Versatile Ray Lankford Powered Strong St. Louis Teams For More Than a Decade
By CRAIG MUDER
December 20, 2009
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Busch Memorial Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1966-2005, played host to Hall of Famers, Most Valuable Players and record-setters.
None of them, however, hit more home runs there than Ray Lankford.
|Ray Lankford is one of 26 players on the BBWAA ballot for the Class of 2010 at the Hall of Fame.|
Lankford is one of 26 players on the 2010 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2010 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Lankford is making his debut on the BBWAA ballot.
BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 6. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 25 in Cooperstown.
Born June 5, 1967, in Los Angeles, Lankford was a third-round draft pick of the Cardinals in the 1987 draft. Three years later, he debuted in St. Louis – and it 1991 Lankford finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .251 with 69 RBI, 44 stolen bases and a NL-best 15 triples.
Over the next nine seasons, Lankford developed into one of baseball’s most consistent five-tool players. During his first 10 full big league seasons, Lankford averaged better than 20 homers, 75 RBI and 23 steals per year despite undergoing rotator cuff surgery in the middle of that decade and suffering a mid-career slump in 1993, when he hit just .238.
“It made me a stronger person,” said Lankford of the 1993 season. “It’s a lot easier dealing with success than knowing how to deal with failure.”
Lankford didn’t have to deal with failure for long. In the two years following his rotator cuff surgery in 1996, Lankford averaged 31 homers and 101 RBI per season.
“A lot of people thought he would never come back,” said former Cardinals’ general manager Walt Jocketty. “But he proved that hard work is certainly an underlying factor.”
The Cardinals traded Lankford to the Padres for pitcher Woody Williams during the 2001 season. He was limited to 82 games during the 2002 season in San Diego, then sat out the 2003 campaign before returning to the Cardinals in 2004 as a bench player.
Lankford’s final big league numbers: a .272 batting average, with 238 homers, 258 steals and 874 RBI in 14 seasons. Plus, a record 123 home runs at Busch Memorial Stadium.
“I don’t think you could play for a better organization and a better crowd than St. Louis.” Lankford said.
Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum