The St. Louis Cardinals won their third consecutive pennant in 1944.  They faced the St. Louis Browns in the World Series. Since the teams shared Sportsman’s Park, all the games would be played in the same park.

The Cardinals had beaten the New York Yankees in 1942. The Yankees returned the compliment in 1943.

The 1944 Cardinals won 105 games. The Browns had won 89. The purists wrung their hands in anguish. How unfair to give a team with a record 16 games worse than its opponent’s record a chance to win the World Series.

When the leagues were split into two divisions in 1969, the purists cracked their knuckles in disgust, because the team with the best record was forced to play a best-of-five series against an opponent that might have finished with a much worse record.

Baseball purists never liked the wild card. To them, having a second wild card is anathema. They cite the possibility that a team can finish 15-20 games behind a division winner and win the World Series.

In 2006, the Cardinals won 83 games. Only the 1973 New York Mets ever won a division title with fewer wins when they finished at 82-79. The Mets defeated the Cincinnati Reds, a team that won 99 games, to win the pennant.

The 2006 Mets won 97 games but lost the NLCS to the Cardinals. The Mets’ 14-game regular-season edge over the Cardinals was meaningless once the playoffs started.

The 1944 Cards held a16-game edge over the Browns. They were highly favored to win the World Series, which is just what they did.

Despite the war, the Cardinals had a fine team, which is more than can be said about the Browns. The Cardinals averaged about five runs a game to lead the league. They were the only team in the majors to hit 100 home runs, and the pitching staff led the league with a 2.67 ERA.

Stan Musial (.347), Johnny Hopp (.336) and Walker Cooper (.317) all batted over .300. Mort Cooper led the staff with 22 wins.

The World Series was a little closer than expected. Cooper held the Browns to a pair of runs over seven innings in the opener, but it wasn’t enough as the Browns won, 2-1.

The Cardinals won the second game 3-2 in 11 innings, but when the Browns became the home team, they won the third game handily by a 6-2 score to take a two-games-to-one edge.

Then the Cardinals went to work, winning the next three games. The Browns could manage only two runs in the three games and finished the Series batting .183. They scored only 12 runs in the entire Series.

The 1944 Cardinals maintained their regular season excellence to win the World Series. The 2006 Mets were unable to maintain their regular season play to win the pennant.

The purists just don’t get it. A team that gets to the World Series because it took advantage of the rules earned it by playing best when it counted the most.

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