The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most celebrated and historic franchises in Major League Baseball. They boast the likes of Stan "The Man" Musial, Ozzie Smith and Albert Pujols.
And so, if time were non-existent and we could go to that Cardinals "field of dreams," who would be waiting for us?
I've taken a look at some of the greats and boiled it down to one player at every position. This is a product of both legend status and career accolades. But perhaps most importantly, I considered each man's worth to the franchise as a whole and to this specific dream team.
Take note, that I chose only to include players who have played under the name "Cardinals," so there will be no Browns or Perfectos who pre-dated the name change on this list.
Without further ado, here is my Cardinals dream team!
*All stats are current on baseball-reference.com as of April 16, 2013*
Molina has a relatively young career, and it was difficult to pick him over the well-hitting catcher of the '70s, Ted Simmons. But in the end, I can't ignore Molina's defensive prowess.
He adds immeasurable value to any team lucky enough to have him—made evident by Puerto Rico's 2013 WBC finals appearance—and he's going to be a Cardinal for a long time.
A four-time All-Star with five straight Gold Gloves, he knows how to manage pitchers and call a good game. Plus, he has thrown out 45 percent of all runners who try to steal against him. And his offensive numbers have been growing steadily each year.
Some are already predicting that he will stand alongside the likes of Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez at the end of his career as one of the greatest catchers of all time.
In the end, there's just no Cardinal I'd rather have behind the dish than Molina.
It's probably safe to say that no matter what team's jersey Pujols finds himself wearing throughout the rest of his career, his best years will always be with St. Louis.
The 2001 Rookie of the Year, nine-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion spent 10 years hitting monster homers under the Arch. In fact, he currently has 477 in his career and he's destined to enter the Hall of Fame. He catapulted himself to an almost mythical status from the moment he arrived in the big leagues. He'd be adding a huge dose of power to this already amazing lineup.
Some of the Cardinals faithful may have felt slighted when he skipped town to join the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but Pujols is still very much a big part of franchise history.
All of the above makes him a shoo-in for the dream team's first base job.
I'd like you to take a minute and remember the huge deal that was made out of Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown run last year. Now imagine he does it again in 2015...That is the story of Hornsby.
"The Rajah," as he was nicknamed, is known as one of the greatest hitters of all time, with two Triple Crowns, two MVPs and a career batting average that's second all-time to Ty Cobb.
Not only did he play for the Cardinals and lead them to their first-ever World Series Championship in 1926, but he managed them as well during the 1925 and 1926 seasons. His knowledge would come in handy.
He was the first Cardinal ever to be honored by the franchise, when in 1937 the team used an "SL" symbol instead of retiring his number since he played mostly in an era when there were none.
Hornsby will always have a place as an early contributor to the success of the club and thus earns my spot as second baseman.
Boyer's name is among the most underrated of all third basemen in MLB history.
The 11-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner and one-time NL MVP spent 10 years on the Cardinals hot corner and even returned after retiring to coach and manage the team. He also demonstrated his leadership when he was appointed team captain in the early '60s and was a key part of the 1964 World Series win.
Boyer hit 255 homers as a Cardinal, putting him just behind some pretty big names: Musial and Pujols. He retired with a .462 slugging percentage and was near the top of the all-time list when it came to assists (3,652) and double plays (355).
In 1984, he became the only Cardinals player not in the Hall of Fame to have his number (14) retired. He was known to be good friends with Musial, who called him "a pillar of strength in the Cardinal organization."
He would be a great presence on this dream team, on and off the field.
It would be virtually impossible to put together a Cardinals dream team and not include Smith. The beloved, back-flipping shortstop has been a staple in the organization ever since his debut with the Redbirds in 1982.
And it wasn't just the athleticism he displayed in celebration that helped him earn his status as a fan favorite. "The Wizard" was a 15-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove winner and one-time NL MVP. Perhaps the best defensive shortstop in history, he is second all-time in assists with 8,375 and in double plays turned as a shortstop with 1,590.
However, the play for which he is most-remembered is an offensive one. His game-winning home run in the 1985 NLCS prompted Jack Buck's famous "Go crazy folks!" call—one that would become a sacred Cardinal motto.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 in his first year of eligibility. The club had already retired his number (1) in 1996, and he still makes plenty of appearances at Busch Stadium.
His magic glove would be invaluable to this dream team.
If you ever hear low-pitched chants of "Looouuu" at Busch Stadium, the fans aren't booing. Much the contrary: It just means Brock is around.
A six-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, he had occasional power. But what he was really known for was his speed. Put him on the basepaths and he will fly! He's currently second on the all-time stolen base list with 938, behind only the great Rickey Henderson.
On top of that, Brock totaled 3,023 career hits. His 486 doubles and 141 triples make him the perfect leadoff hitter for any club.
St. Louis retired his number (20) in 1979, and he followed that up with a Hall of Fame induction in 1985. He's remained a crowd favorite and would be circling the bases day-in and day-out on this dream team.
"The Man." "Baseball's Perfect Knight." Musial is known by many names, but "The Greatest Cardinal" may be most fitting in terms of this list.
Musial was both a first baseman and an outfielder, showing much versatility. I chose to place him in center in order to make room for other star players.
A 24-time All-Star, seven-time NL batting champion and three-time NL MVP was the picture of efficiency. He never struck out more than 50 times in one season, and in his career, he had exactly 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road. That makes for 3,630 total—fourth on the all-time list and the most by any player who played for a single team.
Known for his sportsmanship, he remained an ambassador of the game until his passing this year. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969, and the Cardinals retired his number (6) in 1963.
His bat and work ethic would make him a highlight of this team, just as he's the highlight of Cardinals history.
There were a lot of choices in terms of Cardinals outfielders. But I had to round out the position players with Slaughter due to his accolades and proven bat.
Chances are, if you're familiar with him, it's due to his "Mad Dash" in the eighth inning of the 1946 World Series Game 7 from first base to home plate. He was known for his hustle, which is always an important quality.
A 10-time All-Star and a four-time World Series champion, he saw a lot of success in his career. He ranks third all-time in Cardinals RBI, behind Musial and Pujols.
Slaughter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985, and the Cardinals retired his number (9) in 1996. You know he would have fun knocking in Brock on this team.
The Cardinals have had many strong arms over the years. But I chose the following names on account of their dominance and reputation.
A Hall of Famer and another Cardinals number retiree (45), Gibson holds several MLB records including lowest ERA in an MLB season at 1.12. He was a strikeout pitcher, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and all-around unhittable.
"Gibby" has gone down as one of the best pitchers ever to play the game, making him the perfect ace.
Carpenter is probably the second name fans think of when it comes to Cardinals pitching. He ranks third all-time in Cardinals strikeouts (behind Gibson and Dizzy Dean) and has one Cy Young Award.
His tenacity has always taken him far, and his performance on this dream team would be no exception.
A member of the famous "Gashouse Gang" of 1934, Dean is known for his colorful personality. Like Gibson, he's a Hall of Famer and a Cardinals number retiree (17). He was an NL MVP winner and, as mentioned above, an all-time strikeout leader.
Dean would bring some liveliness to this rotation, balancing out Carpenter's serious disposition.
Playing in the '20s and '30s, Haines was an early knuckleballer. He spent his entire career with the Cardinals and had three 20-win seasons. He also brings to the table a no-hitter dating back to 1924 and a Hall of Fame label.
Haines would no doubt see some success with the run support made possible by this dream team's offense.
The current Cardinals ace is my final choice for this rotation. Beginning his career as a closer, he's been a part of many important, high-pressure moments in recent history including the final out of the 2006 World Series. After being converted to a starter, he narrowly missed out on a Cy Young Award in both 2009 and 2010.
He's a lifelong Cardinal and he's known as a sportsman, with a curveball that will punctuate most at-bats.
When it comes to shutting down a game, there's no one I'd rather have on the mound than Sutter. Known as one of the first pitchers to use the splitter, he has 300 career saves and an NL MVP to show for it. Sutter is in the Hall of Fame, and his number (42, alongside Jackie Robinson) has been retired by the Cardinals.
The most "lights-out" closer of the late '70s and early '80s would leave any manager confident in his bullpen.
A rich history makes for tough decisions. The following players just barely missed out on my dream team:
Ted Simmons, C
Mark McGwire, 1B
Keith Hernandez, 1B
Red Schoendienst, 2B
Frankie Frisch, 2B
Joe Medwick, LF
Curt Flood, CF
Jim Edmonds, CF
Willie McGee, OF
Bob Forsch, SP
John Tudor, SP
Lee Smith, RP