Cardinals Family Feud – A Dirty Dozen

Jerry Modene looks at twelve of the top feuds in the long and storied history of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise. Hint: Scott Rolen – Tony La Russa is nowhere to be found.

Editor's note: On our new and improved Message Board, posters on a recent thread seemed unanimous in their view that the recent exhumation of the Scott Rolen – Tony La Russa feud from the post-season was nothing to be concerned about at all, despite what some members of the press would like us to believe.

Given that non-subject had the approximate shelf life of a Britney Spears marriage, the discussion quickly moved on to some of the real feuds that have occurred in past years in and around the St. Louis Cardinals franchise.

Thinking that would be a great topic for extended coverage in an article here, I asked Cardinals history buff extraordinaire Jerry Modene his view. What I received back via email in less than two hours "off the top" of his head is the following.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

1. Sam Breadon vs. Rogers Hornsby. It is as detailed in the message board thread, but it goes a little deeper than that, and of course involved Branch Rickey as well. Basically, Hornsby was completely disdainful of Rickey - the day he took over as manager, he threw out Rickey's chalkboard and databanks (or whatever they were called in 1925) - and he had even less tolerance for Breadon, who he had chased out of the locker room before.

Many people remember the 1926 incident, in which Hornsby cursed Breadon out up one side and down the other (and Breadon, in fact, never visited the locker room again for the remaining 22 years of his ownership of the Cards), but Hornsby had done likewise in 1925, and was almost traded *then* - coming off a Triple Crown season, to boot.

Anyway, after the second chewing-out-and-banishment, Breadon determined he was going to get rid of Rogers Hornsby. Rickey, who had earlier recommended it, now tried to talk Breadon out of it - Hornsby was still the greatest right-handed hitter in the game (although he only hit .325 in that pennant-winning season) and he also know that the Cards would take a major P.R. hit if they made the deal.

However, Breadon insisted, having been so thoroughly humiliated by Hornsby - and he made the deal, not knowing that the New York Giants were prepared to offer more players than just Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring; Breadon cut off Charles Stoneham of the Giants before Stoneham could offer more players.

As Mr. Rickey predicted, the fans in St. Louis were furious - I suspect it was the most-hated trade the Cards ever made, at least up until the Keith Hernandez trade - but Frisch responded by hitting .337 and stealing 46 bases and the Cards in fact won a few more games in 1927 than they had in 1928 - and Breadon was eternally grateful to Frisch for having saved his bacon by having had such a great season and becoming a fan favorite in his own right. Breadon stated at the time that he would never again be afraid to make a trade. Boy, did *that* turn out to be true!

2. Branch Rickey vs. Dizzy Dean. You know this one, of course, as Dean was constantly badgering Rickey for more money. Things came to a head in 1934 when Dean, miffed that he wasn't getting more money, missed an exhibition game in Detroit. Dean (and his brother Paul, who also missed the game) were fined; they tore up their uniforms and quit the team, and Rickey suspended them.

Both Rickey and Frisch refused to budge when Dean started having second thoughts and eventually Dizzy had to come to Frisch, hat in hand, to literally beg for reinstatement. Most fans don't realize that Dean won those 30 games in 1934 despite missing nearly two weeks on that suspension.

3. Branch Rickey vs. Johnny Mize. I've mentioned this one in some posts, too. In 1941, the Cards finished a close second to the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Mize publicly complained that the Cards could have won the pennant if Rickey had brought up Stan Musial earlier. Mize went so far as to suggest that Rickey preferred the Cards finish a close second after a tight, exciting, pennant race, so he wouldn't have to give players raises for having won the pennant.

Rickey's response was to trade Mize to the New York Giants, even though Mize was still only 28 or 29 years old at the time and would play another 13 or 14 seasons in the major leagues. Of all the players Rickey got rid of (he always said it was better to trade a player a year early than a year late), Mize was probably the one who he got rid of way too early.

By the way, Rickey had a pretty good reason for not calling Stan up earlier - despite the popular conception of Rickey as a slave-driver over his vast farm system, he had no desire to get in the way of his farm teams' pennant races. In a correspondence with Judge Landis, Rickey had indicated that he considered a pennant race in the Three-I league just as important as a pennant race in the National League.

Well, in 1941, Stan was playing with Rochester, which won its pennant and played - I think - Louisville in what was then called the Little World Series. As soon as those games were over, Stan and some other guys (including, I think, Marion) got the call to St. Louis.

4. Sam Breadon vs. J. Roy Stockton. This is an outgrowth of the Mize thing; Stockton, who was the editor of the Post-Dispatch, kept fanning the flames about the Cards' cheapness, but reached a new height in 1946, when at a dinner at Musial's restaurant the night before the playoff series with the Dodgers (who had finished tied for first with the Cards) began, used his keynote speech to excoriate Breadon for his cheapness and to suggest that Breadon was happier that the Cards had finished in a tie rather than winning the thing outright ("You sliced the baloney too thin, Sam") because he'd make more money with the two home games in the playoff.

This is the same dinner that got Harry Caray his job as the lead Cardinal broadcaster when Breadon cut back to just one station carrying the games, when Caray got up after Stockton and - without directly referencing Stockton's speech, talked about how generous Breadon was (he cited the stipend Breadon was paying Grover Alexander) and how lucky a player was to play for the Cardinals.

5. Fred Saigh vs. Bill Veeck. When Veeck bought the Browns in 1951, he did so with the intent of running the Cardinals out of town. He figured that Saigh, a tax laywer, didn't have enough baseball savvy to be able to withstand a full-frontal attack.

In fact, he was right - Veeck did everything he could to needle Saigh - as the Browns owned Sportsmans Park, he put up murals of old Brownie players - which Saigh would cover up with Cardinal red blankets, he challenged Saigh to various "charity" games so that Saigh could get on his high horse and sniff that the Cards weren't out of their pennant race yet (but they were), and most importantly, whenever the Cards would try to send someone down to the minor leagues, Veeck would put a claim on them.

Plus, Veeck would sign anyone Saigh was trying to retire - Breechen and Marion come to mind. Saigh claimed tampering, but couldn't make the charge stick. Veeck always believed he would have indeed run the Cards out of town - Saigh was about to sell out to the operators in Houston - when Gussie Busch came riding to the rescue. Busch bought the Cards, bought the ballpark, and Veeck and the Browns were gone by the winter of 1953/54.

6. Harry Caray vs. Ken Boyer. Don't know a lot about this one, but apparently Caray was highly critical - on the air, and often - of Boyer, to the point of saying things like, "And here's Boyer with two outs, and I'll be back with the final score in just a minute."

Caray really riled the fans up against Boyer - much as he would against Brian Downing and Tony La Russa years later - to the point where, as Bob Gibson wrote, one could count to three after Boyer was introduced to the crowd, knowing that the boos were coming.

Caray got into a similar contretemps with pitcher Tracey Stallard in 1965 - yes, the guy who gave up Maris' 61st homer was a Cardinal in the mid-60's - to where they were ready to fight.

7. Dick Groat vs. Johnny Keane. This is the feud that got Bing Devine fired in 1964. Groat, coming into the season, had had a permanent "green light" on the hit-and-run (he was a good hit-and-run man) but when the move ran into a string of bad luck, Keane took the green light off.

Groat, who was a bit of a moaner anyway, complained to Eddie Matthews of the Braves - who was going out with one of Gussie Busch's daughters, who told old Gussie about it. While this was going on, Keane and Groat mended their fences after a team meeting, and everyone - including Devine - thought the issue was over and done with.

Unfortunately, when Gussie then came around to ask Devine if there were any problems on the team, Devine answered in the negative - and Gussie fired him for withholding the Groat fuss.

8. Branch Rickey vs. Bing Devine. Tied in with this was Rickey's rehiring in 1963 as a consultant; Rickey considered himself the man running the team - not Devine, who had worked for Rickey as an office boy in the 1930's. Rickey constantly had Busch's ear and continually undermined Devine's decisions - he tried, unsuccessfully, to block the Gotay-for-Groat trade, for instance.

Rickey was trying to get Busch to hire his protege, Bob Howsam, as general manager, and eventually that's what happened - although by the time it did, Rickey had second thoughts and urged Busch to keep Devine on. Didn't work, and Howsam's first ordered move as the new general manager was to fire Branch Rickey.

9. Bob Gibson vs. Gussie Busch. This isn't really a feud, but more a case of hurt feelings. Gibby had already gotten Gussie mad at him in the spring of 1969, when during the now-forgotten players' strike of spring training, Gibby had gone on the Tonight Show to explain the players' point of view on the issue. Gussie never forgave Gibby for that.

Flash forward 12 years and Gibby's enshrinement into the Hall of Fame, when in his speech, he forgot to mention Gussie. Gussie's feelings got hurt (Jack Buck came up to Gibby to give him the bad news) and Gibson - who had anticipated getting a Budweiser distributorship like Roger Maris did - saw untold millions wash down the drain as he never got the distributorship.

10. Al Hrabosky and Ted Simmons vs. Vern Rapp. We all remember this one - Rapp took over as Cards' manager in 1977 and laid down the law - no facial hair, no fooling around, etc. Hrabosky was the main victim of all of this (as was Bake McBride, who resisted Rapp's orders to cut his hair and shave his beard, and found himself traded to the Phillies in June) and although the Cards improved from 70-92 to 83-79, Hrabosky didn't pitch as well - he'd lost his mystique - and was traded to Kansas City the following winter.

That sets the stage for 1978, when the Cards got off to a bad start and Rapp chewed out Ted Simmons, calling him a "loser" and blaming him for the team's problems. The players were nearly ready to revolt at that point, and Jack Buck went on the air about it - which got Rapp fired.

11. Ozzie Smith vs. Tony La Russa. Do I really have to go into this one?

12. Tino Martinez vs. Tony La Russa. This is probably the best-publicized of the feuds of this decade, as Tino's pride was wounded by La Russa's pinch-hitting for him against tough lefties and moving him down the batting order - to the point where Tino's clubhouse complaining was bringing the whole team down.

The Cards took care of that problem by basically giving Tino away (and paying most of his salary) to Tampa Bay. Other recent feuds include Ron Gant/Brian Jordan vs. La Russa, especially when Gant tried to play the race card, and Jeff Brantley vs. Dave Duncan - Brantley complained that Duncan stopped talking to him because he wasn't pitching well. Brantley and Gant were taken care of by being traded to the Phillies.

Those are the only ones I can think of, off the top of my head. I didn't want to count cases of mere hardheadedness, or I would have mentioned guys like Jason Marquis and Garrett Stephenson and Alex Johnson, or Bob Uecker vs. Bob Howsam…

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