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On This Date in Cardinals History: Dec. 20, 1926

On this date 85 years ago the best right-handed hitter in baseball left the Cardinals after 11 seasons for the big city just weeks after the team celebrated an improbable World Series victory.

I guess history does repeat itself.

Back then the slugger in question was Rogers Hornsby, the Redbirds' second baseman and manager who hit .358 for his career with 301 career homers -- most in the history of the National League at the time of his retirement in 1937.

I get a chuckle out of the shock some people expressed when modern day Cardinals fans took to the internet or the airwaves to call Albert Pujols greedy for leaving the Cardinals to take a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. That was downright civil compared to the way Redbirds rooters took Hornsby's departure.

While the Rajah's divorce from the Cardinals was financial in nature, there was no free agency back then. So, when St. Louis owner Sam Breadon couldn't come to a contract agreement with his superstar, he shocked the baseball world by trading Hornsby to the Giants in his prime.

Fans gathered in throngs outside the Cardinals office in an angry mob to demand that ownership somehow undo the trade. They draped his St. Louis car dealership with black crepe as if it were decorated for a funeral and jumped on the running boards of his car at stop lights to shake their fists in Breadon's face and threaten him. When that didn't work Cardinals fans wrote letters to Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis asking that he block the deal from going through.

Unlike the Pujols defection, the Cardinals got a Hall of Fame player back in return for Hornsby.

Frank Frisch, who won the 1931 NL MVP Award, went on to play in four World Series with the Redbirds, winning two of them. Like Hornsby, he eventually became player-manager, piloting the team to victory in the 1934 Fall Classic.

Hornsby, who won one MVP Award with St. Louis would go on to win two more in a career that lasted another decade. But he never again saw the post season in his time with the Giants, Braves, Cubs, Browns and a brief 1934 cameo with the Cardinals.

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