1944 World Series

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Let me begin with this: the St. Louis Browns Historical Society has an absolutely beautiful website. Take a look: thestlbrowns.com. Bravo.

The Browns were perrenial losers. The bottom of the American League. They fired Branch Rickey who turned the Cardinals into a winner and later signed Jackie Robinson to a deal with Brooklyn. The 1944 Browns also had a one-armed left fielder, Pete Grey.

Here’s what the STLBHS has to say about the 1944 St. Louis Browns…

When the U.S. entered World War II, President Roosevelt gave the “green light” to keep playing. New manager Luke Sewell got surgical with his 1942 roster, and rebuilt the team. The Browns lost a few men to the war effort, but other teams said goodbye to key players. By 1944, every Browns infielder was classified 4-F, or excused from military service, many for physical limitations. The Browns cashed in on their odds, opening the season with a bang — nine straight wins.

Cut to October 1, 1944, the last regular-season game. The pennant was at stake. No player on the Browns roster had ever made it to a World Series. The Browns led the visiting Yankees 5-2 into the ninth. Down to the final out, Oscar Grimes shot a high fly ball into foul territory. Browns first baseman George McQuinn nabbed it. Pandemonium ensued. The Browns were going to the World Series to face the Cardinals.

Thus began the Streetcar Series, called such because St. Louis had so many trolleys at the time. Both teams would have the home field advantage — the Cards for the first two and last two games; the Browns for the three in the middle. With a 3-1 Game 6 loss, the Browns said goodbye to their “Cinderella season” and World Series hopes. After World War II, the rest of the league’s talent was replenished. The Browns’ best years were put behind them as they returned to last place.

I guess you can call it a “Cinderella season,” but let’s be real: with the war at it’s height, it’s not like the Browns were the prettiest girl at the ball…they were more like the only girl at the ball.

The Browns and the Cardinals played in the third World Series to be ever hosted in the same ballpark for all games: Sportsman’s Park. The other two took place at the Polo Grounds in New York City. It also is one of two all-Missouri World Series, the other being 1985 when Kansas City won it all against the Cardinals.

Embarrassingly, the Junior World Series in Baltimore outdrew the real World Series that same year – a large reason why the Browns would end up moving to Baltimore a decade later. 1944 was clearly a low point for baseball. The war was taking it’s toll.

The Cardinals were in their 3rd straight World Series, the previous two splitting against the Yankees. Stan Musial struggled in both of those series, but in 1944 he was his normal self hitting .304/.360/.522 and hitting his only career postseason HR in Game 4.



The Games

The Cardinals had a huge chance in the 3rd inning of Game 1. They loaded the bases with 1 out and couldn’t score. The next half inning George McQuinn’s hit a 2 run homer off veteran Mort Cooper and the Browns had the first runs of the Series. Denny Galehouse worked around 11 baserunners (7 H, 4 BB) allowing just one run in a complete game affair. Browns took a early series lead.

Game 2 was an epic 11-inning walkoff win for the Cardinals. The game was tied 2-2 after nine. George McQuinn hit a leadoff double to start the 11th for the Browns, but they couldn’t score him. 

Ray Sanders led off the bottom half with a single. Whitey Kurowski bunted him to second. Marty Marion was intentionally walked. Ken O’Dea won it with a pinch hit single to right field scoring Sanders from second. Cardinals win in walkoff fashion to tie the Series at 1.

Game 3 featured another huge game for George McQuinn, who went completely bananas in the postseason turning his regular season .250/.357/.376 into a .438/.609/.750 – aided heavily by his 7 walks over the 6 game series. The obvious MVP if the Browns had managed to pull it out in the end (if they handed out MVP awards in 1944, that is). He went 3-3 with a double and a walk in Game 3, setting the table for the Browns 6-2 win.

Game 3 also featured another complete game by a Browns pitcher, this time Jack Kramer who struck out 10.  This is the last World Series game the St. Louis Browns would ever win.

Game 4 was over early. Stan Musial hit a 2-run home run three batters into the game. The Browns only chance to counter came in the 2nd when catcher Red Heyworth grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the rally. The Cardinals added 2 more in the next inning and it was 4-0. The Cardinals went on to win 6-2. This time it was Harry Brecheen of the Cardinals throwing the complete game. Series tied, 2-2.

Game 5 was a pitchers duel and a rematch of Game 1 starters: Mort Cooper and Denny Galehouse. This time both men would go the distance, and Galehouse actually allowed two fewer baserunners. Unfortunately for the Browns, two of those hitters – Sanders and Danny Litwhiler – circled the bases. The Cardinals won 2-0 behind Mort Cooper’s final World Series appearance. This was his 3rd career World Series win, 2nd career World Series complete game and 1st career World Series shut out.

And Game 6 sealed it for the Redbirds. The Cards posted a 3-run 4th inning and that was plenty. The Browns only trip to the World Series ended in a 3-1 loss that wasn’t even that close – the Cardinals had 10 hits and 4 walks and had plenty of chances to add to their total, but it wouldn’t matter in the end.



The Cardinals won their 5th championship and 2nd in 3 years. We’ll see them again in 1946 to complete the 3 straight even-yeared championship circuit (just like the Giants completed in 2014). But next year features two different faces. 

As for the Browns, well, to quote Eminem, “you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.”

So true, Marshall. So true.

-apc.

Photo cred: 1944 Brochure accessed here, 1944 ticket stubs accessed here. Game 1 at Sportsman’s Park photo accessed here.

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