November 23, 1964: Ken Boyer is named National League MVP

Ken Boyer

Ken Boyer had just returned from a quail-hunting trip in Hermann, Mo., when the phone rang. It was a reporter, calling to tell Boyer that he had just been named the 1964 National League MVP.

“I guess 14 must be my lucky number,” Boyer said. “That’s my uniform number and that’s how many birds we shot today.”[1]

Boyer had enjoyed good fortune throughout the 1964 season, batting .295 with 24 homers and a major-league leading 119 RBIs to lead the club to the National League pennant and a World Series championship. Despite battling back stiffness at several points in the year, he appeared in every game for the Cardinals.

“I hurt my back three times diving for balls, so I finally decided to quit diving for a while,” he said.[2]

In the World Series, Boyer played through a pulled hamstring that was more serious than he had acknowledged at the time.

“I didn’t want to make a lot of to-do about it because I was afraid they might start bunting on me,” he said. “I had to have the leg taped good. The leg was okay the last couple of games of the Series, but I kept it taped to make sure.”[3]

The Liberty, Mo., native was especially successful in his home state, batting .320 in St. Louis compared to .268 on the road. Boyer got off to a hot start to the season and entered June batting .343 with a .415 on-base percentage and .558 slugging percentage. Though he hit just .225 in June, he bounced back with a .342 average in July.

“Ken deserves the award,” said Stan Musial, who won the MVP Award in 1943, 1946, and 1948. “He had a great and steady season and kept us in the race all year long.”[4]

Ken Boyer, 1965 Topps

Though voting took place prior to the postseason, Boyer continued to make an impact for the Cardinals in the World Series, where they faced the Yankees and Boyer’s brother Clete. In Game 4, Boyer hit a sixth-inning grand slam off Al Downing to account for all four St. Louis runs in a 4-3 win. The Cardinals went on to win the Series in seven games.

Boyer, whom the Sporting News already had named Major League Player of the Year,[5] received 14 of 20 first-place votes for 243 points. He was named on every ballot, including two votes for second place, one for fourth, and another for fifth.

“I had been told I was in the running, but I was still very much surprised – especially to get 14 votes for first with all that competition,” Boyer said.[6]

“This just added to the happiest day of my life,” said Boyer’s father, Vernon Boyer. “After seeing Ken and his brother Clete play against each other in St. Louis.”[7]

In addition to Ken and Clete, their older brother Cloyd Boyer also played in the majors, pitching for the Cardinals from 1949-1952.

Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison finished second in the MVP balloting with two first-place votes, 15 second-place votes, and 187 total points. Cardinals first baseman Bill White placed third with 106 points, including two first-place votes. White hit .303 with 21 homers and 102 RBIs.

Bill White, 1964 Topps

The only other players to receive first-place votes were Braves catcher-first baseman Joe Torre and the Cardinals’ Lou Brock. Brock, whom the Cardinals acquired in a June trade with the Cubs, hit .315 with 14 homers, 58 RBIs, and 43 stolen bases on the season. After arriving in St. Louis, he hit .348 with 12 homers, 44 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases.

“Usually it goes to somebody from the pennant-winning team,” Boyer said. “Unless somebody has a real explosive year and hits a lot of clutch home runs and his team finishes way higher than it should have. I remember Hank Sauer winning it with the Chicago Cubs in 1952, but usually you have to win the pennant. That’s what makes you accept the award on behalf of the entire ball club. I was very lucky I had guys like Bill White and Dick Groat and Bob Gibson on the ball club.”[8]

After Boyer hit .260 with 13 homers and 75 RBIs in 1965, the Cardinals traded him to the Mets for Al Jackson and Charley Smith. Boyer bounced around for the remainder of his career, playing for the Mets, White Sox, and Dodgers before he retired after the 1969 season. In 15 big-league seasons, he hit .287 with 282 home runs and 1,141 RBIs earning five Gold Glove awards and making 11 all-star selections.

Following his retirement, Boyer managed the Cardinals’ minor-league affiliate in Arkansas in 1970. He coached the Cardinals’ big-league club under Red Schoendienst for two years before managing the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, the Tulsa Oilers, and the Rochester Red Wings.

In 1978, Boyer was hired as the Cardinals’ manager, replacing Vern Rapp. Boyer remained in that post until 1980, when he was fired 51 games into the season with a 166-190 record over three years.

Boyer passed away on September 7, 1982, from cancer. The Cardinals retired his number 14 jersey in 1984 and inducted him into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.


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[1] Neal Russo, “Ken Boyer Is Named MVP,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 23, 1964.

[2] Neal Russo, “Ken Boyer Is Named MVP,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 23, 1964.

[3] Neal Russo, “Ken Boyer Is Named MVP,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 23, 1964.

[4] Neal Russo, “Ken Boyer Is Named MVP,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 23, 1964.

[5] Neal Russo, “Ken Boyer Is Named MVP,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 23, 1964.

[6] Neal Russo, “Ken Boyer Is Named MVP,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 23, 1964.

[7] George Vecsey, “Boyer Is National League MVP,” Newsday, November 24, 1964.

[8] George Vecsey, “Boyer Is National League MVP,” Newsday, November 24, 1964.

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