The St. Louis Cardinals’ fan base extends over a lengthy section of middle America, partly due to the previous lack of teams out west and partly due to the powerful signal of their radio flagship station, KMOX 1120. On a clear night, when conditions are right, the voice of Cardinals announcers (historically Jack Buck and Harry Caray) can be heard from Florida to Michigan. The Chicago Cubs naturally draw fans from the area in northern Illinois around Chicagoland. However, in Southern Illinois, the Cardinals are king. Stanley Dean Royer was born in the Southern Illinois town of Olney to a “Cardinal household” on August 31, 1967. The proof is in his name — Stanley, as in Stan Musial; and Dean, as in Dizzy Dean. It seems Royer did not have a choice about baseball.
Although Olney is a small midwestern town, Royer was the fourth major league player to hail from its cradle — the others: Ollie Pickering (1896-1908), Dummy Murphy (1914), and Glenn Brummer (1981-1985). Although born in Olney, Royer’s parents, Harold Royer and Dixie (Garner) Royer lived in nearby Clay City, Illinois. He was the fifth born of six children: Patricia, Sherry, Carl, Pam, Stan, and Rick. Harold made his career as a teacher and coach. Dixie worked at various jobs including banking and retail.
Sports were an integral part of Royer’s youth — not just baseball. He also played basketball and football at the high school level. Royer participated in youth baseball teams including Little League and Babe Ruth League. Today, Royer reflects on a multi-sport childhood, “Play all the different sports you can. I’m a proponent of playing multiple sports. It made me the successful baseball player that I became. I learned so much from those other sports that helped round me out into the athlete that I was. It gave me a break mentally and physically by not playing a sport all year-around. I speak to kids about this all the time. I think it’s why we see the injuries we see at such a young age and the burnout.”1
Having siblings and a father involved in athletics also contributed to a driven upbringing. Royer’s older brother, Carl, played baseball at a junior college and his younger brother, Rick, played at Eastern Illinois University. Royer’s father, Harold, was previously involved in baseball and later competitive softball as a player, fan, and coach. Harold’s softball teammate, Mike Kerner, commented about Harold, “He could play anywhere. In his day he was outstanding. He knew the game. He had been around the game for so many years. The knowledge he had of the game itself just helped tremendously. He talked to us about hit-and-run and specialty things you don’t really think about. He helped a lot of younger players on the team. Fundamentally he was very good.”2 The Royer family was frequently attending sporting events which taught the principles of competition and appropriate conduct.
The Royers soon moved from Clay City to Effingham and later Charleston, Illinois. While attending Charleston High School, Royer was able to play for his father junior and senior year while Harold served as the Trojans’ varsity baseball coach. Prior to varsity, Royer played under Charleston coach, Bob Lawrence, who commented, “Stan played for me and was one of the few you’d like to take home with you.”3
The Atlanta Braves initially drafted the right-handed throwing and batting catcher in the tenth round of the 1985 June Amateur Draft out of Charleston High School. Deciding not to sign, Royer opted to attend college at nearby Eastern Illinois University and majored in economics. “Why wouldn’t I be better in three years or four years of college getting to play at a higher level?” Royer noted. “Shouldn’t it be obvious that you should be better, and shouldn’t you elevate yourself potentially in the draft? That’s what we thought, and it happened to work out that way.”4
Eastern Illinois University had previously produced eight major league players — two were Royer’s teammates — Tim Bogar and Eric Hillman.5 While playing for the Panthers, Royer continued to catch the attention of major league scouts while being selected an All-American in 1987. “Out of the box, Stan gave you the impression he wasn’t running, but he just had an easy gait from home to first. He never loafed,” Eastern Illinois coach Tom McDevitt reflected. “He had some decent power and he was versatile. He was a class person and easy to coach. I’d take a hundred of him. He’s the type of guy you’d like to have your daughter bring home.”
During the summers of 1985 and 1986, Royer traveled to Wisconsin to play semipro, amateur baseball for the Eau Claire Cavaliers. His first year, the Chippewa River League typically did not allow players as young as Royer, but he agreed to devote two years to the team in exchange for allowance. In 1987, he headed farther north to Alaska and competed with the Kenai Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League with future major league players such as J.T. Snow. That fall he and others (e.g. Robin Ventura, Mickey Morandini, John Olerud, John Valentin) had the honor of representing USA Baseball in Cuba during the Intercontinental Cup held in Cuba. The USA squad finished winning silver.
The Oakland Athletics drafted Royer in the first round (16th overall) of the 1988 June Amateur Draft. After signing, he was sent for a short season to the Southern Oregon A’s (Medford, OR) where he batted .318 with exceptional offensive output. Royer was named the Northwest League Most Valuable Player. While in Medford, Director of Player Development, Karl Kuehl, explained Royer’s transition from catcher to third base duties, “He could catch if we wanted him to, but we don’t want to flip-flop him around.”6 The change to professional ball was promising. “He’s shown some signs of having good power. He’s made a lot of gains,” declared manager Lenn Sakata.7
The 1989 season started at the Athletics’ Class A affiliate in Modesto, California with a move to the AAA Tacoma Tigers later due to an injury. Although his combined batting average dipped to .253, Royer still produced promising numbers — 11 home runs and 71 RBIs over 495 at-bats. Royer charged some of the dip to a learning curve, “You’re concentrating so much at your new position that you mentally drain yourself and don’t hit very well.”8
As with many prospects, a change of scenery was around the corner. The first change was starting the 1990 contest in Alabama with the AA Huntsville Stars. The Southern League prompted similar production for Royer — good, but not great. Despite a clean fielding transition prior to Huntsville, Royer had challenges in Huntsville, committing 38 errors. “I went through a mental thing. In my first two seasons I had been the league’s defensive third baseman of the year. In spring training with the A’s, things went great. No errors,” Royer recollected. “But when I went to Huntsville, I had problems. The dirt part of the infield there is no good. I got so many tough hops in a row I got to thinking about it, and I couldn’t get out of it. It was like a hitter having a bad year.”9 However, his career path was about to turn.
On August 20, 1990, while the American League West-leading Athletics were on the road facing the White Sox, center fielder Dave Henderson injured his left knee while sliding for a ball.10 This caused Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson, to consider trading for a replacement. At the time, Willie McGee was on pace to capture his second National League batting title for the Cardinals. The award would go along with other career accolades — an MVP, three Gold Gloves, four all-star selections, three NL pennants, and a World Series title. McGee was also nearing the end of his contract with a fruitful free agency looming for the 31-year-old fan favorite — a price the Cardinals were likely unwilling to pay. When Alderson reached out to the Cardinals, general manager Dal Maxvill was eager to get something in exchange for the departing McGee. After days of discussions, three of the Athletics’ prospects were on their way to the Cardinals: outfielder Felix Jose, pitcher Daryl Green, and Royer. “I feel pretty good about it, really,” Maxvill commented to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If we had to move McGee for whatever reasons, we did well. But it was circumstance — Henderson’s injury — more than any ability on my own.”11
Royer reported to the Cardinals’ AAA affiliate Louisville Redbirds for the final four games of the 1990 season — hardly enough time to learn his teammates’ names. There would be plenty of time for that in the future.
As expected, the 1991 season opened with Royer at third base for Louisville. The Cardinals, like the Athletics, wanted Royer to continue his infield conversion. The batting results were consistent with the previous two seasons in the Athletics’ farm system. Royer showed dependable slugging and the ability to put extra-base hits in the gaps. The Cardinals added Royer to their roster in September with his major-league debut coming September 11 at Busch Stadium against the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates. Royer began the game on the bench, but saw his first at-bat in the sixth inning while pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Bob Tewksbury. Royer faced veteran Zane Smith, whom the Pirates had recently acquired in a trade with the Montreal Expos for Moises Alou. The result was a single to left field and just like that Royer was batting 1.000 as a big leaguer…at least for a couple of days until his next pinch-hit appearance. The callup consisted mostly of pinch-hit appearances mixed with four starting nods. In the end, Royer’s first experience was positive offensively with a spotless fielding percentage.
With Todd Zeile slated as the Cardinals starting third baseman, Royer had an uphill battle to make the big club going into the spring of 1992. Unsurprisingly, Royer was again sent to Louisville to start the year. He was playing well and gaining confidence, “I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well all year. I’m missing some pitches, but it’s not because I’m not taking good swings.”12 An increased batting average (.282) and staunch play propelled him to St. Louis when rosters expanded in September.
If there was a breakout moment in Royer’s career, it was probably the two-day series in Chicago on September 19-20. The “Friendly Confines,” as Ernie Banks referred to Wrigley Field, were seldom friendly to visiting Cardinals fans and players. The Cardinals versus Cubs rivalry was nearly as old as baseball itself, so a player’s effort in these games is automatically magnified. On September 19, the first game of that day’s doubleheader, Royer, pinch-hitting for Donovan Osborne in the sixth inning, doubled in the Cardinals’ losing effort. In the second game, Royer replaced his counterpart, Tracy Woodson, at third in the fifth inning. In the tenth inning with the score tied 10-10, Royer drove in Ray Lankford with two outs for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning RBI.
This earned Royer the sixth spot in the starting lineup the next day. It proved rewarding. Royer went four-for-five at the plate with four runs scored and four RBIs. Two of the RBIs were netted with his first major league home run — a two-run shot in the sixth off Jeff Hartsock. Speaking about his home run after the game, Royer said, “I’m glad I got it here. I love this ballpark,”13 Royer went on to finish the season batting an impressive .323.
Having a solid performance with the Cardinals under his belt, Royer hoped to make the team out of spring training in 1993. A slow spring performance mixed with a lack of roster spots led to a difficult decision to give Royer more time in AAA. Royer lamented, “I don’t have anything left to prove there.” Manager Joe Torre sympathized, “He thought he played well enough to stay and now he doesn’t feel like it’s fair. And I don’t necessarily disagree with him. But we can only keep 25 and right now, he’s our protection. If something happens, he’s right there.”14 The results mirrored the previous season with almost predictable output. The Cardinals used Royer to fill sporadic spots in late April and May, but his time was spent in Louisville all summer. Once more, the Cardinals brought Royer northwest to St. Louis for a September trial. For a second time, Royer performed well with his bat (.304 BA). The Windy City was again like a home away from home for Royer — he supplied three hits including his only home run of the year on September 22.
Now Royer could lean on a consistent track record at all levels going into the 1994 season. The Cardinals took note and assigned Royer to the club out of spring training. “It’s a different feeling,” Royer remarked. “But it’s only different in circumstances. In my mind, I’m still trying to make the team.”15 Although Royer made the team, he was reserved to a limited role, making only occasional starts. This inconsistent use caught up with Royer’s ability to deliver with his bat. He looked to veterans like Gerald Perry, who had success with pinch-hitting, and others like Ozzie Smith and Gregg Jefferies, but the average remained low. “Mentally, this role is a drain on you,” Royer admitted. “I’m used to playing all the time. It’s hard to sit there and deal with not playing now.”16 By July 10, Royer was only hitting .175 with one home run in 57 at-bats. With no clear spot for Royer, the Cardinals were not positioned to use him regularly and decided to place him on waivers. The Red Sox claimed Royer on July 15, but had only a short time to utilize him before the players’ strike ended the season. Royer had one hit in nine at-bats for the Red Sox.
The frustration of a sustained reserve role, difficulty in getting productive at-bats, and a growing family at home were all factors that persuaded Royer to choose retirement from professional baseball. After starting in insurance, Royer co-founded Claris Advisors, LLC in 1998, which specializes in wealth management, retirement planning, investment consulting, and risk management. Royer and his wife (married in 1989), Lauri, have two daughters: Alexis and Aspen. Royer attends First Baptist Church near his residence in Columbia, Illinois, and remains involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes alongside former player Rick Horton. Royer maintains activity on the golf course when time permits.
Royer expressed that his baseball role model was his father. By observing him, he learned competitiveness and the method of carrying himself. As a player, Royer witnessed peers like Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, and Paul Molitor, and wanted to “emulate them because they did it the right way. Everybody respected them. They played hard and correctly.” To this end, Royer hopes to give back to the game in a coaching capacity after retirement.
Last revised: August 10, 2020
This biography was reviewed by Paul Doutrich and Joel Barnhart and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.
Content includes the author’s interviews with Stan Royer and Tom McDevitt in 2020.
Statistics have been taken from Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 Sports Editorial Team, “Charleston native Stan Royer on EIU baseball, fave Cardinals teammates and the Astros stealing signs,” Coles County Sports, March 6, 2020.
2 Nielsen, Brian. “Respected coach and person, Harold Royer dies at age 71,” Journal Gazette & Times Courier, July 17, 2006.
3 Nielsen. “Respected coach and person, Harold Royer dies at age 71,” Journal Gazette & Times Courier, July 17, 2006.
4 Richey, Scott. “Royer comes back to where it all began,” Effingham Daily News, July 13, 2011.
5 Eastern Illinois University Marketing and Communications, “05/13/1987 – EIU Baseball Panthers Finish Season,” 1987.
6 Carlson, Chuck. “Medford suits Royer,” Herald and Review, August 5, 1988.
7 Carlson. “Medford suits Royer.”
8 Rorrer, George. “Birds’ Royer joins company of catchers who’ve moved,” The Courier-Journal, April 2, 1991.
9 Rorrer. “Birds’ Royer joins company of catchers who’ve moved.”
10 Hafner, Dan. “A’s Dave Henderson Might Be Out for Season Because of Knee Injury,” Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1990.
11 Tomasik, M. “Why the Cardinals traded Willie McGee to Athletics,” Retro Simba, August 27, 2015.
12 Rorrer. “Arocha lifts Redbirds to 4-3 win,” The Courier-Journal, June 7, 1992.
13 Associated Press, “Royer homers as Cardinals blast Cubs,” Mattoon Journal Gazette, September 21, 1992.
14 O’Neill, Dan. “Hit By Pitch, Cards’ Jordan Feels Fear, Frustration And Then Relief,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 3, 1993.
15 O’Neill. “Patience Pays on Fourth Try, Royer Wins a Berth with Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 1, 1994.
16 Eisenbath, Mike. “Royer Making Point To Stay Ready,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 4, 1994.