The St. Louis Cardinals are the second-winningest organization in all of baseball. Their organization began in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings of the American Association Baseball League. After morphing into the St. Louis Browns and the St. Louis Perfectos, the club took its current name in 1900: the St. Louis Cardinals. During that time, the franchise has won 11 World Series titles, with the most recent coming in 2011. The Cardinals have 13 retired numbers, including Jackie Robinson‘s famous number 42.
As the latest installment of a continuing series at The Game Haus, here stands one writer’s humble argument for the all-time starting lineup of the St. Louis Cardinals.
1. Lou Brock, Left Field (1964-1979)
Hall of Fame Inductee in 1985
Uniform Number 20 Retired by the Cardinals in 1979
Brock occupied a pivotal role on many of the 1970’s Cardinal teams, despite the club having little success for much of that decade. Still, Brock was a two-time World Series winner and six-time All Star during his time in St. Louis, during which he set the then- MLB steals record with 938 stolen bases. Indeed Brock finished second in the MVP voting in 1974 when he stole 118 bases and hit .306 that season. The left fielder also stands second all time for the Cardinals in total games played and hits recorded, amassing 2713 in 16 years at the top of the St. Louis lineup.
2. Ozzie Smith, Shortstop (1982-1996)
Hall of Fame Inductee in 2002
Uniform Number 1 Retired by the Cardinals in 1996
Players come and go, but there will never be a trademark as recognizable as Smith’s running back-flip. “The Wizard of Oz” is widely known as the greatest defensive shortstop in baseball history, and his career fielding percentage, fifth all-time, backs up the claim. The man won 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards and earned an All Star nod in 15 of his 19 total seasons in MLB. Smith also sharply improved his offense in St. Louis after being traded from the Padres in 1982 offseason. He had a career .272 average in St. Louis despite hitting just 27 total home runs during that time. Smith’s most remarkable career moment came in 1985’s NLCS, where he hit a walk-off home run and folks did indeed “go crazy”.
3. Albert Pujols, First Base (2001-2011)
The arrival of the young Pujols from the Dominican Republic in 2001 began his line of many ‘firsts’ in the Cardinal organization. For example, he won the organization’s first Rookie of the Year award since 1986, in which he hit .329/.403/.610 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs. Pujols made it clear to fans that he was something incredibly special. Through the rest of his time with the Cardinals, “the Machine” never hit fewer than 34 home runs in a season and hit lower than .300 just once (it was still .299). Pujols won MLB MVP three times in St. Louis and earned the Cardinals two World Series wins, in 2006 and 2011, his final year with the team. For the Angels, the first baseman continues to hit, just recently tying Willie Mays for fifth place on the all-time home run leaderboard.
4. Stan Musial, Right Field (1941-1944, 1946-1963)
Hall of Fame Inductee in 1969
Uniform Number 6 Retired by the Cardinals in 1963
One cannot truly suggest they are a baseball fan if they do not know about the great “Stan the Man.” The first ballot Hall-of-Famer played his 22-year career in Cardinal red, racking up a .331 average over nearly 13,000 plate appearances in more than 3,000 games played. Musial holds the club record in countless categories, including hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, walks, doubles and triples. The left-hander played four different positions in his career, recording more than 2,000 innings at every outfield spot and at first base. Though Stan never hit more than 40 home runs in a single season, he also never struck out more than 50 times, something that boggles the mind of current baseball fans. Put simply, Musial stands right beside Ted Williams and Babe Ruth in his legendary status as one of baseball’s icons.
5. Rogers Hornsby, Second Base (1915-1926, 1933)
Hall of Fame Inductee in 1942
Uniform Retired by the Cardinals in 1997
Hornsby seems more of a myth than legendary figure in comparison to baseball of the modern day. However, his remarkable skill set leaves him apart from many others baseball fans have ever seen. In all, the second baseman led MLB in hitting six consecutive years, all of them with St. Louis. Hornsby also remains just one three hitters to ever reach the lauded .400 average in a season multiple times. Despite Hornsby’s white-hot batting line, the Cardinals only won the world series once during his tenure, though he was a the club’s player-manager that season. Hornsby would have undoubtedly had his number retired by the Cardinals, but he came during an era in baseball without player numbers. Regardless, Hornsby’s achievements far outcry the iconography the modern player number has come to embody. He is one of the Cardinals’ defining franchise cornerstones.
6. Ken Boyer, Third Base (1955-1965)
Uniform Number 14 Retired by the Cardinals in 1984
One of the lesser-known Cardinal greats, Ken Boyer held down the hot corner for St. Louis for more than a decade, winning one World Series with the club. He was voted league MVP during the Cards World Series run in 1964, just one award he earned among his seven All Star Game appearances and five Gold Glove awards. He batted .293 in his 11 years with St. Louis, though his career stats didn’t jump off the page like Hall of Famers’ did. Still, Boyer ended with the third most home runs in Cardinals history, sixth in RBI and top-ten in several other offensive categories.
7. Yadier Molina, Catcher (2004-Present)
This man is a walking baseball record book, no two ways about it. Pujols and Molina came to define the Cardinals of the late 2000’s. The former kept hitting bombs over Busch Stadium’s walls and while the latter gunned down runners on the bases. Molina does still holds his hallmark strike-em-out, throw-em-out in his repertoire, although the catcher’s defense has certainly declined in the last several years. For his career, Molina has earned nine Gold Glove awards and four Platinum Gold Gloves, awarded to the best overall defender in each league. Yadi has finished top-five in MVP voting twice, and holds the active lead for putouts at catcher, defensive games as catcher and runners caught stealing. The future is unclear for Molina, but fans would love to see him spend his entire career in St. Louis if given their choice.
8. Curt Flood, Center Field (1958-1969)
Like many Cardinal outfielders of late, Flood was better known for his glove than for his work at the plate. Number 21 earned seven consecutive Gold Gloves in his career, and none of them came at a position other than center field. Flood’s presence was also central to the Cardinal teams that won the 1964 and 1967 World Series. While Flood did finish his time in St. Louis with a .293 average and more than 1800 hits, Flood will always be better known for something else. The centerfielder refused to blindly accept a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969 and was vocal about his employment rights as an MLB player. Flood grew into the father of modern free agency, and all players since 1970 have him to thank for opening this door to both salary increases and the right to choose where one plays ball.
9. Bob Gibson, Starting Pitcher (1959-1975)
Hall of Fame Inductee in 1981
Uniform Number 45 Retired by the Cardinals in 1975
At times, there are athletes so dominant that they force a change in the way their sport is played. For Bob Gibson, it all comes back to his dominant 1968 season, in which he recorded a minuscule 1.12 ERA. That year, Gibson racked up all the hardware he possibly could: Cy Young, MVP, Gold Glove Winner, All Star, just to fall short in game 7 of a World Series Title. Needless to say, Gibson’s dominance concerned baseball so much that the height of the pitching mound was lowered following that 1968 season. For his career, Gibson leads Cardinal pitchers in wins, complete games and shutouts. And not only did Gibson prove his grit on the mound, but he added 24 home runs and 144 RBIs at the plate to cement his place as the greatest pitcher in St. Louis history.
Relief Pitcher — Bruce Sutter (1981-1984)
Hall of Fame Inductee in 2006
Uniform Number 42 Retired by the Cardinals in 2004
Sutter proved to be an equal opportunity pitcher, spending at least three years on three different major league clubs during his 12-year career. But Sutter’s most memorable stretch came in St. Louis, where he closed out the 1982 World Series with a Redbird Winner. Across the board, Sutter’s numbers were fantastic for the Cardinals, pitching nearly 400 innings while accruing 127 saves. Each season for St. Louis, Sutter appeared in more than 88 innings and had a career-high 45 saves in 1984. His number 42 is also one of a select few to be retired beside Jackie Robinson’s visage. Fans have seemed more than happy to give a welcoming “Bruuuuu-ce!” whenever the right-hander returns to Busch Stadium.
Featured Image Courtesy of Baseball Wiki Fandom
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