First, before we get started, I want to pay tribute to the late great Macho Man Randy Savage by sharing a fun fact. According to an exceptionally well-written “Sports Illustrated” article, Savage’s first dream was to be a catcher for none other than the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, out of 300 participants, he was the only player selected during a “two-day open-call tryout camp” by the St. Louis Cardinals rookie league club and nearly made it pro. There’s even a photo of a young Savage holding a bat while wearing a Cards jersey. The article is worth a read. Ohhhh Yeahhhh!
OK, now the rest of my Top Ten Favorite Cardinals. Like mentioned yesterday, this is NOT an all-time list, but rather St. Louis players I’ve grown up with and loved as a baseball fan. Now, coming in at number five…
#5 Chris Carpenter – The 2005 Cy Young Award winner is just fun to watch. He solidified a spot in my top five for several reasons. Not least of which, was his phenomenal 2005 season. He gave fans hope and a reason to watch every game he pitched. His dominance on the mound was beautiful to watch. His skills, combined with his intense attitude, made every fan realize they were seeing something special every time he pitched.
While the Cards were eventually eliminated in the NLCS by the Houston Astros, the whole season was still quite amazing and Carp was a major reason why. He’s getting older now and has been hurt so many times he doesn’t have Hall of Fame numbers, but had he been able to stay healthy…he probably would have become one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game. Here are his 2005 stats just in case you were wondering: 21 wins, 5 losses, a 2.83 earned run average, a phenomenal 241.2 innings pitched and 213 strikeouts. Yeah, those are stats that only a handful of people on the planet could pull off. He was that good.
#4 Ozzie Smith – Speaking of the Hall of Fame, The Ozman was inducted the first time his name appeared on the ballot and rightfully so. I didn’t get to see much of his career, but the first Cardinal game I remember watching was because of him. He did his trademark back flip and I noticed his jersey sported the number one (and deservedly so). He was instantly my favorite player and that was before I knew Ozzie Smith was, well, Ozzie Smith. He was shorter than the other players (as was I), we both shared the last name and (even though he’s right-handed) he batted left and I’m a lefty. Because of these reasons, I think he was the first ballplayer I felt like I could relate to. To this day shortstop is my favorite position and Smith is the reason why.
#3 Adam Wainwright – The big 5-0 has the best curve ball I’ve ever seen. He solidified a spot as one of my favorite Cardinals in game 7 of the NLCS in 2006 against the Mets. It was the type of situation kids dream of and the game itself was an instant classic regardless of what team you root for. Ninth inning, two outs, bases loaded and Carlos Beltran (who was as dangerous as they come at the time) up to bat. With two strikes, I watched with heart palpitations as Waino threw a nasty curve that Beltran watched dip into the strike zone and into Yadier Molina’s glove. Here, let’s watch it. Since then, Wainwright has nearly won two Cy Young Awards and is considered a co-Ace with Chris Carpenter. He’s out for the season with Tommy John surgery, but a lot of people say pitchers are usually better after they get Tommy John…if that’s true, then he will be downright scary.
#2 Jim Edmonds – What’s not to like about Jimmy Ballgame? He’s fun, likeable and quite possibly the best center fielder ever. The borderline Hall of Famer had some great years with the Cards and, like many other fans, I was sad to see him get traded a few years ago. It didn’t matter if he was past his prime, Edmond’s wearing something besides a Cardinal uniform just seemed wrong. He signed a minor league contract at the beginning with St. Louis before a foot injury made him realize it was time to retire. So, technically, he retired as a Cardinal, like he should have. Just how good of a center fielder was he? Watch this video and see for yourself.
#1 Todd Wellemeyer – Hah. Psyche. Who else could it be other than the great one, Albert Pujols? There’s not much to say about Albert that hasn’t already been said. He’s a class act on and off the field, a natural born leader and the best player in baseball. Forget that he’s having somewhat of a down year right now, I still have faith he’ll have his average up to .300 by the All-Star break. He’s the only player in history to have an average of .300 or more, 30 home runs or more and 100 rbis or more in 10 straight seasons. The man is still in his prime and already has Hall of Fame numbers. Here, let’s watch the most famous home run of his career.
So, there you have it. My Top Ten Cardinal players. Who are some of yours? (And please, don’t say Todd Wellemeyer)