Marty Marion, who died last year in his nineties, knew he was never going to be elected to the Hall of Fame based on his hitting and indeed he did not have gaudy lifetime statistics as a batter.
Marion, who will be considered for the Hall, perhaps for the last time, when the Pre-Integration Era selection committee gathers at the winter meetings next week, was more of a throwback player to the old days when shortstops earned their paychecks almost exclusively because of the way they fielded.
A leader of his St. Louis Cardinals teams, Marion spent 13 years in the majors and batted .263. He hit only 36 home runs and drove in 624, 50 or so a season. He never batted .300. So Marion was never the most feared hitter in the Cards lineup. But Marion beat teams with his glove and he was an eight-time All-Star because of the way he handled the leather.
Depending on the source–there seems to be two different birth years for Marion floating around–he was either 93 or 94 when he passed away in March of 2011.
In 1944, Marion won the National League Most Valuable Player award with batting stats of .267, six home runs and 63 RBIs. That announces how esteemed he was for his glove work. Marion’s fielding provoked two nicknames. The more commonly remembered one was “Slats,” which was applied to him because of his long arms and how they aided him in scooping up groundballs. He was also referred to as “The Octopus” because it seemed as if he had eight arms and captured every ball hit near him. The nicknames were different, but were spawned from the same train of thought.
Those were more esoteric nicknames, but fans in St. Louis, where Marion played his entire career, mostly with the Cardinals, but also briefly with the St. Louis Browns, called him “Mr. Shortstop.”
Although Marion did not ring up major numbers in most hitting categories, he did lead the NL in doubles with 38 once. Marion played in four World Series with the Cardinals in the 1940s and the team won three of them. His fielding was considered one of the reasons for that success. Ironically, Marion’s best post-season hitting hitting showing was in the 1943 World Series when he batted .357. That was the one Series the Cardinals lost with Marion in the lineup.
After his playing days Marion managed the Cardinals, the Browns just before they departed for Baltimore to become the Orioles, and the Chicago White Sox, all in the 1950s.
Currently, Marion is one of 10 baseball figures on the Pre-Integregation Era ballot whose fate will be determined soon for the Hall of Fame. Marion is joined on the list by former players Wes Ferrell, Bill Dahlen, Tony Mullane, Bucky Walters and Deacon White. All of them have some merits, but it’s quite possible that none of them will be elected. For Marion to be chosen for the Hall of Fame modern-day voters will have to think of him in the context of old-style shortstops who were not counted on to hit, but mainly to field, a time period before Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra helped redefine the shortshop’s prominence in the batting order.
Alfred Reach was a pioneering contributor, as well as executive, but he seems unlikely to gain the 75 percent of the vote necessary. Other executives under consideration are Jacob Ruppert and Sam Breadon. Ruppert, the former New York Yankees owner, might have the best chance of the players and executives to get in. Ruppert or Hank O’Day, who is the only man in baseball history to be a Major League player, manager and umpire. O’Day most distinguished himself as an umpire and that is a category with very few Hall members. It could be that O’Day is the only one of the 10 to make the cut.