The 6-2, 170-pound Marion was nicknamed the “Octopus” and “Slats” for his long-armed, rangy fielding prowess, and was considered the best shortstop in Cardinals history before Ozzie Smith joined the franchise in 1982.
Teammate Stan Musial won all three of his MVP awards in the 1940s, in ‘43, ‘46 and ‘48. He hit .347 average with 12 homers and 94 RBIs in 1944, but Marion got the nod on the basis of his defense and team leadership after batting only .267 with six homers and 63 RBIs.
“Around St. Louis there’s a sense of the history of the game,” Torre said. “He was the one you measured against.”
Hall of Fame second baseman Red Schoendienst played alongside Marion from 1945-50 and said Marion also should have received that honor. The 88-year-old Schoendienst is a special assistant to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and still suits up and hits fungoes daily.
“You look at his stats and everything, he should be in the Hall of Fame,” Schoendienst said at the Cardinals‘ spring training site in Jupiter, Fla. “He never ever tried to say that he belonged in the Hall of Fame. He liked baseball, that’s why he played it.”
Team president Bill DeWitt III recalled Marion’s title-winning teams of the 1940s.
“I think those are legendary teams and he was a big part of it,” he said. “He definitely goes down as one of the great Cardinals.”
Dick Zitzmann of St. Louis, who represented Marion at autograph signings and other old-timers functions, said Marion spent much of his later years at his farm just outside Springfield, Ill. Zitzmann remembered Marion as the epitome of a “Southern gentleman.”
Though he had a career batting average of just .263 and never batted .300, Marion was an eight-time All-Star. His career cut short by a back injury, he managed the Cardinals in 1951, then was player-manager for the Browns in 1952-53. He also managed the Chicago White Sox for part of the 1954 season and all the 1955 and ‘56 seasons.
Martin Whiteford Marion was born in Richburg, S.C., on Dec. 1, 1917. He was 22 when he made it to the major leagues on April 16, 1940.
Schoendienst’s rookie season was 1945, the year after Marion led the way with airtight defense in a six-game World Series victory over the cross-town Browns. The Cardinals committed just one error in the series.
“It was a big break for me to come up as a rookie and play second base with him playing short,” Schoendienst said. “That was good, made it easier for me.”