July 18, 2012
The 1930 Cardinals Telegram Mystery
On September 9, 1930, the St. Louis Cardinals, helmed by skipper Gabby Street, found themselves tied for second place, 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs. That morning, Street received a telegram that read:
Do not worry, you will lose today, regardless of your pitching choice; you will win the next three.
That afternoon, the Cards lost to the Giants 2-1 before winning the next three. The next day, at the start of St. Louis' series against the Boston Braves, Street received another telegram:
Everything O.K. You will win two and lose one.
Over the next two days, the Cardinals won two and lost one, just as the telegram predicted. For the remainder of the month, as St. Louis fought its way towards the pennant, the telegrams continued. According to all published reports, the telegrams were never wrong. Cardinals players began to "accept as gospel" the mystery telegrams.
The pennant race went all the way to the final weekend of the year, when St. Louis hosted Pittsburgh for a four-game series while up by three games. Before the series started, Street received his customary telegram:
Have no worries. Pitch Grimes and Haines in first two games and Cards are in the bag. The pennant will be clinched Friday so you can have some rest.
In the first game of the series, Grimes pitched a 9-0 shutout. Haines helped clinch the pennant the next night as the Cards won 10-5.
With the World Series against Philadelphia's Athletics looming, the Cardinals received some bad news. One telegram sent to Street said that, if he pitched Grimes in the first game, the Cards would lose two in a row. Grimes did pitch that first game of the Series and St. Louis did find itself in a quick two-games-to-nil hole. Another telegram gave Street and his players some hope, however:
Don't worry. I'm praying. Hallahan and Haines will win Saturday and Sunday. I'll wire you about Monday's game.
As usual, the telegram predicted correctly. Hallahan and Haines won their two games and the Cards were suddenly tied up at two-games apiece. The telegram about Monday's game never arrived, however. This lack of correspondence upset the players so much that they were said to "believe they lost yesterday not because Grimes gave Foxx a home run ball, but because the mystery man failed to send his daily telegram." The Foxx home run was a two-run blast in the top of the ninth that gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead.
With the club down three-games-to-two and things looking grim for St. Louis, Street received some happy news during the team's travel day:
Hallahan and Haines will win the championship for St. Louis tomorrow and Thursday.
Alas, the mystery man finally proved fallible. In Game 6, Hallahan lasted only two innings en route to a Philadelphia 7-1 victory and World Series title. There was no word on how Street and the players reacted to the failure of the telegram.
In the meanwhile, the man behind the telegrams was finally revealed to be James J. Sheridan, a cigar salesman and resident of Troy, New York (later Albany). If anyone interviewed Sheridan to discover the secret behind his clairvoyance, those interviews cannot be found. All we can say is that Sheridan passed away in 1935, the result of an apparent suicide.
The last few years of Sheridan's life were obviously tough. For one exciting month in 1930, however, he was the mystery man behind "the strangest story in all the history of baseball." Not a bad way to be remembered.