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Pujols, Medwick and the triple crown

Albert Pujols' recent struggles with his batting average have just about killed any chance that he'll rally to win the National League triple crown.

But, on the bright side, Pujols' 38th and 39th homers of the year have given him a five dinger lead -- and just about killed the chances of Joey Votto or Carlos Gonzalez winning the triple crown, either.

I don't mean to sound bitter. But if Pujols can't accomplish one of baseball's rarest feats, I'd like to at least keep the honor in the Cardinals family. The last Senior Circuit triple crown happened when St. Louis left fielder Joe "Ducky" Medwick led the NL in batting average, homers and RBIs in 1937 with a .374 average, 31 homers and 154 RBIs.

It was the only year that Medwick hit more than 23 homers in a season. After being traded by the Redbirds to Brooklyn in 1940 he was hit in the head with a pitch by a St. Louis pitcher and was never really the same from a power standpoint.

Very popular with the fans, Medwick wasn't so well thought of by his teammates. He was a lousy fielder, which caused endless problems between Ducky and the pitching staff. And he had an irritating habit of trying to knock out the teeth of guys wearing the same uniform as him.

Medwick had few friends playing for St. Louis when he left. He punched out pitcher Ed Heusser when Heusser criticized Medwick for loafing after a fly ball. He fought Dizzy Dean in the dugout during a game on one occasion when the eccentric Birds hurler got in Medwick's face for not getting to a ball that cost St. Louis the lead. And they fought again after Medwick hit a homer to put the Cardinals back in front and Ducky got a big mouthful of water, spit it on Dean's shoes and said "see if you can hold THAT lead." He threatened both Dizzy and Paul Dean with a bat on another occasion. He attacked St. Louis pitcher, Tex Carleton, after Carleton walked in front of Medwick while he was having his photo taken.

Bob Bowman and Medwick never really liked each other when they were teammates, either, according to reports from the time. Medwick stepped to the plate six days after the trade and Bowman beaned the left fielder, sending him to the hospital. For a while it looked like Medwick might not survive.

Medwick still hit for average, but didn't hit many homers in his remaining eight seasons in the big leagues. Bowman was sent to the Giants in 1941 and was out of baseball not long after that.

The Dodgers, led by former St. Louis team president Branch Rickey, threatened to sue the Cardinals because of the loss of Medwick's services. Ironically, Medwick returned to play for the Redbirds late in his career.