This quiet but dominant All-Star third baseman was a splendid fielder and consistently productive and clutch hitter. Signed as a pitcher by the Cardinals for $6,000, his poor pitching and strong hitting prompted his move to third base. He played brilliantly there for most of his 11 years in St. Louis. He won five Gold Gloves and led third basemen in double plays a record-tying five times. In eight different seasons, he hit over 20 homers, and combined with brother Clete for 444 HR. (Only the Aarons and DiMaggios hit more homers than the Boyers.) Ken’s 255 as a Cardinal put him second only to Stan Musial.
After solid rookie and sophomore years, to Boyer’s dismay he was sent to centerfield for most of the 1957 season, and GM Frank Lane criticized the soft-spoken Cardinal as an “unaggressive player.” The arrival of Curt Flood in 1958 allowed Boyer to return to third base. It was during Solly Hemus‘s tenure as Cardinal manager that Boyer was named team captain. Hemus said, “Boyer is the guy everybody walks up to in the clubhouse and talks to.” He led by example and through subtle prodding.
In 1959, Boyer went on a 29-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors since Stan Musial‘s 30-game string in 1950. In 1960 and ’61, he led the Cardinals in batting, HR, and RBI, hitting a career-high 32 homers in 1960. He twice hit for the cycle, once in 1961, and again in 1964. His 1964 MVP season (.295, 24 HR, 119 RBI) was climaxed by his clutch performance in the World Series against the Yankees. In Game Four, he stroked a grand slam off Al Downing to give the Cardinals a 4-3 win, and his seventh-inning shot in Game Seven off Steve Hamilton catapulted the Cardinals to a 7-5 win and the world championship.
Boyer slumped in 1965 and was traded to the Mets for third baseman Charlie Smith and pitcher Al Jackson. His glittering career ended four years later with the Dodgers. He was a Cardinal coach in 1971-72, and took over as manager early in 1978. In 1979, he led the Redbirds to a third-place finish, but after winning only 18 of 51 in 1980, he was replaced by Whitey Herzog. Boyer died of lung cancer in 1982, and his uniform number 14 was retired by the Cardinals in 1984.