Under new manager Rogers Hornsby, who had replaced Branch Rickey 38 games into the 1925 season, the Cardinals brought St. Louis its first pennant in a half-century of National League competition. It was the first St. Louis championship of any kind since the American Association St. Louis Browns had won in 1888.
Perhaps distracted by his off-field duties, Hornsby slipped to a .317 batting mark with 11 home runs, 96 runs, and 93 RBI. His team, though, scored a league-leading 817 runs. First baseman Sunny Jim Bottomley led the National League in doubles with 40 and RBI with 120, third baseman Les Bell drove in 100 runs and hit .325, and MVP catcher Bob O'Farrell hit .293 with 30 doubles.
Hornsby put together a durable starting rotation of Flint Rhem, who tied for the league lead in wins with 20; Bill Sherdel,
who finished 16-12; and veteran Jesse Haines, who went 13-4 with a 3.25 ERA. Cardinals pitchers combined for a National League-high 90 complete games. The bullpen was held up by 39-year-old ex-Cub Pete Alexander, who went 9-7 in a relief/spot-starting role.
Cincinnati came in second by 2 games on the strength of good years from former Yankee Wally Pipp and .323-hitting Eddie Roush, as well as pitchers Pete Donohue (who won 20 games) and Carl Mays (who went 19-12 with a 3.14 ERA). Somehow, Pittsburgh managed only a third-place finish in spite of rookie Paul Waner's National League-high 22 triples and .336 batting average, Kiki Cuyler's league-leading 113 runs, and two 20-win performers -- ace Ray Kremer and Lee Meadows.
In the American League, the Yankees returned to the top with a 91-63 record, 3 games better than Cleveland, but had to survive late-season scares from the Indians, A's, and Senators, who nearly overcame New York's 10-game lead in August.
Washington's Walter Johnson finally showed his age, going 15-16 in his last full year as a starting pitcher, and the rest of the staff collapsed around him to allow 761 runs, fourth-most in the American League. Washington's Sam Rice and Goose Goslin turned in excellent years, batting .337 and .354, and scoring 203 runs with 58 doubles and 29 triples between them.
For New York, shortstop Mark Koenig solidified the defense, and the big three of Murderer's Row -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Earle Combs -- all had big years. Ruth hit .372 (second to Detroit's Heinie Manush at .378), scored a league-leading 139 runs, and drove in an American League-high 146; he also led in walks with 144, home runs at 47, on-base average at .516, and slugging average at .737. A blossoming Gehrig led all American League hitters in triples with 20, banged out 47 doubles, and scored 135 runs. Combs hit .299 with 12 triples and 113 runs.
Philadelphia had the American League's best pitching staff, including ERA winner Lefty Grove at 2.51; 12-4 junkballer Howard Ehmke; Rube Walberg; and Eddie Rommel, who was fourth in ERA at 3.08. And Cleveland's veteran first baseman George Burns won the MVP Award, hitting 64 doubles (second-most in history) along with 114 RBI and a .358 batting average.
In spite of Ruth's four-home run performance, the 1926 World Series went the full seven games and was decided when wily old Pete Alexander, who had already beaten the Yankees with complete-game efforts in games two and six, came out of the bullpen to protect Jesse Haines's 3-2 lead in the seventh. Alexander struck out rookie second baseman Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded and two out, and shut down New York until he walked Ruth with two down in the ninth. A frustrated Ruth, who was walked 11 times by St. Louis pitching, tried to steal second, but was gunned down by O'Farrell to end the game and the Series.
Check out some of the headlines from the 1926 baseball season on the next page.
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1926 Baseball Season Headlines
Although the St. Louis Cardinals won the 1926 National League pennant, the second-place Cleveland Indians had a notable season, too. Here are some of the headlines from the 1926 baseball season.
George Burns Cops American League MVP
Due to the fact that in the 1920s, Most Valuable Player Awards could not be given to previous winners, it made a certain amount of sense to honor a member of the second-place Indians in 1926. It seems, however, that the wrong Indian was chosen. Although "Tioga George" Burns had a fine season (a .358 average, 114 RBI, and a league-leading 216 hits and 64 doubles), George Uhle turned in a better performance (27 wins, a 2.83 ERA, and 159 strikeouts).
Carl Mays Takes Reds to Second
The 1926 season was the last year as a productive starter for Carl Mays. Mays and Pete Donohue had a large hand in the Reds' second-place finish that year, just two games back of the Cardinals. Mays went 19-12 with a 3.14 ERA and a league-leading 24 complete games; Donohue went 20-14 with a 3.37 ERA in a league-high 286 innings, topping the circuit in wins and shutouts (five). The following year, Mays and Donohue won only nine games between them and the Reds fell into the second division, where they would remain until 1938. After 1926, Mays won just 14 more games in his career and was out of baseball by 1929.
Lefty Grove Tops American League in Ks, ERA
After winning 26 games for the Baltimore team of the International League in 1924, Lefty Grove was sold to the A's for close to $100,000, a record at the time. He had a rocky sophomore season in 1926, turning in a .500 pitching performance despite heading the American League in both strikeouts (194) and ERA (2.51). When his control improved sharply the following season, he never again had a losing record.
Ted Lyons Bested by Only Uhle
Ted Lyons was most likely the American League's second-best pitcher in 1926, behind George Uhle of the Indians. As with most of the top hurlers during the 1920s and early 1930s -- Lefty Grove especially -- Lyons was used as both a starter and a reliever. Seventeen of his 260 career wins came in relief roles. Lyon's big moment in 1926 came on August 21, when he no-hit the Red Sox. Lyons made short work of the Bostonians, dusting them off in a mere one hour and seven minutes.
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More 1926 Baseball Season Headlines
Following are more major headlines from the 1926 baseball season, including the 1926 World Series celebration in St. Louis.
Heinie Manush Hits Career-High
Unable to gain a regular job in the Tigers' outfield the year before, Heinie Manush got his chance in 1926 when age and injuries reduced Ty Cobb to a part-time player and Al Wingo proved to be a flash in the pan. Manush's batting title that year (.378) was the high point in a career that was most notable for a .330 average but only a .377 on-base percentage.
Young Paul Waner Hits .336
According to the modern rule for determining batting leaders, Paul Waner and his .336 average would have seized the National League hitting crown in 1926 to become the first rookie since Pete Browning did so in 1882. Instead, he had to wait until the following year to bag his first official batting title. In 1927, Waner hit .380, the best mark of his career.
Babe Ruth Can't Save Yankees in Series
The Babe had another Ruthian year in 1926, leading the league in home runs (47), RBI (146), runs (139), walks (144), and slugging average (.737), among other categories. Ruth clubbed four homers in the seven-game Series, but it wasn't enough. The Cardinals won game seven 3-2.
Other Babe Debuts in National League
Babe Herman was so promising a rookie in 1926 that he bumped Jack Fournier, the National League's former home run leader, off the Dodgers' first-base post. As a frosh, Herman topped the Bums in hitting (158), home runs (11), and RBI (81); he also had the poorest fielding average of any National League first baseman. When he had even more trouble at the initial hassock in 1927, he was moved to the outfield, where his errors were fewer, albeit more egregious.
Cards Celebrate Victory
The 1920s were golden years for baseball, and nowhere did they glisten as brightly as in New York. By the 1926 World Series, residents of the Big Apple had become accustomed to being part of mob scenes on an almost annual basis; in contrast, fans in St. Louis were taking part in their premier victory celebration since 1888, the first ever for a National or American League team. In time, the Cardinals would celebrate nine World Championships, more than any Major League Baseball team other than the Yankees.
Tommy Thevenow Comes Alive
Tommy Thevenow hit four home runs in the minors before taking possession of the Cardinals' shortstop post in 1926. After swatting two round-trippers during the regular season and an inside-the-park four-bagger in the 1926 World Series, he played 12 more years in the majors without ever hitting another circuit-clout.
Find highlights from the 1926 baseball season on the next page.
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1926 Baseball Season Highlights
During the 1926 baseball season, the Yankees made it back to the World Series but were beaten by the St. Louis Cardinals, who had their first win after a very long dry spell. Read on for more highlights of the 1926 baseball season.
- The Cards win the first pennant by a St. Louis National League or American League team.
- The Yankees leap from seventh place to their fourth American League flag of the decade.
- Down three games to two, the Cards win the two final games in New York and take the 1926 World Series.
- Pete Alexander's stellar relief work stifles the Yankees in the final game of the Series.
- Cards shortstop Tommy Thevenow is the 1926 World Series' leading hitter with a .417 BA, a homer, and four RBI.
- Babe Ruth hits a series single-game record three homers in game four and a record four homers overall.
- Cards catcher Bob O'Farrell wins the National League MVP Award.
- George Burns of Cleveland takes the American League MVP prize.
- Burns sets a new major league record with 64 doubles and hits .358.
- Babe Ruth tops the American League in homers with 47, 28 more than anyone else.
- Ruth leads in runs (139), total bases (365), SA (.737), OBP (.516), RBI (146), walks (144), and runs produced (238).
- Cleveland's George Uhle leads the majors with 27 wins.
- Uhle tops the American League in innings (318) and CGs (32).
- Philly's Lefty Grove wins his first American League ERA crown (2.51) and again tops the loop in Ks (194).
- Firpo Marberry has 22 saves for Washington, a new major league record.
- Hack Wilson of the Cubs wins his first National League home run crown (21).
- St. Louis' Jim Bottomley tops the National League in RBI (120), doubles (40), and total bases (305).
- In his first full season as the Cards' player/manager, Rogers Hornsby slumps to .317.
- On December 20, the Cards deal Hornsby to the Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring.
- The Red Sox finish last in the American League and lose a club record 107 games.
- On September 26, the Browns and Yankees play the shortest game in American League history -- 55 minutes.
- On September 26, Browns and Yankees play the shortest doubleheader in Major League Baseball history -- two hours and seven minutes.
- Giant Mel Ott, age 17, becomes the youngest National League player to get a pinch hit.
- Hack Wilson's 69 walks, which top the National League, are the fewest ever to lead a league.
Take a look at even more 1926 baseball season highlights in our final section.
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More 1926 Baseball Season Highlights
- On August 28, Dutch Levsen of Cleveland becomes the last pitcher to win two CGs in one day.
- Ted Lyons of Chicago no-hits the Red Sox on August 21 in one hour and seven minutes.
- On August 15, Dodger Babe Herman doubles into a double play as three Dodgers wind up on third base.
- Reading of the International League posts a .194 win pet. (31-129).
- Yankee Tony Lazzeri hits 18 homers, both a new American League rookie record and a new record for American League second basemen.
- Accused of betting on and perhaps conspiring to dump a game in 1919, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker are released by Detroit and Cleveland, respectively.
- Firpo Marberry pitches in 64 games, a new 20th-Century Major League Baseball record.
- Player/manager Eddie Collins hits .344 for the White Sox.
- Paul Waner has a 6-for-6 day on August 26.
- Held by injuries to only 233 at-bats, Ty Cobb hits .339 in his last year with the Tigers.
- In his final year as a big league manager, Tris Speaker boosts the Indians to second place and bats .304.
- Max Bishop of the A's sets a new FA record for second basemen (.987).
- Washington's Sam Rice and Cleveland's George Burns tie for the American League lead in hits (216).
- William Wrigley hires Joe McCarthy to manage the Cubs.
- In their first year under McCarthy, the Cubs lead the National League in FA and ERA and rise to fourth.
- Lou Gehrig's 20 triples top the American League and are the most ever by an American League first baseman.
- Chicago's Johnny Mostil, second in the American League MVP vote, tops the loop in steals (35) and outfield putouts.
- Four hurlers tie for the National League lead in wins with 20.
- Pittsburgh's Remy Kremer wins 20 and leads the National League in ERA (2.61) and win pct. (.769).
- Pete Donohue of the Reds wins 20 and tops the National League in innings (286) and shutouts (five).
- Dazzy Vance leads the National League in Ks with just 140.
- Cleveland's Joe Sewell again leads the American League in fewest batter Ks with seven.
- Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig fan 148 times between them, and the Yankees hitters top the majors in strikeouts with 580.
- George Sisler hits .290, down .130 points from 1922.
- Willie Kamm of the White Sox tops all major league third basemen in FA and assists for the second year in a row.
- The A's have the top ERA in the majors (3.00) and yield the fewest homers (38).
- Boston's Glass-Arm Eddie Brown leads the National League in hits (201).
- Paul Waner's 22 triples top the major league.
- Pirate Kiki Cuyler leads the National League in steals (35).
- Reds second baseman Hughie Critz, a fielding whiz who hits .270, is National League MVP runner-up.