St. Louis Cardinals and the 1950s: What Could Have Been


I’ve been thinking this afternoon about what St. Louis Cardinals could have been during the 1950s and early 1960s.

It all goes back to what I read and wrote about this morning regarding the Cardinals scouting of Hall of Fame slugger Ernie Banks. Banks started out at shortstop before moving to another position during the latter half of his career. He was a two-time MVP as well.

On June 14, 1956, the St. Louis Cardinals, under general manager Frank Lane, traded second baseman Red Schoendienst, Jackie Brandt, Dick Littlefield, Bill Sarni, and a player to be named later to the New York/San Francisco Giants in exchange for Al Dark, Ray Katt, Don Liddle and Whitey Lockman. The St. Louis Cardinals would later send Gordon Jones over in October to complete the trade.

Dark was a shortstop but also past his prime. He only played for the Cardinals until being traded to the Chicago Cubs during the 1958 season and retiring following the 1960 season. Meanwhile, Banks was a perennial All-Star from 1955 until 1962. He finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1954. During the 1954-1962 seasons, Banks hit .288/.348/.546 with 333 home runs and 956 RBIs and 835 runs scored. During the latter half of his career during the 1963-1971 seasons, Banks naturally displayed a decline, hitting .257/.307/.440 with 177 home runs, 674 RBIs, and 467 runs scored. While he didn’t hit as much in the second half of his career as he did the first, Banks would have certainly helped the Cardinals in the 1950s.

Had the second scout not talked the Cardinals out of the chance that they had to sign him, maybe–just maybe–Banks would have been a Cardinal and Trader Lane would never have sent Red over to the Giants. The day that Red was traded was a very sad day in Cardinals history–one that Stan Musial would never forget.