This exercise - to select the top St. Louis Cardinals players of all time by position – was actually quite simple. We have already unveiled our Top 40 Cardinals players of all time via our recent countdown series.
By clicking on this link, you can view the entire list as well as our voters’ criteria in making those selections. As a result, putting together this All-Time Team is as straightforward as culling the top-ranked player at each position from the Top 40.
Our All-Time Cardinals team consists of eleven players – eight position players, including three outfielders considered as one group, plus three pitchers – left and right-handed starters and a reliever.
So, without further ado, here they are!
St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Team
Catcher – Ted Simmons:
Simmons demonstrated star potential from the very beginning. Drafted tenth overall in 1967 at the age of 17, he made his first appearance in the majors the next year. Groomed to replace the popular Tim McCarver behind the plate, Simmons was a regular before the age of 21.
As a Cardinal, he batted above .300 and topped 90 RBIs six times and reached 20 home runs five different seasons, switch-hitting all the while. In fact, Simmons set the National League career home run record for a switch-hitter with 182 and slammed 483 career doubles.
My worst feelings about the otherwise-exciting 1982 World Series were in seeing the man who may have deserved to enjoy it the most, Ted Simmons, hitting home runs for the opposing Milwaukee Brewers instead of the Cardinals. Though he had departed from St. Louis via trade at the age of 31 following the 1980 season, Simmons had already cemented his legacy as the greatest catcher in franchise history.
First Base – Albert Pujols:
I don’t plan to re-run the voting that generated this series of articles any time soon, but if Albert Pujols puts together another half-dozen years like the ones we just experienced, he just may force my hand. What a pleasure that would be!
As the invariable comparisons to Stan Musial in terms of greatness will only increase in subsequent years, let’s hope the two’s careers do not parallel each other in one aspect. After reaching the World Series four times in his first five seasons, winning three times, Musial played for 17 more years without ever returning.
There is no doubt we are approaching Albert Pujols’ golden years. The main question is whether it will also be a stretch of consistent greatness for his ballclub. The amount of Pujols’ personal success that drives team success may ultimately define the extent of his enduring legacy among the game’s immortals.
While Pujols owns just one ring so far, Cardinals ownership provided him long term contract security (likely through 2011 at least) and has supplied a solid supporting core of players around him. So, another 17-year dry spell seems unthinkable.
Second Base – Rogers Hornsby:
Remember that Joe Medwick in 1937 was the last National League Triple Crown Winner? Well, before him, Hornsby did it twice! He was one of only three men ever to hit .400 in three different seasons. Hornsby not only led the club to their first World Championship on the field, but he was their manager, too!
A few other points not yet made. Hornsby’s .424 average in 1924 was the highest in the entire century in either league. As well as hitting for average, he was a slugger, too. Though later passed by Hack Wilson, Hornsby set and held the National League single-season home run record for eight years.
While Rajah’s defense has been criticized, the records show his career fielding percentage was exactly league average, which his range factor was only a tad under the mid-point. Hornsby was extremely popular in St. Louis as evidenced by the mass demonstrations against owner Sam Breadon after he dealt his star player-manager to the Giants.
Hornsby is truly on the short list of baseball’s all-time greats and Cardinals greats.
Shortstop – Ozzie Smith:
I still remember my acute anger that day almost exactly 25 years ago, February 11, 1982, when the Cardinals traded away their immensely talented, but troubled All-Star shortstop Garry Templeton for some anonymous punch-and-judy guy from the San Diego Padres.
I cursed Whitey Herzog for adding to a long list of one-sided, bone-headed dump trades of Cardinals stars, joining the likes of Steve Carlton and Ted Simmons. I was partially right – it was a one-sided deal – one of the most so in franchise history. That day, the Cardinals added a future Hall of Famer and one of their most popular players ever.
Ozzie Smith’s greatness has been recognized in so many ways. In 1987, he was the runner-up in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting to the Cubs’ Andre Dawson. In 1991, his eight errors all season set an all-time major league low by a shortstop. He owns MLB career records for assists, chances accepted and double plays at the position. Underlining his broad-based fan support, Smith had collected more All-Star Game votes than any other player in league history upon his retirement.
Simply put, pound for pound, the Cardinals’ 150-pound shortstop was the best player of his era and under that criterion might have been the best to ever play the game.
Third Base – Ken Boyer:
What is it about the great third basemen? They just keep their mouths shut, play the game hard every single day and deliver excellent results with both the bat and glove. Ken Boyer set that mold.
Signed at the age of 18 as a pitcher, Boyer did not arrive in the majors until just prior to his 24th birthday. But once there, he played for 15 seasons, the first 11 of which were with St. Louis. “The Captain” cemented his reputation as a big game player even before the 1964 World Series and his MVP award as the only Cardinal to ever hit for the cycle twice.
Second only to Stan Musial in club history with seven grand slams, Boyer owned a .348 average as a seven-time All-Star. He was no slouch defensively either, as he led third basemen in double plays a record-tying five times to go along with those five Gold Gloves.
Ken Boyer succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 51 in 1982, depriving an entire generation of Cardinals fans the chance to get to know their greatest third baseman of all-time other than perhaps via that retired number 14 on the left field wall at Busch Stadium.
Outfield – Stan Musial:
Most fittingly, Musial is the only player in the Top 40 about whom we all four agree. When Musial retired, he held the major league records for extra-base hits and total bases and National League bests in runs, hits, doubles and RBIs. His 3,630 career hits trail only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron.
Musial joined the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot selection in 1969 after being named on 93% of the ballots. What could the other 7% of those sportswriters have been thinking?
Rather than my inadequate words, I will instead call on one of the Cardinals greats himself, the late broadcaster Jack Buck. “I don't think there is anyone in any sport who combined the supreme talent with a great personality. He is also is one of the most beautiful people who ever walked the face of the earth. I don't think there's anybody who compares to Stan Musial on both fronts," Buck said.
Amen to that.
Outfield – Lou Brock:
There is no debate that in the biggest games, Brock excelled. At the time, his World Series batting average of .391 was the highest of any player who played in two or more World Series. He is the only man to steal three bases in a single World Series game two different times. His seven stolen bases in both 1967 and 1968 are the seven-game Series record and his career total of 14 tied for the most ever. All those records still stand to this day.
In 1967, Brock became the first player in baseball history to amass 20 home runs and 50 stolen bases in the same season. The next year, he was the first man to lead the National League in doubles, triples and stolen bases in 60 years.
One of the best reminders of Brock is that he was and still remains today one of the gentlemen of the game, regularly visible to his legions of adoring fans at Busch Stadium.
Outfield – Enos Slaughter:
With extra-base power to all fields and a level swing conducive to contact hitting, Slaughter led the National League with 52 doubles in 1939 and 188 hits in 1942. Slaughter used his speed well, too, with league-bests in triples in both 1942 and 1949.
Slaughter was definitely a clutch hitter, taking the league RBI title with 130 in 1946 and spoiling three different enemy no-hit bids late in the game. In 1947, he drove in ten runs in a single day during a doubleheader. Though Slaughter missed the 1943 and 1944 seasons, he was the leader of the 1942 World Championship club and compiled his best season to set up the 1946 World Champions, too. In those two Series, he posted an impressive line of .295/.404/.523 (BA/OBP/SLG).
Slaughter’s many contributions have been duly noted, but did you know that even when injured, he made a huge impact on Cardinals history? In August, 1941, Slaughter was leading the Cardinals in home runs and RBIs when he and teammate Terry Moore collided while chasing down a ball in the outfield. With Slaughter out for the season with a broken collarbone, playing time was opened up for a youngster the Cardinals would call up from Rochester named Stanley Frank Musial.
Left-handed Starting Pitcher – Harry Brecheen:
Though he had a short stint with the big league club in 1940, Brecheen did not come up from the Columbus farm club for good until 1943 at the age of 28 as front-liners Howie Pollet and Murray Dickson were called to serve in the Armed Forces.
Brecheen quickly proved he belonged. Under the brightest spotlight of all, that of the World Series, the Oklahoma native showed his best, allowing just three earned runs in 32 2/3 innings. His rookie year, the Cards fell to the Yankees in a rematch, but were victorious in both 1944 and 1946 as Brecheen picked up four wins.
The lefty would stay on to anchor the Cardinals staff for eleven seasons, reaching the 20-win milestone in 1948 and winning 14 or more games six years running. In addition to the career records mentioned above, to this day Brecheen still ranks among the best on the franchise single-season lists for won-loss percentage at .789 (in 1945 - #6) and shutouts with seven (in 1948 - #5).
Right-handed Starting Pitcher – Bob Gibson:
Simply the best ever in Cardinals history when considering performance by a starting pitcher, Gibson had it all – a blazing fastball, pinpoint control and an intense, no-nonsense demeanor.
Gibson was just the second player to ever reach 3,000 strikeouts, but was more than just a fireballer – he was truly a balanced player. The righty could hit, as evidenced by his 24 career home runs and could man his position with the very best, collecting nine Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence.
Along with that 7-2 World Series record was a 1.89 ERA, including two shutouts and he went nine innings every time out! Gibson fanned 92 enemy hitters in those 81 frames while walking just 17.
Gibson was always dominant, but was especially so when it mattered most and is truly deserving of having been named our greatest Cardinals pitcher ever.
Relief Pitcher – Bruce Sutter: (comments by Ray Mileur)
In just four seasons, Bruce Sutter picked up 127 saves for St. Louis, including an amazing 45 saves in 1984. A member of the 1982 World Champion Cardinals, he is credited with two saves, including the dramatic Series-clinching save in Game 7, good enough to win the National League Babe Ruth Award. (The Babe Ruth Award is given annually to the World Series MVP by the New York area BBWAA chapter.)
A two-time All-Star (1981-84) in a Cardinals uniform, Sutter won three NL Rolaids Relief awards (1981, 82, 84) while playing for St. Louis. His number 42, which he wore throughout the career, was theoretically retired by the Cardinals last season. He shares that number with Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson whose number was retired by MLB in 1997.
Sutter was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and his Hall of Fame plaque depicts him wearing a Cardinals cap.
Not to be forgotten are the “Honorable Mentions” - those 29 players that made the Top 40, but fell short of the All-Time Team. This also provides a quick snapshot of system-wide depth by position over time. Each player is listed only once, at his primary position with the club.
Cardinals All-Time Team Honorable Mentions
Position (quantity): Name (overall ranking)
Catcher (0): None
First Base (6): Jim Bottomley (12), Johnny Mize (17), Mark McGwire (22), Keith Hernandez (26), Joe Torre (28), Bill White (34)
Second Base (3): Red Schoendienst (10), Frankie Frisch (17), Julian Javier (35)
Shortstop (2): Marty Marion (24), Edgar Renteria (40)
Third Base (1): Scott Rolen (31)
Outfield (8): Joe Medwick (12), Jim Edmonds (14), Curt Flood (19), Ray Lankford (20), Willie McGee (23), Terry Moore (30), Pepper Martin (32), Chick Hafey (39)
Left-handed Starting Pitcher (3): John Tudor (29), Steve Carlton (33), Bill Sherdel (36)
Right-handed Starting Pitcher (5): Dizzy Dean (7), Jesse Haines (16), Bob Forsch (25), Mort Cooper (27), Chris Carpenter (37)
Relief Pitcher (1): Jason Isringhausen (38)
Again, for more information about each one of these players, click on this link to be taken to the Top 40 ranking page. There, you can select the link to the detailed description along with stats from any of the 40.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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