Ken Boyer: Another Great One Not in the Hall!

Ken Boyer 001 Ken Boyer was neither the first nor the last of the baseball playing Boyer boys. He was simply the best of the six brothers who ventured into the arena of the professional over the two decades that followed World War II. The Alba, Missouri native was also just one among the pack of the fourteen kids born to the rural Boyer family who discovered baseball as a way up and out to the larger world when he began his career with Class D  Lebanon in 1949. Ken started as a pitcher, going 5-1 with a 3.42 ERA in ’49, but he also did something else that first year that distracted the parent Cardinal organization from seeing his future on the mound. He hit .455 for the season. Once Boyer’s pitching record slipped to 6-8 with a 4.39 ERA in 1950 with Class D Hamilton, while his battting average stayed up there at .342, the Cardinals felt that they had to keep the guy in the lineup as a position player.  Ken made the transition just fine as a third baseman for Class A Omaha in 1951. He batted .306 with 14 HR and 90 RBI before going into the service for two two years (1952-53) during the Korean War. Ken Boyer resumed his career in 1954 as a third baseman for the Houston Buffs. His career took off like a rocket. Batting .319 with 21 homers and 116 runs batted in for the ’54 Buffs, Boyer led the club to the Texas League championship – as he also launched his own career to the major league level in 1955.

For the next fifteen seasons, and principally with the Cardinals, Ken Boyer was one the premiere sluggers in the big leagues. After his eleventh season with the Cardinals, back trouble led to Ken’s trade to the Mets. Ken’s last four seasons (1966-69), playing variably back and forth among the Mets and White Sox, and finally with the Dodgers in 1969,  were fairly unproductive. He still finished his career with a .287 batting average, 282 homers, and 1,141 runs batted in.

After his playing days were done, Ken managed in the minor leagues before returning to the big leagues as a coach for the Cardinals in 1971-72. Kenny eventually took over as manager of the Cardinals in 1978, but he was forced to resign early in 1980. Shortly thereafter, Ken Boyer was diagnosed with lung cancer, an illness that took his life at the age of 51 on September 7, 1982.

In 1984, the St. Louis Cardinals retired Ken Boyer’s # 14. It remains the only retired number among those so honored by the Cardinals that doesn’t belong to a Hall of Fame player. The memory of Ken Boyer of the Cardinals, like Ron Santo of the Cubs, remains among us today as another of those hard slugging, slick fielding third basemen who were never selected for induction into the Hall of Fame. Ken Boyer was better than “good.” His production won him the National League MVP award in 1964. He also won five gold gloves awards for his fielding over the course of his career.

Older brother Cloyd Boyer went 16-10 for the 1948 Houston Buffs. He then (1949-52, 1955) achieved an MLB pitching record of 20-23 with an ERA of 4.78 over five seasons. Younger brother Clete Boyer, another third baseman, posted a career record of .242, 162 HR, and 654 RBI over 16 seasons in the majors (1955-57, 1959-1971). Clete and brother Ken set a record when they became the only brothers in history to homer in the same World Series game in 1964. Ken did it for the victorious Cardinals in the form of a game-winning grand slam. Clete did it more quietly in a losing cause for the New York Yankees.

Three other Boyer brothers had brief experiences as minor leaguers, but went no further. Still, any family that produces six kids good enough to play professional baseball at any level is definitely rolling hard and fast in the baseball gene stream.

Have a nice Monday!

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One Response to “Ken Boyer: Another Great One Not in the Hall!”

  1. Kevin McCann Says:

    Hi Bill, great post on Ken Boyer’s career. I’m curious about the photo of Boyer with Houston. I’ve begun work on what I hope will be a published biography of his life and playing career. Please contact me offline if you don’t mind. 🙂 Thanks!

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