ST. LOUIS -- Highlighting the first day of the Winter Warm-Up, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, Jr., announced on Saturday that the organization plans to hold its first player induction ceremony this year to coincide with the opening of the new Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum in Ballpark Village.
The museum will feature a Cardinals Hall of Fame Gallery, which will be free to the public, on the second floor of Cardinal Nation. The exhibit has a planned opening, along with the rest of the development, of the first week of April. Per the club's announcement, this gallery will be established to "honor the players and individuals who have had the greatest impact on the success of the franchise."
It will feature plaques of all the Hall of Fame members, as well as cases displaying memorabilia from the most recent inductees.
"This is a project we have wanted to do for a number of years, but we really haven't had an appropriate venue, and with the development of Ballpark Village and Cardinals Nation, we think it's a perfect time to start our St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame," DeWitt said during a noon CT press conference. "It's an opportunity to honor the greatest players who have worn the Cardinals uniforms and most important figures in our great history. With 19 National League pennants and 11 world championships, there is no shortage of worthy candidates."
The organization has already elected to enshrine 22 former Cardinals, all of whom have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame or whose number has been retired by the club. That inaugural class includes: Jim Bottomley, Ken Boyer, Lou Brock, Jack Buck, Gussie Busch, Dizzy Dean, Frank Frisch, Bob Gibson, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines, Whitey Herzog, Rogers Hornsby, Tony La Russa, Joe Medwick, Johnny Mize, Stan Musial, Branch Rickey, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Ozzie Smith, Billy Southworth and Bruce Sutter.
In addition, a "Red Ribbon" Selection Panel of 11 Cardinals baseball experts will convene each year to select a veteran player for induction. The group will also build a ballot of six-to-10 other players that will then be put online for a fan vote. Fans will have six weeks to vote on cardinals.com, after which the two players with the most votes will be tapped for induction.
A player will be classified as a veteran player if he has been retired for at least 40 years. To be eligible for the fan ballot, a player must have spent at least three years playing in St. Louis and have been retired for at least three years.
The induction class will be announced in mid-to-late April, and an official induction ceremony will then be held during the second half of each season. The first ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 16.
The organization will also have the flexibility to induct a non-player -- for example, a coach, broadcaster or front office member -- who has been influential in Cardinals history, separate of the normal balloting process.
The "Red Ribbon" panel, which will meet on Tuesday to consider candidates for this inaugural induction class, will include the following members: Rick Hummel, Derrick Goold, Bernie Miklasz, Joe Strauss, Randy Karraker, Jenifer Langosch, Tom Ackerman, Frank Cusamano, Martin Kilcoyne, Schoendienst and La Russa.
"I'm delighted to be a part of that committee," La Russa said. "Growing up in Tampa, Fla., with my dad being a fanatic, we saw the Cardinals in Tampa since I was about 5 years old. ... Anybody who is involved with the Cardinals, the fans, we're all excited about what is happening across the street [from Busch Stadium]. The history is so rich. I can't wait for Opening Day, and I'm just honored to be a part of it."
In total, the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum will cover 8,000 square feet and will feature the largest team-held collection in baseball. Over 16,000 memorabilia items and thousands of photographs will be displayed. The Hall of Fame plaques will be designed by the same company that creates the ones for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, though these will feature more imagery than the ones in Cooperstown, N.Y.
For more information about the museum, visit cardinals.com/museum.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.