July 13, 1940: Johnny Mize's cycle boosts Cardinals in walk-off win over Giants
The New York Times described the outcome of a 1940 midseason New York Giants-St. Louis Cardinals doubleheader: “The Giants’ efforts to better their position in the National League flag race suffered two jolts today when they went down before the Cardinals in both ends of a double-header both times in the last inning.”1 The two teams were heading in different directions. On this day, the sixth-place Cardinals swept the third-place Giants, and both victories were in walk-off fashion.
Billy Southworth was the third manager of the season for St. Louis, having taken over from interim manager Mike Gonzalez (who succeeded the fired Ray Blades) on June 14, with the Cardinals mired in last place with a 15-29 record. St. Louis won its first six games with Southworth at the helm, but coming into this doubleheader the Cardinals had lost six straight. In the end, Southworth piloted the team to a 69-40 record, for a third-place finish at 84-69.2 In the other dugout, Bill Terry’s Giants were skidding. Although they came into the doubleheader with a record of 41-28, they found themselves at 62-62 by early September and an 11-game losing streak in the final month of the season propelled New York downward to a final record of 72-80.
A Saturday-afternoon Ladies’ Day crowd of 7,325 was on hand at Sportsman’s Park for the contests.3 This was only the second game played after the All-Star Game, which also had been played at Sportsman’s Park.4 In the opening game of the doubleheader, Carl Hubbell took the mound for the Giants and Lon Warneke started for the Cardinals. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that, prior to this season, Hubbell and Warneke5 were “veterans of the pitching wars and rivals in many a mound duel, but both had taken early showers before the thing was over.”6
Hubbell, a future Hall of Famer, was the ace of the Giants’ pitching staff. A perennial All-Star, he had copped two National League Most Valuable Player Awards, in 1933 and 1936. The Sporting News named him the Major League Player of the Year in 1936.7 In three World Series, he had a 4-2 record, accompanied by a 1.79 earned-run average. At 37 years old, he struggled in 1940, allowing 220 hits in 214⅓ innings. Although he started the season well, compiling five straight complete-game victories in May and June, his season ERA of 3.65 was the highest it had been in 10 years. (He came into this game with a 3.38 mark and a record of 5-4.) At season’s end his 11 wins for the year were just behind Hal Schumacher (13) and Harry Gumbert (12) for the team lead.
Warneke had been a star in his earlier years, winning at least 20 games three times from 1932 to 1935 while pitching for the Chicago Cubs. He was traded to the Cardinals in 1937 and won 18 games. Although he was 31 years old and a little past his prime by 1940, he remained a reliable starter.8 His 5-7 record entering the game belied an impressive 2.83 ERA.
The Giants scored first. In the top of the second, singles by Babe Young, Tony Cuccinello, and Billy Jurges plated a run. Hubbell squandered this early lead by offering up back-to-back doubles to the Cardinals’ Marty Marion and Mickey Owen in the bottom of the second. Later in the inning, Warneke helped his own cause with an RBI single to center, and St. Louis led, 2-1. In the third inning, with two outs, Johnny Mize cracked his 22nd home run of the season. He added a double and a single off Hubbell later in the game.
In the fourth inning, the Giants “finished Lon with a withering five-hit blast which sent four runs across.”9 Young singled past second base, Harry Danning doubled to left, and Mel Ott looped a single into center field, driving in both Young and Danning. Cuccinello and Jurges followed with singles, with Ott scoring. At this point Southworth lifted Warneke in favor of Jack Russell. Russell got Hubbell to ground into a double play, but Cuccinello scored the fourth run of the inning on the play. All four runs were charged to Warneke. In the sixth, New York pushed across a solo run to make it 6-3.
St. Louis sent up two pinch-hitters (Don Padgett for Owen and Don Gutteridge for Russell) in the seventh against a trio of pitchers (Hubbell, Jumbo Brown, and Red Lynn), and the Cardinals came away with three more runs to knot the score at 6-6.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, with Lynn trying to preserve the tie, Mize strode to the plate having already hit a single, double, and homer. He launched a drive to deep center, over the head of Giants center fielder Frank Demaree. The ball hit the wall and rebounded from the concrete, 412 feet from home plate.10 Left fielder Jo-Jo Moore retrieved the ball and threw it to the infield. Shortstop Jurges bobbled the relay before he fired home to the catcher, Danning. Mize, who never stopped running hard, was waved toward the plate. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Mize looked like a gone goose, but Danning took his eye off the ball to see whether he’d have Mize by ten feet or 20 and that was his undoing. He fumbled the bounding ball and Mize scored the winning run, providing the Cardinals with the walk-off 7-6 victory.”11 The official scorer ruled it a triple and an error on Danning. Mize’s three-base smash “sent the opener crashing down on the ears of the Giants.”12 The scoring decision actually enabled Mize to hit for the cycle.
Mize had a 4-for-5 game, driving in two runs. The Cardinals collected 13 hits to the Giants’ 11. Young’s three singles and two runs scored paced the New York offense.
In Game Two of the doubleheader, the Cardinals once again worked late-inning magic to secure the victory. They loaded the bases with one out, but the Giants were close to surviving the jam when Jimmy Brown hit into a force play at home plate for the second out. Pitching to Terry Moore, Giants hurler Hy Vandenberg appeared to stop in the middle of his windup. This would have constituted a balk, thus ending the contest, but home-plate umpire George Magerkurth did not make the call. Instead, Moore delivered a single to left center while the crowd “yelled happily.”13 Two games, two ninth-inning walk-off wins for the homestanding Cardinals.
Mize, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981 by the Veterans Committee, was a 10-time All-Star with the Cardinals, the Giants, and the New York Yankees. In 1940 he led the National League in home runs (43) and led both leagues in RBIs (137), slugging (.636), and OPS (1.039). He started the season with 43 bats, causing him to remark in 1953, “To this day I wonder what would have happened if I had started the season with sixty-one bats.”14 He placed second in the voting for the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1939 and 1940.
In 1940 six major-league players hit for the cycle.15 Mize was the third batter of the season to do so. His cycle followed that of the Giants’ Danning by exactly four weeks. Complementing his 5-for-9 performance at the plate for the two games in this doubleheader, Mize flashed his leather. He had 23 putouts in the two games at first base, including robbing Demaree of sure extra bases by snaring his line drive in the first game.
This article appears in "Sportsman's Park in St. Louis: Home of the Browns and Cardinals at Grand and Dodier" (SABR, 2017), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. Click here to read more articles from this book online.
1 John Drebinger, “Giants Drop Pair to Cards, 7-6, 4-3,” New York Times, July 14, 1940: 61.
2 Southworth’s Cardinals finished the 1940 season in third place. He helmed the St. Louis squad for the next five seasons, garnering two second-place finishes and three pennants (including World Series championships in 1942 and 1944). His 577 victories in five-plus seasons gave him a .648 winning percentage. In 1946 he took over managerial duties for the Boston Braves and guided them to the 1948 World Series.
3 J. Roy Stockton, “Mize Bats in One Victory and Terry Moore the Other,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 14, 1940: 36. The box score in the New York Times lists an attendance figure of 3,056. However, according to the Post-Dispatch, the “doubleheader attracted a Ladies’ day crowd of 7,325, including 3,056 paid, 2,615 women, 1,240 boys, and 414 girls.”
4 In 1940 the National League prevailed over the American League in the All-Star Game, 4-0. The Cardinals’ Mize and Moore started the game. The Giants had five players on the squad, all reserves: Harry Danning, Carl Hubbell, Billy Jurges, Jo-Jo Moore, and Mel Ott. Of the seven players, only Danning had a hit (and an RBI, driving in Ott, who had walked in the bottom of the eighth inning). Hubbell has been retroactively credited with a save. (In 1940 the save was not an official statistic.)
5 Exactly two months earlier in the season, Warneke had the unique distinction of umpiring in a game between his Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds. Four years after he retired from pitching, he became a major-league umpire.
7 In 1936 Hubbell led the National League in victories (26), winning percentage (.813), earned-run average (2.31), and WHIP (1.059). By 1940 his innings pitched and effectiveness had steadily declined.
8 This game saw Warneke allow his most earned runs in the season (5). He allowed five earned runs four more times in 1940; still, he finished the season with a 16-10 record and 3.14 ERA.
15 Players who hit for the cycle in 1940 were Harry Craft (Cincinnati Reds, June 8), Harry Danning (Giants, June 15), Mize (Cardinals, July 13), Buddy Rosar (New York Yankees, July 19), Joe Cronin (Boston Red Sox, August 2), and Joe Gordon (Yankees, September 8).