Happy 44th Birthday to Ray Lankford, a pretty darn good ballplayer who had the misfortune of being sandwiched between two of the greatest and most popular centerfielders ever to wear the Cardinals uniform.
Lankford, who made his major league debut with St. Louis is 1990, was in the unenviable position of having to fill the shoes of former MVP and batting champ Willie McGee. A decade later the Redbirds traded for Jim Edmonds, one of the greatest centerfielders ever to play the game. But in between Lankford was the best player on some lean Cardinals teams in the early 1990s.
When fans think of home runs at Busch Stadium II, they almost certainly picture Mark McGwire thanks to the 70 bombs he hit for St. Louis in 1998. But it was Lankford, not McGwire, Edmonds or Albert Pujols who hit the most homers in the history of old Busch. Lankford, who hit 30 or more homers twice and who cracked 20 or more six times, put 123 over the boards at Busch II. And for a guy with power, Lankford had good speed. He stole 20 or more bases five times including a high of 44 swipes in 1991.
In '98 when McGwire set the single season homer record it was Lankford who batted clean-up to protect the big guy.
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Lankford, a 1997 All-Star, ranks third all-time amongst Cardinals players in homers (228), fifth in stolen bases (250) and eighth in runs scored (928) and runs batted in (829).