During the double header’s heyday, a fan could buy one ticket, see two games and spend an enjoyable, if somewhat long, afternoon at the ball park. On a perfect day, his team would take both ends and his favorite player would stand out.
May 3, 1942 was such a day for the 23, 871 St. Louis Cardinals’ fans as the Birds swept two from the Brooklyn Dodgers, 14-10 and 4-2 in a darkness shortened six inning affair. Not surprisingly Stan Musial, every fan’s favorite, tore the ball off the cover. His combined line: AB: 5; H: 4; R:3, RBI: 2 including two doubles and two walks.
In the nightcap, the teams couldn’t play a full nine innings because during the often delayed opener six players and the two managers, Leo Durocher and Billy Southworth, were ejected in the wild affair that saw the Cards go up 10-2 before the Dodgers rallied to tie the score. The Cards scored ten unearned runs on errors by two normally slick fielders, second baseman Billy Herman and shortstop Pee Wee Reese.
Game two was more subdued; only four Dodgers were tossed.
Although Musial had better individual seasons against the Dodgers than he did in 1942, his numbers against the Cards’ arch rival were nevertheless imposing, .308, .400 and .498 batting, slugging and on base percentage averages. As Dodger manager Durocher once said: “The best way to pitch to Musial is to roll the ball to the plate.
Just how important those two May Cardinals’ victories would be in the 1942 pennant race didn’t become clear until the end of the season. The Cardinals, 106-48, and led by Most Valuable Player Mort Cooper (22-7, 1.78 ERA) edged out the Dodgers, 104-50 by a mere two games.
The Cardinals entered the season with uncertainty. Slugger Johnny Mize had been traded to the New York Giants during the off season. But, behind Musial who despite playing his first full year more than compensated for Mize, the Cards’ prevailed. Musial made a solid impact with 10 homers, 72 RBI (tenth in the league), and a .315 average that was second to Slaughter’s league-best .318. Stan’s 32 doubles and 10 triples (third in the league) were the first of seven consecutive years he would reach double figures in triples. Musial proved that by getting out of the batter’s box quickly, he could compensate for his limited speed.
To cap off a fine year, the Cards’ upset the New York Yankees, winners of 103 games themselves, in a five-game Series.
Double the fun is a Saturday feature here that looks at one notable doubleheader each week.