October 8, 1944: Big Mort and big blasts lift Cardinals in Game 5

This article was written by John Bauer


The Streetcar Series was even. By winning 5-1 the previous day, the Cardinals tied the Browns at two wins apiece in the 1944 World Series. Game Five would provide a rematch between Game One starters, the Browns’ Denny Galehouse and the Cardinals’ Mort Cooper. Galehouse outdueled Cooper in the opener and the Browns “entered this crucial contest confident that their cool-headed Galehouse … would repeat that performance against the Cards’ strapping right-hander. …”1 St. Louis baseball fans responded to the high stakes of the occasion, buying up every unreserved bleacher and pavilion seat two hours before first pitch. On a sunny, 64-degree day, more fans — 36,568 of them — would squeeze into Sportsman’s Park than in any of the previous Series games.

Now established as the betting favorite, the Cardinals sought to maintain their momentum. Danny Litwhiler immediately set the tone when he belted Galehouse’s first pitch of the game into left-center field for a double. Galehouse struck out Johnny Hopp, but pitched cautiously to Stan Musial and walked the Cardinals slugger. With two men on base, Galehouse struck out Walker Cooper and Ray Sanders, showing that “it would take concentrated power to beat him.”2

In the Browns’ half of the inning, Don Gutteridge fouled off Mort Cooper’s first five pitches before claiming first base via a walk. Mike Kreevich stared at a third strike for the first out, then Musial caught Gene Moore’s fly ball in right field. Vern Stephens, whose 109 RBIs led the AL in 1944, singled to left field and advanced Gutteridge to second, but George McQuinn’s groundball to Marty Marion at short ended the inning.

Whitey Kurowski provided the Cardinals with another leadoff hit in the second, this time an infield single after beating shortstop Stephens’ throw to first. Marion attempted to advance Kurowski, but his bunt popped up and was nabbed by catcher Red Hayworth on the first-base line. Emil Verban successfully advanced Kurowski with a single that created another two-on, one-out situation, but Mort Cooper’s hard grounder to Stephens resulted in a double play that ended the threat. Taking the mound in the bottom half of the inning, Cooper allowed nothing. He struck out Al Zarilla, then got a pop fly by Mark Christman and a fly ball by Hayworth.

The third inning concluded with the game remaining scoreless, but not before two-out doubles by each team. Moore, whose defense in right field had received notice, tried to play it safe with Musial’s ball, but watched it bounce over his head to the outfield wall. Galehouse snuffed out the threat by striking out Walker Cooper for the second time. In the Browns’ half, Kreevich claimed a double when his hit to left took an unusual bounce away from Litwhiler. Mort Cooper struck out Moore for the final out, however.

At the time, the fourth inning appeared uneventful with neither side reaching base. After the game, however, it was revealed that Mort Cooper had wrenched his ankle jumping to grab a bounder from Zarilla.3 Cooper recovered to make the throw to first and end the inning, but it was learned later “that the big fellow had hurled the last five innings with a painfully sprained right ankle.”4

Verban opened the fifth by reaching first base when Stephens bobbled his grounder for an error. Mort Cooper’s sacrifice bunt to Galehouse moved up Verban, who gained another 90 feet on Litwhiler’s long fly ball to Kreevich next to the center-field flagpole. With a runner on third, Hopp struck out to end the inning. Christman opened the Browns’ fifth by popping up to Verban at second. With one out, Hayworth whacked a single into right field. The Browns catcher “thundered” to second base when the “usually flawless” Musial fumbled the ball for the Cardinals’ first error of the Series.5 The Browns stranded their backstop when Galehouse popped up to Verban and Gutteridge grounded back to Cooper. After five innings, Game Five was still scoreless.

Musial, the NL’s slugging and on-base-percentage leader, led off the sixth inning with a bunt; however, Galehouse fielded the ball cleanly and made the throw to McQuinn at first. Walker Cooper flied out to Moore, which brought Sanders to the plate with two outs. Sanders worked the count to 3-and-1 before hitting a “towering smash that cleared the right-field pavilion.”6 Not only did Sanders’ drive clear the stands, but the ball “would have fallen into the street beyond except for the high screening which projects above the roof.”7 After the game, Sanders commented, It’s about time I connected with one. I’ve been up there swingin’ and missin’ long enough.”8 With his home run, Sanders became the second Cardinal to hit two home runs in the World Series, matching George Watkins’ four-baggers in the 1930 and 1931 World Series.9 Kurowski popped up in foul territory near the Browns dugout for the third out, but the Cardinals had the game’s first lead, 1-0.

The Browns threatened to tie the game in their half of the sixth. Kreevich led off with a single to right field. Moore laid down a bunt, but Mort Cooper went after that bunt with a speed that belied his poundage, and his snap throw”10 to Marion forced Kreevich at second. With Moore on first and one out, Stephens singled to center field and Moore raced around to third. Cooper walked McQuinn trying to cut the corners,”11 and Cardinals manager Billy Southworth paid his pitcher a visit. There was no question of Southworth making a change. Rather, the manager wanted to give his pitcher a short break. With bases loaded and one out, he told Cooper, “You can get those next two men — now go ahead and do it.”12 Do it Cooper did. Zarilla watched as Cooper “blazed”13 a third strike over the plate, and Christman looked at a big curveball for his third strike and the third out of the sixth inning. With that clutch performance, even the Browns fans had to give the rosy-cheeked Mort a tremendous round of applause.”14 Despite loading the bases, the Browns finished their sixth inning as they started it, down 1-0.

In the seventh, Galehouse put down the Cardinals in order. After Hayworth’s slow grounder to Marion resulted in the first out in the bottom of the inning, the Browns pitcher came to the plate. Galehouse singled to right field, becoming the first pitcher to get a hit in the Series. While Browns manager Luke Sewell had resisted the temptation to lift his pitcher for a pinch-hitter, he had no concerns about doing so for his leadoff hitter. Sewell brought in Floyd Baker for Gutteridge, but Cooper struck out the weak-hitting utilityman on three pitches. Kreevich’s foul pop to third baseman Kurowski ended the inning.

Litwhiler, leading off the Cardinals’ eighth, drove Galehouse’s first-pitch slider into the Sportsman’s Park pavilion. Litwhiler’s blast soared deep into the pavilion in right-center beyond the protective screening, with a carry of more than 400 feet.”15 The Cardinals had doubled their advantage, 2-0. Hopp followed with another strikeout, his third of the game, and Musial and Walker Cooper both flied out to Kreevich to end the Cardinals’ half of the inning. After Moore’s leadoff strikeout, cleanup hitter Stephens doubled into center field. The Browns shortstop stood witness, however, as center fielder Hopp hauled down two towering flies”16 by McQuinn and Zarilla to end the inning.

The Cardinals went down in order in the top of the ninth, leaving the Browns with three outs to make up a two-run deficit. Sewell opted to pinch-hit for each of his scheduled batters. Cooper, however, was unfazed. Milt Byrnes and Chet Laabs stared at called third strikes for the first two outs. Mike Chartak, to his credit, went down swinging, but struck out nonetheless. With Cooper’s 12th strikeout, the Cardinals took the Series lead, 3 games to 2. Although Cooper fell one short of Howard Ehmke’s single-game Series strikeout record established in 1929, he became the first pitcher to strike out three pinch-hitters in succession in a World Series game.

As the winning pitcher, Mort Cooper received most of the postgame plaudits. Post-Dispatch columnist Ed Wray observed, This must be eminently satisfactory to him because there have been many times when critics have not thought Mort was good in a pinch.”17 Cooper and Galehouse combined to establish a World Series record for total strikeouts in a game, 22, and umpire Ziggy Sears offered compliments to both pitchers afterward. Despite the loss, Galehouse was sanguine in defeat: They just tagged a couple.”18 Those home runs, though, left the Cardinals one win away from a World Series triumph.

 


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.

 

Sources 

In addition to the sources listed in the notes, the author also consulted

baseball-reference.com and SABR.org.

 

Additional Stats

St. Louis Cardinals 2
St. Louis Browns 0
Game 5, WS


Sportsman’s Park 

St. Louis, MO

 

Box Score + PBP:

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