Two prominent St. Louis Cardinals figures from the first half of the 20th century are back on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Owner Sam Breadon and shortstop Marty Marion are among 10 candidates under consideration by the Hall’s pre-integration era committee.
The group of former players, executives, reporters and historians is charged with evaluating those who made their most significant impact to the game by 1946 or prior. Candidates need at least 12 of 16 votes (75 percent) in voting that will occur during baseball’s Winter Meetings in early December. Winners will be inducted in Cooperstown, New York in late July.
Both Cardinals have a good case, but if I had to choose one, it would be Breadon.
However, his chances may not great. In 2009, an earlier 16-member veterans committee – one that included current owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. and Post-Dispatch writer Rick Hummel – gave Breadon less than 25 percent support.
Self-made through ownership of automobile dealerships, Breadon purchased his initial investment in the Cardinals in 1917 and became the majority owner in 1920. In the 28-year history of the National League to-date, not only had the Cardinals never won a title, they had only three finishes in the first division, none as high as second place.
Breadon (on the right with Dizzy Dean and Frankie Frisch left and center in spring training 1935) bankrolled Rickey’s idea to purchase minority and later majority interest in their minor league affiliates. The Cardinals were at the forefront of the movement, which gave them a huge competitive advantage for over 25 years.
By the start of World War II, the Cardinals’ empire had grown to 32 minor league clubs, of which at least 15 were 100 percent owned by the organization. Amazingly, there were 20 Class D leagues in the US in 1940 and the Cardinals had a team in every one of them.
The Cardinals used their system to not only fill their own player pipeline, but also accumulated an estimated $2 million in cash between 1922 and 1942 by selling their excess players to other organizations.
By the time a cancer-stricken Breadon sold the club in late 1947 for a then-record price of $4 million, the Cardinals had accumulated their first nine NL pennants and six World Championships.
The defensive wizard known as “Slats” and “The Octopus” was – along with Musial – one of the most prominent contributors to the glory decade of the 1940’s. That was a period during which their Cardinals clubs played in four World Series, winning three.
Prior to the arrival of Ozzie Smith on the scene in 1982, Marion held the undisputed crown as the club’s greatest shortstop ever. He was also recognized as the best defensive shortstop of his era – pre-television and pre-Gold Glove Awards.
Marion earned nine consecutive All-Star Game invitations and led the National League shortstops in fielding percentage three times, including a career-best .981 mark in 1947. He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1944, succeeding Musial.
On the negative side, Marion never hit above .280 and he never received more than 40 percent of the sportswriters’ vote when on the regular Hall of Fame ballot.
After managing the Cardinals in 1951, he played for and managed the St. Louis Browns and was also skipper of the Chicago White Sox. Later, Marion owned the Houston Buffs of the minor league American Association. He passed away at the age of 93 in March 2011.
For information on the other candidates and the voters, check out this release from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.