A dream come true: Holliday inducted into Cards HOF

August 28th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- Just minutes after slipping on the bright red jacket signifying his induction into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, Matt Holliday wasted no time in calling out former teammates he felt hadn’t held up their end of a friendly agreement made years earlier.

“What’s funny is Adam [Wainwright], Albert [Pujols] and Yadi [Molina] and I talked about how we were all going to go in together someday,” said Holliday -- who at 42 is one day older than Pujols -- to his former teammates. “When I came over [to the Cardinals], we all talked about it a lot. But they’re still playing, and I guess I didn’t get the memo that we all could still being doing this. I stopped playing, and they’re still going. I’ll guess I’ll come back, and watch [Wainwright and Pujols] be nervous about this someday.”

The fact that Wainwright, Pujols, manager Oliver Marmol and bench coach Skip Schumaker took time out of their prep for Saturday’s game against the Braves to attend Saturday’s Hall of Fame ceremony spoke volumes about the level of respect that Holliday commanded in his time with the Cardinals. Holliday, who played for St. Louis from 2009-16, went into the Cards Hall of Fame with two-time World Series champion second baseman Julian Javier and the late Charles Comiskey.

National Baseball Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog and Ted Simmons attended the ceremony, as did Cardinals Hall of Famers Tim McCarver, Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds, Vince Coleman, Chris Carpenter, John Tudor and Tom Herr. More than 30,000 fan votes were cast online over a six-week period, and Holliday emerged as the next Cardinal Hall of Famer. The 2022 class is the latest class inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame, which is located in Ballpark Village across the street from Busch Stadium and opened in 2014.

Speaking before a large throng of fans, family and friends, Holliday told a little-known story of how he had dreamed of being a Cardinal from his first game in the Major Leagues, what Pujols told him upon being traded from the A’s to the Cards, a funny conversation when Wainwright threatened him and the emotions he felt when he homered in one of his final regular-season at-bats with St. Louis.

Holliday made his MLB debut with Colorado in St. Louis on April 16, 2004, in a series when the Cardinals were honoring McGwire. He said that day, when he went 0-for-3 and the Rockies lost, “began my love affair with St. Louis” and when he “dreamed of being a St. Louis Cardinal.”

When he was traded from Oakland to St. Louis in July of 2009, Pujols was one of the first people he heard from on the team. That night he had to wear size 14 pitching shoes owned by Todd Wellemeyer, Molina’s batting gloves and a bat borrowed from Pujols. However, before he had a four-hit night in that first game with the Cardinals, Holliday got a pointed message from Pujols.

“Albert grabs the phone and says, ‘Hey! Get your raking butt up here! You’re batting behind me tonight,’” Holliday recalled as he hurried from New York to Philadelphia where the Cardinals were playing that night. “I loved Albert from afar, and his excitement for me to get there made me even more excited.”

Near the end of that 2009 season, when Holliday could have left as a free agent, Wainwright had a pointed promise for the slugger. “I remember him saying to me, ‘You know, if you don’t sign back here, I’m going to peg you every time I face you the rest of your career,’” Holliday recalled. “I thought, ‘Well, you don’t throw that hard, so I’m not too worried about it.’”

A Cardinals career where Holliday had 102 game-winning RBIs, 156 home runs and a 2011 championship came to a crescendo when he got a pinch-hit at-bat Sept. 30, 2016, even though he had missed a lot of the season with injuries. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Holliday incredibly homered that night as the Busch Stadium crowd roared. After several hugs at the top step of the dugout, the fans demanded a curtain call from Holliday, who rose from the dugout with tears streaming down his face. Holliday played in two more games with St. Louis with just one more at-bat in which he had an RBI single, but the home run stands out the most.

“I feel like at that moment God gave me a gift,” Holliday said. “It was a gift of wrapping up my time in St. Louis. As it cleared the right-field fence, I was overcome with this emotion and joy and thankfulness. I felt like I was given that day as a gift from God to wrap up my time in St. Louis as a Cardinal.”