Marion was arguably the best shortstop in baseball during the 1940s. He was an integral part of those Cardinals teams that went to four World Series in five seasons between 1942 and 1946. Of these four World Series, the Cardinals won three of them. To give you an idea of how good the Cardinals were in the early to mid-1940s, no National League team has reached the World Series in three consecutive seasons since the Cards did it from 1942 through 1944.
Marion was selected to seven consecutive National League All-Star teams between 1943 and 1950 (there was no All-Star Game in 1945.) His best season came in 1944 when he was named the NL MVP. Now if one were to look at Marion’s offensive output that year it doesn’t exactly scream MVP numbers – .267 batting average, 6 homeruns and 63 RBI. His teammate Stan Musial hit .347 that season. However, Musial was in the early part of his career and was several seasons away from becoming The Man. Back then it was Marion who was the leader in the Cardinals clubhouse. Although Marion’s offensive numbers were modest it was his defense that saved runs and consistently won games for the Cards. At 6 feet, 2 inches, Marion covered a lot of ground. In the past three decades ago with shorstops like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez big shortstops aren’t so unusual. But back in the ’40s it was unheard of. Hence the nicknames like Slats and The Octopus.
Marion became the manager of the Cardinals in 1951 before he moved to the crosstown rival St. Louis Browns to be player-manager for the 1952 and 1953 seasons. Unfortunately, Marion has the ignomanious distinction of being the Browns last manager as they went 54-100 in 1953 before hitching up stakes and moving to Baltimore the following year where they would become known as the Orioles.
However, Marion would get another chance to manage with the Chicago White Sox late in the 1954 season. He would guide the Chisox to third place finishes in 1955 and 1956. However, he would resign following the ’56 season when he learned the team was seeking to replace him with Cleveland Indians manager Al Lopez. As it turned out it was a good move as Lopez guided the White Sox to the AL pennant in 1959. (Here’s an interesting article that was written in Sports Illustrated about Marion while he was managing the Chisox during the ’56 season.)
There are those who believe Marion should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His numbers are comparable with those of Phil Rizzuto, the New York Yankees shortstop who was inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1994. However, as recently as 2007, Marion was unable to persuade enough members of the Veterans Committee to elect him to Cooperstown. It is possible however that Marion could get on the Veterans Committee ballot to be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
Too bad there isn’t a Marriage Hall of Fame because Marion and his wife Mary were married for 74 years. They would have been elected on the first ballot.
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