Before the St. Louis Cardinals battled the Miami Marlins Saturday night, there was some history to take care of during the afternoon. The Cards were inducting four new members into their Hall of Fame. This year’s inductee’s included Ted Simmons, Curt Flood, Bob Forsch and George Kissell. Each person had a unique effect on the organization and each got a spotlight this weekend. They may never be able to join the greats in Cooperstown, but the four will always be remembered in St. Louis. Through sheer tenacity and dedication, the team has created their own baseball heaven here, making the official Hall of Fame a little less cool.
Simmons addressed this in his speech, poking fun at a famous golfer, saying Phil Mickelson(owner of the green jacket from the Masters) will never get to put on the sleek shiny red jacket the inductees got. Simmons is one of the most popular HOF snubs, hitting 172 home runs in his 13 years in St. Louis, including six All Star game selections and four seasons of 20+ home runs. He could slice a triple or crank a home run. His 248 career home runs, 2472 hits and .285 average along with the teams he played for makes a strong case for Cooperstown, but he will always be remembered for his offensive firepower behind home plate in St. Louis. He started his career with Bob Gibson as a teammate and ended it on Atlanta over 20 years later. His ability to hit home runs from each side of the plate marks his sweet spot as a Cardinal.
Forsch was one of the legendary pitchers to ever climb the hill for the Birds, a righthander who broke into the league in 1974 and fired 5 complete games in his first season, winning 7 games. When it came to Bob and pitching, durability was his strong suit. Forsch threw a pair of no hitters for the Cards in his 15 years but he also compiled 8 different seasons where he threw at least 5 complete games. He won 15 games for the 1982 World Series team and never depended on the strikeout during his career. Forsch passed away at the age of 61 right after throwing out the first pitch at a Cardinals-Rangers World Series game in 2011. He is still missed by ex-Cards like Ricky Horton, who remembered the pitcher fondly in the Fox Sports Midwest booth this week.
Flood won seven consecutive gold gloves in center field, won a pair of World Series titles and hit .293 in his 12 years as a Cardinal. His effect also lies off the field, where he paved the way for free agency by rejecting a trade from the Cardinals to the Phillies. Before that, players had little to no control in where they played, and Flood changed that. Players today who choose to sign a monstrous contract for over a hundred million dollars can thank Curt Flood for that. He put choice and control into the players hands when the games were over.
Kissell’s effect didn’t come with a bat in his hands wearing the birds on the bat, but across the field and in the dugout in a number of ways. “The Cardinal Way” stemmed from George’s visceral knowledge of the game and his ability to transport it into young players minds as they dealt with the rigors of the game. I’m pretty sure Kissell wasn’t a Twitter guy. He taught many baseball players what was expected of them outside of what we find on a baseball card. Jose Oquendo gives a lot of credit to Kissell for making him want to become a coach and learning how to push the right buttons.
Every Cardinal that goes into their Hall of Fame had their own special impact on the game. One guy may have hit a lot of home runs while another could do it from multiple sides of the plate. Another may have changed the game off the field while another taught rookies how to bear it. What makes the Cardinals organization special is that they never ever forget where they came from.
What are your special memories and thoughts on this year’s inductees?