ST. LOUIS — Baseball Hall of Fame debates are among my favorite sports topics. The history of baseball is the richest of any American sport, and there are endless debates to be had for who is worthy, and who isn't. Each case is unique.
Late Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer could finally get his day in 2022. And he deserves to.
Boyer is among 10 candidates on this year's "Golden Days Era Ballot" for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Golden Days Era covers candidates who contributed to the game from 1950-1969.
It's a pretty stacked ballot this year. Boyer is joined by Dick Allen, Roger Maris, Jim Kaat, Maury Wills, Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, former manager Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva and Billy Pierce. To be elected, a candidate needs 75% of the vote from the 16-member Golden Days Era voting committee.
The results will be announced Sunday, Dec. 5 on MLB Network.
It's stiff competition, but Boyer measures up.
He was the last Cardinals "captain" and undoubtedly one of the greatest players for one of the most storied franchises in baseball history. They didn't retire his No. 14 for nothing after all.
Boyer ranks in the Cardinals' all-time top 10 in wins above replacement for position players, games played, runs scored, hits, total bases and runs batted in. Boyer is third all-time on the Cardinals home run list, after Stan Musial and Albert Pujols. He's also the only player in franchise history to hit for the cycle twice.
He broke in with the Cardinals as a 24-year-old rookie in 1955. A year later he was already an all-star, and one of the best third basemen in the game.
Boyer went on to play in 11 all-star games (there were two all-star games held each year from 1959 to 1962) and won five Gold Glove Awards with the Cardinals.
His best year was undoubtedly 1964, when he hit .295, drove in 119 runs and was named National League MVP. The regular season was just the beginning, though. In the 1964 World Series against the Yankees, Boyer hit a grand slam in Game 4 to give St. Louis a 4-3 win. And in Game 7, Boyer had three hits, including a home run, to finish off New York.
He wasn't just known for his play, though. In St. Louis, he was the "captain", and everyone knew it.
“He was the boss of our field. He was the guy everyone looked up to. He was the guy who really filled that role, if that role needed to be filled," former Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver was quoted as saying.
FanGraphs writer Jay Jaffe, a Hall of Fame expert, put together a nice profile highlighting Boyer's candidacy (which you can read here), and why he'd vote for him it he could.
Jaffe's piece highlights Wins Above Replacement leaders from 1956-1964. Boyer is sixth, behind Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson. He's ahead of hall of famers, Al Kaline, Ernie Banks and Roberto Clemente as well. That's no small sample size to be included with some of the greatest players to ever play the game.
Overall, Boyer is tied (ironically) for the 14th-highest WAR of any third baseman in baseball history. Third base is a criminally underrated position when it comes to Hall of Fame representation, with just 17 players inducted. That's the lowest total of any position.
Sadly, Boyer only lived to be 51 and died in 1982 after a short battle with lung cancer after managing the Cardinals for three seasons.
His memory lives on, though. He's still the only person (other than August Busch's No. 85) to have his number retired by the Cardinals without being a Hall of Famer.
Hopefully, the Golden Days Era Committee is able to change that for 2022.