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Cardinals' Top 5 second basemen: Rogers' take

@anne__rogers
April 7, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Anne Rogers’ ranking of the top 5 second basemen in Cardinals history. Next week: Third basemen.

1) Rogers Hornsby, 1915-26, 1933
Key fact: .359 average ranks first all-time in Cardinals history

Hornsby was a feisty, harsh man who fine-tuned his life for one thing: hitting. He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, never read and never went to the movies -- he avoided anything that would put a strain on his eyesight. Hornsby valued his sleep and carefully watched his diet, and he had almost no interests other than baseball.

Cardinals All-Time Around the Horn Team: Catchers | First basemen

The results speak for themselves. The Hall of Famer won the Triple Crown in 1922 and ’25, won six of his seven batting titles with the Cardinals and won the first of his two MVP Awards in St. Louis. In 13 years with the Cardinals, Hornsby hit .359/.427/.568 with 193 home runs and 1,072 RBIs. He accumulated 91.4 bWAR in that time, second only to Stan Musial in club history.

In 1925, when he won his second Triple Crown and the MVP Award, Hornsby hit .403 with 39 home runs and 143 RBIs. He set a National League record for slugging percentage (.756) that stood until 2001. That 1925 season concluded his run of six consecutive batting titles and a five-year span ('21-25) in which he hit .402. It was also the year Hornsby took over as player/manager, and he steered the Cardinals to their first World Series championship the next season. It was Hornsby who applied the tag on Babe Ruth for the final out of the '26 Fall Classic.

Hornsby had an unimposing stance, but when he swung, he drove pitches to all fields. Hornsby’s eye was renowned around baseball. Once, a young pitcher facing Hornsby complained about a pitch being called a ball.

“Son,” umpire Bill Klem said, “when you pitch a strike, Mr. Hornsby will let you know it.”

2) Red Schoendienst, 1945-63
Key fact: Accumulated 35.0 bWAR with the Cardinals, second in club history among second basemen

The Cardinals’ constant, Schoendienst spent 14 1/2 years as a player, 14 years as a manager and then more than 20 years with the club in a supporting role. Known as “Mr. Cardinal,” Schoendienst spent more time in a Cardinals uniform than anyone else in the franchise’s storied history. And that’s before we even get into his player stats.

After making his big league debut in 1945 as a left fielder when Musial was in the Navy, Schoendienst began his march around the infield before settling into second base. As his career evolved, he became known for his clutch hitting as a switch-hitter, his slick defensive play and his elite baserunning. In his rookie season, he led the NL with 26 stolen bases.

As stated on Schoendienst’s plaque in Cooperstown, Musial once credited the second baseman with the “greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen.”

Schoendienst led the NL in fielding percentage four times with the Cardinals, in addition to hitting better than .300 for a full season on five occasions. Nine of his 10 All-Star appearances came with the Cards. In 1950, he led the NL in doubles (43), and in ’53, he finished second in the batting-title race with a career-best .342 mark.

3) Frankie Frisch, 1927-37
Key fact: In 1927, struck out only 10 times in 153 games, still the fewest strikeouts in a season by a Cardinals player

Fed up with Hornsby’s salary demands in 1927, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon dealt Hornsby to the New York Giants for another second baseman: Frankie Frisch. Fans were furious about the trade -- until they realized what a star Frisch was. A few months into the season, Frisch won over the fan base by hitting .337/.387/.472 with 78 RBIs and a Major League-best 48 stolen bases. He was known for his stellar defense, and he set a record for most assists in a single season (643) that still stands today. Frisch finished second in NL MVP voting that season.

Frisch hit .311 in 1931 and won the NL MVP Award after leading the Cardinals to a World Series title. He became the Cardinals’ player/manager from '33-37, guiding the Gas House Gang to the '34 World Series. In 11 years with the Cards, Frisch hit .312/.379/.423, won two World Series and made three All-Star appearances.

4) Tom Herr, 1979-88
Key fact: Drove in 110 RBIs in 1985 despite hitting only eight home runs

Herr starred on Whitey Herzog’s 1980s Cardinals and won the '82 World Series as St. Louis’ second baseman. In 10 years with the Cardinals, Herr hit .274/.349/.354 with 435 RBIs and 19 home runs, accumulating 19.1 bWAR. He made his only All-Star game in '85, when he hit .302, and his 110-RBI season saw him finish fifth in NL MVP voting.

In 1987, Herr drove in 83 runs for the NL pennant-winning Cardinals, and he did so while hitting only two home runs and 31 extra-base hits. His first homer that season was a walk-off grand slam that beat the Mets on Seat Cushion Night. As Herr rounded the bases for his first career slam, seat cushions came flying from every level of Busch Stadium.

5) Kolten Wong, 2013-present
Key fact: Won his first Gold Glove Award in 2019

In seven seasons with the Cardinals, Wong has made himself into one of the best defensive second basemen in the Majors. Since 2014, Wong’s first full season in the Majors, he ranks first in Defensive Runs Saved (51) in MLB, according to FanGraphs. His Ultimate Zone Rating (27.2) ranks second.

Wong is ranked on this list because he’s a premier defensive second baseman. Last year was his best season, both in the field and at the plate. He won his first Gold Glove and hit .285/.361/.423 as the Cardinals' everyday second baseman.

Honorable mentions
Known as the Secret Weapon, José Oquendo played all over the field -- including on the mound at times -- and became a master of all positions. The longtime infield coach and current Cardinals instructor accumulated a 14.9 bWAR in 10 seasons with St. Louis, ranking just behind Wong on the Cardinals' all-time second basemen list, and he was an excellent infield and outfield defender.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Yankees’ manager, Miller Huggins played seven solid years (1910-16) as the Cardinals’ second baseman. He finished sixth in NL MVP voting in 1911 and led the NL in on-base percentage (.432) in '13.

Julian Javier played more games at second base (1,547) than any other player in franchise history, and the two-time All-Star hit .258/.297/.356 in 12 seasons in St. Louis.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.