Sam Breadon was only 24 years old but had good business sense and wanted to make the Cardinals “a winner, not only on the field, but in the box office.” So he became the president of baseball operations. One of the first moves he made was to convince Phil Ball, owner of the St. Louis Browns and Sportsman’s Park, to rent space to the Cardinals.
Cardinals sell Robison Field land
On June 6, 1920, the Cardinals left a dumpy looking Robison Field and paid $35,000 to rent space and share the park with the Browns.
Not done yet, Breadon sells the real estate that occupied Robison Field for $275,000 to the school board (a High School stills sits there) and used it to start a new venture in baseball called the “farm system.”
Farm System continues success
This new system was the brainchild of Breadon’s vice president, Branch Rickey. Rickey was known for his ability to evaluate players and this was needed as the wealthy teams were always gobbling up the established players. Rickey, along with his scouting department of one, Charley Barrett, went out to games and watch young talent at work.
It wasn’t long before Rickey was well-known for his ability to find a few gems on the field and teams were watching his every move. Club owners would notify the wealthy teams that Rickey was eyeballing a player so that they would come in with their checkbooks and outbid Rickey.
Cardinals buy team in Texas League
It was the money that Breadon made on his real estate that came in handy at this point. The Cardinals bought a share of the Houston club in the Texas League and soon purchased Fort Smith of the Western Association.
Later, they bought a half-interest in Syracuse of the International League. A few years later the Syracuse team was moved to Rochester and became the Cardinals number one farm team.
Good Year for A Few Players
It was 1920 and the Cardinals had the best hitter in baseball with Rogers Hornsby. The 24-yr. old won the batting title (first of six consecutive titles) with a .370 batting average. He led the league in slugging (.559), hits (218), runs batted in (94), doubles (44), and total bases (329).
Another star that season was pitcher Bill Doak as he was 20-12 for the year.
Also in 1920, the Cardinals borrowed $10,000 to purchase the contract of knuckleballer Jesse (“Pop”) Haines from Kansas City where he went 21-5 in 1919. The 26-yr, old right hander makes an impact with 13 wins in his first year in a Cardinals uniform. He would go on to win 210 games in his 18-yr Cardinal career.
On July 1, 1920, the Cardinals lose their first game played at Sportsman’s Park to the Pirates in 10 innings. This will be the home of the Cardinals for the next 46 years. On September 17, the team sets a record in a 9-4 win over Boston with 12 consecutive hits.
The starting pitchers for the season, Doak, Haines and Ferdie Schupp each started 37 games and Bill Sherdel was considered the closer and finished 30 games with an 11-10 record. The Cardinals finish fifth with a 75-79 record.