As the ballpark in downtown St. Louis fills up with love, sentimental hearts and good cheer all weekend, we’ll be celebrating the extraordinary Cardinal careers of Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols. But this wonderful gathering is about more than honoring two legends that stand with Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Ted Simmons, Ken Boyer and all of the other greats in franchise history.
This is about the special relationship between the Cardinals and their fans, and the gratitude that binds them. This is about a remarkable franchise tradition of success, and the winning of divisions, pennants and World Series.
We are celebrating Molina and Pujols. (And by extension, Adam Wainwright.) We are celebrating what they’ve meant to the franchise – and what they will mean to us for as long as we live. We are celebrating the good times, and the memories and a cherished shared experience that has brought generations of family and friends together.
We are celebrating an era of Cardinals baseball that we may never see again. Not to the full extent, anyway. And as the years and decades go by, this special place in time will float like a dream in our minds.
The American lyricist Alan Jay Lerner wasn’t writing about baseball, Cardinals baseball, when he put these words together. But the touch of romanticism resonates. This makes me think of the cycle of the baseball seasons in St. Louis … the many seasons of iconic players, full houses, and pure happiness.
“The winter is forbidden till December, and exits March the second on the dot,” Lerner wrote. “By order summer lingers through September In Camelot.”
I didn’t want to make this column about statistics. But I have to share this. It puts the Pujols-Molina impact in perspective. And the numbers prompted a smile and a wow from me.
Pujols and Molina were teammates from 2004 through 2011, and again during the 2022 reunion. That’s nine seasons of ball with both men wearing the Birds on the Bat.
What did Pujols and Molina do as individuals?
What did they do for the team?
What did they do for the fans?
* They were leaders on a team that had the second-best regular winning percentage in the National League over the nine seasons. (Including 2022.)
* With the Cardinals winning the NL Central this season, the Pujols-Molina brotherhood has been a huge part of five division titles and six postseasons in their nine years.
* With Yadier and Albert as teammates from 2004 through 2011, the Cardinals competed in more postseason games (61) than any MLB team, and had the most postseason victories (34) in the majors. The win total could increase during the ‘22 postseason; Molina and Pujols will do all that they can to make it happen.
* Three National League pennants, two World Series championships, and two massive victory parades through the downtown STL streets. Heck, the enduring Pujols-Molina partnership won a pennant and played in a World Series in the “old” Busch Stadium … and won two pennants and two World Series in the present-day Busch Stadium.
* As Cardinals, Pujols and Molina have combined for 11 gold gloves (nine by Molina), four platinum gloves (all Molina), 19 All-Star honors, seven Silver Sluggers (six for Pujols), and two Roberto Clemente awards.
* Pujols was the 2001 Rookie of the Year, won a batting title, was a three-time National League MVP, and received MVP votes in each of his first 11 seasons as a Cardinal. Molina earned MVP votes in five seasons and had two top-four finishes in the voting. Combined, Pujols and Molina garnered MVP votes in 16 seasons as Cardinals, and finished in the top four of the MVP voting in 11 seasons.
* As Cardinals Pujols and Molina have combined for these totals:
– 642 home runs
– 4,318 hits
– 1,540 extra-base hits
– 2,408 RBI
– 2,104 runs scored
– 7,164 total bases
– 6,156 times reaching base
It’s not quite Ruth & Gehrig, but … lawdy.
In their first season as teammates, Pujols was 24 years old, and Molina was 21. Now, with only six regular-season games left in their careers, Pujols is 42, and Molina is 39. Their manager, Oli Marmol, is 36.
Where did all of those baseball summers go?
In the words of the late, great troubadour John Prine: “Summer’s end came faster than we wanted.”
In these final days of Pujols and Molina, that Prine lyric pretty much sums up how I’m feeling. Happy for this amazing farewell season … so appreciative of having such a gift … but also a little sad.
Hey, it’s OK to cry in your beer.
This should be an emotional weekend. So open those hearts and savor the scenes, your favorite flashbacks, the folks you’ve shared all of this with, and the real-time presence of Pujols and Molina in their final regular–season series at Busch Stadium. They’re retiring as players, but remembrances never retire.
Thanks for reading … and I hope you have a terrific weekend.
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.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
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.