With Ballpark Village finally transforming from a long talked-about concept to a brick-and-mortar reality (at least in a downscaled Phase 1), several important elements of the St. Louis Cardinals’ rich past can finally be publicly celebrated.
The opening of Ballpark Village this coming spring will include the return of the long-closed Cardinals Museum, shuttered since 2008. With the museum’s reopening, the establishment of a first-ever Cardinals Hall of Fame will follow.
It is hard to believe that a franchise with as rich of a tradition as the one with the most World Championships in the history of the National League has never recognized this obvious need with action – until now.
During Saturday’s opening day of the 2014 Winter Warm-Up, Chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. and President Bill DeWitt III disclosed specific plans for the new Cardinals Hall. The younger DeWitt had reinforced the club’s intent three years ago, but project has been under discussion for a decade. The two were joined in the briefing by Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa and Edward Jones principal and CMO Brad Iversen.
The Cardinals’ Hall
On Saturday, the father and son DeWitt team described their plans for a two-tier approach, covering individuals from the modern and veteran eras.
The Cardinals plan to augment their already-named retired number greats with a comparable number of other Cardinals already enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Famers, for an initial total of 22. They will be recognized with formal plaques when the new Cardinals Hall of Fame Gallery presented by Edward Jones opens to align with 2014 Opening Day, on April 7.
The representation in the photo is of plaques that appear similar to those in Cooperstown, but will have a more modern look and perhaps show more than the head-only view on the iconic version, De Witt III said.
There are four possible annual additions to the Hall starting 2014, coming from three potential routes.
A “Red Ribbon” committee of Cardinals baseball experts will select a veteran player, for 40 years ago and prior, to be inducted with the first class this August. The group will also nominate a ballot of six to ten modern players that will be presented to fans. Two will be selected in a voting period scheduled to run from March 1 until mid-April.
A fourth optional inductee can be included each year. It could be an important figure in team history such as a coach, broadcaster or front office member. The selection of this individual will be made by the Cardinals organization if deemed appropriate.
All new 2014 selections will be announced in mid-April and inducted on Saturday, August 16.
I am honored to have been offered and accepted an invitation to sit on that committee, which will be getting to work right away. While it has been a long wait, I applaud the Cardinals for following through to make their team Hall of Fame a reality.
Special for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation
In the following audio clip, the DeWitts and La Russa, himself one of the members of the “Red Ribbon” committee, make the announcement.
Listen to Audio (16:37)
Footnote: An example close to home
Team-oriented Halls of Fame are hardly new. Take the Cincinnati Reds, for example. Long before the heyday of the Big Red Machine of the 1970’s, the club had created its Hall of Fame. The first enshrined players entered over a half-century ago, back in 1958.
It is now the largest team Hall in baseball, with 81 inductees, chosen from the ranks of players, managers and executives.
The Reds have deployed several different voting processes over the years. The current approach allows fans to vote every-other August from a list of five names of “Modern Players”, selected by a governance committee. The fan vote is weighted one-third with views of selected media and former Reds players.
Recognizing that old-timers are not as familiar to current fans, a separate process was created for the earlier players. Those who were active more than 13 years ago are evaluated by a special Veterans Committee, consisting of baseball historians, media and team Hall of Famers.
Among the 81 Hall members are the nine Reds players and managers also honored with retired numbers and nine players from the 19th century.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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