With the World Series currently underway, I want to reflect on the 1934 World Series of eighty years ago. In that fall classic the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Detroit Tigers. That 1934 Cardinals team was one of the most memorable in franchise’s history. The “Gashouse Gang,” as they came to be called because of their rowdiness, was led by pitcher Jerome (sometimes called Jay) “Dizzy” Dean, a young, handsome, tall-tale teller with even more self-confidence than his considerable skills allowed. “Ol’ Diz’s” younger brother Paul, christened “Daffy” by the sportswriters, soon also found his way to the Cardinals in time for the 1934 season.
During the 1934 Cardinal spring training camp, Dizzy Dean told a journalist that if the Cards let both of them start, that “me ‘n’ Paul will win 45 to 50 games.” When asked how many of the 50 Dizzy would win, he replied that he would win those that Paul didn’t. The Cards did win, and the brothers Dean did as well, Dizzy going 30 and 7 and Paul notching 19 wins and 11 losses. They pitched the team to a pennant, supported by a stellar cast of roughnecks, accounting for more than half of the team’s 94 wins. It was tight race for most of the year, and the Cards had to win 13 of their final 15 games to pass the front-running New York Giants in the final week of the season. Of the team’s final nine wins, Dizzy and Paul accounted for seven.
Frankie Frisch served as player-manager and other members of the “Gang” included shortstop Leo Durocher, leftfielder Joe “Ducky” Medwick, and the team’s leading hitter and slugger, first baseman Rip Collins, who in a career-best season led the league in slugging average and tied for first in home runs. In a seven game World Series, the Cardinals prevailed, and the Dean boys won them all, each getting a pair in the Cards’ triumph over Detroit.
Detroit was less than impressive in the World Series, although they looked to be the better team as the championship series began. They had gone 101–53 in the regular season and had a terrific everyday lineup. They were anchored by future Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane (catcher), Charlie Gehringer (second base), Goose Goslin (outfielder), and Hank Greenberg (first base). All had good seasons, and Cochrane was named the season’s most valuable player with Gehringer aclose second in the voting. During the World Series the Cardinals took the first game in Detroit, and lost the second in extra innings. They then went to St. Louis for three games with the Tigers winning two of three. For the last two games, and with the Cardinals backed up against the wall, Dizzy and Paul Dean pitched well and won both games in Detroit.
The Tigers would go back to the World Series in 1935 and beat the Chicago Cubs. The tigers, with largely core members of that 1934 and 1935 pennant winners also took American League championships in 1940 and 1945. They also won the World Series again in 1945. Through the rest of the 1930s the Cardinals were competitive, but not victors. Changes had to come. In the closing days of the 1941 season, the Cardinal farm system’s greatest product arrived at the big club: Stan Musial. The next year—Musial’s first full season—the Cardinals enjoyed their winningest season ever with 106 victories. They needed them all, too, for the Brooklyn Dodgers won 104 games. Between 1924 and 1946 the Cards would take four National League pennants and three World Series, a period of dominance rarely seen.