Why have the Cardinals changed so abruptly from explosive forces by the Fourth of July in both 1967 and 1968 into duds of the majors by Independence Day, 1969? Hundreds of reason had been offered by fans, players, front-office personnel and other observers since the debacle began with a sweep of the Redbirds by the Pirates in the opening series back in April. Then on the eve of the holiday, Bing Devine cited possible reasons in a two-hour cross-examination by fans over KMOX radio in St. Louis.
Bing’s sum-up amounted to this: A collapse like that of the heavily favored Cardinals was the result of a lot of things going wrong at the same time, including too many top players not performing up to their capabilities at the same time. By contrast, the G.M. pointed out, a great year such as the Cubs and Pirates was the product of a lot of players on one club having peak years together. Devine had to acknowledge that the Cardinals’ chief rivals had bettered their lot, but he insisted that the improvement hardly had been great enough to account for the twice-pennant winning Redbirds plummeting to their current second division status. Bing also mentioned that some well-wishing fans calling in to state the Redbirds couldn’t expect to keep winning forever, that the St. Louis fans should not forget that the Birds won handily for two successive seasons and that instead of getting on the Cardinals so much, the booing St. Louis fans and critics should give more credit to the other clubs.
Is the Cardinals’ collapse a carry-over from the club’s failure in the World Series? Bing said he saw no connection in the Series loss as the Cardinals could have polished off the Tigers dropping all four games by a mere one run.