The St. Louis Cardinals had been favored to win the 1934 World Series. But after dropping Game Four to the Detroit Tigers in a humbling beat-down, 10-4, the Series was tied at two games apiece and the status of the Cardinals’ de-facto leader, Dizzy Dean, was uncertain. Had momentum swung in favor of the Tigers?
In Game Four, the day before, Dean, the Cardinals’ star pitcher, pinch-ran for pinch-hitter Spud Davis in the fourth inning of Game Four, the day before a scheduled start. It was an interesting choice; Dean was not known for his speed. Player-manager Frankie Frisch later said he made the move because of Dean’s ability to motivate the team with his play. When Pepper Martin grounded to second, Tigers shortstop Billy Rogell’s throw nailed Dean in the head and the pitcher had to be carried off the field by eight of his teammates.1 Though the beaning prevented a double play and allowed the Cardinals to score and tie the game, it was not enough as the Tigers eventually rallied.
As the sun rose on October 7, the day of Game Five, many shadows still seemed to be lurking in the Cardinals clubhouse. The team physician, Dr. Robert F. Hyland, put Dean through a series of tests at what the Post-Dispatch called a laboratory. After reviewing two X-rays of Dean’s head, the doctor determined that there was no skull fracture. He even stated that the right side of the head, the side struck with the ball, was working even better than the left side!2 The only noticeable difference in Dean before the game was his reluctance to sign the balls and programs of fans, something he normally did.3 As expected, Dean, who won the Series opener, took the mound for the Cardinals. He faced off against Detroit’s Tommy Bridges, who had been hammered by the Cards two days earlier in Game Three.4
The Tigers struck first. With one away in the second inning, Hank Greenberg worked a walk and Pete Fox hit a double that sent Greenberg home from first.5 That lead held up until the sixth inning, which proved to be the downfall for the Cardinals. Dean gave up a leadoff home run to Charlie Gehringer, whose blast bounced off the façade of the right-field pavilion. After Goose Goslin popped out, Rogell stroked a single to center. The ball rolled through Chick Fullis’s legs and he compounded his error by not hustling after the ball. By the time Joe Medwick came out of position in left field to retrieve the ball and throw it in, Rogell was on third.6 Rogell tagged up and scored the Tigers’ third and final run when Greenberg flied out to right field. With the exception of a double by Martin, the Cardinals did nothing in the sixth to help their cause and entered the seventh inning behind 3-0.7 In the seventh, the Cardinals finally managed to get on the board thanks to Bill DeLancey’s home run, which landed on the roof of the right-field pavilion for their only run of the day.8
The Cards didn’t die easily, though. With a man on first and one out in the eighth, Pepper Martin slashed a deep drive to left-center that looked like trouble. But fleet-footed center fielder Jo-Jo White raced into the gap, “looking like a man with all the demons in creation at his heels,” and made the grab in front of the wall.9 In the ninth, St. Louis had a man on with one out. Ripper Collins smoked one to right that hit high off the pavilion screen, just missing a home run. Fox played it perfectly, holding Collins to a single. The Tigers had two men up in the bullpen but they stuck with Bridges, and with runners on the corners the left-hander stiffened again, striking out DeLancey on three straight curveballs.10 Pinch-hitter Ernie Orsatti hit a sharp grounder but Rogell made a nice play and flipped the ball to Gehringer for the force on Collins to end the game.
The Detroit papers dramatically described Dean’s loss to the Tigers as his Waterloo and compared it to the Brooklyn Bridge collapsing.11 In reality it was a very tight game with only a few mishaps on the Cardinals’ part that determined the game. Both pitchers hurled superbly. Dean went eight innings and yielded only six hits and fanned six; Bridges gave up seven hits and struck out seven. The difference came from Dean’s three walks, one that led to a run, and Fullis’s key misplay in the sixth inning.
The Cardinals, obviously upset about falling behind in the Series to the Tigers, focused much of their angst on home-plate umpire Brick Owens. The first grievance was an incident that occurred in the third inning. Pepper Martin attempted to steal second base, with two outs and Jack Rothrock at the plate. Tigers catcher Mickey Cochrane’s throw struck Rothrock’s bat and fell onto the infield, not allowing the play to be made at second. Owens immediately called Rothrock out at the plate for interference to end the inning. The Cardinals captain, Leo Durocher, insisted that Rothrock’s bat was still resting on his shoulder when Cochrane made the throw and that there was no way possible for Rothrock to have stuck out his bat in a manner to interfere with the throw as Rothrock had to step away from the plate to avoid a tight, inside pitch.12
Owens’ other major offense, according to the Cardinals, was his pitch-calling. Frisch, who claimed to never have griped about balls and strikes in his life, said the called strikes against DeLancey in the ninth inning were so low and outside that he never could have reached them.13 In a way it was true that DeLancey and the other Cardinals were finding Bridges’ pitches unreachable, but it is more likely that Bridges was throwing great stuff that day, particularly his curveball. Babe Ruth who was in attendance for Game Five, even commented on Bridges’ good play and remarked that he was better in the Series than he had been during the season.
Cochrane praised his pitcher as having one of the best pitching performances he had seen that season with a curveball that was breaking three to four feet away.14 Chicago sportswriter Irving Vaughn agreed with the Detroit catcher, declaring that the Cardinals met what was known as one of the best curveballs in the American League.15 Vaughn made the point that the Cardinals striking out seven times did not tell the whole story of how Bridges’ stuff frustrated them even when they did make contact. The Cardinals just could not make solid contact with the ball; the result was repeated “easy bounders and easy pop ups.”16 Bridges threw three balls to a batter only twice, and each time he was able to come back with a strikeout.17
As the teams boarded trains to head back to Detroit for the final games of the Series, there was a great contrast in moods. The once underdog Tigers now had a 3-games-to-2 advantage and were very eager to finish the Series at home. The favored Cardinals were now in a do-or-die situation. They were not yet beaten but resembled their star pitcher, Dean; as the St. Louis Star reported him to look, the “swagger had gone out of his shoulders,” and the same could be said for the rest of the team.18 The question now was whether they could get their swagger back and keep from losing to the Series to the Tigers in Detroit.
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.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 “Dizzy Dean Hurt as Cards Lose,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 7, 1934: 19.
2 “ ‘Dizzy’ Not Even Dizzy, After Being Hit in the Head, Tests Show,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 8, 1934: 16.
4 W.J. McGoogan, “Bridges to Pitch for Tiges Today and Rowe in Next Game.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 7, 1934: 17.
5 “Tommy Bridges Pitches Tigers Into Series Lead in Fifth Tilt,” The Sporting News, October 11, 1934: 7.
6 “Gossip of Fifth Game,” The Sporting News, October 11, 1934: 7.
7 “Umpire Brick Owens, Not Tigers, Beat Us, Says Durocher: Game, Play-by-Play,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 8, 1934: 14.
8 “Tommy Bridges Pitches Tigers Into Series Lead.”
9 John Drebinger, “Bridges Outpitches Dizzy Dean and Tigers Win to Gain 3-2 Lead in Series,” New York Times, October 8 1934: 20.
11 Grantland Rice, “Dizzy’s Waterloo: Bridges Pitches Rings Around the Great Big Bogey Man Dean and Humbles Holdenville,” Detroit Free Press, October 8, 1934: 11-12.
12 Leo Durocher, “Cards’ Captain Says Decision on Rothrock Indefensible,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 8, 1934: 14.
13 “Jubilant Tigers Sure Rowe Will Win Title Today: Cardinals Still Raging at Umpire Owens,” Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1934: 19.
15 Irving Vaughan, “Tommy Makes Rivals Pop up, Roll Out, Fan: Batters Can’t Work Him for Walk,” Chicago Trbune, October 8, 1934: 19.
18 “Cardinals Lost Again to Tigers Because No Storybook Hero Arose to Save Them,” Chicago Trbune, October 8, 1934: 19.