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The Gashouse Gang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and Their Colorful, Come-from-Behind Ball Club Won the World Seriesand Americas HeartDuring the Great Depression Paperback – April 29, 2008
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They were an attractive group with a colorful “country bumpkin” leader in Jerome (sometimes called Jay) “Dizzy” Dean, a young, handsome, tall-tale teller with even more self-confidence than his considerable skills allowed. “Ol’ Diz’s” younger brother Paul, christened “Daffy” by sportswriters, soon also found his way to the Cardinals. Behind them a talented supporting cast of Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, Pepper Martin, Burleigh Grimes, Joe Medwick, and Rip Collins, among others, filled out the team. These players brought results as they fought with other teams and each other to take the league pennant.
During the 1934 Cardinals spring training camp, Dizzy Dean told a journalist that if the Cards let them start, that “me ‘n’ Paul will win 45 to 50 games.” When asked how many of the 50 Dizzy would win, he replied that he would win those that Paul didn’t. The Cards did win, and the brothers Dean did as well, Dizzy going 30 and 7 and Paul notching 19 wins and 11 losses. They pitched the team to the pennant, supported by a stellar cast of roughnecks, accounting for more than half of the team’s 94 wins. It was tight race for most of the year, and the Cards had to win 13 of their final 15 games to pass the front-running New York Giants in the final week of the season. Of the team’s final nine wins, Dizzy and Paul accounted for seven.
Writers labeled the 1934 Cardinals the “Gashouse Gang” for their rowdy and daring play. In addition to team veterans Frisch and Martin (who had been shifted from the outfield to third base), the gang included shortstop Leo Durocher, leftfielder Joe “Ducky” Medwick, and the team’s leading hitter and slugger, first baseman Rip Collins, who in a career-best season led the league in slugging average and tied for first in home runs. In a seven game World Series, the Cardinals prevailed, and the Dean boys won them all, each getting a pair in the Cards’ triumph over Detroit.
This entertaining story of this team focuses in four major areas (1) depression era baseball, (2) the team and how General Manager Branch Rickey built it, (3) the 1934 season and the place of the Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers in the two leagues, and (4) the World Series they played. Although the author wanders a bit as he seeks to discuss these major themes and inserts extraneous anecdotes, and there are few errors of fact.
It is an enjoyable, but relatively basic history.
This was “the most colorful team in the history of baseball,” says author Heidenry, and he has a point. With Ripper playing first base and Pepper playing third, with “The Lip” at shortstop and “The Flash” at second. With Spud behind the plate and Ducky-Wucky in the outfield, this team had some serious color! The pitching rotation mostly consisted of Dizzy and Daffy, with Tex and Wild Bill thrown in for good measure.
The first chapter is about Branch Rickey, the second is about the Dean Brothers. The rest of the book recaps the 1934 pennant race and World Series, punctuated by amusing anecdotes about the antics of a wild bunch of jokers and alpha males! A fun read for any baseball fan, especially those partial to St. Louis. Includes a photo section, index, and bibliography.