08/11/2005: My All-Busch Stadium Team...
Over at The Official St. Louis Cardinals Website, they're sponsoring a fan vote (and sweepstakes) to choose an "All-Busch Stadium Team", in honor of the final season at Busch Stadium II. That prompts me to go look at the selections and name my own selections for my personal All-Busch Stadium Team. These aren't necessarily the best players at each position, but the ones who resonate most with me, for whatever reason.
This is a tough one, because all of these players are great players (and spare me the McGwire steroids lecture; I'm still a fan of his even if he did use steroids, which I'm not convinced he did). My choice is Albert Pujols though, who's only been in the majors for 5 seasons (counting this season), and has already notched up so many accomplishments that it is clear that if he continues to play at or near this level for a while he's a "no-brainer" first ballot, first year of eligibility Hall of Famer. Honorable mentions to Mark McGwire (for the wonderful way he fell in love with St. Louis, and St. Louis with him), and Orlando Cepeda (who was in many ways the symbol of the 1967 and '68 "El Birdos" who were so much fun to watch).
This is a tough choice, too, but for a different reason; these names, for the most part, don't have the "star quality" that the first base nominees do. For my choice, I'd go with Julian Javier, part of the famous Dal Maxvill-Julian Javier double play combination during the sixties, including the championship years of 1964, '67 and '68. Honorable mention to Tommy Herr, who played excellent second sack for the Cardinal teams of the '80s, including the championship teams of 1982, '85 and '87.
Another tough choice because of the embarrassment of riches here. My choice is a sentimental favorite of mine, Mike "Moonman" Shannon. He wasn't an All-Star, much less a Hall of Famer, but he was a member of the great teams of the '60's, and his long association with the Cardinals in the broadcast booth (and the fact that he went to grade school with my mother, albeit a few years behind her) make me favorably disposed towards him. Honorable (very honorable) mention to Scott Rolen, for all he's done for us lately. I'd consider an honorable mention to Joe Torre (who probably deserves it) if he weren't the manager of The Hated Yankees right now.
This one's easy. Ozzie Smith. Not only is he a quite viable candidate for the title of "greatest defensive shortstop in MLB history", but he was a lynchpin of the great Cards teams of the '80s, including, of course, the '82, '85, and '87 Championship teams. Honorable mention to Dal Maxvill, the All-Star shortstop of the great '60s teams (and a fellow alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis).
Very tough choice. In the end, Tim McCarver just barely squeaks in for his association with both the great Cardinals teams of my youth and his Memphis roots, though his candidacy was nearly torpedoed by the execrable job he does (along with partner-in-crime Joe Buck) doing the color commentary for the Fox Saturday Baseball broadcasts. Honorable mention to Mike Matheny for his work with the latest iteration of Cardinal greatness, including his participation on the 2004 NL Championship team.
My favorite here is Lou Brock, and not just because I've met him (summer of 1982, at the Commissioned Officer's Mess (Open), Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois). Deserving Hall of Famer, part of the great Cards teams of my youth, and (based on my personal contact) a very nice guy.
Another tough choice. On sentimental reasons, I'm going with perennial fan favorite (not to mention one of mine) Willie McGee. But honorable mentions go to Curt Flood (ultimately the one who vanquished The Reserve Clause, though it took some time to do it) and Jim Edmonds, for his contributions to recent Cards teams.
Andy Van Slyke
Easy choice for me. Roger Maris. A great (though not Hall of Fame caliber) player who was an important part of the 1967 and '68 Championship teams. And the fact that my dad got a cap autographed by Maris certainly didn't hurt.
Another easy choice. If Bob Gibson isn't the greatest pitcher in Cardinals history, he's certainly a top contender for that title. And that 1.12 ERA in 1968 is the all time best for the modern era. Another fun fact about that season, as related by the sponsor of Gibson's Baseball Reference stat card: The most dazzling stat? He completed 28 of 34 starts. He was pinch hit for in the 6 he didn't finish, which means his manager never had to come to the mound to take the ball from him ALL YEAR!! Honorable mention to John Tudor (whose 21-8 record was an important factor in the Cards' winning the NL Pennant in 1985) and Joaquin Andujar, the source of one of the great baseball quotes in my collection: There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is "youneverknow."
Another tough choice. Just about all of these players have a claim on my heart. In the end, I go with Bruce Sutter, who was an integral part of the Cardinals' last World Series Championship. Honorable mentions to Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky (whose great ambition in life was to recieve a standing boo in a road game), and Jason Isringhausen, who not only is an important part of the current bullpen, but who grew up (in Brighton, IL) not three blocks from where a woman I used to date lived.
Another no-brainer for me. The greatest utility player in Cardinals history is undoubtedly Jose "The Secret Weapon" Oquendo. There aren't too many players in MLB history who have played every position on the field. Including pitcher. And the fact that, in 1988 he became the first position player in quite a while to actually earn a pitching decision (a loss, alas, in an extra-innings marathon in which Whitey Herzog used all his bullpen arms). In 2004, ESPN showed a special, "Utilityman!", about the quest of two St. Louis brothers to get Jose Oquendo enshrined in the Hall of Fame. A special feature: a video clip of the time that Oquendo, pitching, struck out Deon Sanders looking. Priceless (especially the look on "Neon Deon's" face; "WTF? How did he do that?"). Honorable mention in this category: Rex "The Wonder Dog" Hudler. Not a great player, but he made up for it in sheer drive, determination and entertainment value. As Hudler's manager during his time with the Cards, Joe Torre, once put it: The thing about Hudler as a player is that he always makes things happen. The problem being is that they're not always the things that, as a manager, you want to happen.
Tony La Russa
Meaning no offense to LaRussa, who is a certain Hall of Fame selection as a manager, my vote here goes to Whitey Herzog, who personified the Cardinals of the 1980's, and who led the franchise to a World Championship in 1982, and the NL Pennant in '85 and '87. Honorable mention to Red Schoendienst, who has been with the Cardinals organization in one form or another in most of a baseball career that started back when Christ was in Single A ball.
Len on 08.11.05 @ 08:45 PM CST