Playing Dodgers for the NL pennant is appropriate in year dedicated to Stan Musial

Posted by Scott Wuerz on October 11, 2013 

It's fitting that the St. Louis Cardinals would be playing the Dodgers -- whether they reside in Brooklyn or Los Angeles -- for the right to play in the 2013 World Series.

When he passed away over the winter the Cardinals dedicated the season to Musial. And while today we think of teams like the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers as rivals of the Redbirds, there was no rivalry is the National League during Stan the Man's playing days like that between the Cardinals and the Dodgers.

St. Louis fans all know the tale that Musial made such an impression on fans at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn that they gave him his famous nickname by murmuring "Here comes that man again" when Musial came to the plate in their ballpark.

In Musial's debut season, 70 years ago in 1941, the Redbirds were narrowly edged out by Brooklyn for the National League pennant. Stan only played in a handful of games that September. But when he joined the Cardinals for good in 1942, St. Louis returned the favor and edged out the Dodgers for the right to play in the World Series. The Dodgers also lost out to the Cardinals in 1946 marking three times over a stretch of six years that one of the two teams beat out the other by 2 1/2 games or less. They finished 1-2 in the standings five times in the first decade of Musial's career.

Musial actually played more games against the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers than any other team, racking up 432 over his career. He played 427 against the Cincinnati Reds for second and 426 against the Boston/Milwaukee Braves for third. He hit .341 against the Dodgers, his highest average against any team that he played more than 30 games against. (Musial hit .405 with 6 homers against the New York Mets -- the team that replaced the Dodgers and Giants in New York in 30 games at the end of his career.)

The Cardinals/Dodgers rivalry didn't end when Musial retired.

In the 1960s the Cardinals had a rivalry that was based on speed. Maury Wills and Lou Brock battled to be baseball's best base stealer. Wills led the National League six years in a row until 1964 as baseball embraced a new speed-based game. In 1963 the Dodgers finished six games ahead of the Redbirds for the pennant. In 1964 the Birds acquired Brock in mid-season, won the pennant and then Brock won the stolen base title in the Senior Circuit eight of the next nine years. He was narrowly beaten by Cincinnati's Bobby Tolan.

In 1965 and 1966 the Dodgers again won the pennant. Then the Cardinals won it 1967 and 1968.

After the split of the leagues into two divisions each in 1969 the Redbirds and Dodgers were separated. But they've come together in the playoffs with the Cardinals famously beating Los Angeles in 1985 in series that included the famous "Go crazy Folks!" Ozzie Smith home run and Tommy LaSorda's much-questioned decision to pitch to Jack Clark in the deciding game at Dodger Stadium in which first base was open. Clark hit the ball over the head of Pedro Guerrero into the left field stands and the Cardinals went on to the World Series.

 

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