Three outstanding men with ties to the St. Louis Cardinals have now been officially immortalized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. St. Louis native Joe Garagiola, who was both a player and broadcaster for the Cardinals, received the Buck O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday for his expansive contributions to baseball, and on Sunday former Cardinals managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa were inducted into the Hall.
The 88-year-old Garagiola, who caught for the Cards from 1946 to 1951 and then was a broadcaster on KMOX from 1955 to 1962, went on to embark on an extremely long national broadcasting career and was active in a small capacity with the Arizona Diamondbacks as recently as the 2012 season. Due to the health issues he’s dealt with during the past year, Garagiola was not able to travel to the ceremony, but he did provide a video acceptance speech in which he referenced his youth, growing up on the Hill in St. Louis on the same street as Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.
La Russa, the three-time World Series winner who led the Cardinals to championships in 2006 and 2011, was complementary of all three of the organizations which he managed for, which also included the Oakland Athletics and Chicago White Sox. Despite the fact that his greatest and most prolonged success came in St. Louis, he chose to have a logo-less cap on his plaque. La Russa did make it a point to convey how much he appreciated the rich tradition of the Cardinals organization, while also specifically mentioning Albert Pujols and longtime Cardinals coach, instructor, and front office member George Kissell as people who really made an impact on him during his tenure in St. Louis.
Torre had a six-year playing career with the Cardinals, which included four All-Star appearances and an MVP award and National League batting title in 1971. But it’s safe to say that Torre didn’t have his greatest success in St. Louis as a manager, accumulating a 351-354 record over six years. Rightfully so, he attributed much of his success to the Yankees organization, where he won six pennants and four World Series with an 1173-767 record over 12 seasons. He did, however, reference his admiration for Kissell, who helped him appreciate the wonderful simplicity of baseball, and former Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill, who gave him a managing opportunity after two rather mediocre stints with the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves.
Though none of these three spent their entire career with the Cardinals organization, each of them were important parts of the Cardinals’ rich tradition, and they all certainly deserved the honors that were bestowed upon them this weekend.