The Gashouse Gang is the nickname given to the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, a ragtag group of major league baseball players if there ever was one.
There are two commonly circulated origins of the name:
- One story says that the team couldn't afford more than one uniform per player. After a particularly grimy game against the Boston Braves, the team boarded a train up to Brooklyn for an early doubleheader, and had no time to launder their uniform. The next morning, as the team arrived in the hotel lobby, one newswriter claimed they resembled the gangs of the Gashouse district in Lower Manhattan. The name stuck to describe the scrappy, reckless play of the team.
- The other story says that Frank Graham, a reporter for the New York Sun, was talking with Leo Durocher about the team. Graham commented half-jokingly that the team might be good enough to play in the American League. Durocher responded, "They wouldn't let us play in the American League. They'd say we were just a bunch of gashouse players." Graham, and eventually the rest of baseball, used the name from then on.
Whether or not either story is true is irrelevant; the name was certainly apt. Featuring notorious hardasses Durocher, Burleigh Grimes, and Ducky Medwick, the team also had the dugout pleasure of:
- The Dean brothers, Dizzy and Daffy, both a tad kooky, plus similarly named Dazzy Vance;
- Fast-talking catcher Frankie Frisch, who spent hours before the game learning intimate details about the opposing batters, to distract them come game time;
- Bill Walker, Jack Rothrock, and Jesse Haines, the resident poker players on the team, and often found in the dugout playing cards;
- and a smorgasbord of walking nicknames: Tex Carlton, Spud Davis, Ripper Collins, Flint Rhem, Pepper Martin, Kiddo Davis, Buster Mills, and Red Worthington.
Despite the team's general lack of presentability, they managed to scrap together a fantastic season, going all the way to the World Series and defeating the vaunted Detroit Tigers in seven games.
The nickname is still used occasionally today to describe the St. Louis Cardinals organization, although it rarely carries the same connotation and weight as it did that magical season in 1934.
- The Gashouse Gang, Robert E. Hood.
- Dizzy and the Gas House Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, Doug Feldmann.
- "The Gashouse Gang and I", Frankie Frisch, The Saturday Evening Post, July 18, 1959.