Enos "Country'' Slaughter, the hustling Hall of Famer who made a "Mad Dash'' home to win the 1946 World Series and then tangled with Jackie Robinson the next year, died Monday at age 86.
Enos Bradsher Slaughter was born April 27, 1916, in Roxboro, N.C. He batted .300 in 19 seasons and played in five World Series. He spent the first 13 years of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, before playing for the New York Yankees, Kansas City Athletics, and Milwaukee Braves.
"He was one of the great hustlers of baseball,'' Hall of Fame teammate Stan Musial said Monday. "He loved baseball. He always ran hard and played hard.'' Slaughter began his energetic style when he was in the minor leagues in 1936 in Columbus, Ga., after his manager, Eddie Dyer, caught him walking off the field and confronted him. ''(He) said, 'Son, if you're tired, I'll get somebody else.''' Slaughter recalled in a 1994 interview with The Associated Press. "From that day on, I ran from spot to spot.'' Pete Rose, who became known as "Charlie Hustle'' in the 1960s for his hard-nosed play, copied Slaughter's habit of running to first base on a walk.
Enos Slaughter is best remembered for his "Mad Dash'' from first base that scored the winning run for the Cardinals against the Boston Red Sox in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 1946 Series. With the score tied at 3-3, Slaughter opened the bottom of the 8th inning with a single. Two outs later, he was still on 1st base. With Harry Walker at bat, Slaughter took off for 2nd on what he said later was nothing more than an attempted steal. Walker hit the ball over short and into center field. With Slaughter steaming around 2nd base, Leon Culberson fielded the ball. Third base coach Mike Gonzalez tried to stop Slaughter as Culberson relayed the ball to Johnny Pesky. Slaughter ran right past Gonzalez. Pesky held the ball for an instant and then hurried his throw to catcher Roy Partee. Slaughter slid past the tag for the deciding run. "On that particular play, he outran that ball the last 10 yards,'' Musial said. "He just outran it. It was an exciting play and won the Series for us.''The "Mad Dash'' is commemorated outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis by a bronze statue depicting Slaughter sliding home.
Slaughter joined the Cardinals in 1938 and, except for missing 3 years to serve in World War II, stayed in St. Louis until being traded to the New York Yankees in 1954. With his flat, level swing, he became known as an outstanding clutch hitter, and played in 10 consecutive All-Star games. His career best came in 1946 when he batted .391, whil leading the National League with 130 RBI.
Slaughter had 2,383 hits, including 169 homers, and 1,304 RBI in 2,380 games in his career. He retired in 1959 and became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1964, but was not elected until 1985, a wait that dismayed him. "I think with my record, I deserved to be in there at least 10 to 15 years before I went in,'' he said in 1994. "A lot of guys went through that era, but I hit better than they did. They went in and never did get to .300. I think when you stay in the big leagues and hit .300, I think you need consideration.''
One widely held belief was that Slaughter was kept out because of his part in the Cardinals attempted strike in 1947, when Robinson became the first black player in the major leagues. National League president Ford Frick stepped in, threatening harsh action against the players. "If you do this, you will be suspended from the league,'' Frick told the Cardinals. "You will be outcasts. I don't care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another.'' Slaughter vehemently denied involvement in such a plan and disputed the charges of racism.
In August 1947, Slaughter spiked Robinson in a play at first base but said it was unintentional. The Dodgers were livid. "All I know is that I had my foot on the inside of the bag. I gave Slaughter plenty of room,'' Robinson said. Slaughter denied any wrongdoing. "I've never deliberately spiked anyone in my life,'' he said. "Anybody who does doesn't belong in baseball.'' Teammate Dick Schofield once described Slaughter as "a grouch, but that's the way he always was to everyone.'' "He was from the old school, the type who sharpened his spikes before a game,'' Schofield said. "He was tough for anyone to get along with.''
Slaughter's death left the Cardinals in mourning for the fourth time this summer, following those of longtime St. Louis broadcaster Jack Buck, pitcher Darryl Kile and former catcher Darrell Porter. "He was a great ballplayer, a great friend to the organization and one of the most popular players to ever wear the Cardinals uniform. Enos was a treasure and he'll be sorely missed,'' said Cardinals chairman Frederick O. Hanser said. In addition to the statue of the "Mad Dash,'' the team honored Slaughter by retiring his No. 9 in 1996.
His illness forced him to miss this year's Hall of Fame ceremony at Cooperstown, N.Y., for the first time since his own induction in 1985. Slaughter is survived by daughters Gaye Currier and Sharon Slaughter of Roxboro, Rhonda Slaughter Underwood of Glen Allen, Va., and Patricia Wilson of Denver; four grandchildren; one great grandchild; his brother, Robert Slaughter of Roxboro; and his sister, Helen Walker of Roxboro.