Since the Cardinals creation in 1882, some of the best baseball players in the history of the sport have conquered the diamond in a red birds uniform. Unfortunately, careers can only last so long and as the years go by we forget how good some of these players actually were. Although there’s a plethora of options at almost every position, these are the Cardinal’s greatest position players of all time listed in the batting order that would be used if this team were to actually exist.
Left Field: Lou Brock
Brock is undoubtedly one of the best base stealers in history, second all time to Rickey Henderson, and he accumulated 888 steals over his 2289 games played with the Cards, but many people forget about his miraculous post season play. Brock’s .391 World Series batting average is the highest ever for anyone that has played 20 World Series games or more and his 14 career steals in the World Series are a record as well. Brock was a key factor in the Cardinals 1964 and 1967 championships (re-read above) and is the perfect leadoff hitter for the all-time team.
Second Base: Rogers Hornsby
This was a trickier decision than Brock, but Hornsby narrowly edges out Red Schoendienst for the honor of the greatest Cardinals second basemen of all time. Hornsby is not only the Cardinals all time leader in practically every single offensive category at the second base position, but he was also an impeccable defender and clutch player. In 1926 he helped the Cardinals win their first pennant and their first World Series as well. The red birds defeated the Yankees in seven games and Hornsby tagged out the great Babe Ruth on a stolen base attempt to solidify the Cards as champions for the first time.
Right Field: Stan Musial
I realize that Musial technically played all outfield positions and was primarily a first baseman, but it makes the most sense for him to be the starting right fielder of the all-time team due the greatness of Lou Brock and Albert Pujols (see below). That being said, Musial is without a doubt the most celebrated Cardinal of all time. He played 22 seasons with the team and made an astonishing 20 all-star teams. More importantly, Stan the man was a three-time World Series champion, a seven time batting champion, and a three-time MVP. Musial also amassed 3,630 hits over his career, which is the fourth most in history, and posted a career WAR of 128.1, which is eleventh all time. These statistics make Musial a special player, but his true greatness stems from his image. He will not only forever be the face of the Cardinals, but the heart and soul of the city of Saint Louis as well. Thank you Stan.
First Base: Albert Pujols
Pujols is one of the most complete hitters in the history of the game and very rarely have players dominated the Major Leagues like Pujols did for the first ten years of his career (2001-2011). He is the only player in major league history to record a batting average of at least .300 with at least 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in his first ten seasons. It is simply one of those statistical anomalies that will probably never be broken. Moving forwards, Pujols also won two World Series in his eleven years with the Cardinals, three MVP awards, six silver sluggers, two gold gloves and, is a member of the prestigious 500 home run club. He was also a staple of the 2004 Cardinals team, which won 105 games, scored a remarkable 855 runs and is arguably one of the most complete teams to ever play the game, but I’ll save that story for another time.
Center Field: Jim Edmonds
Edmonds was one of the most fun Cardinals to watch play the game of baseball because of the passion and enthusiasm he brought to the diamond every day. Jimmy ballgame won five gold gloves as a member of the Cardinals and was one of the most fearless players in the game. Although Jim was a member of the Angels when he did this; it is one of the best catches in the history of baseball and epitomizes his playing style. Jim is also fourth in Cards history with 241 career homeruns as a Cardinal, and his walk off home run in-game six of the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros is one of the most memorable moments in Cardinals postseason history. On August 8th 2014 Edmonds was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals hall of fame and was hired by Fox Sports Midwest in 2013 to be a member of their Cardinals broadcasting crew.
Third Base: Ken Boyer
Boyer was a remarkable player, who occasionally slips through the cracks when it comes to discussing the Card’s all time greats. He holds almost every offensive record at third base for the Cardinals and his 255 home runs are good for third all-time in team history. Boyer also won five gold gloves as well as the 1964 MVP award, while leading the team to a World Series victory during the same season. For how impressive Boyer’s play was, his leadership was equally impressive and he was the Cardinal’s captain from 1959-1965. Boyer also coached the Cardinals from 1978-80 and while those were not some of the best Cardinals teams, his loyalty to the organization is unparalleled.
Catcher: Yadier Molina
This was a tough decision due to the greatness of Card’s catcher Ted Simmons during the late 1960’s through the 1970’s, but Molina takes the cake as the best Cardinal catcher in history. Molina has won seven gold gloves, a silver slugger award, two World Series and he was just the third catcher in the history of professional baseball, after Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench, to play in two world series before his 25th birthday. Molina has also thrown out an astounding 45% of base runners over his career and is the active Major League leader with 52 career pickoffs. He is also a natural leader and is constantly pushing his teammates to compete at the highest level they can. Molina has already accomplished so much in his career and we hope that he continues his excellence for years to come.
Shortstop: Ozzie Smith
Ozzie is remembered today for his flash on the field and his amazing in-game backflips, but he is arguably the best defensive short stop of all time. He won an unbelievable 11 consecutive gold gloves with the Cardinals and the wizard has the most assists of all time with 8,375. Although Smith wasn’t an extremely polished offensive player, he was a very respectable hitter for a shortstop and won the silver slugger award in 1987. Ozzie also amassed 876 walks compared to only 423 strikeouts over his Card’s career while swiping an impressive 433 bags as well. Lastly, Smith won the Roberto Clemente award in 1995, which speaks to the quality of his character, sportsmanship and contributions on and off the field and he was a crucial member of the 1982 championship team.
Starting Pitcher: Bob Gibson
This decision was one of the easiest to make because Bob Gibson is without a doubt the best Cardinal pitcher of all time. After turning down an opportunity to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, Gibson had a miraculous sixteen-season career with the Cards in which he won nine gold gloves, two Cy Young awards, one MVP award, two World Series MVP awards and the 1964 and 1967 World Series. On top of all these accomplishments, Gibson’s 1968 season is considered one of the best in the history of baseball. He shocked the country by pitching 304.1 innings and posting a miraculous 1.12 ERA over that span. There are rumors that Gibson’s dominance in 1968 prompted Major League Baseball to lower the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10 inches and shrink the size of the strike zone as well.
The Cardinals have given all of these players the recognition they deserve, all retired players are members of the Cardinal’s Hall Of Fame and most have their numbers retired, but as fans it is always good to appreciate greatness too. Without these spectacular athletes, the game we adore so much would cease to exist.