Thursday, April 14, 2011

#6 NL RBI Leaders: Ken Boyer, Ron Santo, and Willie Mays

#6 NL RBI Leaders: Ken Boyer, Ron Santo, and Willie Mays
Here comes another heapin' helpin' of cards from our old buddy Max! We'll kick things off with the first National League leaders card that I received in my quest to complete this set. Even as things stand today, I have all of the American League leaders but I'm missing out on three NL cards.

This one celebrates the top RBI men of the senior circuit, led by 1964 MVP Ken Boyer of the World Champion Cardinals. He spent most of the season in the cleanup spot and did just that, driving in a personal-best 119 runs. Interestingly enough, it was the only time he ever led the league in any offensive category. He had some help from the talented hitters who reached base in front of him. He drove in Curt Flood 26 times and Lou Brock 24 times to account for 42% of his RBI.

Next we have the too-recently-departed Ron Santo, always an RBI crown bridesmaid. His 114 RBI in 1964 were his second-best total, behind his 123 driven in in 1969. The third baseman was in the midst of eight consecutive top-ten finishes in this category, peaking at #2 on three different occasions. He did pace the NL in this particular season with 13 triples, 86 walks, and a .398 on-base percentage. Santo was the #4 hitter in 160 of his 161 games in '64, and plated himself 30 times and Billy Williams 27 times.

The Say Hey Kid was the second runner-up in '64 with 111 RBI. Incredibly, this was the fifth-highest single-season total for Willie, and he never topped the NL in this category. His career high came in 1962, when his 141 ranked second to Tommie Davis' 153! As a consolation prize, Mays took home four home run crowns, which includes his league-high total of 47 in 1964. He spent most of the year in the three-hole for the Giants, and shared his largesse: aside from the 47 times he drove himself in, his most frequent collaborator was Harvey Kuenn (17 times).

A glance at the expanded leader board on the back shows that just six men total topped 100 RBI in the National League in 1964, with the others being Joe Torre, Johnny Callison, and Bill White. Everyone with 46 or more runs batted in made the cut, allowing lesser lights like Clay Dalrymple and Gene Oliver to take their bows.

#6 NL RBI Leaders: Ken Boyer, Ron Santo, and Willie Mays (back)


  1. Pretty remarkable that nowadays you can click a bit and find out exactly who Ken Boyer drove in, and how many times in 1964. How does the internet work like that?

    Did you notice that the back of the card has Mays listed over Santo? I used to love checking out the backs of these leader cards, and the W/L records on the back of the team cards. Hours of entertainment. I can't believe I didn't grow up to be Bill James.

  2. Leaders cards that feature Boyer, Mays and Santo are pretty cool. It makes me think of how I dismiss today's leaders cards of Mauer, Teixeira and Josh Hamilton as worthless. I suppose in 40 years that card will be cool, too.

    Well, not the Teixeira part. Never mind.

  3. Why isn't Ron Santo in the Hall of Fame?

  4. Johnny Bench was one such HOF who for years pushed for Santo to be enshrined. Some of my fondest memories were the Reds and Cubs matchups of the late 60's / early 70's--great baseball

  5. Bob - I didn't notice the error on the back! If you had grown up in Kansas, maybe you would have been Bill James.

    night owl - There's nothing that gives me a greater sense of kinship to you than our mutual disdain for that phony who plays first base for the Yankees.

    Marc - Because many baseball writers have a poor understanding of statistics.

    Brox - You'd have to assume that Bench knew what it took to be a quality major leaguer.