Howie Krist, who had his share of hard luck, experienced a season of unusual good fortune with the Cardinals.
Eighty years ago, in 1941, Krist posted a 10-0 record for the Cardinals.
A right-hander, Krist is the only National League pitcher to have 10 or more wins and no losses in a season. Three have achieved the feat in the American League: Tom Zachary (12-0) of the 1929 Yankees, Dennis Lamp (11-0) of the 1985 Blue Jays and Aaron Small (10-0) of the 2005 Yankees.
Ups and downs
Krist was born in West Henrietta, N.Y., near Rochester, and raised on a family farm. His father, from Germany, and mother, from Denmark, immigrated to the United States, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.
Krist was 18 when he was signed by Warren Giles, president and general manager of the Cardinals’ Rochester farm club and future National League president.
In 1936, his second season as a professional, Krist recovered from appendicitis and posted a 20-9 record for the Cardinals’ farm club in Columbus, Ga. Eddie Dyer was the manager.
Krist had several setbacks, including a severe case of influenza and a broken ankle, in 1937, but persevered and got called up to the Cardinals in September. He pitched in six games, including four starts, for the 1937 Cardinals and was 3-1.
Krist began the 1938 season with the Cardinals, but was returned to the minors in April.
In March 1939, Krist underwent surgery on his right elbow. “Several small pieces of bone that had become embedded in the soft tissue surrounding the joint were cut out of his elbow,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Remarkably, Krist pitched 103 innings in 1939 for the Cardinals’ Houston farm team. With Eddie Dyer again his manager, Krist posted a 5-2 record.
The next year, Krist was back with Houston and playing for Dyer. Pain-free, Krist was 22-9 with a 1.71 ERA for Houston in 1940. He issued 50 walks in 253 innings and was dubbed “a master of control” by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
Krist, 25, was given a serious look by the Cardinals at spring training in 1941 and made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.
He got into only one game in April and, according to The Sporting News, the Cardinals were considering returning him to the minors to get more work.
Needing a spot starter for a game versus the Phillies on May 2, manager Billy Southworth turned to Krist.
Krist was “fighting for his job,” the Globe-Democrat reported.
After that, the Cardinals changed their minds about sending Krist to the minors.
Used as a reliever and spot starter, Krist showed “fine control as well as deceptive stuff,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported.
Though described as “frail,” Krist, 6 feet 2 and 175 pounds, “has shown he can stop the best of the league’s hitters,” the Post-Dispatch noted.
After Krist boosted his season record to 6-0 with a win in relief against the Giants on July 10, the Post-Dispatch declared, “You can bet the Cardinals’ manager is happy today he held onto Krist three months ago when he was trimming the pitching staff.” Boxscore
Krist got his 10th win on Sept. 14 in another relief stint versus the Giants. Boxscore
Pennant chances damaged
Though Krist never was the losing pitcher in a game, the season wasn’t without its setbacks for him.
The Cardinals entered play on Sept. 20 a half-game behind the league-leading Dodgers. At St. Louis that day, the Cardinals led, 3-1, after eight innings against the Cubs.
In the ninth, the Cubs tied the score versus starter Lon Warneke, who departed with runners on second and third. Krist relieved and gave an intentional walk to Clyde McCullough, loading the bases. Rookie Bob Scheffing, batting for shortstop Johnny Hudson, swung at Krist’s first pitch and socked it deep into the seats in left for a grand slam.
The Cubs won, 7-3, with the loss going to Warneke. The Dodgers, who swept a doubleheader from the Phillies, moved two games ahead of the Cardinals. Boxscore
Winning five of their last seven, the Dodgers (100-54) finished in first place, 2.5 games ahead of the Cardinals (97-56).
Krist finished 10-0 with two saves and a 4.03 ERA. He was 6-0 with a 3.03 ERA in 29 relief appearances and 4-0 with a 5.23 ERA in eight starts.
Five of Krist’s 10 wins came against the Phillies.
Krist helped the Cardinals win consecutive pennants in 1942 and 1943. He was 13-3 with a save in 1942 and 11-5 with three saves in 1943.
Serving in the Army in 1944 and 1945, Krist experienced combat in Europe during World War II. According to The Sporting News, he was seriously injured in France in November 1944 and spent considerable time in a hospital in England, recovering from leg wounds.
A few days after his discharge in January 1946, Krist suffered a fractured jaw and lost several teeth when the car he was driving struck a culvert near Wellsville, N.Y. State police said a front tire blew out, causing the accident. Krist’s wife (bruised back and cuts) and 4-year-old daughter (sprained knee) also were injured.
Two months later, Krist reported to Cardinals’ spring training camp. Eddie Dyer, in his first season as Cardinals manager, gave Krist a spot on the team. He was 0-2 in 15 relief appearances, but remained on the roster as the Cardinals went on to become World Series champions.
The 1946 season was Krist’s last in the majors. His career record with the Cardinals was 37-11, including 17-2 versus the Phillies.
Three years later, Krist was shot in the right hip and groin in a hunting accident in Delevan, N.Y.
According to the Associated Press, “The accident occurred when Krist banged his rifle on the ground to catch a young woodchuck. The stock broke and the gun discharged, causing the .22 caliber bullet to enter the groin through the hip.”
Hospital officials described the injury as a “flesh wound” and said Krist was in good condition, the Associated Press reported.