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On this date in Cardinals history: Dec. 21, 1944

Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion wins one of the closest races in history for the National League MVP Award.

Slats, who hit only .267 during the season with six homers, won the award partially for his excellent glove... And partially because Cubs outfielder Bill Nicholson, 1944 NL Batting champ Dixie Walker and 1943 NL MVP Stan Musial split the vote.

Marion was first in the balloting with 190 points. Nicholson, who finished second in the MVP race with 189 points, hit .287 with a league leading 33 homers. Walker hit .357 for Brooklyn with 13 homers to finish with 145 points and Musial hit .347 with 12 longballs for the Redbirds to tally 136 MVP points.

Defense was a big deal in 1944. That season the Cardinals set the National League record for fielding percentage with an .882 mark, an impressive record in an era when players used gloves that more closely resemble an oven mitt than a current major league model.

Marion's win made it the third year in a row that a Cardinals had won the Senior Circuit's top individual award. Pitcher Mort Cooper won it in 1942, Musial brought it home in '43 and Marion in '44. Musial would make it four out of five awards when he won the MVP in 1946. Stan the Man won it in again in 1948 and then finished second the next three seasons in a row.

Not only did the Redbirds take home the top prize more often than not in that era, they dominated the races.

Several other Cardinals were in the running for the MVP from 1942-1946.

In 1942, outfielder Enos Slaughter finished second to Mort Cooper. Marty Marion was seventh in the balloting. In 1943, Mort's brother catcher Walker Cooper was second to Musial and Mort finished fifth. Walker was seventh and Mort was eighth in the balloting in 1944. Whitey Kurowski was fifth in 1945. Slaughter was third in 1946 while pitcher Howie Pollett was fourth.

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