1959 was another dreary year for the St. Louis Cardinals as the club stumbled out of the gate, losing 16 of their first 21 games under new manager Solly Hemus. The 71-83 club missed October play for the 10th consecutive season – across the prime playing time for the greatest Cardinal of all – Stan Musial.
The 1959 roster was poorly-constructed by general manager Bing Devine, with four first basemen – Bill White, Joe Cunningham, George Crowe and Musial – requiring White and Cunningham to play out of position in the outfield. But the club’s major failing was not offense – it was pitching. The team’s 4.34 ERA was last in the National League.
Musial, then 38 years of age, was given a career-low to that point 404 plate appearances as Hemus wanted to see more of younger players such as White, Gene Oliver and Curt Flood. Stan struggled to a career-worst .255 average that season amid rumors of retirement.
On July 25, 1959, the Cardinals were in sixth place, well on their way to a finish in which they were 16 games out of first place. This day, they took on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the cavernous Coliseum. (link to box score)
What made this contest memorable is that it was captured on film, albeit grainy black and white. The action is called by Frick Award winner Jack Brickhouse, most known for his decades at the microphone for the Chicago Cubs.
Among the stars in action are Musial, White, Flood (who pinch-ran for The Man) and cleanup hitter Ken Boyer. Dodgers front-liners in Walter Alston’s lineup included ex-Cardinal Wally Moon, Duke Snider, Ron Fairly and Maury Wills.
Though Cardinals starter Larry Jackson yielded a pair of first-inning runs, he and ace reliever Lindy McDaniel shut out the home club over the final nine frames of St. Louis’ 4-2 win in 10. Cunningham hit a solo home run in the eighth to knot the score at 2-all. In the 10th, White tripled and drove in the lead tally.
There was no doubt that the year of 1959 was another disappointment. It was St. Louis’ second consecutive losing season and their seventh-place position in the standings represented the team’s worst showing since 1919.
Still, in the bigger picture, matters were beginning to look up.
For example, just five days after this telecast, a kid named Bob Gibson made his first major league start. All he did was toss a 1-0 shutout at the Reds in Cincinnati – his first of 56 career shutouts. Musial did not retire – going on to play four more seasons – as the Cardinals continued to evolve toward their mid-1960’s powerhouse clubs.
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