Ken Boyer, a star third baseman with the St. Louis Cardinals and later their manager, died today of lung cancer. He was 51 years old.
He died at a nursing home at which he had spent the last several months after undergoing laetrile treatments in Mexico.
He played for 15 years in the major leagues, compiling a .287 batting average, and was named to the National League All-Star Team seven times. He also won five Gold Glove awards for his fielding ability.
After 11 years with the Cardinals, he joined the New York Mets in 1966 and played a little more than one season with them before finishing his career with the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Boyer batted over .300 in five seasons, had 282 career home runs and 2,143 hits.
Excelled in 1964 World Series
The highlight of Boyer's career came against the New York Yankees in the 1964 World Series. He hit a grand slam in the fourth game, off Al Downing, to give St. Louis a 4-3 victory. In the deciding seventh game, he had three hits, including a double and a homer, and scored three runs as the Cardinals won, 7-5.
His brother Clete, who played third base for the Yankees in that Series, recalled last spring, ''When he hit that homer, I loved it. In my heart, I think I was pulling for him that year because it was his first Series.''
Boyer won the National League's Most Valuable Player award for that season.
He led the National League that year in runs batted in with 119, hit 24 homers and batted .295.
Boyer managed for seven years in the minor leagues before he returned to the Cardinals as manager 18 games into the 1978 season. The team finished in fifth place in the National League East that year. He guided the Cardinals to a third-place finish the following season. Boyer was dismissed during the 1980 season with the Cardinals in last place.
Boyer was scheduled to manage the Cardinals' Triple A farm team in Louisville, Ky., this season, but his illness forced him to give up the job.
A Baseball Family
Boyer was one of three brothers to play major league baseball. In addition to Clete, who is now a coach with the Oakland A's, his brother Cloyd pitched for the Cardinals and Kansas City Athletics. Three other brothers also played professional baseball.
He is survived by two sons and two daughters in addition to his brothers and six sisters.
Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday in Ballwin, Mo.
After signing with the Cardinals in 1949, Boyer was initially tried as a pitcher, but hit the ball so well that the Cardinals shifted him to third base. He served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953, and joined the Cardinals after they traded Ray Jablonski following the 1954 season. He hit .264 with 62 runs batted in as a rookie before earning the first of seven NL All-Star selections in 1956. He was shifted to center field in 1957 to allow rookie Eddie Kasko to break in at third, and led all NL outfielders in fielding percentage, but returned to third base in 1958, winning the first of four consecutive Gold Gloves and again collecting 90 RBI. His 41 double plays in 1958 equalled the second-highest total in NL history to that point.
In 1960–61, Boyer led the Cardinals in batting average (.304 and .329), home runs (32 and 24) and RBI (97 and 95); he also became the team captain during this period. He enjoyed his career highlight against the New York Yankees in the 1964 World Series, hitting a grand slam in Game 4, off pitcherAl Downing, to give the Cardinals a 4–3 victory. His brother Clete, playing in his fifth consecutive Series with the Yankees, later conceded that he was privately thrilled for his brother because it was Ken's first Series. Then, in the decisive Game 7, he collected three hits (including a double and a home run), and scored three runs as St. Louis clinched the World Championship 7–5, their first title since 1946. Clete also homered in that game, the only time in World Series history that brothers have homered in the same game. In that season Boyer earned National League MVP honors after hitting .295 with 24 home runs and leading the league with 119 RBI, becoming the first NL third baseman to do so since Heinie Zimmerman in 1917; it was also his seventh consecutive season of 90 or more RBI, tyingPie Traynor's major league record for third basemen. Boyer his exactly 24 home runs in each of 4 consecutive years (1961–1964) (32 homers in 1960 and 13 homers in 1965) to set a record for most consecutive years with the same home run total and at least 20 home runs; the record was tied by Fred Lynn of the California Angels and Baltimore Orioles (23 each year from 1984 to 1987).
After 11 years with the Cardinals, Boyer began to suffer back problems and was traded to the New York Mets (1966–67), and later to the Chicago White Sox (1967–68), before finishing his career with Los Angeles Dodgers (1968–69). In a 15-year career, Boyer was a .287 hitter with 282 home runs and 1,141 RBI in 2,034 games played. His career slugging average of .462 ranked third among players with at least 1,000 games at third base, behind Eddie Mathews (.509) andRon Santo (then at .478), and among NL players he trailed only Mathews in assists and double plays at third base. Upon Clete's retirement in 1971, the Boyers' 444 career home runs (282 by Ken, 162 by Clete) were the fourth most in major league history by two brothers, behind Hank and Tommie Aaron (768) and the separate pairings of Joe DiMaggiowith his brothers Vince (486) and Dom (448).
Boyer managed for seven seasons in the minor leagues, also returning to the Cardinals as a coach in 1971–72, before becoming manager in 1978. The following year St. Louis finished in third place, but Boyer was dismissed 18 games into the 1980 season. He compiled a 166–190 record in three seasons (1978–80). He was scheduled to manage in Triple-A, but lung cancerforced him to give up the job.
Ken Boyer died from cancer in St. Louis, Missouri on September 7, 1982 at the age of 51. His #14, which he wore throughout his career with the Cardinals, was retired by the team in 1984. He is one of the few players not in the Hall of Fame to have his number retired by a team.