photo: Bill DeWitt Jr. via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
With the December 1 deadline nearing and a work stoppage looming on the horizon for Major League Baseball, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful for the baseball season that was. For St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans, that thankfulness should start with the organization’s ownership.
The Cardinals are arguably the most stable franchise in baseball because of its ownership. Throughout the last 68 years, the team has had just two ownership groups. Overlooked by many, strong, consistent and smart ownership is the foundation of success. Nowhere in baseball is there owners who have lived and breathed baseball from childhood. Nowhere in baseball is there an ownership group that remembers what is to be a fan and how they savor the thrill of victory like in St. Louis. Nowhere is there an ownership group in baseball that lauds character more over winning and because of it the organization is a winner.
The William DeWitt Jr. family, as principal owners. have continued a winning tradition in St. Louis. Preceded by Gussie Busch, the Cardinals have had just two primary owners since 1953. Under that leadership, the Cardinals have enjoyed not just stability but some of the winningest baseball in the history of America’s pastime. Under their guidance, the Cardinals have won 5,762 games, second only to the New York Yankees.
The ownership under DeWitt Jr. has employed just four managers since 1996. Those managers’ teams have produced 12 division titles in 25 years and another six second place finishes with a total of 16 playoff appearances. Twelve times they have made it to the National League Championship Series and ultimately played in four World Series, winning two. Add in the years under Busch and in 68 seasons the Cardinals have finished first or second 31 times. It is a record few can match.
Steady guidance and a sound plan have resulted in the Cardinals ability to obtain and maintain players of not just Hall of Fame caliber but of dedication and commitment to the organization and the city.
Matt Carpenter, who announced his retirement just days ago, is the latest in a long line of players who have loved wearing the Cardinals uniform. Although I have been critical of the team extending his contract, as a human being Carpenter has been a standout. His farewell to Cardinals fans was just an inkling of not only what baseball means to St. Louis but maybe more importantly what it means to be a player wearing the Birds on the Bat.
Carpenter is all over the record books offensively and even though his last couple of years were nothing to write home about, this is a person you would want to bring home to your parents. St. Louis seems to consistently find these kinds of men and gets rid of the ones who are not of the character and mold of what it means to be a Cardinal.
I love you, St. Louis. Thank you for everything! @PlayersTribune
— Matt Carpenter (@MattCarp13) November 8, 2021
Finally, without this ownership, there would not have been the streak of 2021. Just as much as McGwire and Sosa caught baseball’s attention in 1998 so did the Cardinals 17-game winning streak. Not only did the run of winning baseball turn a left-for-dead team in early August into a playoff club but it reminded St. Louis fans of the history and legacy that is Cardinals baseball. The longest streak in franchise history and nearly baseball history brought back memories of the 1964 season when St. Louis tracked down the Philadelphia Phillies to win the pennant and eventually the World Series. Dreams of that danced once more in St. Louis fans heads and turned the baseball world upside down.
The streak also reminds us of the 2011 World Series win over the Texas Rangers by a team that should have never been there but took advantage of a door opened by postseason expansion. Coincidentally, the 2011 Cardinals won as many games as this 2021 team and also finished second to Milwaukee.
2021 brought a complete organizational effort that created history. Without the in-season additions of unheralded pitchers Luis Garcia, T.J. McFarland, Wade LeBlanc, J.A. Happ, Jon Lester, where would the Cardinals have finished? Without the age defying play of Adam Wainwright and his catcher Yadier Molina, where would the Cardinals have ended?
Outfielder Tyler O’Neill crushed 11 home runs during the streak, second only to McGwire’s three September streaks of 1997 (15), 1998 (15) and 1999 (12). Another outfielder getting it done during the streak was Harrison Bader with 13 runs, 24 hits, 13 extra-base hits and 12 RBI. Those 17 consecutive wins gave the fans one more reason to love the 2021 Redbirds.
When you’re watching and waiting for the Cardinals to do something profound this offseason, just be thankful that strong, steady and smart ownership is at the helm. It is the key to a continued winning legacy.
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