Over the next several weeks, Arch City will be coming up with what we believe are the Cardinals Franchise Four at each position. I was given the topic of 1st Basemen to start off the Franchise Four article series and believe the Cardinals have seen a strong amount of candidates since its existence as the Cardinals in 1900. There are of course several different ways at which people believe someone is part of a Franchise Four including stats over their career as a Cardinal, awards, and popularity. I am hoping to take all of these factors in coming up with the top four greatest first basemen to ever wear the Cardinal uniform.
1. Albert Pujols
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Albert Pujols has to be considered the greatest baseball player over the last 10 years. What he was able to accomplish in a Cardinal uniform from 2001 to 2011 was one of the greatest performances and a big reason why the Cardinals were so successful during that time. In that 11 years wearing the Cardinal uniform, Albert batted .328 with 445 home runs and over 1300 RBI’s in just over 1700 games played. To go along with his offensive success, Pujols also received 2 Gold Gloves for his defense. He was a 3 time MVP, 2001 Rookie of the Year, 9-Time All-Star, and NLCS MVP while winning 2 World Series Championships. His St. Louis stint should never be forgotten even after the leaving the Cardinals via free agency after the 2011 World Series to head to the Los Angeles Angels as Cardinal fans were able to see one of the greatest players on Earth through the prime of his career.
2. Jim Bottomley
Jim “Sunny Jim” Bottomley played a huge role for the 1926 and 1931 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals and through his 13 year career with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. Signed as a Free Agent back in 1920, Bottomley became a catalyst for the Cardinal Offense, with a .325 batting average with 181 home runs in over 1700 hits for the Cardinals, excluding his 188 hits and 11 home runs in two years with the St. Louis Browns in 1936-37. He was in the top 25 in batting average from 1923-1929 and won the NL Award (Most Valuable Player) in 1928 when he hit .318 with 31 Home Runs and 20 triples in 576 plate appearances. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
3. Keith Hernandez
Now most people remember Keith Hernandez for his time with the New York Mets and his role on Seinfeld, but Keith Hernandez was a very solid player for the Cardinals organization in his 10 seasons with them. He was a .299 hitter with 81 home runs and 595 RBI’s and even 81 stolen bases. He was a very solid contact hitter, never having more than 16 home runs in a season but his stellar defense awarded him 5 Gold Gloves in his tenure with the Cardinals. He was the NL MVP in 1979, a 2 Time All-Star, and Silver Slugger award winner as well. It was noted that he could’ve been a Cardinal for his career, but his relationship with Manager Whitey Herzog was not the greatest, therefore he shipped to the New York Mets in the 1983 season.
4. Bill White
Bill White was a mainstay at first base for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1959 to 1965 and impressed throughout his tenure in the organization. He played in 138 games or more in the Cardinals uniform while putting up a great .298 batting average with 140 home runs and over 1200 hits. He was a World Series Champion in 1964, 7-time All Star, and 6 time Gold Glove winner at first. He also ranked in the top 25 in most offensive statistical categories in his time as a Cardinal, including Stolen Bases, Runs Batted In, Home Runs, On Base Percentage, and Batting Average. He came back to the Cardinals in 1969 after a minor stint with the Phillies before retiring after the ’69 season. His career numbers as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals has him rounding out the top 4 first basemen.
Mark McGwire- Although he was a 2 time home run champion in St. Louis and set the record for the most homeruns in a season, McGwire was only with the Cardinals for 3 full seasons. He was a 3 time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner in those seasons before retiring after the 2001 season.
Ripper Collins-Collins played with the Cardinals from 1931 to 1936 and was a 2 time World Series Champion. He made it to two All-Star appearances as well in 1935 and 1936. He was also first in the National League in 1934 with 35 Home Runs and batted .333 that season.
Note: Stan Musial is not in the Franchise Four for 1 reason only. He was so good at so many positions in his 22 year career as a Cardinal that it was difficult to place him under one position. He played 1016 games at first base but also played 1890 games in the outfield, making him one of the most versatile players Major League Baseball has ever seen. At First Base, Stan Musial was a 4 time All-Star, won a World Series, and won an MVP as well. Stan the Man by most is considered an outfielder and most people know him as being an outfielder, but his statistics as a first baseman should not be forgotten. He is in a category all by himself for being the greatest player to ever wear a Cardinals uniform and to place him under one category really takes away how great his versatility was as a player.