The Forgotten Man on the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Cardinals

On Memorial Day, as the St. Louis Cardinals hosted another storied major-league franchise, the New York Yankees, the team took the opportunity to honor the 1964 Cardinals (who beat the Yankees in the World Series in seven games that year) and recognize many of the surviving members of that World championship club at Busch Stadium III.

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Bob Gibson, Dick Groat, Tim McCarver, and Mike Shannon were among the 12 attendees (along with coach Red Schoendienst) whose remarkable come-from-behind performance 50 years ago this season captured the National League pennant and brought the Cardinals their ninth World championship, ending an 18-year drought of postseason success.

I wasn’t able to watch the pregame ceremonies, so perhaps it was done for the sellout crowd at Busch Stadium. But in subsequent articles I’ve read, I have yet to see any mention of the leadership or accomplishments of the man referred to respectfully as The Captain, Ken Boyer. And that’s very surprising to me. Kenny was the anchor of the ’64 club, a steady, seasoned veteran to whom his younger teammates looked for guidance and example. He was the National League’s Most Valuable Player that season, and his decisive and dramatic grand-slam home run to win Game Four at Yankee Stadium turned the tide of the Series in St. Louis’ favor.

In the turbulent decade of racial strife in the country, there was none in the Cardinals clubhouse thanks in large part to the example Kenny set. There were no cliques based on the color of a teammate’s skin; blacks and whites took up for one another and socialized on and off the field.

Because his life was shortened by lung cancer almost 32 years ago at the young age of 51, he wasn’t able to hear the applause afforded the ’64 Cardinals at yesterday’s ceremony. But he still deserves to be recognized and remembered for a very special September and October in Cardinals baseball history.

Postscript: The reason behind this blog post was what seemed to be the lack of media attention (particularly by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the team’s official MLB website) given to Ken and his contributions to the ’64 Cardinals. His youngest daughter, Janie Boyer, sent me an email that she and her son attended the ceremonies on Memorial Day at Busch Stadium. She had the opportunity to talk with his teammates, and they remembered her father that day and what he meant to the club. Regardless of what coverage he received (or didn’t receive), the most important people–his family, his teammates, and his fans–will never forget Kenny Boyer. Thank you, Janie!

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