Ray Lankford: A Childhood Hero and Cardinals’ Hall of Famer

Ray Lankford: A Childhood Hero and Cardinals’ Hall of Famer

Not only was Ray Lankford a Cardinals’ great, he was my childhood hero growing up. Seeing him in the conversation for the Cardinals’ HOF brings back sweet memories.

In his 14 year career, Ray Lankford appeared in 13 different seasons with St. Louis. A whopping 1,580 of his impressive 1,701 MLB games were played in a Cardinal uniform.I have nothing against Kolten Wong, but his number belongs to Ray Lankford in my book.

I can’t help but have flashbacks to my childhood when I see the #16 out there. Seems like it was just yesterday. I showed my dad “the Lankford” (batting stance). Heck, I went on to shake my bat just like him when I played little league ball.

Now, I was a catcher and an infielder. However, centerfield was where my heart was. I didn’t look up to Tom Pagnozzi or Ozzie Smith the way that I obsessed over Lankford as a child. Don’t get me wrong. I was a fan of those guys, but Ray is the reason I signed up for baseball. He’s the reason I was excited to go to the game.

Back then, my uncle worked at the old ballpark, so my Dad and I attended as often as possible. We usually sat near left field. I’d stare off into space and watch Lankford’s every move. The only other athletes that had such an impact on me at such a young age were Michael Jordan and Deion Sanders. I never got to see them in person though. That’s how much I admired Lankford, but that’s enough about me.

Lankford’s Accomplishments

Fun Fact: Did you know that Ray Lankford ranked 3rd in the voting for Rookie Of The Year? He came in behind the runner-up, Orlando MercedJeff Bagwell won that year.

In 1991, Ray became the first rookie in St. Louis Cardinals history to hit a cycle. Lankford was originally a leadoff hitter at the beginning of his career. His second season, he was already thought to be one of the best outfielders in the game. He brought more power to the plate and became a go-to guy as a result, batting in the 3rd and 4th spots. The rest is history.

He was able to achieve five different seasons of hitting at least 20 home runs and stealing at least 20 bases. He did this in 1992, and in 3 consecutive seasons from 1995 through 1998. He’s the only player in the history of the Cardinals franchise to do this more than once. This really shows how versatile and entertaining Lankford was as a player. Here are his actual numbers for those years.

  • 1992:    20 home runs & 42 stolen bases
  • 1995:    25 home runs & 25 stolen bases
  • 1996:    21 home runs & 35 stolen bases (League-leading Fld% of .997)
  • 1997:    31 home runs & 21 stolen bases (MLB All-Star)
  • 1998:    31 home runs & 26 stolen bases

Lankford hit 228 home runs and he stole 250 bases in his Cardinal career. That’s good for 5th in franchise history (in both categories). He ranks 7th with a total of 619 extra-base hits. Ray is 9th in three categories (runs with 928, RBI with 829, and doubles with 339). He has 1,479 hits under his belt and only 15 other Cardinals have him beat there.

Ray holds the record for most home runs in Busch Stadium II with 123. Mark Mcguire sits four home runs behind him, and Jim Edmonds, twelve behind Lankford. Such a significant Cardinal should be in the Hall of Fame. McGwire and Edmunds are there, and it’s only a matter of time before we see Lankford added to the group. Sooner than later!

Hall Of Fame

Here is a good read from back in August of 2017: Ray Lankford, Vince Coleman Deserve To Be In Cards’ Hall Of Fame. Author, Rob Rains of STLSportsPage wrote…

“Lankford’s career with the Cardinals lasted from 1990 through August of 2001, when he was traded to San Diego for Woody Williams. The fact that he played during a decade which was not one of the best in Cardinals’ history should not taint his individual accomplishments. That would be the same as saying players from the 1950s or 1970s should be excluded as well because the Cardinals did not happen to field very good teams in those years.”

I couldn’t agree more with this statement and I wouldn’t have said it better myself. Lankford would already be in the Hall of Fame If the teams that he played on were more successful. He sure showed a lot of character and loyalty throughout his career considering these teams were “under par”. He stuck around, showed up, and worked hard regardless.

Conclusion

Ray Lankford is now on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot along with Vince Coleman, Keith Hernandez, Jason Isringhausen, Scott Rolen, Lee Smith, and John Tudor. If you haven’t already, you’re able to vote for 2 players on this list to be inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. You can vote here.

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