Cards All-Time Top 40 – Johnny Mize #18

The Top 40 countdown of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals of all time continues with their Hall of Fame first baseman, Johnny Mize.

John Robert Mize

The Basics

Position

Bat

Thw

Total Yrs

Yrs in StL

HR

RBI

SB

Avg

First base

Left

Right

1936-'42, '46-'53

1936-1941

158

653

14

.336

The Awards

Hall of Fame

Retired #

World Champ

All-Star

MVP

Cy Young

Gold Glove

1981

 -

 -

4

 -

NA

NA

Note: All stats and awards listed are for years as a Cardinal only.
Mize's career stats available from baseball-reference.com.

Voter Comments

Rob Rains (27): The Hall of Fame first baseman likely would have placed higher on this list had he spent more than six seasons in St. Louis. After hitting 158 home runs between 1936 and 1941, he was traded to the New York Giants.

Mize's 43 home runs in 1940 remained the Cardinals single-season record until Mark McGwire came to town. Mize had 100 or more RBIs in five of his six St. Louis seasons, and three times scored more than 100 runs. More than just a slugger, his .336 lifetime average as a Cardinal ranks second only to Rogers Hornsby's .359 average.

Jerry Modene (21): Another player who would rate higher – much higher – if he'd not left the Cardinals so soon. He only spent six years with the Cardinals and they were somewhat acrimonious, as he replaced the popular Ripper Collins at first base in the latter days of the Gas House Gang, won a batting championship in 1939 – and had to fight Branch Rickey for a raise because he "hadn't hit enough homers".

Mize went out and set a then-franchise record of 43 homers in 1940 and was threatened with a pay cut because he "only" batted .314, and then was critical of Mr. Rickey in 1941 for "not bringing Musial up earlier" when the Cardinals were embroiled in a tight pennant race with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

All that aside, though, The Big Cat was a master defensive first baseman and a hugely dangerous hitter; in his early days, he had good speed, too, hitting double-figures in triples three years in a row for the Cardinals. Of all the players Branch Rickey traded "better early than late", Mize may have been the one that was way too early.

Can you imagine Mize and Musial in the same lineup? (Ironically, it was Mize – and Ralph Kiner – who prevented Musial from winning the Triple Crown in 1948; Stan finished tops in virtually every offensive category that season except for home runs; he had 39 while Mize and Kiner each had 40. Of course, there's that home run Stan hit that was taken away – I don't remember the details – that would have also tied him for the league lead.)

Ray Mileur (17): Throughout most of his career, Johnny "Big Cat" Mize was overshadowed by great Hall of Famers like Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg and Stan Musial.

Consistently among league batting leaders, Mize's .349 batting average led the league in 1939 and he led the league in slugging percentage in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1942.

A rare slugger with home run power who hit for average and seldom struck out, Mize led the league in home runs in 1939 (28), 1940 (43), 1947 (51) and 1948 (40) and remains the only man ever to hit 50 home runs in a season and while striking out less than 50 times.

He played in the Major Leagues from 1936 through 1953, missing prime playing time due to military service in 1943, 1944 and 1945. After the "Big Cat" joined the Yankees, they won five straight World Series titles (1949-‘53), with Mize hitting three homers in the 1952 Fall Classic.

He finished his career with 359 home runs and a .312 batting average. Mize was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1981. For one of the greatest sluggers of all time, it was about time.

Brian Walton (13): I was quite disappointed to see my peers vote Mize so low. To be honest, I am unhappy with myself, too, for not voting Mize better than number 13. I hear the argument that his time in St. Louis was limited, but I simply don't buy it.

Let's stack Mize as a Cardinal up against their current first baseman, a man most already rank in the top handful of Redbird players ever. Pretty tough company, but the comparison makes a lot of sense. After all, Mize and Albert Pujols (to-date) each played six seasons with the club.

Since Pujols has logged about 10% more at-bats, I normalized his stats to equate to Mize's total at-bats. With all the justifiable attention over Pujols' lack of strikeouts, consider the fact that he fans 26% more frequently than Mize did. Granted Mize hit fewer home runs, but he played in a different era. The old-timer legged out six times more triples to pretty much level out the total extra-base hits (XBH).

Overall, look at how strikingly close these numbers are.

 

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

XBH

RBI

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Pujols (norm)

3121

1037

233

11

224

468

678

441

352

.332

.419

.629

Mize

3121

1048

218

66

158

442

653

424

279

.336

.417

.600

Mize ranks in the top twenty of all-time, not just compared to Cardinals, but among all Major Leaguers in both slugging and on-base plus slugging percentage. Six of his seven league-leading years in those stats came while he was with St. Louis, so don't tell me he wasn't a Cardinal long enough not to rank among the very, very best.

I rest my case and demand a vote recount!

Voter Comments Key: Voter (Individual Ranking); NR = Not Rated

Master List: To see our entire list of the greatest 40 Cardinals players of all-time as they are unveiled daily, click here.

© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

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