“With a Flash out of Fordham. They knocked in runs and scored ’em.
The Gas House Gang was full of fight and nerve.
The Redbirds were the rage. The Wild Horse of the Osage.
And Paul and Dizzy were keepin’ ’em busy with heat and curves.”
Musician Terry Cashman wrote a song about 1950’s baseball called “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey and The Duke)“. Soon afterwords, he wrote versions for most major league teams, including the Cardinals and the Royals.
I am now beginning a new series – “Top Five All-Time Cardinal Managers “. A lot of thought went into who I would include. First, they had to have won pennants and World Series and, second, they had to have stood out in the annals of Cardinal History. There were a quite a few that stood in both of the categories, which made difficult for me to whittle it down to a top five. The first manager on my list was immortalized in the Cardinals’ version of Terry Cashman’s hit song.
And now…..at number five…..Frankie “The Fordham Flash” Frisch…..
A native of New York City, Frisch starred in four sports – football, basketball, baseball and track – at Fordham University in The Bronx. Because of his great speed, he earned the nickname, “The Fordham Flash”. in 1919, he signed with the New York (now San Francisco) Giants and became a fixture on John McGraw’s four-time pennant winning clubs of the early 1920’s. He batted .300 or better six times. “Mugsy” McGraw, himself, had been the Cardinals’ starting Second Baseman in 1900.
After the Cardinals’ upset win over the New York Yankees in the 1926 World Series, “The Fordham Flash” came to St. Louis with pitcher Jimmy Ring in a blockbuster trade for Cardinal favorite Rogers Hornsby – “The Rajah” who led the Cards to victory in The Fall Classic as their starting Second Baseman and manager. The deal took a long time to finalize because Hornsby owned a stake in the Cardinals and he to sell his shares before the trade could become official.
Frisch immediately took over as the starting Second Baseman for “The Rajah” and was fixture in the Cardinal infield for the next decade, batting .300 or better SEVEN times, being part of four pennants and two Wold Championships as a player and making three national League all-Star teams. After the 1933, a change was needed. Manager Gabby Street, who had led the Birds on the Bat to a World Championship over Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1931, was let go. General Manager Branch Rickey promoted Frisch to manager for the 1934 Campaign, but “The Fordham Flash” remained as the Starting Second Baseman. Frisch took over a team that was one game over .500 at 46-45 and went 36-26 the rest of the way to bring them home in Second Place with a record of 82-71.
It was the 1934 Season that was the stuff of Cardinal legend. The Gas House Gang of Pepper Martin, Ripper Collins, Joe “Ducky” Medwick and Paul and Dizzy – the Brothers Dean. Frankie Frisch and his team captain Shortstop Leo “The Lip” Durocher had become the glue of the Cardinal infield. During their many arguments with umpires, which led to five ejections of Frisch, they embodied the rough and tumble spirit that came to define the Gas House Gang.
The Gas House Gang (though the name didn’t come into widespread usage until the 1935 Season) stayed in the thick of the pennant chase throughout the 1934 Campaign. The team became the favorites of Depression era baseball fans and Paul and Dizzy Dean became pitching sensations. After a 3-1 loss to the Phillies at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia on September 12, the Cards stood in Second Place 5.5 games behind the Giants (Frisch’s former team) with a record of 82-55. With less then three weeks left in the season, the Birds on the Bat then caught fire. They went 14-3 over their next 17 games and won the pennant by two games over the defending World Champion Giants with a record of 95-58! For his part, Frisch batted .305 as the starting Second Baseman.
The World Series would prove just as dramatic as the Cardinals won in seven games over the American League’s Detroit Tigers, capped off by an 11-0 victory in Game Seven. The Deans recorded every pitching victory.
Frisch remained as manager for most of the next four seasons. in 1935, the Cardinals finished with a record of 96-58, one win better than 1934, but 4 games behind the pennant-winning Cubs. They continued to play winning baseball in 1936 and 1937. After the 1937, Season, Frisch was done as a played, but he remained as manager. A 3-8 April in 1938 doomed the team from the start and the Cards were never a factor the rest of the way. On September 14, 1938, with a record of 63-72 and stuck in 6th Place, Frisch was fired in favor of longtime coach Mike Gonzales and the Cards finished in 6th Place with a record of 71-80. Frisch would later go on to manage the Cubs and the Pirates, but in a non-playing role.
In 11 Seasons as a player, “The Fordham Flash” posted the following statistics: 1311 Games, 5059 At Bats, 831 Runs, 1577 Hits, 286 Doubles, 61 Triples, 51 Home Runs, 720 RBI’s, 195 Stolen Bases and a .312 batting Average. In six seasons as the Cardinal skipper, Frisch finished with a record of 458-354 as well as the 1934 National League Pennant and World Championship. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947.