An Owner Correctly Predicted His Stadium Would Be Home to the World Series of 1926…It Just Wasn’t His Team!

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: An owner correctly predicted that his stadium would be home to a World Series by 1926 – he just predicted the wrong team!

Guarantees and bold predictions are nothing new in sports and they really tend not to be remembered all that much (who really remembers Patrick Ewing guaranteeing that the Knicks would win Game 7 against the Pacers in 1995?). Really, unless the guarantees or bold predictions come TRUE, they’re forgotten. But when they DO come true, then we have a different story.

That was the problem with Philip DeCatesby Ball – he made a correct prediction, but his correct prediction looked awful for him!

Ball purchased the St. Louis Browns in 1916.

Ball had previously owned a baseball team in St. Louis in the defunct Federal League.

He is the second man from the left in this photo of league owners.

The Browns were not a particularly good team, but they at least had some young talent. There was a chance that they could be good in the near future. However, one of Ball’s early acts as owner would later come back to haunt his franchise – he allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to share the Browns’ stadium, Sportsman’s Park. The Cardinals then sold their stadium, Robison Field, and used that money to create a state-of-the-art farm system that soon led to the Cardinals having a plethora of young good talent.

In 1925, though, the teams did not look all that much apart. Heck, if you had to pick one team between the two for 1926, you might very well pick the Browns, who went 82-71 while the Cardinals went 77-76. In addition, the American League-leading team of 1925, the Washington Senators, had a lot of their team’s fortunes resting on their two ace pitchers, Stan Coveleski and Walter Johnson. The former was 35 years old and the latter was 37, so there was reason to believe that the Senators might come back down to Earth in 1926 (and they DID, as they went 81-69 in 1926). Meanwhile, the National League’s top team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, had no glaring issue going into 1926.

So Ball felt that the time to strike for the public’s attention was now. So after the 1925 season, he completely revitalized Sportsman’s Park, adding 12,000 new seats in expanding the seat capacity from 18,500 to 30,500! The renovations cost half a million dollars, but Ball felt that they were worth it, especially, as he famously pronounced, since Sportsman’s Park was going to host the World Series in 1926!

That’s a fairly innocuous boast, but, again, the problem for Ball is that he wasn’t specific enough – you see, Sportsman’s Park DID host the World Series in 1926 – but it was the CARDINALS who played in it!

Yes, the Cardinals improved to go 89-65 while the Browns went the other direction, finishing 62-92, well behind the New York Yankees, who came out of nowhere (perhaps due to a new first baseman named Lou Gehrig) to win the American League. To add MORE insult to injury, the Cardinals defeated the favored Yankees (the series ended with Babe Ruth getting thrown out trying to steal second) in the World Series.

From that point on, St. Louis was a Cardinal town and by the 1950s, the Browns could not even manage to stay in St. Louis, as they closed up shop and moved to Baltimore to become the Baltimore Orioles.

Ball passed away in 1933, living long enough to see the Cardinals make it to FOUR World Series, winning half of them.

The legend is…


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One Response to “An Owner Correctly Predicted His Stadium Would Be Home to the World Series of 1926…It Just Wasn’t His Team!”

  1. Eric Gjovaag on May 21st, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    And don’t forget, Sportsmen’s Park played host to every single game of the World Series in 1944, as the Browns played the Cardinals!

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