicknames?) He was great for Detroit in a must-win Game 2, but he still trailed 2-1 entering the ninth inning. After Pete Fox singled to lead off the ninth for Detroit, Rowe went up to the plate himself. Naturally, the play would be to pinch-hit for the pitcher, but Rowe had batted above .300 in 1934. He knew what to do with a bat. He bunted Fox over to second, and Gee Walker - pinch hitting not for the pitcher, but the leadoff hitter - drove Fox in with the tying run. Rowe then kept the Tigers afloat until the 12th, when the Hall of Famers took over. Cochrane made the first out, but Charlie Gehringer and Greenberg drew consecutive walks, before Goslin drove home Gehringer with the game-winning run.

Medwick, Pepper Martin, and Ripper Collins all had great a great series at the plate. Any of them would have been a good choice for MVP. But this was Dizzy's team all the way. He and Paul won all four games of the series for St. Louis - for those keeping track, that put their season win total at 53 wins between them - and as the emotional leader of the Gashouse Gang (and because of his Game 7 shutout) Dizzy would have been the obvious choice.

Random Fact
With the loss, the Tigers dropped to 0-4 in World Series play in franchise history. In all four World Series, they were shut out in the clinching game. 

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

St. Louis 8245 1411
Detroit 33 (12)1 10330

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

34. 1934 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
35. 1964 - St. Louis (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
36. 2003 - Florida (N) def. New York (A) 4-2
37. 1977 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
38. 1996 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-2
39. 1921 - New York (N) def. New York (A) 5-3
Numbers 40-49
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

Game 7s
Simultaneously, I'll rank all the Game 7s. The ones that have appeared in my countdown so far:

12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
26. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5

31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago (N) 3
33. 1909: Pittsburgh 8, Detroit 0
34. 1934: St. Louis (N) 11, Detroit 0

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