Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blast from the past: The Gas House Gang

For no particular reason, I was thinking about the Gas House Gang the other day. Who?

The "Gas House Gang" was the nickname for the Cardinals teams in the 1930s, featuring such colorful characters as Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, Dizzy Dean, Pepper Martin, and Joe Medwick.

With Durocher as the ringleader and Martin as the clown, the Cardinals made themselves famous for scrappy play and childish pranks. Once, after a tough loss, player-manager Frisch called a team meeting during which he lambasted his players with insults and profanity. Then he asked if anyone had any questions. During the heavy silence that followed, only Martin was brave enough to raise his hand:

“I was just wondering,” he asked Frisch innocently, “whether I ought to paint my midget auto racer red with white wheels or white with red wheels.”

Even Frisch had to laugh.

The first Gas House Gang, according to author Paul Dickson, was a band of thugs who prowled the Lower East Side of Manhattan near a number of large gas tanks in the 19th century. The term came to be applied to the Cardinals because, according to one legend, they were a notoriously rough team that once played a game in against the Giants in soiled uniforms, reminding a New York writer of the famed thugs.

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