In reading Stan Musial: An American Life by George Vecsey, it’s amazing what one is able to learn about not just the life of the Greatest Cardinal That Ever Lived, Stan Musial, but what the St. Louis Cardinals missed out on when Major League Baseball was just beginning to integrate in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s.
While Tom Alston did become the first African-American to play for the Cardinals in 1954, he only lasted four seasons but only saw major playing time in 1954.
However, the Cardinals had the chance to sign a shortstop by the name of Ernie Banks but they passed on the chance to sign him and he would become an icon for the Chicago Cubs instead.
In the Musial biography, Vecsey writes:
"Quincy Trouppe, scouting for the Cardinals in the spring of 1953, recommended a shortstop with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League. The Cardinals dispatched another scout who sent back the word: “I don’t think he is a major league prospect. He can’t hit, he can’t run, he has a pretty good arm, but it’s a scatter arm. I don’t like him. And that was how the Cubs, not the Cardinals, came to sign Ernie Banks."
Following the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, the Cardinals would not return to the World Series until 1964. Just think what a difference Banks would have made on the Cardinals rosters of the 1950s. Instead of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers or New York/San Francisco Giants winning all those pennants and playing the New York Yankees, it could have been the Cardinals instead!