Under player-manager Rogers Hornsby, who replaced Branch Rickey as skipper 38 games into the 1925 campaign, the Cardinals brought St. Louis its first pennant in a half-century of National League competition. The Cardinals edged out the second-place Cincinnati Reds by just two games, finishing the season with a record of 89-65. The defending champion Pittsburgh Pirates finished a close third, 4 ½ games off the pace, while the Chicago Cubs came in fourth, seven games back in the final standings.
Perhaps distracted by his off-field duties, Hornsby batted just .317, hit only 11 home runs, knocked in just 96 runs, and scored only 93 others. Nevertheless, the Cardinals scored a league-leading 817 runs. First baseman Jim Bottomley led the way, batting .299, scoring 98 runs, placing second in the league with 19 home runs, and topping the circuit with 120 runs batted in and 40 doubles. Third baseman Les Bell batted .325 and drove in 100 runs. Catcher Bob O’Farrell captured N.L. MVP honors by batting .293 and collecting 30 doubles.
The Cardinals also had a solid starting rotation that included 20-game winner Flint Rhem, 16-game winner Bill Sherdel, and future Hall of Famer Jesse Haines, who won 13 of his 17 decisions. St. Louis pitchers combined for a National League-high 90 complete games. Meanwhile, 39-year-old Pete Alexander did a fine job in his dual role of starter/reliever, winning nine games while compiling an ERA of 2.91.
Despite entering the World Series as heavy underdogs to the powerful New York Yankees, the Cardinals won the first world championship in franchise history by defeating the Yankees in seven games. Pete Alexander proved to be the hero of the Series, coming out of the bullpen to save Game Seven after previously throwing complete-game victories in Games Two and Six.
The second-place Cincinnati Reds were perhaps the league’s most well-balanced club, finishing third in the circuit with 747 runs scored, while placing second in the league in fewest runs allowed (651). Edd Roush and former Yankee Wally Pipp led the Reds on offense. Roush placed among the league leaders with a .323 batting average, while Pipp finished fourth in the league with 99 runs batted in. Pete Donohue and Carl Mays anchored Cincinnati’s pitching staff. Donohue led all N.L. hurlers with 20 wins, 286 innings pitched, and five shutouts. Mays finished 19-12 with a 3.14 ERA and a league-leading 24 complete games.
The defending champion Pirates finished a disappointing third, even though they had two of the league’s top offensive performers. Rookie Paul Waner topped the circuit with 22 triples and a .336 batting average. Kiki Cuyler led the league with 113 runs scored, and he also placed among the leaders with 92 runs batted in, 197 hits, and a .321 batting average.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• Shortstop Tommy Thevenow led the Cardinals in hitting during the World Series, posting a .417 batting average, with a home run and four RBIs.
• By topping the senior circuit with a .336 batting average, Paul Waner broke Rogers Hornsby’s six-year stranglehold on the National League batting title.
• Hack Wilson of the Chicago Cubs won his first National League home run crown by hitting 21 round-trippers.
• On December 20, the Cardinals traded Rogers Hornsby to the Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring.
• October 3 – After surrendering two runs to the Yankees in the second inning of Game Two, Grover Cleveland Alexander settled down to retire the final 21 batters he faced. Tommy Thevenow collected three hits and Billy Southworth hit a three-run homer for St. Louis, as the Cardinals evened the Fall Classic at one game apiece. Alexander went the distance to earn the victory, striking out 10 men.
• October 5 - In Game Three of the World Series, Jesse Haines pitched a five-hit shutout and hit a three-run home run, as the Cardinals beat the Yankees, 4–0, to take a 2-1 lead in the Series.
• October 10 - The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees, 3–2, in the decisive Game Seven of the World Series to clinch their first World Championship. One day after picking up his second complete-game victory of the Series, 39-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander came out of the bullpen in the seventh inning of Game Seven to protect Jesse Haines’s 3-2 lead. Facing Tony Lazzeri with two men out and the bases loaded, Alexander fanned the Yankee slugger on four pitches, before retiring the next five Yankee batters in order. Alexander then walked Babe Ruth with two men out in the bottom of the ninth inning, putting the potential tying run on base. But, with Lou Gehrig at the plate, Ruth inexplicably attempted to steal second base. N.L. MVP Bob O’Farrell gunned him down, thereby ending the game and the Series.
- 1926 World Series, Babe Ruth, Bill Sherdel, Billy Southworth, Branch Rickey, Burleigh Grimes, Carl Mays, Chick Hafey, Dazzy Vance, Edd Roush, Flint Rhem, Frankie Frisch, Hack Wilson, Jesse Haines, Jim Bottomley, Jimmy Ring, Kiki Cuyler, Les Bell, New York Yankees, Paul Waner, Pete Alexander, Pete Donohue, Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals, Tommy Thevenow, Tony Lazzeri, Wally Pipp