Whitey Kurowski (SABR-Rucker Archive)

September 12, 1942: Whitey Kurowski’s home run lifts Cardinals into first-place tie with Dodgers

This article was written by Stephen V. Rice

Whitey Kurowski (SABR-Rucker Archive)The Brooklyn Dodgers won the 1941 National League pennant by a 2½-game margin over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. On August 15, 1942, the Dodgers were again in first place, and with a 9½-game lead over the second-place Cardinals, appeared to be shoo-ins to win another pennant. But the improbable happened. Over the next 27 days, the Dodgers posted a pedestrian 15-12 record while the Cardinals went on a 24-4 tear. The Brooklyn lead had shrunk to a single game when the archrivals met at Ebbets Field on Saturday, September 12, 1942. “Every nook and corner” of the ballpark was filled by a crowd of 27,511 who came to see “a real-life drama unsurpassed by anything in fiction.”1

“The Cardinals deserve credit” for their “gallant uphill fight against seemingly unsurmountable odds,” wrote Lee Scott of the Brooklyn Citizen.2 “The psychological edge is now with the Cardinals.”3 The team reveled in “Pass the Biscuits, Mirandy,” a hit song the players adopted as their anthem.

The starting pitchers on September 12 were both southpaws named Max: stocky Max Lanier for the Cardinals and lanky Max Macon for the Dodgers. Lanier’s season record was 12-7 with a 2.96 ERA; Macon was 5-2 with a 2.07 ERA since his call-up from the minors in July. The Maxes knew each other; they were teammates on the pennant-winning 1937 Columbus (Ohio) Red Birds of the American Association.

To face these tough left-handers, Cardinals manager Billy Southworth and Dodgers skipper Leo Durocher put extra right-handed hitters in their starting lineups. In left field, Southworth replaced Stan Musial, a brilliant 21-year-old rookie and left-handed batter, with journeyman Coaker Triplett. Durocher replaced two left-handed-hitting stars, Pete Reiser and Dixie Walker, with Frenchy Bordagaray and Johnny Rizzo in center and right fields, respectively. The lineups were nonetheless star-studded. Four Cardinals (Jimmy Brown, Walker Cooper, Terry Moore, and Enos Slaughter) and five Dodgers (Billy Herman, Joe Medwick, Mickey Owen, Pee Wee Reese, and Arky Vaughan) were members of the 1942 NL All-Star team.

The Cardinals were retired in order by Macon in the top of the first inning. Bordagaray led off the bottom half by singling up the middle and promptly stole second base. But he was easily thrown out when he tried to steal third. His attempt was “ridiculously reckless,” declared the New York Daily News.

With one out in the top of the second, Cooper singled to left field. Up to the plate stepped George “Whitey” Kurowski, the 24-year-old son of Polish immigrants.4 Kurowski was the Cardinals’ rookie third baseman and a right-handed batter. After fouling off several pitches, he turned on an inside pitch and pulled it down the left-field line. His drive landed in the lower left-field seats, barely fair, for a two-run home run. The Dodgers got one back when they scored a run in the bottom of the second, on Dolph Camilli‘s single and Reese’s double to deep left-center field.

After Cooper drew a walk with two outs in the top of the fifth, Kurowski “took a vicious cut at the ball and there was a dangerous streak of white lightning down to third,” said the Daily News. “It looked like a sure hit – but [third baseman] Vaughan claimed it to end the inning.”

In the bottom of the seventh, controversy erupted over a close play at first base. Owen led off by grounding the ball toward the hole on the right side of the infield. First baseman Johnny Hopp went for it and couldn’t get to it, but Brown, the second baseman, was able to grab it. He threw to Lanier, covering first, who got there just in time. Owen was out, according to first-base umpire Al Barlick. Chuck Dressen, the Dodgers first-base coach, and Durocher argued vociferously with Barlick, and both were ejected from the game as angry Brooklyn fans threw debris onto the field in protest.

Later in the inning, Vaughan drew a walk from Lanier. Augie Galan, pinch-hitting for Macon, sent a grounder up the middle, which shortstop Marty Marion reached with a diving stop. Marion tossed to Brown at second base for a force out, but Brown dropped the ball. Now with Vaughan on second base and Galan on first, Lanier uncorked a wild pitch in the dirt. As Cooper, the catcher, ran to the backstop to retrieve the ball, Vaughan raced around third and headed home. It was a desperate attempt to tie the game. Cooper fired the ball to Lanier covering home plate, and Vaughan was out by a yard.

Billy Herman drew a walk from Lanier with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Rizzo sent a long drive to right field, which Slaughter caught on the run for the second out. Medwick singled to right field (his 2,000th major-league hit), and Herman advanced to second base. Now Camilli, the NL MVP in 1941, stepped to the plate with a chance to knock in the tying run. Lanier got him to ground the ball weakly to Brown for the third out. Camilli simultaneously “broke his bat and the fans’ hearts,” said Dick McCann of the Daily News.

Lanier went the distance. In the bottom of the ninth, Slaughter made another fine running catch, on Owen’s drive to right-center field. Reese’s “hot grounder” was handled by Kurowski for the second out. And Vaughan popped out meekly to Hopp for the third out.

The final score was Cardinals 2, Dodgers 1. The Cardinals were now tied with the Dodgers atop the NL standings.

The Dodgers went 10-4 in the remaining games of the season, but the Cardinals did even better, winning 12 of 14 games to capture the pennant. The Cardinals’ 106 victories in 1942 were the most by a NL team since the Pittsburgh Pirates won 110 in 1909.

The Cardinals defeated the Yankees in five games in the 1942 World Series. Kurowski was again a hero; his ninth-inning home run off Red Ruffing provided the margin of victory in Game Five. In celebration, Kurowski and his teammates sang, “Pass the Biscuits, Mirandy.”

“That Cardinal team never stopped hustling, not for one minute,” said Billy Herman years later. “When a team has got that kind of fire, you can just feel it in the clubhouse before a game. It’s like electricity.”5



Game coverage in the September 12 and 13, 1942, issues of the Brooklyn Eagle, New York Daily News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and St. Louis Star-Times.

Photo credit: Whitey Kurowski, SABR-Rucker Archive.



1 Tommy Holmes, “Flock Faces Loss of Lead in Tilt Today,” Brooklyn Eagle, September 12, 1942: 1; Judson Bailey (Associated Press), “Two Maxies Due to Pitch in Brooklyn,” Boston Globe, September 12, 1942: 6.

2 Lee Scott, “Rest May Prove Advantageous to Dodgers as Jittery Cards Play Phils,” Brooklyn Citizen, September 14, 1942: 6.

3 Lee Scott, “Dodgers in Last-Ditch Stand Must Halt Cardinals in Today’s Big Game,” Brooklyn Citizen, September 12, 1942: 6.

4 1930 US Census.

5 Donald Honig, The Man in the Dugout (Chicago: Follett, 1977), 253.

Additional Stats

St. Louis Cardinals 2
Brooklyn Dodgers 1

Ebbets Field
Brooklyn, NY


Box Score + PBP:

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