Ed “Ace” Bronczyk (48) wrote a great article about the days when St. Louis had both a National League team (the Cardinals) and an American League team (the Browns). The focus is St. Louis Browns baseball and we think you will enjoy it!


Sunday, October 1, 1944 – a day all Brownie fans remember, and a day that is still vivid in my memory.

More than 37,000 fans jammed in to old Sportsman’s Park on North Grand Avenue to see the St. Louis Browns battle the New York Yankees in the final game of the 1944 American League season. And I was there. The Browns were in a tight pennant race with the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers going into the final week of the season. Just a few days prior to this game, the Browns eliminated the Yankees with a double-header sweep, but the Tigers were still tied with the Browns going into their final game against the last place Washington Senators.

My school pal, Richie Florian (47) and I arrived at the ballpark around 7 a.m. that brisk Sunday morning. We had our General Admission tickets (at $1.25 each) for seats in the left field bleachers. We hustled in line and finally grabbed two seats high up in the stands next to the big old scoreboard, all the better because we could check the progress of the Tigers game, which would start about an hour before our game.

Sig Jakucki was named the starting pitcher for the Browns. What?!! Had manager, Luke Sewell gone mad? Sig was a well-known “party man” and prone to “favor the bottle” frequently. Surely Kramer, Potter, Galehouse or Muncrief would be a better choice to pitch! The Yankees would counter with Big Mel Queen – a tough cookie alright. And, sure enough, the Yankees grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning, aided by a misplay by Browns shortstop, Vern Stephens. Then, in the 3rd inning, the Yankees scored again on an error by third baseman, Mark Christman, and it was 2-0! The ballpark grew very quiet. It was time to check the scoreboard and the Tigers game. A large cheer went up as the Senators, with old Dutch Leonard and his knuckleball, were leading the Tigers 2-1. We still had hope, even though the Browns didn’t have a base runner in the first three innings.

Finally, the Browns got their first hit in the 4th inning on a Mike Kreevich ground single to center and Chet Laabs was due up. Laabs, another surprise starter, was hitting only .234 with three homers for the year. He was a part-time player in 1944 who spent most of the season working in a W.W.II tank factory (in Detroit, of course!). Laabs promptly blasted a Mel Queen fastball deep into the left field bleachers and the game was tied 2-all. We roared our approval and the cheers reached a crescendo when the scoreboard posted a 4-1 Washington Senator victory over the Tigers! We went nuts!

Now it’s the 5th and Kreevich again singled to center and here comes Laabs. Can he do it again? You bet! He crushed one to deep left center field, a homer for sure! I remember it well; I thought the ball was coming straight at me. So, I moved down the aisle a few steps to get a better angle on the ball, looking up as it screamed into the bleachers. “Hey, I think I can catch that ball!” I said. So did about 100 other guys who promptly squashed me, knocking me down into a delirious pile of humanity, all looking for a ball that I was never to get. That’s okay, because I was insanely happy, torn pants and all.

Now it’s 3-2 and Jakucki, sober or drunk, was holding off the Yankees. Then Stephens added some insurance by smashing his 20th home run of the season, a shot that went on top of the right field pavilion. Now, it’s the 9th and the Yankees get a one-out single by Nick Etten, but he won’t score. Finally, George McQueen got under a pop foul behind first base. “Squeeze it, George, squeeze it,” we shouted. And he did, for the third out. “WE WON … WE WON THE PENNANT!” We pushed or were shoved down the aisle, over the left field wall and onto the field, where our heroes had knocked off the hated Yankees.

The Browns quickly retreated into the dugout, never to return , as they were celebrating in the clubhouse. And the fans were all over the field, running around the bases, sliding into home plate and taking hunks of sod out of the field. CRAZY! Richie and I were so high, we walked all the way home to South St. Louis. We had to, we spent all our carfare money at the game. Streetcars were clanging away and cars were jammed on Grand Avenue, honking horns and people were hanging on to their running boards, cheering and singing. We heard house radios loudly giving the details of the game all the way home. It was glorious!

Now, on to the World Series and the Cardinals; but, that’s another story.

Note: Boris “Babe” Martin, McKinley (40), played on the 1944 Browns near the end of the season!