Do you ever have the feeling life is passing you by at a speed that prohibits real examination? I’m afraid I’m guilty of this lifestyle misdemeanor at times.
But every once in a while, I apply some brake pressure as a sporting crosswalk approaches. I have to remind myself that it’s worthwhile to stop and smell the pine tar.
One such crosswalk involves the hushed voices and polite applause of golf. Whenever I have the opportunity to watch Tiger Woods play, I thank my lucky stars.
Why? Because I’m playing witness to the greatest golfer of all time, playing a game at its highest level, ever.
I did the same thing when watching Jordan and Gretzky.
These days, I’m feeling my lucky stars are shining even brighter. You see, I call St. Louis home, as does a star by the name of Albert Pujols. This Pujols character seems to have a knack for the game that few others share.
Take any of the all-time greats of baseball and run a comparison. Bat for bat, run for run, Albert stacks up with any of the heavyweights.
Let’s take a look at a few.
The Yankee Clipper patrolled the lawn of Yankee Stadium with the grace of a butterfly while stinging balls with bee-like determination.
Joltin’ Joe spent 13 years in pinstripes, batting .325 with 361 home runs and 1,537 RBI. He won two batting titles (’39, ’40), three MVPs (’39, ’41, ’47), and showcased his talent in the All-Star game 13 times.
He finished with 2,214 hits and recorded the longest hitting streak in MLB history—56 consecutive games.
Them’s Hall of Fame numbers, fans...with a bullet.
The "Say Hey" Kid gets the nod as an all-time great by many. And rightly so. His gaudy numbers span a 22-year career and set a bar that’s hard to put one’s chin over.
His lifetime batting average was .302, matched with 3,283 hits, 660 home runs (leading the league four times), 1,903 RBI, and a slugging percentage of .557.
He was Rookie of the Year in 1951, an MVP twice (’54, ’65), played in 24 All-Star Games, and won 12 Gold Gloves. Whew!
If you’re not aware he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, please leave your credentials at the door.
The greatest hitter of all time, Ted Williams, said of Mays, “They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.”
Stanislaw Franciszek Musial played 22 years with the redbirds sitting on a bat across his chest. That’s 3,026 games...and he was never tossed. Not once! Now that’s a real gentleman.
He was not so polite to opposing pitchers, returning their offerings with rather rude regularity.
Stan “The Man” averaged .331 during his years, collecting 3,630 hits (he was rather consistent with 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road), 475 home runs, 1,951 RBI, and 1,949 runs scored.
He won seven batting titles (’43, ’46, ’48, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’57), three MVPs (’43, ’46, ’48), and played in 24 All-Star Games.
When asked how to pitch Musial, more than one pitcher replied, “Throw him your best pitch and back up third base.”
First ballot? Oh yeah.
A work in progress, this guy. At age 29, he’s in the prime of his career—as if it’s been anything but prime thus far.
Batting average: .335. Home runs: 325. RBI: 998. Slugging percentage: .625. That’s for half a career, folks!
Pujols was Rookie of the Year in 2001 and has been selected to the All-Star team seven times.
He won a Gold Glove at first base in 2006 (not his natural position, he was brought up a left fielder), and has collected two MVP awards (’05, ’08, and would have had more had a certain cheater by the bay not been around), and one batting title (’03).
Pujols plays in the very shadow of Musial in St. Louis—one digit shy at No. 5—where some call him El Hombre, a nod to Musial and his Stan the Man persona.
In a recent game that may not be typical, but is certainly not uncommon, Albert went 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs, three RBI, and four runs as the Cards swept the Mets.
Project Pujols’ numbers over another eight seasons, and we’re talking monstrous numbers—around 650 home runs, 2,000 RBI, and 1,900 runs scored. And keep an eye on those walks. If you grew up playing ball, you know they’re as good as a hit.
If Pujols stays healthy and plays into his 40s (not a stretch, considering his dedication to every facet of the game), many records could fall.
Oh yeah, I count my blessings during every Cardinal broadcast.
I’m witnessing one of the premier players in baseball history in his prime, real time, not newsreel.
Hyperbole? At this point, perhaps. But just give him some time and watch those numbers climb the charts like a Beatles ballad.
His name may sit alone, just like that, one day.