April 27, 2018

Whatever Happened to the 1944 St. Louis Browns?

July 4, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

This is the second of a two-part series in which the author shares material that was meant to appear in his book, As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns, published by Arcadia in 2003, but was left out due to space constraints.  Part one, “Gray Times for the Browns,” can be found here.

Luke Sewell, manager – Sewell was largely credited by his players for helping turn around the Browns. Don Gutteridge: “I think Sewell was the big reason all of us had better jobs because he started to give everyone a positive attitude instead of a loser’s attitude. The Browns had been losers for so many years that they went about their work and if they got beat that was good, if they won that was good, they didn’t care about it. But Sewell instilled a little self-confidence in us. He said, ‘Hey we can win,’ he kept telling us that all the time, we’re going to be all right. He kept building that up pretty soon we got to thinking that ourselves and that made a big difference.”

Sewell guided the Browns to a third-place finish in 1945, but despite being the manager from the defending American League champions, he didn’t get to manage in the All-Star game. In 1945 it was decided that the All-Star game was to be replaced by eight exhibition games, the proceeds of which went to war benefits. So no Browns manager ever got to lead an All-Star team.

After 125 games in 1946, with the Browns 53-71-1 and residing in seventh place, Sewell was fired and replaced by Zack Taylor. In the years following Sewell’s dismissal up to the franchise’s relocation to Baltimore, the Browns never placed higher than sixth place or won more than 68 games. Sewell didn’t re-emerge as a major league skipper again until 1949 when Cincinnati hired him to replace Bucky Walters at the tail end of the season.

The Reds went 1-2 under Sewell to finish out the year, 66-87 in 1950, a sixth-place finish, 68-86-1 in 1951 to again finish in 6th and 39-59 in 1952 before he was replaced by Earle Brucker, who managed just five games before he was replaced by former Browns manager Rogers Hornsby. Sewell never managed in the majors again. He died on May 14, 1987.

Floyd Baker, infielder – Baker’s career as a Brown didn’t last long. Following the 1944 season he was sold to the Chicago White Sox. Baker played second base, shortstop, third base and outfield in his tenure with Chicago, which lasted until 1951. Baker batted a career-high .317 in 1950 and led the American League in pinch hits with nine in 1951. Baker played for Washington, Boston (AL) and Philadelphia (NL) in his final four years.

In 13 years and 2,280 at bats, Baker hit just one career home run – and that was thanks to White Sox general manager Frank Lane. Lane decided to move the fences in at Comiskey Park to help the poor-hitting White Sox boost their offensive output. The strategy backfired as the opposition took advantage of the short fences more than Chicago did. On May 4th, one day before Lane moved the fences back to their original distance, Baker cleared the wall for his only homer. Baker held the modern day record for fewest homers with at least 2,000 at-bats, but that makr was later broken by Duane Kuiper (who had one homer in 3,379 at bats).

Baker spent his later years as a scout, most recently employed by the Minnesota Twins. Despite playing in just 44 games, Baker called the 1944 season “the highlight of my career.”

Milt Byrnes, outfielder – Byrnes appeared in 133 games for the Browns in 1945, batting a career-worst .249 but hit eight homers, which matched his combined total of the previous two seasons. On April 1, 1946, Byrnes was traded to the New York Yankees for catcher Ken Sears. Two weeks later, Byrnes was optioned by the Yankees to their farm team in Kansas City. He never played in the majors again. Byrnes’ only major league experience came during the war years, from 1943-45. He died on February 1, 1979 in his hometown of St. Louis.

George Caster, pitcher – Caster appeared sparingly with the Browns in 1945. He had pitched in 10 games before being sold to Detroit for the waiver price on August 8th, four days after his 38th birthday. In 22 games with the Tigers, Caster went 5-1. Caster wasn’t used by Sewell in the World Series in 1944, something that disappointed the aging hurler, but he did pitch for the Tigers in the 1945 World Series, relieving Virgil Trucks in Game Six. He retired the two batters he faced, striking out one.

The Tigers lost that game but came back to win Game Seven, making Caster the first member of the ’44 Browns to win a World Series. Caster pitched one more season for Detroit, going 2-1 with a 5.66 ERA, before retiring. On December 18, 1955, Caster died after suffering a heart attack at a Christmas party. Caster’s 28 saves as a Brown establish him as the all-time saves leader in franchise history.

Mike Chartak, first baseman/outfielder – Things went downhill for Chartak following his strikeout which ended the ’44 World Series. In the offseason, Chartak was summoned for a preinduction military examination. Doctors discovered spots on Chartak’s lungs. He had tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium. Over the next 23 years, Chartak spent the majority of his time in sanatoriums. He died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis on July 25, 1967 at a sanatorium in Oakdale, Iowa.

Mark Christman, third baseman – Following the ’44 season, Christman was named the American League’s Most Improved Player. Christman played in 78 games for the Browns in 1945, hitting .277, and in 128 games in 1946, hitting .258. On April 9, 1947 he was sold to Washington for the $10,000 waiver price. Christman saw the majority of his time at shortstop over the next two seasons with the Senators, batting .222 in 1947 in 110 games and .259 in 1948 in 120 games.

In 1949, Christman played in just 49 games and hit .214 while playing third, first, short, and second. Now 36 years old, Christman was sold to Seattle of the Pacific Coast League, where he finished out the ’49 season. He wouldn’t return to the majors. His 83 RBI for the Browns in 1944 were nearly more than double his next highest total in the majors (44 for Detroit as a rookie in 1938).

Christman served as a player-coach for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association from 1950-51 then managed from 1952-53 for San Angelo and Wichita. From 1954-73 Christman served as a part-time scout. The former Maplewood High School star died on October 9, 1976 in St. Louis following a heart attack.

Ellis Clary, third baseman/second baseman – Clary played one more season in the majors, appearing in 28 games for the Browns in 1945. He had just eight hits in 38 at-bats (.211 average) but did club his only major league homer. Clary, who played in the major leagues just during the war years, from 1942-45, finished his career in the minors, playing from 1946-53. He hit a career high .311 in 146 games for Chattanooga of the Southern Association in 1951.

Clary stayed in baseball as a scout and finally earned a World Series ring as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization in the early ’90s. Clary later moved back to his birthplace, Valdosta, Ga. His business card listed his title with the Blue Jays as “Grand Master Scout and Lobby Gladiator.” Clary died June 2, 2000.

Frank Demaree, outfielder – Demaree’s release from the Browns signaled the end of his playing career as well. Demaree went back to his offseason job as a studio grip at United Artists, a position he held for 23 years altogether. He died on August 30, 1958 from a hemorrhage caused by cirrhosis of the liver, which was due to alcoholism.

Hal Epps, outfielder – After being sold to Philadelphia in June of 1944, Epps played in 67 games for the Athletics and hit .267. In the offseason, Epps was drafted and spent the next two years in the 25th infantry division, spending time in both the Phillipines and Japan. He never played in the majors again. Epps retired and moved to Houston.

Denny Galehouse, pitcher – Galehouse’s induction board was correct, the pitcher wasn’t drafted by the Army until after the World Series. “Not until April the following year (was he drafted),” Galehouse said. “(The war) was on the downhill side but I still had to go into the service. I missed that year.” Galehouse was inducted on April 26, 1945.

He returned in time for the 1946 season. Galehouse went 8-12 with a 3.65 ERA in ’46 and tossed 11 complete games. Galehouse was 1-3 with the Browns in nine appearances in 1947 when he was sold to the Boston Red Sox, the team St. Louis had frantically acquired him from during the 1940 winter meetings, on June 20th. Galehouse went 11-7 with the Red Sox. He was 8-8 with a 4.00 ERA on the 1948 Boston team that lost the American League pennant in a one-game playoff game against Cleveland.

After two relief appearances in 1949, the 37-year-old Galehouse put away his glove for good. But Galehouse didn’t give up baseball. Upon his retirement he immediately started scouting for the Red Sox. He stayed 15 years with Boston then moved onto Detroit for nine years, followed by Los Angeles, St. Louis and the New York Mets. Around 1980, Galehouse began scouting for San Diego. His territory used to include Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and Michigan, but in later years he stuck around just Ohio.

Players he discovered and signed include Andy Benes, Frank Bauman, Joey Cora, Ken McBride, Lloyd McClendon, Matt Mieske and A.J. Sager. Galehouse died October 14, 1998.

Don Gutteridge, second baseman – Gutteridge was all set to play second base again for the Browns in 1945, but first he had to agree to a contract. “After the World Series, the next year they tried to get me to take a $500 cut because they didn’t make much money,” he recalled. “After playing in the World Series and me playing about 150 games in that season [actually 148], they wanted to cut me. But I finally talked them out of it and I got a $500 raise. Isn’t that something?”

Gutteridge did start for the Browns in ’45, but his average dipped to .238 and his steals fell from 20 to nine. St. Louis planned to put Johnny Berardino, back from the war, at second in 1946 so they dropped Gutteridge. Gutteridge eventually hooked up with the Boston Red Sox as a backup second baseman and third baseman. He played in 22 games and hit .234.

The Red Sox made it to the World Series and once again Gutteridge faced the Cardinals. Gutteridge appeared in three games in the ’46 World Series and collected two hits in five at-bats with a run and an RBI but Boston fell to St. Louis, four games to three. Gutteridge played one more year in Boston, but batted a paltry .168 in 54 games in 1947. He was sold to Pittsburgh in March of 1948, but played in just four games for the Pirates, going hitless in two at-bats.

Gutteridge resurfaced in the majors as a coach and eventually as manager of the Chicago White Sox for parts of 1969 and 1970. He replaced Al Lopez after 17 games in ’69 then was fired after 136 games in ’70. His record with the White Sox was a lackluster 109-172 (.388). Gutteridge ended up in scouting, most recently working for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gutteridge died on Sept. 7, 2008 – exactly 72 years after his big-league debut – at the age of 96. He was the last living member of the Browns who played in the World Series.

Tom Hafey, outfielder – Hafey always thought that the team undervalued his services and that he was better than some of the other players the club kept around. Over 50 years later, Hafey could still list his batting average plus the Browns subs and their averages. “(Sewell) played too many favorites,” Hafey claimed. “I mean, I’m hitting good, pinch hitting and everything. Well they brought in a left-handed first baseman [Chartak] and Demaree who had been with the Giants when I was over there. And these guys didn’t hit nothing. So I don’t see where they gained anything, that’s the point I bring up.”

It also didn’t help that, according to Hafey, he was shortchanged on the share of his World Series money. “The Browns I think just treated me rotten,” he said. “As a matter of fact … I talked with Vern Stephens out here [in California] that winter, he said ‘We voted you a half a share.’ I said, ‘But I only got a quarter of a share.’ Half a share wasn’t an awful lot, but as I said they only gave me a quarter of a share. And then they gave me that in government bonds. In other words, instead of $500 in cash they gave me a $500 bond. No it wasn’t (worth as much). And you know, I had been doing real well with them, pinch hitting, I played first base, the outfield, third base. Won a couple of games for them. Two to one ballgames, we beat Cleveland then I beat Detroit. I come out here in Oakland and got more money then I got with St. Louis.”

Hafey played with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League until 1948. His manager with Oakland was Casey Stengel. Hafey got out of baseball after his career ended. He most recently worked with Georgia-Pacific as a consultant in their consumer paper products division. Hafey died October 2, 1996.

Myron “Red” Hayworth, catcher – Hayworth split the catching duties with fellow rookie Frank Mancuso in 1944, but saw Mancuso get the majority of playing time in 1945. Hayworth played in just 55 games in ’45 and hit a paltry .194 with four doubles. Hayworth’s brother, Ray, found out that the Philadelphia Athletics had an interest in Red, so in the offseason Red Hayworth asked the Browns to deal him to Philadelphia. The Browns refused, instead sending him to the minor leagues.

In 1946, the Pasquel brothers tried to entice major league players with big contracts to jump over to the Mexican League. Hayworth, still fuming at the demotion given to him by the Browns, jumped on an offer to join the Mexican League. Hayworth joined about a dozen other major leaguers, including Mickey Owen, Max Lanier, Sal Maglie and Roberto Ortiz. He signed a three-year contract worth $12,500 a season. Hayworth was assigned to the team in Torreen and he batted .261 there.

However, the Mexican League soon folded and Major League Baseball commissioner “Happy” Chandler said that any player that jumped to the Mexican League was suspended from the major leagues for five years. One player, Danny Gardella, sued over Chandler’s ruling. Eventually, the players were allowed back into the majors in 1949. Hayworth, however, never played major league baseball again.

Al Hollingsworth, pitcher – After splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation in 1944, Hollingsworth started 22 of 26 games in 1945. At age 37, he responded with his best season ever. Hollingsworth won a career-high 12 games, lost nine and had a career best 2.70 ERA. He also completed 15 of his 22 starts. Hollingsworth even slugged a home run, the second of his career and first since 1936.

Hollingsworth pitched in just five games for the Browns in 1946 before being sold to the Chicago White Sox for the waiver price on June 6th, the anniversary of D-Day. He went 3-2 in 21 games with Chicago in what turned out to be his final season. Hollingsworth got into scouting after his career ended. He was given much praise for his scouting of the Cincinnati Reds for the Oakland A’s in the 1972 World Series, a series the A’s won. Hollingsworth died April 28, 1996 at the age of 88.

Willis Hudlin, pitcher – Hudlin pitched in just one game for the Browns in 1944. As part-owner of the Little Rock Travelers he sold himself to the Browns. Following the season, the owner Hudlin purchased the pitcher Hudlin back from the Browns. Hudlin’s “claim to fame” in the majors is that he gave up Babe Ruth’s 500th career home run. Hudlin died August 13, 2002 at the age of 96.

Sig Jakucki, pitcher – Jakucki was back with the Browns in 1945, but his drinking problem eventually caught up with him. He compiled a 12-10 record with a 3.51 ERA in 30 games prior to a road trip late in the year to Chicago. Jakucki arrived at Union Station in St. Louis, where the Browns were going to take a train to Chicago, intoxicated. Luke Sewell, tired of his pitcher’s boozing habits, ordered Jakucki off the train. There was something of a struggle, but eventually Jakucki was left behind in St. Louis.

Sewell vowed that Jakucki would never pitch again for the Browns. Jakucki was immediately suspended by Sewell then finally sold to San Antonio of the Texas League. He never pitched in the majors again. Fellow Texan Frank Mancuso once said that when his baseball career finally ended, Jakucki was “living on the streets and in the bars.” Jakucki died on May 29, 1979. His obituary read, “Owned a $100,000 arm and a million-dollar thirst.”

Jack Kramer, pitcher – Kramer never quite matched his 1944 season again. He slipped to 10-15 with a 3.36 ERA in 1945. Kramer did prove however that he was not just a wartime pitcher. In 1946 he went 13-11 with a 3.19 ERA and three shutouts. Kramer slumped to 11-16 with a 4.97 ERA in 1947. He, along with Vern Stephens, was traded to the Boston Red Sox on November 17, 1947 for Roy Partee, Jim Wilson, Al Widmar, Eddie Pellagrini, Pete Layden, Joe Ostrowski and $310,000.

In 1948, Kramer led the majors with a .783 winning percentage, sporting an 18-5 record and 4.35 ERA for the Red Sox, who tied Cleveland for first place but subsequently lost a playoff game to determine who went to the World Series. Kramer wasn’t as successful in 1949, dropping to 6-8 with a 5.16 ERA. He was sold to the New York Giants in 1950. Kramer pitched mostly out of the bullpen for the Giants, going 3-6 with a 3.53 ERA in ’50.

Kramer toiled for both the Giants and New York Yankees in 1951, his final season, combining to go 1-3 with a 5.76 ERA. After winning a career-high 18 games in 1948, Kramer won just 10 games in his final three seasons. He died in May 1995 of a brain hemorrhage in his hometown of New Orleans.

Mike Kreevich, outfielder – Kreevich began the 1945 season as the starter in center field. He was hitting .391 when the Browns raised their American League championship flag on May 1st. But with pressure from above to play one-armed Pete Gray, Kreevich’s time dwindled. When he was sold to Washington on August 8th for the waiver price, Kreevich’s average had dipped to .237. He hit .278 for Washington and finished the season with 11 stolen bases, his highest total since 1941.

Kreevich made $11,000 in 1945, but the Senators wanted to cut his salary in half, to $5,500. Kreevich, now 37 years old, elected to retire. Kreevich later said, “If I’m not playing well enough so that a one-armed man can take my job, I quit.” Despite his past alcohol problems, Kreevich lived to be 83 years old, dying on April 12, 1994.

Chet Laabs, outfielder – Laabs played in just 35 games for the Browns in 1945, hitting only .239 with one home run and eight RBI. He rebounded to club 16 homers, the third best total of his career, in just 80 games in 1946. St. Louis sold Laabs to the Philadelphia A’s on April 9, 1947 for the $10,000 waiver price. Laabs lasted just 15 games with the A’s, hitting .219 with one homer in 32 at-bats. At 35 years old, his major league career was over. He died on January 26, 1983 of a pulmonary embolism.

Frank Mancuso, catcher – Mancuso took over the starting catching reigns for the Browns in 1945. He hit a career-best .268 with 13 doubles, three triples, one homer, 39 runs and 38 RBI. Mancuso also cut his errors down from 17 (in 87 games) in 1944 to six (in 115 games). He was named to the All-Star team, but never played as that game was canceled in favor of exhibition games.

Mancuso played in 87 games in 1946, hit .240 and swatted a career-high three home runs. On December 16, 1946, the Browns traded Mancuso to Washington for catcher Jake Early. Mancuso hit just .229 in 43 games for the Senators in ’47, his final year in the majors. Later in life, Mancuso served on Houston’s city council for 30 years. He died Aug. 4, 2007.

Boris “Babe” Martin, outfielder – Martin was allowed to get in uniform and sit on the bench in the World Series, but he was admonished to not say a word. He didn’t receive any World Series shares but was given $300 in lieu of going on an offseason barnstorming tour to California that several ballplayers were making. Martin played in 54 games in 1945 (he played in 69 total in his career) and hit .200 with five doubles, two triples and two homers.

Martin saw brief duty as a catcher for the Browns in 1946 then with the Boston Red Sox from 1948-49, where he also served as the bullpen catcher, and back with the Browns in 1953. Martin received an offer to be an umpire prior to the ’53 season, with a promised promotion to the majors in 1954, but instead chose to continue playing baseball. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, Martin arranged for his release so he could play his final season in Dallas, where he received a $5,000 bonus. Martin retired and moved back to St. Louis so he could attend to his ill wife and three children.

George McQuinn, first baseman – McQuinn boosted his average to .277 in 1945, although his homers dropped from 11 to seven, runs from 83 to 69, RBI from 72 to 61 and walks from 83 to 69. Fearing a dropoff in the 35-year-old McQuinn’s skills, the Browns traded him to Philadelphia for first baseman Dick Siebert, who was two years younger than McQuinn. However, the usual Browns luck occurred as Siebert refused to report to St. Louis, deciding to retire and become a radio sports commentator in St. Paul, Minn.

McQuinn lasted only one year with the A’s before being dropped. With Philadelphia he hit just .225 with three homers and 35 RBI in 136 games. The New York Yankees picked up McQuinn and made him their starting first baseman. The 37-year-old McQuinn rewarded the Yankees by batting .304, second highest on the team behind just Joe DiMaggio, his first season over .300 since 1939. He also clubbed 13 homers while scoring 84 runs and driving in 80.

New York won the American League pennant and eventually the World Series, although McQuinn hit just .130 in the seven-game series. McQuinn played one more season in New York before retiring, hitting .248 with 11 homers in 94 games in 1948. McQuinn, who sold automobiles in the offseason in Washington, D.C., moved back to Virginia. He died of a stroke on December 24, 1978 in Alexandria, Va.  McQuinn found the spotlight posthumously in the late 1980s when President George Bush revealed that as a first baseman at Yale he had used a McQuinn autographed “claw” glove.

Gene Moore, outfielder – The taciturn Moore played one more season with the Browns before retiring at the age of 36. He hit .260 with five homers in 1945. Moore died on March 12, 1978.

Bob Muncrief, pitcher – The “Texas Mustang” enjoyed perhaps his finest season in 1945. Dividing his time as a starter and reliever, Muncrief went 13-4 with a 2.72 ERA. He threw 10 complete games despite getting only 15 starts. Muncrief toiled with the Browns for two more seasons, compiling a 3-12 record and 4.99 ERA in ’46 and an 8-14 record and 4.90 ERA in ’47.

On November 20, 1947 he was sent, along with Walt Judnich, to Cleveland for Dick Kokos, Bryan Stephens, Joe Frazier and $25,000. Muncrief went 5-4 with a 3.98 ERA with the Indians. Cleveland ended up winning the World Series and Muncrief pitched two scoreless innings in an 11-5 loss in Game Five. In November of 1948, Muncrief was sold to Pittsburgh for $20,000. He went 1-5 in 13 games in ’49 before being sold to the Chicago Cubs for the waiver price on June 6th. He went 5-6 with the Cubs in 34 appearances.

Muncrief ended his career by pitching in two games for the New York Yankees, the eventual World Series champions, in 1951. He died on February 7, 1996 of pneumonia.

Nelson Potter, pitcher – Potter excelled again for the Browns in 1945, going 15-11 with a personal-best 2.47 ERA as well as a career-high 129 strikeouts. Even with the influx of returning veterans to baseball, the 35-year-old Potter continued to pitch in the majors. In 1946 he went 8-9 with a 3.72 ERA and in 1947 he was 4-10 with a 4.04 ERA, both seasons with the Browns.

Potter pitched in two games for St. Louis in 1948 before being sold to the Philadelphia Athletics for $17,500 on May 15th. He made only eight appearances with Philadelphia, compiling a 2-2 record, before ending up with the Boston Braves. Potter pitched well for the Braves, going 5-2, and helped them into the World Series. Potter pitched twice in the series, going two innings of relief in a Game Two loss then starting Game Five. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings, but Boston came back to win the game although it eventually lost the series.

Potter pitched one more year in the majors, compiling a 6-11 record and 4.19 ERA for the Braves. Upon retirement he moved back to his small hometown, Mt. Morris, Ill., where he ran a bowling alley and also served as a township supervisor. He died in Mt. Morris on September 30, 1990. Potter’s legacy to baseball went beyond being the first pitcher suspended in the post-spitball era. In 1947, he helped start the first-ever pension plan for major league players.

Joe Schultz, catcher – After being sent to Toledo by Luke Sewell in 1944, Schultz batted .315 in 93 games with 52 walks and only 18 strikeouts. He spent 1945-48 with the Browns, primarily being used as a pinch hitter. During that span Schultz was 35-for-133 (.263) as a pinch hitter. From 1947-48 he appeared in 86 games and not once did he play in the field. Schultz led the league in pinch-hit at-bats in 1945, 1947 and 1948. He led the league in pinch hits with 11 in 1945 and 10 in 1946. His 41 pinch hits make him the all-time leader in Browns history.

Schultz is perhaps best known as the manager of the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, a team that was immortalized in Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. Schultz guided the Pilots to a 64-98-1 record in their only year as a franchise. He later managed Detroit, leading them to a 14-14 record after taking over for Billy Martin in 1974. He died of heart failure on January 10, 1996.

Alvis Newman “Tex” Shirley – Shirley was used mainly as a starter in 1945, a campaign in which he went 6-12 with a 3.63 ERA with 10 complete games. He continued to pitch for the Browns in 1946, again compiling a 6-12 record but this time with a 4.96 ERA. In 139 2/3 innings, Shirley walked 105 and struck out only 45. His wildness, combined with elbow problems and the return of major league players from the war, led Shirley to finish his professional baseball career in the minors. He died of lung cancer on November 7, 1993 at the age of 75.

Vern Stephens, shortstop – Stephens continued his power surge in 1945, hitting .289 while leading the American League in homers with 24. Then, in 1946, Stephens decided to jump to the Mexican League. He signed a five-year, $175,000 contract and received a $15,000 signing bonus to play for Vera Cruz. On April 1st, Stephens played for Vera Cruz and drove in the winning run. But after playing just two games, the 25-year-old Stephens was talked into returning to the major leagues. He snuck out of the country riding in a taxi while wearing some of his father’s old clothes to disguise his youthful appearance.

Unlike the other major leaguers who played a year in the Mexican League then tried to return to the majors, Stephens was not suspended by commissioner “Happy” Chandler. He did, however, return a majority of the money given to him by Mexican League co-founder Jorge Pasquel. Stephens returned to the Browns and batted .307 with 14 homers and 64 RBI in 115 games. After hitting .279 with 15 homers and 83 RBI in 1947, the Browns traded him to the Boston Red Sox along with Jack Kramer in a deal that netted St. Louis six players plus $310,000.

Stephens blossomed with the Red Sox. He hit 29 homers while scoring 114 runs and driving in 137 in 1948. In 1949, Stephens hit .290 with 31 doubles, 39 homers, 113 runs and 159 RBI, which tied for the major league lead along with teammate Ted Williams. Stephens again shared the major league RBI lead in 1950, this time with teammate Walt Dropo, with 144. He also hit .295 with 34 doubles, six triples, 30 homers and 127 runs.

While Stephens played in just 109 games for the Red Sox in 1951, he still managed to hit .300 with 17 homers and 78 RBI. But Stephens had hit his peak. In 1952, at the age of 31, Stephens batted just .254 with seven homers in 92 games. On February 9, 1953, Boston traded Stephens to the Chicago White Sox for three players. Stephens hit just .186 in 44 games before he was sold on July 20th to the Browns for the waiver price.

Stephens, arguably the best shortstop in Browns history, hit .321 in 46 games in the team’s final year in St. Louis. Stephens went with the club to Baltimore in 1954 and he played in 101 games, primarily at third base, with the Orioles, hitting .285 with eight homers. He played in just three games for Baltimore in 1955, finishing his career with the White Sox. He died 13 years later of a myocardial infarction, despite no previous history of heart disease, at the age of 48. His years of partying finally took their toll. “They said he’d go out like a light and he did,” said Ellis Clary. “He finished up all at once.”

Steve Sundra, pitcher – Sundra returned from his military stint in 1946 and was one of the players to take action, using the new G.I. Bill, to try and protect their old jobs. Sundra pitched just two games in relief for the Browns in 1946, allowing nine hits and three walks in four innings while striking out one. He never pitched in the majors again.

Ironically, like Mike Chartak, the player included in the deal that sent Sundra to St. Louis, Sundra was befallen with a serious illness. He was discovered to have an “incurable kidney ailment,” which turned out to be carcinoma of the rectum. He was ill for 16 months before finally succumbing to the cancer on March 23, 1952, four days shy of his 42nd birthday.

Tom Turner, catcher – Turner entered the military in 1945 and never played major league baseball again. He died May 14, 1986.

Weldon “Lefty” West, pitcher – West returned to the Browns in 1945, posting a 4-5 record with a 3.63 ERA. He was sent to Toledo in 1946 and never resurfaced in the majors. He died July 23, 1979.

Al Zarilla, outfielder – Zarilla was inducted into the Army in 1945 but came back in 1946 to hit .259 for the Browns in 125 games. His average slumped to .224 in 1947, but he rebounded with a career-high .329 season in 1948. Zarilla also had career highs of 39 doubles, 12 homers and 11 stolen bases in ’48. After hitting .250 in 15 games, Zarilla was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Stan Spence and cash.

Zarilla hit .281 in 124 games for Boston in 1949 and combined to hit 10 home runs. Zarilla had perhaps his finest season in 1950 with Boston, hitting .325 with 32 doubles, 10 triples, nine homers, 92 runs and 74 RBI. Zarilla was traded in the offseason to the Chicago White Sox. He hit .257 for the White Sox in 1951, but traded to the Browns on June 15, 1952. The Browns subsequently sold him back to the Red Sox on August 31, 1952. He completed his career by hitting .194 for Boston in 1953.

Following his playing days, Zarilla was a scout for Kansas City, Cincinnati and Philadelphia and also coached the Washington Senators. In 1972, Zarilla moved to Hawaii to become the first-base coach of the Hawaii Rainbows and a part-time scout for the Major League Scouting Bureau. He spent the final years of his life in Hawaii. He died August 28, 1996 of cancer. And despite taking all those grounders during practice at third base with the Browns in 1944, Zarilla never played anywhere but the outfield during his 10-year major league career.

Sam Zoldak, pitcher – Zoldak continued his relief role with the Browns in 1945, going 3-2 with a 3.36 ERA. He was used more as a starter from 1946-47. Zoldak went 9-11 with a 3.43 ERA in ’46 and 9-10 with a 3.47 ERA in ’47. He made 11 appearances for the Browns in 1948 before being shipped to Cleveland on June 15th for Bill Kennedy and $100,000. Zoldak went 9-6 for the eventual World Series champions, although Zoldak didn’t pitch in the series.

Zoldak toiled two more seasons with Cleveland, pitching mostly out of the bullpen. Part of a three-team trade on April 30, 1951, Zoldak headed to the Philadelphia Athletics. Zoldak went 6-10 with a 3.16 ERA in ’51, but fell to 0-6 and 4.06 in ’52, his final season in the majors. Zoldak, who hung around noted partier Tex Shirley when they were with the Browns, died on August 25, 1966.


2 Responses to “Whatever Happened to the 1944 St. Louis Browns?”
  1. Paul says:

    Thank you for clearing this question up.

  2. Walt Kaplin says:

    Playing for a local baseball team from Tacoma, Washington in 1956, I played against the inmates in an exhibition game at McNeil Island Prison. I met Sigmond Jakucki. Prior to prison, Sig pitched for the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League.

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