Scott Rolen

How Scott Rolen became a Hall of Famer

The moments after Scott Rolen learned that he had been elected to the Hall of Fame were like a scene from the movie Field of Dreams.

“Everybody cried,” Rolen said. “We’re an emotional family. When we get happy or whatever, that’s how it comes out. My son, it caught him a little off guard and he got real emotional. Then the first thing he did is he asked me if I wanted to play catch with him. It’s 30 degrees here and it’s going to snow like 12 inches tomorrow, and my son and I were in the driveway playing catch about 10-15 minutes after we got the phone call.”[1]

On January 24, 2023, Rolen became the player with the lowest first-year voting percentage (10.2% in 2018) to reach the 75% required to earn induction from the Baseball Writers Association of America balloting. Rolen received just 43 of 422 possible votes in 2018, placing 16 players ahead of him in that year’s total. Over the years, however, Rolen’s total steadily increased, rising to 17.2% in 2019, 35.3% in 2020, 52.9% in 2021, and 63.2% in 2022.

In 2023, he received 297 of 389 votes, good for 76.3%. Rolen was the only player to earn BBWAA election on that year’s ballot, as first baseman Todd Helton received 72.2% of the vote, closer Billy Wagner earned 68.1%, outfielder Andruw Jones earned 58.1%, and outfielder Gary Sheffield earned 55.0%. Former Cardinal outfielder Carlos Beltran earned 46.5% of the vote.




At CooperstownCred.com, Chris Bodig suggested that Rolen may have seen his vote totals climb as voters paid more attention to advanced statistics such as wins above replacement (commonly referred to as WAR).[2] Rolen posted a career WAR of 70.1, which compared well to the other candidates who were not suspected of steroid use.

Rolen, who became the 18th third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame, was joined in the Class of 2023 by Veterans Committee selection Fred McGriff.

“There was actually never a point in my life that I thought I was going to be a Hall of Fame baseball player,” Rolen said.[3]

Rolen grew up in Jasper, Indiana, and occasionally attended Cardinals games at Busch Stadium.




“How could you not be a Cardinals fan?” he says. “I saw them play in the World Series against the Brewers and the Royals.”[4]

In high school, Rolen starred in both baseball and basketball. As a senior, he was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball and was named to the state all-star team. Ultimately, however, he was an even better baseball player and the Phillies drafted him out of high school in the second round of the 1993 draft.

At his induction ceremony in July 2023, Rolen told the audience that a few weeks after the Phillies drafted him, he was appearing in the high school all-star game between Indiana and Kentucky. Due to baseball, however, he hadn’t played basketball in months. Nervous about the upcoming game, he went to his father and told him that everyone who was going to appear in the contest was better than him. He couldn’t shoot and he was out of basketball shape.

“You told me what you can’t do,” Ed Rolen told his son. “What can you do?”




Rolen replied that he could rebound, play defense, and outhustle everyone on the court. “Well, do that then,” his father said.

Rolen never forgot those words, he said, and he tried to bring that attitude to his baseball career.

“‘Well, do that then,’ put me on this stage today,” Rolen said. “I now know this mindset is an intentional mindset that effort never takes a day off.”[5]

Rolen made his major-league debut in 1996 and appeared in 37 games that season. The following year, he won the Rookie of the Year Award with a .283 batting average, 21 homers, and 92 RBIs. At season’s end, he signed a four-year, $10 million contract.




Rolen continued to emerge as a star, winning his first career Gold Glove Award in 1998 while hitting 31 homers and driving in 110 runs. He hit 26 homers in each of the next two years and won a second Gold Glove in 2000, but the Phillies struggled and manager Terry Francona was replaced by Larry Bowa ahead of the 2001 campaign.

Rolen and Bowa soon butted heads. In June, Bowa blamed the middle of his lineup – particularly the cleanup hitter Rolen – for a series loss to the Red Sox.

“It was three, four, and five,” Bowa said, “but Pat (Burrell) has picked us up when I’ve hit him fifth. If the No. 4 guy (Rolen) even makes contact in either Boston loss, we sweep the series. He’s killing us.”[6]

In August, Dallas Green, the Phillies’ former manager who was then serving as an executive assistant for the team, criticized Rolen in a radio interview.




“Scotty is satisfied with being a so-so player,” Green said. “He’s not a great player. In his mind, he probably thinks he’s doing OK, but the fans in Philadelphia know otherwise. I think he can be greater, but his personality won’t let him.”[7]

“I don’t feel as welcome in this organization as I have in the past,” Rolen said in response.[8]

That lack of welcome may have been why Rolen turned down a seven-year, $90 million extension with options and incentives that could have made the deal total 10 years and $140 million. When Rolen arrived at spring training in 2002, he addressed his decision to decline the contract offer.

“Quite honestly, I’m an idiot for not signing that contract,” Rolen said. “My mind tells me that I should have signed that contract. The chance to make $140 million, that’s just incredible.




“But as stupid as I thought I was for not signing the contract, I’m trying to do the right thing. I play this game to compete. I think that ownership expects us to go out there every day and give everything we have. We expect that of ourselves. The fans expect us to be passionate on the field. Philadelphia is the sixth-largest market in the game, and I feel that for the last however long, the organization has not acted like it. There’s a lack of commitment to what I think is right. I’m not seeing that their No. 1 goal is to put a winning team on the field. That’s my No. 1 goal, and that’s why I put a uniform on every day.”[9]

Realizing that they may not be able to re-sign Rolen when his contract expired after the 2002 season, the Phillies traded Rolen, Doug Nickle, and cash to the Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith, and Mike Timlin. In St. Louis, he joined Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds as the “MV3.”

“The biggest thing about St. Louis – there were just seasoned professionals, veterans, there at the time that you could really learn from overnight,” Rolen said. “They had been around. They competed together for a long time. That was a great thing in my career that I think I was ready for.”[10]

Rolen enjoyed the best season of his career in 2004 as he posted career highs with a .314 batting average, 34 homers, and 124 RBIs while leading the Cardinals to the National League championship. He hit the game-winning home run in Game 7 of the NLCS to send St. Louis to the World Series.




“Rolen’s the perfect baseball player,” Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost said that year. “It’s his tenacity, his preparation, the way he plays. He tries to do everything fundamentally sound. And he puts the team first – there’s no fanfare with him.”[11]

In 2005, Rolen’s career was forever changed when a May collision with Hee-Seop Choi resulted in a serious shoulder injury. Rolen attempted to rehab the injury and returned in June, but the pain returned and he was forced to undergo season-ending surgery.

Rolen returned in 2006 to lead the Cardinals to another National League championship, batting .296 with 22 homers and 95 RBIs. By the postseason, however, his shoulder was flaring up and he hit just .091 in the NLDS and .238 in the NLCS. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa chose to remove Rolen from the starting lineup for Game 4 of the NLDS and Game 2 of the NLDS, a decision Rolen strongly disagreed with. In 2007, the relationship between the two soured further and Rolen asked to be traded. The Cardinals obliged, sending Rolen to Toronto for third baseman Troy Glaus in January 2008.

In 2014, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said that Rolen was the only player he regretted trading.[12]




Rolen played 1 ½ seasons in Toronto before the Blue Jays traded him to the Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart. In Cincinnati, Rolen was reunited with general manager Walt Jocketty, who had now traded for Rolen twice – once in St. Louis and then in Cincinnati.

Rolen spent the final 3 ½ seasons of his career in Cincinnati, and though age and his shoulder injury limited his playing time, he provided the leadership Jocketty was seeking.

“I loved playing with him,” Joey Votto said. “I learned so much. If any player is lucky enough to have a role model and a teammate like him, they’re as lucky as it gets. I shaped my career, my effort, and my work in his mold.”[13]

After the 2012 season, Rolen announced his retirement. Over 17 seasons, including six in St. Louis, he hit .281 with 2,077 hits, 316 homers, and 1,287 RBIs. In addition to his Rookie of the Year Award, Rolen won a Silver Slugger in 2002, made seven all-star games, and won eight Gold Glove awards. He also had a World Series ring from the 2006 Cardinals.





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[1] Bobby Nightengale, “Rolen reflects,” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 26, 2023.

[2] Chris Bodig, “Scott Rolen’s Path To The Hall of Fame: A WAR Story,” Cooperstown Cred, https://www.cooperstowncred.com/scott-rolens-hall-of-fame-case-a-matter-of-war/.

[3] Derrick Goold, “Rolen leads Cardinals ’06 champs into Hall,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 25, 2023.

[4] Tom Verducci, “He’s the Perfect Player,” Sports Illustrated, July 12, 2004, https://vault.si.com/vault/2004/07/12/quothes-the-perfect-playerquot-a-no-nonsense-star-who-does-it-all-scott-rolen-embodies-the-cardinal-virtues-in-st-louis-and-first-place-is-nice-too.

[5] Derrick Goold, “Rolen praises family in Hall speech,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 24, 2023.

[6] Bill Conlin, “Great Scott? Not,” Philadelphia Daily News, June 13, 2001.

[7] Paul Hagen, “Rolen stung by Green’s comments,” Philadelphia Daily News, August 9, 2001.

[8] Paul Hagen, “Rolen stung by Green’s comments,” Philadelphia Daily News, August 9, 2001.

[9] Bob Brookover, “Rolen: Phils don’t have will to win,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 17, 2002.

[10] Derrick Goold, “Rolen leads Cardinals ’06 champs into Hall,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 25, 2023.

[11] Tom Verducci, “He’s the Perfect Player,” Sports Illustrated, July 12, 2004, https://vault.si.com/vault/2004/07/12/quothes-the-perfect-playerquot-a-no-nonsense-star-who-does-it-all-scott-rolen-embodies-the-cardinal-virtues-in-st-louis-and-first-place-is-nice-too.

[12] Rick Hummel, “Mozeliak: The only player I regret trading,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 2014.

[13] Bobby Nightengale, “Rolen reflects,” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 26, 2023.

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