September has been the Cardinals’ month over the past many seasons. So as we’re heading into another final month of the season, let’s take a look at the best Septembers in Cardinal history for some hope and motivation that can apply to this year.
1. The 1942 Cardinals
The 1942 team included a rookie Stan Musial, Hall-of-Famer Enos Slaughter, and season MVP, Mort Cooper (who went 22-7 with a 1.78 ERA). Despite only 60 home runs all season long (We’re at 191 in the 2016 season to put it in perspective), and being 10 games back in the middle of August, on September 1st, they sat 3.5 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers for the NL Pennant (this was back when the best regular-season team from the AL played the best regular season NL team in the World Series). So in the theme of a strong Septemeber, in that final month of the season, the Cardinals went an astonishing 21-4, overtaking the Dodgers to win the NL by 2 games before going on to beat the Yankees 4-1 in the World Series.
A few notes on the season:
Mort Cooper was throwing so often he would take aspirin mid-game to stay loose and nimble, it was Branch Rickey’s last year ever with the Cards, and they ended up finishing with 106 wins, their winningest season ever.
2. The 1964 Cardinals.
Featuring Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock as well as current Cardinals broadcaster Tim McCarver, the 1964 Cardinals entered September with a record of 71-59, 7.5 games out of the first place Phillies and also trailing the Reds and Giants (still no divisions). On September 20th, the Phillies still had a 6.5 game lead and with just 6 games to go, the Cardinals swept them to take over first place.
In the month of September, overall, they rallied for 21 wins and just 8 losses, inching out the NL by just a game before going on to beat the Yankees in the World Series.
A bit of history on the season:
They hadn’t won a pennant in 18 years, and Stan Musial had retired just the year before. On June 17th they were in 8th place in the NL out of 10 teams, and made a trade with the Cubs that was questioned heavily at the time (this is my favorite part). The Cards traded Ernie Broglio who had gone 18-8 in 1963 and was having another strong season for a player by the name of Lou Brock. We all know how that turned out (plus Broglio fizzled out pretty quickly). In ’64 alone, Brock hit .348 with 81 runs and 33 steals in just 2/3 of a season.
3. The 2011 Cardinals
Here’s the more familiar one. On August 24th, 10.5 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card spot, the Cards had a 4.3% chance of making the playoffs, and during the year they broke the National League Record for most double plays grounded into. Yet, despite being back against the wall, an 18-8 September, along with a nail biting finish in which the Braves lost to the Phillies in the bottom of the 12th of their last regular season game, the Cardinals squeezed into the playoffs by a game. What I love about this is that the Phillies knocked the Braves out of contention, just to be beaten by the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. Defying all odds, they snuck into the playoffs, and we all know the rest.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) October 29, 2011
So what does that mean for this season?
Between 2006-2010, the Cardinals went 64-74 during the month of September, but since 2011, the Cards have gone 84-53 during the final month. Although the NL Central is essentially a no-go (0% chance for the Cards according to FanGraphs), our Red Birds have a 61% chance of taking a Wild Card spot, and they’re in a good position to make that happen. Although the schedule isn’t too easy (two series against the Pirates, two against the Cubs and one versus the Giants), they’ve been great in September in the recent past.
Based on historical success in September and the team’s current stance, I like our odds of getting into the playoffs. And although we looked at three different Cardinal teams from 74, 52, and 5 years ago, those three teams and the guys we have this year have two things in common. They play Cardinal baseball, and they’re playing it for the wonderful city of St. Louis. And that combination, time and again, has come through big in many types of scenarios. So if we can get into the playoffs, we’re giving ourselves a chance, and for a St. Louis baseball fan, looking at these 1942, 1964, and 2011 teams, they all just started with a chance.
Have other great September’s you can think of? Comment below, we’d love to hear them :)
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports