1943 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Billy Southworth
Regular season record: 105-49 (.682), first in National League
Post-season: Lost World Series to New York Yankees (4-1)
Staff Comments (individual rankings in parens)
Ray Mileur (7) The Cardinals won three straight pennants from 1942-1944, with the 1943 ballclub winning 105 games during the regular season, finishing 18 games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, to set up a World Series rematch with the New York Yankees. The Cardinals had won the ‘42 World Series, four games to one, to hand the Yankees their first World Series loss since 1926, which they also lost to St. Louis.
One of the best pitching staffs in St. Louis Cardinals history, Howie Pollet, Max Lanier and Mort Cooper ranked 1-2-3 in the National League in ERA at 1.75, 1.90 and 2.30, respectively. The ‘43 team could boast of having seven All-Stars (five starters) on the field for the fall classic; Mort Cooper (starting pitcher), Walker Cooper (starting catcher), Marty Marion (starting shortstop), Stan Musial (starting left-fielder) and Harry Walker (starting center fielder). Infielders Max Lanier and Whitey Kurowski also made the NL All-Star team in ‘43.
Despite a Cardinal team laden with All-Stars led by the 1943 NL MVP, Stan Musial, the Yankees seeking revenge for their loss in the ‘42 Series, defeated the Cardinals in five games. I can't find the source, but if memory serves me correct, (I read about it, I wasn't there) the entire roster of the 1943 ballclub came up in the Cardinals farm system, with the exception of starting pitcher Harry Gumbert. The Cardinals built a championship team from scratch; they didn't buy it, that deserves major kudos and a top ten ranking.
Jerry Modene (9) Because they lost the Series to the Yankees (the team they had upset the year before), the 1943 Cardinals sometimes slip through the cracks of history, but were nevertheless a great team that – unlike many other teams – hadn't lost too much of their talent to the military during those war years.
1943 marks Stan Musial's first great season, as he won his first batting championship at .357 while pounding 48 doubles and 20 triples (but just 13 homers – the power would come later) while striking out just 18 times! Fans of today forget just how fast Musial was in his youth, but it's not for nothing that his original, pre-1947 nickname was "The Donora Greyhound".
Manager Billy Southworth did a masterful job of mixing and matching pitchers, too, as a 105-win team had only two men winning 15 or more games (Mort Cooper won 21; Max Lanier won 15) but coaxing 79 wins out of his other eight pitchers, ultimately the Cards finishing with a sparkling 2.57 team ERA.
(Spud Chandler and Max Lanier at the opening of the 1943 World Series.)
Rob Rains (NR) When you realize that the 1943 Cardinals rank as the ninth best franchise in team history in these rankings, and then add in the fact the team lost Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore and Johnny Beazley to military service before the year, you can see how good this team was. The performance also was a credit to the depth and organization of the Cardinals farm system, which was never more dominant than during the years of World War II.
Obviously the players who remained in St. Louis were pretty good, including Stan Musial, who won the first of his seven batting titles in leading the team to a 105-win season and a whopping 18-game margin over the second-place Reds. The other stars in the regular lineup included Marty Marion, Whitey Kurowski, Walker Cooper and Harry Walker.
Cooper's brother, Mort, led the NL with 21 wins and teammate Howie Pollet had a league-leading ERA of 1.75, followed closely by Max Lanier with a mark of 1.90.
This team likely would have finished even higher in the rankings if not for a disappointing five-game loss to the Yankees in the World Series. New York pitchers found a way to shut down the Cardinals' offense, allowing only nine runs in the five games.
Brian Walton (8) New Hall of Famer Billy Southworth's club took over first place in early July and never looked back en route to 105 wins and their seventh National League pennant and second in two seasons. Four of our top 40 Cardinals players of all time were on the team: pitchers Mort Cooper and Harry Brecheen, shortstop Marty Marion and outfielder Stan Musial.
In his second full season at the age of 22, Musial earned his first NL MVP award. He showed off his consistency (league-leading batting average of .357), power (NL-best 48 doubles) and wheels as his 20 triples are a mark that is still tied for fourth-best in team history today. Demonstrating impressive balance, seven players, including Musial, delivered between 53 and 81 RBIs each.
Mort Cooper again led the way from the mound with an NL-best 21 wins with his six shutouts still ranking in the top ten all time for a single St. Louis season to this day. Howie Pollet's 1.75 ERA remains the lowest single-season mark by a lefty in team history.
Key: NR = not ranked
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