David Freese

Why David Freese declined the Cardinals Hall of Fame

As someone who had grown up in Wildwood, Missouri, just outside St. Louis, David Freese knew more than most the honor bestowed upon Cardinals Hall of Famers.

On June 17, 2023, the Cardinals announced that the hero of the 2011 World Series, who just a month earlier had been elected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, had respectfully declined induction.

“This is something that I have given an extreme amount of thought to, humbly, even before the voting process began,” Freese said in a statement. “I am aware of the impact I had in helping the team bring great memories to the city I grew up in, including the 11th championship, but this honor means more to me.

“I look at who I was during my tenure, and that weighs heavily on me. The Cardinals and the entire city have always had my back in every way. I’m forever grateful to be part of such an amazing organization and fan base then, now, and in the future. I’m especially sorry to the fans that took the time to cast their votes. Cardinal Nation is basically the reason why I’ve unfortunately waited so long for this decision and made it more of a headache for so many people. I feel strongly about my decision and understand how some people might feel about this. I get it. I’ll wear it. Thank you for always being there for me, and I am excited to be around the Cardinals as we move forward.”[1]

Freese had been elected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame via a fan vote that drew more than 40,000 ballots.[2] Freese had been the top vote getter from a pool that included Joaquin Andujar, Steve Carlton, Matt Morris, and Edgar Renteria.

Without Freese, the Class of 2023 consisted of Max Lanier, the Red Ribbon Committee choice, and Jose Oquendo, the owners’ selection. At the induction ceremony, the Cardinals also honored Scott Rolen, who recently had been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I know David well, and I can hear his thought processes behind that, and I know his heart behind it,” said Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, the only member of the 2023 Cardinals roster remaining from 2011. “I think it’s incredibly genuine. It’s a huge honor. On one side, you have to realize that fans voted for that because that’s who moments – really a whole postseason – that he delivered that was unlike anything we’ve almost ever seen. One or two of the biggest moments in Cardinals history. You have to recognize that, and he does. I also know where he’s coming from with his heart when he says looking at the other players and their career there, and I feel like I don’t belong. I know what he’s saying because if you take those couple of moments out, he’s thinking he doesn’t belong there. I just don’t know if you can minimize those two moments.”[3]

In their statement regarding Freese’s decision, the Cardinals made clear that there was no ill will between the team and player, and that Freese would continue to appear at Cardinals events.

“Although we are disappointed that David has declined to be inducted into our Hall of Fame, we respect his decision and look forward to celebrating his great Cardinals career in other ways going forward,” Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. “He is always welcome at Busch Stadium.”[4]

Freese’s professional career began as a ninth-round draft pick of the Padres in 2006. On December 14, 2007, he was traded to the Cardinals for Jim Edmonds, and in 2009 the graduate of Lafayette High School made him MLB debut for the Cardinals, appearing in 17 games.

In 2010, Freese opened the season as the Cardinals’ opening-day third baseman. Limited by a June ankle injury that required two surgeries, Freese hit .296 with four homers and 36 RBIs in just 240 at-bats.

In 2011, Freese again opened the season as the starting third baseman and hit .297 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs despite a broken left hand that forced him to miss 51 games. That postseason, Freese emerged as a star.

In Game 4 of the NLDS, the game in which the Rally Squirrel made its appearance, Freese hit a two-run homer off Roy Oswalt that proved to be the game winner in a 5-3 Cardinals victory. Freese’s hot hitting continued against the Brewers in the NLCS, as he went 12-for-22 with three homers and nine RBIs, posting a .545/.600/1.091 batting line on his way to NLCS MVP honors.

Of course, nothing topped Freese’s performance in Game 6 of the World Series. With the Rangers leading 7-5 with two outs in the ninth inning, Freese hit a two-run triple to tie the game and halt the Rangers’ championship celebration. Two innings later, he led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a walk-off home run that sent the Cardinals to Game 7 and the World Series title.

Freese followed up his 2011 heroics with an all-star season in 2012, batting .293 with career highs in home runs (20) and RBIs (79). In 2013, he helped the Cardinals win another National League pennant, this time batting .262 with nine homers and 60 RBIs.

That December, the Cardinals traded Freese and reliever Fernando Salas to the Angels for Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos. In five seasons with the Cardinals, Freese totaled 44 homers, 237 RBIs, and posted a .286 batting average.

“Those memories will never be diminished if he doesn’t feel like he’s worthy of it,” Wainwright said. “I certainly understand what he’s saying. If he had been given more time here, he probably would have earned his way there anyway. I love Dave. I know the heart he has. He’s doing this because he knows that players who are in there were great players for a long time.”[5]

In reflecting upon the former star’s decision, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson alluded to Freese’s battles with depression and anxiety during his tenure as a Cardinals player.

“Freese has been candid in the past about the depression and anxiety he dealt with long before he became a Cardinals postseason hero, and how the baseball fame he found in his hometown hurt instead of helping problematic drinking that endangered his life and others,” Frederickson wrote. “Freese became a player so many wanted to be, but a person he did not like. That’s a very hard place to exist.

“Freese’s story got happier, fortunately. He found a fresh start after he was traded. He got help sorting out the feelings that were influencing his actions. He made big changes. He found peace, found comfort, found meaning far beyond the World Series highlights that don’t define him. … If joining the ranks of the red coats didn’t make that life better, or if it threatened to stir up things Freese is happy to have put in his past, then he made the right call, one that should not just be respected, but applauded.”[6]

Enjoy this post? Sign up below and get Cardinals history delivered directly to your inbox!

[1] Jeff Jones, “David Freese declines induction into St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame,” Belleville News-Democrat, June 19, 2023.

[2] Jeff Jones, “David Freese declines induction into St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame,” Belleville News-Democrat, June 19, 2023.

[3] Derrick Goold, “Nootbaar’s return should improve defense,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 19, 2023.

[4] Jeff Jones, “David Freese declines induction into St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame,” Belleville News-Democrat, June 19, 2023.

[5] Derrick Goold, “Nootbaar’s return should improve defense,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 19, 2023.

[6] Ben Frederickson, “If Freese is at peace, he should be applauded,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2023.