Cardinals Need Friday Win to Avoid Worst May in Team History

photo: Larry Vanover and Mike Shildt (Quinn Harris/Imagn)

Update: The Cardinals managed to squeak out a 2-1, 10-inning victory on Friday. Their 9-18 (.333) mark for the month means it was only the franchise’s third-worst May since at least 1908.

By finishing with two consecutive wins, it was St. Louis’ first and only “winning streak” during a month in which they won no series, lost eight and tied one.

The original article follows.


By holding on to claim the final game of the series in Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals collected their eighth win in the month of May, against 18 losses.

Even so, the result of Friday’s contest against Chicago at Busch Stadium could put the 2019 Cardinals in the record books. If they lose, they will clinch the unenviable recognition of having the worst May of any team in franchise history (since 1908), with a winning percentage of .296 (8-19).

On the other hand, a second consecutive victory would not only represent the team’s first “winning streak” of the month, it would mean the 2019 Cardinals will finish as only the third-worst Cardinals May team ever, at .333 (9-18).

May % W L Year May manager
Worst case 0.296 8 19 2019 Mike Shildt
Best case 0.333 9 18

With the Thursday win, the 2019 club did avoid one May futility record, however. The 1978 Cardinals dropped a record 20 games; however, they played two more games during the month (and thereby raising their winning percentage).

Let’s review the four current poorest May teams in Cardinals history. Surprisingly, some very, very successful leaders were involved.

May % W L Year May manager Season % W L Place Sept. manager
0.308 8 18 1980 Ken Boyer 0.457 74 88 4th of 6 Whitey Herzog
0.310 9 20 1978 Ken Boyer 0.426 69 93 5th of 6 Ken Boyer
0.346 9 17 1986 Whitey Herzog 0.491 79 82 3rd of 6 Whitey Herzog
0.346 9 17 1925 Branch Rickey 0.503 77 76 4th of 8 Rogers Hornsby

Ken Boyer

1980

As the above table indicates, the current record-holder for May futility is the 1980 Cardinals, a club in transition. Their .308 May occurred under future retired number honoree and team Hall of Famer Ken Boyer. The long-time third base star was fired by owner Gussie Busch on June 8 and replaced by another manager who later received the same career recognition from the club, Whitey Herzog.

As was the case with all four prior teams that played so poorly in May, the 1980 Cardinals improved slightly the rest of the way, but fell far short of the playoffs.


1978

Boyer was also the manager of the Cardinals when the aforementioned 1978 team limped home at 9-20 in May. His predecessor, Vern Rapp, had been fired late in April, making Boyer’s first and last full months as manager – in Mays two years apart – record-settingly bad.

While Boyer’s first club “improved” to .426 for the 1978 season, it was the poorest overall performance by a Cardinals team since 1924. No St. Louis team has fared worse since 1978, either, making it a 95-year-and-running low point for the franchise.


In both 1925 and 1986, the Cardinals registered a 9-17 win-loss record (.346) in May.

Branch Rickey

1925

The Cardinals opened 1925 with future Hall of Famer Branch Rickey in his seventh year as field manager. However, after a 13-25 start, owner Sam Breadon removed Rickey from the dugout, installing him as the team’s general manager, instead. That occurred following the games of May 30, as the Cards were swept in a four-game series at Pittsburgh.

Yet another future Hall of Famer, second baseman Rogers Hornsby, was made player-manager and made his debut in the dual role on May 31, a win. The 1925 team improved the rest of the way, playing .551 ball under the new skipper, and won the World Series in 1926.


Whitey Herzog

1986

In an odd season to say the least, the underachieving 1986 Cardinals are forever lodged in the history books between two World Series clubs – of 1985 and 1987. The season began terribly, with their 8-10 April followed by the aforementioned 9-17 May.

Being one of the best defensive teams in MLB history and sporting National League Rookie of the Year Todd Worrell was not enough for the Birds as the Miracle Mets went on to win 108 games. Herzog brought his club back to within three games of .500 at the end of the year, but they finished 28 ½ games back in the East Division.

Special thanks to researcher Tom Orf for the May historical records.


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