On this day 101 years ago the Cardinals were involved in a terrible tragedy. And it nearly was much worse for the club.
The Redbirds were riding on a train from Philadelphia to Boston for a series against the Braves when the train on which they were riding derailed at 3:32 a.m. in Bridgeport, Conn. It plunged down a 40-foot embankment and when it came to a rest 14 passengers had been killed.
No Cardinals players were seriously injured. But a lucky move by player-manager Roger Bresnahan may have saved the team from being wiped out.
Players, according to reports of the day, complained to the skipper that their Cushman sleeper car was too close to the front of the train. With it's loud chugging and even louder whistle blowing constantly, they couldn't get any rest. So, when the train stopped, day cars were moved forward and the sleeper car was moved back.
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When the accident occurred, the car where the Cardinals Cushman was located was crushed to bits under other cars that piled on top of it in a chain reaction. The pile of wrecked wooden bodied rail cars coupled with the burning coal of the steam engine caused the massive pile of debris to catch on fire. Meanwhile the team car was spared from major damage as it broke loose and remained on the tracks.
In the aftermath of the crash, Cardinals players helped rescue trapped passengers from the wreck. They dug the 47 injured passengers from the rubble with their bare hands and newspaper reports said the death toll would have been higher without their heroic actions.
They were paid $25 each by the railroad for their rescue efforts and the game in Boston scheduled for later in that day was canceled.
Investigators later determined that the train, which was running nearly an hour late, was running faster than usual. It hit a switch that was either left open or that was in the process of being turned to direct the train to another track as it passed.
The 1911 Cardinals played very well for the first half of the season and were 10 games over .500 at the time of their accident. Whether they were shaken by the events of that day or if it was just coincidence, the club had a losing record for the rest of the year and finished the season at 75-74.