Ken Boyer Deserves Hall Nod

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Ballots for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 are in the hands of the voters.  Debates are ongoing as to the worthiness of candidates based on their statistics and to their character. And this year marks the second time the Hall’s Golden Era committee will meet to consider ten candidates who excelled from the late 1940’s to early 1970’s, but who fell through the cracks of voting and exhausted their eligibility.

All 10 nominees are worthy of consideration. But if the committee members measure a player’s character and reputation on equal footing with statistics, former Cardinal great Ken Boyer should be their choice when results of their December 8, 2014 vote are announced. To receive enshrinement, Boyer will need to appear on 12 of 16 committee member ballots.

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Statistically speaking, Boyer excelled in every facet of the game. Playing 11 of his 15 seasons with the Cardinals, he was a lifetime .287 hitter with 2,143 hits, 282 home runs and 1,141 RBI’s. His 119 RBI’s in 1964 powered the Cardinals to the National League pennant and earned him Most Valuable Player honors.  He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times in his career. Comparing him to his big-league peers during a 10-year period, Boyer was a top 10 performer in hits, RBI’s, home runs and extra-base hits. Using the Jaffe WAR Score System (JAWS) computation developed by Jay Jaffe, Boyer’s average of 54.5 (averaging Boyer’s career WAR with his 7-year peak WAR) is right in line with the JAWS average of 55.0 of all Hall of Fame third basemen. Boyer’s numbers are consistent and solid. And had he not fulfilled a 2-year commitment to military service as his baseball career was just getting started, his hitting statistics would be even more impressive.

In addition to his plate presence, the 11-time All-Star was a stellar defender at the hot corner, winning five Gold Gloves in the span of six years.  As testament to his defensive prowess, prior to settling in as an All-Star at third base, his .996 fielding percentage in 1957 led all outfielders in a league that featured guys roaming the vast expanse with last names of Aaron, Clemente, Mays, Robinson and Snider.

Many comparisons of Boyer’s career are made to the career of Ron Santo, third baseman for the Chicago Cubs, who played in the same era. Santo was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011, the last time the Golden Era committee held a vote.  Santo was a visible presence around the Windy City, being a long-time broadcaster for the Cubs for twenty years prior to his death in 2010.

Cardinal faithful are aware of the power and influence Ken Boyer had on the game beyond his name and uniform number appearing on the outfield wall at Busch Stadium. And his passing 32 years ago, from lung cancer, might be a reason for his diminished presence in the mind of voters and those who engage in lively debate on who is Hall of Fame worthy.

Boyer and Santo.  Their stat lines are so similar the prevailing thought is if Santo was deserving of a Hall nod, so should Boyer. And I agree.

Good fielding and good hitting third basemen are not a dime a dozen and this is true of true of those enshrined in Cooperstown.  The position least represented in the Hall of Fame is third-base. That could change in future years as names like Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen and Adrian Beltre start appearing on Hall of Fame ballots. The window of opportunity for Ken Boyer will start to close. This is his second appearance on the Golden Era ballot. The first time he only received three votes when the majority of votes went to Santo.

Maybe his numbers are not slam-dunk Hall of Fame numbers, but they only tell part of the Boyer story.

The rest of his story lies in the minds and hearts of his Cardinal teammates and the fans. He is forever known as “The Captain” to those with whom he played. His style and composed leadership was a calming influence on the team.  His steady play won the heart of fans who watched him play or listened to his exploits on radio broadcasts that reached far and wide.

So let the debate continue. Who is worthy of enshrinement in the next National Baseball Hall of Fame class? If ‘class’ has a role in the decision, Ken Boyer should receive the long overdue title of Hall of Famer.

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