His Reach Exceeded His Glove: Marty Marion
“I’d like to throw you out with the trash.”
–MARTY “Mr. Shortstop” MARION , to the young autograph seeker, 1948
Of course he had bigger things on his mind than signing autographs.
By 1948, Marty “Mr. Shortstop” Marion was in the middle of what would become eight All-Star years with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had already been voted MVP and won three World Series championships. Also by 1948, Marion was suffering from the knee and back problems that would shorten his career. Worried about his future and those of his fellow ballplayers, Marion put his blunt temperament and crackerjack business mind to use, leading the successful fight for Major League Baseball’s first ever Players Pension Plan.
“I was very outspoken in my opinions,” said Marion.
When he was on the team, Marty Marion always put the players first, but it was a different story after he retired. At his posthumous 2014 induction onto the Cardinals Hall of Fame, Marion’s daughter Martina Dill made a revealing comment about his relationship to his fans. “Since his playing days,” she said, “he always had time to answer fan mail and autographs, and even add a little extra postage if necessary.”
“Since” his playing days he had time for his fans. Perhaps he went a little overboard after that, trying to repent for how he may have treated them when he was on the roster.
There are Marty Marion autographs aplenty on eBay written in his shaky, elderly script. These autographs had to have been written slowly. Marion would have had to take some time and concentration. He would have had to care. Even if he had started showing up to baseball card shows primarily out of financial need, Marty Marion could not have remained as “outspoken” anymore.
Marion attended a baseball card show with his old double-play partner, second baseman Red Schoendienst, about six months before he died. Imagine Marty Marion, over 90 years old, with a pen in one hand and a brand new baseball in the other. Watch him slowly placing his signature within the ball’s laces, wobbling a big open circle to dot in the “i” in Marion, then carefully scrawling “ ’44 M.V.P.” under that. How could he have been dismissive with these signatures or his fans? He could not. In the time it took for him to sign each ball, each fan at the baseball show would have ample opportunity to snap a few pictures and plenty of time to ask “Mr. Shortstop” a long unanswered question.
Then, perhaps somewhere between gawking at his famously long, “Octopus” arms and the now old, gnarled hands that could once turn a double-play in the blink of an eye, you stop wondering about the motivations behind Marion’s late-in-life fan appreciation, and you start liking that he barked at you back in 1948.
More: Stories Behind the Signatures
“The Ox Next Door” – AL WISTERT