Throughout the majority of the 1960s the St. Louis Cardinals were the premier team in the National League. It won three pennants (1964, 1967, and 1968) and two World Series (1964 and 1967). The dominant players on that team were righthanded pitcher Bob Gibson and outfielder Lou Brock, both consensus picks for the Hall of Fame when they came up for a vote. But then the wheels came off. Moving into the 1969 season, when MLB went to division play and multiple teams in the postseason, the Cards looked to continue their domination of the National League. They didn’t, and they were generally weak throughout the 1970s.
This book tells very well the story of that team until the retirement of Gibson at the end of the 1975 season. They still had good players, many of them holdovers from the championship teams of the 1960s, but were never able to recapture the excellence that had earlier been the standard for the team.
This book also explores the rise of more equitable relations between owners and players with the coming of arbitration and free agency for players. Author Doug Feldman suggests that part of the reason for the downfall of the Cards rests with these changes to the game. I don’t see this. The Oakland A’s certainly lost out through that process, a couple of others did so as well. The reality is the Cards suffered from keeping past their usefulness players who had brought earlier championships, failed to use the draft effectively to restock its farm system, and took a decidedly unbusinesslike approach to conducting the business of baseball.
Regardless, this is a very fine account of one team in a critical era.