Former Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee reflects on ’87 team
Former St. Louis Cardinals reliever Lee Smith finally got over the hump and into the Hall of Fame after a long delay. But you could put together a pretty darn good team made up of Redbirds who have been denied enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Here’s an example, by position:
Ted Simmons, catcher
Perhaps the most obvious player on this list, Ted Simmons has statistics that compare favorably to other catchers who are already in the Hall of Fame. Maybe it’s because he spent the bulk of his career playing in one of the least noteworthy eras in Cardinals history. When he finally made it to the big stage, playing in the 1982 World Series, Simmons was prevented from winning a championship by his former club. Still, he was a tremendous offensive force throughout his career and was a well-respected leader both on and off the field. It’s a shame his talents were largely overlooked when he was one of the best players in the game for a decade.
Mark McGwire, first base
We’re not shedding a tear for Big Mac because only he is to blame for his exclusion from the hall of fame. Did he need performance enhancers to play at a Hall of Fame level? I doubt it. He slugged 49 homers when he was a skinny rookie. If anything, his steroid scandal seemed a lot like overkill. Maybe he wouldn’t have broken Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. But I still think he could have been a 500 home run hitter for his career quite easily. And that would be good enough to put him in elite company.
Julian Javier, second base
He played the keystone position for the 1964 and 1967 World Series champions and for the 1968 National League pennant winners, which is pretty good stuff for any ballplayer’s resume. That being said, he’s probably got the worst Hall of Fame case of anyone on this list. But Cooperstown has been very good to St. Louis, welcoming Cardinals second sackers Rogers Hornsby, Frank Frisch and Red Schoendienst to the Hall of Fame. The Redhead might have been the guy to hold down this position had the Veterans Committee not welcomed him, partially on the strength of his managerial career and partially because of the influence of his best friend and roommate, baseball’s perfect warrior, Stan Musial.
Marty Marion, shortstop
There are several guys who will never make it to the Hall of Fame who were valuable shortstops for the Cardinals including Edgar Renteria, David Eckstein, Dal Maxville, Dick Groat... I’m not sure how you can not make it to the Hall when your nickname is “Mr. Shortstop.” But Marion, in 14 tries to get into Cooperstown, peaked in 1970 with 40 percent of the ballot before fading away and being eliminated from consideration after 1973. A seven-time All-Star, he was a member of the 1942, ‘43, ‘44 and ‘46 World Series teams, winning championships in three of the four. He was the NL Most Valuable Player in 1944 and two other times finished in the top eight for the award.
Vince Coleman, left field
He was something of a one-trick pony, a guy who couldn’t be stopped once he got on the bases — but who had trouble getting there in the first place. Coleman’s downfall was also self-inflicted, although less dramatically than McGwire. He infamously left the Redbirds to defect to the New York Mets — then the Cardinals’ hated rival -- for a few more bucks declaring that he needed to be able to afford to buy his kids shoes. In New York his deficiencies at the plate weren’t tolerated nearly as well as in St. Louis, nor were his defensive limitations when he was forced to move to centerfield from left. Toward the end of his career, he bounced around following his ill-advised stunt of throwing an enormous M-100 firecracker at children seeking autographs, causing the Mets to trade him to the Kansas City Royals. But in his prime, this dude terrorized opposing pitchers every time he got on the bases and he was a hoot to watch steal with reckless abandon.
Jim Edmonds, centerfield
Willie McGee and Terry Moore might also be popular choices with St. Louis fans. But Jim Edmonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame every bit as much as Duke Snider. He might not have been as flashy as the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds was every bit as good with the glove and no slouch at the plate, often backing up Mcgwire in the heart of the Cardinals batting order. It’s a real shame how Edmonds was treated by the voters and I think his exclusion is the biggest tragedy of this group.
Willie McGee, right field
While we primarily remember him as a centerfielder, McGee’s presence was felt in left upon his second coming at Busch Stadium. He led the National League in hitting, won a MVP award and reminded people of Willie Mays when he was young. He was just a terribly exciting guy to watch play the game and one of the great students of baseball. But he got no love at all from Hall of Fame balloters.