The Cardinals Hall of Fame induction has quickly sprung to the St. Louis sports calendar’s top portion of the list of great events. The Hall of Fame itself is a must-see for any fan, but the ceremony is emotional, fun, and reflective of the franchise’s great history.
It’s pretty amazing to think that every year since 1908 (and you know what happened that year), the franchise has had a National Baseball Hall of Famer in uniform.
In fact, the only year the Cards didn’t have a Hall of Fame PLAYER in that stretch was 1980.
The year after Lou Brock retired and the year before Bruce Sutter was acquired, and the year when Manager Whitey Herzog joined the organization.
The last three full-time managers before Mike Matheny…Herzog, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa…are all in the Hall of Fame because of their managerial prowess.
The Cards have a total of 44 players in Cooperstown and all were automatically placed in the team’s Hall of Fame along with those who had their number retired by the club.
But several more deserve to be in Cooperstown and aren’t.
Those players, for the first time, got the chance to be rightfully honored by Cardinal Nation in 2014, when Jim Edmonds and Willie McGee were elected by fans, a special Red Ribbon committee elected 1940’s shortstop Marty Marion, and the franchise put broadcaster Mike Shannon in.
Last year, fans voted 1970’s All Stars Ted Simmons and the late Bob Forsch in, while the Red Ribbon committee chose 1960’s center fielder Curt Flood, and the club inducted iconic coach George Kissell.
This year, fans voted in 1971 National League MVP Joe Torre and the team’s all-time post-season wins leader and 2005 Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter. The Red Ribbon voters chose 1930’s Gashouse Gang center fielder Terry Moore and the club chose the owner of the team when it won its first World Series in 1926, Sam Breadon.
La Russa was in town for the induction, and pointed out that “there’s nothing like this in baseball. It’s a one of a kind.” Indeed, the Yankees occasionally honor players by placing plaques in center field in their Monument Park. The Royals have a Hall, but don’t induct people every year. In fact, they haven’t had a new Hall of Famer since 2012.
The Cardinals have so many people that were great players that haven’t been elected in Cooperstown that we’ll be watching these ceremonies for years to come.
The induction is a celebration of the history and of what it is to be a Cardinal. On Saturday, Torre talked about how St. Louis is the only city opposing players look forward to visiting. “It’s not because they get to play the Cardinals. It’s because they know the fans here know baseball and are going to treat them well.”
“It’s a special organization. It’s a special city. I keep repeating it because I can’t think of any other way to explain it, but once you’ve worn a Cardinal uniform, thanks to (the Cardinal fans) you feel like royalty, because that’s the way you treat us when we come back.”
Torre pointed out that when Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. called him to inform him of his election last spring, DeWitt said he knew the National Hall of Fame was a bigger deal, but Torre cut him off and said he’d be here. It mattered that much to him.
Carpenter got the loudest ovation. He has mellowed in retirement, living in New Hampshire with his kids and new bride.
He admitted that when he played “I didn’t play to get a red coat. I played to win championships. None of us think about this (wearing the red jacket). We play to win.” But he was struck by the meaning of the jacket and the plaque that will hang in the Cardinal Hall of Fame.
“Wearing this coat brings to mind that I’ll always be remembered. I never thought of that. People come and go…but I now have a red coat. I now have a plaque. And my daughter and my son and their grandkids…everybody else forever, can say ‘I know that man, or I was a part of that man’s family,’ and they’ll always be connected to the St. Louis Cardinals, and that’s what’s amazing.”
The families of Moore and Breadon were humbled and thrilled by the induction of their ancestors, too. Moore’s son and Breadon’s granddaughter made the trip to Ballpark Village to accept in their behalf.
It was a magnificent day. The Cardinals, as always, do everything right. And each year, fans will get the chance to see people that SHOULD be in Cooperstown, like Edmonds, Simmons, Flood and Moore be honored. And more importantly, those players get to come back and experience the love of Cardinal Nation one more time.