The Hall of Fame results for the 2017 class were unveiled yesterday and Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez will be the new inductees. Not since Bruce Sutter’s induction in 2006 has anyone been enshrined in Cooperstown with the STL on his cap. (Remember: Tony La Russa went in wearing a blank cap on his plaque along with an expression suggesting he just watched Steve Kline blow a game.) And it might not happen again until years down the road when Albert Pujols hears his number called.
That’s unfortunate, but consider this lull a good opportunity to dig deeper into facts about the Cardinals and the Hall of Fame that aren’t as widely known or commemorated on the outfield wall at Busch Stadium. Here are a few;
Hall of Famers who doubled as unremarkable Cardinals
Most knowledgeable Cardinals fans know without looking that Stan Musial and Bob Gibson, respectively, are the top WAR leaders for Cardinals position players and pitchers in the Hall of Fame. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, lies the Hall of Famer who gave the least valuable contribution to the Cardinals. The “wish we had you ten years ago” guys.
For position players this is Rabbit Maranville, who was worth only 1.2 bWAR in 1927 and 1928 as an infielder with the Cardinals. He was valuable elsewhere though - most notably with the Boston Braves - and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954 by the BBWAA.
If curious, this is Rabbit:
I believe Baseball-Reference to be the most invaluable site online for a myriad of reasons not the least of which being it taught us that every baseball player in the 1920s looked like an extra in On the Waterfront.
This same distinction for pitchers belongs to Vic Willis, who threw 212 innings for the Cardinals in 1910 (his last season in the majors) and accumulated 0.0 WAR. Willis’s most productive years came early in his career with the Boston Beaneaters, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1995.
Also, please observe this terrifying picture of Willis found on Wikipedia:
I excluded Stan Musial from eligibility even though he pitched to a single batter in 1952 in a bizarre display of showmanship. (The batter reached on an error.) Derrick Goold wrote about the spectacle a little over two years ago, if interested.
Best Cardinal to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as something other than a Cardinal
Going off his 117 career WAR, the answer here is probably Grover Cleveland Alexander (Cardinals from 1926-1929), who went in with a blank cap but who is most closely associated with the Phillies.
And speaking of the Phillies, let us not forget Steve Carlton. Carlton’s career was so defined by his time in Philadelphia that it’s easy to forget he pitched his first 1,265 innings wearing the birds on the bat. The Cardinals traded him to the Phillies after the 1971 season for Rick Wise, who was a fine pitcher with the club for two seasons before they shipped him to Boston. Carlton, meanwhile, in the year following the trade threw 346.1 innings and had an ERA under two. He would also go on to strikeout 3,185 more batters and win 252 more games. The Redbirds might have lost that one.
The height and weight of the Hall of Fame
Because the world needs to know, 65 pounds separate the heaviest Cardinal Hall of Famer (Johnny Mize - 215 lbs.) from the lightest (Ozzie Smith - 150 lbs.). For height, there’s an 11-inch gap between Carlton and the 5’5” Maranville. Related: It was a last-minute decision to not title this column “Essential facts about the Cardinals and the Hall of Fame.”
The Hall of Fame month
More players who made the Hall of Fame AND played for the Cardinals were born in November than any other month. This includes Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Joe ‘Ducky’ Medwick, Maranville, and Bobby Wallace. Stephen Piscotty was born in January, further stacking the odds against his Hall of Fame chances.
Heathcliff Slocumb is not in the Hall of Fame but the Hall of Fame is (almost) in Heathcliff Slocumb
Finally the important stuff.
Heathcliff Slocumb compiled a solid ten-year career as a relief pitcher and spent some time with the Cardinals in 1999 and 2000. He’s not in the Hall of Fame nor was he ever on the ballot. But that’s not what matters here.
A long exhaustive search of players past and present indicates that Heathcliff Slocumb’s name comes closest to containing every letter of H-A-L-L O-F F-A-M-E than any other Cardinal, and, though I didn’t check, I’m guessing every other baseball player to ever put on a pair of cleats. Here, take a look:
HEA thc L i FF s LO cu M b
HALL OF F_ME
Preferring not to double-dip, we still need one more “A” to finish the job. A few possibilities:
- Just like The Ohio State University, Slocumb could now always and exclusively be called A Heathcliff Slocumb.
- Slocumb was never given a middle name which doesn’t seem right. A simple “Heathcliff A. Slocumb” works fine. Personally, I like Augustus - Heathcliff Augustus Slocumb. Your preference, I guess.
- Add an “a” to the end of his name and you get Heathcliff Slocumba. It’s not a common name but there was a William Slocumba who fought for the Union Army (152nd Illinois Infantry) in the Civil War so it’s not entirely made up either.
While you’re deciding which option you like best, now’s as good as time as any to mention that all it takes is a “ston” at the end of Walker Cooper’s (Cardinal from 1940-1945) name - Walker Cooperston - to spell out “Cooperstown.”
Credit to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index for making this column possible.