Of the three former Cardinals elected to the club’s Hall of Fame in an announcement made Friday night, two of them had hoped to get in and one, in essence, had hoped to get out.
Second baseman Tom Herr and lefthanded pitcher John Tudor, both of whom had monstrous seasons for the 1985 Cardinals and accomplished careers otherwise with the club, were chosen by fans’ online voting for a ballot put together by a special committee. Both were honored and delighted.
Longtime first baseman Bill White, a mainstay for the Cardinals from 1959-65 and a member of the 1964 World Series champions, had beseeched a reporter on more than one occasion to have his name removed from Cardinals Hall of Fame consideration. Not out of disrespect for the Cardinals. But for the process. He didn’t think he was good enough.
“My honest feeling is I shouldn’t be in,” White said by telephone from his home about 60 miles from Philadelphia. “There are guys who have done a helluva lot more than I did. I don’t have the stats to be in.
“I didn’t play long enough, didn’t get enough base hits, didn’t drive in enough runs, didn’t hit enough home runs. Whatever.
“I don’t think I played there long enough and didn’t have the stats of a Musial or a Schoendienst had. I was content with what I’d done in my life.”
No one else in the Cardinals’ Hall could match Stan Musial and few could match Red Schoendienst, which would make it a two-person Hall of Fame, in White’s estimation. “That’s all you need,” he joked.
But White had a nudge, perhaps a not so gentle one, in a telephone call from another former Cardinals first baseman who is in the Cardinals’ and National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t really want to do it,” said White. “But Joe Torre was the one who pushed it. I like Torre.”
And so White reluctantly agreed to be the winner on the veterans’ ballot voted on by members of the Red Ribbon Committee. At age 86, though, he doesn’t travel anymore and said he would not be in attendance at a proposed late August ceremony, which might have to be postponed anyway because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A member of five All-Star teams and winner of six Gold Gloves in his time here, White hit a career-high .324 in 1962 and had 200 hits, 27 homers and 109 runs batted in the next year. On the World Series club, White had 21 homers and 102 RBIs.
White played three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, after having been traded there along with Dick Groat and Bob Uecker following the 1965 season and then finished his career as a pinch hitter with the Cardinals in 1969. White, became the first African-American broadcaster for a major league team in 1971 when he signed on with the New York Yankees after having worked part-time at KMOX radio, having received tips from Jack Buck.
After he finished his stint with the Yankees, White became the first African-American president of a major sports league when he was National League president from 1989-94.
Since he left baseball, White, well, left baseball. “I’m a recluse now,” he said, “I’ve gotten away from baseball. I appreciate what’s going on in St. Louis, met some good people there and I had fun in St. Louis.
“My mother wanted me to go to medical school. I conned her into (his) signing and I got lucky in playing a few years. I regret not finishing college and going to medical school. I’m 86 and my roommate then is 84 and still practicing.
“But baseball was good to me. I made a living at it and it got five kids through college. It’s been good from a financial standpoint.”
White’s National League presidency was marked by his pushing to keep the Giants in San Francisco rather than moving them to St. Petersburg, Fla., placing a successful expansion team in Denver and a not-so-successful one in Miami.
“I’d played in Puerto Rico and in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and Hispanics were great baseball fans,” said White. “ I figured Miami would be a helluva place for a team and, unfortunately, they’ve had some problems with attendance.”
Herr, who made his major league debut on the same night Lou Brock collected his 3,000th hit in 1979, was considered one of the rocks of the Cardinals’ championship clubs in the 1980s, including the World Series titlists in 1982. He was the double-play partner with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith for nine seasons.
In 1985, Herr drove in 110 runs while hitting only eight home runs, making him the last player in the National League to have 100 without having at least 10.
“I always feel the love whenever I go back out there,” said Herr from Lancaster, Pa. “This just puts an exclamation point on that. It’s overwhelming, really. Kind of mind-boggling.
“Not to take anything away from any of the other guys on the ballot. But Steve Carlton. . . most people think of him with the Phillies. And Lee Smith. . . most people think of the Cubs. And, maybe with Keith (Hernandez), people think of the Mets. Deep down, the biggest part of it was the love the people had for those “Whitey Ball” teams in the 1980s.”
Tudor, originally with Boston, won 20 of his final 21 decisions in 1985 after starting out 1-7. He finished 21-8 with 10 shutouts and a 1.93 earned run average and Herr admitted that on game day, much like many starting pitchers, Tudor could be a “little testy. But he always had that edge to him,” Herr said.
In his five seasons with the club (he also was a member of the 1988 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers between tours here), Tudor had a .705 winning percentage (62-26) and 2.52 ERA for the Cardinals, both of which are records for a Cardinal who has pitched at least 750 innings here.
“I tell people all the time, 200 more wins and I catch up to (Bob) Gibson,” joked Tudor. “But I’m a product of those 1980s teams.
“There was nothing special about me. There really wasn’t. I just threw the ball over the plate and I let people play. I tried to give my best effort all the time. But there were a couple of big times when it wasn’t good enough.”
One such occurrence was Game 7 of the 1985 World Series when the Cardinals, robbed of a Series victory the night before at Kansas City, in part due to a bad umpiring call, lost to the Royals 11-0 as Tudor started for the Cardinals.
Tudor gave up five runs in the first three innings. “We didn’t have a chance after my performance,” he said. “Once we got down, we were dead. I still think about that. I can’t put a finger on what happened but it happened so . . .
“It’s like saying you missed that bridge embankment every other time you drove under it but that particular time you hit it. It only takes one.”
Tudor is recuperating at his home in Greensboro, Ga., from an accident when he severed a tendon in his right hand with a saw. This was not quite like Tudor punching a metal fan with his left hand after he left the field in Game 7 in Kansas City. The 66-year-old also was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago and is considered a risk in these times of virus.
But he had only good thoughts Friday about his time in St. Louis.
“It was fun. Good teams. Great fans,” he said.
“Fans in Boston are really good, but good in a different way. Boston fans are passionate and loyal to a certain extent but they’re also very much a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ fan base. St. Louis never appeared to be that way.”
On Friday, St. Louis fans officially honored what Tudor had done for them lately, even if it was 35 years ago.
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