Truth be told, there weren’t many seasons where the St. Louis Browns were competitive.
But when they won their only pennant in 1944, Vern Stephens was a big part of it.
On this edition of The Cooperstown Case, we look at Vern Stephens’ case for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Stephens made his Major League debut with the St. Louis Browns in 1941, the team in which he spent the first eight seasons of his career. As the cleanup hitter, he was not only one of the best hitters of his era, but is often considered by analysts to be one of the greatest hitting shortstops of all-time.
His first full season was 1942, and he had finished fourth in MVP voting, and he went to his first All-Star Game in 1943, which was his first of three as a Brown. On top of that, the Browns, who were well-known for their struggles, especially in contrast to their National League counterpart St. Louis Cardinals, went 154-153 over the course of 1942-43.
And it only was getting better.
In 1944, the Browns finished 89-65, which was first place in the American League. Stephens led the American League with 109 RBI’s, and also finished with a .293 batting average, to go with 20 home runs. As many stars in Major League Baseball were enlisted into World War II, Stephens was one of the few top stars at the time who remained in the states. Many of the Browns’ top players were listed 4-F.
The Browns faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1944 World Series. In the end, the Cardinals won the series in six games. Until 2020, it would remain the last World Series to be played in only one city. With the Browns, Stephens had an even 1,100 Hits, 121 Home Runs, and a .292 Batting Average.
But in 1947, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. the trade was also alongside teammate Jack Kramer for Pete Layden Joe Ostrowski, Roy Partee, Eddie Pellagrini, Al Widmar, Jim Wilson, and $310,000. Stephens played five years with the Boston Red Sox spanning from 1948 to 1952. In 1949 he batted in 159 runs (tied with Ted Williams for the league lead) and hit 39 home runs; Williams hit 43. Stephens’ 159 RBI’s in 1949 is a record for RBI’s from a shortstop (a record which still stands).
Stephens also has the notable distinction of being the only member of the pennant-winning 1944 St. Louis Browns who also played with the Baltimore Orioles when the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954.
Overall in his 15-year career, Stephens accumulated the following notable stats and accolades:
- 528 Runs
- 1,100 Hits
- 174 Doubles
- 22 Triples
- 121 Home Runs
- 591 Runs Batted In
- 16 Stolen Bases
- .292/.352/.446 Slash Line
- 26.2 bWAR
Notable Awards and Accolades
- All-Star (1943, 1944 & 1946)
- Most Home Runs (1945)
- Most Runs Batted In (1944)
- Most Assists by a Shortstop (1947)
- Highest Fielding Percentage by a Shortstop (1945)
However, despite the above-listed accomplishments, he has yet to be inducted into Cooperstown, and has only periodically received notable consideration by the Veteran’s Committee.
Should Stephens’ name eventually be called to the Hall of Fame?
Feel free to discuss below!