NOTE: The BND has endeavored to identify an objective list of the top 100 St. Louis Cardinals players of all time, based on statistical formulas developed through sabermetrics. We’ll count down the list daily, player by player, until April 4, the day of the Cardinals’ 2019 home opener. The running list and player bios can be found at bnd.com.
NO. 84: RHP LON WARNEKE
Lon Warneke became a certifiable star with the Chicago Cubs in 1932 when, at just 23, he led the National League with 22 wins, a 2.37 ERA and four shutouts.
He took a 5-2 loss in Game 2 of the World Series, but even that could have been much worse. Imagine the indignity suffered by teammate Charlie Root, who not only got battered by the Yankees in Game 3, he became the answer to a trivia question when Babe Ruth’s towering home run to deep center field -- exactly where he may or may not have pointed — broke a 4-4 tie.Few remember, but Lou Gehrig followed Ruth’s “Called Shot” with another homer off Root.
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But, with 76 wins over the next four years and selection to the National League’s first two All-Star teams, Warneke had no apparent trouble shaking off that World Series sweep at the hands of the Bronx Bombers. Why the Cubs traded him to the Cardinals in 1937 for the Gas House Gang’s aging slugger Ripper Collins is anybody’s guess.
It certainly came as a surprise to Warneke, but with boyhood pal Dizzy Dean there to welcome him and enough talent on the guitar to find a place in Pepper Martin’s Mississippi Mudcats Band, the “Arkansas Hummingbird” had no trouble fitting into the zany St. Louis clubhouse.
He also found his place in the Cardinals’ rotation, leading the team with 31 wins over his first two seasons, including a team-high 18 in 1937. Warneke was an All-Star again in ‘39, but had his best season for the Cardinals in 1941, just as the Swifties dynasty was beginning to take shape.
The Cardinals held first place for most of the first half of the season and were up three games on Brooklyn on July 30. But the Dodgers whittled away and seized the lead on Aug. 17.
The Cardinals were back on top two weeks later thanks to Warneke’s no-hitter against Cincinnati, but fell back into second with his 3-0 loss to his former team, the Cubs, on Sept. 4. St. Louis didn’t see first place again, despite their 97 wins and late promotion of young outfielder Stan Musial.
Warneke finished the season 17-9 with a 3.15 ERA, so it must have come as a surprise -- again -- when the Cardinals sold him back to Chicago for $7,500 midway through the next season. He lasted just three more years, giving away one to the U.S. Army.
Ten years as a major league umpire prepared him for his post-baseball career -- circuit court judge, Garland County, Arkansas.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1937-1942
83-49 in St. Louis (.629 win. pct.) | 3.18 career ERA | 46.6 WAR | 5x NL All-Star |
TOP 100 SCORE: 2.30