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The St. Louis Cardinals are an American professional baseball team based in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. Since the 2006 season, the Cardinals have played their home games at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. One of the nation's oldest and most successful professional baseball clubs, the Cardinals have won 11 World Series championships, the most of any NL team and second in MLB only to the New York Yankees. The team has won 19 National League pennants, third-most of any team. St. Louis has also won 15 division titles in the East and Central divisions.
In 1881, entrepreneur Chris von der Ahe purchased the Brown Stockings barnstorming club, renamed it the St. Louis Browns, and made it a charter member of the American Association baseball league. The team won four league championships, qualifying them to play in the era's professional baseball championship series, a forerunner of the modern World Series. In two of these championships, the Browns met the Chicago White Stockings, now the Chicago Cubs, launching the enduring Cardinals–Cubs rivalry.
In 1892, the Browns – also called the Perfectos – joined the National League. In 1900, the team was renamed the Cardinals. (Two years later, an unrelated St. Louis Browns team joined the American League.)
Notable Cardinals achievements include manager/owner Branch Rickey's invention of the farm system, Rogers Hornsby's two batting Triple Crowns, Dizzy Dean's 30-win season in 1934, Stan Musial's 17 MLB and 29 NL records, Bob Gibson's 1.12 earned run average (ERA) in 1968, Whitey Herzog's Whiteyball, Mark McGwire's single-season home run record in 1998, the 2011 championship team's unprecedented comebacks, and Albert Pujols’ 700th home run. The Cardinals have won 105 or more games in four seasons and won 100 or more nine times. Cardinals players have won 21 league MVPs, four batting Triple Crowns, and three Cy Young Awards. Baseball Hall of Fame inductees include Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Whitey Herzog, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Medwick, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Branch Rickey, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Ted Simmons, Bruce Sutter, and Scott Rolen.
In 2018, Forbes valued the Cardinals at $1.9 billion, the 7th-highest among MLB clubs and far more than the $147 million paid in 1995 by owner William DeWitt, Jr.'s investment group. In 2017, the team took in revenue of $319 million on an operating income of $40.0 million. John Mozeliak is the President of Baseball Operations, Mike Girsch is the general manager, and Oliver Marmol is the manager. The Cardinals are renowned for their strong fan support: despite being in one of the sport's mid-level markets, they routinely see attendances among the league's highest, and are consistently among the top three in MLB in local television ratings.
Through 2022, the Cardinals' all-time win-loss record is 11,134–10,238 (.521).
Professional baseball began in St. Louis with the inception of the Brown Stockings in the National Association (NA) in 1875. The NA folded following that season, and the next season, St. Louis joined the National League as a charter member, finishing in third place at 45–19. George Bradley hurled the first no-hitter in Major League history. The NL expelled St. Louis from the league after 1877 due to a game-fixing scandal and the team went bankrupt. Without a league, they continued play as a semi-professional barnstorming team through 1881.
The magnitudes of the reorganizations, following the 1877 and 1881 seasons, are such that the 1875–1877 and 1878–1881 Brown Stockings teams are not generally considered to share continuity as a franchise with the current St. Louis Cardinals.
For the 1882 season, Chris von der Ahe purchased the team, reorganized it, and made it a founding member of the American Association (AA), a league to rival the NL. 1882 is generally considered to be the first year of existence for the franchise which would later become known as the St. Louis Cardinals.
The next season, St. Louis shortened their name to the Browns. Soon thereafter they became the dominant team in the AA, as manager Charlie Comiskey guided St. Louis to four pennants in a row from 1885 to 1888. Pitcher and outfielder Bob Caruthers led the league in ERA (2.07) and wins (40) in 1885 and finished in the top six in both in each of the following two seasons. He also led the AA in OBP (.448) and OPS (.974) in 1886 and finished fourth in batting average in 1886 (.334) and fifth in 1887 (.357). Outfielder Tip O'Neill won the first batting triple crown in franchise history in 1887 and the only one in AA history. By winning the pennant, the Browns played the NL pennant winner in a predecessor of the World Series. The Browns twice met the Chicago White Stockings—the predecessor to the Chicago Cubs—tying one in a heated dispute and winning the other, thus spurring the vigorous St. Louis-Chicago rivalry that ensues to this day. During the franchise's ten seasons in the AA, they compiled an all-time league-high of 780 wins and .639 winning percentage. They lost just 432 contests while tying 21 others.
The AA went bankrupt after the 1891 season and the Browns transferred to the National League. This time, the club entered an era of stark futility. Between 1892 and 1919, St. Louis managed just five winning seasons, finished in last or next-to-last place sixteen times, and ended four seasons with 100 losses or more. The nadir was the 1897 season: a 29–102 record for a franchise-worst .221 winning percentage. St. Louis' 84–67 finish as the in 1899 would be the team's best finish between the AA era and Sam Breadon's purchase of the team. As the "Perfectos", the team wore their jersey with a cardinal red trim and sock striping. Later that season, St. Louis Republic sportswriter Willie McHale included an account in a column of a female fan he heard remarking about the uniforms, "What a lovely shade of cardinal." Fans liked the moniker "Cardinals" and, the next year in 1900, popularity for the nickname induced an official change to Cardinals.
In 1902, an American League team moved from Milwaukee into St. Louis, renamed themselves the and built a new park on the site of the Cardinals' old stadium, striking a rivalry that lasted five decades. Breadon bought a minority interest in the Cardinals in 1917 and in 1919 Browns manager Branch Rickey joined the Cardinals. The Cardinals' first 28 seasons in the NL were a complete reversal of their stay in the AA – with a .406 winning percentage, they compiled 1,632 wins, 2,425 losses and 74 ties.
St. Louis baseball commenced a renaissance: since 1926 the Cardinals have won eleven World Series and nineteen NL pennants. Breadon spurred this revival when he bought out the majority stake in 1920 and appointed Rickey as business manager, who expanded scouting, player development, and pioneered the minor league farm system, filling the role of today's general manager. With Rogers Hornsby at second base, he claimed Triple Crowns in 1922 and 1925, and the Cardinals won the 1926 World Series, their first. St. Louis then won the league in 1928, 1930, and 1931 and the 1931 World Series.
The Gashouse Gang edition claimed the 1934 World Series and the Cardinals amassed new thresholds of popularity far outside St. Louis via radio, which led to the coining of the term "Cardinal Nation". Dizzy Dean led the Gang, winning the 1934 MVP, and leading the NL multiple times in wins, strikeouts, innings, complete games and shutouts. Johnny Mize and Joe Medwick emerged as two power threats, with Medwick claiming the last Triple Crown for a Cardinal in 1937.
In the 1940s, a golden era emerged as Rickey's farm system became laden with such talent as Marty Marion, Enos Slaughter, Mort Cooper, Walker Cooper, Stan Musial, Max Lanier, Whitey Kurowski, Red Schoendienst and Johnny Beazley. It was one of the most successful decades in franchise history with 960 wins and 580 losses for a winning percentage higher than any other Major League team at .623. With Billy Southworth managing, they won the World Series in 1942 and 1944 (in the only all-St. Louis series against the Browns), and won 105 or more games each in 1942, 1943, and 1944. Southworth's managerial winning percentage (.642) is St. Louis' highest since the franchise joined the National League. Musial was considered the most consistent hitter of his era and most accomplished in team history, winning three MVPs and seven batting titles. St. Louis then won the 1946 World Series on Slaughter's Mad Dash in Game 7. Breadon was forced to sell the team in 1947 but won six World Series and nine NL pennants as Cardinals owner. They remained competitive, finishing .500 or better in thirteen of the next seventeen seasons, but fell short of winning the league or World Series until 1964.
In 1953 the Anheuser-Busch brewery bought the Cardinals and August "Gussie" Busch became team president, spurring the Browns' departure in 1953 to Baltimore to become the Orioles, and making the Cardinals the only major league club in town. More success followed in the 1960s, starting with what is considered one of the most lopsided trades in Major League history, as St. Louis received outfielder Lou Brock from the Cubs for pitcher Ernie Broglio. MVP third baseman Ken Boyer and pitcher Bob Gibson led the club to a World Series win the same year and Curt Flood, Bill White, Curt Simmons, and Steve Carlton also made key contributions in this decade. In 1967, new arrival Orlando Cepeda won the MVP, helping to propel St. Louis to the World Series. The Cardinals won the league the following year behind their Major League-leading 2.49 staff ERA in what was an all-round record-breaking season of pitching dominance. Posting a modern-day record low ERA of 1.12 and striking out a one-game World Series-record of 17, Gibson won both the MVP and Cy Young awards that year. However, the Cardinals failed to repeat as World Series champions, blowing a 3–1 lead to the underdog Detroit Tigers.
In the 1970s, catcher/third baseman Joe Torre and first baseman Keith Hernandez each won MVPs, but the team's best finishes were second place and 90 wins. The team found their way back to the World Series three times in the 1980s, starting with manager Whitey Herzog and his Whiteyball style of play and another trade that altered course of the franchise: in 1982, shortstop Garry Templeton was shipped to the Padres for fellow shortstop Ozzie Smith. Widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in history, Smith ranks first all-time among shortstops in Gold Glove Awards (13), All-Star games (15), assists (8,375), and double plays (1,590). St. Louis won the 1982 World Series from the Milwaukee Brewers that fall. The Cardinals again won the league in 1985 and 1987. In the 1985 Series, they faced-off with cross-state rivals Kansas City Royals for the first time in a non-exhibition game, but they lost the series after a controversial call in Game 6; the 1987 series saw them face off against the Minnesota Twins, but could only win all three of their games played at home in the seven-game series.
After Gussie Busch died in 1989, the brewery took control and hired Joe Torre to manage late in 1990, then sold the team to an investment group led by William DeWitt, Jr. in 1996. Tony La Russa replaced Torre in the spring of 1996. In 1998, Mark McGwire competed with the Cubs' Sammy Sosa for a barrage of home runs in their pursuit of the single-season home run record. From 2000 to 2013, the Cardinals reestablished their way to the top with ten playoff appearances, four NL pennants, two World Series titles and 1,274 regular season wins against 993 losses for a .560 winning percentage, leading the National League and second in MLB only to the New York Yankees. With the addition of Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, and Scott Rolen, the Cardinals featured three prominent sluggers and defenders nicknamed "MV3;" Pujols won three MVPs and hit .328 with 445 home runs in his Cardinals career. In 2004, playoff stalwart Chris Carpenter's 3.09 ERA and 15 wins helped power the team to a major-league best 105 wins and take the NL pennant. In 2006, beset with injuries and inconsistency, they won the World Series, beating Detroit in five games to set an all-time record-low of 83 wins for a World Series winner.
In 2009, the Cardinals reached 10,000 wins, dating to when they first played in the American Association (AA). St. Louis returned to the playoffs in 2011, first surmounting the largest games-won deficit after 130 games (at 10.5) to upstage the Atlanta Braves on the final day for the wild card playoff berth. In Game 3 of the World Series, Pujols became just the third player to hit three home runs in a World Series game. In Game 6, third baseman David Freese and outfielder Lance Berkman each tied the score on the Cardinals' final strike—the first such occurrence in any game in MLB history—and St. Louis defeated the Texas Rangers later that game with a walk-off home run from Freese. After winning that Series, La Russa retired and became the only manager to do so after winning a title. He also finished with the most wins for managers in franchise history with 1,408.
La Russa's successor, Mike Matheny, helped extend St. Louis' playoff run as he became the first manager in the division play era to guide the Cardinals to the NLCS and playoffs in his first two seasons. In 2014, the Cardinals extended their NLCS streak to 4, with their 3–1 series victory over the Dodgers, in the NLDS. Ten days after being eliminated from the postseason by the San Francisco Giants, rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident while traveling to his hometown Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. On November 17, they acquired Atlanta Braves right-fielder Jason Heyward (who had just come off a Gold Glove-winning season) to replace Taveras. On June 16, 2015, the FBI and the Justice Department started an investigation on the Cardinals for possibly hacking the Houston Astros. The hacking incident was perpetrated by Scouting Director Chris Correa. For the first time since the 2007–2008 seasons, the Cardinals missed the playoffs in consecutive years, 2016–2017.
On July 14, 2018, following an 8–2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, the St. Louis Cardinals announced they had dismissed manager Mike Matheny after 6+1⁄2 seasons. The team then named Mike Shildt interim manager, and he was made the permanent manager a month later.
On November 19, 2018, the team announced that the "Victory Blue" uniforms, worn by the Cardinals during the late 1970s and 1980s, would be returning for the 2019 season. The uniforms, integrating the powder blue color with the team's current "Saturday alternate" jersey design, were to be worn 13 times on the road during the 2019 season. The Cardinals acquired Paul Goldschmidt in a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks on December 5, 2018.
On September 14, 2022, long-time starting pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina set the NL/AL record for most starts as pitcher and catcher duo, also referred to as a battery, at 325 starts together going back to 2007. The previous record holding duo, Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan, had held the record since 1975.