For years, when asked why he never played in the majors, former Orioles manager Earl Weaver has cracked wise about his path to the St. Louis Cardinals being blocked by Marty Marion, a pretty good player in his own right who was nicknamed “Mr. Shortstop.”
Marion, who died in 2011, was a defensive whiz at a time when glove artistry was appreciated as much as the three-run homer. The guy nicknamed “Octopus” because of his propensity for getting to everything hit near him, was a career .263 hitter in 13 major league seasons. He never hit above .280, but was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1944, when he batted .267 with six homers and 63 RBIs, and four times won honors as the top fielding shortstop in the NL. Eight times, the lanky Marion was an All-Star.
(For the record, Weaver was never really that close to the bigs when Marion was manning the infield for the Cards. In fact, Marion’s final season with the team was 1950, when Weaver topped out at Class B Winston-Salem in the Carolina League. Marion managed the Cardinals in 1951 before moving cross-town to the St. Louis Browns, where he was a player-manager before being let go at the end of the 1953 campaign, making him the Browns’ last before moving to Baltimore.)
Marion, considered one of the finest players of his generation, never got much stroke in voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He was on the ballot 12 times, starting with 0.5 percent of the vote in 1956 and ending with 33.4 percent of the vote in 1973. His biggest vote percentage came in 1970, when Marion got 40 percent of the vote, still far less than the 75 percent needed for election. Weaver, a career .267 hitter in 14 seasons in the minors who played only four of his 1,431 games above Double-A, made his mark as a manager with the O’s, posting five 100-win seasons, winning six American League East titles, four AL pennants, one World Series and Hall of Fame induction in 1996 via the veterans committee.
Now, Marion is in position to finally join Weaver in Cooperstown.
Marion is one of 10 candidates from the pre-integration era, one of whom will receive long overdue enshrinement in 2013. Marion is joined by Samuel Breadon, Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, Tony Mullane, Hank O’Day, Alfred Reach, Jacob Ruppert, Bucky Walters and Deacon White. All are deceased. The list was whittled down from a group of eligible players, executives and umpires by a group of baseball historians appointed by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
At the Winter Meetings in Nashville on Dec. 2-3, a committee comprised of 16 members chosen by the BBWAA will vote on those candidates. Any of them named on 12 of the ballots, or 75 percent, will be inducted on July 28, 2013. The voting will be announced Jan. 9.
One of those voting has strong local ties. Current PressBox columnist Jim Henneman, a frequent official scorer at Camden Yards and one of the most knowledgeable Baltimore baseball historians around, is among the electorate.