It has been almost a century since the first two times the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop and catcher batted fourth and fifth. Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby and Miller Huggins were directly involved.
The move of Matt Holliday out of the number three spot in the St. Louis Cardinals batting order to second earlier this week rightfully drew a lot of attention from many of the team’s followers. Manager Mike Matheny made another major lineup change on Wednesday by placing shortstop Jhonny Peralta in the cleanup spot and moving Allen Craig down to sixth.
It is not a stretch to understand why Matheny is putting more faith in the hot bat of Peralta, who currently leads the team in home runs, is tied for tops in doubles and is second in RBI.
I knew from painful memories that the last time a Cardinals shortstop batted cleanup was Khalil Greene on opening day 2009. It did not happen again, and by the end of the season, Greene had played in his last major league game, period.
I recalled Edgar Renteria was also used as the number four hitter at times by Tony La Russa earlier in the decade. Researcher Tom Orf tells me that it occurred six times during the lost season of 2003 and once more in September 2004. Prior to that, one has to go all the way back to Tom Spencer on July 23, 1960.
What makes Wednesday’s lineup even more unique is the position of the batter following Peralta. Not that catcher Yadier Molina isn’t a proven hitter, deserving of batting fifth, because he surely is.
However, when you consider two up-the-middle players defensively batting in the middle of the Cardinals lineup, well, that is rare, indeed.
Rogers Hornsby is remembered for several things – including being the greatest right-handed hitter of all time (in my opinion) as well as a Hall of Fame second baseman.
What many do not know is that Hornsby broke in as the Cardinals shortstop in 1915. In fact, the Rajah did not make his first start at second base until his fifth season with St. Louis, in 1919.
At the age of 21 on June 8, 1917, shortstop Hornsby batted fourth in future Hall of Fame manager Miller Huggins’ lineup, followed by catcher Frank Snyder hitting fifth. In the next game two days later, they reprised those roles. Both were home contests at Robison Field.
After a win over the Boston Braves in the first contest, the Cards lost to the Phillies and a future Cardinals star and Hall of Famer in Grover Cleveland Alexander in the second game. That was it for the experiment – in fact, the end of it for 97 years.
In other words, June 10, 1917 was only the second time in team history and last time prior to June 25, 2014 that a Cardinals manager batted his shortstop fourth and catcher fifth. That is rarer than the passing of Halley’s Comet!