Most Memorable Opening Days In Cardinal History #7: April 20, 1937
We are counting down to opening day with a look at the top ten most memorable opening days in Cardinal history. You can access all of these stories by CLICKING HERE.
Unlike many odd-numbered decades, the thirties were a pretty good time for the Cardinals. The famous “Gashouse Gang” won the World Series in 1931 and 1934. They won with such authority thanks to several big names in their lineup. Twenty five year-old Joe Medwick already had three consecutive years of 100+ RBI seasons behind him, and he formed a powerful core with Johnny Mize hitting beside him in the lineup. The team boasted six eventual Hall of Famers, and many more All Star players.
But no other player contributed more to those Gashouse Gang wins than fabled loudmouth Jay “Dizzy” Dean. One of the few pitchers in baseball history to win the MVP award, Dean still holds the record for most wins in the live-ball era with 30 in 1934. A spirited workhorse, Dean averaged 300 innings a season during the previous five seasons, one of the most astonishing statistics of his Hall of Fame career. So it was no surprise when Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch penciled in Dean to start Opening Day on April 20, 1937 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.
Dean’s opponents that day had been the laughingstock of the National League throughout the decade. The Reds finished dead last in the league four out of the previous six seasons, and they would do so again in 1937. The Reds had enough hitting, but they sorely lacked a solid starting rotation or even one or two aces. Left without much of an option, Reds manager Chuck Dressen sent out awful righthander Peaches Davis to face an intimidating Cardinals lineup.
But Davis had other plans that day. For nine innings, Davis outpitched Dean in a hit-laden pitcher’s duel. The two pitchers tap-danced around multiple hit innings, barely escaping damage. As the teams took the field in the top of the tenth, the score was tied at zero. Davis looked at his linescore, and saw something nobody expected two hours earlier: Davis had given up fewer hits (6 hits to Dean’s 13) and fewer walks (none for Davis, 2 for Dean). Still, the heart of the Cardinals’ order was aligned against Davis in the top of the tenth.
Joe Medwick greeted Davis with a double. Johnny Mize followed that with another double (his second of the day), which scored Medwick and broke the scoreless deadlock. Mize moved to third, and was driven in on a groundout by catcher Bruce Ogrodowski. The Cardinals finally provided Dean with the runs to win.
Few in the crowd of 34,374 doubted who would race to the mound in the bottom of the tenth. Yes, Dean had no intention of letting this game go. Unsurprisingly, Dean set down the Reds in order in the bottom of the tenth to notch a tremendous extra-inning complete game shutout.
Little did Dean know how soon his fortunes would change. After pitching another complete game shutout against the Reds over the Fourth of July holiday, Dean appeared in the All Star Game. During the game, Earl Averill of the Cleveland Indians hit a shot up the middle that hit Dean on the foot, breaking his toe. The irrepressible Dean came back too soon from the injury, altering his mechanics to favor the broken toe. This quickly ruined both his fastball and his arm. Dean went to the Cubs in 1938, and was out of baseball just three years later.
Despite a career year from Medwick, a solid lineup, and some decent pitching, the 1937 Cardinals tumbled into fourth place as Dean stumbled to a miserable 13-10 record. Fortunately for the Cardinals, a brand new decade of superstar teams was just around the corner.