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Vintage 1959 Cardinals-Dodgers Game Telecast

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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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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31 Responses to “Vintage 1959 Cardinals-Dodgers Game Telecast”

  1. crdswmn says:

    On July 25, 1959, my mother was pregnant with me (about 7 months by my calculation). I don’t know if my parents had TV then. They moved into the house they would live in for the rest of their lives when I was 8 months old. My earliest memories of TV was a black and white set when I was four years old. They may have had it before then, but my memory doesn’t recall it.

    My father was a baseball fanatic like me, and he never missed games he was home to watch. Of course in 1959 he was employed, July 25, 1959 was a Saturday, and I don’t know if he worked on Saturdays back then. If he didn’t, and he had a TV set, no doubt he watched this game.

    • crdswmn says:

      The aformentioned post assumes that his game was even on TV. It might not have been, I don’t know when games started being shown on TV. Anybody know?

      • crdswmn says:

        I googled it (great concept). The first televised baseball game was August 11, 1951.

        • blingboy says:

          I remember games on the grainy black and white set with rabbit ears in the mid and later 60s. Not many Cards games were televised, so it was a treat. Lucky for me I had a transistor radio and ear phone that I could hide under my pillow. By the late 60s and around 1970 I could ride the bus downtown, initially with my older cousin. $2 bleacher seats were doable on lawn mowing money back then. Actually, I remember getting in for $1.50 early on. I think the bus was a quarter. No need for TV under those circumstances.

          • crdswmn says:

            I lived more than an hour away from the stadium back then, actually until I-55 was built from southeast MO to St. Louis, it took much longer than an hour to get there. My father (and sometimes my grandfather) took me and my two brothers to games a couple of times a year. I went to my first one just after Busch II was built. Back then there were also “Straight A” tickets, which I earned almost every year throughout my childhood. My father would buy two extra tickets and we would go.

            The rest of the time we watched them on TV, first on the BW set, and then in color when we got the color TV in the early 70s.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    The rise of the Cards in the 1960s was founded on signing talented amateur starting pitchers like Gibson, Carlton, Reuss, Torrez, Briles, Cleveland, and others. Future success hinges on scouting and development.
    I was not encouraged by 2015 recruitment. I hope 2016 will be better.

    • Brian Walton says:

      In my opinion, the strength of the Cardinals system in recent years has been its pitching.

      On the other hand, MiLB just ranked the Cardinals 28th of 30 in terms of position player strength in the organization. That seems to be the greatest area of need.

      • blingboy says:

        The system rankings are really all about your showing in the top tier of high ceiling talent. It is not about depth in potentially useful high floor guys. That means you have to consistently hit with your top picks, which is a tall order when you are always near the end of the draft order. Still, you should be able to find a high schooler who can handle GCL pitching. Or rather, your computer should.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I suspect that most every system has breadth. Top talents are the guys who might become MLB starters. They are pretty important, IMO. After Piscotty and Grichuk, there are no clear answers. Most people point to guys who are still in short-season ball – Sierra, Sosa, Plummer.

          • blingboy says:

            ” Most people point to guys who are still in short-season ball – Sierra, Sosa, Plummer.”

            Everybody has those guys in SS ball.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Perhaps. My point was that the Cardinals position players considered to have the best chance to one day be MLB starters are very far away. Hence, the system ranks 28th.

              • blingboy says:

                Too bad nobody ranks the systems broken down to short season/full season. Or maybe sort season plus the lowest full season club, and then an A+ and up grouping.

                In that context, my point is what evidence is there that our low level would rank any better than our system as a whole. Are we just hoping/guessing that the lower levels of our system compare to others more favorably than our upper levels do?

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Comparative performance and comparative scouting of players at the same levels. For example, there haven’t been Cardinals batting champions, league MVPs, etc. at the higher levels in recent years.

                  BA, for one, ranks top 20 prospects by league each fall.

                  GCL: #12, 13, 16 (last one is hitter)
                  Appy League: #4, 9, 10, 13 (first three are hitters)
                  NYPL: #16
                  MWL: #13, 20 (both hitters)
                  FSL: #1, 17
                  TL: none
                  PCL: #7 (Piscotty), #16.

                  When you look at it this way, it seems pretty clear. Four of the seven at the two lower levels are hitters. Three are in their league’s top 10.

                  There are only seven other Cardinals combined at the five higher levels, of which three of the seven are hitters (but one is Piscotty, who doesn’t belong). So, really two of six. Bader and DeJong.

                  • blingboy says:

                    Yes, that is useful information to judge the relative strength of our lower and upper systems. Also to get an idea of the strength of our system vs the crowd at each level.

                    One should keep in mind that we are not talking about 30 organizations, though, nor even the same number of orgs in each level. In some leagues like Appy and Texas we are talking about 20 prospects from 8 teams, while in other cases it is 20 from 16 teams, or somewhere in between. So raw number of top 20 prospects in one level vs number in another can be misleading.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    What we need to do each year in drafting and signing amateurs is to find value.

    If the cards have become relatively good at evaluating and developing pitchers, then the can play to this strength and look for hitters thru veteran free agency or via trades.

    We seem able to identify high school pitchers, but high school hitters seem higher risk and we appear less successful at high rounds.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Glad to see we signed a RHP out of Colombiia. We need to ink up a lot of Latin kids in 2016. Spend a pile of money to boost the system. Nobody likes paying veterans, bonus amateurs.
      I don’t recall a kid by name of Wilman before. Nice to have a fresh name.

  4. blingboy says:

    The Cards will be supplying the Florida Atlantic Univ team with wooden bats for Wednesday’s game. Jeesh. I wonder if their batters are used to starting out with a 1-1 count.

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