The St. Louis City Series

This article was written by Jerry Lansche

This article was published in Road Trips: SABR Convention Journal Articles

This article was originally published in “St. Louis’s Favorite Sport,” the 1992 SABR convention journal.


There was a time in baseball history when exhibition games meant something. There was a time when rival teams met each other on the field of play, and even though the exhibition contests did not figure in the regular season standings, the outcome of the games was important to both teams.

In those long-ago, pre-commissioner days, this was how the World Series found its origin—a series of post-season exhibition games between pennant-winning teams to determine the championship of the United States. And along with the early Fall Classics another of baseball’s early traditions was founded—the City Series matching rival teams from the same area. In Ohio, the Cincinnati–Cleveland series dated from 1882; in Philadelphia and New York the city series dated from 1883; in Chicago from 1903; in Boston from 1905. Some lasted longer than others. The Boston City Championship was played only in 1905 and 1907, while the Philadelphia, New York and Ohio series lasted into the teens. The Chicago exhibitions began in 1903 and were played on-again, off- again through 1942. (Even today the Cubs and White Sox play an exhibition game at some point during the regular season.)

The St. Louis City Series lasted from 1885 through 1917, and its total of 14 fall series was exceeded only by the Windy City’s 27. In the first two St. Louis City Championships, the American Association powerhouse St. Louis Brown Stockings defeated the National League St. Louis Maroons handily, three games to none in 1885 and five games to one in 1886. The Browns were pennant winners both years, and they opened the first City Series between Games Four and Five of the 1885 World Series. Little right hander Bob Caruthers, a 40-game winner during the regular season, was staked to an early four-run lead and beat the Maroons easily 5- 2 before a crowd of 10,000. St. Louis fans were obviously more eager to see the Browns play the Maroons than to see the World Championship, since a total of only 8,000 came out to see three World Series games that fall. After the Browns had downed the Chicago White Stockings in the World Series, they returned to beat the Maroons again, Caruthers winning 6-0. Two days later, the Association champs finished off their National League rival with an 11-1 laugher, capturing the first St. Louis City Series. Maroons’ owner Henry Lucas, upset by the lopsided score, swore, “Well, you can count me out of the baseball business. This game has sickened me.” True to his word, Lucas sold his club before the next season was finished. His club had been held to just 11 hits in that first series.

The next year, 1886, saw the Browns capture their second successive American Association pennant. Dave Foutz (41-16 on the year) spun a five-hit, 3-0 shutout in the opening game against the Maroons, and when the Browns scored 10 times in the seventh inning of Game Two to cruise to a 10-1 victory, none of the spectators were under any illusions as to the inevitable outcome of the second St. Louis City Series. Foutz rolled to a 7-2 win in Game Three and first baseman Charlie Comiskey, one of the game’s early legends, slammed an RBI double in Game Four to give the Browns a 4-2 win.

The Association champs then took a week off to beat the Chicago White Stockings in the World Series. When they resumed the local series they found a somewhat renewed Maroon club. After falling behind 2-0, the Browns rebounded in the middle innings and pulled out a 6-5 squeaker, but they needed the services of both their pitching aces, Foutz and Caruthers. That game gave the Browns the City Championship, but a week later, on Halloween, Egyptian Healy bested Nat Hudson 2-1 to give the Maroons their only victory in two series. It was the last game the Maroons ever played. Before the 1887 season opened the club had been moved to Indianapolis.

With no crosstown rival for the Brown Stockings, the St. Louis City Series lay dormant until after the formation of the American League. (In 1889, however, the Browns played a series with the Kansas City Cowboys for the championship of Missouri—a slate of seven sloppy games won by the Browns, four games to three.)

The St. Louis City Series resumed in 1903, when the last-place Cardinals met the fifth-place American League Browns in the first of 12 ongoing fall series between the two teams. The Cardinal club was rife with dissension, and many players refused to give their best for manager Patsy Donovan. The American Leaguers started like a house afire, winning the first four games easily, 5-0 behind Jack Powell’s three-hitter, 9-2 behind Willie Sudhoff, 10-2 with 15 hits to back Ed Siever, and 11-3 with a 17-hit onslaught in Game Four. The Redbirds exploded in the fifth game, blasting Sudhoff for seven third-inning runs in the first game of a doubleheader, cruising to a 12-1 win. (Perhaps not entirely by coincidence, manager Donovan was absent from the ballpark due to illness.) In the nightcap the Browns scored four late runs and rolled to a 6-2 victory, officially clinching the best-of-nine championship. The series ended the next afternoon with a lackluster 9-5 Cardinal victory, but the Browns won the series five games to two.

The following season, 1904, marked the first of two tie series in the history of the championship. In Game One, Mike Grady blasted a dramatic, tenth-inning, two-run homer to win for Jack Taylor and the Cardinals. But the Redbirds couldn’t stand prosperity, made eight errors the next afternoon, and went down to an ignominious 6-3 defeat at the hands of Ed Siever.

Cardinal pitcher-manager Kid Nichols started Game Three and gave up just two hits over the last eight innings, but the damage was already done by two first-inning runs and the Browns won 2-1 behind Harry Howell’ s two-hitter. The Cards jumped off to a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game Four, but the Brownies tallied three in the fifth off of Chappie McFariand and squeaked out a 3-2 victory. The National Leaguers rebounded the following day with a 13-hit attack and an 8-2 victory, Taylor’s second of the series. The final inning featured a bench-clearing brawl after Browns catcher Mike Kahoe slammed a shoulder into John Butler, who had just legged out an inside-the-park home run. The Browns hit Nichols freely in the early going of Game Six, building a 4-0 lead, but the Cards sent 14 men to the plate in the bottom of the third, blasting Willie Sudhoff for nine runs and a 10-6 victory. The Cardinal ballplayers, whose contracts expired at the end of the day, then announced they were through playing unless they got half of the next day’s gate receipts. When management on both sides rejected this idea, the series ended in a 3-3 tie.

The 1905 City Series promised to be a financial and artistic disaster as the last-place Browns (99 losses) and the sixth- place Cardinals (96 losses) met for the dubious honor of the championship of St. Louis. The Redbirds tallied for four runs in the seventh inning of Game One to pull out a 4-1 decision, but the Browns reversed the tables in Game Two, scoring six in the eighth for an 8-3 victory. The Nationals won Game Three handily, 9-1, but the fourth contest ended in a 1-1 tie—both runs were unearned— when darkness halted the proceedings after 11 innings. Browns’ hurler Harry Howell outlasted Jack Taylor in Game Five, 2-1, setting the stage for the most exciting confrontation of the series. Through the first eight innings of the sixth contest, Buster Brown held the Browns to five safeties while Fred Glade handcuffed the Redbirds on just one hit, a harmless double by Art Hoelskoetter. But in the top of the ninth the Cards eked out a 1-0 win when Spike Shannon tripled with two out and scored on Homer Smoot’s infield single when no one covered first base. The next afternoon the Cardinals needed only one victory in a doubleheader to clinch the series, and they held a 6-2 lead before the Browns erupted for five runs in the 8th inning.

The big hit was a bases-loaded triple by Emil Frisk that put the Americans into the lead. The nightcap was limited to seven innings by prior agreement, but darkness prevented the final frame from being played. The Browns roughed up Jack Taylor in the fifth and won 3-0 to emerge as city champions for the second time in three years.

The clubs were back at it again the next year, the fifth-place Browns (76-73) looking to annihilate a hapless Cardinal team (52-98) that had barely avoided the NL cellar. Although the series went eight games, three of them were ties, and the Browns won in five decisions, four games to one. The Americans won the opener 4-3 on an unearned run in the eighth, then fell behind 4-0 in the first inning of the second game but rebounded to tie the game two innings later. Darkness and cold forced a halt in the proceedings after nine, and the first tie of the series was recorded. Two days later, Brown hurler Jack Powell outlasted Stoney McGlynn 2-1 in a tightly pitched contest, and Game Four saw the American Leaguers continue their winning ways by pulling out a 4-3 victory with an unearned run in the eleventh. The next afternoon Harry Howell clinched the championship for the Browns with a nifty three- hitter in the opening game of a double-header, but the second game was scoreless when it was called because of darkness at the end of five innings. The final two games of the series were scheduled for October 14. Cardinal starter Stoney McGlynn made a first-inning run stand up for a 1 -0 win in the opener, and the nightcap went five scoreless innings before darkness halted play for the 1906 season.

The 1907 Cardinals (52-101) had dropped into last place, and it looked as if the Browns (69-83) would capture yet another City Series. But baseball is nothing if not unpredictable, and the Cards proved it by taking the series by showing an amazing ability to score runs in bunches. The opening game on October 7 saw the Birds rough up Barney Pelty for five runs in the fifth and cruise to the 6-1 victory. But the Browns rebounded the next day when Jack Powell stifled the Cardinal offense on four hits and eked out a 1-0 win on Ollie Pickering’s seeing-eye single in the top of the ninth.

The Browns raked Bugs Raymond for five runs through three innings of Game Three and were poised to take a 2-1 lead in the series, but the Redbirds struck for two in the eighth and six in the ninth to prevail 8-5. The Americans came back the next day to win an 11-7 slugfest and tie the series. The Cardinals held a slim 3-2 lead in Game Five before erupting for four runs in the eighth and an easy 7-2 decision. Leading 1-0 in Game Six, the Nationals mauled Harry Howell and reliever Bill Bailey for six runs in the second and another soft win, this one by a 9-2 score. The series finished the next day when the Redbirds won 3-1 as Stoney McGlynn held the Browns to five hits and no earned runs.

By 1911 the Browns (45-107) had become comfortably mired in last place and looked to be an easy mark for the Cardinals (75-74), who had broken the .500 mark for the first time since 1901. Game One was scoreless when darkness halted play after nine innings. A sixth-inning RBI double by future manager Miller Huggins gave the Redbirds an exciting 3-2 victory in Game Two, but the Browns came off the carpet in the third contest with a rollicking 10-2 rout, scoring in every inning but the second. On October 15, the teams played a doubleheader. The Browns made short work of the Nationals in the opener, scoring four in the third and coasting to a 6-2 win, then the Browns won a pitchers’ nightmare, 10-8 before it became too dark to start play in the sixth. The Cards took a 5-0 lead in the sixth game and managed to hang on for a 9-5 verdict with the aid of three ninth-inning runs. October 17 saw the two clubs exchange 5-1 victories, the Browns officially clinching the City Series in the opening game.

The next year, 1912, saw a bad (63-90) Cardinal team face an even worse (53-101) Browns team in what surprisingly turned out to be one of the best city championships ever. The Cards took an early 3-0 lead in the first game, but the Browns tallied six unanswered runs in the middle innings to go ahead, 6-3. The Nationals rallied to tie with three in the eighth, then won the game on a bases-loaded walk in the tenth. Game Two was a 3-2 squeaker won by the Redbirds with a solo tally in the eighth. Browns’ rookie Carl Weilman made his City Series debut in the third game and began a mastery of his National League rivals, the likes of which has rarely been seen. The Browns won the game handily, 4-0, while Weilman shut down the Cardinal offense on one hit, a single by right fielder Steve Evans. The Americans took a two-run lead in Game Four, but the Redbirds came back with two in the fourth to tie, and Cardinal spitballer Bill Steele matched pitches with Earl Hamilton for ten innings and a 2-2 tie.

The Americans jumped off to another early lead in Game Five, but the Cards made mincemeat of three Brownie hurlers, capturing a 10-4 decision and a 3-1 lead in the series. Cardinal lefty Slim Sallee gave up two eighth-inning runs in Game Six and went down to a 3-1 defeat, setting the stage for Carl Weilman to duplicate his shutout of the third game in Game Seven. Weilman wasn’t quite as sharp as in his debut but nevertheless managed to handcuff the Cards on six hits for a 2-0 victory that squared the series at three games apiece. That put it all up to the eighth and deciding game. Steele and Hamilton, the ten-inning pitchers of Game Four, were matched in the series finale, with Steele winning easily, 6-1, on a four-hitter to give the Cardinals the series.

The St. Louis city championship reached its pinnacle of futility in 1913 as the Cardinals (51-99) and the Browns (57- 96), both last-place teams, turned out to be so ineffectual that neither team could win the series. Browns’ hurler Carl Weilman held the Cardinals to one hit in Game One, a harmless single by third baseman Mike Mowrey, yet suffered a 1-0 loss when his teammates failed to mount so much as a whisper of an offense against pitcher Slim Sallee. Game Two lasted just seven innings before it was called due to darkness, the Cardinals emerging 4-2 winners. On October 11 the two teams played the first of three doubleheaders in three days. The Browns rallied for eight runs in the middle innings of the first game and came away 8-5 winners, but the second contest ended as a 2-2 tie after six innings. Weilman took the mound against Slim Sallee in Game Five and for once was unable to contain his National League opponents.

The Cards hit Weilman freely, taking a 5-3 lead with five runs in the fourth, but the Americans pecked away and then scored two in the ninth to win a 7-6 slugfest. Although ineffective, Weilman nevertheless posted the win, with George Baumgardner working the ninth in relief. In the nightcap the Browns pounded Pol Perritt 6- 2 to win a game limited to six innings. In the opener of the October 13 doubleheader, the Redbirds managed just seven hits but captured a 5-2 verdict nonetheless. Browns first baseman Derrill Pratt was thrown out of the game for fighting, and when he took his position on the field for the nightcap, the Cardinals objected, insisting that Pratt had been ejected for the day. Browns manager Branch Rickey refused to let his team start unless Pratt was allowed to play, but the umpires steadfastly supported the Cardinals’ contention. At long last, Frank Crossin took first base for the Americans, but only five innings could be played and a 1 -1 tie resulted. Because of the bad feelings between the two clubs, Rickey and Cardinal manager Miller Huggins decided to end the series in a tie.

A Cardinal triumph would have given each team four City Series apiece. The Cardinals (81 -72) had risen to third place in 1914 and would have been favored in the City Series. But several of their players were preparing to jump their contracts for teams in the Federal League, and speculation had it that they were going to give less than their best efforts. The series opened with Cardinal nemesis Carl Weilman outdueling Bill Doak 2-1, and the Browns continued their winning ways the next afternoon with a 7-4 victory behind Earl Hamilton. (Hamilton celebrated his win a little too vigorously that evening and ended up crashing his car into a railing on the Eads Bridge.) After two days of rain, the series resumed with a doubleheader.

Browns hurler Bill James spun a four-hit, 2-0 shutout in the opening game, but Cardinal starter Dan Griner returned the favor with a 2-0 blanking in the five-inning nightcap. Browns manager Branch Rickey, reckoning that his team couldn’t beat 20-game- winner Doak twice in the same series, offered up reliever Harry Hock as his sacrificial starter in Game Five. But Hoch surprised everyone by twirling a one-hit shutout for a 2-0 win. The only Cardinal hit came when Hoch fell down attempting to field Dots Miller’s scratch grounder to the left side. Had he allowed third baseman Jimmy Austin to take the ball, Hoch would have had a no-hitter. The victory clinched the City Series for the Browns, but the second game of the doubleheader was played anyway. Weilman and Perdue pitched seven innings for a 2-2 tie that was called on account of darkness.

Cardinal-killer Weilman opened the 1915 City Series by scattering eight hits and eking out a 3-2 win over the Redbirds. Game Two saw the Cardinals blow the lead three times, and when darkness set in after 12 innings they had to settle for a 3-3 tie. The Browns captured both ends of a doubleheader on October 9, 5-1 and 6-2, to take a three-to-none lead in the series. The Americans pounded Slim Sallee for four runs in the first inning of the opener, and Weilman won on a five-hitter, his last City Series outing. His lifetime record in eight starts was 6-1, and in only one game had he allowed more than two runs. In the nightcap of the doubleheader, the Redbirds staked Lee Meadows to a 2-0 lead but then made six errors behind him as the Browns pulled out the 6-2 win.

Another twin bill was scheduled for the next afternoon. The Cards pummeled Earl Hamilton and Ernie Koob for 13 hits in the opener, winning 7-2 behind Bill Doak’s masterful two-hitter. But the Browns came back to win the nightcap and take the City Series when rookie Tim McCabe blanked the Birds on 7 hits, 5-0.

The 1916 City Series opened October 4 with the Browns staking former Federal Leaguer Dave Davenport to a 5-0 lead, which he converted into a 5-3 final score. Bob Groom held the Cards to just three safeties in Game Two and came away with a 4-3 victory. Game Three saw Cardinal starter Bill Steele take a 5-2 lead into the eighth before he weakened and was replaced by reliever Red Ames. The Birds held on to win that one 5-4, but the Browns swept a doubleheader on October 8 and took the City Series four games to one. In the opening game of the twin bill, veteran Eddie Plank, at the tail end of his long and distinguished career, scored two of the Browns’ runs and drove home the other while also pitching a seven-hit, 10-inning. 3-2 win. The Americans then rapped out ten hits against Lee Meadows in the nightcap and were winning 4-1 when the game was ended by darkness.

In 1917, Miller Huggins marked his last year at the Cardinal helm by leading the Birds to an 82-70 record and a third-place finish. Huggins then moved on to the Yankees, whom he managed to six pennants and an average of 89 wins over the next twelve seasons. The Browns had finished 43 games off the pace in 1917, escaping last place only because of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, who were in the midst of a string of seven consecutive cellar finishes. Game One of the St. Louis City Series opened at Cardinal Field (previously known as Robison Field) on October 3. The Browns tied the contest in the ninth at two-all, but the Redbirds eked out a run in the bottom of the inning to make a 3-2 winner out of Gene Packard. Spitballer Bill Doak stifled the Browns’ offense on six hits the next afternoon, 3-1, to give the Cards a 2-0 lead in the series as the clubs prepared for a doubleheader October 6. The Americans staked Bob Groom to a 4-0 lead in the opener, but the Cards scored four in the eighth to tie the game. The comeback went for naught, however, when George Sisler and Grover Hartley slammed back-to-back triples in the tenth to give the Brownies a 5-4 victory. The nightcap went just five innings, but the Cardinals won in convincing fashion, 6-1 behind Lee Meadows, to take a three-games-to-one lead in the series. A second doubleheader was scheduled for October 7, and with the Cardinals needing just one win to wrap up the championship, the Browns had their backs to the wall. Brownie hurler Grover Lowdermilk held the Birds to seven hits in the opener, winning 2-0, then took the mound and worked nine scoreless innings in the nightcap. But his second- game effort was wasted when his teammates failed to mount a scoring threat, and the game ended 0-0, the 11th tie in the history of the St. Louis City Series. Only Eddie Reulbach of the 1908 Cubs has ever duplicated Lowdermilk’s feat of two complete-game shutouts in the same day. The next afternoon the Cardinals rebounded with a 10-hit attack against Dave Davenport and Bob Groom and captured the championship with a 6-1 victory.

Even though the Browns remained in St. Louis for another 36 years, this was the last St. Louis City Series to be played in the fall. The Browns emerged as clear winners, with seven series won, three lost, and two tied. In games, the Browns had a 42-31 -11 edge over the Cardinals.