The Cardinals have been the gold standard for the National League in the past 20 years, placing themselves in 10 league championship series and four World Series. But, now as we begin the ’20s, we look back and see that very little team-wise has happened in a ‘0’ year, which either starts the decade or ends it, depending on your perspective.
Yet, there were Hall of Famers galore.
In the past two centuries, the Cardinals have won the National League pennant in 1930 but lost the World Series in six games to the Philadelphia Athletics. And they won their division in 2000 and took a playoff round from Atlanta before losing in the National League championship series in five games to the New York Mets.
But they really haven’t come close to contending in any of the other years ending in ‘0,’ beginning with the dreadful 20th century opener of 1900 when they were 63-90 and finished 40½ games out of first place. One of the highlights that year was that Dan McGann was hit by more pitches (24) than times he struck out (20).
The Cardinals were 19 games out of first place in the National League in 1910, 18 out in 1920 and 16 in arrears in 1940. But the 1910 club had a Hall of Famer in infielder Miller Huggins, who later managed the great New York Yankees teams. In 1910, Huggins walked 116 times and fanned just 40 times, which is a direct opposite of most players today.
And both the 1920 and 1940 clubs had Hall of Famers, with Rogers Hornsby driving in 94 runs in 1920 and Johnny Mize hitting a league-leading 43 homers in 1940. The 1930 pennant winners had no fewer than six Hall of Famers in “Sunny Jim” Bottomley, Frankie Frisch, Chick Hafey, Jesse “Pop” Haines, Burleigh Grimes and a 20-year-old kid named Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean, who pitched one game, a nine-inning complete-game victory.
In 1950, the Cardinals wound up 12½ games out, and in 1960 they were nine games behind Pittsburgh. Each team, though non-champions, had two Hall of Famers. Stan Musial was on both, driving in 109 runs in 1950 and Enos Slaughter 101 that year. In 1960, there was also a 24-year-old pitcher who would gain prominence a little later. Bob Gibson was 3-6 that year.
The 1970 club was a fourth-place team in its division, finishing 13 games behind, despite having a stunning five future Hall of Famers in Gibson, Joe Torre, Ted Simmons, Lou Brock and Steve Carlton. And the Cardinals were 17 out in 1980 when Whitey Herzog took over for Ken Boyer, then stepped down to become general manager and then hired himself back as manager after the season. Simmons wound up his Cardinals career on this club, and Herzog would become a Hall of Famer, too.
Herzog’s run lasted a decade and, though there was considerable success in the middle, the 1990 club limped home at 70-92 and in last place in the National League East Division, 25 games behind. By early July, Herzog had seen enough of his team, which was set to lose several players to free agency, and called it quits, never to manage again. Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith couldn’t help much, nor could Hall of Fame reliever Lee Smith, who had 27 saves.
The 2000 division title team and the 2010 team both were skippered by Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, and the latter team had two potential Hall of Famers in Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. The 2010 team finished 86-76 and only five games out of the division lead, but the horse was out of the barn by the time the Cardinals started their surge in which they won seven of their last eight games to cut a 6½ deficit to five.
If you want to know the best years for Cardinals team, take the number ‘4.’ The Cardinals have been in the postseason five times in seasons ending in ‘4.’ They won the 1934, 1944 and 1964 World Series, lost the 2004 World Series and lost the National League Championship Series in 2014.
Those teams combined for 23 postseason wins, compared to five totaled for the 1930 and 2000 clubs, the only ‘0’ teams that played in the postseason.