Cardinals' Top 5 right fielders: Rogers' take

May 12th, 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 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.

Cardinals All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF

Here is Anne Rogers’ ranking of the Top 5 right fielders in Cardinals history.

1. , 1941-63
Key fact: Holds the franchise records in games played (3,026), at-bats (10,971), hits (3,630), doubles (725), walks (1,605), runs (1,949), triples (177), home runs (475), RBIs (1,950) and total bases (6,134)

The greatest Cardinal ever played his entire 22-year career with St. Louis and was the club’s ambassador long after he stopped playing. His No. 6 was the first number the Cardinals retired, and he became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1969.

He is one of the game’s undisputed greats -- for his baseball accomplishments and his work off the field.

Musial won three MVP Awards and finished second four other times. He won seven batting titles and led the league in runs (five times), hits (six times), doubles (eight times), triples (five times), RBIs (twice), total bases (six times) and OPS (seven times). He was a 24-time All-Star and a three-time World Series winner. He hit a career .331/.417/.559 and accumulated a career 128.3 WAR. That’s just what you learn when you scan Musial’s Baseball-Reference page.

"I've had pretty good success with Stan by throwing him my best pitch ... and then backing up third," former Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine once said.

Born in Donora, Pa., Musial began his baseball career as a pitcher. He signed with the Cardinals in 1937, and his Minor League team would play him in the outfield when he wasn’t on the mound because he’d shown such ability at the plate. In 1940, Musial landed hard on his left shoulder when he dove for a ball in center field. He struggled to pitch and thought his career was over, but his bat carried him to the Majors by the end of the next season, when he hit .426 in his first 12 games as a Cardinal. The next season, he was the rookie force behind a World Series winner, and in 1943 -- his second full season -- he won his first MVP Award. In 10 of his first 12 seasons, he didn’t hit less than .330.

But “The Man” was defined by much more than his baseball numbers. He never turned down a fan who wanted an autograph, and after he retired, he carried autographed photos in case he ran into fans. He carried his harmonica with him everywhere and played it for countless fans who asked, and he was actively engaged in business, civic and charitable work in St. Louis.

In 2011, President Barack Obama presented Musial with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Stan remains, to this day, an icon, untarnished,” Obama said in his introduction that day. “A beloved pillar of the community. A gentleman you’d want your kids to emulate.”

2. , 1938-53
Key fact: Accumulated 52.2 WAR as a Cardinal, second behind Musial among right fielders and sixth among all Cardinals position players

Slaughter was a ruthless and fierce ballplayer who played all 1,820 games -- fifth on the franchise’s all-time list -- as a Cardinal with unbridled intensity. In 13 seasons with the Cardinals, he was a 10-time All-Star and hit .305/.384/.463. Slaughter was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, and his No. 9 was retired in 1996.

Nicknamed “Country,” Slaughter took the grit of the Gas House Gang of the ‘30s and helped usher in the St. Louis Swifties of the ‘40s. He hit better than .300 eight times as a Cardinal and won two World Series titles with the club.

There were many moments that were symbolic of the way Slaughter played, but none as famous as his mad dash in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox. Slaughter led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single, but he watched, stranded, as Whitey Kurowski popped up on his attempted sacrifice bunt and Del Rice flew out. With two outs, Slaughter took off on a 2-1 pitch as Harry Walker drilled a line drive to left-center fielder. It looked like a single, and center fielder Leon Culberson got the ball to shortstop Johnny Pesky just as Slaughter raced to third.

But Slaughter didn’t stop. He blew right through the third-base coach’s sign to stop. Pesky paused. And Slaughter skidded safely home, scoring the winning run of the World Series.

3. , 1992-98
Key fact: Accumulated 20.1 WAR in seven years with the Cardinals

Jordan was a two-sport player, drafted by the Cardinals in the 1988 MLB Draft and by the Buffalo Bills in the 1989 NFL Draft. The Bills waived him before the season started, and the Falcons signed Jordan, a defensive back, the next day. In 1991, Jordan batted .264 in 61 games for Triple-A Louisville before reporting to the Falcons' training camp. That autumn, he played in all 16 games for the Falcons, led the team in tackles and was voted as an alternate for the Pro Bowl team.

The Cardinals signed Jordan to a contract in 1992 that ensured he would only play baseball. His breakout year was 1995, when he became the starting right fielder and hit .296/.339/.488 with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs. In ’96, he did even better, hitting .310 with 104 RBIs and a .833 OPS that led him to an eighth-place finish in MVP voting.

Jordan played in a downturn of Cardinals baseball and played in only one postseason. But he hit .333 in the 1996 NLDS against the Padres and .240 in the NLCS against Atlanta, which would win the series and become Jordan’s next team after he left the Cardinals as a free agent in 1998.

4. , 1978-84
Key fact: Finished in the top 15 of MVP voting in four of the six years he played for the Cardinals

In 1978, the Cardinals needed a big bat to help Ted Simmons and Keith Hernandez in the heart of the order, and they acquired Hendrick from the Padres to be that hitter. In his six seasons with St. Louis, Hendrick averaged 18 homers and 84 RBIs a year and helped usher in the winning ways of the 1980s Cardinals. In 1980, he hit .302 with 109 RBIs and an .840 OPS to win a Silver Slugger Award, appear in his third All-Star Game and finish eighth in MVP voting.

Hendrick hit .321 with five RBIs against Milwaukee in the 1982 World Series. In Game 7, Hendrick glided toward a base hit from Cecil Cooper and mowed down Robin Yount trying to advance to third base. Two innings later, with the game tied 3-3, Hendrick singled home Mike Ramsey with what proved to be the go-ahead run that gave St. Louis the championship.

5. , 1998-2003
Key fact: Accumulated 18.1 WAR in six seasons with the Cardinals

In the 1998 MLB Draft, the Cardinals selected a young outfielder and perhaps one of the best college baseball players of all time with the fifth overall pick. Drew was a top talent, but his contract demands -- he turned down the Phillies in the 1997 Draft -- made him a risky selection.

Drew made his debut in September of 1998 and hit .417 (15-for-36) with five home runs down the stretch. The already-high expectations were set even higher for the next season, and Drew, who struggled with injuries, never quite lived up to them, even if he did have a solid six seasons with St. Louis. He hit .282/.377/.498 and averaged 16 home runs and 47 RBIs a season before being traded to the Braves in 2003 for Ray King, Jason Marquis and a prospect named Adam Wainwright -- a trade that would help the Cardinals sustain an era of success over the next decade.

Honorable mentions

Roger Maris finished his career in St. Louis, batting .258 over two seasons. His defense and baserunning provided solid fundamentals for the Cardinals and helped them win two National League pennants and a World Series title in those two seasons. The last home run of his career lifted the Cardinals to a pennant-clinching victory against the Astros in 1968.

• In the one full season he had as a Cardinal, Lance Berkman accumulated 3.8 WAR and helped the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series title. He hit .301/.412/.547 with 31 home runs that season and hit .311 in the NLCS and .423 in the World Series.

Larry Walker’s time as a Cardinal was brief but memorable. The newly elected Hall of Famer hit .286/.387/.520 in his 1 1/2 seasons with St. Louis and was the fourth slugger on the juggernaut offense that included Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen. Walker was incredibly effective for the Cardinals in the 2004 postseason, hitting six home runs with 11 RBIs in 15 games that October.