(Updated Dec. 8, 2014)
In 1964, Ken Boyer showed the qualities one would expect in a Hall of Fame player. The Cardinals third baseman consistently excelled with the glove and with the bat. He was a champion and a leader. He achieved feats that ranked him among the elite at his position all-time.
Fifty years later, in 2014, Boyer still hasn’t been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y. The only other third basemen of the 1958-64 era who fielded and hit at the same level as Boyer were Brooks Robinson of the Orioles, Eddie Mathews of the Braves and Ron Santo of the Cubs. All three have been elected to the Hall of Fame.
Boyer is one of 10 finalists on the Golden Era ballot under consideration for Hall of Fame election. He and three other former Cardinals players _ Dick Allen, Jim Kaat and Minnie Minoso _ and former Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam are being reviewed by a 16-person Golden Era committee. The other five on the ballot are former players Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.
A Golden Era candidate must receive 75 percent of the votes (12 of 16) to earn election. Results will be announced Dec. 8, 2014.
(Update: None of the 10 finalists was elected. Allen and Oliva each received 11 votes. Kaat got 10. Wills got nine. Minoso got eight. Receiving three or fewer votes were Boyer, Hodges, Howsam, Pierce and Tiant.)
Committee members are Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton; baseball executives Jim Frey, David Glass, Roland Hemond and Bob Watson; and media members Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby.
Boyer also received three or fewer votes when Golden Era candidates were first considered in 2011.
Though one outstanding year doesn’t qualify anyone for the Hall of Fame, Boyer’s 1964 season is important because it caps a seven-year stretch of consistently high quality and puts into context how Boyer elevated himself into a special category of third basemen.
Boyer, 33, played in all 162 Cardinals regular-season games in 1964. He led the major leagues in RBI with 119. Boyer also ranked in the top five in the National League in triples (10) and walks (70). He hit .295 with 185 hits, 30 doubles and 24 home runs. He scored 100 runs. His on-base percentage was .365.
Among NL third basemen in 1964, Boyer ranked second in both assists and double plays turned.
Calm and steady
His immense value to the Cardinals was proven with these statistics: Boyer hit .335 with 91 RBI in the Cardinals’ 93 wins in 1964; .238 with 28 RBI in the Cardinals’ 69 losses.
Remarkably consistent, Boyer in 1964 hit .296 against right-handed pitching; .291 versus left-handers.
Boyer was at his best against the Cardinals’ closest competitors, the Phillies and the Reds. Each finished a game behind the pennant-winning Cardinals. Boyer hit .351 with 17 RBI in 18 games against the 1964 Phillies; .309 with 13 RBI in 18 games versus the 1964 Reds.
In a profile of the Cardinals team captain in the Nov. 14, 1964, edition of The Sporting News, Ed Wilks wrote that Boyer “does everything well, but in the calm, steady, unspectacular fashion of a professional.”
Said Boyer: “The (1964) season couldn’t have been more satisfying. I think I did just about everything I had hoped to do.”
Among the feats Boyer achieved in 1964:
_ He won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Boyer became only the second NL third baseman and just the fourth in the big leagues to win a MVP Award. The others were Bob Elliott of the 1947 Braves in the NL and Al Rosen of the 1953 Indians and Brooks Robinson of the 1964 Orioles in the American League.
The top five in balloting for 1964 NL MVP were Boyer, Johnny Callison of the Phillies, Bill White of the Cardinals, Frank Robinson of the Reds and Joe Torre of the Braves. Boyer received 14 of 20 first-place votes.
“That’s a lot when there are only 20 votes altogether and you have all that strong competition,” Boyer said. “Fourteen must be my lucky number. That’s my uniform number.”
_ The Sporting News named Boyer its Major League Player of the Year. He became the third Cardinals player to earn the honor, joining Marty Marion (1944) and Stan Musial (1946 and 1951).
_ For exemplifying the qualities of Lou Gehrig on and off the field, Boyer was presented the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award by the late Yankees first baseman’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity at Columbia University. He joined Musial (1957) as the second Cardinals player to receive the honor.
Run producer supreme
_ He became the first third baseman to lead the NL in RBI since Heinie Zimmerman (102) of the 1917 Giants. Boyer also was the first Cardinals player to lead the major leagues in RBI since Enos Slaughter (130) in 1946 and the first Cardinals player to lead the NL in RBI since Musial (109) in 1956.
_ Named to the all-star team for the seventh and last time, Boyer started at third base in the 1964 Midsummer Classic at Shea Stadium in New York and went 2-for-4, with a home run off Athletics reliever John Wyatt, in a 7-4 NL victory. Boxscore
_ Despite a hamstring injury, Boyer played in all seven games of the 1964 World Series against the Yankees. He hit a grand slam off Al Downing for all the Cardinals’ runs in a 4-3 Game 4 triumph Boxscore and produced three hits, including a solo home run against Steve Hamilton, in the Cardinals’ championship-clinching 7-5 victory in Game 7. Boxscore
_ The 1964 season was the last of seven in a row in which Boyer hit 23 or more home runs and produced 90 or more RBI.