NOTE: The BND has endeavored to identify an objective list of the top 100 St. Louis Cardinals players of all time, based on statistical formulas developed through sabermetrics. We’ll count down the list daily, player by player, until April 4, the day of the Cardinals’ 2019 home opener. The running list and player bios can be found at bnd.com.
NO. 80: TERRY PENDLETON
Under Whitey Herzog’s roster reclamation project, the St. Louis Cardinals returned to their roost as champions of baseball with a seven-game World Series triumph over the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982.
Then they crashed in 1983. The defending champs finished 79-83 and in fourth place in the National League East.
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Herzog went back to work over the next two off-seasons, shipping former MVP Keith Hernandez to the New York Mets, outfielder George Hendrick to Pittsburgh and third baseman Ken Oberkfell to Atlanta.
Up-and-comer Andy Van Slyke, an outfielder by trade, was a solid bat and athletic enough to learn Oberkfell’s spot at the hot corner -- or so Herzog thought. After 50 starts and eight errors, he moved the speedy Van Slyke back where he belonged.
Terry Pendleton, a converted second baseman, was meanwhile hitting .300 and had driven in nearly 50 runs in half a season at triple-A Louisville. Herzog brought him to St. Louis in July 1984 and, at by the end of his first month in the big leagues, Pendleton was batting better than .400 and showing good range at third, especially to his right. He finished at .324 with 33 RBIs and stole 20 bases in 67 games.
At age 23, third base was Pendleton’s to keep.
In his first full big-league season, he hit just .240, but his 69 RBIs were more than Oberkfell ever contributed in a single season and the most by a Cardinals third baseman in eight years. In the meantime, St. Louis surprised everyone in by winning 101 games to edge the star-ladened Mets in the NL East and defeating the Dodgers for the league championship.
Pendleton’s two-out, bases-loaded double gave St. Louis a win in Game 2 of the World Series, but an infamously disastrous ninth inning in Game 6 led to the Royals winning the championship.
The Redbirds slumped again in 1986, as did Pendleton, who hit just .239. The front office pressed Herzog about Pendleton’s inconsistency at the plate. But Herzog stood behind the 25-year-old because, paired with shortstop Ozzie Smith, the Cardinals were nearly impenetrable on the left side of their infield. Each had led the league at their positions in putouts and assists.
With his best season in St. Louis, Pendleton validated his manager’s faith in him. Not only did he win his first of three Gold Gloves, he batted .286 with 12 home runs and 96 RBIs and his two-run, two-out, ninth-inning home run off Roger McDowell at Shea Stadium was a symbolic dagger to the despised Mets and their pennant hopes.
The season earned Pendleton some votes for National League MVP and helped the Redbirds to their third NL championship in five years. A shoulder injury limited Pendleton to just seven at bats in the World Series and, with injured slugger Jack Clark also out of the lineup, the Cardinals once again fell in seven games, this time to the Minnesota Twins.
Pendleton won the MVP in 1991 and played in three more World Series, but by that time had signed as a free agent with the Braves. After three straight division titles and a pair of National League championships, Atlanta finally won a World Series in 1995, the same year Pendleton signed with the Marlins.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1984-1990
.270 career average | 11.0 d-WAR with Cardinals | 3x Gold Glove | 5x NL champion
TOP 100 SCORE: 2.37