In light of it being the anniversary of Willie McGee's trade to Oakland, I got to thinking about my personal favorite Cardinals through the years.
This is my list of favorite Cardinals who I saw play in person. I'm not saying they're the best Cardinals ever -- or even the BEST players -- just guys who I liked because of their skills and their personalities.
And while some of it is a popularity contest, I am willing to bet this team would win more than its fair share of games.
C - Yadier Molina. A lot of people my age will name Ted Simmons their sentimental favorite. But it has been a treat to watch Yadi burst on the scene as a remarkably composed and polished rookie. And he's done nothing but get better. He's a tremendous leader and, like Ozzie Smith before him, he's turned from a guy who earned his job because of defense into a valuable offensive force.
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1B - Albert Pujols. Yeah, he turned out to be full of it about caring less about getting the most money and more about playing for a team that has a chance to be a consistent winner. But it was really something to have the best player in baseball wear Cardinals red for 11 years. Too bad he didn't want it to last longer.
2B - Tom Herr. In my mind, Herr didn't really stand out in the 1980s because of all the greats he played with. But he was a solid guy who did his job with little fanfare. And there is really no one who has held the position since him who played better or who is more deserving of a tip of the cap.
3B - Terry Pendleton. Like Scott Rolen after him, Pendleton was a spectacular third sacker. Unlike Rolen, he wasn't a sourpuss most of the time. No doubt Rolen was a better player. But by the time he ended up getting traded he had worn out his welcome. I always thought of him as one of those guys who want understand how good he had it until it was all over.
SS- Ozzie Smith. It's impossible to choose someone else over Ozzie. He was the personification of 1980s era Cardinals baseball and the best kept secret in the game.
LF - Lou Brock. I was torn on this one because when I saw Brock play he was at the end of the line. He didn't seem like such an imposing force as Matt Holliday is today. But he's a Hall of Famer, so it's difficult not to give him the nod. I'm sure if I would have been able to watch Brock play from 1964-1970 that he'd be a no brainer.
CF - Jim Edmonds. He was Ozzie in the outfield. Not the fastest guy. Didn't have the strongest throwing arm. But he made the most of his abilities and played the game with 100 percent effort all the time. He holds two sports on my list of greatest Cardinals plays to personally witness. His homer to win game 6 of the 2004 NLCS -- and closer to the top, his catch that saved game 7 of the same series. And, yes, I was there when Ozzie made folks go crazy...
RF - How could I put Edmonds in center over Willie McGee? Well, because I am going to put Willie in the spot he played most often in his encore performance with the Cardinals, right field. Willie was the ultimate humble hero. He won two batting titles and an MVP award. He played great defense -- although in a very different style than Edmonds. I wish Willie could have played forever.
Chris Carpenter - It's difficult to argue with results. But beyond his World Series and regular season exploits, Carpenter was a loyal guy who took less to play in St. Louis because he appreciated what the Cardinals did for him when he was down on his luck. He's also a guy who is willing to teach younger players what it means to be a professional and to be a Cardinal. So his legacy will live on long after he retires.
Adam Wainwright - You can't take Carp without his co-ace. Adam Wainwright is obviously the next generation leader of the St. Louis pitching staff. I hope the Cardinals lock him up to a contract extension to make sure he sticks around to realize his destiny with the team.
Matt Morris - He had his career cut short by injury. But Matty Mo was one of the gutsiest players I ever saw pitch. He would have been a hall of famer had he been healthier.
John Tudor - Speaking of sourpusses... Tudor was a first class curmudgeon. Still is. But, boy, he could pitch. His crabbiness was overcome by his talent. That's how great he was.
Darryl Kile -- He was Chris Carpenter before Chris Carpenter was Chris Carpenter. I would have loved to see him play another four or five years in St. Louis instead of being tragically taken from Cardinals Nation. And he was a super nice guy by all accounts who would sacrifice himself for the benefit of the team.
Bruce Sutter - No one compares to Engine 42. It still shocks me to watch the seventh game of the 1982 World Series and see Sutter come in to close the game in the SEVENTH inning. Modern Day closers aren't fit to wear his beard.
IF - Jose Oquendo could do it all. He was an excellent fielder at any infield position and, although he didn't hit for power, he had a knack to get big hits when he needed to. Oquendo cemented his Cardinals legacy by becoming a very valuable coach after his playing days were over.
OF - Matt Holliday isn't properly appreciated in his time because he was second banana to Pujols at the start of his Cardinals career. But all he does is hit .315 with 20 some homers and 100 RBIs in an average season. And he's the kid of guy who takes young players under his wing and flies in Cardinals draft picks out of his own pocket to show them around the city and tell them about the Cardinals Way.
C - Ted Simmons was the star of the Cardinals when I was a kid. I didn't have much interest in catchers then. But he has better numbers than Gary Carter. And Carter made the Hall of Fame.
OF - Vince Coleman - Loved to watch him steal bases at will. One of my favorite ballgames I have ever seen was one against the Cubs where he stole second, third and home in one trip around the bases. There's nothing more exciting in baseball than watching a runner score from first on a base hit and I still can hear the Jaws theme play on the organ every time he got on base.
1B - Jack Clark - I really LOVED to watch Jack Clark hit when he was with the Cardinals. And I was very bitter when he left, even though the team probably forced him out during their cheapskate days in the late eighties and early nineties. If Clark would have been around in 1989, 90 and 91, things could have been very different in St. Louis.
Manager - Whitey Herzog is still a St. Louis icon for the way he revolutionized the game in the 1980s. Who would have thought stolen bases would be as much fun to watch as home runs?