Albert Pujols, revered St. Louis baseball legend, doubled in Monday’s victory for career extra-base hit number 1,378. That moved Pujols ahead of his late friend Stan Musial for No. 3 all-time in MLB history. Given The Man’s fondness for Pujols, I think he’d be happy for the 42-year-old youngster.
I have to say, it takes some effort for me to comprehend all of this. I was at Coors Field in Denver when Pujols made his big-league debut on April 2, 2001. I’ve told the story a bunch of times, so let’s do it again. Stan Musial showed up that day. He was in Denver for an autograph show and decided to head over to Coors. for Opening Day.
Stan didn’t plan ahead. No ticket, no press pass, no entourage. Just The Man. A simple, humble man. Musial just appeared at a box-office window. I once asked Stan how he gained entry.
“I said ‘Hello, I’m Stan Musial, and I’d like to come in and watch the ballgame,’ ” Musial told me.
Perfect. Of course the Rockies let Stan in. Of course they took him out to the ballgame. The marketing-promotions staff was delighted by this unexpected visit by an all-time great. The Rockies asked Musial if he would do them the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Stan was happy to do it.
The Cardinals lost that day, 8-0. But Pujols got his first major-league hit, and Stan the Man was there to witness it. This is where I get syrupy. I love baseball mythology and want to believe in the enchanting stories and events that link the generations of players and fans. The more surreal, the better.
And so it came that many years ago, after Pujols became one of baseball’s all-time greats himself, I decided that Musial’s presence in Denver was an act of providence. It wasn’t random. It was kismet. Stan was meant to be there, to symbolically pass the torch. The preeminent player in St. Louis Cardinals history was in place to endow his legacy on the next hallowed Cardinal. The past and the present and the future intersected on a cool Colorado afternoon, and the succession became complete.
Call me cuckoo. But yes, I really believe that.
Musial to Pujols and the April 2, 2001 transference from a Hall of Famer to a rookie.
Musial and Pujols – now together in MLB and St. Louis Cardinals history. And once Pujols is eligible, they’ll hang out at the extra-secret Hall of Fame parties in Cooperstown … when all of the enshrinees come out at night to tell stories and have some laughs. Those that are still living. And those who passed away but are still alive in the Hall of Fame spaces.
I was tinkering with numbers on Tuesday morning and came up with this after combining their career statistics and achievements as Cardinals.
Extra-Base Hits: 2,303
Total Bases: 10,077
Times On Base: 8,454 … 8,657 including reached via error
* NL Batting Titles: 8
NL MVP: 6
NL MVP Runner-Up: 8
Wins Above Replacement: 215.1
** All-Star Games: 35
NL Pennants: 8.
World Series championships: 5.
* Stan had seven batting titles; Pujols had one.
** Stan is credited with 24 All-Star games, but MLB staged two annual All-Star games for a time, and Musial appeared in two All-Star games in a season in 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962.
Despite playing 10 seasons for the Angels and Dodgers before coming home to St. Louis, Pujols ranks second to Musial in Cardinal history in homers, RBI, doubles, extra-base hits, walks and total bases.
(Pujols ranks among the top five in franchise history in several other categories including hits, times on base, hits, slugging, onbase percentage, and OPS.)
My mind is shaken when I think back to the momentous occasion in Denver when Stan was in the house for Albert’s first major-league game. Little did I know that Pujols would one day move ahead of The Man on the list of most career extra-base hits in MLB history. Or that Pujols would stand shoulder to shoulder, brother to brother, on so many St. Louis Cardinal career leaderboards.
There was so much history – and emotion – loaded into that Pujols double. Though Pujols bats from the right side, he lined that double just below the top of the wall in the right-field corner. During his many seasons at Sportsman’s Park, I wonder how many doubles the left-swinging Musial smoked into the right-field corner? Here we go again. A coincidence? Hardly.
“He was probably looking down and smiling,” Pujols said of Musial Monday night, when speaking to reporters including John Denton of MLB.com. “He was probably like, ‘Once again, you did it.’ I mean, I don’t even have words to describe my feelings because of the respect that I have for Stan and his whole family, and the legacy he left behind through this organization and through myself. That means a lot to me.”
When Pujols cracked the double Monday night, it had been 7,771 days since the day of destiny in Denver. And though 21 years, three months and 10 days have passed, Pujols and Musial are still walking together, just as it was meant to be.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.
“Seeing Red,” my weekly podcast on the Cardinals with Will Leitch, is available on multiple platforms including Apple and Spotify. Please subscribe.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com
All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.