Lance Berkman and the Cesar Cedeno Hall of 15 Minutes of Fame

Some historians suggest Lance Berkman is reacting, here, to having been hit by a pitch. A competing faction believes he is lounging decadently across the basepath.

I was too young for Cesar Cedeño, but I was exactly the right age for everybody to tell me about Cesar Cedeno. A lot of players like that don't really stand up to your first look at their Baseball Reference page, but Cesar's 1985 popped up almost exactly as advertised—after a listless half-season in Cincinnati he joins the St. Louis Cardinals and hits .434/.463/.750 in a month of at-bats, with six home runs and 19 RBI.

Having helped them into the postseason he does—well, not a whole lot. One RBI and three runs scored in 10 games. But it was exactly long enough for people to talk about him 15 years later, just in time for the 2000 Cardinals to benefit from my generation's Cesar Cedeno—another former superstar dealing with a vague sense of disappointment near the end of his career, Will Clark. He hit .345/.426/.655 over 51 games, and padded his résumé with some big postseason games.

Both players had built up some near-Hall-of-Fame credentials on their way to St. Louis, and each of them didn't keep their new level of play up long enough to make the free trip to Cooperstown. But both of them joined the Cesar Cedeno St. Louis Cardinals Hall of 15 Minutes of Fame and Nester's Funky Bowling Museum, which will not have a permanent location outside my apartment until this post goes up in the morning.

Today Lance Berkman will have season-ending knee surgery. And while I don't necessarily take his frequent threats to retire at face value, he's probably done in St. Louis. Which means that, five years from now, my Ray Lankford Starting Lineup action figure and I will be voting for his induction into the CCSTLCHO15MF.


If you're a fan of Cardinals history and long acronyms I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I wrote a book, earlier this year, that meets both criteria. You can read a sample of the Ultimate Cardinals Record Book here (Chrome or Safari recommended), and you can order it (on sale!) at Amazon right here.

Berkman's not a classic CCSTLCHO15MF member, having played a full season as his superhuman self, but unlike some people—I'm looking at you, Ray Lankford Starting Lineup action figure—I'm not a small-CCSTLCHO15MF kind of guy. At some point you have to open the Hall up to guys who burned brightly for up to a full year.

So far, the electoral criteria in our bylaws look a little something like this—I'm paraphrasing, because you're not officially a member and some people are really legalistic and frustrating sometimes.

1. He can't have been vital in two Cardinals postseason runs.

2. He has to have been vital in one.

3. Strong seasons before your Cardinals renaissance are a plus.

4. Strong seasons after your Cardinals renaissance are a minus.

Berkman is a textbook candidate here; struggling as a frail-looking Yankee, he stepped into a void in St. Louis and put together a vintage Berkman season, culminating in his crucial and easily forgotten last-strike RBI in the middle of the Game 6 David Freese Sandwich. I forecast him picking up about 50% of the vote in his first year of eligibility.

Two more members of the Cesar Cedeno St. Louis Cardinals Hall of 15 Minutes of Fame follow, as an example; I leave additional nominations as an exercise for the commenter.

Bob O'Farrell, 1926: The MVP of the St. Louis Cardinals' first World Series champions, in 1926, Bob O'Farrell hit .293/.371/.433 that year, won an MVP award he didn't deserve as the official team leader (and the guy who caught Babe Ruth stealing to end the series), and immediately thereafter spent his last nine years in the Major Leagues as a part-time catcher.

It was the first time he'd ever played more than 131 games in a season, and the last time he played more than 94; it's almost like he wanted to be a member. Grover Cleveland Alexander, the other half of that Game 7 battery, would be a perfect choice except he went 37-19 over his next two years in a Cardinals uniform.

Chuck Finley, 2002: A perfect combination of narrative, stats, and immediate retirement—Finley was 4-11 and solidly Hall of Very Good when he joined a Cardinals team that had, for a variety of reasons, found itself without a coherent rotation in the stretch run. He proceeded to go 7-4 and picked up a postseason win while he was at it.

Pete Kozma, 2012: I'm just spitballing, here.

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