This season, for
what seems the first time in a long, long while, the St. Louis Cardinals have
been seriously mentioned as a possibility to win the National League pennant.
They are still long shots, but at the odds (10 to 1 at the last reading) they
are a solid bet, for knowing baseball men insist that only one or two things
need happen for St. Louis to be the surprise of the league.
however guarded, derives to a substantial degree from the presence in the
Cardinal lineup of a heavy-browed, lean-jawed young (27) man named Wally Moon.
Such reasoning requires justification, for Moon is neither the strongest hitter
on the Cardinals, nor the best fielder, nor the fastest base runner, and he
does not pitch. Yet of him Fred Hutchinson, the dour, undemonstrative manager
of the Cardinals, says, "I wish all my players were like him." And Jack
Buck, a St. Louis sports broadcaster, agrees, "If a manager had 25 players
like Moon, he'd have no more worries." Earlier in the spring Birdie
Tebbetts of the Cincinnati Redlegs said of Moon: "He's not a great
ballplayer and he never will be, because he can't do everything. He can't throw
and he can't hit left-handed pitching. But he's a good fielder and he's always
on base. And he's always trying to beat you. He's a good ballplayer, a real
baseball writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, explained the paradox of high
praise for Moon despite his lack of the heroic skills. "Wally," Herman
said proudly, "is a real Gashouser."
For St. Louis
Cardinal partisans, no further explanation is necessary. Others may require a
quick peer back into history:
The Cardinals of
1935 were a colorful group of ballplayers, aggressive, brash, loudmouthed,
uninhibited. The year before, they had won the National League pennant and the
World Series with their hell-bent-for-election brand of baseball. Dizzy Dean,
their star pitcher, would mock an opposing batter and deliberately pitch to his
strength, defying the batter to hit and laughing at him when he failed. Pepper
Martin would blithely try for an extra base, lose his race with the throw
coming from the outfield and then turn defeat into victory with a crunching
headfirst slide that sent dust, his opponent and the ball flying in different
directions. Manager Frank Frisch, from second base, and Lippy Leo Durocher,
from shortstop, would charge in together at an umpire who had, they felt, made
a bum call, outraged fury in their eyes, the cords of their necks standing out
as they roared a twin howl of protest unmatched in baseball before or
They were a tough
team, a rowdy team. They were supremely confident and fiercely competitive, and
they had almost no respect for anything but victory.
They came into New
York one day in 1935 to play the Giants. The day previously they had played
with their usual abandon on a muddy field in Boston, and by the end of the game
their uniforms were filthy with earth and perspiration. For some reason there
wasn't time to have the uniforms cleaned before the next day's game, and so the
damp, dirty suits were packed into the team's trunks and sent on to New
When the Cardinals
walked onto the green turf of the Polo Grounds the next afternoon, their gray
road uniforms were grimy and wrinkled beyond belief. The white home suits of
the Giants, freshly laundered and impeccably clean, stood out in blinding
didn't care. Their infield—Ripper Collins at first, Frisch, Durocher and
Martin, who was at third—banged their raucous way through pregame drill. Their
unkempt attire seemed a perfect complement to their belligerent faces.
them," said Joe Val, a New York sports editor. "They look like the gang
that hangs around down by the gashouse."