I am very saddened to learn of the death of Cardinals star and 1944 National League MVP Marty Marion.
The Redbirds have always been known for a club that has fielded some of the greatest shortstops in baseball history. While many of us think of Ozzie Smith when we think of defensive wizardry, Marion set the standard for St. Louis defensive excellence in a St. Louis career that spanned from 1940-1950.
Nicknamed "The Octopus" for his incredible reach, Marion set the standard for NL shortstops in a day when the position was much tougher to play. Gloves weren't what they are today, and you had to be especially sure-handed to gather up the ball on ranging plays and be in a position to make a good throw to first base.
Marion was also known as "Slats" because of his skinny legs and "Mr. Shortstop," a nickname that needs no explanation.
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How good was Marion in the field? Well, he won the NL MVP award with a .277 batting average, one homer and 59 RBIs. He didn't get the nod for his bat. He finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting two other times and was named to eight All-Star Games. Seven times he was named on 30 percent or more of the ballots for the Hall of Fame. But he never was able to get over the hump.
It's a shame that he played t0o early or in too small of a town. If they had ESPN highlights every day when Marion played more people would know how great he was and I have little doubt he would have made it.
While he didn't get all of the individual accolades he deserved, Marion did earn three World Series rings -- 1942 over the New York Yankees, 1944 over the St. Louis Browns and 1946 against the Boston Red Sox. He also won a National League pennant with the Cardinals in 1943 when the Yankees got revenge in the World Series.
Marion managed the Cardinals in 1951, compiling an 81-73 record before leaving the Redbirds following that season for the opportunity to play and manage for the American League Browns. He led the Brownies to a 96-161 mark over the next two seasons but left that club when they skipped town for Baltimore after the 1953 campaign.
He then took over as skipper of the White Sox from 1954-56 and led the Pale Hose to a 179-138 record.
Marion had a wonderful and intricate signature that he developed signing thousands of autographs over the years.
Godspeed, Mr. Shortstop.