St. Louis Cardinals History by the Decades- 1892-1899
Every once in awhile I get the urge to delve into some of the history of the Cardinals and this time I decided to share it with others. Remember, I didn’t make anything up in these column as it is true facts that can be found with time and a search engine.
Let’s start at the beginning of its existence and proceed slowly from there.
St. Louis was awarded a franchise in 1892 for a team to be known as the Browns. On April 12th the Browns open the season with a 14-10 loss to the Chicago Colts (later named the Cubs). The ballpark is called Sportsman’s Park and is located at Grand Avenue and Dodier Street.
The St. Louis Browns played the first Sunday game in the National League on April 17th and lose 5-1 to Cincinnati. There had been other Sunday games but they were not in the National League. They were in the American Association (also known as the minor leagues).
The first season was split in half and the Browns were a poor team with a 31-42 record in the first half and 25-52 in the second half for an overall 56-94 record. They finished 11th out of 12 teams that season and was 46 games behind the first place Boston team. The first year saw the Browns have five different managers.
The second season (1893) saw the Browns open the season in a new ballpark known as Robison Field and it was located at the corner of Vandeventer and Natural Bridge. The Browns won the opener 4-2 over the Louisville Colonels.
Not much went on during the season as they finished 55-75 and in 10th place. They did lead the league in ERA with a 4.06 mark but had trouble scoring runs and fielding was an issue as they allowed more than two unearned runs per game. This was the first season the pitching rubber was moved to 60’6”.
The 1894 season wasn’t much better than previous years as they finished in 9th place, 35 games behind the NL Champion Baltimore club with a 56-76 record.If there were any highlights, it comes from the fact that Roger Connor finished the season with 25 triples. The Browns did hit six home runs in one game (May 10) but lost the game 18-9 to Cincinnati.
Four managers guided the 1895 team to a lowly 39-92 record and 11th place 48.5 games behind league winning Baltimore. Some notables this year are Roger Connor getting six hits in a game that saw the team knock out 30 hits against the Giants. Also, Tommy Dowd hit for the cycle to become the first player in franchise history to accomplish this feat.
Anger is the key in 1896 as owner Chris Von Der Ahe isn’t happy that one of his players is also an actor in a play when he should be preparing for the upcoming season. The player, Breitenstein, goes to a labor board and holds out for a bit to finish his acting season. He goes on to win 18 of the Browns 40 games but still is sold for $10,000 to Cincinnati at the completion of the season.
The Browns are bad in 1897 and attendance is weak because the team is solidly in last place. On May 23rd, Von Der Ahe has a waterslide installed at the park. It becomes a success and is more popular than the team.
On Sept. 2nd, the team won their last game of the season with a 4-3 win. The Browns go on to lose 18 games straight to finish the year. The Browns lose 100 games and win only 29 to finish a remarkable 63.5 games out of first place and 23.5 behind the team ahead of them.
Von Der Ahe has more troubles in 1898 as the Browns park burns down during a game (April 16) against the Chicago Orphans and it also destroys his saloon. Several people were injured in the fire which resulted in lawsuits being filed. Between re-building the stadium and paying off his other creditors, it spell the financial ruins of Von Der Ahe. This will lead to his exit from the ownership.
The day after the fire (April 17) many fans, players and carpenters decide to rebuild the park and are insistent the team will not miss a game. The Chicago Orphans take a 10-1 win as many players are worn out from staying up all night trying to get the park in order. They commit 11 errors in the game. The St. Louis Browns finish 39-111 and are 63.5 games out of first place.
The 1899 season find new owners, Matthew Robison and Frank Robison, taking over the team. They are also owners of the Cleveland Spiders and decide to bring some of their best players over to the Browns. Cy Young, Jesse Burkett and Bobby Wallace are now property of the St. Louis ball club.
April 15th finds the team replacing the color Brown with Red and it is used on the uniforms along with a new nickname. The team is now called the Perfectos. The season opens with excitement with some wins but ends with disappointment.
The first winning season is St. Louis is in the books with a 84-64 record. After the season, reporter William McHale gives a suggestion to the Robison brothers to name the team Cardinals. After some consideration, the name is changed!
Decade Record: 361-615
Next up: 1900-1909