Right on the heels of our popular Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects series, we have decided to bridge the final weeks to Spring Training with a new list, covering the other end of the experience spectrum from the youngsters highlighted in “Forty Days”.
Our newest series, starting January 15, will count down our collective view of the best forty Cardinals players of all-time, one day at a time.
Joining Ray Mileur and me in taking on this most-challenging endeavor are two most-qualified voters.
First is Rob Rains. Rains was the Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat from 1984-1986, covered the team for UPI from 1981-1984, and was the NL beat writer for USA Today Baseball Weekly from 1991-1995. Rob has written extensively about the club, including autobiographies or biographies of Ozzie Smith, Red Schoendienst, Jack Buck. Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols; a 100th anniversary history of the Cardinals published in 1992 and six-other Cardinals-related books.
Our other participant is Jerry Modene. Anyone who has ever browsed a Cardinals-themed message board on the internet has discovered Jerry’s astute observations. His knowledge of Cardinals history is especially second to none, making him an ideal participant in this assignment. Jerry is also a regular contributor here at stlcardinals.scout.com.
As in “Forty Days”, our selection criteria were simple. Only players’ results during their time with the Cardinals were to be considered. Hitters and pitchers would be placed together on a single list.
The consolidation guidelines were equally straight-forward. Our four individual lists were condensed into one, with no player included in the final 40 who was not mentioned on at least two ballots. Ties were broken with the highest individually-ranked player getting the nod.
Now, to introduce the series, each of us will share a few words on how we went about the ranking process.
Any type of rankings contains a certain level of subjectivity. While I am very comfortable discussing and debating the strengths and weaknesses of any Cardinal that I have seen play personally, those rankings would have to begin in 1964, when I was eight years old.
Obviously, there were a lot of great Cardinals who played prior to 1964, and to adequately compare their performances with those of the players in the post-1964 era, we have to rely on statistics. Part of the beauty of baseball, at least until the steroids era, was that we were able to use statistics to compare a player from the 1920s and one from the 1970s. Were there differences in how the game was played? Yes. But we can still use the basic measure of a player's greatness -- home runs, average, RBIs, etc. -- and come up with a reasonable opinion about who was a better player.
When it comes to ranking the top 40 Cardinals of all time, some of the selections were easy. Many were harder. Five of the players I thought deserved a spot somewhere between 33rd and 40th didn't make the final list. Those players were ones I had seen and covered on a daily basis -- Terry Pendleton, Ken Reitz, Tom Herr, Matt Morris and Mike Matheny. More than just black-and-white statistics entered into my analysis of their performance because I knew each of them, and I knew what their performance meant to the success of the ballclub.
So, as with any rankings, this compilation is flawed because of the simple realization that it is the combined opinion of four people -- nothing more, nothing less. You can certainly have your own opinion -- which is, after all, part of the great beauty of the game.
Compiling this list of the 40 greatest players in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals was no easy task for a very simple reason: How do you hold it to just 40?
Fortunately, the rules of this exercise helped a little – considering only the body of their work as Cardinals eliminated some players who might well have deserved consideration otherwise – Roger Maris, Orlando Cepeda, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Burleigh Grimes, Jack Clark and Dennis Eckersley come quickly to mind.
As it was, I started off with a list of about 70 players and then started pruning. It was my intention to try to represent each era of Cardinal history, but in the end I wasn’t able to rate any players from pre-1926 (the year the Cards won their first “modern” World Championship). So nobody from the original NL franchise (1876-77), the Henry Lucas franchise (1885-86), or the AA/NL Browns (1882-1899) made the list.
That meant such luminaries as George Washington Bradley, Charlie Comiskey, Arlie Latham, Tip O’Neill, Jesse Burkett, Bobby Wallace, and Bob Carruthers failed to make the cut. Likewise, I wasn’t able to get Jack Smith, Ed Konetchy, Bill Doak, or Wee Willie Sherdel onto my list of the top 40. And for various reasons, I didn’t feel Jesse Haines warranted listing among the Top 40, either. Consider them the “Dirty Dozen”, the guys just below the Top 40, along with some more modern guys who didn’t make my list either (Tom Herr, Lee Smith, Jason Isringhausen, etc.)
Also, although there was no set rule as far as position players and pitchers, I wanted to shoot for a 3-1 ratio; that is, I wanted at least one pitcher on the list for every three position players. I also wanted to get at least one reliever on the list; as it was, I wound up with two.
Finally, the reader may be surprised that some players with five years or less service time as a Cardinal made my list anyway – this was because although their time has been short, their service has nevertheless been so distinguished as to overcome the brevity of their time with the club.
It just hit me; I have been Cardinal fan for over 40 years. Sports fans - that is a lot of ballgames and a lot of ballplayers that I have witnessed in my lifetime. As a result, in making my selections for the Top 40 All-Time Cardinals, my own observations played a significant role in the process which will inevitably lead to disagreement and debate.
I factored in the whole person concept in making my selections. To me, being a St. Louis Cardinal means more than just what you do in uniform, but how you represent the team, the city and the fans off the field.
I grew up hearing stories from the old timers (before I became one) about the Gas House Gang (FYI, I never saw these guys play) Stan "The Man" Musial, Marty Marion, Red Schoendienst, Rogers Hornsby, Terry Moore, Enos Slaughter and others. Naturally that early indoctrination impacted my decision process. For example, I knew Marty Marion belonged on the list, because I have been told so all my life. Yet I found it difficult to rank him as high as some others, but I knew leaving him off would be practically sacrilegious.
My selection process began with a review of the St. Louis Cardinals record books. Naturally on-the-field performance played a significant role in players making my list. Cardinals who have had their numbers retired go without saying (but I said it anyway), were going to make the list; it was just a question of where.
Hall of Famers and others, time in uniform was a factor. When you say a player's name, if you don't immediately identify him as a St. Louis Cardinal, it isn't likely you'll find him on the list. I'm sorry for any slight, but you are either a Cardinal or you are not.
For the final selection criteria for the players still playing today, I took into consideration what I anticipate and project their contribution as a St. Louis Cardinal will be to the club and the team's history before they retire or take off the Cardinal uniform.
After a lifetime of watching Cardinals baseball, and almost 10 years of covering the team, and a few hours of research, comes my personal Top 40 All-Time Cardinals.
I chose not to place any artificial restrictions on my selection process in terms of number of years of play, a minimum level of statistics or any morals clauses, for example.
One almost has to begin a process like this with something concrete, meaning a view of the numbers, which is what I did. Yet, one is certainly not required to either remain or end there.
Over and above the raw numbers, I gave substantial consideration to individual and team recognition received both at the time during when the player was active as well as following his retirement.
Take the Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite some people’s criticism of it, I feel that recognition by selection to the Hall is nothing to be taken lightly. Even fewer Cardinals players have received retired number recognition by the club. Leaving any of the latter group off my list would seem impossible.
Other high-profile recognition from writers, executives, peers and fans, such as Most Valuable Player Awards, Cy Young Awards, All-Star Game selections and Gold Glove Awards (at least since their introduction in 1958) are important indicators I used to help guide my selection, then elimination process.
Finally, though more team-oriented than individually-focused, players who contributed to the ten Cardinals World Championship clubs received special scrutiny. As we unveil each of the individual 40 players’ articles over the next six weeks, you will see each of the above counts recognized daily.
I tried very hard to be fair in my analysis of eras of play before my time. Yet, when all was said and done, a number of these early players fell off my top 40 as some very difficult tradeoffs were made.
I did not set a quota on the number of pitchers versus hitters I would select, but was reminded countless times during the process how imbalanced the Cardinals greats have been in favor of position players over pitchers. When all was said and done, I ended with just two pitchers in personal my top 15 and only 14 of my overall 40 best were hurlers.
Despite all of that, and though each of us lost three to five players in moving from our individual lists to the consolidated one, I feel very good about the team chosen to represent this storied franchise.
We hope you enjoy reading, and yes, debating this series, as much we did in bringing it to you.
Come back to this page often, as we will add the link to each day’s player as we count down the top 40 Cardinals players of all time here at stlcardinals.scout.com.
stlcardinals.scout.com Top 40 Cardinals Players of All Time
40. Edgar Renteria
39. Chick Hafey
38. Jason Isringhausen
37. Chris Carpenter
36. Bill Sherdel
35. Julian Javier
34. Bill White
33. Steve Carlton
32. Pepper Martin
31. Scott Rolen
30. Terry Moore
29. John Tudor
28. Joe Torre
27. Mort Cooper
26. Keith Hernandez
25. Bob Forsch
24. Marty Marion
23. Willie McGee
22. Mark McGwire
21. Harry Brecheen
20. Ray Lankford
19. Curt Flood
18. Johnny Mize
17. Frankie Frisch
16. Jesse Haines
15. Bruce Sutter
14. Jim Edmonds
13. Jim Bottomley
12. Joe Medwick
11. Ted Simmons
10. Red Schoendienst
9. Ken Boyer
8. Enos Slaughter
7. Dizzy Dean
6. Albert Pujols
5. Ozzie Smith
4. Rogers Hornsby
3. Lou Brock
2. Bob Gibson
1. Stan Musial
Other related articles:
St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Team by Position
Almost Made the All-Time Cards Top 40
Walton: Lee Smith and Bill Doak
Mileur: Vince Coleman, Todd Worrell, Lee Smith, Bill Doak, Roger Maris
Modene: Tim McCarver, George Hendrick, Lindy McDaniel, Whitey Kurowski
Terry Pendleton, Ken Reitz, Tom Herr, Matt Morris, Mike Matheny
"The Final Tally" - voting details by panel member
"Did the Best Cards Deliver the Best Results?" - subscriber-only article matching top 40 players and their teams' results
"St. Louis Cardinals and the Hall of Fame" - distribution of Cardinals Hall of Fame players by position vs. the rest of baseball
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