Just call ‘em Yankees West.
Since the days of Rogers Hornsby, no ballclub has been more successful outside the Bronx than the St. Louis Cardinals. The relationship between baseball’s two marquee franchises has been a historical one, dating back to the Roaring 1920s.
In the first of five World Series meetings, Hornsby and Grover Alexander bested Miller Huggins’ Yankees and took the 1926 Series in seven games (outscoring the New Yorkers 31 to 21). Two years later, Ruth, Gehrig and the rest of Murderers’ Row exacted revenge and easily dismissed the Cardinals in four games.
Yankee castoffs Leo “The Lip” Durocher (1934) and Roger Maris (1967) both found new lives and more success after heading west to the Gateway City.
Before heading east, pinstripe icon Yogi Berra would learn his backstop skills and unique philosophy growing up on the bustling streets of St. Louis.
In nearby Oklahoma, another future Yankee great was given short shrift by Redbird scouts. Mickey Mantle and his Dad were no doubt loyal listeners of the Cardinals’ play-by-play on radio KMOX. For a pittance ($1000 NY bonus) “the Mick” would’ve been winning titles alongside Stan Musial and drinking Bud with Harry Caray instead of Billy Martin and Whitey Ford in the Bronx.
As weak as the NL Central is today, the star-laden St. Louis club could’ve simply stayed the course. Even after last season’s collapse the Cardinals still would be favored to win their sorry division. Chicago’s belt-tightening makes sense after years of big spending but Milwaukee and Pittsburgh haven’t even tried to contend since Ronald Reagan was in the White House! The small-market excuse has grown tiresome in light of Minnesota who is in the playoff hunt nearly every season.
Like sharks in the water, the Cardinals and their Yankee counterparts keep moving, rarely resting on their laurels or settling for status quo.
On Saturday the Redbirds pulled off what may prove to be one of the best acquisitions of the off-season signing Lance Berkman to a 1-year, $8 million deal which will likely put the switch-hitting All-Star in right field next spring. Not satisfied, they added more insurance in picking up former Dodgers / Cubs shortstop Ryan Theroit.
The signing of the 34-year-old Berkman comes with some risk. Last season’s springtime knee surgery came on the heels of a disappointing 2009 (.274 BA / 98 SO). But Lance passed his physical and appeared healthy in his brief stint with New York. The Cardinals’ brass may believe 2009 was an aberration and only reflected the early pangs of a knee problem that has since been corrected. Consider the lifetime .296 BA, 327 HRs and plenty of outfield experience and Berkman seems a risk well worth taking.
In acquiring Berkman, St. Louis continues a practice of taking on top talent considered to be “past their prime” or “damaged goods.” Will Clark, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen all proved to be wise pick-ups. The addition of the long-time Astro should prove to be just as shrewd.
Keys to Sport
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory, my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.