Omaha Cardinals

From BR Bullpen

Cardinals 1950.jpg

When the Western League was re-formed after World War II, the Omaha Cardinals were among the charter members. Omaha, NE had almost always had a team in the Western, though the new "Omaha" team actually played its first two years in Council Bluffs, IA while the Omaha stadium was being built.

The St. Louis Cardinals affiliate went 67-62 to finish fourth in 1947 and they drew 138,308 fans (2nd in the league). Ed Lewinski (.346, 105 RBI, 250 TB, 37 2B) was the batting and doubles champ and was third in RBI and fourth in total bases, beating out teammate Michael Conroy (.342, 14 3B, 24 SB, 117 R). Conroy was second in average, steals, runs and third in triples, while his 190 hits were 20 more than anyone else. He made the All-Star team as an outfielder and was joined as an All-Star by catcher Johnny Bucha (.361, 7 HR, 2B Eddie Kazak (.326, second in the WL with 20 homers) and 3B Ray Henningsen (.250, 51 HR, .950 fielding), who made the All-Star team as a utility man. Jack Crimian (14-9, 2.86) led the league in ERA while Charlie Bishop (6-8, 4.12) fanned a league-high 133 batters. The team had put together a pretty talented group despite a mediocre record.

The Cardinals fell to last (62-78) in 1948 and third in attendance (147,130). The only All-Star was OF Larry Miggins (.303, 26 HR), who tied for third in the WL in homers. In '49 Omaha actually played in Omaha as Omaha Municipal Stadium had now been built. The team went 68-71 and was fifth in the six-team league.

Omaha bounced back in 1950, finishing first at 96-58 (though they were ousted in the playoffs) and drew 218,393 fans (second behind Denver). Al Hollingsworth became manager of the team, which had five All-Stars: 1B Harvey Zernia, SS Fred McAlister, C Nick Adzick and pitchers Bob Mahoney and Octavio Rubert. Zernia hit .318/~.401/.440 and was second in the WL in average. McAlister hit .251/~.292/.395 and showed impressive pop for a middle infielder, with 11 triples, 15 homers and 106 RBI. Adzick hit .267/~.330/.408. Mahoney (20-7, 3.62) led the league in wins and strikeouts (162), Rubert (17-8, 3.07) tied for second in wins and was fourth in ERA, Jack Cohan (13-10, 2.97) was third in ERA and Bob Clear (16-7, 3.38) led in shutouts (4) for the dominant staff. Going on to the best career was OF Wally Moon, who hit .315/~.416/.475.

In 1951 Omaha again was first in the regular season (90-64) before falling in the first playoff round. Attendance remained second but fell to 162,592. Willard Schmidt (19-14, 2.11) and George Eyrich (18-11, 2.39) were 1-2 in the league in ERA but neither made the All-Star team. All-Stars were P Jack Shirley (9-2, 1.83) and OF Russell Rac (.301, 17 HR, 102 RBI, 4th in homers, tied for 2nd in RBI). Earl Weaver hit .279 with no homers. The third baseman was Ken Boyer, who hit .306 with 14 homers and 90 RBI. He was 5th in RBI, second in hits (173), third in total bases (157) and 4th in average but lost the All-Star slot at the hot corner to George Freese.

Omaha was just two games out in 1952 when they went 87-67 and made it to the finals, only to lose. Attendance fell to third (137,378). Gary Blaylock (13-9, 3.20) was fifth in ERA while OF-3B Eddie Phillips hit .320/~.394/.424 and won the batting title. The only All-Stars on George Kissell's squad, though, were the middle infielders - 2B Earl Weaver (.278/~.403/.320) and SS Sherry Dixon (.249/~.346/.327, 34 SB, 85 BB, 97 R). Dixon led the league in steals. Moon returned to hit .255/~.359/.410.

In '53, Omaha slipped to 74-80 and fifth place while they remained third in attendance (115,512). Rac (.302, 23 HR, 90 RBI) was the only All-Star, finishing 5th in the Western in homers. Weaver slipped to .243. Walt Montgomery (13-9, 2.43) and Larry Jackson (10-9, 2.44) provided fine pitching and were second and third in the league in ERA. The club improved to 83-68 and third place in 1954, falling in the playoffs once more. They moved up to second in attendance (150,131) and OF Jim King made the All-Star team with a .314 average, 25 homers (fifth in the league), 127 RBI (second) and 284 total bases (second, behind only Bill White). Clear (20-11, 2.93) led in wins and was 5th in ERA, while Ron Kump (14-12, 2.28) was second in ERA.

Omaha moved up to the AAA American Association in 1955. Manager Johnny Keane's club finished second at 84-70 but the postseason again proved their undoings. Schmidt (12-5, 2.56) won his second ERA title as an Omaha Cardinal, albeit in a new league, while Stu Miller (17-14, 3.02) and Jim Pearce (12-5, 3.46) also pitched well - many other former Omaha players joined Schmidt as familar faces, including Blaylock (2-5, 4.47), Clear (1-10, 4.42) and Phillips (.232, 13 HR). OF Frank Carswell hit .351, while fellow OF Dan Schell hit .326 with 18 homers and 95 RBI. 2B Don Blasingame batted .302.

The Cards went 83-71 and finished third in '56 under Keane. Schell smacked 21 homers and Tom Alston added 20, while Charlie Peete hit .350 with 16 homers and led the AA in batting and Chuck Harmon batted .360 in limited time. Tom Cheney (10-5, 2.93) turned in a fine year on the mound. In 1957 the Cards fell to fifth at 76-78. OF Don Lassetter knocked out 27 homers, King hit 20 and Lou Limmer smacked 18. Omaha had the top two pitchers in ERA - Frank Barnes (12-10, 2.41) and Cheney (14-8, 2.62). Not as effective was one of the biggest stars ever to play for Omaha - Bob Gibson (2-1, 4.29).

In 1958 Omaha was 80-74 and again finished fifth. Gibson was 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA, while Lindy McDaniel (4-1, 3.64) also was on the club. Bob Blaylock was just 8-14 with a 4.08 ERA but fanned 193 batters, most in the AA. In '59 the Cardinals went 83-78 and won the western division but playoff woes continued with a first-round loss. Jim Donohue (8-7, 2.39), Barnes (15-12, 2.87) and Gibson (9-9, 3.07) led the staff while Ellis Burton led the league with 18 steals and was second on the team in average (.292) and homers (14).

The AA contracted by two teams in 1960 and the Cardinals closed up shop after 13 years in two leagues. The Cardinals had gone 2-8 in playoff series, winning no league titles. Only a year later, with expansion, the Omaha Dodgers took their place in the AA and in Omaha.

Sources include "The American Association" by Bill O'Neal, "The Western League" by W.C. Madden and Patrick Stewart, 1951, 1953 and 1958 Baseball Guides and Pat Doyle's Old-Time Professional Baseball Player Database

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1947 67-62 4th Ollie Vanek Lost in 1st round
1948 62-78 6th Ollie Vanek
1949 68-71 5th Cedric Durst
1950 90-58 1st Al Hollingsworth Lost in 1st round
1951 90-64 1st George Kissell Lost in 1st round
1952 86-68 3rd George Kissell Lost League Finals
1953 74-80 5th George Kissell
1954 83-68 3rd Ferrell Anderson Lost in 1st round
1955 84-70 2nd Johnny Keane Lost League Finals
1956 82-71 3rd Johnny Keane Lost in 1st round
1957 76-78 5th Johnny Keane
1958 80-74 5th Johnny Keane
1959 83-78 4th Joe Schultz Lost in 1st round