On April 13, 1926, the Cardinals opened the season with a 7-6 victory over the defending champion Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was highlighted by a 3 for 3 day for Rogers Hornsby and a fifth inning three run shot by Jim Bottomley that put the Cardinals ahead 6-0. As you can tell by the final score, this was one to remember, as the Pirates came storming back in the contest. There were a variety of heroes in this one, as the Birds put their first of 89 wins in the books, which would propel them to Champions of the National League, as well as the first World Series title in the history of the franchise.
Flint Rhem was on the bump for the Cardinals, and looked to be in fine form until he hit the sixth when the Pirates made a charge by scoring two runs in the frame. They put another on the board in the seventh, before outfielder Carson Bigbee hit a solo shot off of Rhem in the eighth. With the score now 6-4 the Cardinals looked to shift the momentum by scoring a run in the bottom of the eighth, which proved to be an important one, as the Pirates scratched another one across in the ninth.
This was a different era in baseball. The bullpen was not utilized the way it is today and the player manager Rogers Hornbsy was riding his horse from start to finish. He made it interesting, but Rhem crossed that line in first. It was not easy getting there though. He had to face a two out bases loaded situation before he felt the thrill of victory, and he had a formidable foe in Glen Wright who was coming to the dish. Wright had hit .308 with 18 home runs the year before and he was ready to be a hero, while Rhem was trying to survive. The hurler did survive, but it took a spectacular play by center fielder Heinie Mueller who charged in to right to make a play on a ball that looked like it was going to fall in. As the crowd of 17,000 cheered, the boys trotted the field. Little did they know they were set to make a run at a title.
Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN192604130.shtml