The 1940s was loaded with top-flight shortstops but perhaps the best defensive shortstop from that era was Marty Marion. Nicknamed Slats because of his tall, bean-pole build, Mr. Marion had the range of an octopus: another Marion nickname was The Octopus. He had exceptional range afield and often had fielding percentages in the .970s: good for a shortstop from that era.
Marion joined the coming St. Louis Cardinals in 1940. They were poised, with their influx of talented youth, to dethrone the Reds as the National League’s top team. Slats was given the everyday assignment at shortstop and responded by hitting .278 as a rookie. Always an astute player, Marion led the NL in sacrifices in 1941 and then topped the junior circuit in doubles in 1942. The Cardinals finished their pennant-winning puzzle in 1942 and handled the Yankees handedly in the World Series. Slats was head and shoulders above his NL position peers, pacing NL shortstops in RBI, batting average and slugging average.
The Cardinals repeated as NL Champs in 1943 with Slats making the first of eight All-Star squads that year. Marion fielded his position at a .970 average and hit .280 during the regular season. The Yankees got their revenge in the World Series but Marty led all participants with a .357 World Series batting average. The Cardinals didn’t rest on their laurels and made it a three-peat in 1944 with their third straight NL flag. Although Marty’s hitting wasn’t up to Musial-like standards, he nevertheless garnered the NL MVP Award with his complete package of baseball acumen. The Cardinals beat their crosstown rivals, the Browns in the World Series; the only Fall Classic appearance the Browns ever made.
Marty hit .277 in 1945 but when World War II was finished, and the stars returned to the diamond, Marion’s numbers fell off substantially in 1946. But he rebounded in 1947 to prove that he wasn’t just a war era star by driving in 74 runs on a .272 batting average. Also, for the second year in a row, the shortstop that covered more ground than airport runway, turned in the excess of 100 double plays.
Slats’ last good year with the lumber came in 1949 when he was one of just three Major League shortstops to reach 30 doubles. He had to sit out the entire 1951 season due to injury but he wasn’t idle: the Redbirds made him their manager. Marty guided the Cards to a third place finish. Shipped off to the crosstown Browns, Marty was a player/manager there for two years before ending his playing days altogether. He later managed the Chicago White Sox for two years, finishing third each season.
Marty Marion has gained plenty Hall of Fame support. In 1970, he netted as much as 40% of the vote. Voters obviously noticed his superior defensive skills, his eight All-Star appearances and MVP Award in 1944 to support their case for checking his box on the ballot.
G 1,572/R 602/H 1,448/2B 272/3B 37/HR 36/RBI 624/BB 470/SO 537/SB 35/BA .263/SA .345