Over the past 146 Season, St. Louis baseball fans have witness as many fine pitching performances as they have performances by hitters. Chris Carpenter’s 2005 Cy Young, John Tudor’s 21-7 1985 Campaign (after having started that season 1-7), Dizzy Dean’s 30 in ’34 for the Gas House Gang. Adam Wainwright’s two 20-win campaigns in 2010 and 2014. Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA and 17 World Series K’s in 1968. All have an exalted place in Cardinals lore and deservedly so.
There have been many fine pitching performances posted by 19th Century St. Louis twirlers before the franchise was actually known as the Cardinals by such luminaries as Silver King (real name Frederick Charles Koenig) and George Washington (“Jumbo”) McGinnis. However, there are several seasons that stand out to me.
1876 – George Washington (“Grin”) Bradley: Not only was George Washington (“Grin”) Bradley the author of Major League Baseball’s first-ever no-hitter, but he was also the first-ever St. Louis major league pitching ace. Though, the St. Louis Brown Stockings team for whom he pitched had no connection to the current Cardinals franchise whatsoever, “Grin” Bradley’s outstanding 1876 Campaign nonetheless merits inclusion here. As was the custom of the time, pitchers started nearly every game. There were no rotations, specialists, short men, long men or closers. Starting every game appeared to have no ill effect on “Grin” at the time. His line in 1876 was as follows: 45-19. W/L% .703. ERA 1.23. Games 64. Starts 64. CG 63. SHO 16. IP 573.0. H 470. R 229. K 103. H/9 7,4. WHIP 0.887.
1883 – Tony Mullane: The Irish-born hurler started out throwing exclusively right-handed, but, after an injury to his right arm, he taught himself to thrown left-handed and eventually started throwing right-handed as well. He once threw both left-handed and right-handed in the same game and did not use a glove. In 1883, he joined the St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals) who were in their second year in the brand new American Association and had one of the finest seasons in franchise history. His line in 1883 was as follows: 35-15. W/L% 700. ERA 2.19. Games 67. Starts 65. SHO 7. IP 460.2. H 372. R 222. K 191. H/9 7.3. WHIP 0.968.
1885 – Bob Caruthers: He was nicknamed “Parisian Bob” because he spent an entire offseason holding out in Paris, France. He was the staff ace in 1885, the year the Browns (not to be confused with the American League franchise that eventually became the Baltimore Orioles) began their famous run of four consecutive American Association pennants. He also pitched in the first-ever World’s Series against the Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs) of the National League. His line in 1885 was as follows: 40-13. W/L% .755. ERA 2.07. Games 53. Stars 53. CG 53. SHO 6. IP 482.1. H 430. R 196. K 190. H/9 8.0. WHIP 1.010.
1887 – Dave Foutz: Before Shohei Ohtani. Before Babe Ruth. There was Dave Foutz – baseball’s first two-way superstar! He has a career 147 wins and 1253 hits. Statistically speaking, his 1886 pitching performance was better, but it was his 1887 Campaign that stood out because not only did he shine on the mound, but he was also brilliant at the plate as he drove in 108 runs (though the RBI didn’t become an official statistic until 1920). This made him the only pitcher to win 20 and drive in 100 in the same season. His pitching and his hitting helped lead the Browns to their third consecutive American Association pennant. His line in 1887 was as follows: 25-12. W/L% .676. ERA 3.87. Games 40. Stars 38. CG 36. SHO 1. IP 339.1. H 369. R 244. K 94. H/9 9.8. WHIP 1.353.
Though the rules they played were different than the modern rules of baseball, their statistics speak for themselves. When talking about St. Louis pitching greatness, these four gentlemen deserve at least a mention in any baseball-related conversation. Even though the teams they played for did not have the Birds on the Bat on their uniforms, they are still part of the Cardinals’ rich history of Base Ball excellence.