Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Cooperstown Case.
With each player we cover, we delve into their career to determine if they’re truly worthy of induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
This time, let’s see if there’s a case for a Cardinal legend whose number is retired: third baseman Ken Boyer.
First, let’s discuss the “Golden Era Committee,” which is the only committee that can determine whether or not Boyer gets inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2010, the Veterans Committee was disbanded due to high criticism over their voting processes. After the dissolution, the group was split up into three committees.
The first one is the Pre-Integration Committee, who considers candidates whose contributions to baseball primarily came from 1876-1947. The Golden Era Committee (which Boyer can be considered from) votes on contributions primarily from 1948-1972. Last but not least, the Expansion Era Committee, who votes on players from 1973-present.
Every three years, these committees meet separately.
To get inducted into the Hall of Fame, candidates need 75% of the total votes. That’s it. While that seems simple enough… it really isn’t.
Some of the most legendary players in baseball history are not enshrined in Cooperstown, albeit some for specific reasons. Aside from the usual controversial omissions such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Pete Rose, non-controversial stars such as Steve Garvey, Buck O’Neil, and Gil Hodges have yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
But let’s get back to Boyer. First and foremost, as an interesting tidbit, he is the only player whose number is retired by the Cardinals that isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, he is fondly remembered by Cardinals fans and baseball enthusiasts nationwide. Boyer made his debut as a player on April 12th, 1955. In his rookie season, he garnered 140 hits, 18 home runs, 62 RBI’s and a .264 batting average.
The following season, Boyer made his first All-Star team and finished in the top-30 in MVP voting. Two years later, he won his first of five career Gold Glove Awards. But the pinnacle of his career spanned from 1959-1964, during which time he accumulated the following statistics:
- 1,075 total hits in 3,560 total at-bats
- 568 runs scored
- 198 extra-base hits
- 156 home runs
- 614 runs batted in
- .302 batting average
Not only did he make the All-Star Game in each of the aforementioned seasons, but he had four top-10 finishes in National League MVP voting. And finally, in 1964, Boyer’s best career season, he won the NL MVP Award. In addition to leading all of baseball with 119 RBIs, his consistency proved critical as the Cardinals finished with a 93-69 record, and in a thrilling World Series against the New York Yankees, won their first World Series title since 1946. During the series, Boyer hit a walk-off grand-slam in Game 4 and had three hits in Game 7.
Boyer wouldn’t again reach the same success he did in 1964. After stints with the Mets, White Sox, and Dodgers, he retired from baseball before the 1970 season. He finished his playing career with 2,143 hits, 282 home runs, 1,104 runs scored, and 1,141 RBIs as well as a career .287 batting average.
In the ’70s, Boyer returned to the Cardinals organization as a coach in both the minors and majors, and he became the Cardinals’ permanent manager in 1978 after the failed tenure of Vern Rapp. He led the team to an 86-76 record in 1979, but after an 18-33 start to the 1980 season, he was replaced.
He died two years later on Sept. 7th, 1982 after battling lung cancer. He was 52 years old.
So, here we are.
How compelling is Boyer’s case for Cooperstown?
Statistically, Boyer is 22nd on the all-time home run list by a third baseman, ahead of Hall of Famers such as Brooks Robinson, Paul Molitor, and Wade Boggs. He’s also ahead of Hall of Famers Deacon White, Home Run Baker, and Jimmie Collins on the all-time RBI list by a third baseman. But perhaps the player most often compared to Boyer is the late Ron Santo. Santo, inducted in 2012, won as many Gold Gloves (5) as Boyer, made the All-Star team nine times (Boyer made it 11 times), and hit 342 home runs (Boyer hit 282), but he never won an MVP Award. In many ways, fans and analysts see plenty of similarities in both Santo and Boyer, and share the belief that if one is inducted, the other should be as well.
After all, Boyer is already a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, and the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. Until his call to Cooperstown, he’s just going to remain one of those overlooked players that haven’t been enshrined.
How long it will remain that way is the question…
(Photo Credit: AP)