Thursday, April 16, 2015

George Sisler Still Holds Record for Most Hits in a Season

I always get disturbed reading that Ichiro Suzuki broke George Sisler's season record with 262 hits to Sisler's 257. No mention is ever made that the season was extended from 154 games to 162 which helped Ichciro break the record.

Ichiro had 1.62 hits per game compared to 1.67 by Sisler. Sisler had the most per game and edged him out. George is still the leader.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Painting from 1944 World Series Unearthed at Boston Museum

“Saturday Afternoon At Sportsman’s Park,” oil 1945
We at the St. Louis Browns fan club were not aware of a critically acclaimed oil painting having been done around the scene(s) of the 1944 World Series, the subway series between the Browns and the Cardinals.

But same came to our attention courtesy of the Boston Globe, which ran a feature concerning the new “The Art of Baseball” exhibit at the Concord Museum in Concord, Massachusetts.

The painting is by Edward Laning and is entitled “Saturday Afternoon At Sportsman’s Park”. According to the Globe article, it depicts Game 4 of the World Series, played October 7, 1944. (The Browns went into that tilt leading the series two games to one).

Laning, who died in 1981, is a renowned mural painter whose works are still prominent in many public buildings around the country.

“The Art of Baseball” opens this Friday (April 17)* and runs through Sept. 20.  Doris Kearns Goodwin is honorary curator of the exhibit.

Perhaps Laning's most famous work is The Role of the Immigrant in the Industrial Development of America which hangs in the Aliens’ Dining Room at Ellis Island.

Laning was part of an art school called the Fourteenth Street school.  Laning and the Fourteenth Streeters occupied a peculiar role among their peers. While their subjects were distinctly contemporary, their style was proudly anachronistic: they drew inspiration from European masters like Rubens, Veronese, and Tintoretto. During a trip to Europe in 1929, Laning was taken by the work of Rubens, one of Miller’s favorites. When Laning was turned down for the post office commission in 1935, he attributed it to his own “baroque aesthetic”: the sweeping arrangements, soft edges, and energetic bodies that showed Rubens’ influence.

Laning was born and raised not too far from Sportsman's Park.  He was from Petersburg, Illinois in Menard County.  It is not known whether Laning was a Browns or Cardinals rooter .. or even a Cubs fan.

The Boston Globe article about the exhibit opening is here.

* April 17 is also the beginning of a three-day week-end homestand in Boston against the Baltimore Orioles, the successors of the St. Louis Browns.   Hopefully, more than a few Brownie/Orioles fans in town to root on their beloved O's will take in the exhibit this weekend in Beantown.

This Day in History: April 14, 1925

1925 — The Cleveland Indians opened the season with a 21-14 victory over the St. Louis Browns, the most runs scored by one club on opening day. The Indians scored 12 runs in the eighth inning when the Browns made five errors. Browns first baseman George Sisler had four errors in the game.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Seattle Mariners Catching up with the Browns' Opening Day Record

The Seattle Mariners yesterday tied a 70-year old record held by the St. Louis Browns.    It is the American league record of most consecutive wins on opening day, with nine.   The Browns won nine consecutive opening days from 1937 through 1945.

The Browns would have made it 10 straight, but in 1946, the Browns' Nels Potter  lost a pitchers' duel to Hal Newhouser, as the defending World Champion Detroit Tigers beat the Brownies 2-1.

Back in those days, the Browns opened the season against the de facto Western Division. During their nine season record-setting span, the Browns opened against the Tigers and  Chicago White Sox four times each, and the Cleveland Indians once.

Yes, the Browns were very proficient at giving their fans opening-day bliss. Rest of the season? Not so much....

Monday, April 6, 2015

Browns Fan Club at Card Show April 12

The St. Louis Browns Fan Club will be represented at the St. Louis Sports Collectors and baseball card show next show Sunday, April 12th at Orlando Gardens. The banquet center is south of Bayless Rd and Interstate 55 in South County.
On hand signing autographs are Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst and Jim Bunning. Feel free to view our autograph lineup on our homepage at .
Lou Brock won the hearts of Cardinal fans shortly after his trade to the Cardinals on June 15, 1964. That trade helped spark the Cardinals to an unexpected pennant and next the first World Series Championship for
St Louis. Why was the pennant and ensuing World Championship unexpected? When the trade was made, the Cardinals were in eighth place and as late as September 21st the Phillies had a 6.5 game lead for the pennant! During the remainder of Mr. Brock's career, he achieved another World Series Championship, one National League Pennant, 938 stolen bases (then an all-time record), over 3,000 hits, stolen base leader eight times and six time all-star. He also led the league at various time in at bats, doubles and triples! Other achievements include having the highest World Series batting average, .391, for those that played in 20 or more games, he was one of only four batters to hit a home run in the right center field bleachers in the Polo Grounds (Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock being the others), also he was the first batter in a major league regular season game in Canada when the Expos first played in Montreal.
The achievements of Hall of Fame member Red Schoendienst are many: he was an outstanding second baseman often leading the league in fielding statistics. He was a member of the 1946 Cardinal and 1957 Brave
World Champion Teams. He was a member of the 1958 Brave National League Champion team. Also as a player he was a ten time all-star, often hit over .300 and even lead the NL in base steals one year!
After retiring as a player he managed the World Champion Cardinal team of 1967. He managed the 1968 NL Champion team and was a coach for the World Series Champion 1964 and 1982 Cardinals! He was the bench coach of the 1985 and 1987 NL Champs. He ranks second in wins as a Cardinal Manager. In 1967 and 1968 he earned the Manager of the Year Award. Hope you can plan on coming out to meet the third oldest members of the Hall of Fame and the oldest manager of a World Series Champion team! He has been in a MLB uniform in various capacities for 70 years. Come out to congratulate him in his 70th season in uniform!!
It has been eight years since Hall of Fame pitcher, Jim Bunning, last appeared with St Louis Sports Collectors. The achievements of Mr. Bunning are numerous: nine time All-Star, three time
Strikeout leader, win leader, two no hitters, one of which was a perfect game. To put it in perspective of how dominate he was as a pitcher, when he retired, Mr. Bunning was second on the list of all time strikeouts, behind only Walter Johnson.
While with the Tigers, he pitched a no-hitter against the Ted Williams led Boston Red Sox. On Father's Day, 1964 while with the Phillies, he tossed a perfect game against the Mets. The perfect game was the first thrown in the National League since 1880! He is one of seven pitchers to throw a perfect game and a separate no hitter, four of those came after his. He is only one of five pitchers to have a no hitter in each league. Lastly, on August 2, 1959, Bunning struck out three batters on nine pitches in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He is one of ten pitchers to accomplish a nine pitch/three strikeout inning. His post baseball career was also very rewarding by serving five terms in the US House of Representatives and two terms in the United States Senate.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Most Unloved Team in Baseball



I was a thirteen-year-old baseball nut in 1948 when I discovered the St. Louis Browns of the American League. Red, white, and blue had monopolized big-league team colors since Bob (Death to Flying Things) Ferguson had cavorted for the Hartford Dark Blues decades before, but the Browns had been flouting color convention since their founding, in 1902. For the same logical reason that the Homestead Grays’ uniforms could hardly be puce or taupe, the Browns had to wear brown. A rich color, brown, but not a heroic color.
It was a perfect fit. A color scheme that evoked the barnyard and the excretions of babies fittingly defined the Browns. They were the Lowly Browns from the outset, setting all the wrong records: first in last-place finishes; leukemic attendance that reached a nadir, in 1933, when thirty-three fans paid to watch a home game; so financially strapped that scuffed, worn, and torn baseballs were put in play because the club couldn’t afford the regulation number of fresh ones.
Other than a freak World Series appearance in 1944, amid a wartime talent drought so dire that a one-armed outfielder eventually made the starting lineup, the Browns were as universally unloved a baseball team as ever existed. The National League Cardinals shared the Browns owned Sportsman’s Park with the Browns and were their opposite: perennial winners, darlings of St. Louis baseball fans. The red-white-and-blue Cards filled the park as fast as the Browns emptied it.
Which struck a resonant chord and endeared them to me, because of my own issues of low self-esteem. I identified with unloved losers in all spheres: in hockey, the then forlorn New York Rangers; in automobiles, Nash, a poor relation of Detroit’s Big Three, about to go under; in politics, Harold Stassen, the Don Quixote from Minnesota. Naturally, I despised the rich and smug New York Yankees the way Walter Reuther despised Henry Ford.
I wallowed in my Brownsophilia even after that baseball Barnum Bill Veeck took over the team, in 1951. He proceeded on the principle that stunts would be a faster, cheaper route to higher ticket sales than trying to build a winning team. It was Veeck who once sent a three-and-a-half-foot little person up to bat, who let the fans in the stands vote on strategy, who tried attracting St. Louis’s black community to Sportsman’s Park by signing the beloved grandfatherly pitcher Satchel Paige (the Cardinals stayed all-white to the bitter end).
I wallowed in Brownsophilia until that fateful day in 1953 when baseball exterminated the Browns like a roach (an ugly brown roach, natch) and the franchise morphed into, ladies and gentlemen, your Baltimore Orioles.
Yet that youthful crush abides even today. As I write this I’m wearing a sweatshirt with the classic BROWNS,” and atop it a medieval knight astride his horse, wielding a mighty sword, more Knights of Columbus heraldry than baseball iconography. (Its origins and meaning remain tantalizingly mysterious.) My sweatshirt was obtained via the official online Browns Fan Club, a hardy cell of nostalgists keeping the feeble flame alive sixty-two years after the last Brownie whiffed.
Browns logo over the heart: a shield enclosing a baseball imprinted with “
There’s even a Brownie theme song and a Surviving Players roll call. (The nifty fifties hurler Ned Garver, a twenty-game winner for a 1951 Browns team that lost a hundred and two games, is ninety years old.)
Baseball economics today have levelled out the old imbalance that kept rich teams like the Yankees riding so high and the impoverished Browns providing the flooring for the league cellar, year after year. I feel for the kid with an inferiority complex who has just discovered the game, because the sweet misery of Brownsophilia will never be his.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

'Did You Know That?' Dept.: St. Louis Browns First Team to Sell Hot Dogs.

Hot diggity dog!  Our crack St. Louis Browns Historical Society research crew has uncovered another Brownie record:   In 1893, the Browns became the first team in the history of baseball to sell hotdogs to fans. 

From the History of the Hot Dog over at

The year was 1893.  In Chicago that year, the Colombian Exposition brought hordes of visitors who consumed large quantities of sausages sold by vendors. People liked this food that was easy to eat, convenient and inexpensive. Hot dog historian Bruce Kraig, Ph.D., says the Germans always ate the dachshund sausages with bread. Since the sausage culture is German, it is likely that Germans introduced the practice of eating the dachshund sausages, which we today know as the hot dog, nestled in a bun.

Standard fare at baseball parks.

Also in 1893, sausages became the standard fare at baseball parks. This tradition is believed to have been started by a St. Louis bar owner,
Chris Von de Ahe, a German immigrant who also owned the St. Louis Browns major league baseball team.

 Inventing the hot dog bun.

 Many hot dog historians chafe at the suggestion that today's hot dog on a bun was introduced during the St. Louis "Louisiana Purchase Exposition" in 1904 by Bavarian concessionaire, Anton Feuchtwanger. As the story goes, he loaned white gloves to his patrons to hold his piping hot sausages. Because most of the gloves were not returned, the supply began running low. He reportedly asked his brother-in-law, a baker, for help.

The baker improvised long soft rolls that fit the meat - thus inventing the hot dog bun.

According to Busch Stadium Facts, in one year, the stadium sells:

540,000 hot dogs;
181,000 pounds of nacho chips; and

32,000 gallons of nacho cheese.

Go Cards!  Go Alka-Seltzer!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Coming Soon: Tiny Bar for Tiny People

Browns Fan Club officials, Emmett McAuliffe & Bill Rogers, are the two guys right in the middle.
Others toasting the event are officials and staff from Elasticity, a digital marketing and public relations
firm and HLK Agency
(Click on Photo to Enlarge)

A new bar is set to open in downtown St. Louis* in a month or so to pay homage to the "tiny" things in life - like former Browns player, Eddie Gaedel, the shortest player in baseball history. Gaedel is part of the mural hanging on the wall in the background
Official notices and press releases will be out soon.  Stay tuned.

*1008 Locust Street

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Roy Sievers Becomes Oldest Living Senator

Roy Sievers, a regular at the annual St. Louis Browns Fan Club player/fan reunion luncheon, has become the oldest living Washington Senator (expansion franchise).  This so, after the passing today of Minnie Minoso.

Roy was purchased by the Senators late in the 1964 season from the Philadelphia Phillies.  This entailed for Roy moving from a first-place team to a 9th-place team. Still, Sievers performed admirably, banging four home runs in just 58 at bats. Thus he led the Senators that year in both pinch hit home runs and home run percentage.

Sievers, a St. Louisan who attended Beaumont high school, was American League Rookie of the year in 1949 as a Brown.  He finished his career with the Senators in 1965, totaling 318 home runs.  When Sievers retired, he was the oldest non-pitcher, non-manager in baseball (age 38.172).  Roy and Minnie both played in the A.L. in the 40s, 50s and 60s.  But unlike Minnie, Roy did not make "stunt bows" in the 70s and 80s to become a most-decades leader.

Several other Brownies are featured on the Oldest Living Baseball Player List.  Chuck Stevens, 96, of Garden Grove, Calif., is the oldest living St. Louis professional ballplayer (Browns or Cardinals). A career Brownie, Chuck is also one of only six major league players who played before World War II.

Ned Garver, 89, is the oldest living member of the entire Los Angeles franchise.  Tito Francona, 81, who was signed by the Browns and played his first two years of professional baseball at the Browns' farm clubs at York and Aberdeen, is the oldest living player of two teams.  First, he is the oldest living member of the Oakland Athletics.  Second, Tito is the oldest-living Milwaukee Brewer (the Browns were originally derived from the 1901 Milwaukee Brewer franchise).

The St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles currently have six players in the Top 25 Oldest Living Major League Baseball Players list:
#7   Stevens, 96
#13 Tom Jordan, 95
#20 Wally Westlake, 94 (Oriole only)
#22 Dick Starr, 93
#23 George Elder, 93
#24 Jim Rivera, 93

Dick Starr

George Elder
Jim Rivera

Friday, February 27, 2015

A 2015 Interview With Ty Cobb; Baseball With Matt

Posted: 25 Feb 2015 06:55 PM PST

Hey baseball fans!

Today I have a special interview! It's with the Hall of Famer who has the best lifetime batting average of all time (.366), Ty Cobb! But wait: Ty Cobb has been dead since 1961, so how could I have possibly interviewed him? Good question. Remember my "interviews" with Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, where I asked someone who knew a lot about one of the hitters to answer questions as if he was him? Well, I did the same thing with this interview. The person who answered my questions as if he was Cobb is Norm Coleman, an actor who actually plays Ty Cobb on stage for the past eight years in the play "Tyrus Cobb." Norm's answers were awesome and I think they sound exactly like how Cobb himself would answer the questions.

The real Ty Cobb below:
Ty Cobb

But before I present the interview, click here . The link will actually take you to where you can buy my book, "Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers: An Introduction to Baseball History, " which I highly recommend. If  you flip to chapter three in the book, you will see a whole section on "Cantankerous (meaning argumentative) Cobb." Hope you find the biography interesting. Anyway, let's get to the interview.

Matt: You faced a lot of tough pitchers during your playing days, but who was the toughest to hit against?
Ty: The two most difficult pitchers for me to handle were Babe Ruth when he pitched for Boston and Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators. Both entered the Hall of Fame with me in 1936. The Babe threw only two pitches, fastball, up high and in tight, and a curve, low and away. You knew they were coming and sometimes he’d yell at me, telling me what was coming. He dared you to hit it and if you got a hit, he’d scream at me, "You got lucky Ty."
I went 22 for 67 with a batting average of .328 against George. No one threw faster than Walter Johnson. If they had radar guns back then, his fastball would clock near 100 mph. Johnson feared hitting a batter, afraid he might kill him if he hit the batter in the head. So I would step in closer to the plate, making Walter throw a little outside, making it a little easier for me to hit the ball to left and get 120 hits in 328 at-bats for an average of .366.
Every hitter has one guy he can’t hit. For me, there was a little fellow named Bill Bayne (pictured below), pitched for the St. Louis Browns between 1919 and 1924. I faced him 36 times and got only 5 hits, which was a batting average of .139. I never could figure him out.
Read more at:
Bill Bayne

Monday, February 23, 2015

Don Johnson Dies at 88

Don Johnson was born Nov. 12, 1926, in Portland, OR.  In high school, he excelled as a pitcher attracting the attention of major league scouts and was signed by the New York Yankees in 1943. WWII interrupted Don's early baseball career. He served two years in the U.S. Army.

Don Johnson
At the age of 20, Don made his major league debut with the 1947 Yankees, going the distance against the Philadelphia Athletics in a 10 inning 3-2 victory.

Don's professional baseball career spanned 16 years with the Yankees, St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators, Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants. He also pitched for Toronto in the International League. He led the league in ERA and strikeouts and in 1957, was named the league's MVP.   v


So You Think You Know the Browns

Difficulty level: 6

  1. Who was the first Saint Louis Brown to play in an All-Star game?
    1. Beau Bell
    2. Harlond Clift
    3. Rick Ferrell
    4. Rollie Hemsley
    5. Sam West
  2. Who was the only Saint Louis Brown to twice win a batting title?
    1. Beau Bell
    2. George Sisler
    3. Vern Stephens
    4. Jack Tobin
    5. Ken Williams
  3. Who was the only Saint Louis Browns pitcher to pitch 36 complete games in one season?
    1. Red Donahue
    2. Fred Glade
    3. Harry Howell
    4. Barney Pelty
    5. Jack Powell
  4. In what year did the Saint Louis Browns win their one and only American League pennant?
    1. 1902
    2. 1906
    3. 1922
    4. 1944
    5. 1945
  5. Who was the first Saint Louis Brown to lead the American League in RBI?
    1. Del Pratt
    2. George Sisler
    3. Moose Solters
    4. Vern Stephens
    5. Ken Williams
  6. Who won the most games while pitching for the Saint Louis Browns?
    1. Red Donahue
    2. Bobo Holloman
    3. Barney Pelty
    4. Jack Powell
    5. Urban Shocker
  7. Who holds the Saint Louis Browns record for most hits in one season?
    1. Beau Bell
    2. Heinie Manush
    3. George Sisler
    4. Vern Stephens
    5. Jack Tobin
  8. Who did not throw a no hitter for the Saint Louis Browns?
    1. Bob Groom
    2. Earl Hamilton
    3. Bobo Holloman
    4. Harry Howell
    5. Ernie Koob
  9. Who was the last owner of the Saint Louis Browns?
    1. Philip Ball
    2. Donald Barnes
    3. August Busch
    4. Robert Hedges
    5. Bill Veeck

Friday, February 20, 2015

Browns Canyon Designated National Monument

Although it has nothing to do with the sport of baseball, and rather more to do with the sports of fishing and whitewater rafting, when our "Google Alert" goes off, it goes off.

Therefore may I present to you, the beauty and splendor that is Browns Canyon:

In looking at the history of this Colorado natural wonder, there is no mention anywhere of why it was named "Browns".  Lost in the mists of time apparently.  But since the St. Louis Browns were the closest team to Colorado for the first 100 years of major league baseball, we are going to assume it was named in honor of our Browns.

Browns Canyon Colorado was declared a National Monument by Pres. Obama on February 19, 2015.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hank Peters, Baseball Executive, Died January 4, 2015

Henry J. "Hank" Peters began his career after answering an ad from the St. Louis Browns, eventually working his way up to the scouting department. When the team moved to Baltimore after the 1953 season, Peters declined to make the move and subsequently joined the front office of the Kansas City Athletics.

During more than a decade with the franchise, Peters would eventually direct the team's scouting and minor league system in the mid-1960s under owner Charlie Finley. He held the title of general manager of the Athletics during the 1965 season.

Peters joined the Cleveland Indians following the 1965 campaign as director of player personnel and assistant general manager to Gabe Paul for the remainder of the 1960s through 1971. He then served as the sixth president in the history of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the umbrella group that governs minor league baseball, from 1972 to 1975, president and general manager of the Orioles from 1975 to 1987, and president of the Indians from 1987 to 1991.

As Orioles' general manager, he kept the team competitive in the tough American League East Division, and won AL pennants in 1979 and 1983, as well as the 1983 World Series.
Prior to his baseball career, Peters served in the United States Army during World War II. He died of complications from a stroke in Boca Raton, Florida on January 4, 2015, aged 90.


Monday, December 29, 2014

He Threw Games for Gamblers Yet He Still Holds Record for Most Innings Pitched Without Allowing a Home Run

We present now for your amusement, the curious case of one Joe Blong.  St. Louis Brown Stockings right-handed pitcher, St. Louis native, son of Irish immigrants, and University of Notre Dame alumnus.

He holds the major league record for most innings pitched without allowing a home run in a career (320.1 innings). But it also seems he had a nasty habit of throwing games, "hippodroming" as the newspapers of the day colorfully called it, and was kicked out of baseball for it not once but twice.

When Joe and two other Browns teammates were kicked out of baseball and blacklisted from all respectable leagues in November 1877, it was curtains for repeat-offender Blong.   How do you develop a reputation for throwing games and still hold a positive record that lasts forever?  Perhaps he had so much pitching control that he was able to serve up only singles and doubles so that it did not look too obvious that he was throwing a game.?? In that case, still remarkable control for a pitcher.

The modern record is quite a ways off from Blong's mark: (269.1 Greg Minton, San Francisco Giants reliever - June 1, 1979 through May 1, 1982), symptomatic of home runs that happen about 8 times as often as they did in the eighteen seventies.  But nonetheless even if someday someone surpasses 320.1 innings, it is not likely to represent the entire career of that pitcher.  Organized baseball did not know what a favor they were doing for Joe when they expelled him in 1877:  bestowing him with an almost impossible record of pitching an entire career, consisting of more than 300 innings, without giving up a home run.

Blong is buried in Calvary Cemetery in north St. Louis.

p.s. for Notre Dame fans, one of Blong's partners in crime was the unfortunately named ballplayer Trick McSorley, his classmate at Notre Dame. 

Here is the account from This Game of Games blog:

The St. Louis Globe Democrat ... chastised the Browns for signing Blong. While it’s possible that this sense of outrage was simply a result of Blong’s disregard for a contract, the Globe Democrat’s article from October 31st, that stated that Blong was expelled from both the Reds and the Stars for “hippodroming, must be taken seriously. The contemporary sources paint Blong as a scoundrel at best and, at worst, as a man lacking honesty and character. The red flags were certainly up.

Playing mostly in the outfield, Blong had an uneventful 1876 season for the Brown Stockings while enjoying his best year statistically. In 1877, he was named team captain. Captain Blong was not having a good year at the plate that year when the Brown Stockings went to Chicago in late August to take on the White Stockings. On August 24, 1877, Chicago beat St. Louis 4-3 in just another game in the dog days of the season. However, later that month, Blong and teammate Joe Battin were named by a group of Chicago and St. Louis gamblers as “willing partners” in the fix of the August 24th game. “Crooked play has been discovered in the St. Louis nine,” said an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “and a dispatch from St. Louis says that (Davey) Force, Battin, and Blong have been expelled with forfeited pay.” The scandal would lead to the blacklisting of Blong, Battin, Force, and teammate Mike McGeary in November of 1877.

Joe Blong’s big league career was over. Even though he was able to catch on with “the Springfield nine” in 1878 and was playing baseball with the Union Club of St. Louis as late as 1884, Blong would never again be allowed to play baseball in the major leagues. While the incidents with the Reds and Stars are open to interpretation, Blong was specifically named, by gamblers, in a fixing incident while with the Brown Stockings and would be persona non grata in Organized Baseball for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Photo Collages of St. Louis Browns

Click below for Browns history. All of the items displayed are available for purchase. Write or call:
Tele:  314-892-8632


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

St. Louis Browns Were Colorful

 Major League Baseball fans in Illinois are divided into several camps. Cardinals fans rule the south, while White Sox fans creep in farther north. The Cubs have a strong base statewide. Sixty years ago, there was another, more interesting choice.

Until 1953, St. Louis was home to two teams, the National League's Cardinals as well as the Browns of the American League. Though the Browns lost a bundle of games over the decades, they left a legacy of some of baseball’s most colorful moments.

The Browns opened play in St. Louis in 1902, a year after the founding of the American League, when the last-place Milwaukee franchise moved to the Gateway City after only one season. They were named for the color of their uniforms, which were replete with brown trim. The name also had been an early moniker of the other team in town, the Cardinals, before the turn of the century.

The Browns finished second at 78-58 in that inaugural season, which was not a sign of things to come. In their 52 years in St. Louis, the Browns finished first once, second twice and sixth or worse 33 times. Their ineptitude gave rise to the saying, “St. Louis. First in shoes, first in booze and last in the American League.”

Despite their struggles, the Browns never lacked for color. The team gave rise to the brilliant career
Branch Rickey
of Branch Rickey, who came to St. Louis in 1913 from a successful stint as head baseball coach at the

University of Michigan. Rickey later moved across town and built the first minor-league farm system, which helped the Cardinals win four World Series titles before he left in 1942 for Brooklyn. There, he introduced Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the major leagues.

“The owner of the Browns at the time did not recognize Rickey’s value,” said Bill Rogers, of St. Louis, who has researched the Browns extensively. “Had Rickey stayed on, I think things would have turned out much differently.”

Rickey also is responsible for the player that many believe was the greatest in Browns history. First baseman George Sisler was a former Michigan star who batted .420 with 51 stolen bases and 105 RBIs in 1922 to lead the Browns to a 93-61 record, their best ever. Sisler batted .340 in a 15-year major league career, 12 with the Browns. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Poor attendance was a recurring theme in Browns history. The 1935 team drew 80,922 fans for the entire season, and the Great Depression was not entirely to blame. St. Louis never won more than 67 games in a 154-game season at any point in the 1930s and was a miserable 43-111 in 1939.

Finally, the Browns broke through in 1942, finishing third at 82-69 under manager Luke Sewell. 

With a strong pitching staff and a formidable infield, St. Louis was primed for a run. In 1944, they
remained in contention for most of the season and swept a season-ending, four-game series against the Yankees at home to capture the pennant with an 89-65 mark.

Ironically, their World Series opponents were their crosstown rivals, the Cardinals. Since the early 1920s, the Browns actually had been the Cardinals’ landlords as the owners of Sportsmans’ Park. Unfortunately for the Browns, they had to suffer as the Cardinals rose to the top of the National League and routinely outdrew their counterparts at the box office.

The Browns jumped to a 2-1 Series lead, but the Cardinals won the last three to clinch in six games. “The Series appearance was a tremendous shot in the arm for the Browns,” said Rogers. “But in St. Louis, the fans of one team did not like the other team. Even Stan Musial remarked about that once.”

The Browns nearly repeated in 1945, but were eliminated from the pennant race on the last day of the season. That year, the star attraction for the Browns was Pete Gray, a one-armed outfielder who batted .218 in 77 games in his sole major league season.

For most of their existence, the Browns were financially strapped, and often had to sell off star players simply to keep afloat. After their glorious run of the mid-1940s, many top players were sold for needed cash, and the team fell into steep decline.

“I hate to say it, but I think the Browns were often mismanaged,” remarked Rogers. “That put them in a financial bind often, and they had to trade or sell their best players to cover expenses.”

However, there were plenty of memorable episodes. Many were courtesy of the flamboyant Bill Veeck, who bought the team in 1951 from an ownership tandem including Bill DeWitt, whose son is a current Cardinals’ team owner. Veeck challenged the Cardinals head on with a series of wacky promotions.

Soon after buying the team, Veeck signed Eddie Gaedel, a three-foot-seven-inch midget to a one-day contract and sent him up to bat in the second game of an Aug. 19, 1951, doubleheader against Detroit. Wearing the number “1/8" and creating a strike zone of a mere inch-and-a-half, Gaedel walked on four pitches.

Six days later, the Browns hosted “Grandstand Manager’s Night,” in which fans were allowed to

Bill Veeck
make on-field decisions. Manager Zack Taylor held up signs such as “Should the Browns Bunt?,” “Take Out the Pitcher?” and “Steal?,” while spectators held signs replying “Yes” or “No.” The Browns knocked off the Philadelphia A’s 5-3 that night, a highlight for a squad that went 52-102.

Still, many of the players preferred playing for the Browns than the other team in town. Though the Cardinals never finished lower than second from 1941-49, many Browns were happier with their cellar-dwelling franchise. In an interview for a 2000 book, Don Gutteridge, a former Cardinal who was the Browns’ second baseman through their 1940s heyday, said that “the Cardinals were always pinching pennies. The Browns were a better club to play for than the Cardinals.”

Some of the later Browns are among the franchise’s most recognizable names. They include the legendary Satchel Paige, who won 12 games at age 46 in 1952, as well as righthander Ned Garver, who won 20 games in 1951. Garver is one of 23 surviving Browns players today, a list that includes Ottawa native Ed Mickelson, who saw action in seven games for the Browns in 1953 and is said to have driven in the final run in Browns history.

Mickelson, now 88, played in a total of 18 Major League games over three seasons with the Browns, White Sox and Cardinals and later wrote a memoir of his 11 seasons in pro ball, mostly in the minors.

Another surviving ex-Brown is Don Larsen, a St. Louis rookie in 1953. Three years later, he tossed a perfect game for New York in the 1956 World Series.

When the Cardinals were sold to Anheuser-Busch in December 1952, Veeck realized he could no longer survive against a larger-budget rival. His tumultuous run as Browns’ owner came to an end when he sold the team after the 1953 season. The franchise moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles.

Sixty years later, the Browns are hardly forgotten. In 1984, the St. Louis Browns Fan Club was founded and now numbers 370 members. The club holds an annual banquet, publishes an in-house magazine and offers a line of collectibles.

“Interest in the Browns is extremely high,” said Rogers, the president of the club. “Even though only 23 Browns survive, there are tens of thousands of fans left. Even younger people have experienced the Browns through the memories of their parents and grandparents. Like one person said to me, 'we can’t bring back the Browns, but we can at least keep their memory alive.’ ”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Don Lenhardt, 91, former outfielder for the St. Louis Browns

Don Lenhardt, who spent five seasons in the major leagues as an outfielder with the St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, passed away June 9, 2014 in Chesterfield, Missouri. He was 91.

Don Lenhardt
A native of Alton, Illinois, Lenhardt was a standout multi-sport athlete, earning a scholarship to the University of Illinois to play both baseball and basketball. His collegiate career was cut short in 1942 when he joined the Navy. He served in World War II until his 1945 discharge, never playing during his military service.

“I missed about five summers of playing after I went into the service,” Lenhardt told Lou Hernandez in his book, “Memories of Winter Ball.” “I cannot say it was bad, because you never know. It probably did not hurt me at all, because I probably matured some. I did not play ball in the service. I tried out when I was leaving, and they wanted me to stay and play, but I said no, I am going home.”
With the help of Yankees scout Lou Magualo, Lenhardt signed with the St. Louis Browns in 1946.

As he progressed in the Browns minor league organization, Lenhardt grew into a feared power hitter, smashing 22 and 26 home runs respectively for Springfield in 1948 and San Antonio in 1949. His outburst in Double A with San Antonio attracted the attention of Mike Gonzalez, who managed the Habana team in the Cuban Winter League.

“Mike Gonzalez saw me play in San Antonio and he invited me to play in Havana,” he said to Hernandez. “I wanted to go, because I knew it would help me get to the big leagues. I had a great year down there and I had a great first year in the big leagues.”

Lenhardt had a breakout rookie season in 1950 with the Browns, cracking 22 home runs, driving in 81 runs while posting a .273 batting average; however, his powerful start was not enough to cement his position in St. Louis. The cash strapped Browns traded Lenhardt to the Chicago White Sox less than halfway through the 1951 season for two players and cash. It was a welcome acquisition for the White Sox.

“I’m glad to have him with us,” White Sox manager Paul Richards said to the United Press in 1951, “and I’ll probably use him most against left-handed pitching.”

The White Sox used him as Richards directed and in 199 at-bats, he hit 10 home runs. Still, despite his power hitting, the winds of change continued to blow Lenhardt throughout the American League.
He played for three different teams in 1952, starting with the Boston Red Sox after an off-season trade. He was then traded twice in the span of two months, going from Boston to Detroit in a blockbuster deal that sent Walt Dropo and Johnny Pesky to Detroit in exchange for future Hall of Famer George Kell and Dizzy Trout. In August, Detroit sent Lenhardt back to St. Louis for 20-game winner Ned Garver.

Lenhardt stayed with St. Louis through the 1953 season, their last in St. Louis. He followed the organization in their move to Baltimore in 1954 and finished out his major league career that year with the Boston Red Sox after being sold to the team in May
He played two more seasons in the minor leagues with the Boston organization and hung up his spikes for good at the end of the 1956 campaign.

He finished his major league career with a .271 average and 61 home runs in 481 games.
After his playing days, he worked over four decades in the Red Sox organization as a scout and coach, serving as the Red Sox' first base coach under manager Eddie Kasko from 1970-73. He retired from scouting in 2002 and lived in Chesterfield attending St. Louis Browns reunions and meetings of the 1-2-3 club, an exclusive group of St. Louis retired athletes and sports writers.

His passing leaves only 22 living former members of the St. Louis Browns.