(Baseball StL) -- As the Cardinals prepare to play Albert Pujols for the first time since “el Hombre” bolted for Anaheim, it’s a good time to put his performance in St. Louis in historical perspective.
I’d rate Pujols the third best Cardinal of all time. That’s not an easy call. Albert’s exploits here are still fresh in everyone’s mind: 10 consecutive seasons of at least 30 homeruns, 100 rbi’s and at least a .300 batting average. Three time Most Valuable Player. Helped the Cardinals win two World Series titles. You’d have to be at least 65 years old to have seen Stan Musial anywhere close to his prime, so it’s safe to say Pujols is the greatest Cardinal player most St. Louis fans have ever seen. Pujols is a first ballot hall of famer, no question about that. But in my opinion, he still ranks as just the third best player in Cardinals history.
Musial is at the top of the list. Rogers Hornsby is second.
Musial needs no explanation. Hornsby might. Hornsby played in a much different era. His time with the Cardinals lasted from 1915 until 1926. He spent parts of 11 seasons with other clubs after leaving St. Louis. Like Pujols, Hornsby left St. Louis because the Cardinals didn’t give him the kind of contract he demanded. After the 1926 season, Hornsby demanded a new three year contract at $50,000 per year. The Cardinals were willing to give him only year at that salary, so they traded Hornsby to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring.
While he was with the Cardinals, Hornsby put up remarkable numbers. He hit higher than .400 in three different seasons, topping out at .424 in 1924. Not a misprint: 424!!! You’d have to hit the ball hard about seven times out of every ten at bats to hit .424. He also had a season at .397. His lifetime batting average was .358. Hornsby was named the Most Valuable player in 1925. He probably would also have won it in 1920, 1921 and 1922 but the league didn’t give out an MVP in those seasons. He led the Cardinals to a World Series title in 1926. Hornsby is widely considered the greatest right handed hitter of all time. In addition, he played a middle infield position. He spent nearly all of his time in St. Louis as a second baseman, and saw limited time at shortstop. I think that helps push him ahead of Pujols on the Cardinals “All Time Greatest” list. Pujols was the best first baseman in the game during his tenure in St. Louis, but there were other first baseman hitting lots of homers and driving in runs. There has never been a second baseman come close to approaching Hornsby’s offensive numbers.
Rogers Hornsby played his first major league game almost 100 years ago, in 1915, at the age of 19. It’s easy to forget just how great a player he was. None of us who saw Albert Pujols in his prime will ever forget him, but I’d still rank him the third best Cardinal.
Here’s a look at Rogers Hornsby’s career stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com: