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Stan Musial and the Five Greatest Players in St. Louis Cardinals History

Keely FlanaganContributor IIIJanuary 20, 2013

Stan Musial and the Five Greatest Players in St. Louis Cardinals History

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    Baseball fans across the country today are mourning the death of St. Louis Cardinal great Stan Musial.  In light of his passing, it is only appropriate to celebrate his memory and accomplishments both on and off the field.  

    A statement from Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, Jr.:

    We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family. Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball. The entire Cardinals organization extends its sincere condolences to Stan's family, including his children Richard, Gerry, Janet and Jean, as well as his eleven grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren. We join fans everywhere in mourning the loss of our dear friend and reflect on how fortunate we all are to have known 'Stan the Man'.

     

    Stan Musial ranks among not only the top players to don a Cardinals uniform, but as one of the top players in MLB history.  

    So where does Musial rank among the all-time greatest St. Louis Cardinals? Here is my list of the best Cardinal players of all time. 

Ozzie Smith

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    He took two hits or a run away from our opponents every game last year. That's just as important as a guy who drives in runs.—Whitey Herzog

     

    The acrobatic shortstop is certainly one of the most popular players in MLB history.  

    And Ozzie Smith, aka "The Wizard," can back up that popularity to the tune of 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards.  There are few who played the position with as much athleticism and finesse as Smith.  In addition to his extensive collection of Gold Gloves, Smith leads all shortstops in assists (8,379), and is ranked second in assists among all position players.  

    While Smith is less known for his offensive contributions, he came through in a big way for the Cardinals in the 1985 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  In Game 5, Smith hit the first left-handed home run of his career, a walk-off shot that gave the Cardinals a 3-2 victory.  

    Ozzie Smith was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002. 

Albert Pujols

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    Albert Pujols, aptly named "King Albert" is the of the most dominant players in the majors today.  He had a down year in 2012, playing for his new team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but that doesn't overshadow the monster statistics he accumulated while playing for St. Louis. 

    Beginning with his rookie year, Pujols proved his prowess at the plate.  Back in 2001, at just 21 years of age, Pujols hit .329.  Add in his 37 home runs, 130 RBIs and .610 slugging percentage and Pujols made a lasting impression on the organization. 

    Pujols remained on the St. Louis roster up until 2011, providing the team over a decade of stellar service.  In his entire 11-year career as a redbird, Pujols posted a .329 batting average, bombed 445 home runs and had 2,073 hits.

    Additionally, Pujols showed tremendous respect to the late Stan Musial.  While on the Cardinals, Pujols steered away from the nickname "El Hombre," which means "The Man" in Spanish.  Pujols considered the nickname disrespectful to Musial. 

Rogers Hornsby

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    I don't like to sound egotistical, but every time I stepped up to the plate with a bat in my hands, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the pitcher.—Rogers Hornsby

     

    Rogers Hornsby is another player who has made an enormous mark in not only the history of St. Louis Cardinals but MLB history at large.  Simply put, Hornsby ranks among baseball's all-time best.  

    During his stint with St. Louis (1914-1926, then again in 1933), Hornsby provided both excellence in the field and at the plate.  Hornsby is one of the greatest hitters to play the game, posting a career .358 batting average (.359 with the Cardinals) and nearly 3,000 hits over a 23-year career.  

    He also collected seven batting titles, six of which came in consecutive years.  "The Rajah" won two Triple Crowns and earned two MVP awards. How valuable was Hornsby? Well, he and Musial are tied for eighth on the all-time list of players based on their wins above replacement for position players.

    Hornsby is widely viewed as one of the most prolific hitters in MLB history.  After his playing career ended, Hornsby continued to contribute to the game as a manager before passing away from a heart attack in 1963.  

    He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942. 

Bob Gibson

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    One of the best athletes to ever play the game, the ex-Harlem Globetrotter posted a 1.12 ERA in 1968, the lowest figure since 1914, and a factor in convincing baseball officials to lower the pitching mound the next year.—

    National Baseball Hall of Fame

     

    Bob Gibson is one of few pitchers to ever win both the Cy Young and MVP award, a feat he accomplished in 1968.  That same year, major league baseball changed the height of the pitcher's mound in order to counteract the dominance of flame-throwers such as Gibson.  These changes are known as the "Gibson Rules."

    Gibson played all 17 years of his career for the Cardinals.  Over that span, he posted a 2.91 ERA, averaged 17 wins a season, earned two Cy Young Awards and pitched for two World Series championship squads.  On August 14, 1971, Gibson threw a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Bob Gibson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981. 

Stan Musial

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    I never realized that batting a little ball around could cause so much commotion.—Stan Musial

     

    Baseball lost both a great player and a great man.  Another lifetime member of the Cardinals, Musial gave the organization 22 years of service on the field, and countless more years as the heart and soul and face of the franchise.  One of the best hitters in the history of baseball, Musial has had enormous influence on the game.

    Three MVP awards, a .331 career batting average, 3,360 career hits—numbers that put his name in the baseball record books and in the Hall of Fame. But the numbers tell only part of the story:  Stan Musial will continue to be honored not only for the man he was with a glove and a bat, but for the life he lived off the baseball diamond.  

    On Feb. 15th, 2011, President Barack Obama honored Musial with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  

    "Stan the Man" will be celebrated for his accomplishments and character and missed by the entire baseball community.

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