This Sunday in Cooperstown, New York, Bruce Sutter -- he of 300 saves, a Cy Young Award, and four Fireman of the Year trophies -- will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sutter becomes the 13th player elected to the Hall of Fame having spent his glory years as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. (The lasting image of Sutter is his strikeout of Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas at Busch Stadium on October 20, 1982, to clinch the World Series for St. Louis.) As Sutter enters the game's most hallowed shrine, which former Cardinals might be considered for future induction? The following four stars remain on the outside looking in.
Curt Flood (played with St. Louis from 1958 to 1969) -- Too many athletes (not all of them great) have been described as "changing their game." Let it be engraved in stone that Curt Flood changed baseball, and it had nothing to do with his brilliant play on the field. When Flood was traded by the Cardinals to Philadelphia on October 7, 1969, he took the determined stance that, while his contract may be the property of the Cardinals, he -- as a human being -- most certainly was not. In challenging baseball's reserve clause -- the rule that bound a player to his team, and its whims, in perpetuity -- Flood knocked down a door that, five years after he lost his case in the U.S. Supreme Court, would bring free agency to the world of professional sports. If the veterans committee doesn't consider Flood's .293 career batting average and seven Gold Gloves worthy of the Hall, they might re-examine the role this centerfielder for three National League champions played in making major leaguers among the wealthiest men on the planet.
Ken Boyer (1955-65) -- Captain of the 1964 world champions, Boyer remains the greatest third-baseman in Cardinals history and the only player to have had his uniform number (14) retired by the club and not be elected to the Hall of Fame. His grand slam in Game 4 of the '64 World Series erased a 3-run deficit in Yankee Stadium and propelled St. Louis to its first championship in 18 years. Boyer was named MVP that season, won five Gold Gloves, and played in seven All-Star games. His 255 home runs for St. Louis remain second only to Musial in franchise history.
Willie McGee (1982-90, 1996-99) -- Cardinal broadcaster Mike Shannon once said of McGee, "Willie would get a standing ovation going through the checkout lane at the grocery." As a 23-year-old rookie, McGee took over Game 3 of the 1982 World Series, hitting two home runs and making two wonderful catches near the centerfield wall. From there, McGee went on to win two batting titles, three Gold Gloves and the 1985 National League MVP award. Best of all, he exemplified the speed-kills approach of manager Whitey Herzog's three pennant-winners with a humility -- charm even -- that was never lost among his devoted following in Cardinal Nation. McGee hit .295 for his career and picked up more hits (2,254) than Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner and Phil Rizzuto.
Ted Simmons (1968-80) -- The greatest catcher in Cardinal history, Simmons had more hits than Yogi Berra or Carlton Fisk, more RBIs than Johnny Bench, and scored more runs than Gary Carter. Trouble is, those other four catchers are in the Hall of Fame, while Simmons didn't even receive the necessary five percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility (1994) to remain on the ballot. His only chance for induction now rests with the veterans committee. An eight-time All-Star, Simmons spent the majority of his career in Bench's shadow among National League catchers and on mediocre (at best) Cardinal teams, never reaching the playoffs until he was a Milwaukee Brewer in 1981. With Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray, Simmons is among the greatest switch-hitters the game has ever seen. And to top things off, he caught two no-hitters (one by Bob Gibson, the other by Bob Forsch).
Next January, Mark McGwire will be on the ballot for the first time (along with a pair of mortal locks for induction, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn). One man's opinion? McGwire may enter the Hall someday, but no way does he belong in the pantheon of first-ballot inductees. And despite his (apparently bloated) heroics as a Cardinal, if and when Big Mac reaches Cooperstown, his plaque should feature an Oakland A's hat. However many home run records he broke in St. Louis, McGwire remains a tier below this quartet of almost-but-not-quite Hall of Fame Cardinals.