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MLB – 1934 – ESPN Baseballs Greatest Hits Special Feature – The St Louis Cardinals Gas House Gang

The Gashouse Gang was the nickname of the baseball team the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934….which was a Major League Baseball team that won 95 games….the National League pennant….and the 1934 World Series in seven games over the Detroit Tigers.

“They don’t look like a major league ball club,” the New York Sun wrote about the team. “Their uniforms are stained and dirty and patched and ill fitting. . . They spit out of the sides of their mouths and then wipe the backs of their hands across their shirt fronts.”…but the Sun noted, “they are not afraid of anybody.”  The nickname Gashouse Gang, by most accounts, came from the team’s generally very shabby appearance and rough-and-tumble tactics….as an opponent once stated that “the Cardinals players usually went into the field in unwashed, dirty, and smelly uniforms, which alone spread horror among their rivals.” According to one account, shortstop Leo Durocher coined the term….when he and his teammates were speaking derisively of the American League….and the consensus was that the Redbirds….should they prevail in the National League race—would handle whoever won the AL pennant. “Why, they wouldn’t even let us in that league over there”…..as Durocher, who had played for the New York Yankees, observed. “They think we’re just a bunch of gashousers.” ….whereby the phrase “gas house” referred to factories that turned coal into town gas for lighting and cooking….which was common in U.S. cities until the widespread use of natural gas….when the plants were noted for their foul smell and were typically located near railroad yards in the poorest neighborhood in the city.  Another explanation holds that the name comes from Dizzy Dean….who played at City Park in Bradenton, Florida for spring training in the 1930’s….and the story goes that Dean liked the city so much that he bought a local gas station and hung out there when he wasn’t playing.  

The team was led by general manager Branch Rickey, playing manager Frankie Frisch and included other stars such as Joe Medwick and Ripper Collins….with many of the players on the Cardinal roster….including Dizzy and Daffy the Dean brothers, Bill DeLancey, Pepper Martin, Spud Davis, and Burgess Whitehead….were Southerners or Southwesterners from working-class backgrounds….on a team that featured five regulars who hit at least .300….a 30-game winner in Dizzy Dean….who was the last National League pitcher to win 30 games in a single season, and the last pitcher in Major League Baseball to do so until Denny McLain accomplished the feat for the 1968 Detroit Tigers….and four All-Stars, including player-manager Frisch.  Not among the All-Stars was Collins, the first baseman who led the team in sixteen offensive categories with stats like a .333 batting average, a .615 slugging percentage, 35 home runs, and 128 runs batted in.  

In the World Series, the Cards and Tigers split the first two games in Detroit….and the Tigers took two of the next three in St. Louis….when the Cardinals proceeded to win the next two, including an 11–0 embarrassment of the Tigers in Detroit to win the Series. The stars for the Cards were Medwick, who had a .379 batting average with one of St. Louis’s two home runs and a series-high five RBI….and the Dean Brothers, who combined for all four of the teams wins with 28 strikeouts and a 1.43 earned run average. 

Any way you cut the pie….this is priceless footage baseball history that will always deserve to be remembered for the scrappy, hard nosed bunch of “rag tag heroes” from St. Louis….as we at ImaSportsphile consider this video to be “pure gold” in our treasure chest of vintage memories. 

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