Cheap Seats

January 4, 2014

On This Date in Cardinals History, Jan. 4, 1942

Cheap Seats

Looking at the Cards from a fan's perspective

On this date in 1942 former St. Louis Cardinals superstar Rogers Hornsby was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hornsby, in the era of Babe Ruth, was the best player in the National League and the toast of the Redbirds. He not only rewrote the hitting record books and racked up awards. He also led the Cardinals to their first World Series as the club's manager.

But before the euphoria of the world title could even settle down, Hornsby got into a contract dispute with owner Sam Breadon. Hornsby was shipped off to the New York Giants and his legacy in St. Louis was forever damaged.

Sounds a lot like the Albert Pujols situation, doesn't it?

No one was more popular in St. Louis than Hornsby when he played here. When he was traded, fans protested outside owner Fred Saigh's home and his auto dealership. They jumped on the running boards of his car and threatened him when he stopped at stoplights and when that didn't persuade Saigh, they wrote letters to the commissioner asking that the trade of the popular slugger be disallowed.

It was all in vain. And, maybe because the Cardinals won pennants in 1928, 30, 31 and 34 including championships in the latter two Fall Classics, St. Louis fans got over Hornsby's departure. In fact, they largely forgot about him.

The Rajah returned to the Redbirds in 1933 as a part-time player. But he asked for his release so he could become the player-manger of the American League St. Louis Browns. His reputation as a winning ballplayer may have been overshadowed by his rap of being a losing manager. Never the less, Hornsby has the third-highest batting average in the history of baseball, batting titles, MVP awards and other accomplishments to his credit and he's rarely even spoke of when Cardinals greats are discussed.

Will Pujols be forgotten in the same manner? Or have fans' perceptions of players changed by the transient nature of free agency? Will the massive library of Pujols hitting homers while wearing a Cardinals uniform endear him to St. Louis fans who never got to see him play live while little footage of Hornsby wearing the Birds on the Bat still exists?

While we don't know what cap Pujols will wear on his Hall of Fame plaque, Hornsby's monument glosses over his time with the Giants, Boston Braves, Chicago Cubs and Browns.

Back in those days players often wore caps without logos, so there is no marking on his hat. Later plaques list the names of the teams for which a player performed and the dates he played there. Hornsby's plaque doesn't have that feature. In the narrative about his accomplishments it only lists one team: Manager, 1926 world champion St. Louis Cardinals.

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About Cheap Seats

Scott Wuerz has reported for the Belleville News-Democrat since 1998​. He writes about the St. Louis Cardinals from a fan's perspective in his Cheap Seats blog.

Contact him at swuerz@bnd.com.

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