Tag Archive | "Taking Shape"

St. Louis Cardinals have big opportunity with new Hall of Fame

As the St. Louis Cardinals pursue their 12th championship in 2013 on the field of the latest version of Busch Stadium, the site of the previous ballpark is undergoing a transformation from a vacant lot to what should be a vibrant home for Cardinals fans to celebrate, as well as learn about the franchise’s impressive history.

BP_Village

Seven years after the Cardinals moved into the new stadium, Ballpark Village is finally taking shape beyond the leftfield wall. Construction is ongoing on buildings that will host restaurants, beer gardens, views into the stadium and the premier aspect of the new development: the new Cardinals Hall of Fame.

The franchise had a hall of fame and museum for years across the street from the old stadium, but it was torn down a few years after the team moved to the new ballpark. The team’s hall of fame has since been online, but it should have a new home by Opening Day 2014.

The Cardinals have enough history to share with their fans to probably fill the entire Ballpark Village complex, but of course, brick-and-morter buildings only have so much space.

So, what must the team include in the new hall of fame?

First, the hall of fame should be a place to honor Stan “The Man” Musial as never before. The organization honored Musial many times during his life and has provided meaningful tributes since he died Jan. 19 at age 92. The Cardinals wear a patch to honor Musial on the left sleeve of their uniforms this season and he has long had a statue at the main entrance of the latest two versions of Busch Stadium.

However, any Cardinals hall of fame must begin with Musial. He probably doesn’t need another statue; he already has two outside the stadium, but the entrance to the hall of fame could be flush with Musial tributes and memorabilia. Maybe a large No. 6 could hang from the ceiling in the front lobby and video pieces about Musial could play in the background.

Also, fans that enter the hall of fame could be treated to a video piece that tells the story of Cardinals history, from when the team began play in 1892 through the 11 championships and the many great players who played on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Of course, the main attraction to any hall of fame is the people who are enshrined, and the Cardinals have plenty of nominees worthy of that honor.

The 14 people with their pictures on the leftfield wall are obvious choices. From Rogers Hornsby, who helped the franchise win its first World Series title in 1926 as a player/manager, to Tony La Russa, who guided the team to its 10th and 11th championships as manager, the people honored on the retired numbers wall comprise the greatest collection of Cardinals heroes.

But they aren’t the only people who should be enshrined the hall of fame. Longtime Cardinals fans all have favorite players from a bygone era, and the new hall of fame would be a perfect place to honor those players who were integral in the team’s success but don’t have their number retired and aren’t in the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Frank Fritch from the 1920s and 1930s, Pepper Martin from 1928 through 1944 and Joe Medwick through much of the 1930s are all players before the television era who were vital to the team’s success in those years, and it would be special for the organization to give fans a chance to learn about those greats.

Players from the 1980s such as Willie McGee and Darrell Porter should certainly have plaques in the hall of fame, along with John Tudor, Joaquin Andujar and Todd Worrell. Before that era, Mike Shannon should be in the hall as a player and broadcaster, and Shannon’s teammates from the 1960s such as Tim McCarver, Orlando Cepeda and Curt Flood should be included.

Many other players throughout the years will certainly qualify for enshrinement, but the hall of fame is also a museum, and part of what will likely make it a must-see destination for Cardinals fans is the variety of memorabilia in the building.

Since the team has played in four different stadiums, portions of each should be represented in new exhibits. Sportsman’s Park hosted Cardinals baseball beginning in 1892, but the team also played on a field known by the same name in those early years before returning to the corner of Grand and Dodier avenues in the late 1920s.

That park was home to Cardinals baseball until 1966, when the team moved into the big concrete bowl in downtown called Busch Stadium. That park hosted baseball and football for many years and eventually gave way to the current Busch Stadium in 2006.

Each of those stadiums had their unique features, but the moments inside them are what made them special. Certainly, items from memorable moments such as Ozzie Smith’s “Go crazy, folks!” homerun in 1985 should be included, as well as mementos from Game 6 of the 2011 World Series when David Freese capped off a 10-9 win over the Texas Rangers in 11 innings.

Those moments were great, no doubt, but the Cardinals could really personalize the hall of fame if they have memorabilia from a variety of events in team history. Something from the day Glenn Brummer stole home against the San Francisco Giants would be cool, as would something from the day Lou Brock broke Ty Cobb’s stolen base record with 118 swipes in 1974 or anything from Bob Gibson’s record-setting 1968 season when he pitched to a 1.12 earned-run average.

It is long-past time for the Cardinals to have a home for their incredibly deep, lively history. The franchise has accumulated so many successes and wonderful stories through more than a century of baseball that its hall of fame and museum is certain to be one of the best in the country.

Hopefully the team does it right and Ballpark Village becomes the home to the proper roots for Cardinals Nation.

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Royals Gallimaufry II

• With the release of the 2012 Royals schedule, the only thing that jumps out at me is a visit from the Brewers of Milwaukee June 12–14. I very much hope Zack Greinke will not pitch in the series. It would only bring up unpleasantness from the past and mean spirit from some Royals fans.

Bruce Chen is a magician. I had one of those perfect nights at the park this Tuesday, where the weather could not be better and the good guys make the Twins look silly. Chen was the main reason, plowing through the Twins for eight innings with his off-speed, arm-slot varying slop. His game score of 85 was the best of the year for the Royals. He continues to outshine his unimpressive defense-independent stats for a second straight year, and while the saber-nerd in me knows he is probably due to regress, I can not help but believe in some of the cliches. That Chen just “knows how to pitch.” I would be glad to see him back in Royal blue again next year to see if he can extend the magic show.

• Before the game on Tuesday, Twins player Michael Cuddyer took some fantastic photos around Kauffman Stadium that you can see here.

• In my previous gallimaufry, I proposed a few metrics that could be used to come up with a new pitcher’s record and showed how each Royals starter was faring by classifying starts as a “win” for a quality start, positive win probability added or game score of 51+. Here are those updated records (through the 13th):

The team-wide average of the three records (64-85) is just one game different than the team’s actual record (63-84). For me, the quality start and game score records of 66-83 are too kind to what has been a very bad staff. The win probability added record of 59-90 sounds just right.

• For whatever it is worth, Alcides Escobar has gained the MLB lead in shortstop UZR with a current rating of 9.5 runs above average. Factor in offense though, and he only comes out at 17th of 22 qualified shortstops in fWAR. He is on the short list of the worst hitters in the league: His 68 wRC+ is fourth worst among qualified hitters and his -5 win probability added is by far the worst.

• While the 2011 season has been another lost cause in the standings, I am dreading the season’s end. In years past, it can feel merciful, but this year it feels like the real Royals are just taking shape. Ever since Sal Perez debuted on August 10, the lineup of the future is suddenly here in the present, and man are they talented and fun to watch. 2012 could very well be bogged down by starting pitching woes again, but the position players make me feel opening day can not get here soon enough.

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Monarchs Kept Afloat by Selling Players to Big Leagues

Integration of the white major leagues was a triumph for America, but it sent black baseball teams spinning into a new direction in the late 1940s.

To say integration killed Negro League baseball would be not quite accurate but the signing of Jackie Robinson did come just as the new “league” was still an infant.

A Negro “league” had not really held teams in unity for several years, coming together after The Depression. Barnstorming, players jumping contracts and player raids by owners, made black baseball unorganized throughout most of the 1930s. The Negro National League of the west and the Eastern Colored League had been so fragmented throughout the 1930s that league championships held little meaning. No World Series was held from 1927 to 1942.

All that was changing, however, and in the late 1930s and early 1940s, things were taking shape once again. The Kansas City Monarchs were back on top, winning the 1942 World Series, and they signed Robinson in 1945, only to have him “raided” by the Brooklyn Dodgers Branch Rickey.

What is now heralded as an admirable stand for justice may not have been completely magnanimous on Rickey’s part. Some believe, rather than intending to integrate white baseball, Rickey was actually attempting to use Robinson to form a new Negro league to compete with the existing leagues. Regardless of his motive, Rickey paid the Monarchs, the team with which Robinson was under contract, absolutely nothing.

Player raiding had plagued the Negro Leagues for years. But the practice had lost favor by the 1940s, and J.L. Wilkinson, the white owner of the Monarchs, felt disrespected and violated by the Dodgers’ nabbing of Robinson. He and partner Tom Baird protested to everyone who would listen, but decided against lodging a formal complaint to Major League Happy Chandler.

To attempt to block Robinson’s departure could have slowed the integration that was finally at hand. So the Monarchs were forced to relent. But the handwriting was on the wall, and from that moment everything changed for black teams.

Suddenly fans weren’t as interested in the aging legends of black baseball. They came, black and white alike, to see the future stars who would inevitably be added to white teams. Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Don Newcombe – it was now the young studs that all eyes were upon.

But worse than that for black teams, was that attendance immediately took a hit. Black fans took new interest in the major leagues. Attendance in the Negro American League (based mostly in the Midwest) dropped by about half in 1947 from what it had been a few years earlier. Teams tried cutting payroll to stay afloat. The affect of salary reduction made the game even more suited for youngsters. Older players who were used to higher salaries and doubted their chances of making the major leagues jumped to Mexico or the Caribbean. Youths hoping to follow in Robinson’s footsteps were concerned more with opportunity than with salary. They were more likely to stick it out than their older counterparts.

It wasn’t long before the Negro Leagues transformed from the pinnacle of black baseball to a training ground for eager young prospects. Teams trying to stay in the black seized this new opportunity. If they couldn’t keep the big leagues out, they could at least get a piece of the action. After the Cleveland Indians’ Bill Veeck actually recompensed the Newark Eagles for Doby’s services, a new business boomed.

Since the Kansas City Monarchs were still an elite team, they had some of the best players for the white teams to pick from. In 1947, the year Robinson debuted in Brooklyn, the Monarchs sent Willard Brown and Hank Thompson to the St. Louis Browns. Next, they sent Satchel Paige to Bill Veeck’s Indians in 1948. At that point, black baseball teams began, by necessity, to care more about developing young big leaguers than about winning games. The 1949 the Monarchs actually voluntarily dropped out of the playoffs because they’d sold off four key players.

After 1949 there would be no more player raids without payment, a la Jackie Robinson. A minimum payment of $5,000 was set when Irvin signed with the New York Giants. The Monarchs scored the biggest profit in the Negro American League when they sold Ernie Banks and Bill Dickey for $20,000 in 1953.

All in all, the Monarchs sold 25 players to the major leagues, gaining the reputation of a Negro baseball preparatory school. Some teams actually formed alliances with major league teams, as the Monarchs allied themselves with the New York Yankees. The Monarchs would ship four players to the Yankees in 1949 and 1950, including future MVP Elston Howard.

Integration changed not only the segregated white leagues but also the Negro Leagues. The need for an all-Negro league disappeared after integration, but the exhibition of major league prospects kept black baseball going for nearly a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

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Royals Links: Digital Digest Weekend

Photo courtesy of Minda Haas

The off-season is drawing closer and closer to a bitter end and rosters are finally taking shape.

The Royals roster is coming into a complete, yet inexpensive, reality. With a flurry of moves this week they locked up their budding star, resigned a pitcher, signed a new face for the rotation, watched a player retire suddenly, and watched a catcher pick up a different kind of glove. All the while, the team also opened its doors to the blogging community for the Digital Digest.

Here is what is happening around the Royals blogosphere this week:

Old friend Nick Scott introduces the Internet to Dayton Moore via Digital Digest.

Clint takes a look at Wil Meyers and his move to the outfield with some added video material over at 14 for 77.

Austin over at Kings Of Kauffman wonders if this might be the worst team ever for the KC Royals.

Normally I link straight to an article, but give a read to the last few articles from talented photographer Minda Haas over at her site.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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