As a St Louis Cardinals fan I’ve always bemoaned the fact that there’s so little modern Baseball card material available dedicated to the pre-World War II era, in particular there’s very little commemorating the great Cardinals team of the 1930’s, affectionately known as the ‘Gashouse Gang’!
For those of you who are unaware of this fondly remembered team of Cardinal’s past, here’s Wikipedia’s take on their moniker -
The Cardinals, by most accounts, earned this nickname from the team’s generally very shabby appearance and rough-and-tumble tactics. An opponent once stated that the Cardinals players usually went into the field in unwashed, dirty, and smelly uniforms, which alone spread horror among their rivals. According to one account, scrappy shortstop Leo Durocher coined the term. He and his teammates were speaking derisively of the American League, and the consensus was that the Redbirds – should they prevail in the National League race – would handle whoever won the AL pennant. “Why, they wouldn’t even let us in that league over there,” Durocher, who had played for the New York Yankees, observed. “They think we’re just a bunch of gashousers.” The phrase ‘gas house’ referred to plants that produced town gas for lighting and cooking from coal, which were common fixtures in US cities prior to the widespread use of natural gas. The plants were noted for their foul smell and were typically located near railroad yards in the poorest neighbourhood in the city.
Along with Durocher the team was made up of several southerners and southwesterners including the Dean brothers, Jay ‘Dizzy’ Dean and Paul ‘Daffy’ Dean, Pepper Martin, Spud Davis and Burgess Whitehead. Led by playing manager Frankie Frisch and the hard-nosed Durocher, as well as stars like Joe Medwick and Ripper Colins, the 1934 Cardinals won 95 games, the NL pennant, and the World Series in seven games over the Detroit Tigers.
The team featured five regulars who hit at least .300, a 30-game winner in Dizzy Dean (the last National League pitcher to win 30 games in a single season), and four All-Stars, including player-manager Frisch.
So, despite my earlier issue with the lack of ‘Gashouse Gang’ material floating around out there in the Hobby, I’m pleased to say that Panini’s recently release National Treasures appears to have gone some way to redressing the balance.
You’ll have to forgive me for being a little self-indulgent with this one (it doesn’t hurt every once in a while), but here’s a few that have surfaced so far -
Leo Durocher *
* The interesting thing about the Durocher base and nickname variant is the fact that his team is listed as ‘Brooklyn’ but the swatch on his cards is red, indicating that it comes from one of his old Cardinals uniforms. Nothing major here, just something I spotted and thought was worth mentioning!
On closer examination of the jersey relics the one thing that strikes me is how worn the material is on some of the cards. We’re talking REAL Baseball history here!! Teams didn’t have as many uniforms as they have today and they weren’t cleaned as much (or hardly at all if the mystique of the ‘Gashouse Gang’ is to be believed) as they are now. Today’s mixture of synthetic fabrics have replaced the wool-cotton blend flannel of yesteryear, and the look of these old jersey cards just adds an extra dimension to the throw-back quality of the product as a whole.
If there are any other Cardinals fans out there then 2012 Panini National Treasures will also give you relics and autographs of the likes of Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith!
Today is a good day to be a Cardinals collector, although it helps to have plenty of cash tucked away in your pockets if you are!