Just before Christmas in 1926, Cardinals fans got the lump of coal of a lifetime when owner Sam Breadon traded Rogers Hornsby, the best player in the National League and the undisputed favorite of St. Louis fans, to the New York Giants for Frank Frisch and Jimmy Ring.
How could the Redbirds trade the best player in the Senior Circuit -- a guy who racked up seven batting titles and a pair of MVP Awards -- in his prime? I know, it sounds ridiculous to let a guy like that get away. But you know how it is when a multi-millionaire owner doesn't want to pay market value for talent. Something's gotta give.
Hornsby wanted to be paid as baseball's best player. He asked for a then unheard of five-year contract for the astronomical amount of $50,000 a year! Breadon offered $40,000 for one year. He argued that Hornsby had a bad season in 1926, hitting only .317 with 11 homers and 93 RBIs after hitting .403 with 39 homers and 143 batted in 1925. At least part of the drag on Hornsby's numbers was the fact that he served the dual role of being player-manager of the Cardinals in 1926. While his batting average was down, he led the team to its first World Series title.
Fans were not happy about the deal to say the least.
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Although Frisch was a great player in his own right, leading the Cardinals to World Series appearances in 1928, 30, 31 and 34, Hornsby had been with St. Louis for more than a decade and fans thought of him as one of their own.
According to newspaper reports at the time, Breadon had to place a guard at his home. Fans jumped on the running boards of his car at stoplights to hurl insults at him and his St. Louis car dealership was draped in black crepe as if being decorated for a funeral.