This series was originally published at the Redbird Daily, but is now proud to call Cards Conclave home. This installment was written by Rusty Groppel.
The rankings roll on as we bring out another great group of St. Louis Cardinals. This one features a few lesser known players, as well as a couple of Hall-of-Famer’s and MVP’s.
#75 – Harry Gumbert, P (1941-44)
Harry”Gunboat” Gumbert played with 4 teams from 1935 to 1950, but found his greatest success during his 4 season run in St. Louis. Gumbert arrived in a 1941 trade from the New York Giants along with Paul Dean, who never made it back to the majors in St. Louis, in exchange for a gentleman named Bill McGee. (An interesting sidenote, “Fiddler Bill” McGee was born in Batchtown, IL, in Calhoun County, which is a short ferry ride away from St. Charles, MO. The reason I mention this is personal, as he was a cousin to my grandmother. One of my distant, distant relatives was involved in a trade that brought one of our great Cardinals to town. These are the nuggets I love finding within these write-ups.)
As to Harry, well all he did was post a 2.91 ERA during his time in St. Louis, serving as a swing man while starting 62 games and finishing 24. He contributed to a 97 win team in 1941, and during his 2 full seasons with the team in ’42 and ’43, the team won 106 and 105 games, winning the World Series in ’42 and an NL Pennant in ’43. In 1942, Gumbert was 2nd in the NL in allowing the fewest HR per 9 innings, a mark of .166 HR/9. He allowed just 3 homers in 163 innings that season. Think about that and consider that in 2017, Stephen Strasburg lead MLB with .667 HR/9, or 13 in 175.1 IP. It’s a completely different game now.
#74 – Julian Javier, 2B (1960-71, 2x All-Star)
“Hoolie” or “The Phantom”, as he was nicknamed by Tim McCarver, Julian Javier spent all but the final season of his career with the Cardinals. He was the starting 2B for 2 World Series winners (though he was limit to 1 pinch running appearance in the ’64 series, in which he scored a run) and another NL Pennant in ’68. Javier was a two-time All-Star and top 10 finisher in the 1967 MVP race.
Javier led the Cardinals in steals every year from 1960-63, and generally had a reputation for taking the extra base and being tough to double up. He had decent power for a 2B in that era, reaching double digits in HR’s 3 times in his career. At the time of his retirement in 1972, his 78 HR’s ranked 27th All-Time among 2B, making him one of the more powerful 2B in the nearly 90 years of baseball up to that point. He trails only Rogers Hornsby for HR’s by a Cardinal 2B. In franchise history he ranks 25th in extra-base hits and 17th in hits.
Off the field, Javier founded a Khoury league and professional summer baseball league in his native Dominican Republic. He also fathered major leaguer Stan Javier. And yes, he did name his son after teammate Stan Musial.
#73 – Murry Dickson, P (1939-48, 56-57)
A Tracy, MO native, Dickson pitched for the Cardinals during one of the greatest eras of the franchise in the 1940’s. Manager Eddie Dyer nicknamed him “Thomas Edison” because of his inventiveness, as Dickson was known for using a wide variety of pitches and deliveries.
Splitting time between the bullpen and some starting duties, he compiled a 2.91 ERA across 120 IP for the World Champions in 1942. He would fill the same roll for an NL Pennant winner in 1943 before serving the military in WW2 in ’44 and ’45. Murry returned in 1946 and had his best season as a Cardinal, going 15-6 (a league leading .714 winning %), with a 2.88 ERA and 1.17 WHIP across 184.1 IP. He was the all-important #3 starter for a 98-win, World Series championship squad.
Dickson became an innings horse, but found far less overall success for a bad Pittsburgh team after leaving St. Louis. However, he would return in 1956 at age 39 and was able to turn back the clock. He posted a 3.07 ERA in 196 IP that year, echoing the performances of his late-20’s. He tossed 11 shutouts as a Cardinal and ranks 25th in innings pitched for the franchise.
#72 – Frankie Frisch, 2B/3B (1927-37, 3x All-Star, MVP, HOF)
If you don’t recognize that, it’s the opening line of Terry Cashman’s Cardinal version of the song “Talkin’ Baseball” and it specifically references Frisch. Nicknamed “The Fordham Flash” because of his athletic feats at Fordham Preparatory School, Frankie came to the Cardinals on the heels of their first World Series championship. He was acquired in a trade following the 1926 season that sent Rogers Hornsby to the New York Giants. One Hall-of-Famer traded for another. During his eleven years in St. Louis, Frisch twice led the NL in stolen bases, appeared in 3 All-Star games (the first 3 ever played), was a runner-up for MVP in 1927, and won the MVP in 1931.
Frisch struck out more than 20 times only twice in his career, and never did so with the Cardinals, topping out at 17 in 1928. Unreal, even for the era. He hit a modest 105 HR in his career, but rapped an impressive 466 doubles. Frisch ranks top 15 in Cardinals franchise history in stolen bases (11th), batting average (12th), doubles (13th), and hits (15th). He posted an impressive .370 OBP with the Cardinals as a part of 2 World Series winning clubs, as well as 2 more NL Pennant winners.
#71 – Orlando Cepeda, 1B (1966-68, All-Star, MVP, HOF)
Much like Frankie Frisch, Orlando “Cha Cha” Cepeda made his name with the Giants before coming to St. Louis. In San Fran he slugged along side of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, being the first of back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners (McCovey was the other) for the Giants. After having already established his Hall-of-Fame credentials, he was traded to the Cardinals in the middle of a series with the Giants in May of 1966, days before Busch Stadium II opened. He would post a solid season with the Cardinals. In his first year in St. Louis he slashed .303/.362/.469 with 17 HR’s and 58 RBI across 123 games.
It was 1967 when the trade really paid dividends for the Cardinals. That year saw Cepeda slash a robust .325/.399/.524 to go with 37 2B’s, 25 HR’s and an NL leading 111 RBI’s. He also went 11 for 13 in stolen bases and led the NL with 12 HBP’s. The effort earned him an All-Star nod and the unanimous NL MVP. To this day only Cepeda, Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, and Mike Trout have won both a unanimous Rookie of the Year and MVP. His strong season would help push the Cardinals to a World Series championship.
1968 was a step back, as Cepeda struggled to a .248 batting average and .306 OBP in “the year of the pitcher.” He still managed a respectable 16 HR’s and 73 RBI’s, remaining productive as the Cardinals charged to another NL Pennant. He would see his time here come to an end following that season. The Cardinals traded the former-MVP to Altanta for Joe Torre, who would go on to win the same award for St. Louis in 1971.
Thanks for reading!
And come back tomorrow for another exciting group, as players 70 to 66 get revealed.